Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Alberta a deficit is inevitable, it's where we choose to put our money which matters

So I have run through Alberta's new public budget tool and it's about as lackluster in options as you would expect. It's no wonder that if this simplistic approach is taken to budgets that we continue to have problems.

There is no vision in the budgeting process, and all visions discussed outside of the budgeting process have no say here. In the budget process when it comes to spending, you can make cuts, and when it comes to existing, established sources of revenue all you can do is increase it. Alberta's problems though are going to take a lot more than a +/- to specific departments, Alberta needs to re-evaluate it's position and the long-term outlook for revenue and adjust accordingly. This would of course mean deficits for the foreseeable future based on the information presented there but what's important is we spend and invest on a path that provides some sort of a future rather than continually lowering the bar on our standard of living and services and pretend as though balancing the budget is the ultimate goal, it isn't.

Under traditional monetary systems, going into debt wouldn't be that bad under the duties that are supposed to be taken on by the Bank of Canada to be the sole provider of the nation's currency, but under our current model the Bank of Canada simply facilitates entry into a private, international, bond auction. Participating in this type of auction is required if we wish to be involved with free trade which is administered by the WTO. Under this system all of the interest on our debt is given to the private interests which invest in our debt, this goes for the municipal all the way to the federal. All of the interest we pay on our government debts effectively is drained from circulation while at the same time we borrow more which accumulates even more interest, etc.

Under the traditional system the interest on the government debts would be recycled back into the Bank of Canada and always stay within the possession of the taxpayer.

Why are these monetary details important? They are important because they are largely the reason that government finances and budgets now must be treated in the same fashion as corporate or household budgets. It is the reason that not running a deficit is so important as the worse the debt situation gets the worst your credit rating is, and the worst your credit rating is the harsher the interest payments become. We can see the detrimental effect a matured system like this has by observing Europe and soon the U.S. Under the traditional system there is nothing inherently bad about going into debt other than the chance you may inflate your currency away to nothing should you provide too much but under the current system the side-effects can be extremely detrimental and like most consumer debt which is based on the same fundamentals it is increasingly difficult to get out of the more money you borrow.

You can see the results of my budget here and clocked in at a $1.1B deficit. I'll provide some reason to the specific changes I made as my goal when playing with the limited options on budgetchoice.ca was not to balance the budget but to make some of the changes (that the program allows) which would set us up for the future. Again, this is very limited simply due to the fact that when it comes to spending for instance there is no option to increase spending, only make cuts.

Here are the options I changed from their defaults:
  • Eliminate future funding for Carbon Capture & Storage [-$60M]. This one was a no-brainer however I would add in addition that to coincide with this change and make it useful the Alberta government should keep emission rules the same as though it was in place and have strict penalties for companies which violate these rules. Let the companies foot the bill for this on their own or cease their operations. CCS is incredible overhead on the backs of the Albertans and we shouldn't have to foot the bill for it. Companies need to start covering their own overhead for Alberta to have sustainable budgets.
  • Cut funding for fiscal planning and economic analysis [-$1M].
  • Cut funds to investment, treasury, and risk management [-$2M]. In regards to the point above and this point I figured if we had any "fiscal planning", "economic analysis", or "risk management" then I wouldn't be doing this budget choice thing in the first place and Alberta wouldn't get so many mentions on my blog. Fire them, they suck.
  • Cut funding for international relations [-$2M]. Everybody knows Alberta exists and we have oil sands. We don't need any more trips to the Bilderberg to bring in business. Alberta needs to re-evaluate it's business model anyway and until we do so we really have nothing to sell. Alberta's energy is by far the most expensive energy in the world to produce, yes countries and such will always come back for more as energy is in higher demand and diminishing rapidly but on the same token these energy players will drop it without a second-thought should some form of cheaper energy come online.
  • Eliminate tourism promotions programs [-$10M]. Sadly much of our tourism promotion is funded purely to counteract the bad publicity that arises directly due to our choice of industry. The best promotion for tourism I think would be a state-of-the-art province, industry, and transportation, a look into the future and not the past. Our tourism promotion materials if you remember once featured a beach.. from England. At the end of the day Albertan's needs and Alberta's vision need to come first and tourism promotion is a want, not a need.
  • Cut support to the legislative assembly by 10% [-$7M]. Do we really need any more studies, panels, commissions, etc releasing report after report telling Alberta they've got some serious problems only to have them discarded, covered up, or buried? I'd like to see some action on the recommendations of all the reports we financed in the last decade before financing a whole bunch more in this one.
So there are my choices for spending cuts. Here are my choices for revenue increases (again, keep in mind that in my little virtual fantasy budget world there will be a third section called "program changes" beyond Alberta's simplistic spending and revenue):
  • Increase the corporate tax rate from 10% to 11% (+$420M). If there's any tax which should be raised first, it's this one considering that much of our spending is directly related to overhead needed to support many of their industries and which wouldn't be needed otherwise.
  • Increase Fuel Taxes by 4 cents per litre [+$490M]. This is probably the most controversial item I chose but I believe with good reason. Alberta has always been a province that centers around driving and there is rarely the motivation or drive to do anything truly visionary with our transportation system. In my mind a high-speed train between Edmonton-Red Deer-Calgary is a no brainer and major enhancements to public transportation is a must. Whether we like it or not, in a world of expensive-diminishing energy public transportation from an investment standpoint in the long-term makes a lot more sense than continually building more and more roads which fall apart faster and require a lot more energy and maintenance. If I could add options for increased spending I would be adding a $500M initiative to kick-start province-wide public transportation for the population which is largely located in urban centers. The gas tax increase would in this way have a minimal effect on the population while having maximum effect on the incredible fuel demand needed by our energy industry. Further, for those in agriculture this gas tax would be offset by an equal increase in their aid. Why? Simple, we need food and in a world where you're competing with Monsanto terminator seeds and industrial agriculture running on expensive fuel, farmers need all the help they can get. Again, my goal with my choices here is not to balance the budget, but to lay out within the strict box Alberta has created for itself some sort of a vision which has us looking further down the road than the next 4 quarters and oil price.
  • Introduce a second income tax for incomes over $250,000 [+$500M]. This option isn't exactly what I would want, I'd actually like a graduated tax system as opposed to a flat tax system, but that option isn't given so this is the closest I could come.

I would touch nothing else, in fact when it comes to many of the other departments again I would likely increase spending, taking advantage of current borrowing rates now and a stable credit rating and banked assets to properly invest in the start of a new economy. We're much better off taking a big hit now and making a valiant attempt to position ourselves for the future, then to continually try to minimalize the hit year after year in a slow downward spiral. As I stated before, I am only opposed to tax increases and the government's preferred revenue generation increases because I know they will simply turn around and throw it at the oil sands VLT, but on the other hand I have no problem funding a long term vision even though it is risky.

I noticed also that quite a few options for spending cuts and revenue generation were missing: MLA pay cutbacks and/or freezes, more penalties on pollution (not emissions, I mean pollution, IE: tailings), reduction or elimination of subsidies for the energy industry, greater electricity cost sharing initiatives due to the incredible power consumption of the industry. Greater cost sharing by industry towards health care expenses directly related to their activities, retroactively (IE: Asthma is found more often in Fort McMurray than anywhere else in Canada).

