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Why Not Me? – Chapter Two


47 minute read

Chapter Two 

Understanding Your Purpose

Key #14

In the Hindu religion, there is a sharp focus on Dharma. Choosing your Dharma is choosing to walk the path set for you by the Supreme Being. If you follow your Dharma, you will no longer be a fish out of water, or a round peg trying to fit in a square hole. When you are doing what you are meant to do, you will then be utilizing your natural skill sets and talents; thus, success will be inevitable. Finding your Dharma is like falling in love. If you’re ready for it to happen, then when it happens, you will just know. And nobody will be able to talk you out of it. If you aren’t sure of what it is you should be doing, just make sure that you are in the ball park. Close is good enough for a start. 

One way to find your Dharma is to write a list of what you don’t want in your life. Most people have an easier time identifying what they don’t want than what they do want. It will still take courage to cut these items out of your life, but at least you will have a list to use as a reference when you are deciding on one path over another. The closer you are to your Dharma, the easier and more enjoyable your life path will be. 

The best example I can think of to illustrate Dharma is to talk about my dog, Abby. Abby is an English Springer Spaniel or “Springer” for short. Springers are born and bred to hunt and flush out game birds such as grouse and pheasants, which is the prime purpose for me choosing this breed. From her normal behavior, most people would assume that Abby is a happy dog when they meet her. She is a bundle of excitement when she greets every guest, and she is even more excited if she recognizes who you are. She’s an indoor dog who is well cared for, pampered, and loved as much as any dog could hope for. It’s true that our little Abby is generally a happy dog who is in good spirits. However, she wasn’t born and bred to be a family lap dog. 

Abby suffers from arthritis, and at home she needs help to get up on to the couch or into her favorite chair. She climbs the stairs with some difficulty and discomfort, but she can do it on her own. In this environment where she is merely content, this is the demeanor of our precious friend. One would never suspect what she is capable of when she is placed in the environment she was born and bred to be in. 

When the short two weeks of pheasant season comes around, I’m ready for it. The pheasant area is a two-hour drive south of my home. Consequently, for me to be there for first legal shooting light, I have to get up bright and early. The moment I grab my hunting jacket and my shotgun, Abby perks up and starts to look like a different dog. Suddenly she is able to fly up and down the stairs without any sign of pain, and she has a look of anticipation in her eyes that can only be described as sheer joy. On the drive down to the pheasant area, she calms down. But as soon as we get within ten minutes of our regular area, Abby starts to fuss with anticipation. Even though we only go about three times a season, she recognizes every tree and bush within a fifteen mile radius. By the time we start down the final dirt road, Abby is jumping out of her skin with excitement. The moment I park, I open the door for her, and she bolts out of the vehicle as if she were on fire. 

Once I get all of my gear prepared and the clock tells me that it’s time for legal shooting light, we’re off to hunt. My little arthritic dog runs full out, weaving in and out of the bushes without any encouragement for three hours straight. Even in the deepest bush (which Springers are renowned for), Abby will crash through the thistles and leap over the logs and deadfall as if she were four years younger and much fitter than she actually is. When Abby does find a bird or rabbit, she lets out an uncontainable yelp of excitement as she chases after it for me. Each time she finds a bird, she is re-energized and unstoppable. 

This is the power of Dharma. Hunting is what Abby was born and bred to do. It is the reason she was placed on this earth. Although she can be relatively happy without hunting, she will never be so happy as when she is hunting. 

When you are traveling the path you were meant to travel, the one you were designed for, you will then be at your happiest as well. If I could hunt with Abby all year round, I would. It brings me enormous joy to watch the excitement she experiences during the hunt. Even when we aren’t successful at finding any game, she is still far happier pursuing her purpose than being at home on the couch. She doesn’t lament that she has failed in her attempt; instead, she relishes the fact that she had the opportunity to try. 

“One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead.” 

Oscar Wilde 

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” 

Abraham Maslow 

Key #15
The Responsibility of Talent

One of the reasons I am driven to succeed at my endeavors is that I feel a responsibility to do so. 

“Gods gift to us is our talents; our gift to God is using them.” 


I always knew I had talents, and once I was able to identify them and their potential value, I was able to find my path, my Dharma. If I were to ignore my path and my potential, I feel that I would be slapping God in the face. 

Ignoring your talents is like blowing a million dollar payout from your parents’ life insurance policy on a weekend in Vegas. This would be a massive disrespect to the memory of your parents and their many years of careful diligence paying into an insurance policy to ensure a better future for you. 

Talents are a precious gift that all people have received to varying degrees. Sadly, most people take their gift for granted and never choose to implement and thus enjoy their talents. 

What are your talents? Everyone has them, yet not everyone is fully aware of them. We can all elevate ourselves, and the most rewarding way to do so is by discovering and utilizing our talents. 

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”


For the first time in human history, we live in a global society that provides abundant opportunity for almost everybody. There are difficulties for all, but not so much as to drown out anyone’s ability to pursue the opportunities before them. What a shame it is to have talents that are never realized, yet most of society commits this grave sin under a blanket of excuses. 

“The real source of wealth and capital in this new era is not material things; it is in the human mind, the human spirit, the human imagination, and our own faith in the future. That’s the magic of a free society—everyone can move forward and prosper because wealth comes from within.” 

