2017 archive

Jan. 3, 2018

To quote Kermit The Frog, 'it's not easy being green'

Posted by Merv Unger

1217 - This comes from a Vancouver Island resident, and regardless of your politics, it makes a good read. Don’t throw a tantrum, just read it for information purposes.

“As a joke, my Chevy dealer gave me a Volt as a loaner while my full-size pick-up was getting attention. He thought it was funny to give his energy company CEO this thing here on Vancouver Island! I live 30 kms outside of Victoria, near Sidney. 

 The battery was dead - later he admitted they almost never charge it. While the car was okay on gasoline, It was pretty anemic. So for the extra money, even taking into account Chev rebates and provincial incentives, you get an under-powered, heavy car that felt too small for its actual size (battery has to go somewhere).

 Now the kicker: I was talking to a neighbor, a BC Hydro executive. I asked him how that renewable thing was doing. He laughed, then got serious. If you really intend to adopt electric vehicles, he pointed out, you had to face certain realities. For example, a home charging system for a Tesla requires 75 amp service. The average house is equipped with 100 amp service. On our small street (approximately 25 homes), the electrical infrastructure would be unable to carry more than three houses with a single Tesla, each. For even half the homes to have electric vehicles, the system would be wildly over-loaded.

 This is the elephant in the room with electric vehicles. Our residential infrastructure cannot bear the load. So as our genius elected officials ram this nonsense down our collective throats, not only are we being forced to buy the damn things and replace our reliable, cheap generating systems with expensive, new windmills and solar cells, but we will also have to renovate our entire delivery system! This latter "investment" will not be revealed until we're so far down this dead end road that it will be presented with an oops and a shrug.

 If you want to argue with a green person over cars that are eco-friendly, just read the below: Note: However, if you ARE the green person, read it anyway. Enlightening.

 Eric test drove the Chevy Volt at the invitation of General Motors and he writes: “For four days in a row, the fully-charged battery lasted only 25 miles before the Volt switched to the reserve gasoline engine. Eric calculated the car got 30 mpg including the 25 miles it ran on the battery. So, the range including the 9 gallon gas tank and the 16 kwh battery is approximately 270 miles.

 It will take you 4 1/2 hours to drive 270 miles at 60 mph. Then add 10 hours to charge the battery and you have a total trip time of 14.5 hours. In a typical road trip your average speed (including charging time) would be 20 mph.

 According to General Motors, the Volt battery holds 16 kwh of electricity. It takes a full 10 hours to charge a drained battery. The cost for the electricity to charge the Volt is never mentioned so I looked up what I pay for electricity. I pay approximately (it varies with amount used and the seasons) $1.16 per kwh. 16 kwh x $1.16 per kwh = $18.56 to charge the battery. $18.56 per charge divided by 25 miles = $0.74 per mile to operate the Volt using the battery. Compare this to a similar size car with a gasoline engine that gets only 32 mpg. $3.19 per gallon divided by 32 mpg = $0.10 per mile.

 The gasoline powered car costs about $15,000 while the Volt costs $46,000. So the government wants proud and loyal Canadians not to do the math, but simply pay three times as much for a car that costs more than seven times as much to run, and takes three times longer to drive across the country.

Dec. 30, 2017

A Christmas with a difference – and it seems all right

By Merv Unger

1229 - We spent Christmas in the U.S. southland. Christmas is Christmas, but there are interesting and curious differences in cultures.

This was not our first Christmas to see our family in West Virginia, but the stark differences seem to stand out more.

For instance, Christmas dinner is comprised of lasagna as the main course. The turkey has already been gobbled at U.S. Thanksgiving just a few weeks earlier. Christmas Eve dinner included fried oysters as an important family tradition.

The Christmas Eve service was at a church that seats 2,000 and it was more or less full to the brim for four services. It was interesting to note the police cars and officers directing traffic. Everything went smooth as silk.

In the U.S. where attacks on churches and other large gatherings are becoming too common, that risk can pop into your mind.

Our son informed us that this church sends members of the congregation through firearms training courses. They are then scattered throughout the audience, packing heat, to be ready for any attack by a loony toons or a terrorist.

My cousin is a pastor in Texas – he has a gun stashed in his pulpit, and congregants also pack guns in church.

My son’s Christmas gift from his in-laws was a gun, for the second Christmas in a row. But fear not, both are antiques, handed down in the family for almost a century. I doubt if they could be fired without some serious modification. His Christmas gift from his wife, a membership in a new shooting range near their home.

She might also join the club, but first she wants a new Mercedes convertible.

