Ha ha — you want to commercialize what?!

KUSW tried, without luck, to make money playing rock music on shortwave radio from 1987 to 1991. It was purchased in 1991 by a religious broadcaster alleged to have unceremoniously held a bonfire to burn KUSW's "sinful" music library.

KUSW tried, without luck, to make money playing rock music on shortwave radio from 1987 to 1991. It was purchased in 1991 by a religious broadcaster alleged to have unceremoniously held a bonfire to burn KUSW’s “sinful” music library.

Years ago, television advertisements encouraged Canadians traveling abroad to take their shortwave radios along so that they could tune in Radio Canada International, a division of the CBC, to keep up with the news from back home. In the pre-Internet era, it was a useful public service that not only kept vacationers in the loop, but was also used by Canadian diplomats and other expatriates living abroad, and to reach foreigners keen to learn more about Canada.

RCI and other government-owned shortwave broadcasters, such as the Voice of America, the BBC World Service and Radio Havana Cuba, operated in a now-obscure part of the radio spectrum between 5 and 20 megahertz, well above the 530-1700 kilohertz AM band and below the TV frequencies that begin at 54 megahertz.

Though the sound quality on the shortwave band was mediocre at best, the signals could travel several thousand miles under good conditions, well beyond the range of AM and FM stations.

But shortwave listeners were too few and far between, and reception was too reliant on the vagaries of atmospheric conditions, for the frequencies to have much commercial value. Thus, shortwave long remained the domain of dull state broadcasters, and God-casters promoting Jesus to whoever happened to be listening.

Not that a few didn’t try to make money on shortwave.

Superrock KYOI set up operations on the tiny U.S. Pacific island of Saipan in 1982, and broadcast American rock music to Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and the Soviet Union’s Far East; but gave up in 1989 and sold the station to a religious broadcaster.

But the real death of commercial shortwave radio seemed to take place on Dec. 16, 1991 when KUSW Salt Lake City, another rock station targeting Canada and a small domestic audience, left the air for the last time after a four-year run.

Its new owners, a California-based religious organization called Trinity Broadcasting, not only bestowed the station with a new set of call letters — KTBN — when it returned to the air two days later, but is alleged to have perversely held a public bonfire to burn the late KUSW’s music library.

Twenty-three years later, however, a Florida broadcaster believes that shortwave commercial broadcasting’s time might have finally come.

At 7 p.m. Eastern time on Oct. 31, Global 24 — no relation to Canada’s Global Television — took to the air as a 24-hour news and entertainment station targeting the Americas, Europe and Africa from a transmitter site in southern Florida.

“Global 24 represents another step in the long overdue commercialization of shortwave radio,” the manager of the company that owns and operates Global 24′s transmitters said in an Oct. 21 news release. “We are excited to be working with them on their ambitious program to engage and entertain a global audience.”

“Shortwave radio is a medium for the 21st century. No other medium provides for global access of information on a handheld device without access to an infrastructure, satellite, internet connection or membership fee,” the station notes on its web site as its rationale for using 9395 kHz (9.395 MHz) — a frequency few North American households have the necessary radios to tune in.

The station’s programming is eclectic to say the least, ranging from the left-leaning “Democracy Now” public affairs show to a musical program called “Global Music and Turkish Talent Box”, an arts program called “Shakespeare on Shortwave”, and a weekly science program called “Exploration”.

A program on “Survival, Homesteading and Off the Grid Living” is said to be in the works.

If nothing else, Global 24′s launch is a gutsy move, as even government-owned and religious broadcasters have dramatically reduced or eliminated their shortwave presence in recent years, viewing it as an old technology made obsolete by the Internet. (Radio Canada International maintains a small online presence, having closed down its shortwave radio operation in 2012.)

Yet Global 24 isn’t necessarily hostile to the Internet. If you’re one of the many who doesn’t own a shortwave radio — or even knew what “shortwave” was before reading this post — the station also broadcasts online.

The fall of the Berlin Wall: An official’s blunder, or a calculated move?

Gunter Schabowski on Nov. 9, 1989: A bumbling apparatchik who accidentally opened the Berlin Wall, or a shrewd malcontent who knew exactly what he was doing? (Click for source.)

Gunter Schabowski on Nov. 9, 1989: A bumbling apparatchik who accidentally opened the Berlin Wall, or a shrewd malcontent who knew exactly what he was doing? (Click for source.)

It is not a particularly long walk from the German Bundestag, or parliament, to the former site of the now-demolished Palace of the Republic, as the former East German seat of power was called: a little over 20 minutes on foot. In Winnipeg terms, it would be akin to walking from the University of Winnipeg to the Concert Hall, or from the Manitoba Legislature to the bars and restaurants on the Corydon Strip.

But from Aug. 13, 1961 to Nov. 9, 1989, to walk that short distance in Berlin was to cross the boundary between two completely different societies: a free and democratic West Berlin, representing the areas of the German capital captured by the U.S., British and French militaries at the end of World War II, and Communist-ruled East Berlin in the areas captured by the Soviet military.

In fact, it was impossible without passing through East German border controls — which included detailed questioning, careful examination of travel documents and thorough searches — or climbing over the Berlin Wall and risking being shot by border guards.

In 1949, when it became clear that a jointly U.S., British, French and Soviet-ruled occupied Germany was not going to be practical, the two sides each set up rival German states based on their own occupational zones: the western-backed Federal Republic of Germany was the first to emerge from the U.S., British and French-occupied zones on May 23, followed by the German Democratic Republic in the Soviet-occupied zone on Oct. 7.

They respectively came to be known by the monikers “West Germany” and “East Germany”.

Berlin remained an unresolved matter: by mutual agreement, Berlin had been carved up into occupational zones much like the rest of Germany. But while it was relatively easy to turn an arbitrary line across the German countryside into a heavily patrolled international boundary between West Germany and East Germany, enforcing an international boundary running right through the middle of a city was a more difficult matter after a Soviet blockade of Berlin failed to dislodge the western powers in 1948-49.

The austerity and constant surveillance that came with life in East Germany didn’t prove itself popular. As the gap in quality of life between East and West continued to widen in the late ’50s and the beginning of the ’60s, thousands of East Germans fled across the relatively open urban border to West Berlin, and from there to West Germany, where they were entitled to automatic citizenship.

East German leaders were becoming desperate to do something — anything — to prevent either their own loss of power or East Germany becoming an economic basket case as its own citizens voted with their feet for a better life in the west.

On Aug. 13, 1961, in a carefully planned move, the Soviets and East Germans began sealing this urban border in the middle of the night, first with armed guards and barbed wire — and then with a wall and a “death strip” straight through the city.

The East Germans would spend much of the rest of the next 28 years defending the Berlin Wall as an “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart”, protecting the Workers’ Paradise from the corrupting, fascist influences of the West — but even few East Germans were fooled. The wall, and the rest of the heavily militarized border, was there to prevent East Germans from leaving.

Things began to change in October 1989.

