May 18

The globe is staggering, reeling under the burden of more than 7 billion people.

We’ve figured out how to feed ‘em all, for the most part, but they’re wrecking the planet with carbon-spewing, globe-trotting, meat-eating recklessness.

And we keep replicating, like viruses, adding 360,000 souls to the teeming mass of humanity every twenty-four hours, with only 150,000 folks gracious enough to shuffle off this mortal coil each day to make room.  We’re not winning.

It’s not for lack of trying.

China fearlessly led the way with its infamous “one child” policy, but the People’s Republic is on the cusp of abandoning that approach after generating a slightly unworkable male:female ratio of 18,000:1, roughly – welcome to toxic masculinity.

We’ve introduced sex education to preschoolers and employed birth control methods up the wazoo.  Long gone are the primitive days of fending off pregnancy by optimistically hanging weasel testicles around one’s neck as foreplay:  the modern world is awash in oral contraceptives, IUDs, condoms, diaphragms, vasectomies, and tubal ligations; and if none of those suit, one always has abstinence as trusty backup, or the rhythm method, or the timing method, or the “running the neighbour’s son off with a shotgun” method – or, in a pinch, the Lorena Bobbitt method, for the aspiring surgeons among us. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 18

Yesterday’s op-ed piece by Josh Gordon in the Vancouver Sun ("Speculation tax is essential for housing affordability") should be shredded and composted across the province as potent fertilizer to the spring growing season, so pure is the horse manure contained therein.  Bumper crops would be assured.

Mr. Gordon, assistant professor in the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University, attempts a robust defense of the tax, a wrong-headed initiative germinated in the first place by fellow luminaries at the University of B.C.  It makes one wonder whether the professors have been indulging overmuch in that famous B.C. bud. A short vacation from academic haze to the real world is overdue, I think.

The initial concerns and problems with the tax “have now been addressed”, claims Mr. Gordon, before he goes on to completely ignore the disproportionate effect of the speculation levy on fellow Canadians.  Out-of-province Canadians with vacation homes in B.C. will be still be on the hook for a one percent annual levy on the assessed value of their property:  for a $500,000 home, that means an extra five grand in taxes, each year, every year.

With fully 81% of British Columbians in support of the speculation tax it would seem to be a smash home-run as policy, a sure-fire political winner.

Maybe.  But just because something seems initially “popular” doesn’t make it right, or even popular.

It’s all in the framing, and the question put to British Columbians frames the tax, wrongly, as a “speculation” tax.  As B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson rightly pointed out in the legislature:

“A speculator is someone who buys a property solely to flip it. A speculator is someone who parks offshore money in our real estate, hoping to protect themselves from the turmoil in global markets. A speculator is someone who uses bare trusts to avoid paying property transfer taxes, thereby allowing multiple sales and resales with no change in title.A speculator is not someone who pays taxes here and owns a vacation cottage. These folk are not trying to capitalize on our out-of-control housing market.” Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 18

It’s hard being me.


I’m tired, weary of “checking my privilege”.

By dumb luck I’m rooted to this planet as an SWM, a straight white male, my mere existence offensive, by default sexist, homophobic, racist - a blight on society, judging by the relentless onslaught of social justice warrior (SJW) messaging.  The post-modern left, as author A.R. Devine explains, holds straight white males to be inferior humans "who should keep their mouths shut and know their place" - privileged, therefore scum.

And it’s hard on me.  We all want to be loved, after all.

The protracted battle of SJW v. SWM is not much of a contest these days. Imagine, for a terrifying moment,  Mike Tyson in his fearsome prime pounding on Stephen Hawking in his wheelchair, and you have accurately grasped the current tilt and tenor of this conflict.

Worse, I’m a married man, hence a wife-beater at heart.  That worthy insight arrived courtesy of Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s wondrously accomplished minister of foreign affairs, in an interview with liberal arts magazine The Walrus – published, in no small irony, on Valentine’s Day: “I’m a woman. I’m a wife. I’m a mother. One hundred years ago, I would’ve been beaten by my husband. That’s what happened to pretty much all women.” Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 18

Wrinkling my nose against the acrid smell of sweat clinging to his hockey uniform, I carefully probed the teenager's impressively swollen wrist.  I sent him off to the radiology department with his grandmother and turned my attention immediately to another patient in the endless emergency queue, completely forgetting to send a digital requisition for the needed X-rays.