Steve Forbes 

All of us have an urge, sometimes a secret urge to find our Dharma. Many refuse to even look for their Dharma or admit that they have one. Are you one those people who complains about your job or your business? If so, this is probably because you are not in a situation that uses and pushes your talents and potential. Not all of us can become billionaires, but most can become millionaires. I’m using money here as a measuring stick, but this concept applies to your wealth of happiness and contentment. It’s fear that keeps us from admitting our potential and our talents. It is this same fear that presents itself to appear as laziness. 

“There is no such thing as lazy people, there is only the uninspired.” 


Many couch potatoes are on the couch because they have simply given up. They don’t know where to start and feel there is no point in trying because they won’t win regardless of what they do. The attitude is: “What’s the point in setting myself up for disappointment?” 

“Men are made stronger on the realization that the helping hand that they need is at the end of their own right arm.” 

Sidney J. Philips 

Other people will simply succumb to their fear of failure and come up with any and every excuse in the book as to why they “can’t” do it. These people will rationalize with themselves and others to explain that the size of the stones in their path are simply too large to climb, never admitting they were the ones who threw the stones there in the first place. It’s amazing how people will protect their self-limiting beliefs. If you challenge their beliefs or try to offer solutions to their so-called “problems,” their tendency will be to resist with a mighty force. 

If you try to offer examples of those who have already done what these folks wish that they could do, you will likely be resisted by excuses, imaginary obstacles, and rationalization. The skeptics will tell you that the people who “did it” were just in the right time and the right place. It’s common for skeptics to attempt to trivialize success by saying, “They were just lucky.” 

Being aware of the fact that these are normal and predictable responses to “the truth” will arm you against the influence of misinformation and self-limiting beliefs. Self-limiting beliefs can be incredibly persuasive and potentially very dangerous to your success. They are like a super- contagious disease, and you must take precautions to avoid being infected by them. When choosing an environment to spend time in, ensure that it is not contaminated by self- doubting, self-limiting influences. Just as you wouldn’t go swimming in shark-infested waters, take heed to ensure the crowd you run with is a positive one. 

Although potentially dangerous, I have found that negative people can also be great teachers. You can learn what is correct by hearing and seeing the negative results produced by negative people. Understanding how it is that they achieved those negative results will allow you to see how the results could have easily been positive had the energy used towards the goal been positive. These people are proof that positive or negative energy produces positive or negative results. Another layer of armor you can wear is to realize that when people try to keep your feet on the ground, it’s usually because they don’t want you to surpass them. Not many people are mature enough to offer encouragement to someone who is about to surpass them. 

Key #16
Talents Are Opportunities, Not Entitlements

If you have not already seen the movie Evan Almighty, then I suggest that you do. It’s a great comedy, and there are good lessons to be learned from this film. Morgan Freeman’s God character had this to share: 

“If you pray for patience, God doesn’t give you patience; he gives you the opportunity to be patient. If you pray for courage, God won’t give you courage; he will give you the opportunity to be courageous.” 

Your talents are opportunities, not entitlements. If you have ever watched American Idol, or any of the other Idol competitions, you surely would remember at least one contestant who felt that he/she was entitled to win. These people would strut around with an arrogant air, just waiting to be rewarded for their talent. What they didn’t understand is that talent alone is just not enough. You need to have many more tools in the tool pouch. 

If you are waiting around for someone to swoop into your life to give you that “big break” by recognizing your talents, then you are likely going to be waiting for a long time. If you feel that talent alone entitles you to a life of showcasing your talents, then again, you will be disappointed. It’s true that some people, like the beautiful Pamela Anderson, are just “discovered,” but for every Pam Anderson, there are a thousand others who had to claw and scrape their way to the top. Even in Pam’s case, being discovered was only the opportunity. Pamela had to do the work to make the most of the opportunity and to be successful. Many people would have blown the chance that Pam was given, or they would not have had the courage to jump on the opportunity. 

Your talent is a doorway to a goal, not a winning lottery ticket that guarantees your goal. You can be disempowered by letting others decide whether or not to value your talents, or you can be empowered by taking your future into your own hands. 

Somewhere out there, the next Mozart, Jimmy Hendrix, Einstein, or Stephen Hawking is riding the bus to the widget factory while scores of others with far less talent are living the life of a superstar. Many people have succeeded at ventures where others with far more talent have failed. Talent is just not enough. You must take action to implement your talents, or they will just waste away in the cellar of your soul. 

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” 


What are your talents? If you know what they are, then— what are you waiting for? If you are waiting for courage, you will find it by continuing to educate yourself through books or courses. The more you grow, the more confident you will feel. Instead of waiting for courage, you can just go on faith that things will work out, and jump NOW. The courage and confidence will come later. Just act, take a deep breath, and jump!


Key #17
Skill Sets

Success, overcoming fear, and effectively achieving goals are all learnable skill sets. All of the keys that are shared in this book are learnable. 

If I was plopped into the middle of a McDonald’s kitchen and told to start cooking burgers and fries, I’d be totally lost. I wouldn’t have a clue what to do, but only because I haven’t put in the time to develop the required skill set. I’m sure that there are not many people out there who don’t have the confidence to be a competent back line cook at McDonald’s, yet few have the confidence to acquire the skill sets required for great personal success. This is what I know to be true: Both skill sets are equally attainable. 

The self-limiting belief of “I’m not qualified” will dictate the type of pursuit you will have the confidence to chase. You have to understand that your resume can only show what you have done; it cannot show your potential. The resume is only a reflection of the past, and although the past is a good predictor of the future, you have the ability to grow at any moment you choose. No resume can illustrate your growth potential. 

