Sunday, July 17, 2016

In a Week of Bad News a Little Glimmer of Good News

Well it has been a pretty terrible week in terms of news.  Granted this year hasn't exactly been stellar, but this week seemed to be bringing things to new lows.  However for Edmonton at least there was a bit of a bright spot as the 102 Ave Bridge opened City Bridge Project Page.  The long delayed project Originally scheduled to take 15 months which stretched to 24+ months was finally completed this week much to the joy of the shops in HighStreet and the 124 St business association  So it's good news for the stores that managed to survive the drop off in traffic that occurred because of the bridges closure, and even better news that it was completed in the summer so that they have a chance to capitalize on the tourist season.  Best of luck to the stores in the area most of which are independent retailers. I hope they can have one of the best summers ever and that anyone that reads this takes a trip down to the HighStreet shops at 125 St NW and 102 Ave NW in Edmonton and takes a look around and hey maybe even buys something.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Happy Canada Day, 149 years young, Next year is the Big 1-5-0...

Happy Canada Day, even if it is a day late. It was great to be out at Canada Day celebrations and see everyone enjoying themselves.  I loved trying the many types of mini donuts offered and seeing the wide variety of food trucks with food from so many cultures and backgrounds. It's almost as if the food trucks were trying to be as Canadian as possible by representing the diversity of Canada almost unconsciously.
Ahhhh the variety of fireworks and the many bands that play it's wonderful to live in a country that celebrates in such a fun and happy way.  I don't really have much else to say other than I hope you had a happy Canada Day and enjoy the rest of the summer.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit Approved: What Now?

Can this whole mess be stuck back together, it'll likely require more than a few bandages to fix this boo-boo.
Well that was a surprise wasn't it?  At least alot of people around the world and apparently some who voted Leave were surprised that the UK voted to leave the EU last week.  It was a close race with only a few percentage points separating the Leave and Remain sides in the vote.  The question now is, what happens next?

There are of course a few options, and many more than there are time or space to discuss here.  Now that the vote has happened the various ways this could turn out are becoming more clear.

1. As the Referendum is non binding the Government, they could simply choose to ignore the result and not invoke article 50 of the Lisbon treaty or at least wait a very long time before doing so.  This would be problematic for the government as it would probably not be very popular with the people who voted to leave and would likely also be not very popular with the EU.  It would very much be like crying wolf and seems very unlikely to happen.

2.  Because The UK wants out of the EU but will likely wish to retain access to the common market the Norwegian model is a possibility, as Norway is not part of the EU but benefits from access to the common market like an EU member.  The issue with this solution is that while it would allow things in the UK to change little it won't really answer the demands of the Brexit campaigners.  Norway still has to fund the EU budget, it allows open migration, and it still follows EU laws.  The real major difference is that it has no representatives in Brussels and has no ability to directly influence the laws that affect it.

3.  The UK could also decide to leave the EU fully and use the 2 years under article 50 of the Lisbon treaty to negotiate a series of trade agreements with the different member states of the EU.  This may work well for people inside Britain who voted to leave as it would give the UK an ability to negotiate specific rules and regulations for each country.  The problem for this option is that 2 years isn't a long time to sort out a trade agreement and many of the countries in the EU may not wish to negotiate a specific agreement of the EU.  It also leaves out the issue of immigration and dealing with the many EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens inside the EU.  It's possible that an agreement with the EU on the issue of immigration could be reached separately but it will be difficult in the time allowed.
4. The EU and UK could fail to come to any agreements in the 2 years and the UK will leave the EU with no trade deal and no decision on migration.  This is a possible outcome given the recent talk from the EU of giving Britain a bad deal to try and ensure that other countries don't leave.  In this case Britain and the EU may start putting up tariff barriers to limit the import of goods that they feel is harmful to their economies and migrants both in the UK and EU would likely have to apply for individual visas or work permits or move back to their country of origin.  It is difficult to imagine the upheaval such a result would cause.  It's possible that over 2 million people would have to move and the new tariff barriers would increase the prices of goods across the UK and the EU.

5. The EU could also experience the loss of other countries as a result of the success of the Leave vote.  Denmark, Italy, and even parts of Spain and France have strong anti EU groups who may be emboldened by the Brexit.  Should other major countries vote to leave the EU it's possible by the time 2 years is up there may be no EU to Brexit from.

