Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thoughts on a plastic grocery bag...

I don't know whats happening in London, or Ontario for that matter, but out here in the colonies of the west, the plastic grocery bag is set to become a thing of the past. While I'm not sure that this is necessarily a bad thing, I have to wonder where to motivation for this persecution of the flimsy film grocery carriers comes from. On the surface it seems to be a reaction to the number of these items that blow around the landscape. All well and good, but I just noticed that I no longer have a ready source of kitchen garbage bin liners and a noticable lack of doggy-doo retrievers.

So I have to go out and buy the commercial liners. Something I got for free in the normal course of buying groceries now costs me money. So I have to ask: Is there any chance that there was a Glad hand in this campaign?

Frankly, if the bags are the nuisance that they seem to be, couldn't they be made of biodegradable plastic? While we're at the demise of the plastic grocery bag, how about going after the disposable diapers that seem to be a ubiquitous feature of every roadside across the prairies.

I could be wrong, its happened before.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Bringing the neighbourhood together with other people's money

Looking to strengthen the diversity of your neighbourhood, while having fun at the same time? If you are creative enough, you just might be eligible for a Creative City Neighbourhood Initiative grant.

An exciting opportunity to become involved in this the Creative City Neighbourhood Initiative (CCNI) is available right in your local neighbourhood! The Creative City Neighbourhood Initiative (CCNI) project is intended to assist community groups in making their own communities more creative by providing one-time funding to complete a project developed by, and with, neighbours.

This year the theme for the CCNI is “Bringing Neighbours Together”. Financial assistance up to $500 is available to groups of neighbours who wish to come together to celebrate their neighbourhood.

Examples of Celebrations:

Picnics, landscaping, festivals, making creative spaces like a reading garden, beautify the neighbourhood, block party, ice cream socials, local heroes day, recreational or leisure activities for families coming together.
I see nothing currently preventing neighbours "who wish to come together" from doing so except perhaps laziness or an unwillingness to part with a bit of their own cash.

Flyers for advertising and food are among the allowable expenses, though overall improvements to public and private property are apparently not, which is rather baffling, considering landscape equipment rental is allowed, and the creation of creative spaces, and beautification of the neighbourhood are encouraged. Presumably, fixing the pothole-ridden streets is not an eligible use of grant money, but maybe a metal tree or two will be planted.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Until Omar Khadr gets inducted into the Order of Canada, this is the funniest thing ever. (HT FullComment)

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Local condition forecast

Facing expected demands for wage parity with police services in upcoming negotiations with the firefighters' union, Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best sounded off to the London Free Press against a provincial arbitration process that routinely awards emergency service settlements based on top wage-and-benefit packages throughout the province rather than on "local conditions."

"They don't consider that as part of the equation because they consider us as having bottomless pockets," DeCicco-Best said. "They say we just have to increase taxes."
The logic behind this artificial and effectively unmediated race-to-the-top is concisely summed up by Jim Holmes, president of the firefighters' association:
"The problem with the city in arbitration is they've never been able to prove their inability to pay. They can cry poor all they want, but it's just not factual."
An irrefutable if irreducible equation to taxpayers as long as they maintain any funds of their own at all, but Holmes is not a man to be confronted with any diminishing of his expectations. And after recent negotiation of a contract giving police employees 9.8 per cent in wage increases over three years — a contract that was cited by some CUPE Local 101 inside workers who voted against their own three-year 8.4 per cent wage increase — a process that will inevitably appease any and all of Holmes' expectations must be a cause for concern to both taxpayers and DeCicco-Best.

Admittedly this is a separate concern for DeCicco-Best who, by virtue of being a senior elected politician, is less in a position to worry about paying increased taxes than about having to be seen as the one responsible for exacting them. Having presided over a 35 per cent increase in property tax rates and an 86 per cent hike in water and sewer charges since 2000 — and having voted in favour of every one of those budgets — this would at first seem to be no compelling burden to DeCicco-Best.

