Archive for the ‘canada’ Tag

Everything You Need to Know about Government, in One Story | Daniel J. Mitchell   Leave a comment

Every so often, I run across a chart, cartoon, or story that captures the essence of an issue. And when that happens, I make it part of my “everything you need to know” series.



Source: Everything You Need to Know about Government, in One Story | Daniel J. Mitchell

I don’t actually think those columns tell us everything we need to know, of course, but they do show something very important. At least I hope.

And now, from our (normally) semi-rational northern neighbor, I have a new example.

This story from Toronto truly is a powerful example of the difference between government action and private action.

A Toronto man who spent $550 building a set of stairs in his community park says he has no regrets, despite the city’s insistence that he should have waited for a $65,000 city project to handle the problem. 
Retired mechanic Adi Astl says he took it upon himself to build the stairs after several neighbours fell down the steep path to a community garden in Tom Riley Park, in Etobicoke, Ont. Astl says his neighbours chipped in on the project, which only ended up costing $550 – a far cry from the $65,000-$150,000 price tag the city had estimated for the job. …Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours. …Astl says members of his gardening group have been thanking him for taking care of the project, especially after one of them broke her wrist falling down the slope last year.

There are actually two profound lessons to learn from this story.

Since I’m a fiscal wonk, the part that grabbed my attention was the $550 cost of private action compared to $65,000 for government. Or maybe $150,000. Heck, probably more considering government cost overruns.

Though we’re not actually talking about government action. God only knows how long it would have taken the bureaucracy to complete this task. So this is a story of inexpensive private action vs. costly government inaction.

But there’s another part of this story that also caught my eye. The bureaucracy is responding with spite.

The city is now threatening to tear down the stairs because they were not built to regulation standards…City bylaw officers have taped off the stairs while officials make a decision on what to do with it. …Mayor John Tory…says that still doesn’t justify allowing private citizens to bypass city bylaws to build public structures themselves. …“We just can’t have people decide to go out to Home Depot and build a staircase in a park because that’s what they would like to have.”

But there is a silver lining. With infinite mercy, the government isn’t going to throw Mr. Astl in jail or make him pay a fine. At least not yet.

Astl has not been charged with any sort of violation.

Gee, how nice and thoughtful.

One woman has drawn the appropriate conclusion from this episode.

Area resident Dana Beamon told CTV Toronto she’s happy to have the stairs there, whether or not they are up to city standards. “We have far too much bureaucracy,” she said. “We don’t have enough self-initiative in our city, so I’m impressed.”

Which is the lesson I think everybody should take away. Private initiative works much faster and much cheaper than government.

P.S. Let’s also call this an example of super-federalism, or super-decentralization. Imagine how expensive it would have been for the national government in Ottawa to build the stairs? Or how long it would have taken? Probably millions of dollars and a couple of years.

Now imagine how costly and time-consuming it would have been if the Ontario provincial government was in charge? Perhaps not as bad, but still very expensive and time-consuming.

And we already know the cost (and inaction) of the city government. Reminds me of the $1 million bus stop in Arlington, VA.

But when actual users of the park take responsibility (both in terms of action and money), the stairs were built quickly and efficiently.

In other words, let’s have decentralization. But the most radical federalism is when private action replaces government.

 Reprinted from International Liberty

Editors Note: Since this article was originally published, the local government tore down Astl’s $500 stairs, citing “safety standards,” and plans to replace it with a $10,000 set.

