Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Deranged Spat Between Alberta and BC

Yes.  Deranged is possibly the best way to describe this schoolyard spat.

The new pipeline was approved awhile back, subject to 157 conditions.  I don't know what the 157 conditions are, but the Government certainly spent some time acting as a cheerleader for the project.

The pipeline is expected to triple the amount of bitumen arriving on the Lower Mainland and there is approval to increase the number of tankers from about 5 to 34 per month.

BC's NDP Government took a slightly different view, stating that bitumen shipments through BC would be limited until further study clarified whether the stuff could be cleaned up when there is a spill.  As a resident of BC, I don't see this as excessively unreasonable.

Alberta's Premier decided that going ballistic was the best reaction.
B.C.’s move was met with condemnation by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who has long championed the pipeline to get Alberta crude to new markets.  “Having run out of tools in the toolbox, the government of B.C. is now grasping at straws,” said Notley, calling the proposal rash, illegal and unconstitutional.
She followed that up by putting off talks on the purchase of electricity from BC and ordering Alberta's liquor commission to stop importing BC wine.

Opinion and reaction has been, predictably, mixed, depending on the commentator's place of residence.  A U of A scientist, however, took this view.

The Prime Minister was jeered at a Nanaimo town hall meeting by people opposed to the pipeline.

Some BC reaction has been more polite, but still resolutely opposed to the project.  It views this proposed project as a desperate attempt to fix decades of resource management in Alberta.  The project, of course, places nearly all of the risk on BC.

And, as the article points out, we're not even getting much as a nation for going the pipeline route.
If we are selling out core Canadian values like aspiring to be a global leader on climate policy, let’s at least negotiate a decent price. But as usual Canada seems to get very little for exploitation by others of our vast resource endowment.
There are many good reasons to oppose this project: more development of fossil fuel projects is incompatible with what's needed to tackle climate change; low global oil prices have impacted Alberta, certainly, but adding more oil to the global supply will not help that situation; reduced demand is coming but a pipeline almost guarantees another 30 years of business as usual and could very well give us an enormous white elephant in the bargain as demand declines.

It is beyond ironic to recall the time when Trudeau Sr brought in the National Energy Program "in the National interest", a program that was hated in Alberta.  The National Interest is now being used by oil industry supporters to promote this pipeline project.  Really?  really?

Perhaps it's time to draw a line in the sand.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Travels in Taiwan - How to Travel For Less

One consideration when traveling is how to manage costs.  Here is a short guide to the costs of a trip in Taiwan.

First, getting here.  If you book early enough, you can get a round trip from Vancouver to Taipei for under $700 CDN, that being the price in mid-2017.  There are two major airlines that are headquartered in Taiwan, EVA Air and China Airlines.  I'd recommend either one.  Their equipment is new, the service better than North American carriers, and generally, they are less expensive.

Second, getting around.  Taipei has a great subway system.  It's easy to figure out, fast, safe and cheap.  Most rides will cost about $1 CAD.  That's only two $10 NT$ coins.
Getting between cities around the outside of the island is best done by train.  I've written about that in another post.

Then there are buses.  I did take a few bus rides.  Some scenic areas have shuttle bus service.  Examples would be Taroko Gorge, the east coast line north of Taitung and around Sun Moon Lake.  Also, the only way to get into the island's interior is by bus.

Taiwan has a high speed rail system down the west coast.  I didn't take it because, other than the excitement of going that fast, it was more expensive and the stations are further outside of each city they stop at.  Sometimes 15 to 20 km outside.  Not convenient for the hiker/backpacker.

Regular restaurant meals are somewhat similar in price to Canadian establishments.  Perhaps a bit cheaper.  However, you can eat from street vendors and small food stalls.  I've written about food elsewhere.  If your accommodation provides free breakfast, use it.  You can pick up steamed buns on the street for 25 NT$ (about $1.25).  Instant noodles are cheap here and there are many varieties.  Hot water is available many places.  Fruit is cheap and good.  The island is noted for it.

Accommodation is next.  I booked everything through Expedia, in advance, and I generally used hostels, picking cheap places close to the train station in each city.  Per night costs could be around 500 NT$ per night, which is around $25 CAD.  Some offer free breakfast, some don't.  All have free WiFi, most have kitchens, boiling water machines, fridges, showers with good hot water, but often no towels supplied.  Because of the time of year I was there (late Oct early Nov), dorms were not often busy.  In some cases, I was the only person there.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Travels in Taiwan - Sun Moon Lake

After a quick trip to Mt Yushan and a climb to the summit early Tuesday morning, it was off to Sun Moon Lake.  The bus ride took a couple of hours and the route from Yushan National Park down to the valley took us on torturous roads and a major loss of altitude.

Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan's largest body of fresh water and is a tourist center, ringed with lush forested hills and dotted with temples.  Despite this, I found it quiet and peaceful, at least early in the morning.

The best deal is to get a day pass on the shuttle bus for NT$80 (about $4 CAD), which will take you around the important bits, getting off and on as the inclination strikes you.
A Confucius temple where students go to curry favour before exams, to a pagoda built by Chiang Kai-chek in honour of his mother, with a commanding view out over the lake.

