1. Bankroll Reversal

    October 10, 2008 by Craig

    How’s this for irony? As the U.S. banks become more nationalized
    banks in Canada are now becoming more independent.

    Also: Canada now has greater economic freedom than the U.S., although both are declining.

    Crazy times.


  2. How Much Extra For Nice?

    September 22, 2008 by Craig

    Seth Godin writes:

    I think there’s a huge gap between what people are willing to pay for nice (a lot) and what it would cost businesses to deliver it (almost nothing). Smells like an opportunity.”

    In Canada, there’s two major airlines that serve most of the country: Air Canada and WestJet. It’s a common theme to hear people prefer WestJet over Air Canada because the staff are “friendly”. Their prices are mostly the same, their schedules are worse, but the staff have a reputation for being much better than any other airline. They certainly are in my experience: WestJet is noticably better than any other airline I’ve been on (about half a dozen), including my next-best pick, JetBlue. (I haven’t flown SouthWest though.)

    How much does it cost them? One would think that they have a harder time finding people to staff their organization because they have to filter out the crabbier people. However, I tend to hear that potential employees are more attracted to WestJet because of the good corporate environment. In other words: niceness can be a positive-feedback loop. It may be that WestJet doesn’t pay much extra for nice people because nice people tend to seek out and thrive in WestJet’s culture.

    There’s definitely people who seem to be miserable by default. I haven’t really met their opposites (people who are cheery in nearly every situation), but I’m guessing they exist. However, the majority of all people tend to fall in the middle ground: they’re nice when they’re around other nice people and aren’t under too much stress. Their capacity to be nice exists, but it does wither if external forces cloud the landscape. This means that creating a culture of nice takes effort to maintain. It’s not a Herculean task though; some simple (and cheap) actions to eliminate the worst of the problems can allow pleasantry to flourish.


  3. Canadian Vote Swapping is Legal

    September 18, 2008 by Craig

    Vote swapping is a kind of tactical voting whereby a vote pledges to vote for a candidate in a particular riding in exchange for another voter in a different riding supporting some other candidate. Typically, it’s used to maximize the importance of individual votes; Votes for a particular party can be moved into ridings with close races where they might change the outcome — and thus become meaningful.

    The Elections Canada has just ruled that this practice is legal in Canada, and so it’s gained a bit of legitimacy and attention.

    I’d be very willing to swap my vote in the upcoming federal election, but unfortunately mine isn’t worth very much. In my riding, the Conservative incumbent will probably win in a landslide. Thus far, the only alternative is Liberal Candidate Anoush Newman. I’m going to be voting against the incumbent, so no national Liberal supporter will want to swap with me. No NDP, Green, or Bloc Québécois supporter will want to swap with me either, as I won’t be able to vote for their preferred party (and it would almost certainly be a wasted vote anyway). The only possibility for a swap would be with a Conservative supporter in a left-leaning riding who wanted to add to the already-high lead that the Conservatives have here… which is pretty much pointless.

    However, I do encourage anyone in a contested riding to consider swapping their vote; it’s one of the few ways that your vote will actually make a difference.


  4. Looniebucks

    July 6, 2007 by Craig

    It figures: now that I’m living in Canada and earning US dollars, the exchange rate between the two hits its worst level in my lifetime.

    Still, I’m not complaining too loudly: I did pay off my student loans while the exchange rate was near the historically best levels (circa 1999). Complaining that the exchange rate is poor is like complaining about the weather: you can’t do much about it, unless you’re willing to move… and it’ll probably change by the end of the week anyway.


  5. Immigration as a Competitive Advantage

    July 5, 2007 by Craig

    Microsoft is going to set up shop in Vancouver. One of the reasons for doing so is the more favorable immigration policy in Canada:

    The Vancouver area is a global gateway with a diverse population, is close to Microsoft�s corporate offices in Redmond and allows the company to recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by immigration issues in the U.S.

    This is a good thing for Vancouver and Canada, a big win for those who favor relaxed immigration policies (such as myself), and a big slap in the face for those in favor of tighter immigration controls — both for economic and homeland-security reasons.

    There are smart & talented people all over the world. Those people may not be able to do the work they want to do in their home countries for a variety of economic and political reasons. Many of those people aren’t allowed to work in the U.S. due to the American love-hate relationship with immigration; this practice will allow them to work in a similar (better?) environment. While they do that, they’ll draw a salary (which is largely made up of U.S. money) and spend most of that within Canada (on taxes and domestic purchases).