To conclude, I believe largely that governments all over Canada have severely underestimated the state of our infrastructure deficit and as I've noted before it's really starting to show when you compare our current public technology and services with those in the emerging economies. We have a lot of hidden expenses coming our way in terms of infrastructure repairs but our bottom-line focus tells me we likely won't deal with them until it's too late and much more costly; perhaps fixing the bridge after it collapses or fixing the pipes after the city floods. We're going to need to start thinking outside the box and reconsidering our assumptions about the way the current economy and market will behave as under the current model and mismanagement Alberta just isn't going to be prosperous despite our vast resources and out of anything this should make you the most upset of all.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ice on Whyte - Photos

Lots of people from around the world read this blog so I figured I'd post my photos from the Ice on Whyte festival. It's pretty cool and for those not living in a winter frozen city like Edmonton a chance to see something a little different. For those in Edmonton.. don't look at my photos, go actually check it out. :)
























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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A tax for every occasion

There is a lot of talk going around on Twitter about solutions for Alberta's revenue problems and perhaps the most popular of these ideas is more taxes. From a simplified point of view it's not without it's merit. We're short on revenue which directly effects our public service operating capacity and therefore the easiest way to get more revenue is more taxes. Simple right? The popularity of this option seems quite high, especially amongst those who identify as "left-wing" however if you identify and believe as such I'd like you to consider a few things first.

I don't support any new taxes, at least until the government proves it has a viable economic plan. More taxes unto themselves is not an economic plan it is a function of such a plan. Those taxes must come from income, and income comes from business, and if our business which brings in revenue is having a problem then more taxes based on said business isn't going to be doing much now is it? Less revenue = less income = less taxes, even though the tax rate may be higher all you're really doing is taking away more disposable income from many people who as is can not afford it.

A lot of attention is being paid to the "low tax rate" (which isn't really that low as we have more hidden taxes than any other province) and little or no attention is being paid to the cost of living. I'd like to remind all of you that Alberta has steadily been increasing these hidden taxes over the last decade. Smokers have been hit particularly hard and yet this revenue simply disappears into "general revenue" and is never considered as an actual increase to revenue. Despite these hidden taxes discreetly increasing over the last decade we are still having a revenue problem. Few seem to remember the Fort McMurray area inflation which occurred during our last "boom". I remember seeing bachelor suites going for $2000 / month and the moped becoming quite the popular transportation method due to gas prices.

The fact of the matter is I am not going to help bankroll Alberta's gambling addiction. If someone is going broke and into heavy debt because they continue playing the VLTs: would your first choice in helping them out of their situation be to give them more money in hopes they do the "smart thing" with it? Whether it's VLTs, horse races, or the market (oil price): it's all gambling. Betting on the market is not a plan and until they have a viable plan I see no reason to provide them even more money to waste.

I get the whole "public good" thing and yes unless the government gets more revenue there is going to be some serious pain in Alberta and all across Canada, I've only been warning about this for years - no one has listened instead choosing to believe that our "bitumen bubble" would continue forever. Albertans chose to stick their head in the sand and watch as countless warning signs passed us by. Instead of seriously discussing environmental issues we ignored them, I'm not talking about emissions, I'm talking about all of the pollution the government detracts from with emission talk. Albertans have simply accepted that our governments response to these serious issues has been propaganda campaigns to convince everyone it's not true.

We've had plenty of opportunities to both recognise and address this problem before it turned into what it has. Following the collapse in oil price in 2008 Alberta should have diverted significant resources to it's other industries and began plans to move away from an oilsands based economy. We didn't, what did we do instead? We bankrolled EdTV so he could tell us we were going to "wait for oil and gas revenue to rebound". Gambling, nothing more. Alberta at the time had significant savings, now we're running a deficit and our savings are almost gone and what do we have to show for it?

Albertans, new taxes is equivalent to the U.S. simply suspending the debt ceiling since they refuse to deal with their problems. Some day in the future there will be a day of reckoning for the U.S. as all of the Obama and Bush fanboys continue to lie to themselves about some sort of fantasy "economic recovery" while the Federal Reserve monetizes their future. When this day of reckoning comes there will be no resources amongst the American people to solve it, already some States are considering alternate currencies "just in case" the Federal Reserve System collapses. The same will happen here Albertans if we simply give the government more taxes without first requesting a viable business plan on their part. If we do not request such a plan they're just going to pump that cash into the oilsands VLT and come back to us in 3 years and say "we've got a revenue problem".

Alberta has already gone through a massive set of cuts during the 90s to balance our budget and our public services have never recovered from that, and now here we are 10 years later with less services, less cash, and the same problems plus more demand on our substandard infrastructure to support our source of income. More taxes now will just hurt those affected by Alberta's existing lopsided cost-of-living and provide even less revenue in the future when this government which couldn't forecast itself out of box comes back for more.

Click here to recommend this post on progressivebloggers.ca and help other people find this information.

Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Sneaky Trends and Dystopian Ideals

Are we ready to face the realities of slow growth? No, we're not. To be ready for something you have to prepare for that something prior to it occurring.
Two trends have snuck up on us – slower long-term economic growth and an aging society.
I guess you don't read my blog, nor were you reading my Hellberta blog, nor the Facebook group I was running before that. The trend of slowing growth and an aging population has been developing for sometime in extremely obvious ways. Now that we're heading into the depths of the end of growth it would seem those who chose to ignore the obvious signs finds this "sneaky".

These trends didn't sneak up on us, you sir have simply chosen to ignore them preferring instead to believe in Canada's "strong, stable, economy".
This week, the Bank of Canada published economic growth estimates. The bank said economic growth in 2012, when all is accounted for, will be 1.9 per cent, followed by 2 per cent in 2013 and 2.7 per cent in 2014. If correct (and predictions are usually proven at least slightly wrong), that would mean an average growth rate of 2.2 per cent over these three years.

Per year, the difference between 2 and 3 per cent growth doesn’t seem like much. Add it up, year after year, and the gap is telling. More important, most of the long-term forecasting suggests that for the rest of this decade, growth will be slower than what we knew before the financial recession of 2008.
The author is starting to catch on to the illusion exponential growth creates. "2 and 3 per cent growth doesn’t seem like much", the key here is it is a percentage based on the previous growth. "2 or 3 percent" year over year equates to an ever larger amount, think compound interest. The year's growth includes itself in the economic base of the next year meaning even more growth must occur to reattain the 2 or 3 percent growth.

We're looking for an increase in the percentage while ignoring the fact that year over year that simple 2% represents an ever larger economic value. From this point of view growth hasn't actually slowed at all it's still speeding up but the unit of measurement (especially when you consider much of our base growth levels have now been generated by banking fraud) is exceeding the physical possibilities of growth itself.

Our virtual, fiat, "financial services" economy has pushed growth levels far beyond real growth. Real growth is a spec of dust now in the shadow of the banking sector. If you want to understand the source of inequality between the 1% and everyone else all you have to do is look at their sources of income. The upper 1% gets the majority of their income not from jobs but from investments or market trading while the lower 99% relies on the real productive economy. You, the 99%, have to go to work everyday, expend energy, and produce something or service something. The 1% largely brings in cash produced out of thin air, of course it's not only the 1%: for instance, we have a natural obsession with believing somehow our homes are generating value, that the $100000 many home flippers were bringing in was actually produced somewhere, it wasn't. Your house isn't creating value in any way, shape, or form, it is only perceived to increase in value usually resulting in collapsing housing bubbles as the lack of real growth quickly prices people out of the over valued market.
The effects of slower growth will be twofold. First, government revenues will grow less rapidly than before, assuming no changes in tax rates. Second, some government expenditures will increase with slower growth, especially since slower growth means stubbornly high unemployment. The double-whammy will pinch government budgets, which are already strained by deficits, except in Saskatchewan.
Except Saskatchewan? Right... What he is describing here is the "downward recovery" I've been telling you about. Peak oil and extremely expensive energy ensures the real economy is more expensive while there is less disposable income available from the real economy to feed the fiat financial service ponzi scheme. If you're about to tell me that fracking proves there's no peak oil then you need to restudy (or perhaps start studying) the concept of energy returned on energy invested. The market value of this new shale oil is reflective of the rush to this new market and the resulting glut, not representative of the actual cost to produce shale oil.
But for now, it would appear that the already hard challenges of governing will become even harder in an age of constrained resources.
Yes, it will. There's going to be more protests, more riots, and an ever-increasingly brutal police response. This civil unrest is going to compound the already dismal economic situation. Greece is the canary in the coal mine, a preview of events to come.