The radiology technician, attempting to correct my omission, asked grandma which doctor had attended her grandson.  “I can’t remember,” she said, “But it was the short, handsome, Latino man.”

One out of three isn’t bad, I suppose:  I’m a card-carrying member of the pocket-doctor set, indisputably small.

Her generous assessment of my wrinkly mug as “handsome” was proof only that she had to be legally blind, surely beset by the densest of cataracts.  My vacation-acquired tan penetrated her milky lenses just enough for her to kindly bestow me with Brazilian or Puerto Rican heritage.

Ironically, though my roots are thoroughly Dutch, I'm endowed with the mercurial temper for which Latinos are famous (a most ignorant stereotype, let me hasten to stress, before level-headed Latin Americans launch irritable volleys of protest in my direction). Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 17

“I vould like sekond opinion please, doktorrr.”

The man looked up at me defiantly, his face haggard and creased with worry; his wife huddled next to him, sobbing quietly, their son cradled carefully in her arms.

The repeated and agitated “nyet, nyet” that peppered mom’s teary discussions with her husband should have been a clue that things were going sideways.

A public health nurse, disturbed by the 6-day-old baby’s deeply yellow complexion, had sent the young family to the emergency department.

I examined little Anton thoroughly, after obtaining important additional details from his parents, including the alarming news that the little guy had lost all interest in breast-feeding.

He was sleepy, difficult to rouse despite a firm rub of his sternum, a simple maneuver that reliably produces, in a healthy baby, lusty cries of protest.  Anton offered only a weak and high-pitched whimper, rousing just enough to display the yellowed whites of his eyes, and drifted back to sleep. Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 17

The spectacle last week of my tax dollars hard at work came as a timely and necessary salve for my troubled soul.

Readers of this space know that I’ve taken repeated umbrage in recent months with the current government’s proposal to renovate its tax-collecting regime. With the stated goal of “leveling the playing field” for all Canadians, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau have in essence dictated that the Canada Revenue Agency reduce its tax form, functionally albeit not in length, to two solitary and acquisitive lines:

1. How much did you earn last year?
2. Send it in.

Exceptions abound, of course, for those with trust funds, offshore tax havens, and French villas. I’m not pointing fingers.

I’ve not been alone in my irritation and in my carping around this issue, suffice it to say.  But now much is forgiven. Now, at the very least, I have new and solid evidence that the great mounds of cash heaved in Ottawa’s direction by industrious Canadians are being deployed with parsimony and shrewdness.

The storied Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, funded by your tax dollars and mine, has extended its brilliant track record of delivering only the “news you can use”, in this case tackling the Gordian knot of “climate change” and drilling incisively to the nub of the matter.  After briefly reviewing the latest in “carbon footprint science”, CBC reporter Emily Chung cheerfully offered up a suite of concrete, practical solutions whereby we can mitigate the myriad destructive aspects to our sooty presence on this blue planet.

Firstly:  eat a plant-based diet. Banish from your spacious appetites the succulent tenderloins, char-broiled rib-eyes, crispy bacon strips and breaded drumsticks that have sustained us and our forebears for so many centuries.  Henceforth these meats are to be known simply and honestly as dead and decaying animal flesh, cruelly harvested from living and breathing animal hosts who are themselves destroying our planet with their flatulence and enormous methane-emitting dung piles.

Secondly:  endeavor to sustain your dog or your cat on a low protein diet. This prescription, although logical (see meat, above), strikes me as overly timid. Far better, it seems to me, to knock the critter-carbon-footprint to zero by foregoing pet ownership in the first place. And, since a Swedish study recently confirmed that people live up to 20% longer if they have a dog, getting rid of Fido should have the added benefit of shortening the carbonaceous existence of his human master.  That, my friends, is what we call a "win, win".

