It is a story that repeats itself every five years or so; proposals for a high-speed rail between Calgary and Edmonton. The pattern is always the same. An idea for a high-speed train is pitched with great fanfare, a feasibility study is conducted which concludes that a massive taxpayer investment is involved and the project gets put on the shelf. The latest proposal from Toronto-based Transpod to build a pie-in-the-sky hyperloop is no exception.
The concept sounds exciting indeed. A low-pressure tube would be constructed which will move pods containing passengers and freight at speeds of up to 1000 kilometers per hour. The models and drawings look cool and futuristic and many people are getting excited at the prospect of commuting to work in a vacuum tube as George Jetson in the futuristic 1960s. I hate to rain on folk’s parade, but this concept is simply not viable.
Let’s look at the cost to begin with. Transpod is giving an estimate of $6 billion to $8 billion simply to construct the line. Companies making pitches always low-ball estimates and the costs required to expropriate 300 kilometers of land for a line will be huge, not to mention the delays which will surely come as some intransigent landowners refuse to cooperate. With this not having been formally studied yet and with the long timelines, $10 billion will likely end up as a more realistic estimate and that is still modest.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s set a ticket price at $100 per passenger. At that price, the line would have to transport one hundred million passengers simply to recover the cost of construction for the line. The new line would have to carry 27,000 passengers per day for 10 years in order to reach that number. Again, this is simply to regain the capital costs on the project. Ongoing expenses such as electricity, staffing, maintenance have not been taken into consideration, let alone profit.
Now how will we capture the interest of 27,000 people per day in order to get them to ride this thing. How viable and practical does this sound?
Well let’s compare it to a typical family trip on the weekend from Calgary to see Aunt Ethel. The family will have to be packed up and taken to the station either in a personal vehicle or through some form of public transportation. They will have to check in and eventually be boarded onto the pod. Upon arrival in Edmonton, they will then have to take a cab or public transit to get to Aunt Ethel’s, where they will spend the weekend without the convenience of a personal vehicle. They will then have to repeat the process in order to get home.
With a $10 billion price tags, we can expect security times to be similar to airports. With half an hour on the pod – coupled with the other time delays due to check in and local transport – the trip will take about one and a half hours each way at the low cost of $800 in total. All this to save about the difference of 1 and a half hours in the family car at a fuel cost of perhaps $80. Would you do it?
This company will also be moving freight, but let’s face it, the freight will face all the same challenges that passenger services have. It would be a niche market at best for products which are small, in a rush and have somebody at each end to deal with drop off and pick up. It won’t compete well with conventional freight transport.
If anything does dramatically change, how we move people and freight between Edmonton and Calgary in the future, it will be driverless vehicles which are proving to be quite effective in many environments already. In anticipation of that trend, we should be perhaps examining a new, dedicated lane for these kinds of vehicles on the highway to complement the existing lanes. It would cost a fraction of the Transpod proposal and is much more likely to ever actually come into being.
Transpod and Jason Kenney are very clearly pointing out that this project is not costing a single tax dollar at this point. Let’s not pretend that it will stay that way. Once true viability studies are done, proponents for the hyperloop will surely come cap in hand and begging for tax dollars in order to get this thing running. There is no way they can or will get this going with purely private investment. It simply isn’t realistic.
By all means, let them test this thing out. Let them set up between Olds and Didsbury in order to build a test portion of the tube if indeed they can manage to get enough investors to get that far. There is no better time than the present to make it absolutely clear though that taxpayers will not pay for an inch of this project. We have enough boondoggles to pay for as it is and don’t need to sink ourselves billions further into debt for something which is somebody’s romantic pipe dream.
Cory Morgan is a columnist and the Podcast Editor of the Western Standard
GEROW: Libertarians are the principled option in BC Election
Polls show the Liberals losing badly to the NDP. Principled small-government voters should stop holding their noses and do the principled thing. Vote Libertarian.
After British Columbia’s NDP received a significant bump in their polling support, rumors began to spread that John Horgan wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and call a snap election. The Libertarian Party of BC was quick to warn the sitting Premier that this action was not only unwanted, but might also be illegal. However, the Covid-19 pandemic had created the perfect conditions for political opportunism and John Horgan was not going to let it go to waste.
The BC Liberals are the acknowledged biggest threat to John Horgan’s NDP, but they are not the Chretien consensus Liberals of 2001 and it’s doubtful that past reputation will carry the day. Their brand as a coalition of red Tories and center-left liberals does little to attract the small government, fiscally responsible voter. The first thing you’ll notice on the BC Liberal website is that there is no quick and easy way to understand their election platform. With Covid-19 as the number one issue, Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has skillfully skirted the hard questions.
Don Wilson – Leader of the BC Libertarian Party – hasn’t shied away from criticizing the NDP or the Liberals complicity in what he calls “authoritarian policies.” The first link on the BC Libertarian party website is COVID-19: A Return to Normal: “The current crisis management is disproportionate to the harms of the virus and causes more damage than it helps cure”.