What if your resume only shows all of the wrong paths you have ever walked? How is this going to demonstrate the fact that a different path which compliments your skill sets would allow you to soar above the crowd? Resumes simply cannot show your true potential. It is improbable you will ever achieve more than you believe you are capable of achieving. You can lie to yourself and call yourself a “realist,” but, really, you’re just a pessimist. The chances are that you are dragging down others around you with your negative view of your own life. 

The skills you don’t yet have today can be acquired for tomorrow. Acquiring a new skill is nothing more than a small challenge to overcome. Any puzzle that is placed in front of you can be solved. 

A very dear friend of mine once bought a beat up, worn out Jeep CJ5. The thing didn’t even have tires on it, was full of rust, and was missing many parts. Michael was able to get this junker for $350.00 with the intention of parking it in his garage and rebuilding it from the ground up. 

Now it must be understood here that Mike was neither a mechanic nor an auto body technician. In fact, Mike had absolutely no idea at all of how to rebuild an engine or refinish a vehicle’s surface. The only thing Mike knew for certain was that whatever the challenge, he could figure out a solution. 

The easy part was to disassemble and label every nut, bolt, wire, and screw from the vehicle. The old Jeep was stripped to the frame, the body was removed, and the engine was pulled. 

With the Jeep fully pulled apart, the next step was for Mike to decide on the order in which he would solve each of the challenges he had just created for himself. Using logic and common sense, Mike learned one skill at a time, and he bought all of the required tools to do the job. The only applicable skill that pre-existed for this project was Mike’s scant experience as a welder almost twenty years prior. 

The end result was that of a fully rebuilt machine. There were mistakes that had to be re-done, and it wasn’t the fanciest paint job. But overall, that Jeep looked fantastic. 

What does your Jeep look like? Perhaps your Jeep is the piano that’s sitting in the corner of your living room. Maybe you’re the person who’s been thinking about learning to play for years, but just never got around to it. Maybe your Jeep is a surf board or perhaps a parachute. What is the goal you have been procrastinating about because it would require skills which you don’t yet have? If you keep making excuses, the only possible result is future regrets.


Key #18

It’s a fine line between attitude and perspective. Have you ever heard the expression,

“Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your altitude”?

Zig Ziglar 

Using the “maze/balloon” metaphor, you can see how your altitude increases your perspective. So from this angle, the two are interwoven. 

Have you ever been told that you had a “bad attitude”? I find it odd when I hear people say this as it doesn’t explain what a “bad attitude” actually is. Basically, a negative attitude will sink you, and a positive attitude will allow you to fly. So if you hear someone saying that you have a bad attitude, chances are that you are being perceived as negative. 

Perspective is the position you are in when you look at a situation (point of view). Attitude is the CHOICE of positive or negative energy that you use when you assess a situation. Here is an example: 

Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack saw that the well was dry, and chose to throw an angry fit. He was yelling at the well, yelling at his bucket, and finally he shouted down the hill at the fool that sent them up this darn hill in the first place. (Though the “fool” couldn’t hear Jack from way down in the town). After all the hollering, Jack plopped his grumpy butt on the ground and proceeded to mutter his frustration, with only his bucket to listen. 

Jill tried to calm him and reassure him that this was a minor deal, but Jack just got angry at Jill for not joining him in his rant. Jill decided it was no use trying to talk to Jack, so she just left him on the hill to fester in his frustration. Jill knew she couldn’t go home with an empty bucket, so she marched down the hill and up another hill that had another well. It too was dry so she just shrugged her shoulders and said aloud, “There’s not much that I can do about a dry well, and throwing a fit like Jack did won’t improve the situation, so I’ll just have to keep looking, and check the next well.” 

With a click of her heels, she decided to happily enjoy the unexpected challenge of filling her bucket with water. She skipped down the hill to try again. On Jill’s third ascent of her third hill to check her third well, she found success. Jill couldn’t help but to feel pride in the fact that she didn’t give up, and that her perseverance rewarded her with a bucket of water that she could carry home with pride. Jill also felt just a little sad for Jack because she wished that he hadn’t given up so easily. He too could have known the feeling of pride that she was now enjoying. 

When she got home, she told her parents of the effort required, and her parents were proud of her tenacity and positive attitude. Poor Jack didn’t have a very warm reception when he returned home with his empty pail. Jack let himself down, and he let down his entire family, who was counting on the water to drink with their dinner. Jack’s “bad attitude” meant that the family would go thirsty that day. 

Let us boil this down: 

  • A positive attitude fuels perseverance. 
  • Perseverance fuels success. 
  • Success gives you pride in yourself and a positive social status. 
  • A negative attitude is fuel for giving up. 
  • Giving up fuels failure. 
  • Failure that is due to giving up makes you ashamed of yourself and results in regret. (Don’t mix this up with failure after doing your best! There is no shame in failing if you did your best). 

A positive attitude is a key element in achieving any goal. Without it, you’re swimming upstream. When people tend to adopt a negative attitude, they also tend to blame others for their problems. If you blame others for your problems, then you are playing the “victim” role. As long as you choose to be a victim, you can never choose to be a winner. 

It’s important for me to be clear here. Saying that you “choose to be a victim” doesn’t mean that you choose to be victimized. When something horrible happens to you, I’m not saying that it’s your fault or that you have brought it on yourself. What I am saying is that you have a choice of how to deal with the fact that something nasty has just happened. A positive attitude allows you to be a problem solver because, instead of focusing on everything that’s wrong, it allows you to focus on everything that is right, and on the possibilities. A negative attitude will always blind you to the possibilities that are right under your nose. Quotes on Attitude 

  • “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” 

Zig Ziglar 


  • “Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.”

