8.02.2005

simcoe day

Marnie wished me a Happy Simcoe Day. Thanks, Marnie! Of course I hadn't the slightest idea what she was talking about (though I loved the "next year in Port Credit" line.)*

I found this somewhat confusing explanation of Canadian civic holidays, and this history of Simcoe day, but explanations from wmtc readers are always so much more helpful. Hint, hint.



* On Passover, Jewish people often end the Seder (the ritual Passover meal) with the saying, "Next year in Jerusalem". One could hear that literally, as, one day we'll celebrate Passover in Israel. But I've always heard it as a symbolic expression of, one day, may we be in a place where we can be a free people.**

** Why am I so Jewish lately? Elsewhere in comments, I'm explaining Yiddishisms to David Cho. I wonder if I'm falling into that leave-New-York-and-become-more-Jewish syndrome. Hmm.

40 comments:

James said...

"I found this somewhat confusing explanation of Canadian civic holidays, and this history of Simcoe day, but explanations from wmtc readers are always so much more helpful. Hint, hint."

Yesterday was what isf commonly known as "civic holiday", or, "That holiday in August without a proper name". A while ago someone decided that the gap between Canada Day and Labour Day is too long without a statutory holiday, and plunked a generic day off at the start of August.

In Ontario, or at least parts thereof, it's called "Simcoe Day" after Sir John Graves Simcoe, founder of Toronto:

"Simcoe had to come up with a name for his new town. Consulting with the locals, he found that everyone referred to the area as 'Toronto', which means 'meeting place'. The Indians called it 'Toronto'; the traders called it 'Toronto'; you'd have to be an idiot to call it anything other than 'Toronto'. So, Simcoe named the town 'York'." -- The Royal Canadian Air Farce.

I'm told that, in the Yukon, it's "Discovery Day". Dunno why.

"** Why am I so Jewish lately? Elsewhere in comments, I'm explaining Yiddishisms to David Cho. I wonder if I'm falling into that leave-New-York-and-become-more-Jewish syndrome. Hmm."

The Montreal Anglo-Jewish comedy duo "Bowser & Blue" have a great song about Yiddishisms called "Dress British, Think Yiddish".

"Consider 'schnook'..."
"Chinook -- isn't that a hot wind out of Alberta?"
"No, that's Ralph Klein."
"What, and Ralph Klein isn't a schnook?"
- Bowser & Blue

[For those who don't know of him, Ralph Klein is the premier of Alberta. His politics run pretty much Republican, though he has pledged that Alberta will abide by the recent SSM rulings]

Marnie said...

And for those who don't know of Bowser & Blue, they're pretty darned funny.

I don't think there's much else you need to know about Simcoe Day, except perhaps the fact that hardly anyone calls it that. It's just the August 1st holiday, or the civic holiday. (Or Sheila's birthday, if you happen to know my cousin ... )

I bet you liked this part of the toronto.com article you linked:

"Simcoe developed York, granting generous tracts to American immigrants, whom he saw as the potential engine of future growth in the province."

RobfromAlberta said...

His politics run pretty much Republican

Alberta is debt-free, doesn't sound Republican to me.

Regarding the civic holiday, it is intended to celebrate local stuff. Ontario towns usually celebrate some prominent person, either the founder of the city, as in the case of Simcoe Day (as in John Graves Simcoe, founder of York, later Toronto) in TO, or some other important historical figure (i.e. Joseph Brant Day in Burlington, Alexander Mackenzie Day in Sarnia). In Alberta, it is just called Alberta Heritage Day across the province. Mainly, it's a much-appreciated long weekend in August.

James said...

"Alberta is debt-free, doesn't sound Republican to me."

That's only because they've have oil and don't have their own military. Reverse those, and things'd be different. :)

RobfromAlberta said...

We had to suffer to achieve that, I'll have you know. For one thing, Alberta universities are the second lowest in Canada in per capita funding. People in the rest of Canada think Alberta is the land of milk and honey, but our prosperity is not as great as everyone thinks it is. Sure, unemployment is low and we have no provincial sales tax, but our health and education sytems would certainly be ranked lower than in Ontario and BC. Now, Klein is talking about going back into debt by borrowing money to improve our infrastructure which was also much neglected in recent years.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree, Alberta is only debt free because of huge oil wealth... a blind monkey would have been just as successfull, wait a sec...

Of course if we were charging more then 1-1.5% royalty on our oilsands we would have a whole lot more money and wouldn't be paying health care premiums. Especially since industry standard is around 10% (Norway charges over 20% for their oil sands). Sounds pretty republican to me.

