A Buffet of Ideas]
Copyright © 2015 by Dave Amonson
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Publisher’s note: This is a non-fiction work involving suggestions to improve governance around the world. Laws, contracts, amounts, names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used as notional examples. The emphasis is on concepts, not on substantive facts. Readers should not rely upon representations in this book except as illustrations of what might be possible.
First edition published 2015
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Village Café / Dave Amonson
ISBN-13: 978-0-9940597-6-5 Printed book
ISBN-13: 978-0-9940597-7-2 eBook
To all who accept individual responsibility as a cornerstone of a meaningful life.
Chapter 1 Welcome to the Village Café
Howdy neighbor, welcome to the Village Café. I’m the busboy striving to make your visit memorable. Our buffet offers dishes attractive to those who believe in wholesome lives. We favor recipes fit for changing times while respecting the ingredients Mama used to use.
You identify with many villages; local, regional, federal and international. Every village has one of our cafés. The meals in each café reflect the prevailing views in the village. Our goal is to build a common menu where every villager, in every corner of the world, can enter any Village Café and know the buffet will feature individual responsibility, passion, goodwill and humour; with seasoning appropriate to the village.
Individuals may enter a Village Café with ideas not fully integrated with core villagers’ conceptions. These guests will find patrons with similar conceptions around the outer areas of the café. Through time, and interaction, the core will adapt to the emerging conceptions and the outliers will gain integration with the core values. This dynamic will endure through generations. The process will lead to stability with enough flexibility to accommodate consensus; yielding serenity with room to adapt.
“It is easy to be certain. One has only to be sufficiently vague.” C.S. Peirce (1839-1914); Collected Papers, 4, 237
I trust you won’t find this book sufficiently vague. Bon appetit.
Chapter 2 The Taker-Maker
Each village develops an equilibrium. Pioneer and frontier villages often exhibit individual responsibility and little government involvement. As villages mature, they take on more infrastructure and bureaucracy. Our natural tendencies allow erosion of individual responsibility because we support the underdog and stifle the achiever. Our system of representative government, combined with tolerance for interference by authorities, entrenches malignant laws, systems, and polices.
We grew up with teeter-totters. We discovered modest adjustments in the distance from the pivot point would adjust the balance to equilibrium. Let’s change the name of the teeter-totter to taker-maker. Imagine physical stops at the ends of the taker-maker. These stops are populated by the truly needy on the taker end, and the cream of productive society on the maker end. There’s a small percentage of truly needy which we’re prepared to support. This percentage does not change much over time. On the other end, are a few individuals who will thrive no matter how many hurdles and inequities we hurl in their paths. Inhibiting these folks is a tragedy affecting them and others who would benefit from their initiatives.
In between the two extremes is a multitude; maybe 95% of the population. This group, like a puddle of mercury, nestles up against the taker end of the taker-maker. We’ve allowed the taker end to be heavier than the maker end over the last sixty years. This includes whole generations who’ve experienced welfare as their only way of life. It includes baby boomers who started on a kinder, gentler path and created an inept system that will fail as we add weight to the taker end. How do we adjust the pivot point so more villagers trend toward the maker end? We supplement every village buffet with individual responsibility and purge collective abuse of force.
Moises Naim published the book, The End of Power, in 2013. His book explains many of the concepts underpinning the buffet of ideas in the Village Café. Moises Naim articulates four categories of power: muscle, code, pitch, and reward. Muscle involves the actual or potential use of force. Code involves moral and traditional obligations. Pitch involves persuasion and appeals to preference. Reward provides inducements in exchange for compliance. In my perspective, government should be loath to exercise muscle and reward because these activities violate the rights and freedoms of individuals. My buffet of ideas illustrates how each society can rely upon code and pitch to set the environment for villagers to use individual responsibility in their daily activities.
The End of Power goes on to identify three trends which are eroding traditional power structures. The more trend notices more people, countries, cities, political parties, armies, preachers, criminals, information, … The mobility trend sees individuals moving from rural to urban, from state to state, and from country to country. The mentality trend indicates individuals are expecting better results with less corruption. For the most part, the end of power is exhilarating; but there are downsides. Dissidents, criminals, and terrorists can exploit the cracks in traditional power just as wholesome folks can benefit from the erosion of power. New power blocks are emerging in the form of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and the like. I expect more individual responsibility will equip villagers with better tools to thwart criminals and mega service providers. Think of the ingenuity of explorers, scouts, detectives, and inventors who use their skills to solve challenges. Most of us can sharpen our senses merely by being expected to do so.
Our expectations will change when alternatives to individual responsibility are significantly below the levels capable folks will choose.
Once we’ve dealt with the masses, we’re willing, and able, to provide for the truly needy.
Chapter 3 In The Public Interest
Have you noticed the table cloths in many restaurants? They are white and immaculate. They’re made from a fabric called “In the public interest”. When I ask why the table cloths are so popular, individuals shrug and say, “It feels right”. When I persist, most show their level of concern by expanding their answer, “It just feels right in this restaurant”. Still curious, I looked up the components used to manufacture the fabric. The ingredients include suffocating rules, political correctness, extreme process, and persecution of individuals. I wonder why fairness advocates remain silent. The authorities know the fabric kills individual responsibility but individual responsibility is seen as the enemy; so they impose dangerous table cloths to cover the stains and scars on every possible table.
The transparent table cloths in Village Cafés are made from freedom fabric: a composite of the assumptions people have thrown in the recycle bin as they realize the fibers are too weak to sustain a meaningful life. The fibers are bonded by a natural resin (villagers pronounce it ‘reason’). Villagers appreciate seeing the wood grain, stains, and scars through the table cloth. They can make judgments on the basis of what they see.
“Public interest” is evoked, in myriad situations, with lack of clarity. Can public interest be articulated in a meaningful way? Can we judge whether a particular action is beneficial enough to enforce the action?
A decision tree should yield results in tune with my perception of the public interest.
If yes, proceed to the next decision. If no, ask if there is a compelling reason to impose the action. If yes, articulate the compelling reason and proceed to the next question. If no, do not allow the proposed action to proceed.
If yes, proceed to the next decision. If no, ask if the law is wrong? If the law is wrong, change the law. If the law is not wrong, do not allow the proposed action to proceed.
If yes, proceed to the next question. If no, ask if there is a compelling reason to impose the action. If yes, articulate the compelling reason and proceed to the next question. If no, do not allow the proposed action to proceed.
If yes, proceed to the next question. If no, ask if there is a compelling reason to impose the action. If yes, articulate the compelling reason and proceed to the next question. If no, do not allow the proposed action to proceed.
If yes, proceed to the next question. If no, ask if there is a compelling reason to impose the action. If yes, articulate the compelling reason and proceed to the next question. If no, do not allow the proposed action to proceed.
If yes, proceed to implement the action. If no, ask if there is a compelling reason to impose the action. If yes, articulate the compelling reason and proceed to implement the action.
Let’s apply the decision tree to a specific situation. Consider the widespread planting of stop signs at the intersections of the world. Are stop signs in the public interest? Have you pondered whether any stop sign is in the public interest? What does the decision tree yield?
No, the stop sign is expected to make the intersection safer but it doesn’t integrate with reality. When traffic is heavy; it slows flow. When traffic is lighter, it frustrates drivers. When traffic is light, it’s ridiculous. There are no circumstances where observance of a stop sign will yield better safety or traffic flow than observance of a yield sign. There are thousands of situations where the yield sign will be safer than the stop sign. This assumes all pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers follow the signs. If they don’t, the signs aren’t the problem.
Yes, proceed to the next decision.
No. Is there is a compelling reason to impose the action. Advocates insist the stop sign is necessary to prevent accidents but this isn’t true. Accidents are prevented when individuals safely negotiate the intersection. Is there a better signal to help individuals enter the intersection safely? Would the yield sign provide a better signal? Yes, the yield signal will always do what the stop sign will do. Plus, it integrates better with individual responsibility because it informs the individual to be alert to other individuals with the right of way without forcing the individual to stop unless necessary.
No, it’s the antithesis of diversity. It forces every individual to stop, not for safety but to obey the law, even though visibility guarantees no other individual could be endangered by proceeding into the intersection.
You might see the stop sign as treating every individual the same. This could be viewed as complete lack of discrimination. But, placing a strait jacket on every individual in pursuit of an indiscriminate rule is ludicrous. No, the stop sign does not protect any individual from meaningful discrimination.
No; it concentrates the power in one, or a very few individuals, who have the authority to dictate the installation of the stop sign. Once that decision is carried out, every individual is obligated to stop or break the law, day in, day out. Is this concentration of power necessary? I think not. In fact, it’s an example of the extreme impositions caused by lack of clarity concerning the public interest.
This consideration is neutral because the cost of installing a stop sign should be equal to the cost of installing a yield sign.
The methodical study of a suggested course of action should yield better public interest decisions. There is ongoing risk bureaucrats have a different focus than the rest of the villagers. The villagers, who would make different decisions, are out making independent decisions; leaving the bureaucrats to concentrate power at will. As you consider ideas, you can make the world a better place by insisting on decisions, truly, in the public interest.
Village Cafés offer dishes consistent with the preferences of the patrons. Stop signs are not likely to be offered because yield signs are more palatable. You are encouraged to take a spoonful of public interest with every meal in every Village Café.
Chapter 4 Life Security
The examples, in the next four chapters, relate to Canada because it’s most familiar to the author. A reader, from any place in the world, can consider the concepts with less interest in the particular Canadian elements while applying the ideas to local circumstances.
Apple pie is a common metaphor for all that’s good and wholesome in North America. Universal health care is one of Canada’s apple pies. It’s so sacred one must be cautious about changing the pattern of the cuts in the pie crust prior to baking. The fatal flaw in Canada’s universal health care is the premise that everybody qualifies but fewer pay.
The Life Security dish allows each individual to financially, and psychologically, prepare for most of life’s challenges, including health care.
Villagers often take a detached view of our safety net. They gloss over the individual in need and assume some broad government program will work. This is wrong. We need to develop a plan with a specific individual in focus. In business jargon, we need to ‘empower’ the individual. This cannot be done at any government level. It must be done at the individual level. The Village Café provides a Life Security dish suitable for a majority of individuals. The recipe starts with a cup of human nature, sifts out negative reinforcement, and blends in positive approaches.
Each Village Café displays a large black board entitled, Featured Dishes. It lists the dishes currently available to each villager. Beside the menu, a quotation is painted on the wall; [_ "Good sense is the best distributed thing in the world: for everyone thinks himself so well endowed with it that even those who are the hardest to please in everything else do not usually desire more of it than they possess. In this it is unlikely that everyone is mistaken. It indicates rather that the power of judging well and of distinguishing the true from the false -- which is what we properly call 'good sense' or 'reason' -- is naturally equal in all men." René Descartes (1596-1650); Discourse, Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff and D. Murdoch, I. p.111 _]
The Life Security Plan is the primary dish for funding the security of most individuals. There are four guests for which the Life Security Plan will not suffice: the physically and mentally handicapped who cannot function independently, the unfortunate who were once able to meet the Life Security Plan requirements but have suffered setbacks that drained all of their resources, the economic underperformers who have not yet achieved the median funding required by the Life Security Plan, and those who choose to default on individual responsibility. Individuals in the first two categories will see the government support them at a standard acceptable to the majority of the folks in control at the time of need. Individuals in the third category will either struggle along without formal assistance or undergo more screening with the expectation they will either accept a non-government program to become financially independent, or they’ll land in the fourth category. Individuals in the fourth category make a lifestyle decision. Government support will be the barest of minima (subsistence). The individuals who stay in this category very long cannot be saved with any amount of money; because money isn’t the problem.
The Life Security Plan recognizes life is sprinkled with funding needs. Most of these needs, in the first seventy years of each individual’s life, are periodic, unpredictable, and sometimes dramatic. In retirement years, the needs become more routine, but still haphazard. The prevalent view assumes government must provide support for these life security needs. But human nature gets in the way. Whenever something is free or inexpensive, the demand goes up disproportionately. Many people adopt the attitude ‘everybody else does it, why can’t I’? The Life Security Plan changes this mentality. It says to ordinary folks; “You’re primarily responsible for home, food, clothing, and child care. You’re also primarily responsible for life security. Yes, there’ll be a fall-back position, but your primary protection is your responsibility”.
The government will fund ‘normal’ care for those who follow the Life Security Plan guidelines but financial independence will be gone before government support kicks in.
You may ask, ‘How can I afford a Life Security Plan?’ You need a feasible plan. If middle income folks are the bulk of the population and they can’t afford it, who is going to pay for it? We currently send out monopolized thieves to steal enough to supplement what we don’t borrow. Not impressive.
The Consumer Price Index is an indicator of inflation reflected by the cost of a basket of goods and services commonly bought by villagers. The Life Security Plan is modelled on a similar index called the Security Plan Index. It reflects the median cost of a basket of life security items for each year of age of an individual. From the Security Plan Index, actuaries build the Life Security Plan curve that reflects the target amount of funds each individual should have in his or her Life Security Plan for their present age; from birth to, say, age 110. The actual amounts of life security costs from birth through middle age are low. Individuals run into pregnancy, dental care, traffic accidents, job losses, and serious illness. Actuaries will develop a typical curve for episodes while allowing the individual’s Life Security Plan to grow to a sufficient amount to provide retirement income, nursing home care, acute care, and hospice. The Life Security Plan curve will reflect the median costs of these eventualities. It will not cover the highest costs that might be incurred by one individual. The governments’ general funds will cover the extreme costs once the Life Security Plan and the individual’s other resources have been exhausted.
Funding for the Life Security Plan is explained in the Individual Obligations chapter but the principal is this: A household unit contains a family of three. Each individual files a tax return on his or her birthday. Sarah Singlots’ (Mom’s) Life Security Plan expects her to have $262,000 in her plan. She presently has $259,500, so she needs $2,500 to top up her plan to target, Sammy Singlots’ (Dad’s) Life Security Plan expects him to have $250,000 in his Life Security Plan. He presently has $247,000, so he needs $3,000 to top up to target. Daughter’s Life Security Plan expects her to have $46,000 in her plan. She presently has $42,300, so she needs $3,700 to top up her plan . Each individual files his or her income tax return on his or her birth date anniversaries. Sarah’s income is $70,000, Sammy’s income is $30,000, and Serena’s income is $14,000; for a household income of $114,000. The average income per household member is $38,000. Assume the personal exemption per household member is $21,500; leaving $16,500 considered available as each householder’s base of funds subject to government imposed obligations at some standard rate. For this illustration, I used a rate of 50%. Therefore, 50% of $16,500 yields an individual’s obligation as $8,250 (50% of $16,500). The government first obliges every individual to fund the Life Security Plan up to the normal curve amount for that individual’s age. If there is any obligation left over; it is paid as taxes to governments. Given the amounts required to fund each Life Security Plan; Sarah would pay tax of $5,750, Sammy would pay $5,250, and Serena would pay $4,550. The total household tax would be $15,550; which is approximately 13.38% of the household income. The variables, that could be adjusted, are the personal exemption amount and the obligation rate.
Points to notice in the above example are: every individual gets the same personal exemption regardless of age, creed, gender, marital status, or any other trait. In the example, the median individual income is announced to be $26,500. If no individual in the half of the country’s population, who earns less than the median income, is expected to pay any tax to any level of government; then we need to set the personal exemption at an amount intended to relieve the individual of any tax on the median income. However, the plan anticipates every individual should use a portion of the individual’s income to fund the individual’s Life Security Plan. This “standard” annual funding is $2,500. Therefore, the personal exemption is set at $21,500. When the $26,500 of median income is reduced by the personal exemption; the base is $5,000 and 50% of the base yields enough money to fund the ‘normal’ Life Security Plan but no taxes (as intended). The individual obligation is the same for every individual in the household; any tax otherwise owing is reduced by the amount of funds required to bring the Life Security Plan of the individual up to the published target curve; any excess (up to the maximum) after the Life Security Plan has been topped up is sent to the governments as general revenues. The effective household tax rate is not static. It could be zero if the Life Security Plan requirements absorb all of the household’s individual obligations.
Opponents of individual responsibility retort ‘not on the backs of the poor’. The proposed Life Security Plan and tax plans are designed to recognize the need to be rational with the poor by allowing the relatively poor to first take care of day-to-day needs, then life security needs; and only then contribute to general government funding. Those who do not meet the Life Security Plan expectations will be more vulnerable to future majority decisions as to ‘normal’ care when their Life Security Plan and other resources are exhausted and they request help from the government. Individual responsibility and peer pressure will yield positive results under the Life Security Plan concept; all health and dental facilities will be privately-owned and operated. Competition will set the fair value of these services. Government and private health and dental plans cause our medical and dental service costs to be distorted by lack of individual responsibility. Whenever the government is called upon to provide individuals with these services, the market price will be well-known. There will be talk of a two-tier system. My response is there is already a thirty-six million-tier system in Canada, and tears should be shed for the waste in the present so-called universal systems.
To the extent we find a feasible model, Canadians will continue to support universal health care. The challenge is to design the health protection model so it benefits from human nature rather than suffers from it. The Life Security Plan is a comprehensive safety net built on the strengths of human nature. If you cannot find rationality in the Life Security Plan, the meals in the Village Café will be indigestible.
You might wonder how existing systems could be integrated into the Life Security Plan model. Here are a few ideas for the Canadian situation: funds in Registered Retirement Savings Plans, Registered Retirement Investment Funds, pension plans, and the like will be transferred into the Life Security Plan of the individual; the present value of quasi-contractual existing programs such as Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, and Workers Compensation could be transferred into the Life Security Plan as Special Security Bonds (WCB would result in Special Provincial Bonds) which will be used last by the owner of the Life Security Plan and, if not used, will lapse at death of the individual. No tax-paid savings would be placed inside the Life Security Plan because this would cause complexity.
Those who fare well through their lifetimes, or die without incurring major Life Security costs, will have funds left in their Life Security Plan. These funds are personal assets, (except for the special bonds, which are funded from general government revenue and will die with the individual unless they have been used by that individual).
While the definition of income will be left to the accounting profession, it’s expected the beneficiaries of a deceased individual will have income equal to their share of proceeds from a Life Security Plan. Such income will form part of household income in the calendar year following death. Withdrawals from a Life Security Plan, for any reason, will constitute income for purposes of calculating household income in a year.
Any special bonds issued as part of the transition to the new program will lapse on death and will not be available for inheritance.
No individual will be allowed to borrow from any specific Life Security Plan nor direct the investments of any Life Security Plan. These lending and investment functions will be done by financial institutions independent of the holders of individual Life Security Plans.
Under no circumstances will the Life Security Plan be subject to third party claims. Specific pledge, bankruptcy, divorce, court orders, or personal guarantee will not extend to the amounts in a Life Security Plan. The financial community will guarantee the funds, including interest, in the Life Security Plans. The only way to get at the Life Security Plan of an individual is for the individual to initiate withdrawals for life security expenditures (or upon distribution after death of the individual).
“For all men are by nature provided of notable multiplying glasses, that is, their passions and self-love, through which, every little payment appeareth a great grievance; but are destitute of those prospective glasses, namely moral and civil science, to see far off the miseries that hang over them, and cannot without such payments be avoided.” Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679); Leviathan, English Works, 3, p.170
A libertarian would reject any move to force an individual to save for future events. Starting with the premise a majority of villagers are not willing to let people die in the streets, my model compromises the libertarian ideal to find a discipline while preserving as much individual responsibility as deemed rational.
The Life Security Plan observes too many individuals live for today and will not provide for the reasonable expected obligations of tomorrow. When individuals fail to provide for tomorrow and tomorrow arrives, villagers feel obligated to step into the breach. Canadians have concluded they should impose some level of mandatory savings on every individual consistent with the individual’s ability to save.
Such mandatory savings shall be structured to preserve as much individual responsibility as deemed rational. This means the savings shall not be removed from the individual’s control, but should provide a reliable accumulation vehicle and an efficient sober second thought withdrawal model. While the money saved is the individual’s money, the model is structured so self-interest dictates most individuals will choose to save rather than remit additional taxes. The key is human nature working for positive reinforcement.
The model ensures the hierarchy of individual responsibilities is preserved. The basic hierarchy is: home, food, clothing, child care, transportation, utilities, life security, basic national government, municipal government, provincial government, federal non-basic programs, and discretionary spending.
Chapter 5 Spending Control
Many buffets have a separate dessert section. The section offers multiple choices. You pay the flat buffet price and take all the desserts you want. You can take items and throw them away instead of eating them.
The Village Café dessert counter has two sections; one section offers one dessert included in the buffet price. The rest of the desserts, hundreds of them, are visible behind a three-strand fence. If you take items from the fenced area, you pay market price.
Many believe representative government needs a three-strand fence around it.
My philosophy includes individual responsibility, independent enterprise, and little state interference. I don’t seek to impose my bias on you. I illustrate how the majority can manage the state’s involvement. There’s ample room for all philosophies and political views to be expressed and merchandised, but less room for special interest groups to impose government intervention on a reluctant majority.
The British democratic model has been influential. We embrace the promise but reject the results. Representative democracy breaks down when elected representatives venture beyond intended territory. Their authorized territory should be a point of debate. I believe it can safely encompass the basic federal programs typical of our governments before they ventured into manipulation of individuals and private enterprises. These basic federal services will continue to be the sole jurisdiction of our elected federal representatives without direct limitation by the spending strands proposed for the non-basic federal programs, all provincial, and all municipal programs. Some worry freedom and individual responsibility will lead to anarchy. There is a range of perceptions. My proposals tend toward lots of freedom and individual responsibility. As long as we use the power concepts of “code” and “pitch” to sell our ideas of basic federal programs; we should emerge with just enough basic federal laws to preclude anarchy while allowing most villagers to avoid deep frustration. The power concepts of “muscle” and “incentive” are corrosive when inflicted by any government. They lead to deep frustration of the silent majority which leads to apathy, until unbearable, and then turns to civil disobedience and, ultimately, revolution.
Some believe the electorate can decide all matters with no correlation to individual responsibility for equally funding the programs pushed by politicians. But periodic elections do not chunk the policies of each Party to allow voters to provide effective guidance once the ruling Party (or coalition) is decided. Let’s circumscribe manipulative, non-basic representative government territory with three fence strands. Each strand has a binding purpose.
Strand 1: Each level of government shall not spend more than it receives. Tax revenues are trust funds which must not be overspent.