Hand guns are viewed no different than any other tool or implement that is in every household. West Virginia is a great area for hunters – deer, wild turkeys, and more, so you can't tell them to give up their hunting dogs and weapons.

Different? Absolutely. But somehow under their circumstances it did not really feel all that foreign, it didn't seem all that abnormal. It's the second amendment in their constitution, to proctect them from their own government. 

Think about that one for a moment.


Dec. 19, 2017

Favourites starting to show in Liberal leadership race

By Merv Unger

1119 - As an old ink-stained wretch (retired journalist), I asked numerous people in the audience at the B.C. Liberal leadership debate in Nanaimo "whom would you write off your list, having heard all the candidates?"

The verdict was unanimous. All but one of the supporters I talked to said Dianne Watts is out of touch, not having a grasp of issues. When confronted with a "gotcha" question by one of the candiates she flubbed it miserably by trying to muddle her way through. If you don't know forestry in front of a Vancouver Island audience it will quickly show. Old rule of politics, if you don't know the answer, don't try to fake it. She looked uncomfortable in her surroundings.

The consensus appeared to be Mike de Jong, Todd Stone and Andrew Wilkinson  setting the pace at this stage of the race. If Sunday's event was any indication, it may be a three-way race to the finish.

De Jong’s 24 years experience in the Legislature, with numerous cabinet portfolios, show through. He is knowlegeable on any topic, his campaign appears to be “steady as she goes.”

Stone showed a vibrance you expect from a political leader, and he handled himself well when challenged by the other candidates. He had a number of issues to answer for from his days as transportation minister – ICBC, infrastructure, etc. – but appeared to come out unscathed.

Wilkinson comes as a breath of fresh air. He brought the candidates – and Liberals – back to reality when he challenged them how all their promises would be paid for. Politicans are so quick with promises they often forget that the bill arrives at the end of the month.

Mike Lee and Sam Sullivan both tried to appeal to a new audience – youth – in their presentations – technology and the internet generation. They may not be ahead of their time, it might be just the others have not caught up to the reality of that generation. It's there, the challenge is getting them involved.

Each candidate’s supporters are elated that their candidate is in the lead, as they see it. A word of caution, it’s a long stretch drive between now and February. 

To comment, please go to the bottom of this page.

Dec. 16, 2017

Tracing your roots can lead to surprising revelations

By Merv Unger

1129 - Decades ago there was a country song entitled “I’m My Own Grandpa.”

I have been pursuing my ancestry for a number of years and just got access to a great online genealogy database of Mennonite ancestry, tracing families back to the 1500s in the Dutch Empire.

I have only just begun but already I’m convinced you may come up with some suprises, more than you might want to know – like I'm my own grandpa.

Up to my generation, Mennonites pretty well stayed on their own, not engaging other races, cultures or nationalities, based on a maintaining strict religious standards. Inter-marriage with outsiders was not the norm, but that has gone by the wayside and our greater family now boasts Chinese, Latinos, Africans and others.

The database allows me to input any name and trace how I am related to that person. Is that a revelation!

For Instance, Homer Simpson (creator Matt Groening) is my fifth cousin. Matt’s father’s name was really Homer and his grandfather was Abe. He has sisters Lisa and Maggie, and his mother’s name was Marge. Those names have all be transposed in The Simpsons, except Matt substituted Bart for himself.

I found my fifth cousin Henry John Deutchendorf, better known as the late John Denver. Too bad he didn’t pass on the musical genes. He is also my wife Marge’s fifth cousin.

Then along came Shannon Tweed Simmons, wife of KISS lead singer Gene Simmons. Not only is she a cousin, but her lineage shows up in no less than four lines of our family. 

Marge and I have a similar lineage, going back multiple generations, which is not surprising considering how Mennonites stayed within their own culture over the generations.

Who knows what else is buried in those roots? I'm still digging.

Mennonite history goes from it birth in Holland to Prussia (now Poland), to Russia (now Ukraine), and finally to Manitoba in 1873 in areas labelled the East Reserve and the West Reserve on either side of the Red River.

So grounded in Manitoba were the earlier generations that there is now a website http://www.Mennotoba.com.

To comment, please email news@nanaimonet.com

Dec. 6, 2017

By Merv Unger

171017 - The city's move to tighten up the question period process at counci meetings is the best news in a long time.

It has been a long time since that section of the council agenda has really been about asking questions. In most instances, the questioners already know the answers, they are simply grandstanding for the television cameras.

On many occasions – on most occasions – question period has been used as a podium for citizens making speeches rather than asking questions. A number of those have been using the question period as a launching pad for the next election, getting free television exposure.