But if her apparent damascene conversion to fiscal responsibility must only extend to those expenses her administration cannot directly control, these are rising at an alarming rate — not the least of which are soaring fuel costs and unfunded pension liabilities. If local politicians are just beginning to make mewling noises about fiscal responsibility it is with the private realization that deteriorating economic conditions and reduced prospects for the assessment growth with which they have always mitigated tax increases are shortly going to impose considerable constraints to funding the obligations incurred during a decade-long spree of empire-building and buying constituencies. Whether politicians are willing to suffer the pain of reducing their own expectations, or whether taxpayers will bear the shocking pain of meeting them, will be the question for next year's budget.

See also:

Prospects for assessment growth and tax increases
Decline in assessment growth may expose London's lack of fiscal discipline
Assessment growth: stealth taxation

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Justice for Tree Huggers

It's hard to wrap your head around, yes, but after reading two books by Theodore Dalrymple, a physician who worked intimately with the underbelly of British society seduced by the influence of intellectual ideas gone bad, I'm reluctant to doubt that this idiotic 'solution' is actually being seriously considered:

Inmates are signing up for a National Lottery-funded project to assess and measure our ancient trees.

One trusted method of gauging their age is to “hug” the tree trunk – linking arms around it to measure the girth.

The Prison Service insists it does not receive funding for taking part in the five-year scheme, and that it helps prisoners to improve their maths skills. But it is bound to benefit any inmates who take part, especially more serious offenders who have to persuade a parole board that they are fit for release.

[..] The Prison Service said: “Many offenders have poor literacy and numeracy skills.

“This is just one project that teaches prisoners serving less serious offences skills in maths, measurement and using databases, as well as teaching them to value the environment.” (Daily Express)
HT: Mitchieville.

CP: Dust My Broom.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why do we even know this guy's name?

Such ingratitude from Omar Khadr.

The Geneva Conventions don't grant combatants caught out-of-uniform the privilege of being taken alive as prisoners. That's to protect civilians by giving harsh penalty for impersonating one. Count yourself lucky we live in stupider times, "Canadian".

Now, may we view any of the thousands of similar videos of vicious and manipulative murderers, rapists, and thugs sobbing their way through other police interrogations?

Spare me.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

The monkeys on the back

With hardly a moment's pause after ratifying a new three-year contract last week guaranteeing wage increases of 2.75 per cent this year and next and 2.5 per cent the following year, London's CUPE Local 101 inside workers union was warning the City that it is going to have a lot of work on its hands repairing labour relations — this despite the City having caved on its apparently contentious demand that the union drop grievances filed against administration's extraordinarily timid and insubstantial moves to curb an absenteeism rate of 19.4 days per municipal employee per year.

The threats contained in such warnings are as vague and irremediable as the inexhaustible complaints of public service unions, but they are a source of boundless opportunism when addressed to an administration dependent for its prestige and salaries upon a bloated municipal workforce. Fortunately for the rest of us, the significance of inside workers does not assume the proportions of bureaucratic and political self-interest even if we must bear the cost. Thus the solution to a permanent state of profitable union grievance arrives: tear up the contracts and out-source whatever is left of any necessary work to which inside workers might ever get around. They need the salary, pension and early retirement benefits of municipal make-work projects far more than we need them — a fact that our representatives might recognize were they not so dependent on administration to tell them what to think.

In contrast, union workers at 3M Canada were reported on the same day to have agreed to wage freezes over the next year to protect jobs during Ontario's economic slowdown. Municipal workers, on the other hand, have nothing to fear from hard times … and everything to gain from the same kind of people that do.

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The Advantages of Blockages

Is it any wonder the native occupation in Caledonia, Ontario continues while Dalton the Gimp and his cronies remain in power?

McGuinty says the government will work with First Nations and other residents to develop a plan to prohibit commercial activities in about half of the province's boreal forest.

And mining and forestry companies will have to consult early with First Nations before starting any new projects in the other half of Ontario's boreal forest.

McGuinty says Ontario will also develop a system to ensure resource revenues are shared with First Nations in the far north so they can, in his words, "get a piece of the action."