We're not ready for this slowdown in growth at all, few even have a basic understanding or grasp of what it all really means. We're still in denial, and it's really going to hurt. The G20 was the training for the response that will be coming from the government when Canadians finally figure this all out.


Click here to recommend this post on progressivebloggers.ca and help other people find this information.

Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Tales From the Crypt: #yegarena

Well holy crap-balls it's back. The #yegarena has arisen from the dead and as any dark lord will tell you, the deals gotta get worse all the time. You keep coming back with worse and worse deals, beating the population into submission after you get them hooked on what they love, and you provide.

What the hell is wrong with this city? We get a bad deal, we agree on a worse framework with a guy who tries to pull a fast one on us then goes and dicks around in Seattle to try and instill a little fear in us that the Oilers might leave otherwise. We're told, it's either this or we renovate Rexall and who wants to pay for that? Well, apparently Northlands does, because they're now doing it anyway and are going to compete with the new arena. Now this guy is back with an even worse deal and we're all like "oh wow, that's a great deal! thanks Mr. Katz!", WTF?!

From the Edmonton Journal:
What’s it going to cost?

All in, $601 million. That breaks down as:
- Arena construction, $480 million
- Winter Garden pedestrian bridge across 104th Avenue, $53 million
- Arena land, $25 million
- Community rink attached to arena, $21 million
- Pedestrian corridor through the arena, $15 million
- Link to MacEwan LRT station, $7 million

Who’s going to pay for it?

It seems like everybody, one way or another.

- The city: $219 million ($140 million for the arena, $25 million for the Winter Garden, $25 million for the land, $15 million for the pedestrian corridor, $7 million for the LRT and $7 million for the community rink).
- Katz Group: $143 million ($115 million for the arena, $28 million for Winter Garden).
- Ticket buyers, through a surcharge: $125 million.
- The province: $107 million ($100 million for arena, $7 million for community rink).
- The feds: $7 million for rink.

Is all that funding guaranteed?

Don’t go throwing around the G word just yet. Mayor Stephen Mandel is certain the province will provide a source for the $100 million, but we’ll have to watch the March 7 budget to see whether he’s right.
They said no.
While the city’s arena contribution seems secure — property taxes on future downtown development, parking fees and other sources — it must still apply for rink grants from the federal and provincial governments.
Assuming growth in Alberta remains on pace for 35years...
Who will take care of this giant oil drop?

The city owns the land and arena. Katz Group subsidiary Edmonton Arena Corp. will operate it and keep all the revenue over a 35-year lease, paying its share of the mortgage and interest as about $5.5 million in annual rent.

But rehabilitation and replacement of structural, mechanical, electrical and other systems, the so-called capital maintenance, will be handled by the city using $1.5 million collected annually from the ticket tax.

If that’s not enough money, they can boost the surcharge in 15 years.
Again, assuming people in 15 years are just going to have the spare change lying around. Economies around the world are collapsing, revolutions everywhere, the U.S. has suspended it's "debt ceiling" with downgrades imminent and here we are talking about ticket surcharges in 15 years in case their isn't enough money for maintenance which is only going to become increasingly expensive while we contend with diminishing returns? Brilliant. I guess we better hope interest rates remain low so the consumer and government borrowing sprees can continue, eh?
And the property taxes?

The arena corporation, the Oilers and their related companies will pay the city a maximum $250,000 annually for business done during events, in addition to provincial education taxes.

That’s a fixed amount, not based on assessment. City chief financial officer Lorna Rosen says it’s reasonable considering the $60,000 in property taxes now paid at Rexall Place.

Setting the value of such special facilities is difficult and without this arrangement the city could have lost future assessment appeals, she says.

The Calgary Flames don’t pay any property tax.

All the restaurants, bars and shops in the arena that aren’t owned by Katz will pay their own taxes, but whatever they pay over $250,000 for event business will cut the Katz tax bill by the same amount until it reaches zero.

How much is the ticket tax?

Likely seven per cent, the same as most tickets at Rexall Place.

If the surcharge churns out more cash than needed for mortgage payments and the maintenance fund, the surplus goes to Katz, on the theory that he would have received all this money from ticket prices if the tax didn’t exist.

What’s to stop Katz from demanding a sweeter deal in a few years?

Company executive vice-president John Karvellas says they have no intention of coming back to the table once everything is set in place and his boss made “significant compromises” to reach an agreement.

More to the point, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has indicated the league will support the 35-year location agreement that’s part of the proposed contract.
Seriously Edmonton, did you not see RedTV the other day? Have you not been observing as Alberta's number one trading partner's leaders gobble around like chickens with their heads cut off? I know we don't bring in royalties as a city, but come on, we're going to be hurting as a result of the effects. Do you know what happens when a larger government runs massive deficits? They offload their costs to the smaller governments, the cities.

I'm telling you Edmonton, in the near future we are going to need the capital that's being put into this for much more important purchases. I'm not even going to go into my standard arguments against this deal or the arena, readers of this blog have heard them all before. In the current economic climate this commitment is much too long and much too risky. There is no possible way they can have a reliable economic forecast on this project 2 years out, let alone 15, or 35; they might claim to but how many governments are getting their economic forecasts right these days?

I'm not opposed to spending, but if we're going to go into debt doing something lets make that something worth everyone's while. The people of Edmonton should not have to shoulder the entire risk so that a private entity can reap all of the rewards. Edmonton, this isn't 2003, it's 2013; the world is an economic basket case and the fiscal storm is starting to hit Canadian shores. There has got to be a million things that $600M could go towards helping the population weather the storm, rather than providing a new entertainment centre and distract from it.


Click here to recommend this post on progressivebloggers.ca and help other people find this information.

Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Why Alberta's current fiscal situation is actually something worse than just a bust

Following yesterday's episode of RedTV I am seeing a lot of people on Twitter saying stuff like 'Here we are again, the boom and bust cycle!", etc etc. Our current situation may resemble the boom and bust cycles of the past but I can assure you that our situation is actually a lot worse and something completely new.

The problem with the view that Alberta is simply in a "bust" is incorrect because relatively oil is not low at all, it's quite high. Anything over $80 is extremely high on a long term time line. Previous busts (such as the one in 2008/2009) returned the oil price to an actual low number ($34 in 2008 I believe).

We are not going to see anymore oil-oriented economic booms in Alberta, none. The current price of oil simply does not allow enough room for a proper acceleration into "boom". By the time the "boom" starts picking up oil price has already reached $100 or more, and the affordability of gas and oil takes over and the "bust" occurs directly afterwards.