In most instances, people with legitimate questions can get the answers from city staff before council meetings. Question period could be moved to Commitee of the Whole. The only difference would be that questioners could not be TV stars.

That's what I think – what do you think? e-mail Merv.unger@nanaimonet.com

Our health care planning is seriously ill

By Merv Unger

0925 - When you monitor the news as closely as I do you run into many stories often hidden within stories.

A case in point was the report on the weekend that 210 Canadians remain virtually trapped in the wake of Hurricane Maria, in Puerto Rico and surrounding islands. The Dominica airport is shut down, and port facilities can’t handle ships that could effect the rescue.

One thing stood out in the report – among 196 Canadians stranded on Dominica are 148 Canadian students at Ross University School of Medicine. Why would we have that many of our citizens in an offshore medical school?

Having had a family member graduate from Ross University a number of years ago I am totally familiar with this situation, and it doesn’t seem to have changed in the last decade. The question arises, how many of those 148 students at Ross University will even consider coming back to Canada?

We are living in a province, as are people in other provinces, who cannot find a family doctor, we just don’t have enough to go around. There’s no shortage of people anxious to get into medical school right here at home, the problem is they can’t get admission to our medical schools.

Some British Columbians are going to other provinces to get into their universities because of the long lineups in B.C. That doesn’t guarantee success though.

It was the same story for our family member who could not get into the University of British Columbia. He then pursued a spot at the University of Alberta, based on the fact that he was born in Alberta. Even after taking additional related studies at the U of A, he still could not break through. It was the same story in Manitoba, where he had been resident since early childhood. All that essentially did was cost him a number of years delay before finally heading to the offshore school.

You might say it’s great to have the option of going to the Caribbean or other offshore schools, but that does not guarantee a return to the homeland. Once trained, there are virtually unlimited opportunities elsewhere. In our case, that ended up in the United States where Dr. Unger is now an established anesthesiologist and assistant professor of anesthesiology at West Virginia University School of Medicine. His American wife, also a doctor, and their two young daughters will never become Canadians because he has cast his lot where he had the opportunity.

I know of other families in Nanaimo whose children had to go elsewhere for medical school. I don’t know the latest figures, but the last I saw was that British Columbia admits 240 medical students a year, and it must be noted that not all who enter actually graduate.

Our population of doctors is aging along with the rest of the population, and that raises the question whether 240 students a year is even filling the replacement needs of retiring doctors.

With governments struggling with providing health care, a much greater emphasis must be placed on creating a home-grown solution – training more doctors in our own province.

In the meantime, the brain drain continues and we will still have a doctor shortage.


What a starting lineup for the cannabis train

By Merv Unger
Sept 17, 2017

Canada’s justice ministers met in Vancouver last week, with marijuana legalization being at the top of the menu. With the July, 2018 target date, it is of note who is who in the production and marketing end. I found an interesting website http://www.potfacts.ca that claims federal Liberal elites have all the front row seats when it comes to getting LP status. (LP stands for Licensed Producer, not Liberal Party). The list is dotted with party notables as well as a former prime minister, a former premier, former cabinet ministers and upper echelon former RCMP brass.

It’s really easy to find information on the internet, too often falling into the fake news or gossip category, so I double checked the websites of some of the largest cannabis companies. There are the names and smiling faces of former politicians listed as heads of companies or senior directors. The headline is somewhat misleading, NDP and Conservatives politicians permeate in the list as well.

There is no suggestion of impropriety, but should we expect to see the names of former political brass and the RCMP in the driver’s seat of this new industry? Somehow there’s that strange feeling with the hair on the back of your neck standing up. The current crop of politicians are making the rules, and their past cohorts are the ones waiting in line to cash in.

The website lists the following.

Mike Harcourt, Chairman of True Leaf Medicine Inc – former B.C. Premier

Kash Heed, strategic consultant with National Green BioMed – Former B.C. Solicitor General and former West Vancouver police chief

Herb Dhaliwal, Chairman, National Green BioMed – former Vancouver MP and federal cabinet minister.

John Reynolds, advisor to Vodis Innovative Pharmaceuticals Inc – former MP with the Progressive Conservative, Reform and Canadian Alliance parties

Senator Larry Campbell, advisor to Vodis Innovative Pharmaceuticals Inc. – former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and Vancouver mayor. And sitting Senator.

Barry Daniel, Wildflower’s head of security – Former Abbotsford police chief.

John Turner, medicinal marijuana applicant in Ontario (With Kash Heed) – Former Prime Minister of Canada.