    Jim Rohn
  • “Attitude is more than just being positive. It’s a way of looking at life, ours and everybody’s. It is said to be Everything because it is Everything. It defines who we are and what we become!” 

Alvin Law 

  • “You miss 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take.” 

Wayne Gretzky


Key #19
What Do You Really Truly Want? 

The answer to this simple question will provide you with a focus. It’s an extremely scary thing to answer, because once you admit your dreams to yourself, you then have to decide: Do I have the guts to move toward my goal or not? 

To answer the question “What do I really want?” first remove the pressure. I suggest imagining that you have found Aladdin’s lamp, and the genie has offered you three life goals. All that you have to do is to choose the three in order of preference. Ask yourself, “What would I do if I knew that I couldn’t fail?” You should also ask, “What would I do if I didn’t need the money?” Answering these questions doesn’t have to be scary. Once you have the tools for overcoming the fears of both success and failure, you will then have the courage to try in the face of failure. Courage is just as rewarding as Aladdin’s lamp. With courage, all you need to do is identify your needs, wants, and desires, then go for it! Forget all of the “what ifs” of failure. What others have done before you, so can you. 

Some people are blessed with a certainty of direction. These people know what they want to do with their lives, and they just go for it without distraction. Most of us, however, are less sure of the direction we wish to take, and therefore we bounce around from path to path hoping to stumble across the right path for us (Dharma). I was thirty-three years old before I found a direction that was right for me, though it was clear to some of my closest friends many years prior which path I should explore. Once I finally found my path, I flew down it with blatant enthusiasm and never looked back. 

“Find the environment where you thrive. We would probably never have heard of Tiger Woods if there were no golf courses.” 

Robert Kiyosaki 

You may not know what you want yet, but the lessons in this book will help you find the courage to admit your goals to yourself and the wisdom to allow your dreams to manifest. When you find your passion, there is little that can stop you from following it. Here is an example: 

Troy, a very good friend of mine, knew that he wanted to be a pilot since he was a kid. Once he was out of high school, there wasn’t any struggle or confusion in deciding his next step. He simply applied for his student loan, applied for flight school, and off he went! His goal was clear, so the steps he had to take to achieve his goal were equally clear. 

After two years of very difficult courses, Troy graduated flight school and landed himself a job flying sky divers so that he could build his flight hours. The job barely paid anything, but he needed to build his hours or he wouldn’t have a flight career. Eight hundred low-paid hours later, Troy started climbing the flight ladder by getting better and better flying jobs with the ultimate goal of being an airline pilot. Not once do I remember Troy complaining about the low pay or the long hours. He was grateful for the opportunity to fly, and he kept his eyes on the prize. 

“Obstacles are the troubling things that you see when you lose sight of your goals.” 

Henry Ford 

Being a commercial airline pilot is one of the most competitive jobs on earth. Most people who want the job never have the guts to even try for it. To fly one of the “big birds” is like making it onto a professional sports team. It means that you are the cream of the crop—the top dog in your field. By having a clear goal, and through sheer determination, Troy finally made it to the big show. Today he is an Air Canada captain. 

The purpose of this true story is to illustrate how important it is to know what you want. If Troy hadn’t been totally certain of his goal, he never would have achieved it. It’s impossible to commit years of your life to achieving a difficult goal unless there is not a “Plan B.” Once you know what you want, you have to find the courage to imagine how it would feel once you actually have it.

Key #20
Why Do You Want What You Want? 

The short answer is “for pleasure and happiness.” All endeavors are to achieve gratification of some kind. Whether it is power, pleasure, money, or status, every endeavor is inspired by the want of gratification. Even charity can be self-serving since you receive the status and gratification associated with giving. 

To understand why you want is to understand if you should want the things that you are trying to acquire. Not all pursuits of pleasure are going to benefit you. An extreme example of this is drug use. A crack addict will do or say just about anything to get his next chemical pleasure fix. The continued pursuit of this pleasure will inevitably result in the lethal demise of the crack addict. On the outside looking in, it’s easy to see that the addict should stop. But of course the addict doesn’t have our same perspective, so he is not always able to see that he should stop or see how to stop. 

If you are pursuing something that won’t improve your life either directly or indirectly, then maybe you should consider a different pursuit. Is the pleasure you are seeking going to elevate your life or just fill your garage with meaningless toys? Not that it is a crime to indulge in a few toys, but the chances are the toys won’t give you the pleasure you are seeking. 

Often, the pursuit of expensive toys is motivated by the want of status or the temporary gratification associated with a major purchase. If the toys are purchased as a mechanism for creating positive memories with your family and friends, then you have made a good purchase. If the motivation is other than the intention of using the toy to create positive memories with your family and friends, then you have not made a good purchase. Even if you can afford to buy the toys with cash and you won’t be financially burdened by the purchase, the object is still an empty thing on which you have just wasted your money. 

Let me explain this a little more. If a pursuit is intended to result in pleasure and happiness, then any result other than pleasure and happiness is a failure of that pursuit. Here’s an example: if you have purchased a new motorcycle, and the only function of this motorcycle is to look nice in your garage, then it has failed to provide you with a sense of satisfaction, pleasure, and happiness. This motorcycle is then clearly a poor purchase as it has not provided the payback that was intended. If you ride this motorcycle with friends and family—or even on your own, and thus derive satisfaction and enjoyment as a result—then this is a good purchase. 