Strand 2: The majority, who fund non-basic programs, shall have the say on which programs will be maintained.
Strand 3: No individual shall be forced to pay more tax than the majority of individuals in the jurisdiction pay.
Strand 1 stipulates no government ever budgets a deficit. One rebuttal is deficits are good in a recession. Who is gullible enough to believe governments are smarter in a downturn than in any other segment of the business cycle? Once a deficit of any amount is tolerated, Strand 1 is not just stretched, it’s broken. We must not let our fence fall into disrepair. It needs all three strands.
Strand 2 requires majority approval (by those who pay) on a program-by-program basis. How do we get majority feedback on a program-by-program basis? How do we know the individuals in the majority understand what each program accomplishes? Majority support is captured as the individuals file their annual forms which include the municipal, provincial, and federal forms showing approved per capita costs up to the limit of the funds remitted. The filers will be informed by the results of prior reported approvals. As individual programs reach the fading category; politicians and media will focus commentary on the category and magnify the wanted and unwanted elements of the category. The affected government will then rework the category to get feedback on the elements of the category seen to have majority support. This focusing of attention on specific categories results in healthy public awareness.
Strand 3: stipulates no individual shall be forced to pay more tax than the majority of individuals in the jurisdiction pay.
Every resident indicates the government spending programs the resident both supports in principle and is able, and willing, to pay in fact. This does not eliminate the role of the elected representatives, but it does put a fence around the non-basic programs governments can sustain.
You’ll find areas in the proposal you think should be refined. Raising and resolving those concerns is healthy in thriving villages.
As you study this chapter, consider how well the plan responds to our complaints about the existing system. The system doesn’t work! We don’t have a say! Get the government out of the economy! Lobby groups have too much influence! Government expenditures occur with little public support! The quiet majority has no mechanism to effect change! The individual can’t do anything! We have four-year dictatorships! There are too many hidden taxes! There are too many hidden expenditures! In these complaints, we see the decisions of a few overpowering the wishes of many individuals. The plan corrects the flaws in the present system. It obligates every resident to complete an annual return on or before his or her birthdate, and shifts the power to the wishes of the majority on a line-by-line basis. This is an improvement over periodic referenda because it’s cost efficient, makes the task of various lobby groups formidable, and it’s automatic. It puts decision-making in the hands of the quiet majority, who will, for the first time, have an effective voice.
All levels of government must be precluded from budgeting peace-time deficits. All governments shall be required to retire all existing debt over a twenty-five year period. All residents must be allowed to indicate their approval of generic groups of government spending programs on their annual returns, and such majority indications shall be binding on the governments. All mandatory government programs shall be funded from personal taxes.
Most rhetoric, directed at government inadequacies, lacks viable alternatives to the existing system. Tax and expenditure limitations are too cumbersome, confrontational, and ad hoc to achieve the steady control required. My plan is viable.
Canada has evolved as a peace-loving, compassionate, generous, cooperative country. This reputation appeals to us. The mindset permitting the evolution has eroded self-reliance and individual responsibility. This cannot be democratically controlled unless a majority in the population is willing, and able, to pay an equal price for government programs.
The spending policy provides a method of controlling government which preserves the role of the elected representatives (and Senators) and imposes a workable fence around the fields within which governments operate.
The essential ingredients of the fence are: democratically elected representatives can establish policy, provide leadership, provide a forum for debate, and provide education about issues, but they must include a stewardship function; no government shall spend what it doesn’t have; there shall be no peacetime deficit; government sources of revenue shall be limited to a combination of voluntary participation in programs and revenues generated by the plan.
Federal government revenue, for a given year will include: estimated program revenues (from voluntary programs); plus estimated corporate income tax; plus estimated non-resident income tax; plus estimated personal tax revenues. Municipal and provincial governments will not have access to any portion of corporate nor non-resident taxes;
Revenue will be sufficient to cover the estimated costs of all active programs. It will also be sufficient to amortize the historical, cumulative debt over twenty-five years with blended principal and interest payments, plus the last year’s actual deficit, plus a cushion equal to last year’s deficit.
Every individual is equal under the law. Therefore, every resident should pay an equal tax under the law. This is impossible since a portion of the residents cannot pay an equal amount. However, there is a base point which is universally accepted as a democratic principle; majority rules. If a majority aren’t willing, and able, to pay an equal per capita amount for a program, then the majority rules the program won’t continue.
Where governments provide services to the less fortunate, it is out of compassion and fair play, not out of an inherent right of the less fortunate.
A spending system should: provide a stable, predictable environment for the population; foster individual responsibility and initiative; recognize all citizens are equal before the law, recognize democracy will only work where the net per capita costs of programs are supported equally by more than fifty percent of the residents; and minimize the structure required to achieve appropriate government funding.
Every resident will submit an annual tax return on or before the anniversary of his or her birthdate. The annual return will be limited to four pages (the digital equivalent of one side of four 8.5” × 11” pages). The first page is the Individual Obligations Return; the second page is the Municipal Approval Form; the third page is the Provincial Approval Form; the fourth page is the Federal Approval Form.
In addition to showing the amount of personal tax being remitted, each individual shall enter the per capita cost of every generic program category (approved by him or her) on the three approval forms. Note that the basic federal services will not be subject to individual per capita approval. Approvals of non-basic programs shall not be honoured if the cumulative budgeted equal costs of the approved programs exceeds the non-basic amount remitted. This precludes any individual from indicating approval of programs for which the full per capita budgeted cost of the approved programs is not remitted by that individual.
Where individuals have not yet demonstrated voting awareness, or otherwise require the services of a parent or guardian, the parent or guardian is responsible for completing the personal tax return and remitting the appropriate tax.
There are four categories of government programs.
Basic national services are those services which provide the stable, predictable environment which is critical to freedom in a democratic society. They could include: parliament, justice, defence, monetary system, immigration, air and water, communicable disease, taxation, annual reporting. These basic services will be provided without reference to resident approval because they represent the essential ingredients of a stable, democratic environment and the legitimate focus of representation by population government. They must include enough services to manage anarchy.
Federal non-basic services include those services which the elected representatives have passed, and where more than 50% of the residents in Canada have indicated, within the last year, they both approve of the program and have paid a budgeted equal amount necessary to fund the program.
Fading programs include those services which the elected representatives have passed, and the program has previously been a non-basic commitment (recurring program), and where at least 50% of the residents in the jurisdiction have indicated within the last year they don’t approve of the program. Fading programs could occur at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels.
Emerging programs include those programs which the elected representatives have passed, but at least 50% of the residents in the jurisdiction have not yet indicated they approve of the program. Emerging programs could occur at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels.
Every informed citizen has a vote which carries with it a responsibility to share equally in the obligations inherent in the items voted upon. Canada has ignored this responsibility aspect of democracy and reached the point where the government is stealing from the minority and spending funds which it borrows.
We must align government expenditures with democratic responsibility and ability to pay.
The democratic responsibility to pay can be established by the approval of the majority of residents who pay an equal per capita amount required to balance the estimated budget.
The ability of the majority to pay an equal amount must be established by a rational formula. Every resident individual should have individual obligations for life security and government funding commensurate with ability to pay.
Chapter 6 Individual Obligations
The Village Café features an enticing dish. It comes early in the buffet line because it deserves every villager’s attention. The dish is the One Page Tax Act. It supports a one page approval form for each of three levels of government. Can you imagine a One Page Tax Act where any literate individual can understand the entire system in one afternoon’s study? Can you imagine the savings in time, money, and frustration if the Canada Revenue Service was a fraction of one percent of its present size? The dish is simple, fair, and delicious.
No individual shall be forced to pay more tax than the majority of individuals in the jurisdiction pay. One of the Ten Commandments is ‘thou shalt not steal’. Most individuals would never dream of stealing a candy bar, but encourage governments to steal lots of money from wealthier individuals. How often have you heard ‘force the rich to pay their fair share’? It’s a strange definition of fair where the majority steal from the wealthy because the wealthy are a minority.
A 1909 Supreme Court of Ontario judgment ruled ‘the prohibition, thou shalt not steal, has no legal force upon the sovereign body’. What a travesty. It helps explain why lawyers should not be the sole stewards of our laws. How many otherwise rational people agree governments should plunder at will? Too many. I hope to reduce the number.
If two people gang up on a third person and steal his money, we agree that’s theft. If the same two people walk into a polling booth and vote to steal the third person’s money, we celebrate democracy! Is the two-sided polling booth two-faced? Will you allow rationality to bubble to the surface?
Many villagers believe the tax system needs to be changed and simplified. The One Page Tax Act introduces a fundamental change in the tax system leading to simple, real democracy. Isn’t it ironic that we observe life is complicated while we simultaneously make every aspect complicated?
Every resident will submit an annual obligations return on or before the anniversary of his or her birthdate. The annual return will be limited to the digital equivalent of one side of one 8.5”×11” page.
Every federal, provincial, and municipal government will maintain a central computer database which will update, soon after midnight on the last day of each month. These databases will include the data relevant for the following month’s returns.
Any individual shall have access to the computer database (not individual taxpayer information) and shall be able to generate a return to be electronically filed at the individual’s discretion. Where an individual does not have access to digital filing equipment; each village will arrange a site where every individual (or representative) can digitally file the returns on or before the relevant birthday.
Every federal, provincial, and municipal government will have a computer facility capable of recording, and reporting, the results of tax collected and percentage approvals of programs.
No business shall be responsible for reporting, to any government, the income paid to Canadian resident individuals or entities. Businesses shall report to individuals and entities the monthly income paid to those individuals and entities and shall keep adequate records to permit efficient field reviews.
No business shall be responsible for withholding nor remitting amounts to the government with respect to the taxes of resident employees or resident entities.
Where individual taxpayers wish to periodically accumulate funds to pay their actual taxes on or before their birthdays, they shall make such arrangements outside of all government bureaucracies.
The communication of government activities and operating results is inadequate. Why are villagers prevented from seeing all of the payments to and from all governments? Could the general ledger details of every government in Canada be open to reading access by any villager? Where the transacting party is not an individual villager; could the system disclose all of the beneficial owners of one or more percent of the named party? Proponents of clandestine activities will dream up reasons for secrecy. I suspect the range of authorized secret receipts and disbursements will be, and should be, minimal. Transparency allows any of us to be able to get the facts on all government transactions with any entity.
Present government databases already list all individuals as to birth, immigration, death, and emigration. Virtually every Canadian resident eventually gets a social insurance number.
Imagine the dramatic reduction in the data presently provided by individual and corporate taxpayers to all levels of government.
The administration of the present tax system would be reduced by a phenomenal amount. Would the reduction be in the order of 99%?
A Canadian Individual Obligations Act (Personal Tax Act)
1. Every resident individual shall file a digital four-segment return on the anniversary of his or her birthdate. Individuals under the care of a parent or guardian shall have their returns filed by a parent or guardian. The four pages in the return shall consist of an individual obligations return, a municipal approval form, a provincial approval form, and a federal approval form. The approval forms shall be those relevant to the jurisdictions containing the primary address of the individual.
2. By 5:30 a.m., Newfoundland time, on the first day of every month, every federal, provincial, and municipal government shall post the status, percentage of approvals, and budgeted equal cost of every program administered by them in the one-page approval form for that jurisdiction.
3. By 5:30 a.m., Newfoundland time, on every January 1, the federal government shall post the target Life Security Plan amounts for that calendar year for individuals from birth to age 110 and the personal exemption amount for the year.
[_ 4. Every approval form shall indicate approval or disapproval of the listed non-basic programs by the individual (or parent or guardian). The budgeted equal cost of the approved programs shall not exceed the tax remitted for that jurisdiction on any approval form. Where less than 50% of the total population in the jurisdiction indicates funded approval for a non-basic program, the program shall be designated as "fading" and shall be rationally phased out after 12 consecutive months of not receiving the funded approval of at least 50% of the individuals in the jurisdiction having birthdays in those 12 consecutive months. No emerging program shall be implemented until 50% of the individuals in the jurisdiction having birthdays in those 12 consecutive months have indicated approval of the program. _]
5. The individual’s annual obligation shall be calculated as follows: a) the household income divided by the number of individuals in the household; b) the resulting average income per individual in the household shall be reduced by the personal exemption amount; c) the amount calculated in b) shall be divided by two. The result is the individual obligation to contribute to the individual’s Life Security Plan and all levels of government; subject to a ceiling that is double the per capita costs of all programs relevant to the primary residence of the individual plus the additional federal amount voluntarily approved by a majority of the individuals paying the additional federal amount.
6. Household income shall be the amount earned in the most recent calendar year ending at least three months prior to the current anniversary of the individual’s birthday. Income shall be the amount established under generally accepted accounting principles in Canada.
[_ 7. Amounts (which would be included in income if the recipient were a Canadian resident) to be allocated to non-residents (including individuals) will have the tax treaty amount withheld by the payor and remitted monthly to the federal government. Where no tax treaty, 25% shall be withheld and remitted monthly to the federal government. _]
[_ 8. Interest rates applicable to past-due taxes and penalties shall be 2% per month, compounded monthly and calculated on the actual number of days outstanding. Tax collection efforts shall be those permitted to all unsecured creditors under Canadian laws and shall extend to all members of the household included in the annual returns. _]
9. Any government may request an independent, accredited accountant review of the tax returns of any household so long as no more than one requested review is undertaken for any one calendar year, and so long as the government requesting the independent review advances $5,000 per year (plus consumer price index changes since 2015) in trust to the household’s choice of financial institution. Such review must be requested within three years of the date the return was due and such requested review must be completed within 60 days of the written request. [_ Where household income is increased as a result of such review, the household individuals shall remit, within 30 days, double the increased amount of tax (over the amount originally remitted) to each of the affected governments, plus 2% interest compounded monthly for the time period since the tax was originally due. Where household income is decreased as a result of such review, the government requesting the review shall remit, within 30 days, double the decreased amount of tax (under the amount originally remitted) to all affected governments, plus 2% interest compounded monthly for the time period since the tax was originally due. Where the requested review engagement report is provided for less than the $5,000 (plus consumer price index changes since 2015), the household shall receive the remaining amount in cash. Any appeal of taxes arising out of a requested review engagement report shall be through the regular civil arbitration and court system. _]
10. Failure to file a personal return on time shall incur a $1,000 (plus consumer price index changes since 2015) penalty. Such penalty shall double for each subsequent failure to file.
The effort expended across the nation to establish property values and collect property and business taxes is a tragedy. It bears little relationship to the goods and services provided to the entities being taxed. Wouldn’t it be simpler and fairer to calculate the municipal tax on the same tax base used by the federal and provincial governments? That base is designed to reflect ability to pay. The base is already calculated. There is no need for a set of judgments about the values of various properties and the colour of your toothbrush.
Why is there a business tax? The only real generator of wealth is independent enterprise. Businesses organize, provide jobs, provide structure, provide leadership, provide initiative, and provide enthusiasm. What does the municipality do? It taxes the business! The more you do for the municipality, the more it taxes you. This is akin to monitoring the kids in a class and beating on the best student whenever she shows good results. It’s a clever system isn’t it?
Individuals have a hierarchy of needs: home, food, clothing, child care, transportation, utilities, funding of their Life Security Plans, funding of government services, and discretionary spending.
The integration of the municipal tax base with the federal and provincial tax bases allows simplicity and consistency. There’s no need to debate social engineering, whether you’re Catholic or Protestant, whether your toilet faces south. The individuals in the household pay tax on the basis of ability to pay; up to the ceiling amount.
This chapter recommends a maximum of tax that any one individual would pay. No individual is forced to pay more municipal tax than the top earning 50% of the individuals in the Municipality pay. This means the majority in the Municipality cannot steal from the high income individual (who is in a minority). This reflects Strand 3 of the fence which circumscribes the authority of our Alderpersons/Counsellors.
The municipal tax return lists the municipal programs, on a line-by-line basis, and shows the budgeted per capita cost of each of the programs. The individual cannot vote for more programs than she remits tax money to cover her share of the programs. This reflects Strands 1 and 2 of the fence which circumscribes the authority of our Alderpersons/Counsellors. No Municipality will continue to have more municipal programs than approved, and paid for , by more than 50% of the resident individuals of the municipality. Under this model, do you believe municipalities would continue to fund the International Paper Maché Contest for Left-Handed Arsonists?
You may question the need for provincial governments in Canada. This book focuses on proposals which could be implemented with little or no tinkering with the Constitution. Governments get blurred vision when they try to do more with the tax system than raise funds. You cannot have sin taxes, consumption taxes, and all other forms of manipulative taxes without picking winners and losers. Governments should be even-handed. I propose the provinces utilize the same tax base as the federal government. The integration of the provincial tax base with the federal tax base allows simplicity and consistency. There’s no need to debate social engineering, or mood swings. The household individuals pay tax, up to the equal amount paid by the provincial majority, on the basis of ability.
There will be no provincial sales taxes.
There will be no hotel room taxes.
Individuals have a hierarchy of needs funded by their income: home, food, clothing, child care, transportation, utilities, funding of their Life Security Plans, and funding of government services.
No individual will be forced to pay more provincial tax than the top earning 50% of the individuals in the province pay. This means the majority in the province cannot steal from the high income individual (who is a minority). This reflects Strand 3 of the fence which circumscribes the authority of our Members of Legislative Assemblies.
The provincial tax return lists the provincial programs on a line-by-line basis and shows the budgeted per capita cost of each program. The individual cannot vote for more programs than she remits tax money to cover her share of the programs. This reflects Strands 1 and 2 of the fence which circumscribes the authority of our Members of Legislative Assemblies. No province will have more provincial programs than approved and paid for by more than 50% of the residents of that province.
The basic services involved in a democratic country must be met. In order to fund these basic elements, the first segment of tax paid by any individual will be the amount prescribed by the federal government under our system of electing Members of Parliament and approval by Senators. However, historical government involvement has been continually expanded and abused by every federal government. Therefore, after the basic services have been funded, the municipal and provincial governments shall get first access to discretionary programs. This leaves discretionary federal non-basic programs as the least likely to be funded by more than 50% of the residents of the country. This is sensible because it is difficult to design discretionary programs suitable for the disparate populations of a diverse country. There will be no transfer payments from one level of government to another. Governments will not pick winners and losers. Individual responsibility will be the guiding parameter.
The federal government will have access to all corporate tax. However, corporate tax planning is expected to reduce corporate tax to a nominal amount. Non-resident taxes will accrue to the federal government.
Governments must be even-handed. Therefore, the federal government will utilize the tax base used by all levels of government.
There will be no more Goods and Services taxes.
There will be no more Canada Pension Plan premiums.
There will be no more Employment Insurance Plan premiums.
There will be no more charity deductions or charades.
There will be no more nuances. The entire Individual Obligations mandate will be contained in the 826 word Individual Obligations Act.
Individuals have a hierarchy of needs funded by their income: home, food, clothing, child care, transportation, utilities, funding of their Life Security Plans, and funding of government services.
The integration of the federal tax base with all other government levels allows simplicity and consistency.
If any individual with income below the median income should pay zero tax; we encounter a group of individuals above the median who do not pay the full allotment of tax because the tax formula is 50% of the income above the median. Even if the tax rate were 100%; this group would not pay an equal amount because their income doesn’t exceed the median by enough to cover the taxes for the applicable three levels of government. This situation has two potential solutions: the personal exemption could be set lower so the median income individual would be subject to the full applicable tax or the individuals well above the median income could accept taxes higher than the pure democratic theory indicates. This is a serious dilemma. When two promises conflict, what does Solomon do? I think he asks the affected parties to decide. I expect the affected parties would decide the purity of setting the personal exemption so the median income individual pays no tax is compelling. This leaves higher income individuals to absorb the block of notional tax not received from the individuals above the median income but below the income attracting the full tax. In this circumstance. All of the taxpayers would have to approve all of the programs to ensure 50% approvals. While this is conceivable; it appears unlikely. Therefore, the personal exemption will likely be set low enough to cause some taxpayers below the median income to pay some tax.
Given the format of the individual obligations form and the municipal, provincial, and federal approval forms; how can the plan gain the democratic acceptance of those higher income individuals who are absorbing more than double the per capita amount of tax? It’s clear, to me, the only individuals authorized to vote on this issue are those individuals who are asked to pay more than double the per capita costs of all three applicable governments. In order to capture the approvals of these individuals; the federal approval form will be programmed to specifically ask for the approval of the affected taxpayer whenever the federal tax payable exceeds double the per capita cost of the federal non-basic programs. I expect higher income individuals would strongly support this solution.
There is a maximum of tax any one individual should pay. No individual will be forced to pay more federal tax than the top earning 50% of the federal population. The discussion, in the preceding paragraphs, allows the individuals who voluntarily pay more than 50% in their jurisdiction pay, to annually approve the additional tax. Where less than 50% of the affected individuals approve the extra tax; the federal government must lower the personal exemption. This democratically allows the bearers of the additional tax to accept the additional burden; which means the majority in the country cannot steal from the high income individual (who is in a minority). This reflects Strand 3 of the fence which circumscribes the authority of our Members of Parliament.
The federal approval form lists the federal non-basic programs on a line-by-line basis and shows the budgeted cost per individual of each of the programs. The individual cannot vote for more programs than she submits tax money to cover her share of the programs. This reflects Strands 1 and 2 of the fence which circumscribes the authority of our Members of Parliament. The federal government will have no more non-basic programs than approved and paid for by more than 50% of the residents of the country. Fresh air!
Chapter 7 Corporate Tax
Corporate income tax, of any kind, violates the democratic ideal because one entity is treated differently than other entities such as individuals, partnerships, joint ventures, and proprietorships. The mindset expects corporations to be taxed. Corporations achieve limited liability for individual investors and traditionally retain net income within the corporation.
Corporate income tax policy will be changed to include the following: The tax rate will be 50% of the net increase in retained earnings before the tax, but after payment of dividends. Retained earnings to be the amount established under generally accepted accounting principles. The 50% rate is high enough to prevent shareholders from undertaking tax sheltering manoeuvres by leaving taxable income in the company instead of flowing it through to individual shareholders. No tax refund will be paid if retained earnings have a net decrease. Corporate taxes will again be due when retained earnings next exceed the retained earnings on which taxes were last paid . Any amounts paid to non-resident entities (including individuals) will have the lower of tax treaty rates or 50% withheld by the payer and remitted monthly to the government. Corporate income tax is due on the anniversary date of incorporation and will be based on the most recent fiscal year ending at least three months prior to the anniversary date of incorporation.