Days after presiding over East Germany’s 40th anniversary celebrations, and threatening to use force against East Germans who were now protesting for the same kinds of democratic reforms they saw happening in the Soviet Union and other communist countries, the 77-year-old Erich Honecker was deposed by the East German Politburo as the country’s leader after 18 years in office. Fifty-two year old Egon Krenz, Honecker’s long-time heir apparent, was installed in his place.

Attempting to convey a softer image in contrast to Honecker’s hardline reputation, Krenz instructed Gunter Schabowski, a member of the ruling Politburo, to start holding regular media conferences to tell the world’s media about all the changes that were going on in post-Honecker East Germany.

On Nov. 9, three weeks after Krenz came to power, the Politburo approved a new policy that would provide East Germans with a limited right to travel to the west, subject to government approval on a case-by-case basis.

As legend long had it, nobody had bothered to tell Schabowski that the policy wasn’t supposed to come into effect until the next day, and he had carelessly gone into the press conference without reading or fully understanding the changes. The result was summed up by Michael Meyer in his book 1989, The Year that Changed the World:

Schabowski scanned the memo while being driven from party headquarters. It seemed innocuous enough — just a short press release. At the news conference, he read it out as item four or five from a list of the various announcements. It had to do with passports. Every East German would now, for the first time, have a right to one.

For a nation locked so long behind the Iron Curtain, it was tremendous news. At the press conference, there was a sudden hush, followed by a ripple of whispers. Schabowski droned on. Then, from the back of the room, as the cameras rolled, broadcasting live to the nation, a reporter shouted out a fateful question: “When does it take effect?”

Schabowski paused, looked up, suddenly confused. “What?”

The reporter repeated the question, his voice almost lost in a cacophony of shouts from others seeking similar clarification. 

Schabowski scratched his head, mumbled to aides on either side. “Um, that’s a technical question. I’m not sure.” He perched his glasses on the end of his nose, shuffled through his papers, then looked up again . . . and shrugged. 

“Ab Sofort,” he read aloud from what he saw written on the press release. Immediately. Without delay.

At this, the room erupted. Schabowski, we now know, didn’t appreciate the full significance of his announcement.

In the hours that followed, both West and East Berliners descended on the border crossing, demanding that the confused border guards — informed of nothing and unable to confirm what they heard from the crowd to be true — let the Easterners cross freely into the West.

At about 11:30 p.m. local time, about four and a half hours after Schabowski’s surprise announcement, an East German border guard named Harald Jäger at Berlin’s Bornholmerstrasse crossing made the decision to open the border.

It was effectively the end of East Germany, which no longer had the will — and without Soviet support, the means — to secure its own borders. With its citizens still entitled to automatic West German citizenship after fleeing through the once again open Berlin border, from that night East Germany had little choice but to seek reunification on the west’s terms.

That duly followed on Oct. 3, 1990, officially known as The Day of German Unity, when East Germany officially ceased to exist and the divided country became a single polity again for the first time in more than 40 years.

For the past 25 years, the legend has held that it was all the result of a bumbling Schabowski who accidentally inflicted the fatal wound to a corrupt and ailing regime in a final fit of incompetence.

Schabowski did little over the years to dispel that story, though he has long since renounced the former East German regime (his role in which briefly landed him in prison) and embraced reunification.

Now elderly, in poor health and living in a Berlin care home, his wife Irina has taken to speaking for him. In her own bombshell announcement this past week, she told a reporter that her husband’s “bumbling” was, in fact, no accident; that he was “very aware” of what he was doing.

“As he read the note, he wanted the wall opened immediately,” Irina Schabowski apparently told a reporter from Germany’s Bild newspaper. “You can not say, in a few hours, the border is open,” she continued, suggesting her husband feared that the delayed relaxation of border controls envisaged by the Politburo would lead to chaos and violence.

“The border had to be opened immediately.”

Gunter Schabowski is, as noted, no longer able to speak for himself. But if his wife’s comments are true, the long-standing image of the bumbling communist apparatchik might actually have been a mask for a more shrewd and calculating politician who spotted an opportunity to make history and seized upon it — but who left himself room to backtrack as having misspoken in case he found himself in trouble with his superiors.

Pairing option brings YouTube to your regular TV

La Nipote

From the 1974 Italian comedy “La Nipote”. If the icon in the lower right hand corner is present, it will be possible to send the video straight from your computer or wireless device to your TV set. (Click to enlarge.)

If the broadcast regulators at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) are worried about the impact of unregulated Internet video streams on the Canadian broadcasting system, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais wasn’t showing much of that chagrin when he spoke to the Vancouver Board of Trade earlier today.

“Despite the mountain of media stories about Netflix, and Shomi, and HBO online, and CBS online and Bell’s Project Latte, let’s not lose sight of the fact that about 60% of Canadians do not stream TV programming,” Blais told the audience today. “Canadians still watch on average 28 hours of traditional TV a week.  And the hours of viewing to online video services, including cute kittens on YouTube, is only 1.9 hours per week.”

But YouTube is interested in making its vast online video library part of your regular prime-time viewing.

The traditional living room TV set was a large, heavy box that could only use one video source at a time. Today’s newest TV sets are relatively lightweight panels that can alternate between a cable or satellite connection, free over-the-air digital TV (which offers superior picture quality), HDMI computer connections, USB drives and Wi-Fi — all using just one remote control.

These so-called “Smart TVs” are gaining in popularity. A 2013 forecast expected worldwide Smart TV shipments to reach 141 million units in 2015, up from 66 million in 2012.

These TVs often include self-updating software that downloads apps you can use to access streaming video services. YouTube, BBC News and TED offer free access to their services; while the Cineplex Store and Netflix offer pay-TV options.

One of the particularly handy features of the YouTube app is that, if your computer and your TV both use Wi-Fi, you can now easily send any videos you find on your computer straight through to the TV set.

Here’s how it works (Wi-Fi enabled Smart TV required):

  • Open the YouTube app on your Smart TV, and look for the Settings option.
  • Look for the “Pair Device” option on the TV screen.
  • On your laptop or wireless device, go to youtube.com/pair
  • By this time, there should be a 12-digit code on your TV screen. Back on your laptop or wireless device, enter this code in the “Enter pairing code” field, and wait for the connection to be made.
  • Start the video on your computer and, when prompted, choose the “Play on your TV” option. Or, look for the play-on-TV option in the lower right hand corner of the video.

As long as you are signed in to YouTube when you do the setup above, the two systems should be able to communicate with each other again in the future. If not, repeat these steps

This brings the whole YouTube video library to your living room TV, and gives you the freedom to “geek out” on whatever interests you: full ABC coverage of the 1972 U.S. presidential election, silent movies from the ’20s or racy Italian comedies from the ’70s, video compilations of drunken politicians, the evening news from Ghana or even some historical Winnipeg TV clips courtesy of RetroWinnipeg, drbpony and this site.

Why online voting is not like online banking

A security analysis of Estonia's online voting system found, among other things, that Wi-Fi credentials had been posted on a wall opposite a video camera. (See "Security Analysis of the Estonian Internet Voting System" link below.)

