I was crushed.
“No can do”, said the ethics review board, mustering all of its collective wisdom.
Months of work down the tubes. Long hours burning the midnight oil, precious time carved from what little remained outside of my clinical duties as a trainee in emergency medicine - time spent assembling the countless pieces crucial to a successful research project, combing through hundreds of journals for data to support its premise, devising recruitment and randomization strategies, tweaking study design, and most painfully, stuffing myself through a crash course on statistical analysis.
Some folks take to “stats” as if to the manner born, soaking in the language of data analysis like parched cacti greedily sucking in water. I’m not one of those people. I was caught one morning, during a mandatory meeting to discuss research protocol design, between two colleagues endlessly debating the relative merits of the chi-square test versus Fisher’s Exact Test. It was excruciating, like being trapped in a migraine sandwich.
In the course of building my research proposal I happened upon the term “receiver operating characteristic curve”, and as any self-respecting person will do when confronted with gobbledygook, I promptly googled it. Whereupon I encountered this: “A receiver operating characteristic curve, i.e., ROC curve, is a graphical plot that illustrates the diagnostic ability of a binary classifier system as its discrimination threshold is varied.”
A blizzard of further explanation followed - not that I saw it. That one sentence was all it took: I promptly fell asleep, in violation of the cardinal rule of medical residency – “thou shalt never sleep” – and awoke, refreshed, nine hours later.
But finally, after much pain, after dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s and wrestling into place the statistical tools I would need to run my trial, my proposal was complete. All that remained was for the ethics committee to give it the green light.
What I got instead was a big red stop sign. Too risky, the committee concluded, put off by my plan to administer a powerful anesthetic to kids as prelude to straightening broken, crooked forearms. I imagined them stroking their imaginary beards in unison, enamored of the holiness of their mission as protectors of innocent children from crazed amateur scientists.
My previous experience didn’t hold any water, oddly. I used a derivative of the same anesthetic when I was in veterinary practice, back in the day, and it was wonderful stuff: I would knock down a colt, remove his testicles and have him back up and cantering around his corral as a gelding 20 minutes later, none the wiser. Well, quite a bit wiser, actually, with his source of testosterone erased: because as we all know, living as we do in this enlightened era of man-hate, the absence of testosterone is the beginning of wisdom.
That’s the reason, undoubtedly, why my excellent research proposal got the thumbs-down all those years ago, the ethics review panel being composed entirely of men, and not a eunuch among them. (If you don’t know what a eunuch is, faithful reader, think “human gelding”.)
And by that same reasoning, Jack Crompton, current mayor of Whistler, B.C., must surely be endowed with coconuts the size of basketballs (it’s a wonder the man can walk) and beset by stratospheric levels of testosterone. Add in the thin mountain air and the ever-present fumes of potent BC bud wafting through his village, and it’s not difficult to understand that wisdom is as far removed from His Worship as east from west is distant.
Which explains, perhaps, the cluelessness, the chutzpah, the outright stupidity of the letter Mayor Crompton sent last month to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., demanding that the oil and gas company pony up for “the costs of climate change being experienced by Whistler”.
In the mayor’s hazy version of reality, visitors to Whistler levitate to that snowy Mecca on magic carpets. As for the skis, the snowboards, and the wax employed to keep them slippery – all apparently manufactured from pixie dust. And in the evenings, fresh off sliding down magnificent slopes that somehow groom themselves, well-heeled tourists huddle around campfires to stay warm, swathed in buffalo hides, chewing on beef jerky and smoking reefer to maintain the illusion of luxury mountain-side chalets, posh restaurants, and steaming hot tubs.
I came across the news of Mr. Crompton’s idiotic missive a couple of days ago as I was sitting at my desk, sipping coffee and looking out at the glorious sun-drenched Rockies to the west, a chinook wind blasting warm air past my windows at 90 kilometres per hour. It was classic wintertime southern Alberta bluster, the sort of gale that topples tractor trailers from roadways like dominoes.
I had been chatting, a few minutes earlier, with my sister who lives on the B.C. side of those mountains. Her neck of the woods was being pounded by a weather phenomenon of a different sort: drenching, monsoon-like rains were soaking the Fraser Valley. “When Alberta blows, B.C. sucks,” goes the old joke.
It’s a witticism that applies to more than just B.C. and to more than just the weather, unfortunately. Alberta has long been a vital economic engine for our country, her citizens ingeniously and industriously harvesting its oil riches and blowing wads of wealth across the country, the “Rest of Canada” ravenously sucking in all that cash. (Thus is the “ROC” acronym resurrected and repurposed, after long and happy burial in the cobwebs of my memory, a political phoenix rising from the ashes of statistics). And for our efforts we Albertans have been drenched with monsoon-like outpourings of appreciation, admiration, and respect, earning the undying love of our nation. NOT.