Anonymous said...

Me again, got to remember to put my name ;)

Peter

RobfromAlberta said...

Oh I agree too, Alberta is debt-free because of oil, but anyone who thinks Ralph Klein is Republican or even conservative, has got it wrong. He's a populist, he points whichever way the wind blows.

I agree with Alberta's oil policy. The less money the government takes from private industry, the better. The oil sands are very difficult to exploit. Companies need a decent profit margin to justify the risks of investment. If Alberta took 10% royalties from oil sand production, there wouldn't be any oil sand production.

L-girl said...

I am just reading this discussion and not qualified to comment, but I did like this:

Alberta is debt-free, doesn't sound Republican to me.

RobfromAlberta said...

The best thing about the Democrats under Clinton was the fiscal responsibility. It will take a long time for the US economy to recover from the spend-crazy Bush Republicans.

Another thought comes to mind from this discussion. Everyone seems to envy Alberta's oil wealth, but make no mention of the hydro power assets of BC and Quebec or the manufacturing sector in Ontario. It seems as though Alberta should somehow be ashamed of its prosperity and other provinces are free to enjoy their own without criticism.

L-girl said...

It seems as though Alberta should somehow be ashamed of its prosperity and other provinces are free to enjoy their own without criticism.

So tell me why should Alberta be criticized for its wealth? All perspectives welcome.

RobfromAlberta said...

So tell me why should Alberta be criticized for its wealth?

I see two factors, one related to oil and the other related to politics. Liberals view oil as inherently evil. They still burn it just like us conservatives, but they grumble about it. They see the numbers roll on the gas pump and they get visions of fatcat Texans and Arab sheiks rolling around in their hard-earned dough. They don't have the same visceral response to the government bureaucrats and utility board executives getting just as fat off their hydro payments.

Secondly, it's Alberta we're talking about here. The Canadian bible belt, the rednecks, the rightwingers, those people are just not real Canadians. They don't vote the right way (which is the left way). They should be happy to contribute to the Soviet Socialist Republic of Canuckistan, but instead they sympathize with the Great Satan. It's just not right....err, I mean left.

L-girl said...

Well, that's one perspective. I imagine a few others will be coming along soon. :)

Soviet Canuckistan? Rob, I'm surprised at you.

RobfromAlberta said...

Soviet Canuckistan? Rob, I'm surprised at you.

Meant to be irony, you know, cuz I'm one o' them NASCAR-luvin', FOXNews-watchin', pickup-truck-drivin' Alberta rednecks. Yeeeehaw!!

I guess it didn't come through.

Lone Primate said...

I agree with Alberta's oil policy. The less money the government takes from private industry, the better...

Yeah, I mean, it's obvious that if Alberta charged 10 or 20%, the oil companies would just pick up and move... :D

Lone Primate said...

Everyone seems to envy Alberta's oil wealth... It seems as though Alberta should somehow be ashamed of its prosperity and other provinces are free to enjoy their own without criticism.

Wait, wait... did you say Alberta? 'Cause I kept hearing "Ontario".

Lone Primate said...

So tell me why should Alberta be criticized for its wealth? All perspectives welcome.

RobfromAlberta said...
...Liberals view oil as inherently evil. They still burn it just like us conservatives, but they grumble about it.


That's one possible, if rather threadbare, explanation. I think the real reason is that most of us who enjoy some degree of economic success in Canada did it by hustling, and frankly, Alberta didn't. Doesn't. Ontario, for instance, spent the early years of the 20th century building massive and expensive hydroelectric projects, provincially owned and operated to provide power at cost. Why? To attract heavy industry. Now Ontario is hardly the only place in North America with rivers and lakes and waterfalls. But this was the strategy, and it worked. Primary industry moved here, attracted secondary and tertiary industry, attracted immigration, drew head offices, helped establish and consolidate the Canadian banking system, and led to volumes of trade that finally justified the St. Lawrence Seaway... And yet people out west give out that everything just came Ontario's way, and people down east suggest something was stolen from them, as though Ontario made a deal with the devil instead of with the (so-called) Protestant work ethic. It's a little galling coming from a place that makes its fortune by sticking big straws in the ground and sucking, filling up drums with something that already exists, as though that were clever, or took planning or forethought, or as if it required going abroad to attract the likes of Exxon or Shell the way others have to compete for the favours of Toyota or SPAR. Oil's where you find it. But if you want tertiary industry, you have to be able to prove you've got the chops, and if you falter, they'll pull up stakes. That's the difference between wealth from serendippity and wealth from sweat equity.