A security analysis of Estonia’s online voting system found, among other things, that Wi-Fi credentials had been posted on a wall opposite a video camera. (See “Security Analysis of the Estonian Internet Voting System” link below.)

No sooner had Winnipeggers gone to the polls on Oct. 22 to elect a new mayor and city council than did demands begin to emerge for the whole voting process to be moved online — as is starting to become traditional after just about any election.

Often, the comparison to online banking is made. If people can use the Internet to shift thousands of dollars around in the comfort of their homes, why can’t they use the Internet to choose their councillors, mayors, school board trustees, MLAs and MPs while clad only in their underwear?

This question was effectively responded to in a 2011 Elections B.C. discussion paper on Internet Voting.

In Section 3.0 of the paper, Elections B.C. includes a comment that might come as a slight shock to online banking users. “Online banking was not introduced with the expectation that it would be a fraud-proof means of conducting banking transactions,” the report says.

“The business case for online banking rests on the assumption that the degree of fraud is off-set by reduced operating costs and convenience benefits to clients.”

In short, a bit of fraud here and there is essentially a cost of doing business — something that would not (or at least should not) be tolerated from any elections agency.

Service reliability is also critical. “If an Internet banking service is unavailable, clients can simply try again later,” the report notes. “In the case of an election, a service disruption for any number of reasons (e.g. denial of service attack, hacking, software bug or hardware malfunction, power or network outage) could disenfranchise voters by delaying or invalidating their votes.”

Elections and banking transactions are also subject to completely different kinds of accountability standards.

“Banking transactions are identifiable from end-to-end. They require user authentication through passwords and PINs and the client’s identity follows the transaction through to its completion.”

By contrast, “a voting transaction must begin by authenticating the identity of the voter to confirm their eligibility,” the report notes.

“To preserve secrecy, the vote transaction must then be disassociated from the voter’s identity . . . This [secrecy requirement] makes it much harder to protect the system against fraud and to detect fraud that has occurred.”

“If evidence of tampering with an Internet vote comes to light, there is no ‘before state’ to return to in order to resolve the issue. By contrast, in the existing voting system, ambiguous results are resolved by having voter-marked and verified ballots reconsidered and counted again by another individual, such as a judge.”

The report also goes on to note other more obvious differences between online banking and online voting, such as that online voting would provide easy opportunity for the open buying and selling of votes, and would shift voting activity away from the scrutineers and election workers who are tasked with ensuring that the entire voting process is beyond reproach.

So let’s put to rest the argument that being able to bank online is any indication that being able to vote online is a good idea. They are two totally different processes held up to radically different standards.

Those with a further interest in this topic might enjoy reading:

  • Security Analysis of the Estonian Internet Voting System, which found stunning deficiencies in that country’s online voting system, such as that “operators used a PC containing other software, including PokerStars.ee, to build the official voting client for distribution” and that “on occasion the operators appeared to be deliberately evading us.”
  • Online Voting: Rewards and Risks, produced by the Atlantic Council in cooperation with Intel Security and McAfee. This report includes the caution that “the twin goals of anonymity and verifiability within an online voting system are largely incompatible with current technologies,” and that, “unlike paper ballots, electronic votes cannot be ‘rolled back’ or easily recounted” in the event of a disputed outcome.

Winnipeg mayoral and council candidates describe their “Ideal City”

Reminder: Candidates who have not yet responded, but wish to do so, are welcome to send in comments prior to Election Day. New comments will be added at the earliest opportunity.

(Oct. 19 update: Hennessey)

(Oct. 8 update, 8:28 p.m.: Stiller)

(Oct. 6 updates to 5:05 p.m.: Churchill, Havixbeck, Hennessey, Jonasson, Borden, Wasylycia-Leis, Quaye, Metcalfe, Comstock)

On Oct. 22, Winnipeggers will elect a new mayor and city council, who will collectively set the direction our city will take for the next four years.

As a public service, I sent the following e-mail on Sept. 21 to all but two mayoral and council candidates. In one case, no e-mail address was available for the candidate, so I sent the message care of the agent as the next best option. In another case, both listed e-mails bounced, so I sent the invitation to the campaign office by post on Sept. 22.

Hi _____: 

I write a blog here in Winnipeg called The View from Seven (theviewfromseven.wordpress.com). It normally receives about 70 hits per day, sometimes more when there is a new post, and reaches people locally who are interested in politics and current affairs, directly and via Google. You might have also seen commentaries reprinted from time to time in the Winnipeg Free Press’s Sunday Xtra.

I am preparing to write a post which would allow all 2014 city council candidates to answer the following two questions in their own words: “Which city other than Winnipeg, anywhere in the world, comes closest to being the ideal city? Why?”

The purpose of these questions is to get a better sense of how candidates visualize “the ideal city” in their own minds — a relevant question given that the new city council will determine the direction this city takes over the next four years. Therefore, I do ask that all who respond please specify a city other than Winnipeg, and a rationale for their choice.

Responses will be published with little or no editing. Responses will be presented by electoral ward (or under the “Mayor” heading in the case of mayoral candidates), and sorted randomly. Where candidates have chosen not to respond, that will be noted as well.

Sunday, Oct. 5 is the target date for publishing this post, so I do ask that all responses be submitted by e-mail to mcdougak@mts.net no later than 6 p.m. on that date.

Thank you in advance, and all the best.

Kevin McDougald
Creator of “The View from Seven” blog, Winnipeg

Some candidates responded with impressively detailed and thoughtful responses, a couple didn’t really answer the question at all, and some have yet to respond. Space will be made available for late arrivals — but, like those who have already generously taken the time to respond, I ask that any further respondents please stick to answering the question at hand, and avoid taking shots at others.

I invite you to read the comments made by those mayoral and council candidates who have responded, and consider the extent to which each candidate’s view of “the ideal city” matches your own as you prepare to vote. And don’t forget to bookmark this page so that you can check again regularly for updates.

Thank you kindly to all candidates who responded.

Mayor of Winnipeg

David Sanders: No response as of Oct. 5

Paula Havixbeck: Is planning to respond as of Oct. 6.

Michel Fillion: Stockholm, Sweden Why? Like Winnipeg, this city enjoys the four seasons, visually and recreationally. It definitely shows cleanliness, respect for the past, aiming towards the future with technology. This city clearly paints itself as a city where citizens can thrive in an essence of enjoyment. ” To live, to work, to play ” is their hidden motto.

Robert-Falcon Ouellette: No response as of Oct. 5

Gord Steeves: No response as of Oct. 5

Brian Bowman: Campaign staff member wrote in response, “Thank you for providing Brian the opportunity to participate. I¹ve sent your questions on to him for response.” No further response as of Oct. 5

Judy Wasylycia-Leis: The ideal city is where poverty rates are low and quality of life high, with decent roads but also good public transit and active transportation infrastructure. The ideal city also has lots of opportunities for young people and a thriving arts scene. Lastly, it’s critical that an ideal city have an open, transparent government that uses taxpayers’ money effectively.