Although they’re the only political party in BC advocating for a return to normal – a move guaranteed to generate support – that is hardly their most successful platform item. Since 1986 the BC Libertarians have advocated an end ICBC’s monopoly on auto insurance. You won’t put on too many kilometers anywhere from Fernie to Fort St. John without seeing their iconic bumper sticker.
That type of success comes at a price. “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery” said Don Wilson on Tuesday, October 8,2020 after Andrew Wilkinson announced that if elected they were following the Libertarians lead and would end ICBC’s monopoly on auto insurance. Just like legalized cannabis and same-sex marriage, the Libertarians have once again been vindicated, and once against without much in the way of credit. It’s a shame that it only took 34 years. Now it looks like they will be proven right again by denouncing this election as illegal.
Libertarian omniscience has an ear to the ground for future policy in British Columbia. They are the only party authentically advocating for reducing the cost of living by repealing regressive tax laws which hurt low income working families the most and raising the base exemption rate. They say they’ll eliminate the carbon tax and other sin taxes like the ones on tobacco and liquor.
There is no good argument to make for the BC Liberals being conservative in any sense of the word, other than they are the party backed by the federal Tories. Their platitudes and obscure non-commitment to any real tax reform is a disappointment to their voter base. Yet, Andrew Wilkinson decided to run attack ads against an 8-candidate roster called the Conservative Party of BC on the accusation that by vote-splitting, they spoiled wins for the Liberals in two ridings in 2017. Rather than putting forward any original ideas or standing on the remnants of fiscally responsible liberalism, Andrew Wilkinson steals platform items from the Libertarians and attacks actual conservatives. In doing so, he has made it clear that this race will be the last one where his party enjoys a chance at success.
This is a race between two far-left parties and a weak centre-left party. The need for responsible governance in British Columbia has become unavoidable and the political climate is forcing the traditional parties to adjust course, but voters in BC should simply be voting for the real thing. The 25 Libertarians are the party of ideas and two Conservatives hold the balance of votes in key swing ridings. This enough to form actual opposition to big government and irresponsible policy.
Polls show the Liberals losing badly to the NDP. Principled small-government voters should stop holding their noses and do the principled thing. Vote Libertarian.
Darcy Gerow is a columnist for the Western Standard
WAGNER: This isn’t the first time the CBC has tried to silence its critics
Michael Wagner writes that in 1986, the CBC tried to silence a study about its ideological bias.
In June 1986, the University of Manitoba hosted a conference of academic societies where scholars presented papers. One of these societies was the Canadian Communications Association (CCA), headed at the time by a Carleton journalism professor named Peter A. Bruck. A presentation was made to the CCA by University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper. He shared the results of an unpublished report entitled Bias on the CBC? A study of network AM radio. The CBC was extremely unhappy about Cooper’s report and tried to get it suppressed.
The controversy over Cooper’s study and the CBC’s reaction was newsworthy, and it was featured as the cover story of the July 21, 1986 issue of Alberta Report magazine.
Anecdotal evidence had led Prof. Cooper to become concerned about the apparent left-wing bias of the CBC, and he decided to determine if such bias actually existed by having five students monitor four of its most well-known current affairs programs on AM radio, namely, As It Happens, Sunday Morning, Morningside, and The House. Generally speaking, stories that were pro-defence, pro-business, and anti-union were categorized as right-wing, whereas those that took an opposite stance were categorized as left-wing. The results demonstrated a distinct leftist and Eastern bias in the CBC’s coverage.
Among the more specific findings detailed by Alberta Report were that “72 per cent of the stories evaluating government policy did so negatively; 62 per cent criticized from a left-wing perspective; 27 per cent from the centre, and 12 per cent from the right.” Furthermore, “Of the stories for which an ideological focus could be ascertained, 50 per cent were oriented to the left, 34 per cent to the centre, 15 per cent to the right.”
Coverage of Cooper’s study had also appeared in the Globe and Mail, prompting the CBC’s Toronto-based vice-president of English radio, Margaret Lyons, to write a letter to the editor where she dismissed it as “virtually ridiculous.” Susan Freedman, CBC’s Edmonton director of radio said, “I think it’s junk.”
However, Colin MacLean, CBC Edmonton’s arts, culture and entertainment reporter told an interesting story. He had covered a meeting of the Western Canada Concept at the Jubilee Auditorium for the CBC. There were about 300 people at the meeting, which was quiet and orderly. MacLean told Alberta Report, though, that “When I filed the story, Toronto said ‘We don’t want this. We want rednecks running rampant in the streets.’”
The CBC did not take Cooper’s study sitting down. As an article in the July 28, 1986 issue of Alberta Report explained, the CBC threatened legal action. Barry Kiefl, the director of research for the CBC, wrote a letter to Prof. Bruck of the CCA stating: “I am writing to inform the CCA that the CBC wishes your association to renounce this research and retract the paper from the record of the conference and inform all who heard or received the results of this action. The study in question had several methodological flaws making the findings invalid and the conclusions not proven.”
Kiefl went on to state, “The CBC feels that its renowned reputation as Canada’s most pre-eminent journalistic organization has been damaged by the release of the paper and we sincerely hope that the CCA will formally withdraw it from the conference record, preventing the need for any further discussion or litigation.”