Mining generated about $11 billion in Ontario in 2007, and McGuinty promises the government will put some cash in the bank for First Nations this fall to get the revenue sharing started. (CTV)
It has nothing to do with trees, carbon emissions or storehouses, but everything to do with redistributing the wealth for political and material advantage. Just ask Ken Boshcoff.

In other news, Super Nanny Dalton is campaigning against cellphones for kids.

cp: Dust my Broom

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The utter importance of being utterly earnest

There is no more certain way to convince an ordinary passel of well-meaning idiots to exaggerate their pretensions to officiousness than to dress them up in the semi-officious garb of a City Advisory Commmittee. According to the London Free Press, the London Advisory Committee on Heritage is challenging the province's exemption to its 2005 Heritage Act giving municipalities more power to designate heritage sites and stop demolitions.

"Under the new act, no building owned by the province can be designated by a local authority," [Committee Chairman Joe O'Neil] said. "I have a problem with the government being exempt from its own laws.
On the other hand, O'Neil has no apparent difficulty with an Advisory Committee exempting itself from its own designated mandate to advise "within the City of London," since the occasion of the Committee's distress is a property outside the City limits.

On a side note, I can only assume that I am not the only lifelong Londoner who has never before heard of Kilbourne House or Locust Mount. At the very least I certainly hope that I am not the only one who will be able to continue life as before with or without them.

Side note #2: Where did Free Press reporter Joe Matyas find a "T" to stick in the middle of the London Advisory Committee on Heritage's "LACH" acronym?

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Parked at the Intersection

Anyone who travels the streets of London on a regular basis knows that the $3.9 million dollars spent on a synchronized traffic light system three years ago has done little to improve the traffic flow. I've had the occasion to ask taxi drivers their opinion and the response has always been one of cynical amusement. The topic is once again a subject of study at city hall, for it seems the generally complacent citizens of London are motivated to complain about long traffic signals and drive-thrus.

Now, city staff are recommending Delcan Corp. be hired to improve the core's network of traffic lights, a recommendation that goes to a city council committee today.

"Citizens have every right to be frustrated," said Coun. Cheryl Miller, who chairs the environment and transportation committee. "One aspect that drives me crazy are the advance left turns in this city -- some days they work and some days they don't."

The nearly $150,000 project would synchronize signals to manage downtown traffic. (LFpress)
At least the advance green signals work to the advantage of Londoners sometimes, unlike the decisions of our local politicians. Why do I doubt that another $150,000 is going to fix what $3.9 million didn't?

Meanwhile, we continue to burn up gas waiting for that train.


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Sunday, July 13, 2008

The make-work province

As London Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best would have it, "the sniping between the federal and provincial governments over taxation policy has been an obstacle" to fixing the economic downturn in Ontario that has seen unemployment rise from 6.4 to 6.7 per cent between May and June. "'They could do one thing that would a make a huge difference and that's stop fighting.'"

For a senior politician who has made a career associating almost entirely among government actors at the political and bureaucratic levels, this fractiousness may assume a degree of significance or distress that exceeds the importance of taxation policy itself. For those of us on the ground trying to make a living, however, it is exactly the taxation policy itself that matters, and not the political grandstanding that accompanies it. Sniping by itself would be neither here nor there to the deleterious impacts of the Ontario government's tax-and-spend programs except that provincial Liberal vanity will only perpetuate them to spite the arrows of criticism.

DeCicco-Best might be grateful at least that taxation policy under her own administration is not up for scrutiny after London's unemployment rate was reported to have jumped from 7.2 to 7.4 per cent over the same period. But even if the debate on taxation policy has not really surfaced in her own jurisdiction yet, its existence elsewhere will always pose the potential for a problem for DeCicco-Best, which is why economic difficulties must be presented — defended, as it were — as the results of far-off personality conflicts rather than as the consequences of particular unmediated political programs, such as those of a majority government or of a city council.