Alberta oil booms were premised on exponentially rising oil prices, prices that never fell and for a few years this worked out as we expected, but now that the price of oil is so high and even a low price of oil is relatively extremely expensive this exponential growth in the price of oil is over. It's going to be short-term volatility, all the time from now on in oil prices meaning that so long as we pursue our current economic model we will be in a perpetual "bust".

Click here to recommend this post on progressivebloggers.ca and help other people find this information.

Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Alison Redford on RedTV: 'Opening new markets is job #1 for my government'

Wow! Was that ever underwhelming! That's it? A pledge to open new markets for the oil industry? This is the "solution" to Alberta being "vulnerable" to oil markets? I mean seriously, out of all the possible things that "job #1" could have been she picks "opening new markets"? More bets on oil?

Ok, we're just going to have to tear this thing apart, so I present to you in my usual commentary style:

Alison Redford in "Premier's Address to Albertans"



Alright, now before I begin with the dialogue of my response to the Premier here I'd just like you to note (and keep in the back of your mind) the video's little introduction text: Energy, Prosperity, Foresight. I couldn't find a transcript so I just typed the whole thing out (that's the sort of awesome you get here on Canadian Trends). Let's begin (bold quoted text is emphasis added by me):
Good evening,

In the last election I made a commitment to speak directly with Albertans when important issues arise and to listen carefully to your advice. Tonight, I want to start one of those conversations.

As Premier I am proud to lead a province that has achieved so much. We're creating jobs and attracting thousands of new Albertans here each year, in part because our taxes are the lowest in Canada. We live in safe communities, and we're able to provide world-class health care for people like my dad, and quality education for people like my daughter Sarah.


Alberta has been a steady star in turbulent waters but even we're not immune to economic forces beyond our borders. Today, 30% of our revenues is funded by oil and gas, and this means that we're vulnerable to swings in resource prices as we've seen with natural gas prices in the past, and now the price that we receive for Alberta oil.
Remember those words I told you to keep in mind? Energy, Prosperity, Foresight? Well reading the above paragraph it sounds to me as though there has been zero foresight in regards to Alberta's long term prosperity when it comes to our lust for quick energy sales. 30% of our revenue relies on oil and gas, not because of God or mother nature or even China; 30% of our revenue relies directly on oil and gas because of the shortsighted policies which put all of our focus, resources and energy into an unreliable, unsustainable industry.
This time last year: private sector economists, industry experts, and banks forecasted that West Texas Intermediate Oil - the benchmark price for oil in North America - would average $100 / barrel in 2012. The federal conservatives, our neighbours in Saskatchewan, and our own government used that benchmark as the basis for our budget forecasts. In fact we forecasted the price to be slightly lower, just to be safe. But now, Texas Oil ended up only averaging $94 last year and that difference in price alone has cost the province nearly $1B in royalty revenues since April. But it isn't the price of oil in Texas that's causing the real problem; historically the price we've received for our oil has been slightly lower than West Texas oil and that differential had been manageable. But since September that gap has grown considerably and the trend is getting worse for the foreseeable future.
Private sector economists, industry experts, and banks got it wrong? Wow! no kidding? They also got the 2008 collapse wrong, they got the Facebook IPO wrong, estimates on Canadian growth.. wrong too! Interest Rate outlook? Wrong. It's a good thing I don't listen to those folks otherwise I would just have to spend all of my time trying to justify why my forecasts were always wrong!

Look Alison (I figure since we're having a conversation and all first name basis should be cool with ya), I get it, everyone was using the benchmark! Monkey-see, monkey-do. Well, not everyone. I mean seriously, it's not like basing the entire provincial budget on an anticipated market response is anything similar to gambling right? Like for instance: if I went to the horse races and this guy I know who sits outside on the same bench all the time - I call him Mark - told me that he knows like pretty much "fer sure" that the #6 horse was going to win all 8 races and I put my entire rent on the line based on my bench-Mark, that would be pretty responsible wouldn't it? I mean seriously, the guy is on the bench every fucking day! Calling out "#6! #6!". Guy knows his shit, I mean he never wins or anything and the #6 rarely if ever actually comes first but this guy... he's on the "inside". Is this not just taking an opportunity? If I win? Well holy crap - that's a nice thought. What.. lose? Lose-smoose, go ask bench-Mark: he knows. If the bench-Mark says bet your future on my bullshit then hey! You're stupid not to do that.
That vast majority of our oil is now bitumen from the oilsands and because of rapidly increasing levels of oil production in the United States and the fact that we virtually no where else to sell our oil but to the U.S. market, Alberta is getting just over $50 / barrel for our oil. This bitumen bubble means that the Alberta government will collect about $6B less in revenue this year alone. To put that in context: that's equivalent to all of our government spending on education each year, so as we prepare this year's budget it means we have to make some very difficult choices.
 Huh? Bubble? What the hell are ya talking about?


A market phenomenon characterized by surges in asset prices to levels significantly above the fundamental value of that asset. Bubbles are often hard to detect in real time because there is disagreement over the fundamental value of the asset.
 
It sounds to me that the opposite is true, the bitumen bubble is collapsing. We were living in the bitumen bubble for the last 20 years - believing it would never go down in value and that the exponential market moves we had become accustom to would last forever. Perhaps what's actually happening now is that the true value of our inferior product: "bitumen" is beginning to shine through.
When Albertans elected us last April you placed your trust in us to both manage us in good and challenging times. To protect Alberta's gains while building for the future. You gave our government a clear mandate to keep investing in services that support our families and our communities, the communities where we live. You told us to continue building the new roads, schools, and health facilities that we need, and we are listening.
And yes, we do need them. We've needed them for a long time. This is part of the overhead of oilsands growth - an overhead which will always outweigh revenue so long as market conditions remain as they are currently with a fluctuating bi-directional oil price. Of course, I'm not saying that hospitals and schools are needed by the oilsands, what I'm saying is that the numbers that we require are due to the influx in population that is primarily arriving because of the demand from the oilsands for them to be here. We're building huge roads to carry massive trucks that otherwise wouldn't need to be there. As the oilsands expand the infrastructure to run them also has to expand further, but we are being told that to essentially have enough to pay for the infrastructure the oilsands must grow more. A continual debt on the future.
Despite falling oil revenues I give you my commitment that as we deliver our long term economic plan for Alberta, we will be thoughtful of our approach, and we will deliver on these priorities. It's not good enough to simply take an axe to government spending across the board, that would mean that vulnerable Albertans get hit the hardest, and it's not good enough to take the easy way out and raise taxes.