Fine, Alberta is due its wealth. But no more so than the rest of the country. And in the jealousy department, it's nice to have some company.

James said...

"Everyone seems to envy Alberta's oil wealth, but make no mention of the hydro power assets of BC and Quebec or the manufacturing sector in Ontario. It seems as though Alberta should somehow be ashamed of its prosperity and other provinces are free to enjoy their own without criticism."

I don't have any problem with Alberta's oil wealth, any more than I do with Norway's. I'm just pointing out that it's easier to be debt-free if you've got it. :)

L-girl said...

Meant to be irony,

I kinda knew that, but wasn't completely sure. :)

I'm just pointing out that it's easier to be debt-free if you've got it.

This makes sense.

RobfromAlberta said...

Yeah, I mean, it's obvious that if Alberta charged 10 or 20%, the oil companies would just pick up and move... :D

A little primer about the economics of oil may be in order. When you hear on the news, a quote of oil being $60 a barrel, they are referring to one of several types of oil, such West Texas crude, Light Sweet crude or Brent crude. All of these types of oil have one thing in common, they are all derived from conventional sources. That means, as loneprimate so eloquently stated, you stick a straw in the ground and suck it out. Alberta has some of that kind of oil, but not much. Most of Alberta's remaining oil reserves come from the Athabasca Tar Sands. Some of it is fairly accessible because it is close to the surface and can be stripmined, but most of it is too deep for that approach. The problem is, tar sands oil is not light sweet crude, it's called bitumen oil and it's very viscous. It does not sell for $60 a barrel (less than $20, in fact) because it requires a lot more processing to be useful. Now, on top of that, because bitumen oil is so thick, it can't simply be pumped like normal oil. A process, developed in Alberta, called steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) is used to extract the bitumen. SAGD uses a lot of energy because it requires the production of huge amounts of steam. The upshot of all this is that the economics of Athabasca Tar Sands oil production are much more marginal than Persian Gulf or North Sea production. This is why the Alberta government reduced its royalty margin, to attract more investment. It wouldn't take much in the way of added taxation to make the tar sands unprofitable and once it becomes unprofitable, yes, the oil companies will leave. They are not in the business of losing money.

Anonymous said...

Rob, the one problem with this is that now the oil companies are making huge amounts from this oil... that and the fact that we are approaching peak oil. The oil companies will want it, as long as reasonable royalties are set. If Norway can have 20% royalties and still be able to sell it then we should be able to get away with around 10%.

I agree that in order to get companies to invest in the sector and to start the process up a low rate was needed. With the price of oil tripling in the last 3 years we can afford to charge more. I like how Shell was screaming bloody murder about how increasing the royalty to 5% on a new development would put them under. The next week they announce their best quarter ever. Don't believe everything the oil sector says.

Peter

RobfromAlberta said...

Companies don't like seeing the goalposts moved. They insist on annoying things like contracts. Besides, you talk as though royalties are the only benefits we get from oil. Don't forget all the jobs the industry creates and all the tax dollars paid by all those employed people. Personally, I'd rather see healthy profits and lots of jobs than carving our pound of flesh out of oil company profits only to have to redirect that revenue to welfare and unemployment.

Anonymous said...

Rob, I am not saying we should increase the rate for current contracts, far from it! But when companies want to expand operations and startup new project I think we need to charge more.

Alberta currently doesn't need to worry about employement, and I don't think a small increase in the price oil companies pay to exploit our natural resources is going to have them leave. There is a finite amount of oil in the world. Perhaps more importantly there is a finite amount of oil production in the world. They aren't going to walk away, if that was the case then Norway wouldn't be doing any production.

I would much rather see more money going into welfare and social programs instead of going into the pockets of the large mostly US owned oil companies.

Peter

Lone Primate said...

The oil companies will want it, as long as reasonable royalties are set. If Norway can have 20% royalties and still be able to sell it then we should be able to get away with around 10%.

Which brings us to an economic primer for Rob. That 10%, 20%, 1.78325%, whatever, is relative. It's not absolute. It's a share of the profit, whatever the profit is (in other words, 10% of X never amounts to 100% of X, no matter how small X is). So if it's 50 cents, then the 10% is 5 cents. The company still keeps the lion's share. So regardless of how hard it is to separate oil from sand, the minute it tips into profitability, somebody's going to do it. And if 90% of the profit isn't enough for them, it will be for someone else.

Companies don't like seeing the goalposts moved.