Interview with Scott Butcher   Leave a comment

Displaying IMG_0361.JPGToday, I am interviewing Scott Butcher, author of An Eagle’s Heart and the Stillwart Chronicles. Scott and I know each other from Authonomy and we are beta readers for each other. Lela #iamwriting
Tell us something about yourself.
I grew up in both Australia and Canada. My Dad worked for oil exploration companies, so we moved around a lot. I briefly worked in oil too, so I guess I was a third generation oil explorer as my Grandfather had worked for Anglo-American oil before us. With my children we’ve been four generations of wanderers. I don’t work in oil any more, I took an Applied Physics Degree (and actually worked for the good part of the force for a while – at a solar cell company) and then a PhD. I’ve been a scientist/engineer for many years now, and run my own company from Canada. I’ve written close to a hundred scientific papers, but I find I need the release of writing from my imagination to balance myself (for sanities sake).
The Stillwart Chronicles are actually a reflection of the early parts of my life split between Canada and Australia. I was born an Australian, but my parents are Canadian, and having spent many years there, I was sort of caught between the two places, not really Australian, and not really Canadian, it’s sort of the same as the snipey little pixie, Stillwart, in the Fairly Stillwart Chronicles: she lives among fairies, but she’s not a fairy. It’s the type of story I would have made up for my daughters when they were younger.
What was the first thing you ever wrote and why?
Ohh, I’m too old to remember that. I loved reading as a kid, that I do remember. I had a powerful imagination (I guess I still do). I remember I was writing in my late teens, and wanted to grow up and be an author. Hey, I guess I did it! Hi-five. I look at what I wrote back then, and some of it wasn’t bad, but it took me many years to find the discipline and to learn the skills I needed to write a complete book. Oh. Fantasy, there has always been aspects of fantasy in my writing. After all, I write to escape, so why not escape to something imaginary.
Displaying An Eagle's Heart ad 2.jpgWhat is the most important thing(s) in your life?
Wife and kids of course. Family, friends. However, for my own well being, I find that I have to keep myself busy. I can’t sit quietly, I need to do something, so writing comes from that.
I’ve read An Eagle’s Heart and was fascinated by how you drew me into the mind of a raptor. I live in Alaska where bald eagles can be seen relatively easily and I now view them differently because of the influence of your book. It was a fascinating idea. How did it come to you? How do you put yourself into the mind of a bird?
Displaying anEaglesHeart_coverv2.jpgI live around the Thunder Bay region right now, that’s just a little north of Duluth on the shore of Lake Superior, where ‘An Eagle’s Heart’ is set. When I first came here we lived in the town, and I was disappointed by the lack of birdlife compared to what we’d had in Australia. All we seemed to see were crows and seagulls. Then we moved out to the edge of town, where there were deer, lynx, bobcat, bear, moose…and lots and lots of different birds. Bald eagles flew past our front window every couple of days. Beautiful creatures. When I’d left North America in 1980, they were endangered, there had only been a couple hundred mating pairs of bald eagle left in the US outside of Alaska. They’ve come back extremely well since then. It’s good to see.
Anyway, living outside of town, I realised that the lack of cover in the city had meant that the smaller birds were falling prey to the seagulls and the crows in the town. Out on the edge of the city, where it was greener, with more trees and brush, there was plenty of cover and a huge variety of birdlife was thriving. Being a scientist, I study the things I enjoy, and birds are no exception, plus, having an imagination, I put myself into the minds of my characters. So there you have it, research and imagination, that’s what brings the characters to life in ‘An Eagle’s Heart’.
Displaying FSC_Bk3_BookCoverSM.jpgTell me about the Stillwart Chronicles.
They’re the story of a lone pixie, Stillwart, for many years the only pixie in the Great Southland. She was raised by the old retired Queen of the Great Southland fairy, Fiona. Stillwart  is ugly, practical and fearless, not glittery and golden, like the fairies around her. She grows up to find her place amongst the fairies, but she remains who she is – Stillwart. That’s the story of the first chronicle, but in the later chronicles Stillwart is called upon to make a perilous journey to help rescue her own people in the northern pixie realm of Ireland. She’s waylayed in Canada, and has many adventures there. The first three Stillwart Chronicles are available now, but another two Stillwart Chronicles and ‘The Hidden Chronicle’ have been completed to finish the series. They’re with the publisher, Morning Rain Publishing, so will hopefully be available in the not too distant future.
Tell me a little something about your publication experience. You are published through Morning Rain Publications, in Canada. How did you find them?
They found me. I didn’t know too much about publishing, I only knew that I’d finished a book (An Eagle’s Heart) and didn’t know what to do with it. So I put it up on an author’s website to get some feedback. That helped me polish and improve it. Some of the people on the website began the small publishing company Morning Rain to publish books by Canadians, or at least books with some Canadian content. Well, I can only claim to be partly Canadian but An Eagle’s Heart, is the sort of frontier book that appeals in North America, so they asked if they could publish it. I had already decided that I should start trying to get it published by a Canadian publisher (being set in Canada and all) so the timing was right and I thought, yep that’s good enough for me. I think it was the right choice.
Displaying FSC_concept1sm.jpgWhat does the future hold? Do you plan to publish more books in the Chronicles or do you have other projects in the works.
Well, three more Chronicles (including the Hidden Chronicle) are already written and these complete the Stillwart series. In the Hidden Chronicle a pair of magical sisters are introduced and eventually I’ll write the ‘Magic Sisters’ series based on them. I’ve also started writing a sequel to ‘An Eagle’s Heart’ though I’ve currently distracted myself by returning to an older project ‘The Dreams of Áine’s Blood’, which is a much darker book, an urban fantasy meant for an older audience. It’s the story of the last Queen of Faerie, and her battle against a foe  who can be killed, but is reborn with the memories of his previous lives. He seeks the destruction of all Áine’s people for the ills committed against him in past lives. His passions are eternal and Áine must stand against him to protect her descendants, who are the last line of faery blood left to the world.
The Dreams of Áine’s Blood is based on Celtic legends, I’ve spent quite a few years researching aspects of this, so again, research and imagnination at work.
Where can readers find your books?  (Author pic, links, book covers, etc., are all useful).
Best to go to the Morning Rain Publishing website at but the books are also available on Kobo and Amazon. e-copies are easily obtained, but the first printing has only just occurred, and the distribution of those is still being determined (though I’m sure if you emailed the ladies at Morning Rain they would help you). I’ve also temporarily posted the 4th Stillwart Chronicle on Wattpad for free viewing, see so anyone who is interested can sample a free taste of one of the Chronicles and see what they’re like (just did that in the last couple of days). Of course I’m on facebook at and have a website at

A Truly Terrible Idea for Liberty   Leave a comment

A merger of the U.S. and Canada would create an economic superpower with the world’s greatest resource base – Issues & Ideas –

This article is very well-thought-out and it says some great things, but it fails to take into account the reality. The United States is already too big and the only way our government can manage us is by increasing oppression of individual liberty. I might favor more relaxed markets between the two countries and, for obvious reasons, a more relaxed border crossing, but it is absolutely the worst possible idea that we should become one country.

Instead, maybe Canada’s provinces should join the US states in a discussion of forming a federation that eliminates or at least substantially downsizes the centralized governments to a representative body controlled by the constituent states?

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