Last year we initiated a results based budgeting process, a process that challenges every dollar that the government spends while making sure that the programs and the services that we provide are getting results for Albertans, and I've instructed every one of my ministers to speed up this review. In this year's budget we'll hold the line on our spending and we'll live within our means, but our population is growing quickly, we know that living in this province. Last year alone we welcomed 95000 new Albertans; that's equal to adding a new city the size of Red Dear every single year. So while it may sound relatively painless to hold our overall spending levels, it's not. As a result, some programs and services will change especially those that are not sustainable over the long term. Quite simply, we have to put Alberta's finances on a more stable footing.
I'm hearing lots about how they are going to redistribute the unstable revenue they get, I am not however hearing anything about how to actually fix the problem about a completely unstable revenue source. I would love to be on stable footing, but instead what's being proposed is a slow and painful downward spiral as we chase the oilsands profit that never was.
A province as prosperous as Alberta should not be as susceptible as we are to swings in the prices of oil and gas, and it's why I'll continue to fight for a Canadian energy strategy that gets our oil to both the west and the east coast in Canada, to the refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast, and to markets over seas - particularly growing economies in Asia.
How are more markets for oil and gas going to fix the problem of "swings in the price of oil"? This is just plain misdirection, the promises of the last years have failed. The "5 year economic action plan" has failed. We don't just need high prices, we need exponentially high prices. Prices that rise, forever. No market in the world can provide that. A province that was truly prosperous wouldn't rely entirely on an expensive one-trick pony.
We have a duty to ensure that our resources, especially Alberta oil and gas, get to new markets at a much fairer price. These are our assets and we need to sell them for the highest price possible, and that means we absolutely must find ways to get Alberta oil to multiple customers around the world and get a competitive price, but this won't happen over night. It will take focus and determination over the next several years to open new markets and that's job one for my government. Through all of this as we make the tough but thoughtful decisions to live within our means, we have a plan to once again begin investing a portion of our resource revenue in the heritage fund, the first time that will have happened in over 25 years.
The misdirection continues further. You see how she has turned the "conversation" around? It began by talking about how 30% of our revenue is based on oil and gas which has now morphed into an excuse and some sort of prophetic duty to "get our resources to new markets". That's the duty is it? Nothing else? Do you not think Alison that maybe you have a duty to be honest? To admit the fault on behalf of the 40 year regime known as the Progressive Conservatives for putting us into a really shitty economic situation where foresight didn't enter the train of thought for profit at all? Do you not also have a duty to diversify our economy? Or at least maybe have a 'plan b'?
We'll build on the legacy that Premier Lougheed laid down for us;a legacy premised on fiscal conservatism with a strong social conscience that has built Alberta into the greatest place in Canada to live, bar none. Working together, and with your support, we'll work through the effects of the bitumen bubble and put Alberta on a more secure footing. But make no mistake about it, our government was elected to keep building Alberta. To focus our spending on the priorities that you told me were important and that's exactly what we'll do.
Yes.. Lougheed. This guy, right? (Sorry for the shitty source, the original source the Calgary Herald has conveniently removed that article...). Maybe you should try going back and listening to all the suggestions he had instead of building on a legacy I think few still recognise. This is the Klein legacy now: quick money, no plan.
I look forward to continuing our conversation directly with you in the weeks ahead (More #RedTV?), we will listen and we will act. Next month I'll lead the first annual Alberta Economic Summit that will bring together leading thinkers from across Alberta. We'll hear from industry experts, from business and not-for-profit sector leaders, and academics from our colleges and universities, but most importantly we'll hear from people like you who are passionate about sharing ideas and finding solutions. This summit will not solve everything in one day but it will allow us to continue our conversation. I don't expect your advice to be unanimous, it usually isn't in most families, but I'm prepared to make the tough decisions that must be made to protect all that we've achieved together while not losing sight of our duty to future generations.

Thank you for spending a few minutes with me this evening, good night.
Alison, I'm going to be frank; at this point there is only one thing that would interest me, and that is for the Alberta government to stop selling all of us out for generations to come. You talk about a duty to the coming generations, but what duty? Debt? Environmental Cleanup duty?

I'm not oblivious to the needs of our society, we are a 100% oil based industrial economy. This is the current world and that is certainly not going to change overnight and quite likely to maintain the sort of lifestyle we currently have to some degree it can never change, not that it can't change - but if it does it will be involuntary. I get all of that, but I also get peak oil, although I'm pretty sure you do too, don't you? You've gotten the memo, the evidence is all around you, why continue to lead Albertans down this path?

If you really want to listen, go and listen to everyone who has been priced out of the bubble-territory housing market. Listen to the Temporary Foreign Workers who slave away on a second tier wage with no rights to speak of. Oh sure, we'll bring 'em in now right, figure out what to do with them later, as always. Hell, we need the labour, don't we! Overhead, overhead, overhead.

A prosperous province shouldn't always have to continue slimming it's belt and living by the bottom line. You have a revenue problem, and it's name is the oilsands: fix it; not by opening up new markets, but by examining the core business model in a modern volatile bi-directional market. I really hope you're listening...

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Alberta presents: [In The] Red-TV

Premier Redford to address Albertans in Thursday night televised speech

Hey, Albertans! Remember Ed-TV?

I thought not, you're not really supposed to remember Ed-TV because in Ed-TV a 5 year "economic action plan" was described and now that we are in "year 5" it's become quite apparent that their action plan hasn't worked out.

Of course, a year ago the Alberta government wasn't complaining about missing pipeline links or anything of the sort. At the time the oil price was rising and they were estimating even higher prices! But no, let's all ignore this and focus on the "now".

In the "now": Alberta bitumen sells for less than oil, but wait a minute here! I thought Alberta bitumen always sold for less than actual oil?

Taxing dilemma for Alberta’s finances
Like others before it, the Redford government is caught in the age-old trap of relying on the roller-coaster of international oil prices. Bitumen from the oilsands now fetches only $45 to 50 a barrel compared to $65 in March 2012. Natural gas prices have slumped.
Gee, in March of 2012 bitumen was going for more! Of course at the time oil was going for more too, but let's all just pretend that this discount is due to the pipelines and not the fact that at it's core Alberta is selling an inferior product to oil called "Bitumen".

Hell, while we're ignoring simple facts lets also ignore the cause of the problems too. Let's forget about the internal memo telling the government the oilsands are too expensive to produce. Let's forget the AHS scandals, the Duckett cookie. Let's forget the $25million dollar rebranding of Alberta. Let's forget that for 30 years all infrastructure spending in Alberta basically came to a standstill and let's also forget that it takes a decade for this government to put a highway together.

Clearly the issue in Alberta is not that the government wastes money hand over fist, or that the government has put all of our economic eggs into one incredibly unstable and unsustainable basket, or that the economic basket they've chosen is completely unaffordable and requires an immense amount of infrastructure spending, electricity consumption, subsidies, and write-offs just to be operational. No, clearly the issue is "revenue".

So, on Thursday, following the 6PM news Albertan's homes will once again be intruded by a premier desperate for Albertan's to continue believing them. The new Red-TV will pickup exactly where the old Ed-TV left off: "we need money".

For the Wildrose, the culprit is spending. For the PCs the culprit is low oil prices and a *sudden* need for expanded pipelines (in reality bitumen always has sold for less). For the NDP and Liberals the problem is low taxes. It's interesting that not one has put the finger on Alberta's pride and joy industry, the oilsands, itself.

High spending in Alberta is needed because of the influx of people we need to operate the oilsands. Kevin Taft notes this as such:

Taft doesn’t believe that government spending is out of control. On a per-capita basis, Alberta spends about the same on public services as it did in the 1980s, when the dollars are adjusted for inflation.
As covered earlier, the price of bitumen in comparison to the price of oil hasn't changed all that much. When oil goes down, bitumen goes down.. pipelines or no pipelines. Of course, the PCs would like to have us all believe the world has somehow drastically changed in the last 6 months, it hasn't.

Which brings us to taxes. The NDP and Liberals both agree that some additional taxes can even out the revenue but this, also, doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Assuming the influx of new people mostly have jobs (that is why they are moving to Alberta, isn't it?) then shouldn't the additional new tax revenue from the additional new people all supposedly working in high-paying jobs cover that? Wouldn't an oil and bitumen price which is relatively much higher than it was back in 2006-2007 cover that?

The answer is no. The oilsands have an EROEI ratio of 3:1. Whether the price is $40, $70, $90, or $149 this ratio does not change. For readers of this blog, this concept is nothing new, I'm not going to repeat the analysis over and over so if you want to know why 'oilsands prosperity is a lie', then you can read my post on the subject here.