On the other hand, the relative intransigence of the national government over appeals to extend subsidies to Ontario's manufacturing sector would seem to be a very real dilemma for a politician like DeCicco-Best whose difficulties in appearing to preside over a competent economy are compounded when unassessed external handouts fail to materialize in sufficient volume to sustain the free-spending lifestyles of Ontario cities. Of a free-spending provincial government presiding over an economy in similar decline, there can be no doubt of its sympathy to the need to dissemble at someone else's expense. Nor is it any coincidence that, having both governed on the principle of subsidizing profitless activities, both have already over-extended themselves in funding a bloated network of make-work obligations to much expand their mutually agreeable solution of cross-jurisdictional welfare benefits.

That sniping could be regarded as a cause of inaction on the extension of this front would be risible to anyone but those like DeCicco-Best and the Ontario Liberals whose careers have been built for and by the guidance of emotional responses. When success is bred entirely from emotional appeals, failure can only be explained either by resistance to them or by a contrary emotion. This is why politicians and the media in Ontario have played up the conflict over subsidization as much as they have, coming as it must at the expense of considering policy that would no longer support the sizable array of bought-and-paid-for constituencies that have drained the province's economy.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Redistributive justice, the Canadian Liberal way

Ontario MP Ken Boshcoff admits the Liberal's Green Shift plan will shaft Alberta and the wealthy, sort of.

An Ontario Liberal MP said yesterday his party's Green Shift carbon tax proposal will raid Alberta's energy riches and transfer wealth "from rich to poor, from the oilpatch to the rest of the country."

[..] Mr. Boshcoff said on a political news blog that the Green Shift is the "most aggressive anti-poverty program in 40 years" that will target wealthy provinces -- particularly Alberta -- and made little mention of any environmental benefits.

"The shift will transfer wealth from rich to poor, from the oilpatch to the rest of the country, and from the coffers of big business to the pockets of low-income Canadians," he said in a post on The Liberal MP said in his post that the $15-billion in revenues will be used to pay for Liberal party social policies, including $9-billion in tax cuts for low-income earners and $2.9-billion for a universal child tax benefit.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Boshcoff said he should have been more responsible with his words, but never viewed the Green Shift carbon tax as having a negative impact on any part of the country. (National Post)
Nope, nothing wrong with robbing Peter to pay Paul.

cp: The Broom

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

We're all victims these days

More tolerant ideas from Britain, the country where young children can be labeled as racist for expressing disgust at unfamiliar or undesired food:

Burglars should no longer be sentenced to jail, official advisers have said.

Unpaid work or a curfew would normally be a better way of punishing break-ins and thefts, said a panel that issues guidelines to judges.

[..] For the first time, magistrates and judges could be ordered to listen to victims – or bereaved relatives – and be guided by their views on how an offender should best be punished.

But, crucially, only messages of forgiveness would be taken into consideration.

The views of those who demanded the harshest penalties would be disregarded.

There are fears such a system could lead to some offenders intimidating victims into asking for a more lenient term for them. The proposals from the Sentencing Advisory Panel also suggest that criminals sent to prison for less than a year should be let off with a community punishment instead. (Daily Mail)
The panel 'reasons' that short prison sentences for "the less serious offences of theft and dishonesty, burglary and motoring offences" are unlikely to protect the public for long, nor provide an opportunity for prisoners to rehabilitate themselves while in jail. Sentencing the thief to clear litter from the streets, perhaps complete with a curfew, is sure to elicit a collective sigh of relief.

HT: Billy Beck

cp: The Broom

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Finally, a fair and equitable solution to the doctor shortage in Canada has been discovered by a Newfoundland medical clinic. Social justice has nearly been achieved, though one wonders if the wealthier members of the community purchased more than one ticket.

A Newfoundland medical clinic held a lottery this week to determine which patients could see its two new doctors.

The clinic had 4,000 potential patients apply to see the physicians, but could only accommodate 2,000.

So the Gander Medical Clinic, in Gander, Nfld., held a lottery to find the first new patients for Drs. Amanda Scott and Celine Dawson.

The hopeful patients were contacted Monday evening and were told if they had a new doctor.