This policy puts corporations on an equal footing with other business organizations and ensures non-residents currently pay tax on profitable activity in Canada because corporations can pay dividends equal to the net income and completely avoid income tax. If the money is not paid in cash, it can be declared as dividends and reinvested by the recipient in loans to the corporation. The mechanics of such arrangements would be refined soon after the new tax regime is enacted.
Every corporation shall be assigned a federal identification number at date of incorporation.
Canadian resident individuals will include their share of corporate income (which has not increased corporate retained earnings) in calculations of household income.
Every non-resident individual or other non-resident entity shall pay Canadian income tax equal to the treaty amounts, or 50% where there is no treaty, on any income earned in Canada.
A Corporate Tax Act
1. Every corporation shall file a tax return on or before the anniversary of its incorporation date.
2. The tax rate shall be 50% of the net increase in retained earnings from the retained earnings on which taxes were last paid before the tax, but after payment of dividends. Retained earnings to be the amount established under generally accepted accounting principles in Canada.
3. No tax refunds shall be paid if retained earnings have a net decrease. Corporate taxes shall again be due when retained earnings next exceed the retained earnings on which taxes were last paid.
4. Amounts (which would be included in income if the recipient were a Canadian resident) to be allocated to non-residents (including individuals) will have the tax treaty amount withheld by the payor and remitted monthly to the federal government. Where no tax treaty, 25% shall be withheld and remitted monthly to the federal government.
5. Corporate tax will be based on the most recent fiscal year ending at least three months prior to the anniversary date of original incorporation.
6. Interest rates applicable to past due taxes and penalties shall be 2% per month, compounded monthly and calculated on the actual number of days outstanding.
7. Tax collection efforts shall be those permitted to all unsecured creditors under Canadian laws.
8. Failure to file a corporate return on time shall incur a $1,000 penalty payable by each of the Directors. Such penalty shall double for each subsequent failure to file on time.
9. The federal government may request an independent accredited accountant review of the tax return of any corporation so long as the government advances $5,000 (plus consumer price index changes since 2015) in trust to the corporation’s choice of financial institution. Such review must be requested within three years of the date the return was due. Where the corporation income is increased as a result of s uch review, the corporation shall remit, within 30 days, double the increased amount of tax due to the government, plus 2% interest compounded monthly for the time period since the tax was originally due. Where the corporation income is decreased as a result of such review, the government shall remit, within 30 days, double the decreased amount of tax due to the government, plus 2% interest compounded monthly for the time period since the tax was originally due. Where the requested review engagement report is provided for less than the $5,000 (plus consumer price index changes since 2015), the corporation shall receive the remaining amount in cash. Any appeal of taxes arising out of a requested review engagement report shall be through the regular civil arbitration and court system.
10. Every corporation’s financial statements shall be reviewed or audited by an accredited accounting firm which is independent of the corporation, its directors, and its shareholders.
Chapter 8 Questions and Answers
During the development of the spending, tax and life security ideas, several questions were raised and answered:
Q: Why have you taken initiative in trying to change the Canadian political system?
A: It’s discouraging to see a system penalizing producers and rewarding failures. Not only is the cancer present, it’s malignant.
Q: Are you not concerned ordinary persons will get hurt?
A: There are no ordinary persons. There are only individuals. I believe it’s fundamental each individual should take responsibility for his or her own life. When an individual reaches an intolerable set of circumstances, there are apparent ways to proceed.
If the circumstances result in physical or mental inability to be self-supporting, then the Canadian way is to provide a reasonable environment, the cost of which is to be shared equally by a majority of residents;
If the circumstances result in temporary inability to cope, such as in the case of a teenage single mother, a divorced parent with children, or a misguided lifestyle, then the individual has to make a decision, either, ‘I will adopt a path to regain or achieve self-sufficiency,’ or, ‘I will barely subsist’.
No government can be expected to provide an acceptable lifestyle to an individual who will not take responsibility for his or her own life. The welfare chapter expands on this topic.
Where the individual makes a genuine commitment to regain or achieve self-sufficiency, our social policies must be refined so the rewards are related to the individual’s progress toward self-sufficiency.
Where the individual fails to make a genuine commitment or fails to achieve reasonable progress toward self-sufficiency, the government will provide the barest level of support for food, clothing, shelter, and life security.
Q: With your plan, there could be massive unemployment as the government programs fade out. Isn’t this a ridiculous way to treat a large group of Canadians?
A: I don’t think it’s ridiculous. In fact, I think it’s rational. Logic says each program can be supplied in an efficient manner. If someone wants the service, and it’s efficient, it can be privatized without undue unemployment. If it’s inefficient, or if few people want to pay a fair price for the service, we can’t get rid of it fast enough.
If a program is found to have thin support, then rationalization is important. Calgary experienced the failure of a large residential home-builder during the recession in the early 1980’s. Out of the ruins, several trades’ people, supervisors, clerical staff, and the like found other avenues of endeavour. Some started their own businesses, some found other employment, some started families, and, presumably, some did not adapt. But the situation was rationalized and the majority of the individuals took responsibility for their lives and made the adjustments they considered appropriate. Government workers cover a wide range of ability, education, age, and motivation; however, they cannot be considered to be the low end of a cross-section of workers in Canada. We assume they can be integrated into a rational system.
If the municipal, provincial, and federal approval forms indicate a high proportion of fading programs as soon as the plan is implemented, then a rational transition policy might include the following . A total freeze on hiring any employees anywhere in any Canadian government. Verbal encouragement for employees, in apparent fading programs, to find other employment during the fading period. Leveraged buy-out arrangements for employees to privatize their programs where the financing is not provided, nor guaranteed, by any Canadian government. As a fall-back position, the fading programs could be continued longer than the suggested twelve months to ensure the total number of government employees does not fall faster than 20% (annually) of the original number of government workers when the new plan was implemented.
Q: Canadians have a soft-spot for the underdog. How does your plan accommodate this mentality?
A: I see the underdog in two lights. The most appealing is the underdog who is committed to improving his position. For this individual, the plan is superior to the present system which blind-sides initiative at every turn.
The least appealing underdog is the one who projects the image he is the recipient of every bad break. While individuals are the victims of broken homes, irrational parents, and ineffective education, each must realize, “I am primarily responsible for my life from here forward”. To the extent individuals will do that, the social systems can be targeted and will be supported by the majority of Canadians. This kind of social system does not take an army of bureaucrats, rather it will be most successful if the system integrates the individuals who need temporary support with people who already have the individual responsibility mentality.
Q: A favourite political tactic is to accuse opponents of a hidden agenda. What’s yours?
A: I wish to present the complete, straight goods. Throughout the development of this plan and the decisions to present it to the public, there were recurrent suggestions to piece-meal it and manage the public. I don’t like that strategy. I want a rational, sane, bold initiative for Canadians which addresses each concern as it surfaces. While my personal philosophy is libertarian, I do not object to government programs which are supported consciously and funded equally by a majority of residents.
Q: The plan flies in the face of the socialists’ platform. Do you think the general public will accept your plan?
A: A majority of the socialists’ “common people” are the individuals who will indicate they don’t want the program(s), or at least, they don’t want to pay a pro rata share for the program(s). The flaw in the good intentions of many social advocates is the severance of individual responsibility from the provision of services.
Q: The media will have a field day with the plan. You say it’s bold and rational. They’ll say it’s stupid, naive, does away with a hundred years of progress, puts desperate mothers on the street, and many other things which could defeat it. How do you react to the potential for mass media criticism?
A: I request the media consider the following suggestions:
First, analyze how to make the plan work rather than how to destroy it.
Second, start preparing their reports early enough so they can absorb the thrust of the logic before praising or condemning it.
Third, ask for clarification if some element is of importance to their enquiry. I’m willing to commit time to this project. I will clarify my points of view on the nuances anyone cares to raise.
Fourth, do not set out to cast me as a villain, nerd, hero, incompetent, well-meaning fool, heartless free-enterpriser, saboteur, or any other characterization. Start out by viewing me as a concerned, rational Canadian.
I do expect some complimentary media coverage.
Q: The existing recurring programs having to do with Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan are “sacred trusts” in the eyes of many Canadians. What comfort can individuals, who have counted on these programs, get from adopting the plan?
A: I view the Old Age Security program as a contract with people who are well into their lifetimes. While they have not contributed separate amounts to the plan, they have contributed what was asked of them over their lifetimes. I see calculating the net present value of Old Age Security for each individual and issuing Special Security Bonds for that amount. These bonds would be used after all other Life Security Plan resources, for that individual, are used. To the extent any of the bonds are left at the individual’s death, the bonds would lapse without compensation.
A similar policy should be adopted for contributors to the Canada Pension Plan. In my view, we can be relatively generous in our transition policies because there is a manageable horizon; the individuals involved have participated in the Canadian dream, and that dream must not be shattered in the latter part of individuals’ lives.
Medicare, employment insurance, and many other programs can generate emotion. Underneath the emotion, individuals want to be assured they’re not breaking contracts with neighbors who have legitimately counted on a given level of support. Individuals want to be assured the programs committing them to expenditures for generations to come have some rational expectation of adequate funding.
Q: Under the plan, it’s probable many industry and regional incentives will fade. Will this put undue pressure on such segments as farming, exports, and research and development?
A: I recognize the assumed sacredness of the family farm, the conviction that productive research and development only occurs when you waste lots of money, the observation that some are better able to manipulate government officials than others, the conviction that governments caused the problems in the first place so governments should fix them, the conviction that politicians are better judges of how to redistribute wealth than the decisions of individuals who generate the wealth; the list goes on. I see the transition to the new plan involving at least the following elements: honouring all existing contractual obligations (or negotiating terminations); flatly refusing to enter into any new contractual commitments not evolved through the emerging category of the new plan; reducing present subsidy policies by at least 10% per annum from the base level (faster if major international competitors, or their governments, are moving faster); and setting all marketing boards, pricing bodies, and insurance schemes free from government protection and control. No business shall be required by law to participate in any binding pricing or marketing scheme. However, every business shall be required to honour the terms of any contract that the business freely signs.
I believe we can be generous in our transition policies because there is a manageable horizon and rhetoric could wreck the implementation of the plan.
Q: The model appears to place more tax on younger folks because the annual amounts required to maintain their Life Security Plans might be less than for older folks. Is this a reasonable policy approach?
A: I don’t see young folks having lower contributions to their Life Security Plans. Actuaries will consider the factors but I anticipate contributing $2,500 (in today’s dollars) to the Life Security Plan from age 1 through age 70. The principle invested in youth has the chance to grow over a lifetime. The ability to pay criteria is still in place. Young folks would not be giving up a different proportion of their current disposable incomes, but they might be funding different proportions for current government and Life Security.
Q: Why do you think politicians appear devious?
A: Canadians have a split personality, media people included. We often hear of politicians being criticized for saying things that should be said. Instead of complimenting them for their integrity and forthrightness, we comment on how stupid they are for failing to hide the facts by saying what they think the public wants to hear.
There’s another factor. Most of us are afraid of failure. If we state our case too clearly, we’re afraid we’ll be unable to recover if our case is proven wrong. Instead, we attempt small, incremental changes which, if wrong, are not so dramatic. The trouble with this approach is: things keep going wrong faster than our incremental fixes happen and none of the changes are dramatic enough to get people’s attention. This is why so many people conclude “nothing can be done”.
Q: There is some support for periodic referenda to provide legitimacy to government programs. Why have you advocated the approval form instead of periodic referenda?
A: One of the results of mass media is the overwhelming impact of points of view that are well-merchandised or popular in a short time period. This leads to lobby initiatives and sensational positions having undue impact on a large number of individuals. This leads to less rational decisions than the decisions made day-in, day-out by individuals as they fill in their annual returns on their birthdays. It’s difficult for any lobby group to affect more than half of the people every day, forever. If they do influence that many people on a consistent basis, the majority rules and real democracy works. Referenda, any periodic election, tends to be a popularity contest where the personality, appearance, and presence of the key players tend to overshadow the substance of the programs under discussion. Referenda do not match the voting decision with the obligation of a majority to equally fund the initiative.
As a final consideration, referenda cost significant resources in money, time, and disruption. This is okay every four years to elect government representatives but it’s not okay for deciding many issues day-in, day-out.
Q: The plan puts considerable onus on each tax-filer to make informed decisions on what generic government programs to support. Is the ordinary villager capable of making those informed decisions?
A: There are no ordinary villagers; there are only individual villagers. Each individual gets by with an existing level of education, public awareness, income, interest, apathy, and bias. If they don’t care very much, they’ll make choices others wouldn’t make. But the plan prevents them from approving more programs than they fund by remitting their share of taxes to cover those programs. As popular generic programs show up in the fading category, publicity will focus on the components within that generic category. Politicians and the media will discover which individual programs, within the generic category, will receive support and which ones won’t. The government will make the changes required to segregate the popular programs from the unpopular ones. Under no circumstances should the approval form for each government extend to more than the digital equivalent of one side of one 8.5” × 11” page.
Q: You rank the generic programs into four categories: basic, federal non-basic (recurring), fading, and emerging. Your plan is quite clear on the federal non-basic (recurring), fading, and emerging categories, but there are critical considerations involved in the basic programs. Could you comment on the criteria which make some programs basic?
A: Once you get past the hazy logic common in political rhetoric and editorials, you find Canadians believe in a rational self-interest model where people live and let live. We do want to be assured our security of person and property is adequately protected. This involves police and justice systems to protect each of us from force initiated by others. On an international scale, we want to be assured we have a defence system. We want a parliament, monetary system, and ability to communicate with foreign states. We want enough government to manage anarchy but room left for individual initiative. I have not yet articulated the precise criteria to define the basic programs best suited to Canada. This invites a spirited, public debate. I believe we should keep the criteria stringent so the basic programs are basic.
Q: With your interest in sane government, why haven’t you been prominent in an existing political party?
A: My business experience has provided exposure to governments, lawyers, and business people. Only recently have I convinced myself I have something useful to say. On a private basis, my partners, family, relatives, clients, and both friends have grown weary of hearing my ideas. They’ve been useful filters; helping refine the raw ore into something I’m willing to expose to wider public view. Many people have resigned themselves that nothing can be done. This is discouraging because these people could do something. I’m ready and willing to take a prominent role in impacting public affairs.
Q: Given the continuing frustration over environment, aboriginal issues, transparency, goods and services tax, and Quebec aspirations; how do you see your suggested plan developing?
A: This plan could capitalize on situations currently in focus. Federal, provincial, and municipal leaders have said, “If you have a better alternative, let’s hear it. They don’t really mean it because they intend to continue eroding our freedoms. To all governments, I say, “I have a much better alternative and here it is”.
Q: Do you have any short quotes people may use to capsulize your philosophy?
A: My basic philosophy is individuals must be allowed to act according to their own minds unless they initiate force. The Golden Rule can be enhanced to say, “Do not do unto others that which you do not want done unto you’. I dub this the platinum rule.
On a lighter note, I like these three bits of advice: “Never say whoa in a bad place; if you lose the right to fail, you’ve lost everything; and you can get anywhere from here.”
Chapter 9 Jobs
Imagine a buffet where the dishes offered are a line of liver variations; cattle liver, sheep liver, goat liver, swine liver, bison liver, elk liver, liver and onions, basted liver, liver pate, liver marinated with sweet and sour sauce, teriyaki sauce, honey and garlic sauce, beer, …
What if you don’t like liver? What if you like liver but want a choice of other dishes as well? The labor union response is, “Choice; you have multiple choices in front of you.”
“But they’re all liver.”
“Well, we have our empire to protect; so get used to it.”
Would you frequent such a buffet?
I won’t. I’ll go down to the Village Café where I can choose from a range of dishes, including liver.”
Imagine liver is a symbol for trade unions. A percentage of our villagers believe liver should be forced on all patrons. Unions have lost ground, and will lose more, as patrons gravitate to consensus ideas not driven by monopoly.
For the foreseeable future, the Village Café will include a section featuring organized labor dishes.
A common refrain is, “There are no jobs”. Many folks perceive there are no jobs because they define the job they’re looking for; in what neighbourhood, at what pay. This is not acceptable. When the primary obligation rests with the individual rather than the state, the individual will find a job somewhere, somehow, at some pay. It may not be ideal, but it will be better than the safety net because the safety net will be way down at the survival level, not at the ‘don’t hurt my dignity’ level.
The Life Security Plan is described in Chapter 4. For any individual who has built up a Life Security Plan, job loss means the Life Security Plan can be tapped to provide cash flow until a new job is found. Individuals should recognize any erosion of the Life Security Plan will erode the amount of funds available in the future (or will need to be replaced). This will assure that a great many unemployed folks quickly find a new job so their future well-being is better preserved. A few will erode their Life Security Plan and trust in the compassion of others. This is better than designing systems that encourage many folks to abuse the system.
One remaining monopoly is the government protected ability for workers to shut down production. No entity should be forced to sign an employment or union contract and no entity should be prevented by law from procuring alternate sources of labour. It is fine for workers to organize into unions. It is fine for unions to bargain on behalf of their members. It is fine for businesses to voluntarily sign contracts with unions and/or union members. But it’s not acceptable for businesses to be prevented from hiring non-union members. This profound change in labour law would improve the economic climate in any jurisdiction.
Many folks assume organized labour monopoly (protected by law) is the primary driver in protecting the masses from big business. It’s assumed big business would take over everything if unions were not monopolies. Business needs productive human resources; the individuals who merit extra compensation will receive extra compensation. Those who bring less skill, loyalty, motivation, and integrity to their work will lose ground.
The Life Security Plan removes the need for workers’ compensation, minimum wage laws, and many abuses of power.
Chapter 10 Education
Teachers are forced to eat liver each school day morning. This reminds them their Association is watching and ensuring they don’t make mediocre teachers look bad.
School Boards assemble a bevy of bureaucrats to incessantly encourage teachers to feed broccoli to the students. This reminds teachers to produce compliant, mediocre automatons. It’s too bad the bureaucrats are partially successful.
It is not by wearing down into uniformity all that is individual in themselves, but by cultivating it and calling it forth, within the limits imposed by the rights and interests of others, that human beings become a noble and beautiful object of contemplation.” John Stuart Mill (1806-1873); On Liberty, P.266
The Village Café offers a plethora of dishes teachers and students can access at will. The teachers and students see no purpose for bureaucrats. Once the bureaucrats tire of liver and broccoli; they will seek productive reasons to get up in the morning.
Some well-educated people believe Canadian education needs more funding. I think it needs more results. To get more results, it needs more individual responsibility and engagement from students, teachers, and few administrators. How can more individual responsibility be brought to bear? The answer is the same as it is for other human endeavours: engagement, competition, reward merit, and keep knocking down hurdles. Make sure the most competent get rewarded; the least competent get less.
Many students and parents think school is hard. It’s not hard. Kids learn easily. Let students engage, compete, and succeed. I would issue sixty education vouchers to each newborn Canadian. Each voucher is good for three months of effective education and can be tendered anywhere in Canada. Assuming education is a provincial matter, the provinces must agree the vouchers will be acceptable anywhere in Canada. This means a Canadian could get fifteen full years of education, which could mean roughly the same education as a Master’s degree or a professional degree in all except medicine. But there should be strings attached. A student must pass a competency threshold represented by one voucher before receiving the next voucher. Do not wait until the student is twenty-two and has wasted his/her vouchers before instilling individual responsibility. Make it a part of life from infancy.
Where a young person chooses not to attend school or fails school and goes on to some other endeavour, the remaining vouchers will remain available for potential use sometime later in life. When the sixty vouchers are used up, no government will fund any more education or retraining to that individual.
The vouchers should be legal tender at any school of the student’s (or parent’s/guardian’s) choice as long as it results in the student reaching a competency threshold; which must be monitored independent of the school providing the instruction. This should not be limited to academic criteria. The full range of human involvement should be encouraged.
Education has been primarily a provincial responsibility with federal tinkering. The federal government should get out of education.
When immigrants enter the country, they will qualify for the sixty vouchers even if they are mature and educated. Canada makes the commitment to provide fifteen years of education to every person who chooses to become a Canadian citizen. Immigrants will have milestones to meet: every immigrant must fund the Life Security Plan up to the Security Plan Index for that immigrant’s age before being released into the Country; every immigrant shall receive no more than twenty education vouchers prior to earning full citizenship. The remaining forty education vouchers will be issued as part of the citizenship ceremony; every immigrant shall proficiently speak, write, and understand the dominant language in the province of primary residence before earning full citizenship.
What could a school look like with the voucher system in place? It could look like a typical public school. It could look like a school with dormitories and part-time work for students. It could look like a trade school with periods of work experience. It could look like an articling situation. It probably won’t look like any current, extravagant, wasteful university. It could look like something none of us has imagined yet. If we let innovation flourish, it will. Some situations may turn exploitive. Where the situation violates the right of every individual to be protected from force, the justice system is available. More, better opportunities to learn will yield multitudes of rounded, literate individuals.
Chapter 11 Immigration
Peppers and immigrants raise parallel challenges. Some are sweet; some are hot. Most of us adapt to a range of sweet peppers and individuals but we find various hot peppers and individuals problematic.
The Village Café concentrates the hot peppers and individuals around the outer ring and helps all individuals adapt to a range of peppers and individuals as they gravitate toward consensus.
What biases characterize the majority of Canadians who consider immigration policy? I postulate the majority of individuals consider:
How compassionate can the country afford to be?
How tolerant am I prepared to be?
How much hassle will the immigrant cause?
How much, and how fast, will the immigrants change the existing patterns in the community?
To the extent I can live with all that, I’ll accept any immigrant.
But Canadians have a predisposition to be extra considerate of the underdog. We are susceptible to emotional and rhetorical charges of racism, bigotry, rednecks, and hard heartedness. The question is, “how do we establish a sensible policy?” I suggest: Canada will annually set a national immigration maximum; each municipality will annually set a municipal immigration maximum; Canada will maintain a first-come, first-served list of aspiring immigrants. Those immigrants will be screened for communicable diseases, life-threatening conditions, and criminal records. The aspiring immigrants will register as individuals or as a family. The aspiring immigrants will fund each of their Life Security Plans with the Canadian dollars required for their relevant ages before being released in Canada. The aspiring immigrants will agree to settle in a municipality that has indicated a willingness to accept immigrants as long as that municipality’s quota is not filled. Any aspiring immigrants who agree to a municipality and then change their mind will go through a rigorous process before being allowed to relocate. Such process would involve: application to the present municipality for permission to move out; identification of a new municipality with remaining quota for immigrants; and application to the new municipality for permission to move in. Ultimately, the immigrant has three choices: stay in the original municipality; find a willing new municipality; leave Canada and get the Life Security Plan funds (including interest) back.