They like not making money even less. 80, 90% of the profits is still 80 or 90% of the profits. If they can't have 98.5% anymore, 80% still beats 0% every time. Canada in general and Alberta in particular are allowing these companies to make a good living off the land; something that belongs to all of us. They're not doing us a favour; they're doing what they do to get rich. There's no reason on Earth that the country should not benefit, both directly through taxation and indirectly through jobs, from this industry, or any other. Oil's not an industry like manufacturing; it's a captive market. There's only so much of it, and it is where it is. Oil companies can't pull up stakes in Alberta and go to, say, Manitoba instead. If the oil's there, and going after it puts even a dime on the bottom line, then they'll be there.

RobfromAlberta said...

Oil companies can't pull up stakes in Alberta and go to, say, Manitoba instead.

Of course not, but they do a cost benefit analysis. You don't find oil everywhere you look. Some holes are dry, so your profit margin has to account for the money that went into unproductive exploration. In other words, it is the total profit margin, not the percentage that matters. If the profit margin is not good enough, some of the more risky projects won't proceed and at this stage in the development of the tar sands, all new projects carry significant risk. There is no easy oil left in Alberta (or the world, for that matter).

Lone Primate said...

There is no easy oil left in Alberta (or the world, for that matter).

All that means is we're going to pay more for it, not that they won't got after it. Well, when they do, I see no reason not to get a decent share back.

RobfromAlberta said...

All that means is we're going to pay more for it

No, it doesn't. Last time I filled up, I don't recall a choice at the pumps based on the source of the oil. If Alberta oil is more expensive than Saudi oil, Alberta oil won't be competitive and Alberta oil projects won't get funded. Now, you might argue that even if Alberta oil is unprofitable now, it will be in 10 or 20 years as oil stocks dwindle and the price goes up and you may be right. On the other hand, some new energy technology might be developed in the meantime that will greater reduce demand for oil.

Lone Primate said...

If Alberta oil is more expensive than Saudi oil, Alberta oil won't be competitive and Alberta oil projects won't get funded.

Profit's profit. It's not like any oil company turned any down because it wasn't as big as something else. A billion dollars is still pretty sweet, even it ain't five billion. What it means is that "cheap" oil will subsidize "expensive" oil -- as it already does -- in an overall increase in price (sound familiar lately?). Again, I don't see why we shouldn't get a bigger share of that.

RobfromAlberta said...

It just doesn't work like that. The Alberta government reduced its royalty demands for a reason, to attract investment. Governments don't reduce revenue streams if there is no benefit in doing so. If they thought they could get an extra billion a year out of the oil companies without losing any jobs, they would.

Besides, we're talking about Alberta's policy here. Ottawa still gets its cut, so what difference does it make to the rest of Canada if Alberta chooses to forgo some revenue?

Lone Primate said...

Governments don't reduce revenue streams if there is no benefit in doing so.

They do if they're thinking with their dogmas instead of their brains, Rob (casts glance southward...). And I'm sorry, it does work like that. Oil's a peak demand quantity, and it can't be manufactured wherever economic conditions are favourable; if it could, there'd be no such thing as OPEC, the stuff would still be $3 a barrel, and no one in Washington would give a good goddamn what happened in the Middle East. Now if Alberta's worried about having to borrow, the obvious answer is to raise the rates. The oil's THERE. The investors will show up, drawn to it like flies to honey. It's as simple as that.

RobfromAlberta said...

The investors will show up, drawn to it like flies to honey. It's as simple as that.

You will be hard-pressed to convince any longtime Albertan of that. They saw the flight of capital when Trudeau brought in the NEP. They know what happens to those oilpatch jobs when governments get greedy. It's a non-starter.

Lone Primate said...

They know what happens to those oilpatch jobs when governments get greedy. It's a non-starter.

Oh, it's the governments who are "greedy" if they want 10% of something that belongs to us anyway; not the companies who want to suck the land dry like a swarm of mosquitos and give as little back as possible, and then fly away as soon as the blood's all gone; not them, no.

Well, fine. If they don't want the pie unless they can have it all, I'm all for nationalizing the resource anyway. Treat energy like health -- a right managed by government on behalf of the people, and not run for the profit of a few. Something shepherded by someone with deep enough pockets, and not motivated by squeezing a new yacht every year out of middle class workers, might just get that oil flowing.

Maybe a 90% cut doesn't sound so bad after all when you put it that way.

RobfromAlberta said...

I'm all for nationalizing the resource anyway.

Oil is not like air. It stays in the ground unless someone with deep pockets spends the money to get it. The government has already decided it can't do that job. That's why it sold off Petro-Canada. Besides, bring in NEP 2 and Alberta is gone, believe it.

Anonymous said...