Larry Dawson, manager of the clinic, said he held the lottery to avoid the chaos that greeted the last introduction of a new doctor at the clinic.

"The last time we tried to do it we ended up with a line-up going outside the doors of the clinic and people were lined up early in the morning," Dawson said Tuesday during an appearance on CTV Newsnet.
cp: Dust My Broom

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Monday, July 7, 2008

School, Brittania!

Thee haughty tyrants ne'er shall abate:
All their attempts to bend thee down
Will but arouse generous make-work schemes for social-science graduates,
To work their woe, and thy decline.

From The Telegraph, via Roger Kimball:

The National Children's Bureau, which receives £12 million a year, mainly from Government funded organisations, has issued guidance to play leaders and nursery teachers advising them to be alert for racist incidents among youngsters in their care.

This could include a child of as young as three who says "yuk" in response to being served unfamiliar foreign food.

The guidance by the NCB is designed to draw attention to potentially-racist attitudes in youngsters from a young age.

… Nurseries are encouraged to report as many incidents as possible to their local council.

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Sunday, July 6, 2008

A glimpse into London's Art Scene

Label me a philistine if you will, but when this trailer first showed up in the parking lot of my local branch library, I figured it was an abandoned piece of junk. Imagine my surprise when I was told it was "art." There was nothing indicating this - no accompanying name or explanation, nothing, just this "construction" sitting in the parking lot.

No seriously, this "art" piece by Stephen Lavigne, originally on display at the Forest City Gallery here in London, Ontario, is currently on tour for the month of July.

See the events section at the Forest City Gallery page. In the artist's own words:

Using a late 1960's model trailer home as a formal and conceptual subject, I have been producing drawings and paintings that attempt to reconcile the differences between various fundamental opposites intrinsic to the paint medium. Most recently, these two-dimensional works have become source material for a complete rebuild of an actual mobile home. My goal is for the finished design is to blur the line between two-dimensional abstraction and three-dimensional representation. The vintage of the mobile home corresponds with my interest in the critical period during the late 1960s, which saw various conceptually based strategies for art making arise in opposition to the material specificity of modern painting. With the drawings as a 'jumping-off' point, and using a process-based method to both design and construct the project, I have converted the traditional trailer home into a hybrid form which I like to think of as a mobile home storage home.
Or if you prefer, think of the trailer as part of a large exhibit meditating on boundaries:
London is a city both physically and symbolically divided by its bridges, waterways, roads, railways and highways. Consequently, seemingly simple labels such as `East of Adelaide", `Kipps Lane' and `Manor Park' have entered our vernacular as markers of margins and boundaries. The exhibition Driving in the Landscape attempts to map notions of displacement, migration, immigration, isolation, and Canadiana within an urban landscape that is often presented as culturally unified and even homogenous.
I'm pretty sure the broken window and glass on the pavement wasn't intentional, but I'm not sure about the flat tires; perhaps the flat tires upset the balance suggested by the inflated tires on the other side.

Also appearing at Mitchieville.

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Modest equality

When Zimbabweans are forced to go naked before the voting polls as it were, the rest of us should remember the value of our clothes.

The following is an extract from the essay "Equality" published by C.S. Lewis in The Spectator on February 11, 1944, reproduced in the Essay Collection and suggested by a short excerpt posted at Gods of the Copybook Headings (thanks go to The Monarchist for providing the source of the excerpt).

AM A DEMOCRAT BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN THE FALL OF MAN. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. I find that they're not true without looking further than myself. I don't deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation. Nor do most people — all the people who believe advertisements, and think in catchwords and spread rumours. The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.

      This introduces a view of equality rather different from that in which we have been trained. I do not think that equality is one of those things (like wisdom or happiness) which are good simply in themselves and for their own sakes. I think it is in the same class as medicine, which is good because we are ill, or clothes which are good because we are no longer innocent, I don't think the old authority in kings, priests, husbands, or fathers, and the old obedience in subjects, laymen, wives, and sons, was in itself a degrading or evil thing at all. I think it was intrinsically as good and beautiful as the nakedness of Adam and Eve. It was rightly taken away because men became bad and abused it. To attempt to restore it now would be the same error as that of the Nudists. Legal and economic equality are absolutely necessary remedies after the Fall, and protection against cruelty.