The policy does not mention race, creed, education, career, gender, age, or anything except commitment to a Life Security Plan and a lack of serious health issues and criminal activities. Young people have a better immigration opportunity because their Life Security Plan amounts are not as prohibitive. Any municipality that feels insecure about the level of immigrants in general or about the level of one race in their midst could reduce the municipal quota to zero and accept no more immigrants until the existing population is stabilized, changes its collective mind, or whatever.
How do political refugees or hardship cases get considered? It’s obvious Canada cannot even-handedly accept all the world’s alleged political refugees and hardship cases who could surface. I propose the first-come, first-served list is the only way to get immigration status in Canada. If you’re not next on the list, you don’t get in. Any other policy opens the door to abuse, misuse of power, corruption, admittance of rabble-rousers, and all the problems we find frustrating. A better contribution to solutions to world problems is the verbal (but not financial) encouragement of Canadian retirees to work among underdeveloped countries’ people to demonstrate more effective ways to educate, farm, manufacture, and export. The growth of native knowledge from peasant, to pioneer, to business person is the only lasting way to improve the conditions of the masses in underdeveloped countries. Putting gobs of money, food, and drugs in the hands of governments and bureaucrats guarantees corruption and undemocratic power.
Chapter 12 Justice
Our justice system parallels the production of jerky. Jerky is prepared by slicing fresh meat into strips, applying enough salt to prevent bacteria growth, and then drying at low heat forever. This describes our justice system where we slice an issue into myriad elements, lace the pieces with endless rules, notices, schedules, excuses, accommodations and due processes, and then place it under low heat forever. Then we wonder why the ultimate resolution tastes like jerky.
The Village Café favors fresh dishes.
Most individuals have an acceptable view of fundamental justice; do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the Ten Commandments, and the Desiderata poem.
I believe individuals should be allowed to act according to their own minds unless they initiate force.
We’ve allowed our justice system to drift away from fundamental justice by acceding to time delays, political correctness, plea bargaining, and different rules for different segments. The solution is a back to basics approach where justice is evenly applied. This chapter outlines the ideas that would achieve fundamental justice.
The Criminal Process
Underlying all justice is the principle of individual responsibility. Our system has allowed this principle to be eroded by such defenses as youth, insanity, blind rage, and drunkenness. None of these defenses are acceptable. If an individual commits a criminal offense, they are accountable. The defense against a criminal charge is innocence. Once criminal responsibility is established, our systems need effective solutions to manage the residual damage to the convicted and the rest. Individuals with mental issues must be afforded sufficient support while protecting the public from recurrence. Non-violent criminals should not be thrust into environments where violent crime is advocated by fellow criminals. Mandatory sentences force judges to make wrong decisions. All decisions should explain in terms an interested villager can consider. It is one thing to cater to the lawyer fraternity. It is a much different, and more useful, service to explain to the villagers why a decision was decided as it was.
Justice takes too long. The Crown should have a strong criminal case before charging an individual, and then the case should be decided by the lower court within ninety days. Each appeal all the way to the Supreme Court shall be completed within ninety days. A routine criminal case, which could pass through three courts would be finalized in two hundred and seventy days. I know lawyers, judges, investigators, and other observers will object to the time limits. My answer to them is “you abused the system to the point of exasperation, now mend your ways, get the job done expeditiously, and without petty wrangling”. All the requests for psychological testing and other stonewalling tactics will not be effective if the emphasis is on guilt or innocence rather than state of mind. Why should neurotic criminals get more leeway than non-neurotic ones?
Parole should be discontinued. Once we eliminate mandatory sentences, the Courts have a range of sentences at their disposal. The Courts should expect the sentences will be served.
There is concern about the economic consequences of locking up large numbers of criminals. The costs of prisons have escalated because: the relative comfort of the prisoners is assured; the level of security requires physical infrastructure and high numbers of personnel; and the prisoners are not self-supporting.
Beyond the costs of operating prisons, there is a high price to pay for segregating couples, extended families, and disrupting normal living conditions.
The following custodial structure seeks to provide adequate public protection with economically feasible ways to incarcerate criminals.
The structure includes three levels of custody: minimum, medium, and maximum security. Judges would be responsible for ruling on the level of security as well as the length of confinement. There is significance to the level of security for the criminals because exit from the facility before the sentence expires results in an automatic move to a facility with the next higher level of security
What do we do with the criminal who exits the maximum security facility before his/her sentence expires? Execute him/her. This is not capital punishment, it’s damage control. It is one thing to commit one or more criminal offenses that lands an individual in the maximum security facility; it is quite another when the individual, knowing the risks, exits the facility for any reason before completing the sentence. Execution of these types of individuals is not punishment; it is necessary to limit the havoc we are willing to endure from one individual.
Many people believe a criminal with a long sentence (including a life sentence) will be more dangerous if they have no hope. However, this definition of hope relates to the hope of some existence outside the confines of an existing maximum security prison. The facilities envisioned in my proposal are dramatically different.
A minimum security facility would be located near urban centres where the extended family could maintain contact. There would be individual housing units for each criminal and his/her immediate family. There would be garden plots, farm animals, and manufacturing plants, as developed by the criminals. There would be no alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, or hallucinogenic drugs allowed in the complex. The facility would be laid out in a pie shape where the “town square” and any business enterprises would be centred. Radiating out from the centre would be roads and paths leading to individual residences.
The individual residences would have a minimum of facilities supplied by the government. Such minimum facilities would include concrete interior and exterior walls, floors and ceilings, with an insulated core, thermopane windows, and entrance door. The residence would have a common room and two bedrooms. No closets; no furniture; no cupboards; no carpet; no blinds; nothing but a wood burning cook stove. The residence would have a cellar which would contain a geothermal heating system, an ice house, and a root cellar. When a criminal first enters the facility, he/she would be allowed to live in a temporary residence for seven days to decide on career, location, facilities available, and status of garden plots. At the end of the seven days, the criminal may choose any unclaimed residence. From then on, he/she would be on his/her own; just like a pioneer. Individual responsibility is the guiding force. Prior to the exit of a criminal at the end of his/her sentence, the criminal may barter, give, or sell the assets built up to other inmates for whatever he/she can negotiate, recognizing the only temporary title holder permitted will be a criminal in the facility.
The individual living units would not have electricity, running water, or sewer. Instead, each group of residences would have a common facility which would include showers, toilets, wash basins, and laundry facilities. These facilities would be originally installed to high industrial standards. Day-to-day care and upkeep would be left to the local council. An adequate supply of clean water would be provided from federal government funds. While the washhouses would be supplied with electricity paid for by the federal government, there would be no access to government-funded electricity for the use of residents, beyond servicing the washhouses and the geothermal heating systems.
One might wonder how the meek or inept individual would make out in such a facility. The answer is the same as in ordinary society. There will always be an uneven distribution of skills, drive, intelligence, physical, and mental capacity. When the criminal hits bottom, the same level of subsistence support available to other citizens would be provided; no better, no worse. But such support would not be attractive to anybody who has any sense of individual responsibility.
Each criminal entering a minimum security facility will be fitted with an electronic sender built into a necklace. The electronic sender will be worn continuously from start of sentence to end of sentence. It will emit a signal traceable by global positioning satellites. The separation of the necklace from the criminal would trigger immediate emergency notice of the time and location of the separation. Existing police techniques will be used to locate and apprehend the criminal. Any violation of the security necklace or unauthorized exit from the facility would result in automatic movement to a medium-security facility.
Visitors and family members would be free to come and go at will from the facility. Any school age children living in the facility will be bussed to the nearest school(s) as appropriate.
The residents in the facility would make appropriate use of items salvaged from the community at large. Such materials as waste from renovations, waste from manufacturing and construction projects, and abandoned clothing, should be encouraged to be assembled by criminals who are proprietors of stores in the facility. Such proprietors could barter such materials for items or services that they need or want. To the extent non-proprietor criminals can procure needed materials or services, these can be bartered to the proprietors or to other residents. Appropriate screening of incoming shipments will be designed to restrict the entry of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and other banned items and substances.
Policing in the facility would be done by carefully selected Royal Canadian Mounted Police who have the combination of skills and personality to treat the criminals and other residents as humans and still maintain law and order.
The facility would be run by a democratically-elected Council of Residents (who may or may not be criminals). Within boundaries, the Council would have considerable authority. Such Council could deal with common washrooms, roads, noise, and community hall.
Similar guidelines would be in place for the medium security and maximum security facilities, but with enhanced levels of security.
The medium-security facility would be enclosed by a fence that could not be crossed without access to physical facilities such as ladders, climbing ropes, or explosives. Electronic surveillance would be in place at all times and the gates to the facility would be arranged and manned to provide reasonable levels of protection from unauthorized exit of criminals. The criminals themselves would be fitted with an electronic signal on one ankle in addition to the necklace described for minimum-security. The same guidelines and rules apply. Any exit prior to completion of sentence will result in transfer to a maximum-security facility.
The maximum-security facility would be surrounded by a virtually impenetrable enclosure. The gates would be appropriately arranged and manned to detect criminals exiting the facility. In addition, each criminal incarcerated in the maximum security facility would be internally fitted with an electronic sender that would be immediately fatal to the criminal if the sender was removed without authorized, secret procedures under clinically acute care circumstances.
The result of exiting the maximum security facility before the end of sentence is automatic execution. This is not designed as a penalty; it is designed as ultimate control. The criminal would obey the maximum security guidelines or die. The advocates of hope will therefore be inclined to reinforce the opportunities within the maximum-security facility instead of systematically eroding the right of law-abiding individuals to be protected from proven high-risk criminals.
There will be those who are concerned about the well-being of spouses and children who accompany criminals into any of the facilities. The same rules of fundamental freedom and justice apply to such individuals whether they are in or out of a custodial facility. Physical or mental abuse will be treated the same. In some respects, the spouse will have more options because an abusive criminal spouse will be restricted in mobility, while the non-criminal spouse is free to live or go anywhere. On balance, the ability for criminals to live substantially self-supporting, useful lives while incarcerated outweighs the perceived risks to affected non-criminals who choose to associate with the criminals.
Few believe Canada’s legal system provides efficient, appropriate civil decisions, promptly and cost-effectively. The worst frustration is the extreme politeness and accommodation allowed to slow down the system. The second is the obsessive concern for getting all the evidence. The result of these two situations is unacceptable delay between the launching of a lawsuit and the ultimate resolution of the case.
Here is my proposed solution. Every civil suit will be put to arbitration exactly nine weeks from the day the statement of claim is filed. The applicant will have up to one week to present the case; the respondent will have up to one week to present a defense; and the arbiter will have up to one week to provide a written, definitive ruling.
Any appeal of the arbiter’s ruling must be filed within fourteen weeks from the date the statement of claim was filed. The appeal will be heard starting exactly twenty-three weeks from the date the statement of claim was filed. The appellant will have up to one week to present the case; the respondent will have up to one week to present the defense; and the judge will have up to one week to provide a written ruling.
Any appeal will go through a similar process and be completed within thirty-nine weeks from the date the statement of claim was filed.
Any appeal to the Supreme Court will go through the same process; so every civil suit will be resolved within fifty-two weeks, regardless of the number of appeals. The overwhelming majority of cases will be solved at arbitration and few will go beyond the first level of court proceedings.
What about costs of the process? Civil suits are often fought between combatants of unequal means. A combatant initiating an arbitration hearing shall pay $5,000 (adjusted by the Consumer Price Index) into trust. At the end of the arbitration process, the arbiter will order the deposit to be paid to the winner.
Any appeal to the first level of court will be accompanied by a $10,000 deposit (adjusted by the Consumer Price Index) from the appellant. Such amount will be awarded to the winner of the appeal.
Any appeal to the second level of court will be accompanied by a $20,000 deposit (adjusted by the Consumer Price Index) from the appellant. Such amount will be awarded to the winner of the appeal.
Any attempted appeal to the Supreme Court will be accompanied by a $40,000 deposit (adjusted by the Consumer Price Index) paid by the appellant. Such amount will be paid to the respondent if the Supreme Court does not grant leave to appeal or issues a judgment in favour of the respondent. The appellant gets the deposit back if the judgment is in the appellant’s favour.
While the arbiter’s decisions will not be viewed as judicial precedents and will not be published, the Courts will take the decision of the arbiter as the key piece of reliable evidence. The appellant will be expected to provide convincing evidence that the arbiter erred in the circumstances. The idea is to be sure all potential litigants take the arbitration process seriously.
Lawyers often name peripheral parties in hopes some “off the wall” argument will ultimately be useful or the hassle factor will lead to a favourable settlement. This tendency must be tempered. Therefore, the $5, $10, $20, and $40 thousand dollar rules will apply to every named defendant (respondent) in a dispute. So, if a statement of claim names 10 defendants, the aggressor is exposed to 10 times the $5, $10, $20, and $40 thousand dollar payments into trust. This is necessary to control the irresponsible dragging in of innocent parties. Judges will be given leeway, and encouragement, to award cost recoveries to the unjustified naming of defendants to a claim.
Class action suits will always require the naming of the individual claimants in the class action and those claimants will be exposed to the $5, $10, $20, and $40 thousand dollar deposits. The launching of civil suits will have a financial impact at the front end. In this way, contingent fee arrangements will be mitigated.
How do the above proposals affect a “little guy” who feels wronged by a bigger player? First of all, he better be sure he’s working with provable facts, rather than emotion or pique. Second, he’ll be expected to come up with $5,000 (adjusted by the Consumer Price Index) for a deposit for arbitration. Third, he needs to find an efficient and effective way to present his arbitration case. The community would adapt to the needs of this kind of presentation and economical services would be available. The Courts would be instructed to rely on the arbiter’s decision. The little guy therefore has to win the arbitration hearing or face stiff obligations in terms of proof and front-end funding for deposits and legal fees when he enters the civil court system.
The justice system is populated by too many lawyers. The legal profession provides drafts of laws, offense, defense, judge, appeal judge, and Supreme Court judge. What if the legal profession is wrong or out-of-step with fundamental justice? Wrongs are perpetuated and used as precedents. To reduce the influence of lawyers, the justice system will adopt two restrictions: no arbiters will be lawyers; and no provincial court judges will be lawyers.
The first and third rungs of the civil justice system would be decided by rational people who are not steeped in the finer points of law, but are well-qualified to decide on fundamental justice. The second and fourth rungs would be populated by judges who are trained as lawyers and who could provide the traditional strengths of the common law system and careful second thought to the civil justice system. The Supreme Court would be expected to be extremely loathe to grant leave to appeal a decision that sided with the arbiter and the lay judge on the third rung of the system.
Chapter 13 Environment
Advocates for environmental issues are prone to a vision condition causing them to see everything touched by humans as; grey, abused, scarred, suffering, stunted, ugly, and dirty. The Village Café installs corrective lenses in the sneeze guards to allow environment advocates to see the food as the rest of the patrons see it. Each time the advocates attend the buffet, they wonder which view would serve the world better. Sometimes they peak under the sneeze guard and flinch at the site. I hope environmental advocates will consider the two perspectives and modify their advocacy away from automatic vituperation toward a more collegial pursuit of substantive environmental protection.
While my preferred structure is minimum government, there is a place for protection of the environment. In order to get a balance between property rights and others’ rights, I envision a plane emanating from the centre of the earth to the end of space and passing through the earth’s crust at the property lines. To the extent a property owner can ensure pollutants do not leave the invisible planes mentioned above, the property owner can pollute to his heart’s content. However, the instant he pollutes, or could pollute, any area outside the invisible planes, he is subject to very stringent environmental requirements.
How does cap and trade help us improve the environment? In my perception, it fabricates another huge bureaucracy which will migrate polluting activities to non-participating countries. Is there a better way? I wonder if the public interest is served by commodifying pollution. Could we achieve better living conditions and world leadership by reducing our environmental footprint in every household? What if we approved a rule where every property and every self-propelled unit were required to reduce its air and water pollutants (from starting levels to ‘canary-safe’ air and potable water) by 2% per year, straight line, without exception? I call this strategy cap and fade. What might evolve out of this strategy?
Homeowners would scramble to meet the first few reductions. Then more radical steps would be required. Massive innovation would be unleashed. Geothermal solutions would expand. LED bulbs would be common. Homes would have fewer exposed walls. Homes would downsize. Micro sewage plants would become affordable. Who knows what would emerge.
Vehicle owners would use their vehicles less. Carpooling would increase. Public transit would be used more. Individuals would move closer to their work. Individuals would decide to walk or bike to work. Urbanization might reverse. Reliable high-speed internet might find its way to every rural household. Massive factories might give way to multitudes of micro plants. Urban streets might be landscaped as parks. Private car garages might become stores, schools, professional offices, multi-generational housing, bakeries, cafés, and factories. Households might have a parent in them. Individuals might know their neighbors. There might be no street lights. One policeman might be well known in the village. Crime might be near zero. Kids might be able to play in the neighborhood. Sports might be collegial and inclusive. Downtown high-rises might convert to 95% housing and 5% business. Business campuses might ensure adequate housing within walking and biking distance. Grandparents might watch the children. Grandparents might be included in daily life rather than being ear-tagged on a wrinkle-ranch. Fat folks might lose weight. Disposable containers might give way to reusable dishes. Rampant allergies might evaporate. Small town rumor mills would flourish; you can’t win ’em all!
Factories, plants, and municipalities would find ways to capture and clean-up the air and water from their operations. New, self-propelled units would not pollute. Old plants would phase down because retrofitting would be too expensive. New plants would not pollute. Some operations would move off-country but local demand would be met, somehow. Innovation would explode.
Eco-friendly energy sources would flourish. Leading-edge countries would delight the world. Innovators will flock to an eco-friendly country if it provides sane democracy, life security, justice, tax, education, immigration, and safety policies.
How do we protect our habitats? With clean air and water; we have a chance. Let’s publish a schedule for the development of a comprehensive habitat plan. Start with an invitation for every interested party to submit its suggestions for the areas under country control that should be protected. This could have an eight-month time limit.
A study group consisting of two members selected by each submitting party (no matter how many) would then be organized into teams to digest and organize the various submissions into a coherent discussion document.
Such document would have the following attributes:
Identify the key habitats for every species of animal and plant life acknowledged by the submissions;
Identify the cultural and historical areas acknowledged by the submissions;
Identify any pristine areas that have so far escaped significant human influence;
Identify a communication and transportation grid of roughly 300 kilometres in each direction throughout the country that could be utilized with minimal damage to surrounding habitat;
Present a tentative plan that would best provide for the enactment of protected areas of four types: 7% of the total country area as pristine preserves which would be rigorously protected from all human intervention and development; 7% of the total country area as federal parks which would be protected by the federal government; 7% of the area of each province which would be protected by the provincial governments; and 7% of the total country area which would be protected by trusts administered by concerned individuals (entities) and dedicated to specific habitats, cultural settings, and historical settings.
Such discussion document to be ready in about eight months from launch date. This document would then be available for submissions by all interested parties, including governments, industries, businesses, individuals, international nature groups, and environmentalists, with a view to assembling a feasible, comprehensive, significant environmental protection policy for the country’s land and water areas. Submissions would be accepted for about six months.
At the end of the submissions stage, an international body would be invited to rationalize all the submissions and recommend a final plan to the federal government. The federal government would then debate and accept a plan for the country and recommend it to the provinces and territories for their debate and approval. One could visualize some entity like the National Geographic Society as being both interested and competent in assessing the submissions and recommending the final plan.
Inherent in all this would be an understanding the remaining 72% of the country’s land base would be available for commercial exploitation. There will be room for regulatory control over renewable and non-renewable resources, but not the continual and irresponsible intervention of special interest groups presently allowed to ride roughshod over independent enterprise. Note the proposals in the Justice chapter will help control intervention and speed up the civic process.
Issues will evolve from aboriginal land claims, private developments trapped in proposed protected areas, and costs of swapping privately-held lands for Crown lands. My view is the longer we leave environmental issues to ad hoc decisions, the fewer realistic options will be left. Protection of 28% of the land and water area will put the country on the leading edge of environmental responsibility and we should get on with it before it’s too late.
Communication and transportation corridors will also cause debate and concern. I propose a five mile-wide strip be included in the corridors with usage as follows: roads, pipelines, railways, power lines, and communication towers would be in the middle mile; the mile on each side of the middle mile would be available for private ownership and development of accommodation and recreation activities suitable to travellers and local demand; the outside mile on each side would be a transition zone where there is no development, but people would not be restricted from hiking, swimming, and skiing. One of the challenges involved in corridors through protected areas is to ensure the relatively free movement of wild life. This raises the opportunity for creative ways to build highways below or above ground and other innovations to infringe as little as possible on nature.
Chapter 14 Constituencies and Wards
Have you noticed the vegetable accompaniment of meals in truck stops? There’s a recurring incidence of mixed carrots, peas, and corn. Imagine a government-dominated committee in the kitchen of every truck stop in the jurisdiction. The committee is charged with altering the mix of carrots, peas, and corn according to the biases of the expected patrons; today the truckers are from the Alberta oilfields, tomorrow they’re the spouses of Vancouver teachers, the next day they’re Quebec separatists. Each day, the committee uses some intuition to emphasize carrots with a stick, encourage a pea break, or come up with a corn(y) rumor. Such manipulation of the electoral process demonstrates little respect for the electorate. Then the pundits wonder why individual voters downgrade the value of their votes.
The Village Café prepares all the vegetables separately and displays them in separate dishes. Each patron can choose which vegetable and how much. No operative is standing in the shadows manipulating the choices.
Why do we let operatives manipulate constituency and ward boundaries?
Under the existing system, there’s little evidence governments know the current address of their citizens, or even how many citizens they have. Under my proposals, every individual would have an identification number assigned at birth or at entry to the country on any basis other than a visit. From the identification number administration, the system could maintain last known addresses for every individual.