There are many cities in Canada and the U.S. that meet some or all of these criteria, but I decided to use Seattle as an example of a city that comes pretty close to being “ideal” based on these criteria. Poverty rates are relatively low. It has a great local arts, music and theatre scene and is highly ranked among North American cities for quality of life and business and career opportunities. Seattle is also well known for its extensive bus active transit systems and it has been working to increase cycling and active transit ridership, including overhauling its cycling master plan that calls for 474 miles of new or improved bike routes. Much of this is due to a progressive city government, which posts its data online and has been recognized for taking advantage of the internet to promote public participation along with more traditional civic participation methods.

No city is without its flaws, but I think Winnipeg could one day be a city that others aspire to emulate (even with our winters). We already have fantastic local arts, culture, and sports, and with new attractions like Journey to Churchill and the CMHR opening, we’re well positioned to increase our position as a tourist destination. What we need now is a progressive, forward-thinking, accountable city government with a vision to make Winnipeg even better. That means better infrastructure, including bike paths as well as roads; better services like public transit as well as snow removal, water and waste; and better opportunities, especially for young people. It also means a government that answers to the people of Winnipeg, rather than just to a few developers with high-placed friends. That’s why I have made these the core issues of my campaign over the past several months, as the basis of my vision for Winnipeg as A City That Works.

Charleswood-Tuxedo

Evan Duncan: No response as of Oct. 5

Luc Lewandoski: No response as of Oct. 5

Marty Morantz: No response as of Oct. 5

Nadine Stiller: I think Calgary is an example of an ideal city because Mayor Nenshi is an exceptionally good Mayor and a politician who demonstrates integrity.  His leadership was outstanding during the flood crisis and was exactly what the citizens of Calgary needed to see itself through.  Also, Calgary is prosperous, has good infrastructure, public transportation and roads, and is home to and attracts industry and business.

Kevin Nichols: Cities are like cars, every one of them has their own unique issues. While some may be very luxurious, they can be expensive to repair. Some run great but look terrible, and yet others suffer from endless problems.

My ideal city, one with a low crime rate as well as opportunities for employment and growth. One that is clean with plenty of green space. A city that is easy to travel from one end to the other. A city where recreational facilities are placed to obtain the best location without infringing on others.

I can honestly say I have not travelled extensively to answer this question with first hand knowledge. So the city that comes closest to what you are looking for in an ideal city would be Sioux Falls South Dakota. This city was clean, very few infrastructure repairs being done or needing to be done. Recreational facilities were easy to get to for any visitor, and there were plenty of employment opportunities to be had. This is my ideal city.

Daniel McIntyre

Harvey Smith: No response as of Oct. 5

Dave Donaldson: No response as of Oct. 5

Keith Bellamy: No response as of Oct. 5

Godwin Smith: No response as of Oct. 5

Cindy Gilroy: No response as of Oct. 5

John Cardoso: No response as of Oct. 5

Elmwood-East Kildonan

Jason Cumming: No response as of Oct. 5

Paul Quaye: An ideal is tough to be embodied in one city and would be more of an amalgam of many good ideas, practices and policies from many cities. For instance, I could say something like New York or San Francisco for reasons of critical mass or density of people to drive efficiencies of scale in many areas of infrastructure and transit as well as cultural centres and “must visit” areas that drive tourism. I could say Calgary or Vancouver as Canadian examples of progressive development with a dash of geographical luck. Others may include Quebec City for embracing their cold weather nature, many European cities (which I have unfortunately not visited as yet) for preserving their history and integrating it into their daily lives, and even small to mid sized cities across the US Northern Midwest (Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana) and Canadian Prairies for sheer perseverance.

My thought is that we should take these examples best practices and apply them to Winnipeg. Some things are out of our control like geography, as we are not a coastal city or in proximity to the mountains, but we can be the best Winnipeg we can be in shaping things that work elsewhere and adapt them to our circumstances.

Hope this answers the question to a degree. Not the direct single city answer, but no one place is perfect even in my opinion.

Thomas Steen: No response as of Oct. 5

Jason Schreyer: No response as of Oct. 5

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry

Norm Miller: No response as of Oct. 5

Jenny Gerbasi: My choice is New York City. It is a high density, vibrant, diverse city with extensive mass transit, infrastructure for active transportation and gorgeous public spaces.

Recent efforts in enhancing “placemaking” have made their many districts/neighbourhoods even better places to enjoy with more public art, improved pedestrian environment..essentially making more space for people to enjoy the city and their lives by transforming wide streets to include seating, bike paths, microbusinesses and plantings. There is a rich cultural and creative life there which is also essential to an interesting and quality city.

Shane Nestruck: First let me say I have travelled widely in N. America and even in China, but I will have to limit my answer to the cities I am familiar with that have something in common with Winnipeg and from which we can learn. So I choose to suggest Montreal. Not for what it is but for what we can learn from it.

I grew up in Montreal and left there at the age of 30 (1978) having spent my youth playing music in every corner of that city with many of the cultures in that city.

Now it needs to be emphasized that Montreal is one of the architecturally most beautiful cities in N. America. This is partly due to the heritage provided by the Roman Catholic Church that chose to replicate many of the famous churches in Europe in the city. Also early in its modern history there was a serious respect for the historical value of ‘Old Montreal’.

Then there is the spectacular Mt Royal that is one of the greatest urban green spaces on the whole continent.

Of course there is the ATTITUDE that remains from the 350 years of competition with New York City to be the ‘Gateway to the Continent’. Yes NYC eventually had the Erie Canal that connected it to the Great Lakes but Montreal had the Lachine Canal ( named after one of the early fur trade ‘promoters’, La Salle, who suggested that the St. Lawrence would lead to China!) and then there was the St. Lawrence Seaway which (to my knowledge) was the last big attempt at outdoing NYC.

So I grew up in a particularly wonderful city but during my youth, life in cities changed, cars clogged the highways and roads and Montreal was ‘Traffic Hell’, a car-culture city that was destined to be consumed by its success and growth. For my whole youth the city was the site of construction failures as engineers and city planners tried every thing to alleviate the traffic gridlock… They even built a miles long ‘canal’, below grade, for a super highway that was projected to solve the problems but which , as happens in every such situation, only encouraged more cars…. The history of the 401 in Toronto and the subsequent failure of the 407 are common knowledge to eastern Canadians and to the populations of the eastern U.S…. But, nevertheless, Montreal tried those ‘failed’ concepts.

And here is WHY I chose Montreal: Then, at about the same time that Mayor Juba was promoting a monorail in Winnipeg, in Montreal a somewhat corrupt Mayor saw an opportunity to be seen in history as the saviour of the city. Using the ‘deadline of the 1967 Worlds Fair and Canada’s hundredth anniversary he managed to coordinate the forces in Montreal to build a subway. But not just a subway… a world class subway. Today, Montreal, a city whose existence was threatened by the automobile and ‘eternal road building’ has become the best city in N. America in which to bicycle, and the best city in N. America to live… because it has survived the threat and moved on into the future.