Sticking with the motorcycle example, if you constantly buy toy after toy and are always envious of those who have what you don’t, then you will never be satisfied by any amount of toys. In this case, the urge to purchase is a problem that needs to be understood and addressed. Once the underlying urge is understood, there will no longer be an insatiable urge to purchase toys. 

An attitude of gratitude should always be observed in regards to the material things we have. If you feel gratitude for what you have, then you will feel satisfied. If you do not feel gratitude, then you will always want more and you will never be satisfied. 

Do you have pursuits that are for the benefit of others and not just yourself? The highest and most fulfilling pursuits are those for the benefit of others. 

Enjoyment and amusement are often sought to provide a substitute for happiness. True happiness comes from within, from loving yourself and your life. Chasing amusement through material items, liquor, pornography, movies, or TV is just a substitute for happiness. Thus, the saying: “Money can’t buy happiness.” Money can only buy the substitutes for happiness and the distractions from pain. 

If we were to put 1/100th of the effort into being truly happy that we put into amusement, then there would not be nearly as many anti-depressants being prescribed. True happiness comes from being the best human you can be—not from being the human with the most toys. Being the best human you can be means learning how to not be angry with others or yourself. It means never gossiping, always doing your best in every situation, and always being a better person today than you were yesterday. 

Most of all, being happy means accepting and loving yourself for who you are. Nothing you can put on your credit card will make you feel that way. 

Having the items you want only adds to your life if you are grateful for them. This is why it is important to understand the “why” of what we want. My wish for this book is to do more than just fill up your garage with cool toys. I wish to provide you with the understanding of how to enjoy those toys. When you are choosing what you want, remember the reasons why you want. If the “what” doesn’t reflect the intended “why,” then you should reconsider your goals. What is the point of achieving anything if it doesn’t add happiness to your life? 


Father, Professional Development Trainer, Author

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Malign Neglect: What Calgary’s Water-Main Break Reveals about the Failure of City Government

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From the C2C Journal

By George Koch

The rupture of Calgary’s biggest water main revealed more than the problems of aging infrastructure. It showed a civic bureaucracy unable to provide basic services or fix things when they break, and a mayor eager to blame others and scold citizens for their selfishness in wanting city services in return for their tax dollars. Above all, it laid bare the increasing tendency of governments to neglect their core responsibilities in favour of social policy fetishes, and to sidestep accountability when things go wrong. Clear, competent, mission-focused public servants are a vanishing breed, writes George Koch, and governing a city is now mainly about keeping city workers, senior officials and elected politicians happy.

As the enormous task forces of the U.S. Navy steamed westward across the Pacific Ocean in the final year of the Second World War, aiming ultimately for Japan but with some of the most vicious fighting still to come on islands like Okinawa and Iwo Jima, commanding admirals issued orders that any man who fell overboard would be left behind. No ship was to slow down for search-and-rescue; nothing was to get in the way of the mission. Several weeks ago, during one of the Stanley Cup semi-final games, a player was hit hard, fell to the ice, got up with difficulty, hobbled towards the bench and disappeared down the “tunnel”. The game went on, uninterrupted. Here too, the mission – entertaining millions – took precedence.

But when two municipal workers on a crew attempting to repair a catastrophic infrastructure failure in a major North American city are injured, the work immediately halts. Although the broken item serves a function vital to civilization and life itself, the mission of restoring water supply as quickly as possible becomes secondary. This happened 10 days ago, a week after the rupture of a high-pressure water main in Calgary had sent water shooting up out of busy 16th Avenue, triggering frantic 911 calls and initiating a “one week” repair saga that as of this writing is still weeks from completion.

Mission failure: The rupture of Calgary’s high-pressure water main on June 5 flooded 16th Avenue and threatened the city’s water supply; repairs were halted for a day after two workers were injured, an excess of caution that led to anger and frustration over the city’s basic competence. (Sources of photos: (top) Acton Clarkin/CBC; (bottom) CTV News)

The two injured workers were taken to hospital (thankfully, with non-life-threatening injuries) and the repair work eventually resumed the next day. But the interruption, piled atop days of confusing, contradictory, self-serving and at times seemingly false explanations and promises from senior city officials and embattled mayor Jyoti Gondek, generated further mistrust and anger among Calgarians over their city bureaucracy’s inability to operate the basics and get things fixed when something breaks down. The safety stand-down came on the very day the city had originally promised to restore water service, a time when every hour was precious, when the sacrifices by city residents and businesses were still bearable, when a return to normality seemed imminent. So why imperil the mission with nearly 24 hours of navel-gazing?

Though soon forgotten as new problems arose, the decision is emblematic of governments’ misplaced priorities, subordination of their core mission to their social policy fetishes and confusion over whose interests they exist to serve. Governing a city appears to have become primarily about keeping city workers, senior officials and elected politicians happy. Above all, to shield them against real accountability. Residents and businesses – the people who vote and pay the bills – are basically problems to be managed.