Because addresses are known, the constituencies for federal, provincial, and municipal jurisdictions would be automatically established by assigning individuals by postal codes in a pattern as near to a contiguous square as possible. The constituencies would be adjusted prior to each election by the total population of the whole jurisdiction, divided by the number of constituencies/wards. This would be a mechanical exercise not affected by partisan considerations, nature of residents, wealth, occupation, age, or anything else. Simple rules of rounding would be in place to get the populations of the constituencies/wards close while honouring postal code designations.
All levels of government would be expected to maintain integrity of the addresses of individuals. Therefore, every contact with police and government bureaucracies would confirm the identification numbers of individuals and the updated addresses.
Since every individual is required to file an income tax return, there is an annual opportunity to receive an address for each individual. The Individual Obligations Act includes a penalty for not filing the annual tax return.
Since the Life Security program is funded primarily by income that would otherwise be taxed, the federal government would have continuous access to the data in every Life Security Plan: individual’s name; individual’s identification number; individual’s address; individual’s Life Security Plan current balance.
The combination of information sources indicates few individuals could live in Canada without coming into contact with a means of ensuring the individual was authorized to be here. The census was put in the constitution one and a half centuries ago when the record keeping tools were different. Today the census is a worse than useless exercise. It will not identify the illegal residents, is redundant for the law abiding masses, and it invites manipulation as it identifies individual attributes.
Chapter 15 Debt Management
Imagine the plates at the start of a buffet line. When governments create a budget mess; they use massive plates; larger than any diner could rationally fill with food for one meal. When this causes the government to run a deficit and accumulate debt, the government starts issuing smaller plates. When the plates near thimble size, the government wakes up.
The Village Café offers one plate size; always and forever. The buffet selection and price is set by the majority choices, every day. No deficit ever occurs and no debt ever accumulates
Governments have allowed significant debts to accumulate. The existing accumulated debts must be managed. There must be effective measures to prevent further increases in peace-time debt. Ultimate protection would involve a constitutional amendment which would prevent any future peace-time deficits. In the meantime, the model described in this book provides a method for preventing any more deficits and cumulative debt.
Chapter 16: Welfare
I know of a restaurant which has waterways built into the floor. The water is clear and populated with fishes. One can stand on the bridges and watch the fish. I was thinking of this display when considering the Village Café provisions for caring for those who cannot fend for themselves because the crevices appear too wide. The busboys serve as the catalysts and crevice crews to provide short-term assistance and develop a long-term plan for each patron.
There can be a substantial gap between what a person says he will do and what he will do. Common examples are: a co-worker agrees to purchase tickets to a professional team’s home games. When it comes time to pay for the seats, the priorities have changed; a father offers to help his daughter with her homework all through the school year, but only helps her twice; a voter agrees that no one should live below the poverty line, but then finds ways to avoid a pro rata share of taxes.
Many high-minded ideals are implemented into law without questioning whether a majority of the residents will pay the costs on a pro rata basis. The federal, provincial, and municipal approval form will prevent programs not supported by a majority of the residents. There will be individuals who do not cope well enough to meet the village’s perception of acceptable. In order to focus our policy decisions in a productive way, I propose the “crevice” theory. This theory postulates a person faces a series of crevices throughout a lifetime. Many of these crevices are well-known and readily negotiated by the majority. Examples are: learning to walk; learning to talk; first day at school; first date; final exams; marriage.
Other crevices have become more formidable obstacles over the last sixty years. I believe these crevices have widened and deepened because individual responsibility has been eroded.
So my policy suggestions have two main thrusts: improve the ability of individuals to confidently cross a variety of crevices, and narrow several of the crevices that are too wide for some to cross.
One should recognize there’ll always be crevices. If we were able to eliminate all the known ones, people would invent a new set. However, a continuing quest to allow individuals to acquire skills and confidence to cross identified crevices as they become important to each individual is a wholesome exercise.
This quest has the best chance of success if we recognize human nature exists and build on natural tendencies, rather than on some utopian or naive vision of what society should look like. From this viewpoint, one should abandon such hallowed policies as: minimum wage, poverty line, universality, and wage parity. All of these terms, and many more lead individuals to believe someone else is responsible for their well-being. It’s more productive to lead each individual to believe he or she is individually responsible for well-being.
I grew up on a farm. Several times, I was struck by the metamorphosis that occurred when the plow was put into use each season. The plow sat outside for several months and the mould board and shear rusted noticeably. When the plow was put to use, the first few rounds required extra power to pull the plow through the soil because of its rusty mould board. However, after a relatively few rounds, the mould board was a shiny, polished silver colour and was easier to pull through the soil. This seems to me to be a good analogy for what happens to individuals who are not using their individual responsibility mould boards. They get rusty. Then they want government to come along and use chemicals and emery cloth to clean up that which should not have rusted in the first place.
The common storage for grain on the farms in our community was a 12’ ×12’ wooden granary. Often, these bins were built by inexperienced pioneers using whatever materials were available. As a result, some of the granaries were structurally inadequate, so the pressure of the grain tended to push the walls out. To counteract this tendency, some bins had heavy wires strung across them about four feet off the floor. One set of wires went from side-to-side and another set from front-to-back. The wires were tightened by twisting a stick between the wires until the wires were taut and able to help counteract the pressure of the grain on the walls of the bin. This was an inexpensive, effective fix for a problem that needn’t have developed in the first place. I banged my knuckles, ribs, and arms on these wires strung across where I was trying to shovel grain. I recite this story because it symbolizes my suggested approach to managing the size of the crevices that individuals might wish to cross. The first message is structures we build should be strong enough to keep the crevices narrow enough to cross. The second message is we can use wires (twisted tight) to keep the existing crevices from widening further, while individuals cross with existing skills and confidence. There will be some banged knuckles and bruised ribs, but individuals will survive and will persevere.
My proposals are built on individual responsibility. Are you willing to expect that all individuals will take primary responsibility for themselves? If a majority is willing, we can build a better Canada. If not, we are doomed to a steady erosion of our freedom and our productivity. The choice is open to each of us.
The economic underperformers who have not yet achieved a median funding required by the Life Security Plan and those who have chosen to default on individual responsibility may have landed in their present predicament through various misfortunes such as poor upbringing, teenage pregnancy, misspent youth, immaturity, laziness, physical abuse, mental abuse, ad infinitum. This book proposes the “catalysis” model to genuinely help the folks who could benefit from a “leg up”.
Catalysis, as used here, means a combination of specific analysis of the needs and wants of the target individual, and the identification of an appropriate mentor to be the catalyst to help the target get from the present circumstances to individual independence.
The steps in the Catalysis process are: an individual asks for help from the system; the individual is encouraged to identify an appropriate catalyst; the catalyst and the individual mutually develop a contract (plan) to achieve financial independence within a reasonable timeframe (say five years), and cover basic food, clothing, and shelter virtually immediately; all of this is accomplished outside of any level of government. It reopens a meaningful role for churches, service clubs, individuals, business people, and neighbours;
Because this catalysis process is done completely outside of government, there will be a myriad of ad hoc programs tried. Successful programs will be copied. Unsuccessful programs will atrophy. The range of community groups will regain meaning. Results will be positive and reinforced. Peer pressure will reinforce the program. Presumably, unacceptable environments will be reduced because abused spouses will have an avenue to escape.
Children will be put in healthier atmospheres; expectations will be raised; hope will be present.
There will be the usual naysayers who harp about two-tier systems; who worry about inappropriate catalysts; who fear change of any style. My answer to them is the present system is not working, and any general government program is doomed to fail. Why not focus on the individual? Isn’t that rational?
The risks to those who fall into a category of needing help through categories 3 and 4 are great. The remaining safety net for these folks (after the Life Security Plan is used up) will be way below most people’s comfort level. There will be some transitional heartache and disasters because many will believe the safety net will not be lowered way below most people’s comfort levels. However, over a few years, the recognition individual responsibility is, indeed, the norm will have a profound, positive effect on the well-being of the nation and its individual residents.
Hearken back to the taker-maker analogy. As soon as that blob of humans between the two backstops is tipped slightly toward the maker end, the whole blob of individuals gravitates to the maker end. My bias is the heavier the maker end becomes, the stronger the society. Those individuals who continue to hold collectivist philosophies will continue to merchandise alternatives.
I work with owner-managers of businesses. It’s my conviction individuals in businesses will enthusiastically adopt the philosophies and programs expounded in this book. Even the most paranoid members of our society will be astounded at the positive activity generated throughout Canada under a rational regime involving the prescribed approaches.
It surprises me any responsible person would advocate people should receive welfare with dignity. To me, accepting welfare is the antithesis of dignity. Shouldn’t people learn dignity from birth? Don’t turn your food bowl upside down; accept toilet training; don’t raise a consistent ruckus in public places; don’t disrupt the school class; don’t play Bridge full-time in university; don’t collect employment insurance as a regular part of existence; don’t be promiscuous; don’t beg. The list could go on. My point is asking for government help is not dignified, should never be merchandised as dignified, and should not be legislated as dignified.
If an individual finds himself in a position that he needs to ask for help, then he should make a personal commitment he will do everything in his power to avoid asking for future help, and should wholeheartedly pursue a route to individual independence. Even though the indignity of asking for help is a blow, dedicated efforts to learn from the underlying mistakes should insulate oneself from future setbacks. Genuine pursuit of individual responsibility will quickly demonstrate to the neighbors the helping hand was justified. A close analogy to the person asking for help is the maturing process of a teenager. Each teenager chooses a way to test the limits of acceptable behaviour as measured by parents, teachers, church, community, and police. To the extent neither the teenager nor the authorities around him provide acceptable limits, a life is wasted. In the adult world, our welfare system has encouraged the irresponsibility of the individuals who apply for welfare. I seek to establish some rational limits that will allow the vast majority of potential welfare recipients to choose to be short-term partakers.
What path might an individual choose if he decides to ask for welfare? His first line of attack should be his personal initiative, his education vouchers, his Life Security Plan, his family (close and extended), and his friends. If this range of support systems proves inadequate, then the individual has two choices: he can ask for formal help with the understanding that help will come with a genuine commitment from the applicant to become individually responsible within a relatively short time; or he can decide to lead a life of subsistence.
The person who admits he needs help and makes a genuine commitment to rapidly improve to self-sufficiency will find an array of community resources available to help him. The path he chooses will depend on: what support structures are known to be available in the community; what sponsor group is most consistent with the individual’s personal preferences and career interests; what education vouchers remain to be used; what help the family and friends will provide once the individual demonstrates a willingness to become individually responsible and financially independent; and the catalyst he chooses to provide the guidance, stability, maturity, street smarts, and understanding to get the person on a path leading to individual responsibility and financial independence.
Once the support structure and catalyst have been located, all the parties will develop a written contract which will spell out the benefits and the obligations of all the signatories. In the circumstances, the applicant is the most vulnerable for several reasons: it may be a life and death attempt to get ahead; it may be past experience shows “nobody cares”; it may be the sponsor groups and catalysts do not adequately perform their functions.
This means there will be failures. It also means all the parties will hear of circumstances that worked well or went awry. An evolution will take place where several approaches will emerge, probably including: more individuals will struggle along without getting involved in any formal process; more individuals, churches, service groups, and business groups will refine their programs so the likelihood of successful fulfillment of the programs will be improved; more individuals will recognize the consequences of ignoring education, stealing cars, getting pregnant, divorcing, quitting jobs, and other choices could result in genuine pain. Some prudence will emerge across the spectrum. Wouldn’t that be a welcome development?
There might be a tendency for some individuals to eke a living out of panhandling and street vending. Canadians generally do not accept panhandling and street vending so this type of activity would have to be met with enough obstacles to make it unacceptable as an alternative to committing to an effective plan to gain individual responsibility and financial independence.
The individual might choose a life of mere subsistence. We can have a debate over what mere subsistence means, but my definition would include enough funds to buy salt, flour, and other basics, but not enough to buy liquor, cigarettes, or drugs. The media mentions “smart cards” for various commercial and healthcare monitoring plans. Perhaps a smart card could be issued annually to an individual seeking subsistence welfare. This smart card would allow commercial vendors to issue goods and services having a cumulative daily value of, say, $2. The recipient would not be allowed to bank two or more days’ worth of purchases so he could buy a bottle of liquor for, say, $10. Each day he would be allowed to purchase $2 worth of merchandise. Presumably, merchants could invent ways to group several $2 for the recipient to buy staples, but the size of the transactions would make the hassle to the merchant very unattractive as a normal business practice, and it would only be done for regular, reliable recipients. Some experience in practice would soon establish the size of the daily amount needed to keep the recipients alive with no frills. The goal is to make the mere subsistence option unacceptable to the masses.
Effective help for an individual has to be one-on-one. That is why government and big businesses are not suitable vehicles for effective social assistance. Early in this chapter, I discussed the Catalysis model to illustrate how individuals could get help. In an effort to find adequate words to help individuals conceptualize the individual obligations and help proposal, I suggest a “Crevice Crew”, which will be dedicated to the attainment of individual responsibility by one individual (or one household).
A Crevice Crew could be one person, but it is more likely to be a family which is committed, as a family, to help the individual (household) wanting help. Notice I said “wanting,” not needing. Most of us “need” help; only a small minority “want” help. No matter how much anyone “needs” help, I don’t “want” to provide help unless the target genuinely “wants” help. The distinction is important. It will save us all a lot of grief.
How will the Crevice Crew work? There will be few rules and little structure. The guidelines will be something like this:
An individual (or head of household) places his/her situation on a list of folks wanting help. This individual shall be called a “Nominee;”
A family decides to become a Crevice Crew;
The Crevice Crew selects a situation from the “want” list and makes sure the circumstances of the Nominee are at least a rational, if not perfect, match;
The Crevice Crew and the Nominee work out a plan to attain social integration and individual responsibility for the Nominee (household). This plan is reduced to a written contract.
The Crevice Crew then sets about facilitating the progress of the Nominee through to execution of the contract (resulting in social integration and individual responsibility). This might be a three to five-year project. It should only last longer if a genuine friendship amongst equals develops out of the original project.
The Crevice Crew is not only responsible for facilitation, encouragement, and moral support; it is also responsible for marshalling the right level of resources. For example, getting friends and neighbours to:
Host vacations, weekends, sporting events;
Attend school plays, church programs, organized games in which the Nominee household members are participating;
Find information, jobs, clothing, furniture, hobby materials, and sports equipment.
Note the education requirements will be provided for as described in Chapter 9. However, the costs of transportation, housing, food, and clothing will still need to be met through the efforts of the Nominee, the Crevice Crew, and the other participants found by the Crevice Crew.
One might assume the Crevice Crew would have to be a family with lots of money, lots of contacts, and lots of free time. The key ingredient will be a genuine commitment to facilitating the social integration and individual responsibility of the Nominee. I grew up in a very responsible family with low disposable income. Our social activities included: frequent Sunday dinners at an Aunt and Uncle’s home where our family provided many of the facilitating functions proposed for the Crevice Crews; regular attendance at the local church, participating in Sunday School, confirmation classes, church picnics, church programs, church administration; regular participation in the community baseball league; regular participation in the local farm and community organizations; social outings included potluck dinners, school Christmas concerts, crokinole and whist tournaments, turkey shoots, community sports days, baseball tournaments. All of these were organized and staged by the local families. There was virtually none of the splash of the Canadian National Exhibition or Calgary Stampede. I never attended a midway until I was 20 years old.
My Mom was co-opted into making costumes out of salvaged materials for our dreams. My Dad was routinely asked to help neighbors with repairing equipment, wiring farmsteads when electricity came to the community, renovating community buildings, supervising threshing crews, and any other activity requested of him. This listing of activities is not meant to put my family on any pedestal, but to illustrate a social fabric can be woven on a very thin financial budget. Of course, times were different then. Rural settings are different than urban settings. Expectations are higher, but should they be? Real satisfaction comes with doing well with resources at hand. Some will grow to great heights; some will fail; but the majority will be substantially content with doing well without making the cover of People magazine.
You might ask where governments, service clubs, churches, and community associations can fit into the suggested social order. My suggestions follow: Government can get out of the way. Repeal social engineering laws such as minimum wages, young offenders’ legislation, restrictions on schooling options, workers’ compensation, monopolies, tax deductible donations, ad infinitum. Non-government organizations can publish Nominee lists, encourage Crevice Crews, gather funds for special projects, organize old-fashioned, low-cost social and sporting activities. Big business can encourage employees to become Crevice Crews, publicize success stories in their house rags, lobby governments to get out of the way, and provide appropriate job opportunities. Small business can do the same as big business, except it is uniquely situated to provide meaningful employment for Nominees because the company policy manual probably doesn’t exist.
Central to individuals wanting help is a written plan that clarifies what the exercise is expected to achieve. Such a plan (contract) might cover the following matters.
What happened to cause me to ask for help?
Have I now agreed I will relentlessly pursue a life of responsibility and independence?
Have I now agreed I am primarily responsible for my own life?
What is my relationship with my parents? Other relatives?
Has my family given up on me?
Have I given up on my family?
If the family relationships have failed, what can I do to rebuild those relationships?
If I don’t want to rebuild, why?
Do I have a responsible mate?
If yes, how do we integrate our efforts?
If no, what am I going to do about it?
What are my aspirations for long-term relationships with a mate?
How do I find and keep such a mate?
Who am I primarily responsible for?
What other financial obligations do I now have? Alimony, garnishees, commitments?
Will dependents live with me?
What are their ages?
Who will care for them while I’m working?
Alcohol, Tobacco, Drugs
What habits do I now have?
How am I going stop?
What is the time frame?
Why should anyone help me if I refuse to help myself?
What is the monitoring system?
Where am I going to live?
Who’s going to pay for the housing?
How long can this arrangement last?
Is the accommodation suitable?
What is my long-term housing goal?
How am I going to get groceries?
Who is going to pay for them?
How will I achieve balanced meals?
What kind of clothes do I need?
Where are they going to come from?
Who’s going to pay the cost of clothing?
How will I get access to laundry facilities?
What kind of clothes will let me feel comfortable?
What education do I have now?
If inadequate, how do I upgrade?
How do I fit education in my schedule?
Who is going to pay for it?
What will I consider success in my education?
What do I want to do to earn a living?
What steps are required to get there?
Who do I want to help me?
How do I measure my progress?
How do I get to work?
Who pays the cost?
How do children get to school?
Auto purchase costs?
Auto operating costs?
Auto insurance costs? Out of sight due to drinking, speeding, carelessness.
What Is Success?
How will I know I’ve succeeded?
Stable relationship with mate?
Children progressing okay?
Adequate food, clothing, shelter?
Feeling of accomplishment?
What kind of person would make a good personal mentor for me?
How will I find this person?
What do I have to do to live up to the Mentor’s expectations?
Am I genuinely willing to try?
What if I fail?
Why should the Mentor take on the task?
Objectives of the key person
This chapter has focused on making the first few rounds to wear the rust off the mould boards; and stringing a few wires across various crevices to keep them from widening too far for the vast majority to cross.
Chapter 17 Bedrock
The so-called Canadian constitution is a stew crafted from the leftovers of fifteen decades of meals originally cooked by English, Scottish, Irish, French, Indian, American and Canadian chefs. They sometimes used the basic recipes their mothers favored but they threw in ingredients and spices available at various moments. The stew pot was never emptied. The simmering has caused the flavors to meld into a dish no rational chef could, or even want to, duplicate. The Village Café offers a new dish. Every Canadian is invited to scour the world for ingredients. The ingredients which gain the consensus of most Canadians will be included in the new, original, rational constitution.
“Power is regarded by all men as the greatest of temporal advantages. The support given to Power, therefore, is an obligation; and, consequently, the protection given by governors to subjects, a positive duty. The subject can only be bound to obedience on the considerations of public good; but the Sovereign, on these considerations, and a thousand others equally binding, is tied to the exact observance of the laws of the constitution under which he holds his power.” Catherine Macaulay (Graham) (1731-1791); An Address to the People of England, Scotland, and Ireland, on the Present Important Crisis of Affairs
“Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights). So strong and far-reaching are these rights that they raise the question of what, if anything, the state and its officials may do . . . Our main conclusions about the state are that a minimal state, limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts, and so on, is justified; that any more extensive state will violate persons’ rights not to be forced to do certain things, and is unjustified; and that the minimal state is inspiring as well as right.” Robert Nozick (b. 1938); Anarchy, State, and Utopia, p. ix
This chapter invites all citizens to embark on a scavenger hunt to find that group of treasures citizens rationally believe to be suitable for their Constitution.
Since many wince at the mention of the Constitution, this hunt is code-named “Bedrock.”
You can roam the world for "Bedrock" treasures. There’s no master list to say who wins. At the end of the hunt, all citizens will be asked to vote on each of the proffered treasures. Each treasure receiving 80% approval of those voting will be accepted as a valid treasure, so long as the affirmative votes represent at least 67% of all the eligible voters in the country.
The valid treasures will be assembled into a polished arrangement and placed as “Bedrock” on which all citizens can build their futures with confidence and pride.
The hunt will end when all interested citizens have voted on the proffered treasures and a significant majority have approved the clauses. The prize will be world leadership in human governance.
Following are the clauses I expect will capture wide approval. There’ll be lots of opportunity to identify flaws, improve wording, and debate repercussions. My guidelines include: individuals are the key, official discrimination is untenable, human nature will prevail, and bold moves are easier to sell than incremental moves. I’ve included italicized quotes from others who assert supportive messages.
Individual Responsibilities and Rights
100 Citizens believe each mature individual is primarily responsible for maintaining sustenance, freedom, order, and tradition. This Constitution allows individuals to meet their obligations and protects their rights.
“Now it is evident that that form of government is best in which every man, whoever he is, can act best and live happily.” Aristotle (384BC-322 BC); Politics, 1324a
101 So long as any individual has not avoided lawful custody, that individual shall not be deprived of life nor liberty.
102 No law abiding individual shall be forced to act against his/her own mind.
“Liberty is then neither more nor less than the absence of coercion. This is the genuine, original and proper sense of the word Liberty. The idea of it is an idea purely negative. It is not anything that is produced by positive Law. It exists without Law, and not by means of Law.” Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832); Bentham Manuscripts, University College London, LXIX, 44
“For . . . what liberty is; there can no other proof be offered but every man’s own experience, by reflection on himself, and remembering what he useth in his mind, that is, what he himself meaneth when he saith an action . . . is free. Now he that reflecteth so on himself, cannot but be satisfied . . . that a free agent is he that can do if he will, and forbear if he will; and that liberty is the absence of external impediments. But to those that out of custom speak not what they conceive, but what they heard, and are not able, or will not take the pains to consider what they think when they hear such words, no argument can be sufficient, because experience and matter of fact are not verified by other men’s arguments, but by every man’s own sense and memory.” Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679); Of Liberty and Necessity, English Works, 4, p.275
103 Each citizen is equal before the law and is entitled to equal protection of the law.
“. . . all inequality that has no special utility to justify it is injustice.” Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832); Supply Without Burthen or Escheat Vice Taxation, Jeremy Bentham’s Economic Writings, ed. W. Stark, I, p.329
104 Except where there is compelling reason to believe that an individual could inflict serious physical harm to those around them, there shall be no discrimination against any citizen by any government authority.