Since Mayor Drapeau, corruption has continued, maybe worsened, but the life of the city and the lives of the people there continue to be driven by an optimism that is reflected in the fact their city has a future, has survived the cancer that destroys N. American cities and can continue to thrive. No, not because it is the ‘Paris of N. America’, not because it has such historical, cultural and architectural beauty, not because it has such wonderful green spaces, but I chose Montreal because it somehow had the instincts, or is that political leadership, to survive the cancer of the car and again become a place to live.

Today Winnipeg is in the exact same ‘political swamp of ignorance’, ‘political bog of cronyism’, ‘political morass of corrupted values and shallow short-term thinking’ as Montreal was in the ‘60s. The only question is will Winnipeg survive this Dark Age of Political Leaderless Myopia!

Mynarski

Ross Eadie: No response as of Oct. 5

Trevor Mueller: Our modern working city will have:

Open and Transparent Government with recorded voting
Newsletters on what Mayor and council is doing and voting on
Roads we can drive on and don’t need continuous repair
Public transit that is safe and efficient for the entire city
24 hour drop in centers for youths
Every neighborhood that is safe
Clean water we drink and use

Dave Capar: No response as of Oct. 5

Greg Littlejohn: No response as of Oct. 5

 

North Kildonan

Evan Comstock: The most ideal city that I have been to is Kyoto, Japan.

Their sense of culture and community is shown in the many large festivals and multi-generation homes where neighbourhoods grow-up together.
Kyoto for tourists is known for its temples and shrines, art galleries, universities, mountains and forests.  The history is amazing from the Imperial Palace to the Budokan.
Their downtown is filled with pristine malls and world class shopping, with several department stores I can imagine the Bay being like in its conception. People dress like I image they do in Paris, and I always felt that my clothes were dated.
Kyoto has recently upgraded its water ways and created a restaurant district that places patios over looking the river.   There are other older well lit neighbourhoods where small waterways, cobblestone walkways are filled with unique shops and quaint restaurants.  Great places for a date, day or night. My favorite places serve what is called ‘Yakiniku’  where each table has a grill and you can cook your own food.
 Crime is extremely low, maybe the lowest in the world?
I think the most appealing factor is the flow between people and their relationships.  People worked extremely hard to create the best atmosphere possible.  There could never be an unhappy customer, and the people working go out of their way to help-not for tips, but for the integrity of their workplace.
I also loved the arcades!

Jeff Browaty: No response as of Oct. 5

Andrew Podolecki: No response as of Oct. 5

Old Kildonan

Donovan Martin: Responded by e-mail, “Thank you for reaching out. I would love to participate. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Looking forward to reading your blog.” No further response as of Oct. 5

Devi Sharma: No response as of Oct. 5

Suzanne Hrynyk: No response as of Oct. 5

Point Douglas

Anthony Ramos: No response as of Oct. 5

Dale White: I have not travelled too much but Saskatoon is my ideal. The road system is such that it easy to get around the city, It has beautiful trees like Winnipeg and the people are seemingly always positive and hopeful for the future. Winnipeg is very similar but still lacks the positivity and confidence. There is less negativity in Winnipeg than there was before but still too many people criticize every effort at making the City a better place. One of my campaign slogans: Imagine-a Better City!

Mike Pagtakhan: No response as of Oct. 5

Anne Thompson: Thank you for this platform. I pray you the strength to please forgive me as I am unable to answer the questions as written if I am to respond to the stated purpose.

I am one of those outside-of-the-box-still-inside-the-circle-of-Love-while-reaching-for-the-Light-of-Truth-type of person. My daughter says I need to learn to ‘talk young’, so here goes: Want truth? Talk to me. Everything else following this is just ideas with details.

I have yet to see the ‘ideal’ city although I have traveled as far East as Vatican City, as far North as Great Bear Lake, as far South as Guatemala, and as far West as Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. I am aware of physical neighbourhood features as well as other city qualities I believe would enhance our lives if added to what exists here.

The Ideal City Municipal Code keeps distance between matters of state and matters of faith to assure no extremist religious penchant. Ideal City also has in place policies and procedures based on agreed to principles and values – applicable to all Ideal City employees, including senior executives – that would ensure everyone knows what to do, why they’re to do it, and how to do it; that ensures everyone receives support to make them successful in their respective jobs; that ensures everyone follows through and is accountable for meeting their performance expectations and obligations. Much in the manner in which a successful company or corporation is financially structured, Ideal City’s financial responsibilities would focus to benefit primarily the shareholders, secondarily the customers, next the employees, then lastly, the general public.

Shareholders are defined as municipal taxpayers who are Ideal City residents (similar requirements as Manitoba Health), and the Ecosystem – both equal in whole or part; customers are the purchasers of Ideal City products and services (so a fee-payer is owed a service, just as a road toll payer is owed good condition well-kept roads on which to travel for getting to work/recreation/other after coming onto Ideal City roads from other municipal communities); employees are any person directly or through contract employed by the Ideal City; and the general public is everybody else, for example: non-resident municipal taxpayers (to discourage over-empowering absentee landowners), non-taxpaying municipal residents (such as, but not limited to students, temporary workers), the travelling public (through traffic), tourists.

Manitoba is a world leader in a technology that takes heat from frozen ground at low cost that Ideal City uses to the fullest extent of its citizens’ imagination, including having so-called ‘geothermal coil sinks’ from which neighbouring buildings – residential/commercial – draw upon for their heating and cooling needs. This renewable resource uses scant amount of electrical power that is drawn from the buildings’ own independent clean energy generators.

Food security is also more assured because geothermal-, hydroponic-, aquaculture-, and vermiculture technologies and processes are combined within a variety of urban buildings dedicated to waste reclamation and food production.

These municipally owned and operated industries, strategically situated throughout the city, offer bags and bags of worm castings and inert soil conditioning for sale in large indoor warehouse-style public markets alongside copious amounts of vegetables and fruit and fish raised there.

Ideal City actually adds to its treasury by processing its residents’ trash. The markets also offers neighbourhood meeting places, with independent restaurants and cafés dotting the area mixed in with crafters and artisans of all types and classes selling their wares. Examples of jobs from all classes of employment: from traditional, to manufacturing, to modern highly technical, to service, to entertainment can be found in their vicinity.

From reading, travel or documentary, I have learned that, for instance:

- In Manila, someone has developed a paint that mitigates the effects of pollutants emitted from motor vehicle tailpipes. This paint is supplied to artists who apply it onto surfaces (retaining walls, buildings, figures/forms) near roadways. The cityscape is beautified whilst pollution is minimized. The themes in many of the depictions are of cultural historic significance, lending a sense of ownership and of belonging to citizens.

- I wish I could accurately describe what I like about one of the good street planning examples from Brandon, Manitoba. I lived for a while in that fair city in a house at the corners of Brandon and Seventh, if memory serves me correctly. The residential streets in that area did not continue through. Rather the traffic is made to follow a curbed road curve. This has the effect of slowing and of minimizing traffic on so designed residential streets. Citizens of all ages and abilities were able to safely navigate the area. Active transportation was strongly practiced

Rebecca Chartrand: No response as of Oct. 5

River Heights-Fort Garry

John Orlikow: No response as of Oct. 5

Taz Stuart: No response as of Oct. 5

St. Boniface

Ryan Davies: The ideal city is, to me, a place that is able to strike the delicate balance between economic viability, sustainability, and overall quality of life.