Thirdly, as should be self-evident, get rid of your carbon-belching automobile. If you can't walk or cycle or hopscotch to work or to play, and if you don’t own a magic carpet or some other mode of green conveyance, feel free to buy an electric car.  As you know, modern-day messiah Elon Musk is rescuing our tottering planet one Tesla at a time. (In the interests of keeping this brief essay cleanly on point, I’ll ignore the uncomfortable bits, such as from whence will come all the voltage that must be generated to charge all those millions and millions of batteries.)

Fourthly:  avoid air travel. The “stay-cation” must become our new normal; no need to jet off to Mexico or Hawaii or Tahiti or Thailand for needed rest, relaxation, and exploration; there’s plenty to do and discover in our own backyards. That many of those far-flung destinations look to tourism to sustain their economic health is not our concern: we all need to make our sacrifices.  This adjustment will cut pretty close to home, mind you, for our Prime Minister and his team of climate warriors, 300 of whom accompanied him to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, at an estimated cost of 280 tonnes of CO2.  Add in perennial governmental subsidies to aircraft-maker Bombardier, the PM’s holiday excursion (with entourage) last year to the private island of the Aga Khan, and so on, and so on - you get the picture.  I can only assume that (another) teary national apology will soon be issued for “historical” indiscretions, this time for the belatedly-realized injuries inflicted on the tender globe by wanton carbon-spewing government actions.

It goes almost without saying that rocket travel should be utterly verboten, which may or may not be music to the ears of ex-astronaut and newly minted Governor-General of Canada Julie Payette. As a vocal advocate of climate change science, and robust heckler  of "deniers", she is undoubtedly plagued by regret and beset by shame each time she reflects upon her earlier escapades, and in particular the two occasions wherein she escaped the bonds of Earth aboard the space shuttle.  According to NASA's own numbers, the shuttle's two solid rocket boosters at lift-off consume 11,000 pounds of fuel per second - two million times the rate at which fuel is burned by the average family car - in the process of generating horsepower equivalent to 400,000 subcompact cars.

Sorta makes the enviro-damage done by Fido’s beef-based kibble-and-bits seem rather modest.  Perhaps it's best that we mothball our space exploration efforts, until such time that we have at our disposal solar-power-enhanced windmills powerful enough to cleanly blow our rockets into that great beyond.

Fifthly, and this is a biggie:  have one less kid. This strategy represents, by a wide margin, the richest opportunity for non-astronaut earthlings to de-carbonize the planet, at almost 59 tonnes of carbon saved per year (living "car-free" by comparison only saves 2.4 tonnes of CO2).  As for those children already on the ground, whose blackened little footprints we have no choice but to contend with, Ms. Chung helpfully references climate warrior Keya Chatterjee, who chronicles her heroic efforts to reduce the planetary damage of her first- and only-born in The Zero Footprint Baby.  It strikes me, however, upon reviewing her efforts, that it's all just so much work… it seems infinitely simpler to get to "zero footprint baby" by having no baby at all (see "Fido", above).

Ms. Chung's piece surfaced in my consciousness a September letter to the New York Times that I had squirreled away in my files, penned by one Ed Salisbury of Santa Monica, California, and written in response to the Times offering "Your Questions About Climate Change, Answered".  Opined the good Mr. Salisbury:  “The lifestyle adjustments needed to reverse climate change should be emphasized. These adjustments are well known, including not having more than one child; minimizing consumption of meat and fish; living close to where you work (and/or using mass transit); not having dogs or cats as pets (which also consume resources); and supporting sustainable practices and policies. None of these adjustments represent hardship, only a shift in our existing attitudes. Individually and together we can defeat the enemy, which is us.”

The enemy is us.

I think I'll issue a note to Liberal hero Jean Chrétien to solicit his thoughts on the matter.  Mr. Chrétien was elected ten times to Canada's House of Commons, held almost every major cabinet office, and in October 1993 was elected as his nation's twentieth prime minister.  He was also the eighteenth of nineteen children.  A conversation with Céline Dion, famed Canadian songstress and youngest of fourteen children, might be similarly instructive.  I'm a tad sensitive on this point, admittedly, clocking in as I did as kiddo number eleven in a train of twelve.

