Affable Communalism Along the Transit Corridor

From Evergreen SkyTrain to take original route:

“It looks like they’ll need a strip of some property, but I’m willing to part with it – for money,” he said, laughing. “It’s more important the transit line gets built.”

Mr. Berezan also said he had some land expropriated for the construction of the Canada line, and he found the price to be fair and the government easy to deal with.

Kudos to you sir, for reinforcing the generally positive national stereotype.

Was the Farley Mowat in International Waters?

Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherds is calling it an act of war. The Farley Mowat was seized by teams of “emergency response” mounties deployed in zodiacs from a pair of coast guard ice breakers. Nobody is yet saying exactly where it happened, but apparently they were somewhere in the Cabot Strait, between Cape Breton and Newfoundland. Watson says they were in international waters. The Fisheries Minister, Loyola Hearn, says they were in “internal waters”. That’s a giant difference in interpretation.

So without knowing just exactly where it went down, is either claim reasonable? At the wikipedia level of analysis, the answer is yes.

Territorial waters” are measured from the low-tide shore baseline 12 nautical miles out to sea. Within it’s territorial waters Canada has legal sovereignty, presumably similar to the legal status of national terrestrial territory. There is an exception requiring free “innocent passage” of vessels, but I doubt if the Farley Mowat could claim they were on a mission of good order and security.

There’s something else called a “contiguous zone” which countries can optionally claim out to 24 nautical miles. Canada does, but it doesn’t seem like it has much serious jurisdiction over that zone.

Here’s what I figure for the territorial waters and contiguous zone of the area, all other things being equal:

territorial waters off the coast of cape breton

By that measure it looks like the Farley Mowat would have had plenty of room for free sailing. Even if they needed to make passage into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, they could have kept outside of Canadian sovereign terrority.

But as far as I can tell Minister Hearn hasn’t actually been directly quoted using the language of territorial waters. He’s talking “internal waters”. Internal waters are also sovereign territory. The wikipedia definition makes it sound like you pretty much need to inland to be internal. Interestingly, Canada makes a number of exceptional claims to “internal waters” that don’t seem to come even close to fitting that definition. Most controversial at the moment is a chunk of the newly-navigable northwest passage. Also however, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Once again, according to wikipedia, the Gulf estuary (the worlds largest estuary!) covers the area between Cape Breton and Newfoundland. By definition, from the looks of it:

wikipedia's take on the gulf of saint lawrence

It’s worth noting that within internal waters, there’s no right of even innocent passage.

So was the Mowat attacked by mounty pirates when she was boarded, or was it an legitimate arrest? If you accept Canada’s claim that the 1000s of square miles of heaving grey Atlantic in the Cabot Strait are “internal waters”, then it looks like this a purely internal affair. If you’re dubious of that claim, then it gets interesting.

But even if it was a high-seas boarding, it won’t rank as especially crazy on the Canadian-fisheries high-seas boarding scale of craziness. Back in 1995 the Coast Guard forcefully boarded a trawler that wasn’t in internal waters, wasn’t in territorial waters, and wasn’t even in the 200 mile economic zone.

From the federal court record:

“On the 9th of March, 1995, at or about 18:15 (6:15 p.m.)[1], armed boarding parties from three (3) or four (4) Canadian vessels boarded the Spanish deep-sea freezer-trawler ESTAI (the “ESTAI”) within the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (“NAFO”) Regulatory Area, which is to say outside Canadian fishery waters or, put another way, on the high seas. The boarding parties, which may have included members of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”) emergency response team, arrested the ESTAI.”

(emphasis added)

From ever-trusty wikipedia:

On March 9 offshore patrol aircraft indicated a likely candidate and several armed DFO offshore fisheries patrol boats, along with Canadian Coast Guard and navy support, pursued the Spanish stern trawler Estai in international waters outside Canada’s 200 nautical mile (370 km) EEZ. The Estai cut its weighted trawl net and fled, resulting in a chase which stretched over several hours and ended only after the Canadian Fisheries Patrol vessel Cape Roger firing of a .50 calibre (12.7 mm) machine gun across the bow of the Estai. The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir Wilfred Grenfell used high-pressure fire-fighting water cannons to deter other Spanish fishing vessels from disrupting the enforcement operation. Finally, armed DFO and RCMP officers boarded the vessel in international waters on the Grand Banks and placed it and its crew under arrest.