Built in 1975, the Bearspaw South feeder main draws from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Facility on the Bow River (bottom) and supplies 60 percent of Calgary’s drinking water. (Sources of photos: (top) The City of Calgary Newsroom; (bottom) Environmental Science & Engineering)

A few key facts for readers distant from Calgary. The 2-metre-diameter Bearspaw South feeder main burst its concrete casing on the afternoon of June 5. Installed in 1975, it draws from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Facility on the Bow River in the city’s northwest, and normally supplies up to 60 percent of the city’s drinking water. The break required the city to rely on a much older but very reliable plant drawing on the Glenmore Reservoir, which dams the Elbow River in the city’s southwest. The rupture prompted Stage 4 water restrictions with various bans and recommendations (more on that below), including a call for Calgarians to collectively cut the city’s water consumption by 25 percent, to 480 million litres per day. People immediately responded and, within several days, the city was reporting a water surplus. (For those seeking more details, the Calgary Herald has logged the key daily events.)

From the beginning, the city’s attempts to explain things did not quite add up. The water main had been inspected and tested regularly, officials said, or at least once for sure, and had received “maintenance” as recently as April. Most people probably assumed this involved physically examining it from the inside, then subjecting it to excessive pressure to see if it would hold, and patching up any weak areas. But all that would require first draining a pipe that, after all, 1.6 million people depend on every minute of every day. Later it came out that the line had last been drained and inspected in 2007.

So then it was explained that sophisticated external sensors had not detected any leaks in the most recent inspection. But then someone pointed out that catastrophic failures of an entire multi-layered structure of inner concrete core, steel piping, wire tension coils and outer concrete don’t usually begin with small leaks. And then someone else let slip that the line’s robustness had been confirmed by modelling, i.e., relying on theory.

“This pipe is only at the halfway point in its life cycle,” lamented Sue Henry, Chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency. “By all accounts, this should not have happened, but it did.” But others pointed out that the 100-year-lifespan claim was itself bogus. Lines of this type, said Tricia Stadnyk, Canada Research Chair in hydrologic modelling with the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering, are rated to last 50 years. And the Bearspaw South line was built…49 years ago. (The lifespan issue gets even worse – more on that below.)

A story full of holes: City officials said the water main had been inspected and tested regularly, and that no leaks had been found; experts pointed out a catastrophic breakage of the line’s multi-layered structure would not likely begin with small leaks – and it emerged the line had not actually been drained and inspected since 2007. (Sources: (left photo) The City of Calgary Newsroom; (right image) The City of Calgary Newsroom)

Gondek, for her part, extended her track record of blaming anyone but herself by claiming the disaster could have been averted if only Alberta’s UCP government had “paid enough attention” and not denied Calgary the money it desperately needed for preventative maintenance and repair. The implications of her claim didn’t quite gibe with city officials’ assurances that the line was considered just fine. And Alberta Premier Danielle Smith shot back that Gondek “has never asked us for funding to repair their water supply infrastructure,” and that the province is providing the city with $224 million to allocate as it pleases. Others noted it was never a question of money at all, because Calgary has generated successive annual budget surpluses but either spends those funds on more congenial pursuits or carries them over into future years.

Still, for a few days it seemed as if water service would be restored within, or very soon after, the promised one week. But on June 15 it was announced that line inspections (which apparently had occurred in the physical world and not merely in city officials’ media narrative) had found five more “hot spots” – i.e., potentially calamitous weaknesses. The repair timeframe was abruptly extended to three to five weeks, well into July. And with that, the City of Calgary declared a State of Local Emergency.

Pointing fingers: Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek blamed Alberta’s UCP government for denying Calgary the money for maintenance and repairs; however, Calgary had never asked for such funding, and in any case received $224 million this year to allocate as it pleased. (Source of screenshot: The City of Calgary Newsroom)

There is an emergency in Calgary – and virtually every city across North America and the Western world. At least two types of emergency, actually. The first type is the open, at times almost gleeful refusal to focus on the basic responsibilities of municipal government. Such as paving roads – Calgary’s are notoriously cracked and potholed – instead of removing lanes from busy thoroughfares and lowering speed limits in order to create still more unused bike lanes. Or ensuring that public transit facilities are clean and safe for law-abiding users, as opposed to all-but abandoning buses and C-Trains to drug addicts, while still pushing for funding of the next multi-billion-dollar transit line.

Many Calgarians have grown exasperated at such neglect and indifference, and quite a few are paying close attention. One letter-writer to the Calgary Herald pointed out that aging water infrastructure is a well-known problem in civic government circles, noting that the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association in 2014 set the goal of getting “unaccounted for” water down to 10 percent of total treatment plant outflow. While that figure seems unsettling enough, five years later a third-party engineering report estimated that Calgary was losing 17-28 percent of all its treated water. While some of that was for fighting fires and some was theft, the majority was believed to be leakage. That makes it sound like very few of those “100-year-rated” lines had ever been inspected, tested and confirmed sound.

Core failures: As in many Western cities, Calgary’s leadership refuses to focus on the basic responsibilities of municipal government, like fixing potholes, clearing snow or ensuring public transit is safe and effective; it prefers building bike lanes people don’t use and planning the next multi-billion-dollar transit line. (Sources of photos (clockwise starting top left): Dave Gilson/CBCRachel Maclean/CBCPostmediaMatt Scace/Postmedia NetworkNick Blakeney/CityNewsRebecca Kelly/CBC)

The staggering water volume implied by that percentage range – and worse, the toleration of the problem for at least a decade – evokes a deeply disturbing decrepitude analogous to the massive leakage from oil pipelines in the dying years of the Soviet Union or the chronic tapping of oil pipelines by thieves in Nigeria. Neither is a place Calgary should emulate. The 17-28 percent range is also, coincidentally, similar to the amount of water Calgarians are now expected to conserve. If Calgary’s pipes didn’t leak, we’d hardly have to conserve water at all even with the city’s biggest water main down. “It’s time,” declared attentive letter-writer Guy Buchanan, “to rethink projects such as the Green Line LRT project and concentrate the $4-billion of reserves that council is hoarding to fortify life-sustaining infrastructure.”