I’ve had the good fortune to live in a number of different cities in Canada and other countries. I’ve spent time in downtown Tokyo, marveling at the spectacular density and frenetic pace, and I’ve lived in Saskatoon, a small city on the verge of a major boom. I’ve seen the shocking disparity between wealth and poverty in Buenos Aires, and witnessed firsthand the geographic advantages and challenges in a city like Vancouver.

Each of these cities have elements that are an important part of what makes a city ideal, but for me, the city that comes closest to being ideal is actually Ottawa.

Ottawa consistently ranks highly in liveability studies. It has a thriving cultural scene, a stable and diverse economic base, and a viable transportation plan that includes an effective mass transit system as well as expanded infrastructure for cycling and active transport. All of these contribute to the overall quality of life in the city.

Ottawa faces many of the same issues that Winnipeg does including urban sprawl issues and an infrastructure deficit that continues to grow. Despite all of this, the city continues to make infrastructure repairs and new mass transit and active transit corridors a priority in order to facilitate growth and keep the city moving in the right direction, both literally and figuratively.

The crime rate is lower in Ottawa in every major category and has seen an 11% drop year over year. While Winnipeg continues to pour more money into policing and new hires, Ottawa has the highest rated police service in terms of effectiveness in Canada according to the Fraser Institute while having the lowest numbers of officers per capita.

The City of Ottawa is accustomed to a highly transparent system in having easily accessible records showing money spent and motions at City Hall, as well as a very strong tendering process that is again made widely available for the public to see. Their cultural makeup, layout of the city, earnings per resident and many other comparison points are very close to that of Winnipeg yet Ottawa continues to outshine Winnipeg in a vast number of areas as I have pointed out.

The great news is their model is highly attainable with similar outcomes very plausible. Winnipeg is at a crossroads and is failing in a great number of areas. We have created a deficit for ourselves not only financially but in a great number of areas. This can be improved upon by viewing models that are working in municipalities that closely resemble ours and Ottawa is a shining example of what can be achieved when we pull together as a community, demand change at City Hall and have leaders with the interest of the residents at heart and not that of special interest groups or their own bank accounts.

Paul Najda: Although Winnipeg is disallowed from your questionaire, I will pick this city but not present day Winnipeg.

To clarify, the Winnipeg of 50-60 years ago was ideal because of its potential. Unfortunately, since then it has gone in a number of wrong directions and is starting to suffer from big city problems. If I have to choose a present day city it would be Fargo, N.D. because it is now at the stage where Winnipeg was as mentioned earlier.

As far as what Winnipeg should strive for, Minneapolis, MN would be the ideal because of their quality of life, the arts, transportation, etc. and because of their similarity to us as far as climate and location. Thanks for gettiing in touch with me,

Matt Allard: No response as of Oct. 5

Brad Gross: No response as of Oct. 5

St. Charles

Shawn Dobson: No response as of Oct. 5

Grant Nordman: No response as of Oct. 5

Don Woodstock: No response as of Oct. 5

Dwight Hildebrandt: There are many Ideal cities around the world and in Canada but if I was to pick one that Winnipeg could learn from it would be Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

They are building a ring road that is a true ring road with bridges and on ramps and off ramps. This speeds up travel from one part of the city to another. They celebrate their river, there is a beach area and the river is the centre of their summer lives in that city. The river is in full view and surrounded by park land.

Saskatoon expands outward only so much every few years then they stop the urban sprawl and then the city must start growing upwards. This allows the tax base to catch up to the new infrastructure needs and costs. Their roads are taken care of and maintained. The people are happy and do not feel overtaxed and are not taken to the cleaners by photo radar being used in suspect ways.

Eric Holland: No response as of Oct. 5

Geoff Borden: Response coming soon, as of Oct. 6.

St. James-Brooklands

Stefan Jonasson: I’ve had the good fortune to travel across Canada, the United States and Europe, so I’ve experienced several world-class cities firsthand and I’ve seen both their virtues and their shortcomings.  Several cities come to mind as excellent places, but the one that comes closest to being the ideal city, in my mind, is Copenhagen, Denmark.

Why?  It’s a safe and clean city, where residents take pride in their surroundings and participate robustly in public life.  Copenhagen is a city of parks and public squares, gardens and gathering places, where people come together for leisure and recreation.  It boasts a quick and convenient public transportation system, alongside bike paths that are so well developed and used that they have left-hand turn lanes — yet automobiles are able to move quickly throughout the city.

The city is dotted with distinctive neighbourhoods, each with its own charm, yet each understanding itself as part of something larger than itself.  Homes are well built and well maintained, offering a wide variety of housing choices, and even the least fashionable neighbourhoods feel safe and comfortable.  Fine architecture is seen throughout the city and public art is there for all to enjoy.  The cultural amenities of Copenhagen are remarkable — theatres, museums, amusement parks, art galleries, and live music venues abound.  A wide variety of businesses prosper in Copenhagen, while workers are well-compensated and respected.

The people come across as simultaneously industrious and relaxed, working diligently but making time for family and friends.  Offshore windmills bear witness to the city’s commitment to green energy, while a culture of recycling pervades the public consciousness.  Overall, Copenhagen seems to be a city where the public good and private responsibility, community and individuality, have found their proper balance, so that the quality of life is enriched for everyone.

Scott Gillingham: No response as of Oct. 5

Bryan Metcalfe: My answer would have been Calgary.  I lived there for a couple of years and have visited numerous times since.  I personally like the way they have developed their road ways and pedestrian/bike paths which were done with good planning well in advance of their population growth.

Fred Morris: No response as of Oct. 5

St. Norbert

Joe Chan: I am introduce my shifty hall and my dream city
[followed by web site link]

Janice Lukes: Responded by e-mail, “Kevin – this is an EXCELLENT idea – brilliant – I am on it! I have just the city – thank you for doing this!!” No further response as of Oct. 5

Sachit Mehra: I love Winnipeg. I chose to raise my family and continue to run my family business in this city.

However, if I had to choose another city as an “ideal city” to live in, I would have to say it is Montreal. Winnipeg and Montreal share many similarities; they have a diverse population and thriving cultural community. Both have strong market areas, eclectic hospitality venues and a variety of retail spaces. The economies of both cities are relatively diverse however they are challenged by rapidly expanding neighbourhoods, road congestion and the deterioration of green space.

I lived in Montreal with my wife, Caroline, and our two sons, Mohit and Givan, for three years. In that time, I observed and experienced many civic practices that I feel Winnipeg could take cues from.

The one that stands out the most is Montreal’s focus on transportation. The attitude I discovered in Montreal is that when priority is placed on making it as easy as possible for residents to move around the city, it will have a population that is more likely to spend, travel and enjoy the city’s conveniences to the fullest extent.