The political parties are singling out 3 separate aspects of the same larger problem. Considering that all of them are aware of the internal memo noting this fact one can only assume that they, too, are aware of Alberta's true economic situation and are working to cover for it as well.

Failed forecasts, failed budgets, and failed promises... only on In-The-Red-TV.


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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Suspending and extending an artificial reality

Well the United States continues to impress me. I mean really, suspend the debt ceiling? Brilliant. Just think how many debt ceiling showdowns, fiscal cliffs, etc could have been avoided if there wasn't a debt ceiling in the first place? Obviously we can all trust that when the United States government says that during this time only "necessary" spending will occur that it will all be quite "necessary".

When (or if) in a few months the debt ceiling is reinstated, clearly, the problems will all be solved. It's quite apparent that a government which created the debt ceiling to manage their spending of fiat virtual dollars, created the fiscal cliff to secure a raise of that debt ceiling, and then "avoided" the fiscal cliff by simply ignoring everything that was supposed to happen and all cuts that were supposed to take place only to come back and suspend this virtual self-imposed debt ceiling can be completely trusted to self-manage "necessary" spending. The "necessary" wars aren't slowing down at all, and hey, don't worry, when the decisions come down to the wire (and they will) there are backup plans for you, Americans:
Republican lawmakers are preparing to introduce legislation to direct the U.S. Treasury to make interest payments on U.S. bonds first and then prioritize other government outlays in case Congress does not raise the debt ceiling.
Yes, just before the brilliant, totally unique, and responsible choice to simply suspend the debt ceiling, GOP lawmakers had an alternative plan: turn the entire country into debt slaves.

No, with this suspension of the debt ceiling you Americans are not (yet) complete debt slaves but let me ask you, when this all comes up again in a few months and you, the American people, are now in debt for more because of "necessary spending" (aka: wars), do you think this option won't be entertained then? The whole point of the fiscal cliff was to reduce the budget imbalance yet one would think if any parts of it could be reduced those parts would not be considered "necessary spending" meaning that if the government intended only to spend "what is necessary" then these cuts all could have been made at the time of the fiscal cliff, or the debt ceiling debate, or now - yet they are not.

With these failed politicians, failed debt ceiling, and failed fiscal cliff does anyone actually believe this situation can still resolve itself? That somehow events will turn for the better and not the worst? That by continually amending and ignoring the debt problem it'll somehow disappear? Of course it won't, you're all debt slaves now, any "necessary" spending these failed politicians do now will be added to the tonne of debt already accumulated on your backs and all of the "solutions" are going to involve you paying it for nothing and even less than nothing in return. The suspension of the debt ceiling is a huge, jagged, rocky shard jutting out from the "fiscal cliff" the U.S. is free-falling down and hitting it will see them gush debt out of every orifice. This is just one rock, there's many more, and it's a long way down to the desolate rocky floor of the "fiscal cliff". Look out below!


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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ethical Ignorance

So, has anyone else noticed that "Ethical Oil's" news feed has been dead since September, 2012? I guess it would be quite difficult to write about how ethical Canada is over other regions as we turn to more and more unethical practices to save our ailing economy.

B.C. companies in Eritrea at risk of using forced labour, watchdog claims Human Rights Watch says conscripted workers face torture, imprisonment if they try to leave

Now, correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't Ethical Oil's whole argument favouring foreign investment rooted in the belief that because unethical companies were operating under Canada's "ethical" laws our "ethical oil" remained "untarnished"? I wonder then exactly how Ethical Oil would justify Canadian companies operating unethically in country's one can only assume Ethical Oil would consider "unethical". Which is the unethical party? The country they're operating in, or the practices they are taking advantage of? I guess ethics just aren't as important when your economy is going down the tubes...

Canada Lags Behind the Pack in OECD Data

The OECD data fits my early 2013 forecasts quite well. There are "signs of a rebound" in the U.S. and China and other economies which as we discussed yesterday is the result of what can be considered a current "cheap" energy price. Of course, as always, cheap is relative - the price is definitely on the high-end of the "cheap" scale, and it's a scale which seems to grow all the time being that 10 years ago it would be considered quite "expensive".
“Pretty much out of the six components, there are only two that show a relatively positive performance, share prices and consumer confidence,” Gyorgy Gyomai, head of the cyclical indicator unit in the statistics directorate the OECD, said in an interview with Canada Real Time.
Share prices are generally just a function of consumer confidence anyway and of course we can attribute the consumer confidence to the carefully propagandized reports on our economic well-being.

Canada's dirty economic secret: we're as indebted as the rest of you
Redford faces budget woes, accelerates spending reductions

Our economic well-being is a dirty little secret held deep in the bowels of what alleges to be a "conservative government". With the right play on words they can make anything - even a bailout - sound great. Here in Canada we think it's an incredible economic achievement to say complete the twinning of a highway over a decade later while Asian societies pass us by with leaps and bounds. Rarely, if ever, is Canada's infrastructure advancing but rather merely trying to keep up with our "pace of growth", a pace and demand which we are going into debt trying to accommodate. It's one thing going into debt to provide advanced state-of-the-art infrastructure, it's another going into debt to keep up with the bare minimum of society's needs and maintain ancient 1970s (or earlier) technology. If we're so rich, where's the evidence? where's the investment in the future? There is none, there is merely an investment in the present on the back of the future; the complete opposite direction of where we should be going. We have a complete lack of foresight and real vision here in Canada with economic and infrastructure policy pretty well developed on an ad-hoc basis coming from governments which make grandiose claims about their long-term plans for the future.

Canadians have become so complacent with our easy-money "sell-the-pond-not-the-fish" economic policy that we are either completely oblivious to the economic whirlwinds heading our way or at the very least don't take them as seriously as we should.

ANALYST: At This Point, We Have To Assume That The [U.S.] Government Is Going To Shut Down
Fitch warns on U.S. rating as debt ceiling fight looms
It Begins: Bundesbank To Commence Repatriating Gold From New York Fed

You can now begin to see the shape of what going head-first over the fiscal cliff looks like. As I stated before the path the U.S. chose to go down by essentially avoiding all of the cuts is itself a cliff, not the avoidance of said cliff.
At this point, we have to assume the government shuts down, even if temporarily and in coming days, we’ll have more on the economic/market effects of the last government shutdown. In addition, if Republicans opt to allow sequestration to take effect as planned rather than agree to a deal without “significant” spending cuts, we would have to revisit our market/economic forecast. It might have been reasonable to assume the spending cuts wouldn’t take effect until later in the year or even 2014. That seems increasingly less likely and if so, the fiscal drag on the economy in the second half would be larger and by extension, the outlook for (select areas of) the equity market more difficult.
If investors and firms lose their confidence or begin operating on the assumption the government is going to shut down then it isn't really going to matter whether the government shuts down or not, much of the damage will already be done. Notice now, also, that the fear of "spending cuts" is completely gone and the "fiscal cliff" has evolved now into a government shutdown since the fiscal imbalances were not dealt with. Repatriation of Germany's gold probably isn't going to help that confidence much either.

So in the long-term for Canada (and the mid-term for the U.S.) where is all this going to end up? You might be asking. Spain provides some insight.
As the WSJ notes, Spain has been quietly tapping the country's richest piggy bank, the Social Security Reserve Fund, as a buyer of last resort for Spanish government bonds - with at least 90% of the €65 billion ($85.7 billion) fund has been invested in increasingly risky Spanish debt.
Getting an idea yet...?