I hiked up to tea plantations on the hillsides above the Lake and I explored temples and wandered on trails along the Lake.  It's normally a very busy tourist location, but it was quite calm and relaxed when I was there.

After 3 nights at the local hostel, it was time to take the bus to Taichung, the last new city on my round-the-island tour.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Travels in Taiwan - Taking the Train

This is a new experience for me.  In all my years, I can count only three real trips by train.  Two in Canada when I was a high school student, and one a year ago through China to Tibet.

In Taiwan, all the main cities are connected by train.  One could probably go around the whole island in a bit more than a day, all on the train.  That was my route, just stretched into 3 weeks.

They are cheap.  A 4-hour ride will cost about $20 CAD.  They run exactly on time.  They are comfortable. You can pay by credit card.

There are different rates depending on the time of day, and one essential app for the traveler's phone is called "Taiwan Railway", adless train schedule, by DIN Lab.  The only thing you can't do (yet) is purchase tickets, although they say that's coming.

What I would do is find the departure time I wanted and just show that screen to the ticket agent.  Although most of the agents spoke some English, it seemed less confusing to use the phone app.

Trains in Taiwan - More comfortable than a bus and, in my limited experience, better views.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Travels in Taiwan - Furthest South

I arrived in Taitung 2 days ago and this morning the train will take me around the southern end of the island and up the west side to Tainan.  Tainan was once the capital of the city and is one of the oldest.  That means it has a history worth exploring.

The east side of the island is quite new so there is nothing particularly compelling about its cities.  It's more about the natural scenery here.

Yesterday, I took a bus north as far as Sanxiatai.  Since the train's route is inland, my ride from Hualien to Taitung showed me nothing of the coast this part of the country is noted for.  So I explored part of that coast by bus.

It was very windy on the coast, with huge breakers rolling in from the Pacific.  My walk at the terminus was out to a small island connected by a rather unusual bridge, one that looks like a dragon swimming out to the island, with 8 humps. 

It has another, more mythical, significance, something about the 8 Immortals. 

Steamed buns in different flavors comprised the meal choices I made during the day.  Two for breakfast and three for lunch.  Pork, red bean, bamboo... They were all good.  One town along the way has earned a reputation for theirs.  And there is always lots of fruit.

A quick trek to the city's Carrefour for supplies and the day was over.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Travels in Taiwan - Early days

I arrived in Taiwan early Wednesday morning (October 25th) after 12 hours on the plane from Vancouver.  It's now Sunday morning and I've spent 2 days in Taipei, took the train over to the east coast and am about to leave Hualien after 2 nights here.

Does this country have infrastructure.  And it all seems to work.  Two comfortable hostels so far, hot water, traffic lights that actually work, crosswalks that drivers sometimes pay attention to, traffic rules, advanced bus and train systems...  It's a long list.  This is certainly no 3rd World Country.

Things I've noticed so far, in this country of 23 million, based just on Taipei and now Hualien, a small city of about 100,000:

There are more 7-11 stores here in one small city that in all of BC, possibly.  From the park where I'm sitting, I can see two.  Correction, three. They are, literally, on every block.

Train and metro systems are easy to use.  There is just enough English to make it simple.  And it's cheap.  Metro rides are about 20 to 30 NT$, about $1 or so Canadian.  A 3-hour train ride cost me about $20 CAD. 

It's seriously warm here.  I'm just north of the Tropic of Cancer.  Anything more than shorts and a tee shirt is seriously overdressed.

So far, the place seems clean and well-maintained.  It's not that there's no garbage around, but it does seem to get cleaned up.

Small motor scooters are everywhere.  Thousands and thousands of them.  They carry everything from 1 to 4 people, sacks of produce, bags of recycling, pet dogs...

The SIM card  I got for my phone cost less than $50 for 30 days, although I only need it for 3 weeks.  It has unlimited data, a good credit for voice calls and gives me 4g coverage pretty much everywhere.  And it was all set up for me by a helpful woman at a kiosk in the airport.

I spent one day touring the Taroko Gorge, just north of Hualien. I got a day pass for the tour bus, drove up to the far end, hopped off, walked to a temple, walked down the road to another trail, hiked high up above the highway, back to the road, on the bus again...  Interesting terrain, although, being from BC, I'm probably less impressed than some might be.  I have to say, though, their roads go into some seemingly impossible places, with many tunnels.

I'm heading next to Taitung, just down the east coast of the Island.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Corporate Influence in BC Politics - Time to End It

News came out this past week revealing the kind of influence industry, specifically the Oil and Gas Industry, has had on government policy here in British Columbia.

The story appeared here in DeSmog Canada, based on documents released to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Apparently, the Climate Leadership Team hired by the BC Liberals made 32 official recommendations to the Liberal Government.  Not one of them was adopted by the government.  Now, we know why.

Secret, parallel. meetings with industry and corporate donors set the parameters for BC's climate action, despite Premier Christy Clark's duplicity in pointing to the recommendations of the Climate Leadership Team at the UN's Paris Climate Meetings.  Recommendations that were not adopted.  Not a single one.

This highlights the power that industry has in influencing government policy, particularly when those industries are major donors to political parties.

Fortunately, the "wild west show" here in BC is about to end.  The new GreeNDP government has introduced legislation that will end corporate and union donations as well as put a cap on individual donations.  It's well past time.