“The object of this essay is to assert one very simple principle as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical coercion in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection . . . the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right . . . The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.” John Stuart Mill (1806-1873); On Liberty, p.223
105 No citizen shall be banished nor excluded from the Country.
106 Each law abiding citizen has the right to move freely throughout the Country, to reside anywhere in the Country, participate in the economy anywhere in the Country, and to own property anywhere in the Country.
107 Each citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression, except where such speech and expression is both libellous and directed at an identifiable individual and/or household.
108 Each citizen has the right to assemble peaceably without arms.
109 Each citizen has the right to form associations.
110 No individual or entity shall be forced to comply with terms of a commercial arrangement where the individual or entity has not freely agreed to the arrangement.
111 Each citizen has the right to profess, practice, and propagate any religion, so long as that citizen complies with all clauses of this Constitution.
112 Each citizen (and entity controlled by citizens) has the right to own property. Such ownership shall be evidenced by written contract, freely signed. No government authority shall deprive any citizen (or entity controlled by citizens) of property acquired or developed in accordance with the Country’s law, except by way of expropriation at a price that is equal to the higher of original cost and the price arising from the following formula:
FMV x Years x 2, where:
“FMV” equals the highest fair market value of the target property in the time period from notice of expropriation to 30 days prior to full payment.
“Years” equals the number of years that the target property was continuously held by the extended family of the present owner [or legal entity(ies) controlled by such extended family]. Part years shall be calculated on the basis of days in the part year.
“If one force is to compel respect from another force, each must be independent of the other. They must be two distinct forces, not one. If, therefore, the citizen is to count for anything in the State, personal freedom is not enough. His individuality, like that of the State, must be founded on something material over which he must have sovereign possession, just as the State has sovereign possession over public property. Private property provides this foundation.” Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865); The Theory of Property, p.135
113 Each citizen of any age shall be eligible to vote in the federal, provincial, and municipal jurisdiction of primary residence, provided only that such individual has (once in a lifetime) successfully completed a written examination demonstrating a rudimentary knowledge of the Canadian Constitution, federal issues of the day, provincial issues of the day, municipal issues of the day, and individuals prominently involved in the community. A young child citizen may demonstrate the contemplated rudimentary knowledge and, therefore, be eligible to vote in any jurisdiction of primary residence.
114 No group of governments shall charge one individual more tax in total than that group of governments charges the majority of individuals in the relevant jurisdictions in any calendar year.
115 Where any government restricts the actions of any citizen, such restrictions shall be strictly limited to situations where there is compelling reason to believe the citizen could inflict serious physical harm to individuals around him/her. Examples of acceptable restrictions include minimum age limits for driving vehicles and operating firearms, and detention of suspected and convicted criminals. Examples of unacceptable restrictions include age restrictions on voting, drinking alcoholic beverages, smoking, consensual sexual activity, curfews, mandatory retirement, signing of contracts, ownership of property, and consensual employment.
116 Where any individual is found guilty of an indictable offence and subsequently avoids the highest level of custody, such avoidance of custody removes protection of life from that individual’s Constitutional rights.
117 Each individual shall be considered innocent until proven guilty. In order to protect the reputation of individuals and other entities prior to evidence of culpability, there shall be a general prohibition on publication of criminal charges and civil claims until such time as a Court has ruled the individual guilty in a criminal matter or an arbitration panel has ruled the party liable in a civil matter.
“Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion, and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial. Under the auspices of publicity, the cause in the court of law, and the appeal to the court of public opinion, are going on at the same time . . . . It is through publicity alone that justice becomes the mother of security.” Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832); Draught of a Code for the Organization of the Judicial Establishment in France, Works, IV, p.316
118 Each resident shall report once each calendar year to no more than three levels of government. Such report shall designate the tax to be paid by the individual and shall indicate the programs approved by that resident. Where the resident is not capable of reporting, such reports and taxes shall be filed by a parent or guardian.
119 Each elected individual who votes in the affirmative for a law that is passed into law and is subsequently determined by the Supreme Court to violate the Constitution shall be immediately barred for life from holding any elected position in any government and shall be barred for life from employment by any government authority.
120 Every individual in the Country is entitled to domestic protection by a system of police, courts, and penalties.
121 No government shall tax, discriminate against, nor restrict the flow of citizens, goods, services, vehicles, information, intellectual property, or any other thing within the Country.
201 The judiciary shall be comprised of four levels as follows: a Supreme Court; a Provincial Court for each province; a Municipal Court for each municipality; and an Arbitration process.
202 All criminal cases shall be initially tried at the Municipal Court of the municipality in which the crime was committed, with appeal processes to the Provincial and Supreme Courts.
203 All civil cases shall be initially arbitrated, with appeal processes to Municipal, Provincial, and Supreme Courts.
204 Supreme Court judges shall be: citizens; nominated by a province; approved by a majority of provinces approved by the House of Commons; approved by the Senate; and ratified by the Governor-General.
205 Provincial Court judges shall be: citizens; nominated by a municipality approved by a majority of municipalities in the relevant province; approved by the Legislature; ratified by the Governor-General; and never have been admitted into the legal profession in any jurisdiction in the world.
206 Municipal Court judges shall be: citizens; nominated by a nominating committee of twenty-five individuals who substantially reflect the mix of the residents in the municipality; approved by the municipal council; and ratified by the Governor-General.
207 Arbiters shall be: citizens; qualified by meeting the terms and conditions of the Chartered Arbiters of Canada professional body; never have been admitted into the legal profession in any jurisdiction in the world; and assigned to individual cases by random selection from the list of available arbiters in the extended community comprising the provincial constituencies adjacent to the provincial constituency in which the respondent resides (in the case of an non-individual, the address of the entity).
208 Judges shall be appointed for eight-year terms and shall not be subjected to, nor participate in, communication concerning any judicial matter by any elected member of any government during the Judge’s term.
209 Arbiters shall be subject to the ethics of the Chartered Arbiters’ professional code of conduct.
301 Every citizen shall have the right to attend educational institutions for sixty modules of education; where each module shall cover three months and include at least sixty days of instruction. Such sixty days shall comprise at least three hundred hours of formal instruction. This clause is subject to the following: no individual shall be entitled to the next module of publicly-funded instruction until the latest module attempted has been successfully completed; while the reasonable cost of materials and premises are to be publicly-funded, there shall be no obligation for any government to provide transportation, food, or clothing to students.
401 So long as no war is currently declared, the federal government shall not spend more in any calendar year than it collects in revenue.
402 No provincial nor municipal government shall spend more in any calendar year than it collects in revenue.
403 Expenditures and revenues shall be recorded on the basis of generally accepted accounting principles.
501 Individuals who are not citizens shall be allowed to enter as immigrants on a strict and scrupulous “first requested, first allowed” basis with the following absolute restrictions: no individual shall be allowed to enter the Country as an immigrant if that individual carries a communicable disease; no individual shall be allowed to enter the Country as an immigrant if that individual has a criminal record involving incarceration of more than two years or more than one criminal offence; no individual shall be allowed to enter the Country as an immigrant unless the federal government has not filled the federal immigration quota as published on January 1 of the year of authorization to enter; no individual shall be allowed to enter the Country as an immigrant unless that individual takes up residence in a municipality that has not yet filled its immigration quota as published on January 1 of the year of authorization to enter; no individual shall be allowed to enter the Country as an immigrant unless that individual demonstrates the individual has established a Life Security Plan funded to the level required by the Life Security Index for the age of the individual; any individual who is not a citizen shall be deported without compensation upon conviction of an indictable offence. In this case, the net funds in the individual’s Life Security Plan shall be released in total to the individual; prior to the granting of citizenship, an immigrant must meet the following requirements: be proficient in reading, writing, and speaking the dominant language in the province of primary residence; ensure the Life Security Plan contains the funds required by the Life Security Index for the age of the individual; and demonstrate the rudimentary knowledge required of every individual before voting.
502 Children born in the Country to mothers who are not citizens shall not be citizens until: the mother of the child born in the Country becomes a citizen, is resident in the Country; and the Life Security Plans of both the mother and the child contain the funds required by the Life Security Index for the ages of the individuals involved.
503 Individuals born outside of the Country to a mother that is a citizen shall be granted citizenship when: the mother and the relevant dependent child become resident and the Life Security Plans of the mother and relevant dependent child contain the funds required by the Life Security Index for the ages of the individuals involved.
504 Neither the biological nor adoptive father of a child has any bearing on the citizenship status of the child.
601 Any lands owned by any government may be sold to other Canadian governments, legal non-government entities, or individuals at the discretion of the owner.
602 There shall be no surrender nor transfer, either wholly or in part, of the sovereignty of the Country as an independent nation.
603 There shall be no surrender nor transfer, either wholly or in part, of the lands and waters presently designated as the Country’s lands and waters.
701 There shall be a Governor-General who shall be the Head of State and shall exercise and perform such powers and functions as are conferred on the Governor-General by this Constitution.
702 The Governor-General shall be elected by the citizens in a general election held every four years. Such general election to be held on the third Monday in October, commencing with October 19, 2020.
703 Any candidate for Governor-General shall be a citizen and shall have been active in independent enterprise for at least the twenty-five years preceding first election as Governor-General. Such independent enterprise shall have had no significant revenues from any government authority in the Country. Furthermore, the Governor-General shall not have been admitted to the legal profession anywhere in the world. This clause is specifically provided to ensure that proposed actions by government coming before the Governor-General will be reviewed by a competent individual who has not been steeped in government bureaucracy and/or legal doctrine.
704 No Governor-General shall serve more than eight years.
705 Temporary vacancy in the position of Governor-General shall be filled by appointment of an individual meeting the criteria and appointed after the written approval of at least two-thirds of the provincial Premiers.
706 The Governor-General shall sign into law such proposed federal law that comes before the Governor-General provided that: the proposed law complies with this Constitution, a majority of the members of the Senate has passed the law, a majority of the members of the House of Commons has passed the law, and a majority of the residents of the country have indicated approval of the emerging program in twelve consecutive months.
707 Where the Governor-General believes the proposed law is not appropriate as proposed, the Governor-General shall, within thirty days of receiving the proposed law for signature, table in the House of Commons such written explanation as he/she deems appropriate. The House of Commons shall reconsider the proposed law in light of the Governor-General’s written explanations and shall vote again on the proposed law. If the proposed law remains unchanged, the Governor-General shall sign it forthwith. If there is any change, the proposed law shall be subjected to the same scrutiny as any other proposed law.
708 The Supreme Court shall rule on any point of law put to it by the Governor-General concerning any law currently in force. Such ruling shall be made within 90 days of original, written request.
709 Remuneration of the Governor-General shall be $44,000 per month, plus/minus consumer price index since 2015, to cover all remuneration, including housing, travel, security, and all other expenses. No amount beyond the $44,000 per month, plus/minus consumer price index since 2015, shall be paid by any government authority to the Governor-General.
801 The Country shall maintain a federal government with responsibility for the following: Parliament, Justice, Defence, Treasury Board, Immigration, Air and Water, Communicable Disease Control, and Federal Revenue.
802 Where the Constitution does not clearly grant powers to a specific level of government, such powers shall be subject to the mandate of a majority of the voters in a jurisdiction. If more than 50% of the country's population, and more that 50% of eight provinces’ populations, supports a discretionary program, it shall be a federal program.
803 There shall be a Senate which shall provide sober second thought to any proposed law passed by the House of Commons.
804 There shall be three democratically-elected Senators from each province.
805 Elections to the Senate shall be held every four years on the third Monday in October, commencing with October 19, 2020.
806 No proposed law shall pass the Senate unless more than one-half of all elected Senators vote for the proposed law.
807 Vacancies in the Senate shall be filled at the next scheduled federal election. Temporary vacancies shall be filled by an individual appointed after the written approval of two-thirds of the Municipal Mayors/Reeves in the province having the vacancy.
808 Remuneration of Senators shall be $96,000 per annum, plus/minus consumer price index from 2015. Such amount is a flat contract of $8,000 per month, plus/minus consumer price index from 2015. The Senate shall convene for a period up to seven days per quarter of a year. The federal government shall provide reasonable accommodation and travel services for the Senators during the four sessions per year. No other amounts, including pensions, shall be paid by any government authority to any current or past Senator.
809 No Senator shall serve more than eight years.
810 There shall be a House of Commons which shall debate laws and approve laws to be forwarded to the Senate for sober second thought.
811 There shall be one hundred and thirty democratically-elected Members of Parliament from across the Country.
812 Constituencies shall be blocks as nearly square as possible and made up of whole postal codes (first three characters) representing 1/130 of the number of residents in the country as of December 31 of the year prior to the election.
813 Elections to the House of Commons shall be held every four years on the third Monday in October, commencing with October 19, 2020.
814 No proposed law shall pass the House of Commons unless more than one-half of all elected Members of Parliament vote for the proposed law.
815 Vacancies in the House of Commons shall be filled at by-elections scheduled no later than one hundred and eighty days subsequent to definitive vacancy.
816 Remuneration of Members of Parliament shall be $96,000 per annum, plus/minus consumer price index from 2015. Such amount is a flat contract amount of $8,000 per month, plus/minus consumer price index from 2015. Parliament shall convene for a period up to 14 days per quarter of a year. The federal government shall provide reasonable accommodation and travel costs for the Members of Parliament during the four sessions per year. No other amounts, including pensions, shall be paid by any government authority to any current or past Member of Parliament.
817 The elected Members of Parliament shall democratically elect the Prime Minister from the ranks of the elected Members of Parliament.
818 The Prime Minister shall receive an additional $960,000, plus/minus consumer price index from 2015 to cover all remuneration, including housing, staff, travel, security, and all other expenses. Such amount, including basic remuneration, is a flat $80,000 per month, plus/minus consumer price index. No amount beyond the $80,000 per month, plus/minus consumer price index from 2015 shall be reimbursed by any government authority to the Prime Minister.
819 The Country shall be divided into 13 provinces.
820 Each province shall, subject to provisions in this Constitution and majority approval of the residents, have jurisdiction over: provincial courts; the environment, except air and water; natural resources; and education.
821 There shall be a Legislature in each province which shall debate and approve laws to be forwarded to the Governor-General for ratification.
822 There shall be no more than twenty-five members of each provincial Legislature democratically-elected from no more than twenty-five constituencies in the province. Each constituency in the province shall have substantially equal numbers of eligible voters.
823 Elections to the provincial Legislatures shall be held every four years on the third Monday in October, commencing with October 19, 2020.
824 No proposed law shall pass the Legislature unless more than one-half of all elected Members of the Legislature vote for the proposed law.
825 Vacancies in the provincial Legislatures shall be filled at by-elections scheduled no later than one hundred and eighty days subsequent to definitive vacancy.
826 Constituencies shall be blocks as nearly square as possible and made up of whole postal codes (first three characters) representing substantially equal numbers of residents in the province as of December 31 of the year prior to the election.
827 Where the Constitution does not clearly grant powers to a specific level of government, such powers shall be subject to the mandate of a majority of the voters in a jurisdiction. If more than 50% of a province's population supports a discretionary program that is not a federal discretionary program, it shall be the province's program.
828 Each province shall be divided into municipalities.
829 Each municipality shall, subject to provisions in this Constitution, appropriate provincial laws, and majority approval of the residents, have jurisdiction over: municipal courts; police; roads; and zoning.
830 There shall be a Municipal Council in each municipality which shall debate and approve laws.
831 There shall be a minimum of five Councillors and a maximum of twenty-five Councillors democratically-elected from the equivalent number of wards having substantially equal numbers of eligible voters. Wards shall be blocks as nearly square as possible and made up of whole postal codes (first three characters) representing (one/divided by the number of Councillors) times the number of eligible voters in the municipality as of December 31 of the year prior to the election.
832 Elections to the Municipal Councils shall be held every four years on the third Monday in October, commencing with October 19, 2020.
833 No proposed law shall pass the Municipal Council unless more than one-half of all elected Councillors vote for the proposed law.
834 Vacancies in the Municipal Councils shall be filled in by-elections scheduled no later than one hundred and eighty days subsequent to definitive vacancy.
835 Where the Constitution does not clearly grant powers to a specific level of government, such powers shall be subject to the mandate of a majority of the voters in a jurisdiction. If more than 50% of a municipality's population supports a discretionary program that is not a federal nor a provincial discretionary program, it shall be the municipality's program.
Defeats of Bills
836 No democratically-elected government shall be forced to resign because of the defeat of any bill.
Election of Prime Minister, Premier, Mayor
837 Any democratically-elected government may select a new chairperson (Prime Minister, Premier, Mayor) by a simple majority of all elected members in that government. Ratification or replacement of the chairperson shall occur within thirty days of written petition signed by at least twenty percent of all elected members in the relevant body. Any elected member of the body may stand for election as chairperson at any vote regarding the selection or ratification of the chairperson.
838 Any democratically-elected individual in any government is subject to recall by constituents. Such recall shall be subject to the following rules: At least 5% of the eligible voters in the jurisdiction must sign a petition requesting recall. Upon receipt of a valid petition for recall, the Governor-General shall convene a panel of three arbiters: one named by the elected individual targeted for recall, one named by the petitioners at the time the petition was signed, and one mutually agreed to by the above two arbiters. Failing agreement within fifteen days, a third arbiter shall be appointed by the Provincial Court in the home province of the member targeted for recall. The third arbiter shall chair the panel. Such panel of arbiters shall hear evidence and provide a written ruling approved by at least two arbiters within sixty days of the filing of the petition. Such ruling shall be binding on all parties. The panel shall not be bound by formal rules of evidence, but shall be guided by fundamental fairness. No recall petition shall be acted upon if submitted within two years of the submission of a prior recall petition concerning the same elected individual.
900 Where the federal government declares an insurrection, notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the federal government may make laws which it believes to be required by reason of the insurrection. Such laws must be ratified by a simple majority in a special national referendum within one hundred and twenty days of passing into law. Such laws shall be further subject to ratification every two years. Every second such ratification process shall coincide with the national election.
1000 Where the federal government declares war, notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the federal government may make laws which it believes to be required by reason of the war. Such laws must be ratified by a simple majority in a special national referendum within one hundred and twenty days of passing into law. Such laws shall be further subject to ratification every two years. Every second such ratification process shall coincide with the national election.
1100 The name of the country shall be “Canada”.
1200 This Constitution shall be supreme in Canada. No law shall be valid which violates this Constitution.
1300 This Constitution shall not be amended except by the affirmative vote of 80% of those citizens of Canada voting on such amendment and provided that the affirmative votes cast represent at least 67% of the entire number of eligible voters.
1301 Any amendments shall be voted upon on a clause-by-clause basis with no opportunity to force the voters to consider any omnibus amendment.
About the Author
Dave Amonson is a practicing Chartered Accountant, one of five Principals, in a thriving public accounting practice. He grew up in a mixed farm family, worked in geophysics, attended the University of Calgary and obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree with distinction. He articled with Arthur Andersen & Co. and obtained his Chartered Accountant designation in 1973. Dave is married with two grown daughters. His hobbies include building things, innovating, improving government and writing.
You’re invited to comment and improve upon the proposals in this book. Please respond through Dave’s website VillageSource.net. The site includes blogs, perspectives, and comments by interested readers.
I hope my efforts to articulate and refine bold new approaches will resonate with a wide range of individuals.
The last section of this book contains excerpts from my novel, Tunnel Vision. The novel builds on the philosophy in this book and imagines how the ideas could play out in a huge project. My goal was to create an interesting story with enough innovations, humor, and goodwill to attract a range of readers who believe in individual responsibility.
Many observers focus on what’s wrong with government. I like to be more upbeat and constructive. My proposals do not dwell on the absurdities we can find with little effort; rather, I hope my proposals will be likened to a new commercial product proudly built, packaged, merchandised, and consumed by the masses. The merchandising strategy should emphasize the good points, work hard at eliminating the weak points, pay ongoing attention to quality, continue searching for better answers, take cognisance of the views of critics, and generally strive for the acceptance of those solid citizens who are ignored by the bleating pockets of society.
Tunnel Vision, a Novel by Dave Amonson
Following are the first sixteen chapters of my only novel. If you appreciate the ideas in Village Café; I think you’ll enjoy, Tunnel Vision
Two captains in dress whites emerge into the sunshine. Youths from every nation follow. The nearest ocean is two thousand kilometers away.
Twelve years earlier, drizzle fell on the remnants of a graveside service. Mourners moved toward their cars. A father and both daughters, hand in hand, lingered by the grave.
After the funeral lunch, as the sky lightened, Elaine asked Brett, “Will you walk with me in Bowness Park?”
“Sure, let’s go by the house and change clothes on our way.”
The sunlight reflected off the water in a pond. A glint of light caught Brett’s attention.
Could a tiny spot of light change the trajectory of a life?
Elaine sensed his mood. “What’re you thinking?”
He pointed to the far bank. “Do you see that spot of light?”
Elaine leaned closer to him. “Yes, I see it.”
“I wonder whether I might provide a speck of light to deflect a person’s path toward a better life.”
“You do that all the time.”
“Marjie occupied our circle for twenty-eight years. She missed the light; she’s dead.”
She turned to him. “Are you responsible for everyone?”
“No, but there’re lots of Marjies in this world. Do you think we could help a bunch of them?”
“We’re near retirement. I have visions of times with the children and grandchildren, quiet times in the garden, sorties to visit friends and relatives, a peaceful golden age. Are you going to shatter my dream?”
Beth approached Brett’s café table. “Hi, old friend, good to see you.”
“Hi, Beth, it’s been awhile. How’re you doing?”
“Fine. I’m busy and enjoying life’s little challenges.”
“Remember when we worked through the weekend until one-thirty Monday morning, so we could accommodate the customer’s final inspection on time?”