With these useful CBC "guideposts for living" freshly summarized and top-of-mind, I climbed into my vehicle last Friday morning to haul my four kids to school, stopping briefly on the way to collect my neighbour's three youngsters.  (They all attend the same French immersion school -  it'll be of immense use to them to be able to smoke pot in both official languages, one day.)   I felt like an eco-criminal, barreling down the road in my gas-guzzling Suburban with seven planet-destroying children inside, a micro-climate of warming enveloping us as I drove.

Then it occurred to me that the real instigator of this current calamity is American Henry Ford, the entrepreneur who pioneered affordable gasoline-powered transport for the plebs by mass-producing the Model T Ford.  And Mr. Ford's contemporaries in inventiveness, Orville and Wilbur Wright, had the audacity to successfully marry a gasoline-powered engine to their nascent airplane, and the rest is history.  Viewed through the unforgiving lens of retrospect, both Mr. Ford and the Wright brothers are guilty of immoral hubris, and they shall certainly be tried one day, in absentia and postmortem, for their crimes against the universe.

Of course, if I could but thrust my trembling hands back through the millennia and squeeze them tightly around the scrawny neck of the caveman who foolishly invented the wheel, the glowing global-warming menace would be strangled in its infancy.  But absent a suitable carbon-neutral time-travel conveyance we must settle for more immediate solutions; fortunately we have Mothership CBC  to lead us.

The restoration of our world will be gradual, and our learning curve will be steep.  It's not as simple, after all, as re-awakening our ancient hunter-gatherer skills; "gather" away, but the "hunter" part is a non-starter - no meat, remember?  But by limiting ourselves to one child per family and thereby halving our numbers each generation, we will greatly accelerate our remedial efforts, eventually extinguishing in its entirety the ruinous and parasitic human race.

Unencumbered by homo sapiens, and as her skies clear and her forests regrow and her waters are purified, Mother Earth shall return at last to her original glory, slowly spinning on her axis and rotating about her star, safe and secure among the trillions upon trillions of sister specks in our cosmos.

Nov 17

“Cannabis is Canada’s moment to lead the world” declares Peter Shier in last Friday’s edition of the Globe and Mail.

At last.

So far as lofty ideals go, one would be hard-pressed to conceive of a “higher” quest.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has gallantly plucked this moment, this single fragrant grain, from the giant hourglass of history to forever define the “leadership” of our magnificent nation.

Move over Mahatma Ghandi.  Make room, Nelson Mandela, and shuffle to the left, Winston Churchill.  Hark, John F. Kennedy, as Mr. Trudeau prepares to join the storied Pantheon of the Greatest Leaders of All Time.

Take a minute or two, dear reader, to revisit President Kennedy’s famous moonshot speech; and then, for equal but home-grown modern-day inspiration, modify it thusly:

But why, some say, marijuana? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 90 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Calgary play Edmonton?

We choose to get high! We choose to legalize marijuana in this decade, not because it is easy, but because it is hard; because that goal will serve to pacify and to sedate our youth, to renovate their minds, to restrain the best of their energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win!”

This is Canada’s moonshot, as we boldly go where only Uruguay has gone before, in a grand push to normalize marijuana use for all our people.  And make no mistake, normalizing pot use is precisely what we are doing, using a Trojan horse of legalization (for adults only!) to make it so.

The Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Society, and the Canadian Pediatric Society, after jointly and limply ceding the legalization ground to our government as a fait accompli, have been reduced to plaintively offering modifications to the Liberal’s madcap scheme, their advisements generally and casually ignored in the sprint to profits.

As for Mr. Shier, his exuberance is understandable –  as president of noted advertising agency Naked Creative Consultancy, he is set to feast on a rich banquet of opportunity.  “As wine is to France and whisky is to Scotland, let cannabis be to Canada,”, he writes, positively salivating over the branding prospects offered up by Island Sweet Skunk, God Bud, Mountain Jam, Timewarp and their aromatic relatives.