      But medicine is not good. There is no spiritual sustenance in flat equality. It is a dim recognition of this fact which makes much of our political propaganda sound so thin. We are trying to be enraptured by something which is merely the negative condition of the good life. And that is why the imagination of people is so easily captured by appeals to the craving for inequality, whether in a romantic form of films about loyal courtiers or in the brutal form of Nazi ideology. The tempter always works on some real weakness in our own system of values: offers food to some need which we have starved.

      When equality is treated not as a medicine or a safety-gadget but as an ideal we begin to breed that stunted and envious sort of mind which hates all superiority. That mind is the special disease of democracy, as cruelty and servility are the special diseases of privileged societies. It will kill us all if it grows unchecked.


      We Britons should rejoice that we have contrived to reach much legal democracy (we still need more of the economic) without losing our ceremonial Monarchy. For there, right in the midst of our lures, is that which satisfies the craving for inequality, and acts as a permanent reminder that medicine is not food. Hence a man's reaction to Monarchy is a kind of test. Monarchy can easily be "debunked"; but watch the faces, mark well the accents, of the debunkers. These are the men whose tap-root in Eden has been cut: whom no rumour of the polyphony, the dance, can reach — men to whom pebbles laid in a row are more beautiful than an arch. Yet even if they desire mere equality they cannot reach it. Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Exploit The Earth Or Die

The Objective Standard is offering T-shirts with this great logo.

Exploit the Earth or die. It’s not a threat. It’s a fact. Either man takes the Earth’s raw materials—such as trees, petroleum, aluminum, and atoms—and transforms them into the requirements of his life, or he dies. To live, man must produce the goods on which his life depends; he must produce homes, automobiles, computers, electricity, and the like; he must seize nature and use it to his advantage. There is no escaping this fact.

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The diversity welfare office

Tayside Police in Dundee, Scotland have apologized for not seeking the advice of the force's diversity advisor before introducing a ritually unclean animal in adverts for a new non-emergency phone number … proving that a manufactured supply of gratuitous sensitivities will always create a demand.

One could throw a thousand stones or more in a crowd of Canadian Muslims before striking even just one who is outraged by a picture of a dog, but then our own diversity advisors and human rights commissions have only recently begun to prevail upon Muslims to posture for them.

HT: Jay Currie

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Citizens, shut off your engines

A feasibility study will soon be conducted by Toronto Board of Health after a recommendation by Dr. David McKeown, the city's medical officer, to impose a bylaw limiting the amount of time a vehicle can be left idling to 10 seconds.

Harmful emissions from idling vehicles contribute to the deaths, he says.

Health officials say cutting down on unnecessary idling will save people money on gas, which may change some drivers' attitudes because fuel prices continue to rise.

[..] "It's a lot easier for an enforcement officer to tell when you've been idling the vehicle for 10 seconds than to wait around to see if you've idled for three minutes," McKeown said. (CTV)
Indeed it is. Currently the fines for idling more than 3 minutes are $125. What a fine idea for raising more revenue for the city. Save lives, encourage people to save money, and collect more money to pay for more studies and enforcement officers. The Board of Health is not content to stop at Toronto boundaries. They want to save the planet too:
The Board of Health is also asking the provincial and federal governments to look into making it mandatory to put devices in vehicles that would automatically shut off the engines if idled too long.
The article makes no mention of how long is too long, but I suspect the Board of Health conveniently forgot that global warming has not yet impacted Canadian winters.

My footprint is not particularly heavy. In fact, my energy consumption if quite modest and I don't typically drive too far, and waste and consume relatively little, but discussions of bans on plastic bags, drive-throughs, incandescent light bulbs and anti-idling devices tempt me to turn on every light in my house, use more drive-throughs, drive instead of walk, and take more plastic bags than I need to carry my purchases home, in no particular order.

cp: Dust My Broom

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