“Do you remember my words to you? Next time, let me manage the job. Mac was angry because I missed his parents’ anniversary party. He went alone.”
“Was that the last straw for Mac?”
She shrugged. “No, he viewed marriage as a joint endeavour but I ran it. He ran.”
“I’m sorry I caused one more rift. Your ability to manage projects was a lifesaver but we should’ve accommodated our families more. Still, Mac wasn’t the only guy in town.”
“No, but I prefer TV. No drama when I turn it off.”
He smiled. “You must have been born after the Romantic Period.”
“And you’re the perfect marriage partner?”
“No, not perfect. That’s why I invited you to lunch. I’ve got an idea; Elaine doesn’t like it. I want to run it by you.”
“I’m supposed to help you sell an idea that Elaine doesn’t like. This should improve things.”
He sipped his coffee. “It’s a tunnel from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to Whitehorse; it’ll provide material for a multipurpose transportation-utility corridor across the northern expanse of Canada with townhouses along each side. I want to use labour plucked from youth that choose not to integrate in conventional settings. The project will be a viable alternative to welfare.”
Beth ordered coffee and looked at Brett. “I spent school breaks at my uncle’s cattle ranch. One spring, Uncle noticed a cow in trouble. As we chased her toward the corral, she charged me. I ducked behind a tree. Uncle got his horse between me and the cow. She was delirious from her dead calf rotting inside her. The vet wasn’t available for several hours, so Uncle shot the cow, ending her misery. As you described your idea, I considered whether a hallucinating geezer could be shot. Probably not. Tell me about feeding young blood to mosquitoes and draining Lake Athabasca.”
“I want to convince my family I can make this project work. Elaine wants to relax, share time with the children and grandchildren, travel, and socialize. I’ll go crazy. I hope you’ll help me consider the possibility that I could make this happen. Outside of my family, you’re my best friend.”
“They’ll shut this joint’s lights off before I recite all that’s wrong with your idea. There’re hundreds of interest groups lined up to thwart any project. The Indian situation has been screwed up for a 150 years. The national and provincial parks, Indian reservations, wetlands where a trumpeting swan lands every twenty years, half a dozen provincial and territorial governments, and thousands of individuals will resist any idea, even if it’s a good one. It takes money to build a tool shed—try building two townhouses 4,400 kilometers long. A professor tried to teach me negative numbers. I never noticed a need for the concept. Now, I see negative numbers could illustrate the probability you could make this work.”
“So you think it might not work?”
She waved her hand. “Oh, I think it’ll be as easy as getting an ice cream at the dairy bar. Don’t you see it’s impossible?”
“Did the Wrights learn how to fly? Did Bell get a phone to work? Did Watt figure out how to improve steam engines? You might be talking to the next great innovator.”
“I might be, but I like my odds better than yours.”
“Will you come to the grand opening when my project is finished?”
“Of course, my TV will escort me.”
Monday evening, Elaine and Brett ate dinner at home.
Brett raised his glass of water. “I want to lead a change in our social welfare system. What evening could we set aside to talk it through?”
She wiggled her fork. “Don’t you listen? I don’t want to be involved in obligations. I want us to slow down in retirement.”
“I know, but I also know that our serenity must consider our individual interests, and I know I won’t be happy line dancing on Tuesday and playing Bingo on Thursday.”
“And, if you’re not happy, I’m not happy. Is that it?”
“It’s not a threat, Elaine. I hope to have a purpose most days, and I don’t see satisfaction in idleness.”
“Let’s have our discussion now and get it over with.”
“No, I hope we’ll come to some consensus rather than pick at each other forever.”
“How will I prepare? I long for a slower pace,” Elaine said. “Now, when it’s within sight, you go off on some ridiculous tangent.”
“I have a suggestion.” He put down his fork to indicate his seriousness. “Let’s each make a list of the main things we plan for ourselves for the rest of our lives: where we want to live, how much we want to travel, how often we want to visit the grandkids, how much yard work we want to do, where we want to winter, what kinds of hobbies we want, etcetera. We each make our own lists and then we integrate our lists so that each of us gets forty-eight percent of what we want and leave the last four percent for Murphy.”
She glanced at him. “Who’s Murphy?”
“Murphy’s Law, where anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, but we’ll plan this so well that nothing will go wrong, right?”
“Wednesday night. You make dinner. I’ll sit at the counter, with a glass of wine, and describe my vision and list of wants. I’ll clean up the dishes while you tell me your vision and list of wants beyond sex every twenty minutes.”
Brett grinned, gave her a thumb up, and rose to pick up the dishes.
Elaine loaded the dishwasher. “What do you plan to do tonight?”
“You’ve suggested the first forty minutes, then I expect to sleep ‘til breakfast.”
Wednesday, Brett brought in the groceries.
Elaine’s greeting was abrupt. “Hi.”
This’ll be piece of cake.
Brett set the bags on the counter. “I bought five minute rice because I didn’t want you to have too much time to present your list of hopes and wants.”
“And I chilled a bottle of Barolo because I like red wine a tad chilled. It should pair nicely with my shoulder.”
He grinned. “Come here, babe. Give me a kiss and let’s make this a great evening.”
Brett placed two candles on the counter and lit them.
Elaine joined him in the kitchen. “This is a fight to the death. These must be memorial candles?”
“No, the flames will reflect in your eyes until we have a plan that will cause a real spark for the rest of our lives.”
“Perhaps you can bottle your crap and sell it door-to-door. It’ll give you a reason to get up in the morning. You can call it Bretth Mint, a special blend of dreams and drivel that will dampen every hope and fuel every disagreement. It should sell well.”
He faced her. “Forty-seven years ago, I met a spunky little lady who saw potential in me. She has persevered, so far, and I hope she doesn’t give up in my remaining thirty years.”
Brett began to prepare a meal of wild salmon and stuffed peppers. “So what’s on your list?”
“I want you to love me all the time.”
“That’s easy; I do love you all the time. More than you know.”
“Yes, but I want you to demonstrate that love all the time.”
“I’ve worked on that since I met you. You multi-task and thrive on it. I focus and thrive on it. I’ll demonstrate my love when I’m focused on it but that won’t be often enough to meet your expectations.”
“I hope you’ll have more time in retirement and you’ll have more time for me.”
“I’ll be around more, but it’ll provide more opportunities for you to notice I don’t focus enough on demonstrating my love for you. We’re a great match. We have similar values. We’ve raised great kids—they have fine mates and one child. We’ve not burdened family or society. Why can’t we continue to support people and causes we believe in, love each other, and demonstrate our love in ways that match our psyches?”
“You see, the list is hopeless because you never change.”
“Is it just me? Do you change? Can we try to find common ground so we can do things that allow each of us to grow and feel fulfilled?”
“I want to live in Calgary. I don’t want a home in Phoenix or Timbuktu. I want to be near the kids and grandkids and go to their sports and recitals. I want to continue family dinners on Sunday. I want to have the family together on special occasions.”
“I want that, too. We agree one hundred percent.”
“How will you do it from your hovel near the Arctic Circle?”
“Perhaps you misunderstood when I said I’d like to lead the initiative, not be the person on site.”
“I know, Brett, but there’ll be meetings in Ottawa, New York, Vancouver, Whitehorse, Sept Isles, and a trillion other places.” She waved her hand in the air in exasperation.
“Have we agreed that Calgary will be our home forever?”
“Do you expect me to be home Friday through Sunday on a regular basis?”
“Does your list allow me some time on Monday through Thursday?”
“Yes, but I don’t want you away most of the time.”
“That’s fair. However, I expect to ask people to commit resources to the project and I’ll visit them on occasion. You’re welcome to travel with me.”
“Yeah, I look forward to hours in the lobby of a hotel in Iqaluit while you schmooze with some government rep.”
“Would it help if I find an office within a ten minute walk from here? I can come home for lunch. I’ll schedule work and travel for Monday through Thursday. I’ll integrate other commitments with you.”
“What about the grandchildren’s activities? Will you show up to support them?”
“Yes, but probably not as often as you prefer.”
She looked at him, a stern expression on her face. “Are you serious about a tunnel clear across Canada?”
“Will it work? When I hear you talk with friends, they laugh and challenge your sanity. What happens when you ask people like that for money and help?”
“Do you remember when we started the construction company? Few people gave us much chance of success. We built the business, we succeeded, and we secured our retirement; why can’t we use our skills and contacts to help a bunch of people find their way?”
“Who’s we, big boy?”
“I thought you promised to support me, in every little whim that I dreamed up, as long as we both shall live. Will you keep your vows?”
“Only as long as we both shall live; how long will this project consume our lives?”
“About twelve years. Maybe we’ll go ‘til we drop.”
“I can picture you, steadied by your walker, on a rock outcropping in the Yukon. You explain life to some thug from the rough part of Vancouver. He has tattoos all over and seven piercings. You explain to him how you can make him into a young Brett. This has to work out well, don’t you think?”
“He might push me off the cliff. I’ll die trying to help someone or…he might buy into my approach and become a producer in society, a leader amongst his peers. Either way, I’ll have tried.”
“I don’t want to face life without you.”
“It might not be so bad; there’re a half million guys waiting for you to emerge from the mist and anoint him as your chosen one. He’ll appreciate his libido stored in the deep freeze to be defrosted whenever you put tenderloin on the menu. He’ll remember, maybe even care, what dress you wore to the company Christmas party three years ago. He’ll come equipped with an early warning system that’ll allow him to know how to respond to whatever text, tone, and tenor that bubbles to the surface from the brew that represents your real and imagined life experiences.”
She burst into laughter. “Is it that bad?”
“No, but I don’t need a higher dose.”
“Is supper cooked yet?”
“You’re not allowed to change the subject.”
“I’m not, I’m multi-tasking.”
Brett arranged a garnish of sliced apples, bananas, and grapes, then dished out fish and rice-stuffed peppers, refreshed the wine glasses, and offered his glass. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. The salmon is dry.”
“On the seventh day, God assembled a woman. She turned out to be complicated. By the time she laughed, the salmon was dry.”
Elaine cleaned up the dishes. “It’s your turn.”
“My list is identical to yours except we differ on the path we’ll follow to achieve our continued happiness. You expect me to be more intuitive about situations. When I fail to meet your expectations, you react and widen the chasm. I step back and widen the chasm. We narrow our differences. Each of us can continue to strive to do better, but I’m certain that more opportunities for disconnects will be part of the problem, not the solution.”
She held out her hand. “Your stupid tunnel has led to our best discussion in a long time. Come with me; the chill has come off the wine.”
Jeremy, Jacquie, and Simone arrived on Sunday evening. Brett took the bassinette from Jeremy and welcomed little Simone. “Where’s King?”
Jacquie took off her jacket. “He threw up this afternoon so we didn’t want him to cause a mess in your home or the car.”
Erika arrived; Brett took her jacket.
As they gathered around the kitchen counter, the doorbell rang. Sherry stepped in. “Sorry we’re late.”
With everyone seated around the table, Elaine said, “We have an announcement. Are you ready for a new episode in the Larson world?”
Jeremy looked at her. “Mom, is this charades? Is it good or bad?”
Elaine shrugged. “Ask your father.”
Jeremy turned to Brett.
“Elaine and I attended Marjie’s funeral some weeks back,” Brett began. “I thought about the waste that’s caused by young folks losing their way. I want to develop an alternative to social welfare that’ll save more troubled youngsters.”
Erika asked, “What’s this alternative?”
“I want to attract thousands of struggling young people to dig a large tunnel from the St. Lawrence River to the Pacific Ocean and create enough tailings from the tunnel to build a surface transportation-utility corridor across northern Canada that will contain a highway, freight railroad, high speed train, pipelines, townhouses, bicycle paths, and pedestrian walkways.”
“Why the tunnel?” Sam asked.
“Two reasons,” Brett said. “One, I want to use the tailings to build the raised infrastructure on the surface without damage to the terrain beyond the right of way, and two, I have a secret reason for the tunnel.”
Jeremy looked up from his plate. “You intend to dig a tunnel across Canada without full justification. Who’s gullible enough to listen?”
“I envision a village, every kilometer along the route, of about 150 individuals who have chosen to develop on this project as an alternative to conventional schools, work experience, and relationship building. These individuals will have decided something has to change to make them happy.”
Erika said, “Dad, you describe anarchists. You can’t put them all in one place and expect it to work more than three days.”
Brett turned to her. “Do you think they are anarchists or are they similar to each of us but less inclined to accept rules that they see as invalid?”
“Mom, this is mad,” Erika said, turning to her mother. “Why have you agreed?”
Elaine smiled. “I’ve talked it through. He wants to try. Haven’t we all benefitted from his vision and tenacity? Don’t we support each other’s dreams?”
Erika said, “You wanted more free time. This sounds like a big job for the old one. Are you sure about this?”
“I’m not sure it will work, but I’m sure we’ll try to make it work and I’m hopeful that our kids will support it,” Elaine said.
Jacquie smiled and looked at Sherry. “This conversation wouldn’t happen between my parents and me. The chemistry is one of Jeremy’s attractions. But I see where my life might take some wild turns. I haven’t been trained to soar to uncharted heights.”
“Or scary depths,” Erika added.
“Sam appreciates the latitude he was granted,” Sherry said. “My parents support us but they don’t exhibit the pioneer instincts visible here tonight.”
Jeremy sat up. “Will we let Dad go off on a wild adventure and not talk a little sense into him?”
Elaine refilled Jeremy’s glass. “Did we care for you as a baby, did we buy you skates and put you into a hockey league, did we help you learn to read and write and communicate, did we leave you room to choose your own path, did we make room for you to find your mate?” she asked. “Did we do all this because you are more special than your father? I think we did it because it was the right thing to do. Now, your father wants to pursue his mission. Is it too much to ask that we’ll support him?”
Erika rose, walked around to her mother, and hugged her. “I love you, Mom.”
Elaine anticipated a focused discussion so she put food out after the discussion moderated. Through the meal, the family talked of the opportunities and challenges apparent in Brett’s proposal.
After dessert and coffee, Brett said, “I’ll try to develop a project that’ll be meaningful to each of you while I support family activities. Thanks for your support.”
Jeremy shook his dad’s hand. “You’re lucky you found Mom.”
Brett gave him a thumb up. “I know; I hope I’ll live up to her faith in me.”
The Larsons gathered at the family home. The guys watched the football game between the Calgary Stampeders and the Montréal Alouettes. The gals made Christmas cards.
The Alouettes scored three touchdowns and a field goal before the Stamps realized the game had started.
Bored and disappointed in the game, Sam asked Brett, “How can 4,400 sponsors be attracted to commit ten million dollars per year for ten years? Didn’t you say that the tunnel might cost $100,000 dollars per linear meter?”
Brett lowered the volume on the TV. “And will they see value in the investment?”
Jeremy watched the kick return and surfaced. “There are ways to capture attention, fewer ways to maintain attention, and even fewer ways to sustain it over ten years. It’s like a marriage: attraction, passion, trust, respect, and commitment.”
Sam feigned shock. “Well, meet my brother, the philosopher.”
Brett pushed down on his feet, moving the recliner back to its original position and sitting up. “I assume forced labour built the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China. I can’t support force.”
“The migrations that settled the prairies of the US and Canada might work for your tunnel,” Sam said.
Brett looked at him. “I like that. We could start with merchandising to capture the imagination, enough daring to challenge the spirit, enough structure to allow development with patches of anarchy, enough front-end commitment to encourage most to persevere to the finish, all leavened with goodwill and spiritual content to ease the soul.”
Jeremy said, “Pass the soul food.”
Sam glanced over. “What’re you talking about?”
Jeremy smiled. “Dad’s talk of easing the soul made me think a bottle of beer might help until the Stamps wake up.”
Brett stood and paused by his chair. “Now that you guys have brought up the tunnel, I want some help in choosing a name. One restless night, I decided the project should be called Soul Star. What do you think?”
Sam looked at his dad. “I think it’s perfect, Father Larson. You should turn your collar halfway around.”
Jeremy saluted with his beer bottle. “Sam can tease if he wants, but I think Soul Star’s a beautiful name. You done good, Dad.”
Sam watched the Stampeders miss a field goal. “Where do a million individuals live for ten years? What do they eat? Who teaches their kids? Who watches out for their safety? What animals migrate through the right-of-way? How is the environment affected? How does one address the issues? How does one manage a project this big? How does one let creativity and imagination thrive?”
Brett turned away from the game. “The answer is chunking, extreme chunking.”
Sam glanced at Brett. “I thought a chunk was a poor golf chip.”
Brett laughed. “I see chunking as a way to break big challenges into manageable pieces.”
Jeremy adopted a theatrical pose. “But once chunked, how do you put Humpty Tunnel together again?”
Brett punched his son’s shoulder. “The last resort will be all the king’s horses and all the king’s men.”
Elaine brought down a platter of nachos. “How’s the game?”
Sam groaned as he reached for a chip. “The Stamps are getting their butts kicked so we’re building a tunnel. We’ve chosen a name—Soul Star.”
Elaine turned to the stairs. “Brett’s folly has evolved into a family conspiracy. My dream retirement is morphing into a soulful flight to the North Star.”
Brett brought out a batch of sketches showing cross-sections of the tunnel, cross-sections of the roads, pipelines, rail lines, underpasses, bridges, and living quarters. He showed the sketches to his sons. They added ideas, challenges, angles, and risks.
Brett looked up from the sketches. “Do you two remember our trip to the Yukon? We talked about the hardships, the cold and loneliness. You guys enthused about the excitement of the dance hall girls and adventures. Erika dreamed of rich miners competing for her attention. The range of perceptions covered death, drudgery, cold, greed, treachery, excitement, promised riches, and fresh country.”
Jeremy said, “I remember the river valleys where gold dredges scarred the channels with mounds of gravel.”
Brett handed a cross-section sketch to Jeremy. “The tailings from the tunnel will yield an average surface berm 213 meters wide by 30 meters high, clear across the country.”
Sam looked over Jeremy’s shoulder. “How do you justify such a scar on the landscape?”
Brett bundled up the sketches. “I pondered that for days. I generated perspectives and justified the surface effects. Nomadic civilizations don’t flourish. Societies built on permanent residences tend to mar the natural landscape. The more dense the population, the more intrusive are the structures on the surface.”
Jeremy drained his beer. “Seismic lines mar the forested areas for generations. Forestry, power lines, dams, wind farms, roads, and bridges have impacts on the environment. Individuals throughout the world have accepted some level of infrastructure.”
Brett put the sketches in his filing cabinet. “The route of the tunnel crosses sparsely populated areas. Few individuals have ventured into the areas near the right of way. Many more will take the route once the road and rail lines are built.”
Sam glanced at his dad. “The natural resources will be exploited, though. Clear cutting of trees will generate criticism.”
Brett returned to his recliner and said, “These considerations come down to a question of development or no development. We’ve chosen development.”
Sam went back to his chair to watch the end of the game. “I wonder how the world will react.”
The Stampeders scored two touchdowns in the second half. The guys climbed the stairs and looked at the girls’ Christmas cards. A gold star shone in the top right corner of every card.
Maybe Elaine’s protests camouflage some tiny support for my dream.
Keith Zisemo answered his phone. “Hello.”
“Howdy neighbour, how you doing?”
“Hi, Brett, it’s been awhile.”
“Too long, I’m lousy at keeping in touch. What’s new in Mexico?”
“Cheryl and I just returned from a hike along the Cuchumatanes Mountains. We’ll stay in Taxco for two months and then snorkel in the Grand Caymans.”
“It’s a tough life.”
“Yeah, I’m enjoying retirement.”
“That’s the wrong answer. I have an idea.”
“I can’t hear you. The cell reception is bad.”
“You can hear me and you’ll be hooked.”
“Okay, what’s on your mind?”
“Well, I want to build a utility and transportation corridor across Canada from the Pacific to the Atlantic and I want all the vested interests to accept the results.”
“So give God a call.”
“I’ve got him on the line.”
“I have an idea, will you listen?”
“Sure, but no promises.”
“My concept involves a comprehensive set of utility-transportation corridors on a hundred kilometer grid across the entire country.”
“Your grid should hit every Indian Reservation in the country.”
“I know; that’s why I called you.”
“What can I do?”
“I want all vested interests on side. I have an approach but I need some expertise.”
“Can this magic be described in two sentences?”
“Maybe half a dozen.”
“My cell will die after a while.”
“I think of an open collaboration on the internet where a map of Canada is set up so that anyone can review the data up to the moment. We’ll encourage anyone to record the coordinates of every conceivable spot that should be protected from the corridors and adjacent activity. From that data, the most appropriate corridors will emerge. But we’ll still need to address all of the concerns of natives, environmentalists, landowners, and political factions. New issues will be raised as the probable corridors become evident and attention is focused on specific sites.”
“It’ll have to be easy enough to use so that a casual internet searcher won’t give up. Do you have a solution?”
“Yes, I want to design a website that’ll allow open collaboration—along the lines of Wikipedia. It’ll have to impress anyone who opens it so that we start a stampede to help solve the corridor issues. We need a launch position in which any participant should see the potential.”
“Will this website flutter down from the stratosphere?”
“No, you’ll build it.”
“Good night, Irene. Good night, Irene. I’ll see you in my dreams.”
“Come on, Keith, you have skills. You’re a few months into retirement. You have a chance to do some good. Pay it forward.”
“I told Cheryl I’m so thankful that I don’t have to tolerate all the crap involved in business. Now, you ask me to dive in again. Do you think I’m insane?”
“The symptoms are there.”
“Let me think on it for a bit. I’ll call you next week.”
“Thanks, Keith. I appreciate it.” A thumb up punctuated his gratitude.
Early morning, the phone rang. “Brett here.”
“Good morning, Brett, it’s Keith.”
“Have you decided to pull your sombrero over your face and forget I ever existed?”
“No; I like the corridor idea. I want to play a part. However, I don’t want to give up all the plans that Cheryl and I’ve made. I’m fed up with Canada; I want to spend most of my time in Mexico.”
“I know a guy in Calgary who’s capable of the day-to-day operations. The guy would need a salary but the Zisemo Foundation will provide an annual grant large enough to support a core office, salary, and computer support.”
“Do you need the board’s approval for the Foundation support?”
“Yes, but I have made enquiries and I expect the board will approve the project.”
“What happens next?”
“I agree to be a mentor to the project. We need to ensure I can stay in the loop from Mexico or wherever our travels take us.”
“What can I do to move it along?”