(emphasis added)

When Mobs of Citizens Influence the Behaviour Of Government

From (of course) the National Post: B.C. minister backtracks on park hydro project

“The about-face, which came a day after 1,000 people gathered in a school gym near the provincial park, shows the powerful effect of public opinion in swaying government projects. Joe Foy of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee said his group was “deliriously happy.”

But critics worry the about-face has emboldened environmental protesters in a province starving for new energy sources, showing that they can veto any proposal they dislike simply by packing into a community hall.”

What shall we call this dangerous new trend, where suspiciously large groups of citizens affect government projects by organizing and publicly expressing their opinion, sometimes in a public place? Gym-mobs? Democropacking? Rights are important of course, but there needs to be reasonable limits to people’s ability to influence their elected representatives.

Dean Bavington on CBC Ideas’ “How To Think About Science”

Dean Bavington is a prof at the School of Natural Resources. He co-teaches one of my classes this semester. I’m not sure exactly how to describe what he studies, some kind of science studies/science philosophy thing with an emphasis on cod. Interesting guy with interesting ideas, sure enough.

His episode is available at the CBC. I haven’t heard it yet, but I started listening to earlier episodes in anticipation and they’re good, especially #1, with Simon Schaffer.

Canada Fired our Science Adviser?

What the hell? Why did we just fire our national science adviser?

All politics, no science, for Harper — Toronto Star

And why, when somebody asked about it in parliment, did the response come from Jim Prentice, the industry minister?

Has science recently become less relevant to policy? Did having somebody around to do high-level non-partisan synthesis of policy-relevant science just suddenly seem like an expensive luxury?

Well, here’s what Minister Prentice had to, uh, say:

Industry Minister Jim Prentice rose to respond. “Under the science and technology strategy which this government has put forward, there is an intent to focus the science and technology strategy to harness more resources.”

Sweet jesus, what language is he speaking? I’m terrifed that it might be english.

Here’s Adam Bly of Seed on the topic:

Canada’s Future

Emailing My Representative About the Proposed Canadian DMCA

To: [email protected]
CC: [email protected]
Subject: pending copyright legislation

Hi Denise,

I’m informed by the internets that Minister Prentice is preparing to re-introduce his copyright legislation bill. Although details are scarce, previews suggest that Minister Prentice has succumbed to the temptation of lobby money to write a law which would entrench the obsolete business models of the music industry and other content middlemen at the expense of the production and exchange of art, culture and education.

Resistance by Canadian people has been overwhelming, despite a lack of formal public input. All of the support for the bill appears to come from international corporations and their representatives, who have purchased access to the political process. As my representative, I know I can count on you to push back against the criminalization of art, culture and innovation.

thanks much,


Suddenly the Oil Patch

Strange to see the Albertan oil boom showing up on as a novel topic. If this is news to people who haven’t been personally associated with the oil patch, then it’s far past time this news gets out. This should be and needs to be an major regional national and international issue.

Note that the Edward Burtynsky photographs seem to be of the smaller of the two major oil sands projects.

Vantreight Farms’ Non-Daffodil Developments

In the late winter of 2006 I worked as a picker at Vantreight farms, which if I remember correctly is the second largest daffodil farm in the world. At the time there was much controversy and knowing unspokeness around the farm fields because Geoffrey Vantreight Jr., the grandson of the founder, had just passed away and his sons were feuding over what to do with the property. With real estate value what it is in the Victoria region (and the Saanich peninsula being drop dead gorgeous in certain lights and from certain angles, which I had plenty of opportunity to experience bouncing out in the farm bus as the sun came up), the land the flowers are grown on is arguably worth far far more than the flowers will ever sell for. On the other hand, the land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, which is a sort of functional greenbelt and which requires a lot of baksheesh to the Victoria City Council before you can develop in it. As I was slogging up the muddy rows of maturing daffodil stems with my pairing knife, the entire matter had landed in some sort of court or binding arbitration, and the future pre-summer livelihood of Quebecois hippies, Punjabi-Canadians, migrant Mexican labourers and the occasional aimless BSc. was hanging in the balance.

According to a slick new addition to the website, it appears the matter has been resolved. A fancy flash interface will show you a series of map overlays which propose a

“mixed-use housing development on land that is not farmable or in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) featuring 31 single-family homes, 92 townhomes, and 141 condominium units. Net revenue generated from the proposed development of this land will be invested back into Vantreight Farms, which grows approximately 18 million daffodils per year, generating 1,500 to 2,000 jobs annually. This development is essential for Vantreight Farms to modernize and expand its operations and also to assist us in becoming economically, environmentally and socially sustainable for generations to come.”