This fiasco is, unfortunately, just one example of an operating mentality averse to focusing on dreary real-world problems. The City of Calgary also hates clearing roads in winter and, every year, whenever it snows hard, the warming Chinook winds fail to arrive on schedule and streets remain snowbound, chaos erupts and the excuse – every single time – is that the city lacks the money and equipment needed to plough its roads and, in any case, does not have a “bare pavement policy.” These words come out of the city spokesperson’s mouth right about the time that private-sector operators wrap up clearing streets and sidewalks at private condo developments and old folks’ homes, have restored Walmart and Safeway parking lots to pristine expanses of black pavement, and can all head to Timmy’s for a well-deserved round of late-morning dark roasts and crullers.

The second type of emergency is what has been termed the “crisis of competence” that is afflicting not only governments but utilities and complex systems in general. Put simply, two generations of experienced technical specialists, managers and tradesmen have been gradually retiring, quitting in disgust or getting purged from organizations that now prioritize adherence to internal process and conformity to progressive ideology over the nuts and bolts of keeping systems running, heeding numbers that don’t lie and respecting unforgiving physical reality. The incoming cohorts, meanwhile, often don’t know what they’re doing and don’t want to learn, hiding their ignorance behind a veil of virtue-signalling arrogance.

Crisis of competence: Experienced technical specialists, managers and tradesman have been leaving or getting purged from organizations that prioritize conformity to progressive causes like ESG and wokism over the nuts and bolts of keeping systems running. At bottom, engineer James Buker, a retired city waterworks employee. (Source of bottom photo: Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia)

The National Post’s Jamie Sarkonak had a good column on this over the past week. “Today’s students can’t read as well as their predecessors; workers are increasingly hired on non-meritocratic basesmedical errors and aviation ‘safety issues’ are on the rise,” Sarkonak wrote. “Meanwhile, decision-makers are often so risk-averse they struggle to decide anything. At small scales, everything still works. But at large scales, the effects can be disastrous.” His piece also references a more detailed description of the phenomenon in the Palladium online journal.

As luck would have it, Calgary’s water main debacle produced an archetype of that vanishing breed. James Buker was an engineer in what used to be called the Waterworks division from 1975 to 2016, serving as head of water transmission and distribution for much of the period. Following the Bearspaw rupture, Buker told journalists that such an event became foreseeable after a similarly catastrophic though less damaging water main rupture in 2004. Excavation revealed that pipe had deteriorated to “talcum powder”, as Buker described it, in barely 20 years. This in turn led to the conclusion that the precast concrete used in an entire generation of city water infrastructure installed between 1950 and 1990 was insufficiently resistant to corrosion from soil. Buker was present for the installation of the Bearspaw South line in 1975. The problem, in other words, was well-understood. By some, at least.

But the inversion of priorities that sees the city authorize spending on ugly cactus-like plants for roundabout verges or cartoon-like bas-reliefs of leaping trout in dank freeway underpasses, and the extirpation of men with a mindset like Buker (or another retired city engineer who revealed that 2007 inspection date mentioned above), are not the kinds of emergency Gondek or other public officials have in mind when they declare one. Their kind of emergency mostly involves increasing their powers to boss the rest of us around. In their minds, the critical task is getting the citizenry good and compliant, in this case focusing us entirely on water conservation, so that we don’t ask too many questions about how the work is going and we blame ourselves when “we” fall short.

Hectoring and lecturing: When the state of emergency was declared, local media focussed increasingly citizens’ compliance with water restrictions; the mayor lectured Calgarians on the need to “dig in and do a little bit more”. Shown at bottom, people filling their water jugs at the city’s emergency supply trailer. (Sources of photos: (top) Helen Pike/CBC; (bottom) The Canadian Press/Jeff Mcintosh)

This is more than a rhetorical flourish. Following the state of emergency declaration, local media coverage shifted emphasis from the situation’s technical aspects to water conservation and more water conservation. Multiple articles were devoted, for example, to showcasing how residents in bedroom communities like Airdrie, which draw their drinking water from the city, were “rallying” to cut their water use.

Gondek has been lecturing Calgarians as if we are schoolchildren or simpletons, noting “how well you’re doing” and “when you need to dig in and do a little bit more.” She urged businesses to ask employees to work from home because this, after all, “would save them the time of having a shower in the morning and no one has to worry what they look or smell like, for that matter.” The mayor, though, always turned up looking good, and there were no reports she didn’t smell good.

Going by the city’s rhetoric, the crisis was largely about our failures. As if a construction company owner worrying he’ll have to shut down the jobsite and lay off his workers because the “Stage 4” water restrictions have forbidden welding, applying hot tar or even using glue due to the purported fire hazard is being narrow-minded. As if the costly disruption to thousands of businesses employing tens of thousands of people can just be shrugged off. As if a retired business owner who laboured for 40 years to afford a decent house in a good neighbourhood and now wants to enjoy gardening – and who, after all, pays many thousands in property taxes and water fees every year – is being selfish in worrying that her plants will die. As if receiving water from the City of Calgary is a gift, a privilege the city has every right to withdraw.