Ted Byfield’s column in the same issue of the magazine noted that Kiefl’s letter was six pages long. As Byfield explained, “Such a letter could only be written by a public body that has lost all touch with practical reality, and has long ago abandoned any remote notion that it is responsible to the people who pay for it.”
Nothing of significance appears to have resulted from this episode, except embarrassment for the CBC – embarrassment for its childish reaction to Prof. Cooper’s report, and embarrassment for threats to get the report retracted and denounced.
In 2020, it’s the Western Standard’s turn to receive threats of legal action, albeit on different legal grounds.
The case for privatizing the CBC was strong even before its latest antics. Canada does not need a state broadcaster that unfairly competes with the private sector. It’s coverage of news has been unbalanced for decades, as Cooper’s work has demonstrated. The consistent bias is irritating and unfair for the conservative and libertarian-minded taxpayers who are forced to pay for it. There is a solution: privatize the CBC.
Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’
How the CBC presented a rosey view of the Soviet Union during the Cold War
“The CBC created a smokescreen for Marxists before the fall of the Soviet Union, the ultimate “progressive” state. But it’s important to realize that during the Cold War, Canada’s taxpayer-funded state broadcaster ran interference for the most powerful Marxist dictatorship in history.”
Some conservatives and libertarians like to joke that the acronym of Canada’s national broadcaster – the CBC – stands for “Communist Broadcasting Corporation.” But a post-Cold War study by University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper presents information and analysis that may leave people wondering how much of a joke it really is.
Cooper studied the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for several years, and the most significant result of his efforts was the book, Sins of Omission: Shaping the News at CBC TV which was published by the prestigious University of Toronto Press in 1994. From the evidence presented in this book, it is clear that CBC TV had an affinity for the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
To conduct this study, Cooper poured over a large number of transcripts from TV broadcasts and compared what was said with the political reality of the situation being portrayed. When he began this work in the 1980s, he decided to focus on coverage of foreign affairs, and in particular, issues related to the Cold War and the Soviet Union.
One part of the study looks at how the internal affairs of the USSR were portrayed, including the Soviet occupation and withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was a major issue at the time. The general tendency in the coverage was to make it appear that the Soviet Union was much like Canada. As Cooper puts it, “Obvious external or elemental differences, such as the absence of genuine elections, the existence of a secret police, the concentration camps, and restrictive emigration policy, were ignored, played down, or euphemized into innocuous variations of normalcy. In short, the substantive political and, indeed, cultural differences between the political regimes established by communism in the USSR and those set up by liberal democracy in the West were minimized.”
In reality, the political life of the Soviet Union was very different from Canada’s due to the brutal nature of the Marxist ideology that guided its regime. To some degree, the CBC turned a blind eye to the suffering of the people in that country, giving Canadians a misleading, sugar-coated view of the communist regime
A major feature of the Cold War, of course, was the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States. During the period studied by Cooper, there were a couple of summit meetings between the leaders of these two countries – Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan – that received considerable media coverage. Officials from both countries presented the views of their respective governments, but the CBC did not treat these statements in the same way. As Cooper puts it, “the surface meaning of Soviet accounts was overwhelmingly accepted at face value. Accounts by U.S. officials, in contrast, were severely scrutinized, and alternative visualizations were presented.” The CBC was skeptical of American claims, but rarely of Soviet claims.
There is considerably more detail in Cooper’s study carefully documenting his conclusions, but the long and the short of it is this: “The visualization of the summit meetings was remarkably consistent: the USSR was seen as a progressive and dynamic actor, the United States as a source of resistance to peace initiatives.” The CBC, Cooper writes, “advanced the vision of a progressive USSR and a dangerous United States.”
In short, government-paid journalists in a free country – Canada – sided with one of the most oppressive regimes in history. As Cooper puts it, “CBC visualizations were ‘objectively’ in the service of Soviet propaganda.”
Cooper goes on to note that the philosophy guiding CBC coverage of US-Soviet relations was “moral equivalence.” Basically, this view assumes that the USA and Soviet Union – liberal democracy and Marxist totalitarianism – have similar virtues and vices, so one side should not be seen as morally superior to the other.
But the “moral equivalence” position was garbage, as Cooper explains.
“The doctrine of moral equivalence, which is the articulate conceptual statement that the CBC operationalized in its coverage of the Soviet Union, ignored the most fundamental distinction in political life, the distinction between tyrannical and non-tyrannical forms of government. This omission led to such otherwise inexplicable curiosities as equating or balancing U.S. support for the Afghan mujahedeen with the Soviet invasion of that country. Moreover, some stories did more than bend over backwards or forwards to excuse the actions of a tyranny.”
So there you have it. The CBC created a smokescreen for Marxists before the fall of the Soviet Union, the ultimate “progressive” state. But it’s important to realize that during the Cold War, Canada’s taxpayer-funded state broadcaster ran interference for the most powerful Marxist dictatorship in history.
30 years after the end of the Cold War we are left to consider: what is the CBC’s agenda for us now?
Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’
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