And in addition


Somehow I missed this "report" back when it happened but apparently Alison Redford has in fact "reported" on the "achievements" made at the Bilderberg conference. Want to know what she accomplished?
Results:

The Premier's participation advanced the Alberta government's more aggressive effort to engage world decision makers in Alberta's strategic interests, and to talk about Alberta's place in the world. The mission sets the stage for further relationship-building with existing partners and potential partners with common interests in investment, innovation, and public policy.
No, seriously, that's it. That's the entire "report": a single paragraph of umbrella terms which says absolutely nothing and which was noted before as being completely contradictory to the actual mission statement of the Bilderberg group.
The Bilderberg website itself states:

Invitations to Bilderberg conferences are extended by the Chairman following consultation with the Steering Committee members. Participants are chosen for their experience, their knowledge, their standing and their contribution to the selected agenda.
There usually are about 120 participants of whom about two-thirds come from Europe and the balance from North America. About one-third is from government and politics, and two-thirds from finance, industry, labour, education and communications. Participants attend Bilderberg in a private and not an official capacity.

So contrary to her statement:

"participants are chosen for their experience, their knowledge, their standing, and their contribution to the selected agenda."
"Participants attend Bilderberg in a private and not an official capacity."

So according to her she is going to this meeting in a non-official capacity on public funds to push Alberta's agenda? That somehow she has been selected to tell them her agenda, not because she has "contributed to the selected agenda"? Right, the lies are bursting through the seams.
The only aspect of her paragraph on "results" I believe to be truthful is "to talk about Alberta's place in the world". I'm sure that the "decision makers" told Redford exactly what place that is.


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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Windows 8: Did Microsoft finally get something right?

I'm going to depart from my traditional posts for today and instead provide my feedback on Windows 8.

Now, to start with. I am a Linux guy, I started with Slackware 7.0 and RedHat 6 at a time when Linux was still a relative struggle to setup due to a severe lack of mainstream support. I primarily run Linux desktops and Linux servers (although Windows has a few required spots due to my career as a developer). However, at my new job I have been provided with a laptop and it runs Windows 8.

I'll be honest, for the first few days I hated it, absolutely hated it. "WHERE THE FUCK IS MY START MENU?", I shouted. I was literally inches away from installing Windows 7 but decided to struggle with it as quite likely (as with the "Ribbon") Microsoft would be jamming their new desktop format down our throats whether we liked it or not. I had better learn to use and develop for it earlier rather than later, I told myself.

Now, about 2 months later I am actually quite enjoying Windows 8. Once you get used to the nuances it can actually be quite enjoyable to use (even some parts of the Metro interface can be nice). Actually to be honest my whole user-experience changed after I unknowingly installed a 3rd party Start Menu which came with my old friend Daemon Tools.

If you're going to use Windows 8 on a desktop PC I must really suggest installing the Pokki Start Menu (or Daemon Tools which comes with it) as it will really help migrate your experience.

Now, I am aware that Windows 8 contains all sorts of spyware and DRM and this has been the case since Windows Vista and will continue to be a trend in Microsoft Operating Systems moving forward and until that changes it will never ever become a primary O/S for me to use. However, it must become an accepted fact of the Windows family now and I can't give Windows 8 too many black marks due to this fact.

What I am probably the most impressed with is the start up time. Microsoft has, using suspend technologies, greatly increased the start up time. Windows 8 boots up faster than any other operating system I have including my Linux server which doesn't even have a GUI. The performance gains however don't stop there as Microsoft has significantly departed from their resource-heavy desktop applications into something a little more lightweight due to the limited resources available on tablets. They've gotten rid of the resource-intensive AERO theme although it probably would make the O/S more appealing to some people if they had left more intensive theming available on an opt-in basis. The new theme might be a tad boring but it is very functional.

Something that might catch you a little off guard is that there are actually two separate "task bars". One for desktop applications and one for "Metro" applications. The one for desktop applications works exactly as you'd expect (as in Windows 7) however the one for Metro is a bit of a departure from the norm. To access it you must direct your pointer (or finger) to the upper-left of the screen which will cause a small thumbnail of the last-focused Metro Application to appear. From here you can either click through all the open Metro applications or you can proceed to drag your finger down the left side of the screen to bring up a bar displaying all the open applications at once. It does take some getting used to, however the number one complaint I've heard against it: using multiple monitors, doesn't hold water.

In a dual monitor setup this Metro taskbar will be accessible on both monitors, thus to access it you do not have to try to balance your mouse between monitors but rather go to the upper-left of the left monitor. To access the "charms" sidebar you can go to the upper-right of your right monitor to have that appear. Although, if you've installed the Pokki start Menu you probably won't be using the Charms sidebar very often outside of accessing Metro application specific options as all of the standard computer configuration is contained within the Pokki Start Menu.

Visual Studio 2012 and Microsoft Office 2013 blend well into the new interface and Visual Studio 2012 has been updated with a few of the features from the "Microsoft Expression" Web development suite which is a nice touch.

One issue I did have with Windows 8 which has now been resolved was that by default you cannot install unsigned drivers without turning off enforced-driver-signing from a strange multi-layered boot menu. If you find yourself needing unsigned drivers you can find the steps to disable forced driver signing here.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with Windows 8. It's a significant departure from the resource-heavy and ever increasingly intensive bloated Windows we've all come to know. It remains to be seen if it will catch on as a tablet and phone O/S but as a desktop, contrary to popular opinion, I'm actually quite enjoying it.

Click here to recommend this post on progressivebloggers.ca and help other people find this information.

Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Monday, January 14, 2013

UPDATE-1: Growth: It ain't going to pay for itself

"Growth ain't going to pay for itself", says the new mantra of Canada. We've already covered Alberta's "realization" about this fact, and now it's Saskatchewan's turn.
The City of Regina is asking residents to pay the highest mill rate increase ? 4.45 per cent ? in the past 10 years.

"Growth doesn't pay for itself. I think that's a misunderstanding for many at the municipal level," said Brent Sjoberg, deputy city manager and CFO, at Friday's unveiling of the proposed 2013 operating, capital and water, sewer and utility budgets at City Hall.
"Growth doesn't pay for itself", so I guess that leaves only one option then doesn't it? We (the population) must pay for growth. However, one has to wonder exactly how: if it is the people who must pay for the growth how exactly is it the people who will benefit from this supposed "growth"? How is prosperity supposed to increase when costs increase twice as fast?

This is of course the grand lie of our current condition, that somehow there is prosperity sitting at the end of our ever increasingly costly rainbow and of course with ever increasing costs come with ever-increasing debt. The cheap availability of debt naturally leads many "economists" to believe that the Canadian situation can continue indefinitely, with the proper interest rate tweak here and some "tightening" there we can avoid any serious economic crash.
The one thing missing from the market, for all those people looking for a crash, is a catalyst or an event that will force people to reduce their asking prices. Before this housing market burns up in flames, it needs some type of spark.

And, if you talk to some people, that key event — two that come to mind are a spike in interest rates or job losses — is not happening any time soon.
Unfortunately the key event that "some people" are looking for is actually a symptom of the real event.

Jobs, Interest Rates, and Housing - Oh My

Whether you're talking about jobs, interest rates, or housing prices in Canada there is only one possible trigger, and that's the U.S.

U.S. growth will buoy Canada, say economists

Of course, this is assuming the U.S. grows at all being that they haven't dealt with their fiscal crisis yet and went head first over the so-called "fiscal cliff".