At this time the future is far from certain, the Pound and Stock markets remain in freefall.  Multiple companies, and even Scotland and Northern Ireland are talking loudly about leaving the UK.  It will take some time for things to stabilize and it seems likely that the UK won't really get moving on invoking article 50 until at least the fall.  Hopefully the outcome will be a positive one and we will all look back years from now and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Brexit: Should The UK and the EU Part Ways

Europe just won't be the same without it, but maybe the UK has always wanted to be out on it's own.
Tomorrow The UK will vote whether to say in the European Union (Remain) or to go it alone (Leave).  The result of the vote will have an impact on financial markets, the Pound, and individuals both inside and outside the UK.  Should Britain vote to Remain in the EU it will continue to enjoy access to the common market, freedom of movement, and the power of a common government to negotiate on it's behalf.  Should Britain vote to Leave the EU it will have the freedom to make it's own choices and negotiate it's own trade deals without interference from Brussels.
A Remain vote will likely mean little will change in the UK's relationship with the EU and things will carry on much as they have before, with the UK being a major player in a large but sometimes unwieldy economic system.
The issue that I found for a Leave vote is that there really isn't any clear idea of exactly what will happen.
Should the UK leave the EU entirely it would have to negotiate a new trade deal with Europe to trade goods back and forth with the common market.  It's entirely possible that the EU won't be in a great mood and will seek to prevent other countries from leaving by stalling negotiations or giving the UK unfavorable terms.  Should tariff barriers come up between the two the UK will see increases in prices of imported goods simply because of new taxes on the imports.  However the UK could use that money from the duties/tariff's to improve public services, so there may be an up and down side to that argument.
Also there is the issue of free movement of workers, which currently allows workers to live and work in any EU country including the UK.  Would those workers now have to return to their countries of origin? both UK citizens in say Germany and French citizens in the UK?  Various sources I consulted suggested that there were around 1 million British citizens living in other EU countries and a similar number of EU citizens living in the UK.  Mass deportations are unlikely however they are favoured by some groups, they would likely be part of future negotiations on the status of the EU-UK relationship as the separation progresses, however moving millions of people would be at best a logistical nightmare.

In the end it's up to the citizens of the UK to decide what they want and hopefully whatever decision they make will work out best for everyone.  But with polls running neck and neck on the final day it seems likely that many people in the UK will not be happy with the outcome.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

EPCOR and the Grab for Drainage

EPCOR, The wholly owned subsidiary of the City of Edmonton, which currently runs power and water in the Edmonton area is now seeking to further tighten it's grip on the city's infrastructure by taking over it's drainage department.  The city has recently agreed to allow EPCOR to pay a consultant to determine if the transfer of the drainage department to EPCOR would be a good idea.  From the information provided at the council meeting it seems that the city would get a $20 million boost in the dividend it receives from EPCOR and also benefit from EPCOR taking over the drainage departments debt.  What is odd is that in all the documentation I could find on this idea there seemed to be no direct benefit to EPCOR other than having more city infrastructure under it's thumb.  The thing about the earlier mentioned study is that while council wasn't totally happy with the idea, they figured since EPCOR was paying for the study there wasn't any harm in letting it go ahead.  Something to think about is where is that $200,000 coming from to fund the study?  Since money doesn't come from nowhere, it'll be paid for by ratepayers in their water and power rates, pennies on the dollar to be sure but it'll be there somewhere.  It's too bad that the councilors voted to let EPCOR study the issue, if they reject the study the money will already be spent, and they didn't seem too happy with the idea of turning over drainage anyways.

EPCOR News Release

Friday, June 10, 2016

Slow and Steady Wins the Transit Race?

In the wake of the very, very delayed Metro Line LRT project, We have now learned that the newer and grander Edmonton Transit Valley Line, Will travel as slow as 30 Km/hr, (Global News Story about slow LRT).  It feels like every time Edmonton tries to get more people to use transit, or provides a new way for people to get around that they just can't quite deliver.  This project was supposed to be a shining beacon of great P3 (public, private, partnership) transit and a great way to get from Millwoods into the heart of downtown.  Now I wonder if anyone will take it if it has to go so slow.....  Hopefully the City of Edmonton can find a solution to this otherwise..  the train may look more like this....
Anyways, I'm a big believer is good transit, and especially fond of LRT and train service.  I just hope that city council can see their way to making sure this isn't the Turtle Train and ensure that it is actually a rapid transit solution that will get people out of their cars and using transit.