With the oil companies making record profits i don't think hiking on an extra 9% royalty is going to kill them... Sure they will bitch and moan about how it is going to kill them but they will still go after the oil because the world cannot have a drop in production right now. The world is now consuming oil at the rate of supply, that is why the price of oil has gone up so much. The only problem is that demand is increasing and supply is staying flat. Why would you cut production in that environment.

The second point is most of the oil from the oil sands is not used to produce gas for cars and machinery, it is used to make plastics and heavy fuel oil. As the availability of sweet crude drops because it is being used for gas or other light compounds the demand and price for the oil sands oil will increase.

Lone Primate said...

The government has already decided it can't do that job. That's why it sold off Petro-Canada.

No, Rob, that's not what happened. The Mulroney government decided it didn't want the job, and had a fire sale for its friends. There's a difference.

Besides, bring in NEP 2 and Alberta is gone, believe it.

Rubbish. As long as the money's coming in -- especially if it's coming in to provide jobs recoving oil financially "too risky" for the private sector -- they'll lap up the cream just like anyone else.

RobfromAlberta said...

especially if it's coming in to provide jobs

Except NEP 1 didn't create jobs, it eliminated them, by the thousands in fact. History is on my side in this argument.

Lone Primate said...

Except NEP 1 didn't create jobs, it eliminated them, by the thousands in fact. History is on my side in this argument.

Well, no question apocryphal Calgary beerhall history's on your side on this one, but not the facts, I'm afraid.

The NEP was established in 1980 with two goals in mind. One was securing Canadian oil for Canadian needs. The other was ameriorating the effect of price spikes and troughs on the enegry sector and the industries who depend upon it for planning and pricing -- not to mention Canadians who need to budget for the cost of not "freezing in the dark", to coin a rather malicious phrase. Since the latter represented a much, much larger portion of the Canadian economy than the oil patch, periodic downturns in employment in the oil patch, under this plan, would be more than offset by the jobs preserved in other sectors, which alone benefitted Canada as a whole. This was without even taking into account the price guarantees that would kick in when oil dropped below a certain threshold that stood to, and actually did, preserve jobs in the oil patch in the early 1980s. But all far too many Albertans saw was interference in "their" little pond by people who were, in fact, their fellow citizens, with every bit as much right to, and stake in, the oil there in what is, after all, part of our country, as much ours as theirs.

In 1980, oil had a nominal world price of $35.53 US a barrel. In 2004 dollar equivalents, that's $78.02, far higher than the price today. Is it any wonder the oil patch was booming? But quite obviously, that spike was artificial and bound to collapse; which it did. By 1985, the price had fallen back to $26.53, which in 2004 dollars was $46.00 -- within pennies of the 2004-dollar denominated price oil had in 1975. Natural cycles of boom and bust inflated and then collapsed jobs in Alberta's oil patch. The National Energy Program, in fact, renegotiated in 1983, kept the cost of Canadian crude artificially high in Canada. Energy-consuming industries, primarily in eastern Canada, paid the price during these years, not oilmen in Alberta. And yet, the perenniel sob story that comes in with each and every chinook.

People interested in some of the sentiments of the country, including some from some Albertans who can see past their own fences, can be reviewed here.

RobfromAlberta said...

periodic downturns in employment in the oil patch, under this plan, would be more than offset by the jobs preserved in other sectors

Your argument, which you've made before, is that it's alright for Albertans to lose their jobs if Ontarions get more jobs to balance it out. You wonder why Albertans feel Ottawa does not have their best interests at heart.

Lone Primate said...

Your argument, which you've made before, is that it's alright for Albertans to lose their jobs if Ontarions get more jobs to balance it out. You wonder why Albertans feel Ottawa does not have their best interests at heart.

Their best interests are surviving well as Albertans while the rest of Canada suffers, and needlessly? I guess we know where THEIR hearts are too.

It's time they realized the difference between being an "Albertan" and a "Saskatchewanian" is nothing more than which side of an invisible, arbitrarily-drawn line you happen to be standing on. Ontario takes it in the neck to the tune of $26B a year to benefit the country as a whole, but we aren't sitting around talking about how Canada's out to do us in. And yet we still get to hear the Self-Pity Solo played on Alberta's fiddle constantly.

RobfromAlberta said...

Ontario takes it in the neck to the tune of $26B a year to benefit the country as a whole, but we aren't sitting around talking about how Canada's out to do us in.

Really?

http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2005/02/11/mcguinty-equalization050211.html

And remember, you are Canada. You decide everything. You play the fiddle, the rest of us just dance to your tune.