Thursday, December 22, 2005

Real Estate in Bellingham, WA: Peace Arch to Kick Out Residents

Real Estate in Bellingham, WA: Peace Arch to Kick Out Residents
Expansion of the hugely-congested Peace Arch border crossing facilities is creating some unhappy neighbors on the Blaine side. In order to double the number of lanes and generally increase the on-site facilities needed by the Homeland Security Department for properly administering inspections of incoming vehicles and persons, Uncle Sam is going to evict about a dozen homes from a neighborhood dating back to the early 20th century.

It's a very uncomfortable situation for the City of Blaine and for the affected residents, although the residents have been anxiously concerned about possible Port of Entry expansion plans for some time. Blaine's Northern Light article on the subject points out the anxiety of neighbors, who have been kept waiting since the project's announcement in 1999. The slow pace in submitting draft Environmental Impact Statements and other regulatory aspects have not helped matters.

One very serious concern facing displaced homeowners: GSA's budget assumed property acquisition costs from the year 2000, when Blaine's real estate market was in a serious deflation related to the very depressed Canadian dollar and a very weak Whatcom County economy. Blaine real estate prices have dramatically skyrocketed during the past three years as Whatcom County has been "discovered" by many Americans moving to the area from other regions of the country (i.e. retirees) and Canadian-related investing and transactions have sharply increased with the loonie's upswing from 62-65 cents US to 82-86 cents US.

Stay tuned!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Minutemen continue at Washington-BC border

The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps has continued periodic activities monitoring the border between Whatcom County, Washington and British Columbia's bordering townships of Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford.

A December 18, 2005 Bellingham Herald story describes the group's cordial and polite relations with local U.S. Border Patrol officers. There are many left-wing groups who oppose the Minuteman project, having the rather naieve view that border enforcement is unnecessary because (in so many words) people who are entering the U.S.A. illegally have a RIGHT to enter the U.S.A. illegally.

Related note: on December 15, Congressman J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) reprimanded Mexican President Vicente Fox for Fox's unlawful interference in United States policymaking regarding border security. This was in rebuttal to President Fox's smart-aleck remark that the idea of a U.S.-Mexico fence was "disgraceful and shameful".

Personally, I acknowledge some disappointment that the days of wide-open land borders between the U.S. and its land neighbours may need to end - and in the case of Mexico, their government has actively aided-and-abetted illegal entry by its citizens into the United States.

There is a legitimate national security interest in closing the U.S. land frontiers from unauthorized entry. I am glad some people in Congress are waking up to that fact - particularly as we do not know how many of the illegal border crossers are entering the U.S. for the purpose of theft, robbery, drug dealing, or terrorist activities.

Reforming Canadian democratic process

Here are some thoughts on Canadians' system of government.

1. A popularly-elected Governor General. There is no good reason why the nation's official head of state and ceremonial representative to the Monarchy should be appointed secretively and without public input. Canadians deserve nationwide elections for this post, just as many countries like Germany have elections for their largely-ceremonial President. The job should have a 3-year term of office, open to any Canadian citizen who wishes to take on the job, and a primary election should be held to "weed out" the field of candidates.

2. Residency Requirements for House of Commons and Senate candidates and office-holders. There is no good reason why candidates for MP or Senate positions should not be REQUIRED to have established bona-fide residency in the riding which they seek to represent. By standards of many other countries including the U.S., it is laughable and pathetic that political party leaders can arbitrarily "parachute" candidates into ridings where those candidates have not established residency.

3. Modified Term of Office. If I were looking at Canada's system, I think the House of Commons should be subject to national elections every three years, not every five years. This would reduce the artificial power-tripping aspect of the party-in-power electing to "call an election" as they see fit, since voters would be guaranteed another whack at holding the rascals accountable every three years. It brings more power back to the voters.

4. Elections and Term of Office for Senators. There is no good reason why a legislative appointment such as the Senate should be a lifetime job. It would make sense for Senators to run for their jobs every three years, in a year when the House of Commons is not up for election (i.e. House of Commons election in 2006 and 2009, Senate election in 2007 and 2010). There should be an OPEN primary election where the voters get to decide WHO is each party's nominee for the Senate - not the party hacks.

5. Senate "Advise and Consent" Confirmation of Appointees. The system of having an unelected head of state hire-and-fire key officials at will, with zero accountability to the public and to taxpayers, is inexcusably silly. There should be public review and confirmation of cabinet officers, ambassadors, judges, etc. by an independent Senate and by the independently-elected Governor General who would have limited veto power.

While my suggestions may sound "American", they are not intended to impose an American-style checks-and-balances system on a much smaller country. The objective is to give ordinary citizens from all walks of life a meaningful say in how their nation is governed, not just on the whim of some un-elected "prime minister" but on a consistent schedule.

South Canada vs. Rest of Canada voting patterns

In analyzing Canada's voting patterns in Federal elections, I've noticed an odd detail which has been overlooked by most other students of Canadian politics:

1. Most Canadian voters live SOUTH of the 49th parallel:

Quebec City, Quebec 46° 49' 00" N - 71° 13' 00" W
Montreal, Quebec 45° 31' 00" N - 73° 39' 00" W
Ottawa, Ontario 45° 16' 00" N - 75° 45' 00" W
Toronto, Ontario 43° 42' 00" N - 79° 25' 00" W
London, Ontario 42° 59' 00" N - 81° 14' 00" W
Hamilton, Ontario
43° 14' 00" N - 79° 57' 00" W
Windsor, Ontario
42° 18' 00" N - 83° 01' 00" W
Charlottetown, PEI
46° 14' 25" N - 63° 08' 05" W
Moncton, NB
46° 06' 57" N - 64° 48' 11" W
Halifax, NS
44° 52' 00" N - 63° 43' 00" W

Only four major Canadian population centres, east of Manitoba, are situated at or north of Seattle (47°37'35" N - 122°19'59" W). These four cities are still south of the 49th parallel:

St. John's Nfld.
47° 34' 00" N - 52° 44' 00" W
Saguenay, Quebec
48° 25' 00" N - 71° 04' 00" W
Rimouski, Quebec 48° 27' 00" N - 68° 32' 00" W
Thunder Bay, Ontario 48° 24' 00" N - 89° 19' 00" W

2. The voting patterns and historical election results from Canada's South (ridings south of the 49th parallel) may be dramatically different from those north of the 49th. Has anyone actually documented the possibility that "Southern Canadians" may be as a group much more inclined to vote left-wing than "Northern Canadians" using the simple definition of the 49th parallel?

Does anyone see some significance to the geographic isolation of "Southeast Canada" and how it may contribute to a vastly different concept of "nation" and political perspective? Not only are there 16 million Canadians living in the "Quebec City - Windsor corridor", but it appears that the majority of Canada's voters in Federal elections actually live south of Seattle - and in most cases several hundred kilometres south of their fellow countrymen in places like Edmonton, Red Deer, Saskatoon, Regina, Brandon, Prince George, and even Vancouver.