Why our government does not instead simply decriminalize marijuana (along with all other drugs of abuse), to avoid normalizing its use and to avoid saddling our youth with criminal penalties for mere pot possession, remains a mystery to me and to most of my colleagues.  But we are merely medical men and women:  it is surely hubris on my part to expect that our opinions regarding the many and proven dangers of marijuana use be taken with seriousness.

Perhaps best to leave these weighty things for future historians to debate.

Meanwhile, in the interests of sturdily and prominently planting this weedy moment in the vast field of history, so that it may achieve the height and majesty it deserves, and thus be gazed upon with unrivaled awe and admiration from many generations hence, I turn for inspiration to one of my stoner friends.  Although too afflicted by pot-induced laziness to be overly original, he offers this pearl of euphoric wisdom:

“One small toke for man, one giant doobie for mankind.”


But allow me a final small observation.  The most transcendent of pot-induced highs will not release us from this inescapable fact:  so long as we are confined by the gravitational laws of this planet, what goes up must most assuredly come down.

And I, for one, predict a very hard landing for the Canadian people, and especially for our youth.

Oct 17

"Time and tide wait for no man", declared Geoffrey Chaucer, back in the day.

And boy am I feelin' it.

I turned 50 this year, and as much as I'd like to subscribe to the pithy "50 is the new 40" maxim, I'm afraid it's simply a bromide framed to help us ignore the realities and indignities of aging.

If you, faithful reader, are of similar vintage, you know precisely what it's like to wander the house, befuddled, searching endlessly for those newly acquired reading glasses, only to find them perched precariously atop your receding hairline.  And then to discover that you can't find the book for which you needed the darn glasses in the first place.

I could go on and on - lost keys, misplaced children, that time I found myself half-way to Banff after I simply went out to buy a gallon of milk - but I'll spare you the weary details.

At least I'm getting wiser, I tell myself.

Which brings me to the news this morning that Finance Minister Bill Morneau failed to disclose, for two years, property that he owns in Europe via one of his private corporations.

I must confess to a twinge of annoyance, at first, when I read through the story.  I mean, it's almost too easy to get a hate-on for a man who can so casually own a villa in the south of France that he actually completely forgets that he has it.

But then, upon some further reflection, a bit of my age-acquired wisdom surfaced.

The finance minister is, after all, 54 years old.  And the fact that he is stratospherically richer than me shields him not one iota from the absent-mindedness that creeps up on all of us.  "Time and tide wait for no man."

So he misplaced a villa.  Big deal.  Could happen to any of us.  "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone," we are rightly advised in the Gospel according to John.

The Mayans lost entire civilizations as they got older, for crying out loud.

So back off, I say.  Leave the man in peace.

Oct 17

It was a glorious early morning today in Calgary, crisp and clear, with an enormous harvest moon glowing orange just above the western horizon, crowned by millions of stars just beginning to wink out in obeisance of dawn.

Despite the grandeur, I found myself imbued with a touch of melancholy as I drove my eldest daughter to her 7 am volleyball practice.

The vestiges of my most recent emergency department shift, completed only eight hours earlier, were still clinging to me, I suppose.  The ancient notion that full moons are attended by evil spirits seemed almost a verifiable truth, as my caseload was heavily peppered with troubled children caught in the crossfire of family strife, suicidal youth, and capped by a five-year-old boy whose skull was fractured by his very own father.

Not easy to shake that stuff, despite the magnificence of the heavens.

I'm also perhaps still a bit wounded by a comment made a few days ago by someone close to me, who ventured this nugget:  "I remember when you used to care about underprivileged people."

This in response to my recent and frequent posts in support of the thousands of Canadian doctors upset about tax changes being foisted upon them by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government.  Apparently, since I've had the audacity to stand up for our profession, to protest that we are not tax dodgers and tax cheats, to decry the daily demonizing of physicians in our venerable House of Commons, that makes me a grubby, petty capitalist concerned primarily with lining my deep pockets with the hard-earned dollars of taxpayers.

And this week brings the dispiriting news that the divisive and dishonest class warfare techniques employed by our current government have been successful in deceiving our fellow citizens: 49% of Canadians evidently are in agreement that "fat-cat doctors" and small business owners are not paying their "fair share" of taxes.