Instead, the Rest of Canada greedily lines its pockets with Albertan golden eggs while inexplicably strangling the goose that lays them, tossing wrench after wrench into the very engine that produces the gobs of cash raining into its gaping maw. And leading the assassination: the insufferable premiers of B.C. and Quebec, righteously wagging enviro-fingers and sermonizing on “saving the planet” while shamelessly dumping millions upon millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Pacific Ocean and the St. Lawrence Seaway, B.C. busily exporting more carbon-spewing coal to the world than any other jurisdiction in North America, and Quebec importing tanker load after tanker load of dirty Saudi oil and lining the pockets of a disgustingly misogynistic, murderous regime that cares not a whit about the environment or the human rights of its people.
“There is no social acceptance for a pipeline that would pass through Quebec territory,” sniffed Quebec premier François Legault, last week, days before the news broke that the “equalization” (“Rip Off Alberta”) program had gifted Quebec with $13.1 billion, $1.4 billion more than last year’s largesse, most of it generated by, you guessed it, Alberta. This with Quebec’s economy chugging along near full employment and its budget in surplus. Meanwhile, in Alberta, hundreds of thousands of workers remain queued in unemployment lines, food banks are doing a record business, and tumbleweeds blow through an increasingly deserted downtown Calgary well on its way to becoming post-auto-apocalypse Detroit. Total equalization dollars paid to Alberta this year - or ever, for that matter: zero, zilch, bupkis.
It’s as if we’ve fallen through the looking glass into an alternate universe where up is down and down is up; any outside observer would conclude, rightly, that Canadians have lost their collective minds.
All of this insanity is egged on, of course, by the Chief Saboteur, the leader most bereft of wisdom, the sanctimonious twit most in need of political neutering, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Having already done everything in his power to strangle Alberta’s principle economic artery, his government is about to deliver the coup de grâce. Bill C-69, “The Bill That Will Finally Kill The Energy Industry”, passed second reading in the Canadian Senate on Wednesday.
It’s a sorry equivalent to his Liberal government’s assisted suicide law (MAiD, or Medical Assistance in Dying; our leaders are administering PAiD (Political Assistance in Dying) to the once proud and mighty energy industry. Not that it’s quite the same, mind you: mortally ill patients aren’t normally brought to death’s door by the very doctors who end their lives, and assistance in dying is ordinarily provided only to those who ask for it. The energy industry is teetering on the edge of its grave thanks to the very leaders now kicking the stuffing out of the near-dead corpse before suffocating it completely; nor did it ask to be killed – but killed it shall be.
“Sunny ways” was the enthusiastic forecast delivered by our prime minister upon assuming his high office. Needless to say, once his run as PM is done he need not seek employment as a meteorologist (the avenue to drama teaching shall remain wide open, his skills in that domain embellished by the never-ending drama of his tenure as our country’s leader, the darkest act of which is about to unfold). Mr. Trudeau shall go down in the annals of Canadian history as the most divisive, clueless prime minister ever to govern our land. Sunny days are but a faint and flickering memory, thunderheads having blotted out the sun entirely; a massive storm is in the offering. Thanks to Prime Minister Trudeau, our country is at risk of coming apart at the seams.
Because Albertans are livid, fed up with working tirelessly to generate wealth while the Rest of Canada sucks them dry. I’ve lived in Calgary for almost 25 years, and I’m well acquainted with the inevitable ups and downs and stresses of a resource-based economy. But never have I witnessed this amount of unrest, this degree of white-hot rage toward Ottawa. The pot is on full boil, and the steam is rising from all strata of Albertan society, not just from the hard-working men and women employed (or, more likely, previously employed) in the oil patch.
I was asked a couple weeks ago why I care so much. “You should stick to your knitting,” I was helpfully advised. “Stay in your lane.”
Firstly, I don’t knit. Secondly, my driving is fine, if a bit quick; I have no trouble staying in my lane, although I drive by far the most photographed vehicle in history thanks to that abominable pest called photo radar. Thirdly, the train wreck unfolding in front of us in Alberta deeply affects all of us who have built lives here, put down roots here, invested here and who love this beautiful province and the indomitable spirit of its people. Justin Trudeau’s homicidal attacks on Alberta’s oil industry will savagely wound our communities, our hospitals, our roads, our schools, our parks, our libraries, our real estate values, and so on and so on.
So yes, I care, and deeply, and I will not be silent; and nor will my fellow Albertans be silent in the face of the injustice being visited upon us.
In response to the fresh groundswell of support in Alberta for an exit from Confederation, Tristin Hopper recently penned a dismissive article in the National Post, detailing “Why Alberta Separatism is the Dumbest Political Movement in Canada".
Mr. Hopper underestimates us. We are Albertans, resourceful and resilient, fiercely independent and inventive, industrious and proud. And we have had it to the gills with being taken for fools. As rock band Twisted Sister once put it so eloquently, “We’re not gonna take it anymore.”
That’s a worthy anthem for the war that is coming once Jason Kenney assumes control of our province in May. Commander Kenney will have hundreds of thousands of battle-ready Albertans at his beck and call: revolution is at hand.
But it’s deeply, deeply unfortunate that Canada has come to this.
I never thought I’d write the following words - many of my American friends will guffaw in disbelief, but it is as sad as it is true: Justin Trudeau is proving to more of an enduring threat to our country than Donald Trump is to his.
And that really, really sucks.