“I suggest you sponsor a weekly coffee party that’ll include you and six guests. The guests will rotate out after three sessions. Out of these sessions, you should build a base of ideas. If you video those sessions, you can make the videos available to all current and past guests so each participant can see what evolves and submit further written feedback.”
“Yeah,” Brett said, “I can make that happen. Anything else?”
“You could find a sketch artist with exposure to highways, railways, bridges, and bullet trains. Invite him to watch the videos and sketch various designs. These sketches will be available to every coffee party participant.”
“Okay, what about all the interest groups?”
“I think we should engage researchers to seek out detailed information on the demands of interest groups. Have you made a list of the factions?”
“Yes, First Nations land claims, environmental concerns, political platforms, land owners, and existing laws.”
“Okay, we need to figure out how to gather that information.”
“What if we issue a challenge to all departments of all universities, colleges, technical schools, and high schools in the world to provide suggestions?”
“That should work. There are opportunities for consideration by engineers, environmentalists, sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, anthropologists, actuaries, and a bunch of others. While the focus of the challenge is the Canadian example, the spin-off of the concept is applicable in every country. The British former colonies have many similarities including British influence, native populations, adherence to the rule of law, and democracy. The rest of the developed world has parallel challenges with variations. There are advantages for the less developed countries where built infrastructure is less dominant.”
“We could arrange public recognition for effective design solutions,” Brett offered.
“Projects never end unless there are target dates. What timeframes do you see?”
“The public launch of the website might be on Christmas day as a Christmas present to every Canadian. I’ve thought of a name for the project. The rights-of-way could be called Ribbons and the protected sites could be called Jewels. Do you like the name, Ribbons & Jewels?”
“Yeah, I like it.”
“Once Ribbons & Jewels is announced to the public, it will be in the public domain and have a life of its own. I’m excited now; don’t tell me to get lost!”
“Keith, you’ve made my day. Thanks a bunch.”
Brett wondered, this appears too easy; is Canada ready for rational approaches to issues that have festered for years?
Myrtle Murdoch, publisher of the Prairie Sentinel, sat in a coffee shop in Winnipeg. Rosie Savard joined her.
“What credentials do you bring to your position as manager of the Healthy Habitats project?”
“I grew up with my native Indian mother on a trap line in northern Manitoba. At six, I went to live with the Yudzik family in Winnipeg. They helped me get an education. I have an anthropology degree and I’m committed to the environment. I decided I’d make environmental sense out of development initiatives in northern Canada. As I cast about for an opportunity, I ran across the initiatives of the Zisemo Foundation. It seemed like a good fit, so I hired on as the researcher for the First Nations aspects of Ribbons & Jewels. Keith Zisemo noted my enthusiasm. We perceived the project as neither pro nor anti-business and needed to raise more publicity. Keith asked me to help find a sponsor to further the effort. The Foundation agreed the Healthy Habitats Society could best carry Ribbons & Jewels to the public. It fell to me to convince Healthy Habitats to sponsor the project. My experience, passion, and reputation led to my appointment as the manager of Healthy Habitats’ Ribbons & Jewels project. This is a wonderful opportunity. I’m determined to succeed.”
“I want to do a feature on your story in my paper,” Myrtle said. “Is that okay?”
“May I take your picture for the article?”
“Sure, but the picture you need is the photo Jack Yudzik took of my mom when she realized I’d have a chance in the white man’s world.”
“How do I get that photo?”
“You need to ask two people: Jack Yudzik and Hymie Friedenberg. Both of them have rights to the photo.”
Myrtle wrote down the names she mentioned. “We could visit a long time, but I believe I have the substance. If I need more clarification, I’ll be in touch. Thanks for your help.”
Myrtle sent a copy of the Prairie Sentinel article to Jack and Hymie.
Jack read the article. It carried him back twenty-one years.
He couldn’t sleep. The opportunity accorded with his convictions. He encouraged individuals to do the right thing. Cecile could have perceptions on this opportunity that could wreck his family, maybe his life. The easy course would be to forget about Rosie.
Are good and bad things random, part of a plan, or pre-ordained?
He recalled stories where individuals prayed for God’s intervention, failed to act on opportunities presented, questioned God, and heard God say, “Three times I came to you and three times you rejected me.”
In the damp chill of his autumn camp twenty-one years earlier, Jack had decided to act. He would go to Cecile and ask for her support. He’d also explain to their daughter, Theresa, who would soon be seven years old. Jack packed his gear and headed for the designated lake where the chartered Cessna would take him to Flin Flon, where he would pack his Land Rover and head to Winnipeg.
A wealthy New York hotelier commissioned Jack to photograph a unique image of a caribou. No more instructions than that.
On his first trip into caribou country, he found caribou and studied their habits for six days but found no memorable moment. He told Cecile of his fruitless trip and encounter with Young Eagle and Rosie. Cecile covered the spectrum from amusement, to concern, to anger before she trounced off to bed.
Not the envisioned welcome home.
Two days elapsed with scant thaw in Cecile’s demeanour. She explored her feelings toward Jack, the threat of a woman in Jack’s targeted territory, and the disruption that a Métis girl would cause in their midst. But she also thought of Jack’s kindness, his love of nature and people, his drive to do the right thing, and his love for her. She arranged a sitter for Theresa and prepared Jack’s favourite meal. When Jack came home, Cecile greeted him.
“Will you be okay if I try to understand?”
Tears welled in Jack’s eyes as he hugged her.
“Come, I’ve prepared dinner; tell me about Rosie and how we make this work.”
Jack explained how their family might provide a home and hope for one little girl. Cecile warmed to the possibilities. She trusted Jack. On selfish and superficial levels, she could bite. Jack picked up Theresa at the babysitter’s by eight-thirty. As they walked home, Jack asked Theresa, “Would you appreciate a good friend that could become a sister?”
Theresa looked up at her dad. “I’d like a sister that’s blonde, knows about princesses and famous places, and imagines travel to faraway places.”
Jack laughed. “What if the little girl didn’t know any of that, but she knew lots about surviving in the north, hunting, fishing, and watching the night sky?”
Theresa hesitated. “Maybe, but it seems strange.”
Jack and Cecile couldn’t afford to hire a plane to search for Rosie. Jack called his New York client and described the situation. Jack’s goodness and the opportunity shone through. The New Yorker offered to pay for a charter plane large enough to carry Jack, Cecile, and Theresa to the trap line to search for Young Eagle and Rosie. If Young Eagle and Rosie agreed, they would fly back to Flin Flon and drive to Winnipeg where Young Eagle could stay for a few days and Rosie would start her new chapter.
The bush pilot said, “You’re going to pick up a native girl who’s never been off a trap line and take her to live with you in Winnipeg. Are you crazy?”
Cecile raised her voice over the noise of the plane. “That was my first reaction, but we’ve decided each individual should try to make the world a better place.”
Jack had discussed the options with the girl’s mother, saying she should move to a small town where the girl could go to school, but the mother concluded that she couldn’t be happy off the trap line and couldn’t see a way to make a living. Besides, she felt her daughter would fare better if she learned to live in the white world.
“Jack’s philosophy is in tune with this project,” Cecile continued. “Theresa and I are committed to make it work.”
The pilot glanced back at Cecile. “I’ve been around natives all my adult years. Their culture is so different from the middle class in Winnipeg. I can’t see this working out.”
Cecile leaned forward in her seat. “Do you check the fuel and instruments before you take off in this plane?”
“Do you know about a snag, frozen in the ice and covered by a skiff of snow? That snag is going to catch the skis when you land and topple this plane, end over end. Our lives will be different than before.”
“I know there are risks. I’ve heard the truism that there are old pilots and there are brave pilots, but there are no old, brave pilots. We’re trained to be cautious and alert. I’m confident in my abilities.”
“You have a little advantage over us because of pilot school. We go into this as caring individuals who have parented one child for seven years and observed life in Winnipeg for thirty odd years, but we have not gone to school to learn how to integrate a half-breed six year-old into our Winnipeg culture. We plan to be cautious and alert but we will fly.”
As they flew into the trap line area, all watched for signs of Young Eagle and Rosie. On the third pass over the area, they spotted a woman, a child, and a sleigh pulled by a dog. The pilot made two low passes over the woman and then landed on the nearest frozen lake. The Twin Otter came to rest near the shore and all scrambled out. The pilot gathered twigs and branches and started a fire. Jack readied his camera and noted the light conditions. The trappers emerged from the trees. They moved with purpose but no hurry to this unknown rendezvous. As Jack came into Young Eagle’s focus, her jaw tensed but she made no move to welcome him.
Cecile stepped forward. “You must be Young Eagle and Rose Mary. Jack has told us of your dream, so our family—Jack, Theresa, and I—have come to offer Rosie a home so she may get the opportunities you seek for her.”
Jack focused his camera on Young Eagle’s face. As the enormity of the offer entered her consciousness, Young Eagle’s face lit up in a way that’s seldom captured on film.
Young Eagle demonstrated genuine appreciation but she refused to go with the group back to Winnipeg. She asked Jack to write their address on a piece of paper and to describe how to get to their home. Then she walked away from the fire with Rosie and explained what was about to happen. Rosie faced separation from every familiar thing: her mother, her home, her territory, her comfort zone. Six years old, stoic, familiar with risk, heart beating rapidly, Rosie stifled her sobs and stood by the plane. Cecile began to question the wisdom of this endeavour. Theresa grappled with the clothing, smells, and sounds of these apparent family members. Jack wondered whether the right thing is the right thing. The pilot busied himself with the plane.
Twenty-seven years of age, Rosie stood in the boardroom of the Healthy Habitats Society and presented the outline of a feature series on Canada’s environmental fabric that she believed would inspire the readership and provide impetus for effective environmental controls. For every “but,” Rosie responded. The board asked her to stay in town for two more days. During that time, they’d do some due diligence and decide if they could commit the Society’s resources to this task.
They summoned Rosie to the boardroom.
The evasive faces telegraphed failure.
She turned to leave. “I expected more.”
The chairman stood. “Ms. Savard, we want to do your project but we haven’t found a way to fund it.”
Rosie turned. “Give me your plan and your budget and I’ll find the funds.” She left.
The chairman gestured with both hands. “Comments?”
One director shifted in his chair. “I like the Ribbons & Jewels idea. I think it’s a good project for Healthy Habitats, but I don’t see how we can work with that dynamo.”
Another director looked up. “Dynamos are in short supply.”
The chairman settled back in his chair. “There seems to be enough merit in this situation for us to schedule a special meeting to discuss it further. Can we meet two weeks from today?”
They scheduled the meeting.
“This meeting is called to order. We consider the potential sponsorship of Ribbons & Jewels as offered to us by Rose Mary Savard. Aaron volunteered to organize information for this meeting. Aaron, go ahead.”
“Several capable individuals have developed this project. Keith Zisemo is an accomplished executive who has retired to Mexico but is a mentor for Ribbons & Jewels. Brett Larson owns and manages a prominent development and construction company in southern Alberta. They organized focus groups in which several experienced individuals produced a series of videos that illustrate the magnitude of the issues. They hired a sketch artist who prepared hundreds of sketches inspired by the ideas emerging from the coffee parties. The group decided a reliable database is required to make sense out of the many angles. This database is already developed with masses of data from available sources. The database needs more attention to design the website capabilities before Ribbons & Jewels is announced to the public. The Zisemo Foundation hired Rosie to research the First Nations aspects of Ribbons & Jewels. She’s well regarded by all of the individuals that I contacted in the last two weeks. We already know Rosie’s capabilities. In my opinion, the Ribbons & Jewels initiative is solid.”
“Do you have the videos and sketches?”
“Yes; they’re set up and ready to run.”
The board watched the videos and sketches and discussed the issues.
The chairman straightened his papers. “I believe the last couple of hours have demonstrated this board is interested in sponsoring Ribbons & Jewels. Am I correct?”
The directors murmured assent.
“I detect general approval. Aaron will inform Rose Mary Savard that the board has authorized her to work with Healthy Habitats’ management to develop a plan and budget with mutual expectations that Healthy Habitats and Rose Mary Savard will find adequate funds before significant expenses are incurred.”
The chairman called the question. “All in favour?”
Three thousand delegates assembled. Rose Mary Savard waited in the wings. The emcee strode to center stage. The crowd cheered, then stilled.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the moment has arrived: Healthy Habitats presents Rose Mary Savard.”
Rosie walked to the podium, smiled, and waited.
When the audience silenced, Rosie began.
“Passionate friends, welcome!
“Today, together, we launch a bold experiment.
“Each one of us comes here with an agenda.
“That agenda has evolved from our backgrounds, cultures, commitments and perceptions about big business, politicians, and tree huggers.
“Our experience has taught us to distrust other factions in our society.
“We’re here today to lead a fresh, positive, cooperative process.
“We bring commitments to specific causes but we recognize that others have alternative views, and we will reach compromises.
“We will protect elements of each environmental issue and we will allow for other considerations that are important but less critical.
“We will build a consensus and we’ll promise to abide by the spirit of that consensus.
“We must not fail! We will not fail!
“We are familiar with prominent corridors in our great land: the Yellowhead Highway, the Queen Elizabeth Expressway, the CN and CP rail lines, the Confederation Bridge, the St. Lawrence Seaway, the TransCanada Highway, to name a few.
“We know that service corridors are essential in our final plan.
“We expect all submissions will concede that service corridors will exist.
“We choose to call the corridors ribbons, a symbol for the concept of corridors for utilities, vehicles, trains, boats, tourists, and other situations where unfettered human and commercial movement is warranted.
“Development near appropriate service corridors is an economic reality.
“Our challenge is to design a system in which such development coexists with the whole environment, including those issues for which you are passionate.
“Canada will have human habitats.
“We will design models that minimize the negative effects on the environment and protect habitats and unique sites.
“We must not fail! We will not fail!
“Each community has sites that are precious to the local population and, often, to the broader population.
“We think of Niagara Falls, the national parks, the provincial parks, the municipal parks, the Plains of Abraham, the site of the Duck Lake Rebellion, the Medicine Tree, cemeteries and burial grounds, rare animal and plant habitats, the paths of migrating animals and birds, the spawning runs of fishes, and the feeding traits of wild animals, fishes, and birds.
“Each of you endeavours to keep these sites and concerns in focus as well as issues that are of particular importance to you.
“We want you to use your passion but we want you to recognize that the universe involves balancing forces, even when humans are absent.
“You will achieve more for your cause with a degree of collegiality than you will with, ‘It’s my way, or no way.’
“We choose to call all these sites and special issues jewels. You can think of jewels along the lines of Crown Jewels, Marilyn Monroe’s diamonds, costume jewels, birthstones, horseshoe nail rings, dandelion necklaces, whatever.
“The jewels have different importance to different individuals.
“The environmental and historical jewels that will be protected will be those that have broad support amongst the human population.
“Most of us will protect unique jewels.
“Your challenge is to put your jewels in a light that will allow them to survive the many compromises that we will face.
“There are infinite perspectives concerning the jewels in Canada.
“We will publicize the identification of the jewels so every discovered issue is taken into account when the plan is published.
“We recognize there are elements of many environmental issues that are not well understood. One of Healthy Habitats’ commitments is to continue to encourage the discovery of new issues and promote improvements in habitats, protect unique sites, and future development in concert with current knowledge of environmental issues.
“Each of us recognizes that humans will impact our environment.
“If we adopt a ‘stand still’ approach until every environmental risk is discovered, researched, and publicized, we know that human initiatives will continue to erupt in unpredictable, confrontational, wasteful episodes with the vocal, best funded, most strategic interests able to carry the day.
“This is not the way to protect the environment, nor is it the way to manage our human endeavours.
“Some of you are guilty of enjoying the game.
“You may start with a legitimate environmental issue but end up addicted to conflict and one-upmanship. Individuals who thrive in this milieu are recruited into various environmental causes. Such gamesmanship must be managed so we get the ‘best solutions’ with minimal friction.
“With your diligence, permeated with goodwill, many thousands of Canadian jewels will be protected.
“We must not fail! We will not fail!
“Every project benefits from milestones.
“We have prescribed such milestones.
“Initial submissions will be submitted by December 31 this year.
“There are several intermediate milestones to propel the project, but suffice to say a final plan will be published in the December issue of Healthy Habitat magazine a year and a half from now. It will be a Christmas present to every Canadian.
“It will feature a map of Canada, show the identified Ribbons & Jewels, discuss the issues, and promise to publicize jewels with attention to advocacy of ‘doing the right thing’ for the environment. The printed maps will be supplemented with a digital set of layers that will show the suggested ribbons and the identified jewels. This will permit individuals to identify jewels that will be protected, vulnerable, compromised, and lost if the ribbons remain as chosen.
Where habitats are compromised, the maps will suggest where similar habitats could be developed nearby. This effort might apply to wetlands and forests.
“Canada is a wonderful country.
“We can provide effective environmental protection in concert with human endeavours.
“Canadians, and humans the world over, count on us.
“We must not fail! We will not fail!
“Passionate friends, do it well!
The activists operated in confrontational systems where they perceived business did the bare minimum and publicity often involved civil disobedience and obstructionism.
How would this new dynamic unfold?
Gaston Tribolski went for a beer with a teammate after the hockey game.
Josh poured his beer into a glass. “You seem reserved. What’s up?”
“My job’s frustrating me. I’ve got to get out of there.”
“Is it the job, or is it you?”
“Who knows, my supervisor’s ill-suited to his role. He resists innovation, emphasizes cost control over results, and dwells on due process. The place breeds frustration.”
“It sounds like you want a project where you can be in charge.”
“But I don’t have management experience.”
“You won’t learn to manage by following…especially your supervisor.”
“Where’ll I find a job that suits me better?”
“I read an article about the Ribbons & Jewels initiative in the north. I’ll find the article and bring it to work tomorrow. We can meet for lunch and talk about it.”
At lunch the next day, Josh handed Gaston the magazine. “The article describes the extraction of information from every published article in every Canadian newspaper, relevant autobiographies and biographies, published speeches, Hansard transcripts, environmental studies, and court cases…all done by volunteers. The Healthy Habitats Society adopted the cause as a cornerstone of its commitment to healthy habitats.”
“I remember something about it. A woman gave a speech about a system of corridors throughout Canada.”
“Yes, her speech triggered a deluge of submissions. Healthy Habitats recognizes that the volume and variety of Ribbons & Jewels responses demands more from its data management system.”
“Maybe my provincial health ministry experience would be useful.”
“The woman is named in the article. Give her a call.”
Rosie returned Gaston’s call and discussed the issues with him. She liked Gaston’s potential. She arranged for the lead IT guy at Healthy Habitats to join her in a meeting with Gaston. The meeting went well. When Rosie determined that Gaston would accept a position with Healthy Habitats, she asked the chairman of the board what step to take next. The chairman arranged for the entire board to meet with Gaston so that each of them could judge his suitability.
Rosie and Gaston entered the boardroom and accepted coffee. The chairman informed the group that Aaron Woodman, the vice president of the environment, would lead the discussion. After introductions, Aaron directed questions to Gaston.
“How do you see any interested party getting access to the data we’ve already gathered and the data we will gather?”
Gaston described his ideas in detail.
Aaron asked Gaston to explain how he saw the submissions being integrated into a coherent design.
“It appears to me that some system must be developed where the front end information is neutral and subjected to quality control but any participant can point out errors or improvements. These suggestions must be available to all who wish to review the validity of the front-end information. This will require qualified manpower.”
“How do you see the corridors emerging from this mass of data?”
Gaston explained his ideas and answered the questions that arose.
“What do we do with the impossible and the passionate responses?”
“This is where Healthy Habitats will lead. We’ll maintain neutrality. We’ll request civility. We’ll encourage compromise. We’ll shift the corridor to reflect consensus. Through much iteration, a democratic solution will emerge. Healthy Habitats must not stop there. We must reach out to the advocates of jewels that are compromised by the corridor. Collegial, compassionate, genuine consideration of the advocates’ submissions must shine through. Maybe overpasses or tunnels or some other solution will emerge. The result must be transparent, thorough, and fair.”
“I thought you came here as a technical wizard; what’s with all this empathy and philosophy?”
“Rosie asked me what would happen if my employer let me out of a locked room in the basement. I told her. She liked it. Here I am.”
“I do too. Are there further questions from the board?”
The vice president of humanity asked, “Should we discuss First Nations issues and how to manage those issues?”
Aaron turned to the director. “I considered that line of enquiry and concluded that none of us have enough information to reach a decision. Therefore, I’ve decided to focus on Ribbons & Jewels. We must develop a strategy to deal with the First Nations issues, but that’s a task for another day. I hope the board will accept my approach.”
No other questions or comments arose.
The chairman walked around to Gaston. “Mr. Tribolski, we thank you for meeting with us today. I feel certain that the board would ratify your appointment today. However, so much depends on this appointment that I want to ensure that each board member considers your appointment over the next three days. Then we’ll meet, debate, and decide. Once we’ve decided, we’ll inform Ms. Savard and ask her to convey our decision to you. Whatever the decision, I want to complement you on your approach to life and this project. Thank you.”
Gaston and Rosie thanked the board and left the room.
Out in the hallway, Rosie said, “That was beautiful.”
Gaston blushed. “Thank you.”
Each wondered what to do next.
They said goodbye and parted.
Ribbons & Jewels published the viable corridors for major infrastructure from east to west and north to south.
The Ribbon most suited to Soul Star stretched from the St. Lawrence River mouth near Bersimis to the southwest corner of the Yukon. A short stretch of Alaska lay ahead, then the Pacific Ocean.
How do we get access to the Pacific with Alaska in the way?
Howdy neighbor, welcome to the Village Café. I’m the busboy striving to make your visit memorable. Our buffet offers dishes attractive to those who believe in wholesome lives. We favor recipes fit for changing times while respecting the ingredients Mama used to use. You identify with many villages; local, regional, federal and international. Every village has one of our cafés. The meals in each café reflect the prevailing views in the village. Our goal is to build a common menu where every villager, in every corner of the world, can enter any Village Café and know the buffet will feature individual responsibility, passion, goodwill and humour; with seasoning appropriate to the village. Individuals may enter a Village Café with ideas not fully integrated with core villagers’ conceptions. These guests will find patrons with similar conceptions around the outer areas of the café. Through time, and interaction, the core will adapt to the emerging conceptions and the outliers will gain integration with the core values. This dynamic will endure through generations. The process will lead to stability with enough flexibility to accommodate consensus; yielding serenity with room to adapt.