Interesting. Judging from the amount of money they’ve spent on GIS and web development, I’d say there must be some ongoing controversy they’re trying to allay.

update: Shortly after posting this I got a call from Ryan Vantreight, grandson of Geoff Jr., who was concerned about some of what I said in this post. He offered some extra information, which I’m happy to present here (I hope this is an accurate summary of Ryan’s main points)

  • Geoff Vantreight Jr. passed away in 2000, not 2005.
  • There was indeed a court-adjudicated dispute between the Vantreight brothers, Ian and Michael. My rough understanding is that each of them owned a part of the land, and for the farm to be viable all the land would be needed (that’s my recollection, not what Ryan told me, it may not be exactly right). Ian wanted to buy out Michael’s half, and Michael wanted to sell outside the family.
  • Michael won the case, granting him the right to sell to anyone and especially not to Ian. Ryan, who is Ian’s son, worked to convince the two brothers to reach an agreement regardless of the court decision, and Michael subsequently agreed to sell to Ian.
  • The sale was made, with the intention of keeping the entire property as farm. The cost of the buy-out meant a lot of debt, which currently hangs over the farm’s head.
  • Vantreight Farms, like most in Canada, is suffering from decreasing margins and increasing costs.
  • The consequence of all this is that the Vantreight Hill development proposed on the website is an effort from the pro-farming side of the family to raise money to cover the debt and modernize the farm to make it more financially viable.
  • (I’m not too worried that modernization would mean the end of seasonal picking on the farm. I’ve watched Star-Wars-esque machines, under the control of a couple of guys, harvest an acre of California cotton in 15 minutes which would have taken dozens of pickers a day back in the day. But I have a hard time imagining how any similar machine could harvest daffodils of just the right stem length without enormous wasteage, too much to be affordable. I think.)

  • Ryan particularly emphasized that the development is (as I quoted in the original post), not in the ALR or farmable land. Having looked up to it from the trenches many cold and hot days in the fields, I can verify that it doesn’t look like anything you can farm on.
  • He also suggested that part of the farm modernization would include extra crop rotation and other environmental improvements. Further details regarding those improvements are expected to be on the website in the near future assuming the project proceeds.
  • Monday is the day that the whole issue goes to council for a green or red light. I asked if their were other options if it was turned down and Ryan said that this is the first in a series of make-or-break challenges to the development. The results will be posted on the website
  • I’m in no position to verify or dispute any of this of course, but Ryan certainly sounded like a reasonable guy. I carry a deep and I think justified suspicion of residential development around Victoria (think Bear Mountain and shudder), and a condo development for a condo development’s sake isn’t much to celebrate. But I like the daffodil farm and remain grateful for the paid work I did there. Nor can I rule out doing some more of it. Vantreight farms is a couple of rare things — a large yet family owned enterprise, and a (so far) functioning farm. If Vantreight Hills is what’s required to keep the farm afloat, then it can at least be said that there are less justified condominium development proposals in the world.

    Concern About Electronic Voting Is Now Permissible: NYT

    The New York Times has an excellent article up about the problems with touch-screen and other kinds of electronic voting:

    Can You Count on Voting Machines? — Clive Thompson

    (It may require you to register to see it. Bugmenot has lots of NYT passwords if you’d rather not join another database.)

    Among the many excellent and balanced points made, there is this:

    “The earliest critiques of digital voting booths came from the fringe — disgruntled citizens and scared-senseless computer geeks — but the fears have now risen to the highest levels of government.”

    If I read that right, all the people who have been concerned about evoting all these years, for mostly the same reasons as the author addresses, were senseless fringe geeks who only happened to be right in the way that stopped clocks are right once a day. Now however, the issue is blessed by the Grey Lady, and the same concern is permissible and dignified. Oh good.

    I can’t help pointing out that Canada has (almost) no history of election irregularities, and generally uses a system that doesn’t even seem to be on the radar of any of the election experts the article mentions. We make an X in an O on a little piece of paper, fold it up, then put it in a sealed box which is shipped to a counting center and counted by people. What’s wrong with that, anyway? Our federal elections are regulated, well, federally, so every province and county gets equally reliable elections, instead of the county-by-county business in the US. Silly old US.

    Retrospectively Willing Success in Bali

    John Quiggin at Crooked Timber has a glowing judgment of the outcomes of the Bali climate negotiations.

    I’m going to believe him. To believe any less would be sad, scary and infuriating.

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