So I can be forgiven a bit of melancholy, I think.

With all that good cheer as a backdrop, I turned my attention today to a revision of my high school "Career Days" speech.

In the halcyon days of yore, before our trust-fund-endowed leaders exposed us for what we are, doctors were esteemed as leaders; as people of achievement and integrity; as holder of positions to which young people might actually aspire.

My invitation to "Career Days" has not yet been rescinded, however, and so an adaptation of my usual remarks is in order.  Needed inspiration comes from an excellent piece penned by Elliot Levine entitled "Mr. Morneau, your analysis is incomplete."

The eloquence angle needs some work - I've never been accused of being overly polished - but here's the thrust of the matter:

"Thank you once again for inviting me to speak to you.  

My message to you today is simple:  

Don't "reach for the top."

Don't strive to excel.

Don't "try, and try again, if at first you don't succeed."

Don't become entrepreneurs.

Don't dare to think that you can build a successful small business.

And certainly don't dream of becoming a doctor.

Don't sacrifice years of your life in unnecessary toil or sacrifice or study.

Imagination, innovation, perseverance, ingenuity... all those things are overrated.

Instead, become a civil servant.  

All of your needs will be met.  You will want for nothing.  

Secure income, paid vacations, fully financed and elongated maternity leave, reasonable and regular working hours, excellent health and dental benefits, complementary self-improvement courses, and, in the end, a platinum pension, fully indexed to the rate of inflation,  to nourish your golden sunset years.  All these things can be yours.

You'll be able to rest, blissfully and securely, in the everlasting arms of our government.

Just one tiny note of caution:  don't get sick.   Because we will no longer be training doctors, after all.

Don't worry overly much about that last bit.  I have it on good authority that "wikiHow" is set to publish a new piece, entitled "How to remove your own appendix."  It's called the Morneau technique.  Good luck with that.

For everything else, we have the peerless Dr. Google, under whose expert guidance all symptom pathways lead assuredly to death.  There is, after all, nothing more certain in life than death, and, under this government: Much. Higher. Taxes.

Thank you, and good luck.  You're gonna need it."

Oct 17

This morning, in off-the-cuff remarks to the media, President Donald Trump pronounced what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday night to be “in many ways a miracle”.

Fifty-eight dead.  More than 500 injured.  Immeasurable horror and grief and misery, untold pain to come, as families try to come to terms with the naked evil that ripped apart their lives and stripped away their loved ones.

A “miracle”?

Kudos, of course, to the intrepid police officers and SWAT teams that scrambled, in the teeth of great danger, to locate the madman and put an end to the carnage.  They are owed an enormous debt of gratitude for their valor.  Absolutely.

But a miracle?

This uttered by an American president both ardently supportive of and staunchly supported by the National Rifle Association, an organization doggedly determined to protect the rights of Americans to carry assault weapons.

A host of different descriptors come to mind:  reprehensible; disgusting; deplorable; disgraceful; blameworthy; shameful; repugnant; unforgivable.

Pick one.  Pick them all, actually - they all apply.

I suppose it is a “miracle” of sorts that the American president, US congressional leaders, and a great swath of the American citizenry continue to defend their Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms”, while depraved countrymen use said weapons to execute thousands of Americans in massacre after massacre after massacre, from schools to army bases to nightclubs to churches to music festivals.

It’s a miracle that this continues in a civilized, developed society - if by that one means “unbelievable” or “unfathomable”.

Defenders of the “right to carry” should be mandated to spend serious time in the trauma bay of any large American hospital, to bear intimate witness to the unrelenting waves of critically wounded gunshot victims as they crash through the doors, bleeding and broken and dying.

They should be forced to trudge alongside the families of those who are murdered, as they “walk through the valley of the shadow of death”, as they descend into a black hole of grief and despair, never again to see their sons, their daughters, their mothers, their fathers…

Perhaps then, at long last, the enormity of this malignant stain on the fabric of American society would gain some purchase on their souls.

Now that would be a miracle.