    Microsoft is showing that it’s not just trying to lobby for an H1B cap increase (as many have claimed): they’re serious enough about a real problem to take some actions outside the realm of the U.S. Government. The message to the American closed-border crowd is very clear: current policy is detrimental to business, and if it’s not corrected the U.S.A. will be loose out in the long run.


  6. Exports

    June 27, 2007 by Craig

    There are some goods and services that, for various reasons, you just can’t get in Canada: warm weather in January, pictures of yourself hugging Mickey Mouse, a view of the Mona Lisa. If you want those, you have to travel to some other place.

    You can also add doctor-assisted suicide to that list. Unlike the others though, getting that service will get your loved ones questioned by police… and, if the lobbyists have their way, arrested, charged, tried, convicted, and imprisoned.

    This service is obviously in demand (Sue Rodriguez made big headlines for weeks back when I was in high school). There’s some very sound ethical arguments for allowing it. But the laws in Canada don’t allow for it, potentially to the point of prosecuting those who seek the service off of Canadian soil.

    Something else to note: by forcing assisted-suicide seekers to foreign countries, you in turn:

    • Limit its availability to those who can afford the travel expenses.
    • Limit its availability to those who can physically make the trip — thus forcing a life-or-death decision earlier than would otherwise be required.

    I don’t think that that serves much purpose.


  7. Happy Canniversary

    June 25, 2007 by Craig

    As of yesterday I’ve been back living in Canada for one year. Over all it’s really good to be back.

    The most notable improvements, in my experience, are:

    1. The friendliness and competency of the average stranger (the people you meet on the street, on the road, at the check-out, and at the customer service call center).
    2. The general positive attitude of the people.
    3. The lack of social/cultural/political division and conflict.
    4. Affinity for nature, expressed through outdoor activity and concern for the environment.
    5. The number of days with pleasant weather.
    6. Not having to jump through hoops to appease the immigration police.
    7. The unopressiveness of the health care system. We’re getting better care thusfar without the high premiums and threat of bankruptcy-inducing medical bills.

    The most notable declines:

    1. The lack of access to good online retailers.
    2. Worse restaurants overall.
    3. Fewer options for air travel.

    I’ll note that a lot of this is regional (Calgary vs. Ft. Lauderdale) rather than national (Canada vs. USA), but a lot of it does apply elsewhere in both cases.

    We’re both very happy to be here. 🙂


  8. The “S” Word

    April 6, 2007 by Craig

    My aunt and Laura and I went to see The Yeomen of the Guard at the Pumphouse Theatre last night. For a small community-theatreish production, it was performed really well, and we all enjoyed it.

    A bit of humor occurred during the intermission, when a member of the theatre group announced that the next production the group was doing was the play No Sex Please, We’re British… to which he embarrassingly added “and, uh, we’ll leave that one right there”.

    I snickered. “No Sex Talk Please, We’re Canadian.”


  9. Shiny

    April 5, 2007 by Craig

    Calgary, where I now live, is the cleaneset city in the world.

    Well, at least out of the 215 surveyed. I know firsthand that there’s more smog in Calgary in the summer than there is in say Saskatoon (the city where I grew up). Obviously not ever city in the world could be included. Still, that’s pretty impressive.

    Vancouver is the best overall city in Canada and tied for third in the world (with Vienna, behind Zurich and Geneva). Calgary came in at 24 worldwide behind the Canadian cities Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. I haven’t seen the actual report yet to analyze further; all the third-party reports I’ve seen quoted the winters as being negative factors in the Canadian cities’ ratings (and thus Vancouver’s high score).

    The differences aren’t severe. With New York serving as the base of 100 points, Calgary scored 103.6, Toronto 105.4, and Zurich 108.1. Baghdad, the worst city, got 14.5… so what’s 8 points among friends?

    Lastly, the linked article took an obligatory pot-shot at the USA:

    Every Canadian city scored better than all the U.S. cities surveyed.

    I generally don’t like America-bashing (especially by Canadians, for whom it’s more “me too!” than expressing valid grudges), but I figure that since I put up with years of “USA is the greatest country in the world rah rah!” I can relax that a little. 🙂


  10. Speaking of Canadians and Americans…

    February 1, 2007 by Craig

    Laura and I are watching To Serve and Protect, the Canadian version of COPS. When compared against its southern counterpart, it’s comically dull. There’s no wrestling, tasering, or footchases. It’s basically just cops (in mustaches) picking up drunks and pot smokers. And everyone (the busted and the busters) is polite with each other. 😛