Although both Winnipeg and Montreal are similar in their cultural traits, Montreal excels in its approach to connecting its city centre and population through a network of transportation systems. This includes active transportation, a subway system, highways and an excellent transit system.

During my years in Montreal, I appreciated the ability to wander around downtown, rent a bike from an automated stall, travel to another area and then return the bike to another automated stall. The system was seamless and allowed me to travel without substantial cost or impact to my surroundings.

Another key piece to the transport map was the excellent subway system. It was efficient, clean and well networked with the trains running on time. What really stood out for me was that most every station had a personality of its own. Each one had a piece of public art, including sculptures and, in some cases, even stained glass. It was a joy to land at a new station and appreciate a new venue.

Montreal also enjoys a vast highway system for those that choose to travel by car. Generally efficient and congestion free, I found it easy to get from downtown Montreal to my residence off the plateau in a reasonable amount of time. The lanes were wide, traffic-light free, with good opportunities to merge off into surrounding neighbourhoods.

Finally, the metro, or transit system, is one of the easiest ways to get around Montreal. Fares are competitive and the buses operate until late hours to serve a variety of schedules. Winnipeg has an opportunity to move forward to address its transportation concerns and I feel Montreal’s model presents many ideas we can use as inspiration.

With our population increasing yearly, we will soon be a city of one million strong. With our current system of road networks, we will face a serious challenge to efficiently move our citizens around our city. With a newly elected mayor and city council, we have the momentum to transform our city’s transportation system and, in turn, and increase economic activity in our city while improving the well-being of our citizens.

I truly want to leave my kids a modern, forward-looking city that offers them a variety of choices. This is why I’ve decided to run for city council – to bring that change to City Hall.

St. Vital

Brian Mayes: I would say Paris is my favourite city to visit, but I don’t think one can compare a city that big to Winnipeg. I think of any city I have visited in recent years I was most impressed by Portland Oregon, so that will be my answer in terms of “ideal’.

There are obvious climate differences between Winnipeg and Portland, but Portland has done some thing well that Winnipeg could learn from: a downtown that is welcoming to residents and visitors through a mix of residential development, green spaces and historical preservation; a mix of bus routes, streetcars and light rail; and an environmental approach to some of the same problems (e.g. combined sewer overflows) that happen in Winnipeg.

Moreover, I found a real interest in urban issues in Portland, with public engagement in civic discussions. There were still problems that were not ideal – e.g. a large youth homeless population – but overall I thought Portland’s civic development offered some ideas for Winnipeg’s future.

Steven Hennessey: I am not a traveller so my experience in other cities is limited. Although Toronto, Dallas, Calgary and Vancouver are cities I have travelled to in the past, I want to draw on my experience in one city that I visited recently and is visited often by citizens of Winnipeg. Many people might not see Minneapolis as the mecca of ideal cities but I believe it sets some standards we can strive for as a comparable city within our climate, infrastructure needs and is also a reasonable distance to Winnipeg.

My first impression of Minneapolis is how the Highway/Freeway system flows. It is clean, continuous and easy to navigate. I believe our ring road system should be the same way. City council should develop a plan for the next 20 years to developing and designing our inner ring road and perimeter so that it flows continuously without traffic lights. The design of our traffic flow is critical to growth and prosperity.

The second most impressive part of the city was the waterfront development including current proposals to increase walkability and livability along the river. Current and new designs by the City of Winnipeg that include densification, footbridges and retail space will help rebuild our river front properties. I believe we can do this with private investment and skilled marketing. Having a vibrant riverfront creates growth, tourism and revenue.

I was also impressed with the downtown. It was active, busy and appeared safe. There were Police and security patrolling during events, mobile CCTV, city street workers on ‘segways’ cleaning and monitoring the downtown. It was also very well lit and had a good mixture of green space, architecture and entertainment. The arena and ball park attracted a great deal of business and the surrounding restaurants and pubs provided a feeling of connectedness. The LRT was also impressive and well set up and traversed the city from downtown to the Mall of America. Vehicle traffic was negligible downtown. We should be looking at future where we rely less on vehicle traffic downtown and use our existing rail lines for LRT while increasing bus transit through all downtown corridors.

Although we have some of the same amenities as Minneapolis we still lag behind in growth and vibrancy in the evening. The one current issue that faces both Winnipeg and Minneapolis is surface parking lots. Currently, Minneapolis is beautifying these parking lots as a step to increase development. Winnipeg should be looking at options to develop our surface parking lots and increase activity in the downtown area. I would advocate continued support for the Downtown Biz, Forks North Portage Partnership, Exchange District Biz and other stakeholders responsible for the continued development of our downtown. As seen recently with the proposed development of the parcel 4 at the Forks our growth as a city comes with innovation and creativity. As Minneapolis has shown, creative planning with continued investment works.

Glenn Churchill: From the cities that I visited, my “ideal” city would be New York City. NYC has many benefits and attractions that foster a great living environment.

Being a Transportation Engineer, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of NYC is the public transportation system. The ability of NYC’s Transit Authority to combine their bus, rail and subway system and move millions of people every day is incredible. It is efficient and affordable. While Winnipeg won’t ever require a transportation system that complex, getting Winnipeg to a point where our transit system is able to meet users’ needs efficiently and effectively is a goal to strive towards.
NYC also boasts one of the top arts and culture communities in the world. Museums, theatre and other attractions give the city its heart and soul. Winnipeg might not be on the same scale as NYC but we can still nurture the quality arts scene that is just as vibrant and should be a  show piece for the city.
Another aspect of NYC that I find appealing is just the way of life. There are corner grocery stores and shops within walking distance of any residence. There are many diverse and vibrant neighbourhoods, each with a sense of community. City services seem to be well planned out to reduce the amount of inconvenience for residents. Even with a city of millions of people, they still have dedicated green space. Central Park is amazing. Ensuring that Winnipeg maintains and develops it’s green space is required to help build that sense of pride that Winnipeggers feel when they go to places such as Assiniboine Park and St Vital Park.

Transcona

Ray Ulasy: No response as of Oct. 5

Blessing Feschuk: No response as of Oct. 5

Russ Wyatt: No response as of Oct. 5

George Baars-Wilhelm: No response as of Oct. 5

So, how much would it cost to get more nonstops from Winnipeg Airport?

Europe's Ryanair is known for its low fares, its frugality, and its strange sense of humour.

Europe’s Ryanair is known for its low fares, its frugality, and its strange sense of humour. (Click for source)

Calling for more airlines and cheaper fares at Winnipeg’s James Richardson International Airport is a favourite preoccupation of Winnipeggers. So much so that one mayoral candidate a few days ago pledged to work, if he is elected, to bring a true discount airline to the city — though even he personally was unsure how this could be done.

But airlines are no longer a political tool as they were in the days when many were government-owned, but now for-profit enterprises engaged in, as former American Airlines CEO Bob Crandall once put it, “a nasty, rotten business”. If they are to start service to a city, they will want reassurance that the new route stands favourable odds of being profitable.