"We've begun to see a role reversal between the Canadian and the U.S. economies. Part of it is there is a lot of headroom for the U.S. to catch up," said Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Canada's economy has certainly been losing steam in the last few months. The latest GDP data shows that Canada's economy managed just 0.1 per cent growth in October, while growth was flat in September and declined by 0.1 per cent in August.

The economists agreed that while Canada may lag the U.S. in economic growth, it would certainly benefit from a resurgent U.S., especially when it comes to exports.

The United States continues to be the largest destination for Canadian exports, accounting for almost 80 per cent of goods shipped outside of the border.

"For Canada, it's not a bad export environment," said Wright. "So we are seeing export prospects improving and we continue to think they will pick up."

Another topic discussed at the forum Friday was the Canadian housing sector. Craig Wright, chief economist at the Royal Bank of Canada, said Canada's housing market was "cooling" rather than "collapsing."

"I don't think we'll see a repeat of the U.S. housing crisis here," he said.
Ahh yes, the exports; the real reason that despite all of the talk coming out of the Bank of Canada interest rates are yet to rise. They are being kept low primarily due to the CAD "strength" (which actually translates to the USD weakness), and as an off-shoot to the "strong" Canadian dollar which depreciates our exports the low interest rates are also needed to keep our "consumer spending" revenue base up. When you really think about it, all of the "triggers" the economists are looking for will all be triggered by one event: economic crisis in the U.S.

A Cool Collapse

Oh here we go again, "Canada won't see a U.S. style housing collapse" blah blah blah. Yea, we know, keep repeating your mantra, banks - but of course, we've already covered this subject on Canadian Trends:

Canadian Trends: Super Tights
The Canadian Crash

No, we're not going to have a U.S. styled housing crash. Why would we? We're not the U.S. and our revenue streams are fundamentally quite different from the U.S. Canada's crash will, of course, be in the style of 'Canada'.

Understanding Canada's economic predicament makes it easy to understand exactly what a "Canadian style" crash is going to look like. It all begins with how our housing costs got so high in the first place. Our housing prices are still running off the fumes of the pre-2008 "boom". Because a large amount of our revenue came from the U.S. and they were "booming" (or as we now know "frauding"), this caused our own economic outlook to become artificially inflated. With large amounts of revenue coming in from the U.S. the amount of available capital in Canada was significantly higher than normal.

Now however, all of the revenue we were getting from the U.S. is disappearing fast, and it's not because of the so-called "shale-gas" revolution or whatever (
the oilsands aren't profitable anyway). This is happening because the U.S. is a massive indebted empire which is in decline and before you say: "but their job reports are up", I will point you in the direction of the Bernanke and $40B USD (soon to be $85B USD) per month, forever, in easing. Jobs are not really going to help the situation as those jobs simply represent the means for the slaves to pay their debt. This loss in revenue from the U.S. has slowly been countered by Canadians by increasing their debt loads which are primarily being leveraged on housing.

The resulting consumer spending of the debt has up until now contributed largely to our GDP, which itself provides confidence in economic growth providing for "upwards" economic forecasts which increase confidence which then allow the banks to make riskier bets, providing yet more credit to further fuel consumer spending, and so on and so on. How much of our economy is real? Well, that's what we're going to find out when this whole thing unravels.

Our housing collapse is going to continue to happen in slow motion, and I actually figure that GDP will completely collapse before housing does. Our GDP and consumer spending is the actual bubble, housing is a component in this bubble - but the core problem rests in that we have artificially kept pumping up our GDP with debt after the artificial pumping from the U.S. stopped. Having realized this, our "leaders" have completely reversed course on the whole "ethical oil" thing; now it's "compromise-oil". We need to compromise with these countries in which we disagree with their inhumane and tyrannical practices - for the economy, of course. Do you think it is a coincidence that the usual suspects in Canadian propaganda all stopped referring to the ethical oil meme at the same time? I don't, we've got a new brand name now: "open for business or exploitation".
It seems strange that with so little resolved in the U.S. economic crisis that our Canadian "economists" are so sure that U.S. growth will take off when repeated incompetence in dealing with their fiscal situation is displayed. But then again, our economists have all sorts of faith in China and India for the same reasons: the export market.

Hey wait a minute here, but weren't economists in the second half of last year calling for "emerging markets" to buoy Canada? AND WAIT!!!! Weren't economists before the call for emerging market buoys calling for a huge boost of growth directly from the U.S.? Keystone? Remember? What happened here? Is it the so-called "role reversal"? I don't think so.

What role reversal?

There hasn't been a role reversal, what there has been is an increasingly unbalanced volatile relationship between the U.S. and Canadian economies. Think back to the first half of 2012, what significant event was happening there? Oh yes, rising oil and gas prices.

At the beginning of 2012 the oil price was depreciated. As U.S. "growth" (aka quantitative easing) expanded the price of oil and gas rose very fast until gas prices were on every front page of every paper. Then what happened? U.S. growth collapsed, EU growth collapsed, and shortly after oil hit $80 Canadian growth collapsed as well. There isn't a "role reversal", what you're actually seeing play out is an ever growing imbalance between the requirements of our two economies.

The U.S. to "grow" needs a low oil price, and Canada to "grow" needs a high oil price. The high oil price kills U.S. growth, and the killing of U.S. growth kills the rise in oil price. Even now "speculators" are pushing up the oil price on the speculation the U.S. growth will increase in the later half of the year. It won't however due to the need for a low oil price. Get it? So there's no role reversal, what's happening is the scale is slowly weighing back and forth shortly favouring one economy or the other, but not both. Since these two economies are locked in a symbiosis for success they are both doomed to failure.

Canadian Trends: Trend breakdown for 2013

What about China?

What about them?
China pollution results in factory closures, flight cancellations
Even Goldman Says China Is Cooking The Books

If you're waiting for our Chinaman in shining armor to save our export based economy you might be waiting for awhile. China are themselves coming up against monumental limits to growth and naturally civil unrest continues to grow there as well in response.

The Canadian feedback loop of death debt

For those looking for a "U.S. style crash" you will be very disappointed as one isn't coming. Canada's economic issues are not so much internal as they are external. All of our economic forecasts rely on the same data and that data isn't controllable by Canadians. Our forecasts are based on how well others are doing and the fact that so-called "economists" can't figure out if our growth is going to come from emerging markets or the U.S. should tell you that the economists you're looking to for insight probably have less of an idea what's going on than you do.

We're stuck in a feedback loop of debt based revenue due to an export market which can't gain traction long enough to go anywhere. None of our forecasts can make literal sense in this environment as our GDP forecasts and everything else are all based on revenue which is coming from debt, debt which itself is loaned based on GDP and economic prosperity. A real chicken/egg situation.

Update-1

On the heels of this post comes this "announcement" from the federal government today: "Harper touts $400m plan to boost venture capital"
The Venture Capital Action Plan will make available $250 million to establish new funds led by the private sector.

As well, up to $100 million will be made available to recapitalize existing large private-sector funds.

There will also be a $50-million investment in three to five existing high performing Canadian venture capital funds.

Harper made the announcement in Montreal today.

The prime minister says the key to Canada's global competitiveness depends on Canada's venture capital industry having the resources to be sustainable.
"recapitalize existing large private-sector funds"? So.. a bailout then. Yes, clearly the "key" to our being globally competitive is to give "private sector funds" bailouts. But wait, I thought they had the needed "resources"? I thought they were "capitalized"? I thought we were "stable and strong"?

Fascism (the merging of corporate and state) is alive and well here in good ol' Canada.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.