Water, water everywhere: The clampdown was based on a fear the city would not have enough water to fight a single major fire, this in a city posting daily water surpluses of 100 million litres, with two rivers (including the Bow River shown at top), two large reservoirs (including the Glenmore Reservoir shown at bottom) and multiple small water bodies to draw from.

Governments today appear to have only two basic states: immovable indolence and unchecked panic. When the first state trips over to the second, a machinery of absurd over-reaction kicks in, including costly campaigns to eradicate phantom risks. The clamp-down on industrial fire hazards was so severe that a reported 800 Calgary construction jobs were at risk of shutdown. The city feared it would not have enough water to fight even one major fire. This despite posting daily water surpluses as high as 100 million litres and having available two rivers, two large reservoirs and dozens of smaller water bodies to draw upon with pumps. The blanket ban on outdoor fires wasn’t lifted even when it rained four days in a row.

The postmodern world’s inability to rationally assess risks and balance possible risk-reduction measures against foreseeable costs and benefits includes a blindness to the principle that too much caution itself creates danger. Every additional precious hour lost during the water main repair process – such as through that nearly day-long safety stand-down – placed additional weight on the 92-year-old Glenmore facility. It was considered an engineering marvel of its era and its feeder main has proved better-built than anything installed in the last 50 years. But if it failed too, Calgary would be without safe drinking water. People might actually die.

Of course it is great – stirring, in fact – how Calgarians rallied almost as one and did what needed to be done under inconvenient circumstances. Limiting water consumption has been a topic in every conversation; people really do care. The same civic-mindedness was shown during a brutal cold snap last winter, when southern Alberta’s electrical grid became overloaded and the system operator was on the verge of ordering rolling blackouts. People responded within minutes to an urgent request to shut off unneeded lights and electrical devices, and the problem passed. But if a whole city’s population can instantly do the right thing on more than one occasion, why can’t that city’s government also do the right things, like paving roads and inspecting aging water mains?

They don’t make ‘em like they used to: The water main break forced the city to rely on the 92-year-old Glenmore Water Treatment Plant (right), built on the north side of the Glenmore Reservoir (left), an engineering marvel of its era.

In the same spirit, I’m certain there still must be dozens, hundreds, even thousands of earnest and well-meaning city managers, tradespeople and technical specialists who know what they’re doing and would love to focus on just getting the job done, if the internal culture would only let them. The repairs are getting done – even if it’s with the help of a small army of private-sector “partners” – so the entire city payroll can’t be incompetent.

But if the Bearspaw South rupture had been felt and not merely declared to be an emergency, then the repair work wouldn’t stop for two injured workers. As Star Trek’s Mr. Spock liked to intone, “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” All good progressives used to nod in rhythm to that line; but either the present-day City of Calgary is from a different other planet, or the “many” whose needs must be met aren’t actually the city’s residents.

It’s worth noting that the same progressives who now worry about two injured workers more than 1.6 million city residents were happy to destroy anything and anyone who got in their way during Covid-19. Those questioning the narrative were cast aside like used Kleenex or crushed like cockroaches. The (futile) mission of “stopping the spread” took precedence over everything: the economy, the individual, religion, social relations, common sense, basic rationality.

“Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” said Star Trek’s Mr. Spock (left); the same progressives who used to nod in agreement to that line seemed more worried about two injured workers than the mission to repair infrastructure critical to 1.6 million Calgarians. Shown at right, a Japanese kamikaze pilot in a damaged single-engine bomber over the U.S. Aircraft Carrier USS Essex, off the Philippine Islands, November 1944. (Source of right photo: Rare Historical Photos)

But when it comes to civic infrastructure, the mission doesn’t top the priorities list. Unless the real mission is something other than what is stated. If the mission is to avoid accountability, to go back to the way things have been for the past 30 or so years, and to save the faltering political career of a deeply unpopular mayor, then it all makes a kind of sense. Bringing in specialists from the private sector (from the oil and natural gas industry, no less) to help get them out of the mess, as they quietly announced about 10 days into their week-long repair job – “our best and brightest”, as Gondek put it without any apparent self-awareness – should be seen as confirmation of their desperation, not as a hopeful sign they’re about to change their ways.

George Koch is Editor-in-Chief of C2C Journal.

Source of main image: @cityofcalgary/X.

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Protecting the right to vote for Canadian citizens: Minister McIver

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Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver issued the following statement in response to Calgary City Council’s vote to extend the right to vote to permanent residents:

“Yesterday, Calgary city council passed a motion advocating for permanent residents to be extended the right to vote in civic elections. Alberta’s government has been clear since the beginning: only Canadian citizens are able to vote in civic elections. That will not be changing.

“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms affirms the right of every Canadian citizen to vote and to run as a candidate. This right extends to voters in municipal, provincial and federal elections.

“Protecting our democracy is of the utmost importance. Our provincial election legislation, like the Local Authorities Elections Act, has also been clear since its inception that voting is a right of Canadian citizens.

“Alberta’s government is also ensuring that voting is accessible for more Albertans. The Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act proposes to enable special ballot access for any voter who requests it, without having to provide any specific reason such as physical disability, absence from the municipality or working for the municipal election. The ministries of Seniors, Community and Social Services and Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction are also making it easier for individuals to obtain the identification Albertans need for a variety of services, including the ability to cast a ballot.

“Our government will continue to protect the integrity of our elections and make sure voting is accessible for all Albertans who are Canadian citizens.”

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