This means more than just having people show up for flights. Not all passengers are created equal: the business traveler in seat 23A who paid $800 for a last-minute round trip to Toronto is certainly more valuable to the airline than the holidaymaker next to her in seat 23B who booked well in advance and paid just $500 for the same round-trip.

Thus, the more seats that are likely to be filled by the $800 passengers, the more impressed an airline will be with a city’s potential. Revenue, not just headcount, is critical to a route’s survival.

How much revenue does a flight need to break even? One rough way of estimating this is to look for a key figure in the airlines’ annual reports or news releases: cost per available seat mile (CASM) or, in the metrically minded countries, cost per available seat kilometre (CASK).

This can be as little as eight cents per seat per mile for an ultra low-cost airline like Europe’s Ryanair, which crams the seats in tight and has even mused about installing pay toilets on its fleet, or as high as 23 cents on Swiss, which tends to be a little more generous with passengers and actually uses well-paid Swiss-resident crews. (This is significant: Norwegian, an international low-cost airline, has faced criticism on both sides of the Atlantic for hiring American and Asian crew members because this is cheaper than hiring actual Norwegians.)

Multiply the cost per seat mile figure by the number of seats on the smallest aircraft capable of doing the job — sorry, but you can’t fly a Regional Jet from Canada to France — and the number of miles to the destination of choice, and you have a rough estimate of the minimum revenue each flight will need to bring in to be considered worth operating.

In Winnipeg’s case, the least demanding route to aim for would be a 50-seat American Envoy regional jet service to the American Airlines/Oneworld hub in Chicago. With operating costs averaging out to about 17 cents per seat-mile, American’s regional feeder service could be considered a break-even proposition at about $6,200 in revenue per flight. (This would include fares, ancillary revenues and cargo, but exclude taxes and surcharges collected from passengers.)

With impressively low costs in the nine cent per seat mile range, Delta Connection would also be able to break even at relatively low revenues on, for example, a flight to Delta’s New York JFK hub. (This would draw business away from Delta’s own Minneapolis/St. Paul hub, however, so the airline might not be keen on such a route.)

Air Service Costs 1

At the high end of the scale, long-haul flights have the highest revenue hurdles to get over. Icelandair, with costs equal to 17 cents per seat mile, would need reassurance that each flight would earn $87,000 in revenues to justify the Winnipeg-to-Iceland Boeing 757 flight that has been talked about for years.

And we can probably rule out Virgin Atlantic ever starting wide-body service between Winnipeg and London: with 314 seats to fill for 3,943 miles at 15 cents per mile, each flight would have to pull in nearly $186,000 in revenue to be considered worthwhile.

Longer flights not surprisingly require higher average revenues per passenger to break even. Even if a “dirt cheap” carrier such as Spirit Airlines — with low costs of about 11 cents per seat-mile — were to hypothetically start a 1,880-mile Winnipeg-Fort Lauderdale service using its 145-seat Airbus A319s, revenues on a fully loaded flight would need to average out to $207 per passenger each way to break even.

Air Service Costs 2

 

Why countries are more likely to break up than to merge

Tomorrow, Scottish voters will go to the polls to answer a simple and direct question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

When the campaign began last November, it was widely believed that the result might be similar to the outcome of the 1980 sovereignty referendum in Quebec, in which 60 percent voted against cutting the province’s ties with the rest of Canada.

But a vigorous “Yes” campaign led by Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, and a lacklustre “No” campaign led by Alistair Darling, Britain’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer, has dramatically closed the gap. As of this evening, a comparison to the too-close-to-call 1995 Quebec referendum might be in order, as the final polls suggest a slight “No” lead.

Despite our own experiences with Quebec nationalism, many Canadians still wonder why about one-half of Scots would want to separate from a relatively large and successful country of 64 million people to become a small country of just over five million people.

Isn’t bigger supposed to be better? Indeed, why don’t countries that share the same language merge to get rid of this wasteful duplication of governments and to increase their power on the world stage: Austria with Germany, New Zealand with Australia, Uruguay with Argentina, Ireland back into the United Kingdom . . . and Canada with the United States?

Alas, global might seldom translates into domestic bliss. Last January, this blog noted that when citizens of OECD countries were asked to rate their overall life satisfaction on a zero-to-10 scale, the countries at the top of the list read like a who’s who of small countries with little global influence: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark.

Further analysis suggested that satisfaction with life was closely tied to having a job and a steady income, feeling healthy, living in decent housing, and having a good personal social support network.

Credit Suisse, a Zurich-based bank and financial services company, also noticed that small countries tended to do better than their larger neighbours in securing a good life for their citizens, and conducted their own study, called “The Success of Small Countries”, to understand why.

Not only did Credit Suisse find a negative relationship between a country’s size and its per capita GDP, but they also found that smaller countries tended to do better in education, health, equality and other aspects of human development — even noting that Scotland has a higher level of human development than the U.K. as a whole, while Catalonia does better than Spain, the country many Catalans hope to separate from in the years ahead.

Smallness might also lead to pragmatism. The Credit Suisse report noted that smaller countries have opened themselves more to international trade than their larger neighbours, and have been more enthusiastic about globalization and technology. Their governments also tend to be less wasteful, in part because they don’t have to please as many parochial constituencies, as the report notes:

The larger the country, the more the need for local and regional governments to manage some of the key social services like education or police services.

Decentralization also gives rise to transfers from the central government to the poorer regions or states to allow for a more balanced growth and relative wealth across the country. Transfers — a political tool to keep a country together — add complexity and may lead to distortions and inefficiencies if not allocated properly . . .

The USA and the European Union provide a valuable illustration of this dynamic. In the USA, Federalism has added costs as each state has its own government infrastructure and ability to issue legislation. The result of this ‘government’ structure is often overspending and higher deficits at the regional or local level.

The same could be said about the European Union and the component states: 40% of the legislative acts of the EU concern agricultural policies, while agriculture represents less than 5% of European GDP.

A final factor that smaller countries seem to have on their side: higher levels of urbanization. The report notes that “cities are the most efficient form of human settlement” and are a “massive driver of growth and of wealth”. Urban societies are said to be “more practical and less ideological”, are better at producing higher-income jobs, and have citizens who are more comfortable dealing with cultural differences.

Thus, the Credit Suisse report might hold some of the clues to the appeal of Scottish nationalism. An independent Scotland would be under less pressure than the British government in London has long been to please far-flung constituencies, could focus its energies on building a healthier and better-educated population – which it needs in troubled areas such as Glasgow – and would have little choice but to be open to globalization. It would also be a highly urbanized country, with about 70 percent of its population living in the regions surrounding Edinburgh and Glasgow, and about 80 percent officially living in urban areas.

Yet this should not be taken as an endorsement of the “Yes” camp in tomorrow’s referendum. The Economist, always a source of sensible advice, points out in its call for Scots to vote “No” tomorrow that the nationalists’ optimism about oil revenues and the possibility of keeping the British pound as the Scottish currency are contestable. They also point out that, horrified by the close call with national breakup, the British government is likely to give the existing Scottish legislature so many additional powers within the U.K. that independence would be hardly worth seeking.

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