The Monarchy is Dead! Long Live the Republic!

Thankfully the Queen isn’t dead. But what happens when she dies? I know that technically the eldest child inherits and becomes the new monarch of the UK, the Commonwealth and the Dominions. That being said, QE2 has been reigning since 1953, 65 years, nearly half of Canada’s time as a nation, and most of Canada’s time as an independent state. Under HRM Elizabeth II Canada repatriated its constitution and nearly broke up fixing the damn thing. Queen E has become synonymous with the Canadian Crown and I find it difficult to imagine a world without the old lady. I know others have the same feeling because I have heard the term “Canadian Republic” bandied about. That’s how iconic this woman has become; her death could signify the end of Canada’s Parliamentary Monarchy.

While I don’t believe any Canadian politicians have enough nerve to promote a republic, the same cannot be said about the Commonwealth. Last month the Telegraph reported how the Commonwealth has started to debate whether it was necessary for the monarch to be the head of the Commonwealth after the Queens death. Apparently, it is not written that Commonwealth leadership is hereditary which has left the door open to not have Charles lead it. Part of the sticking point is that there are fifty-three Commonwealth states, only sixteen of which have the British monarchy as their head of state.

Personally, I think the Commonwealth is underused, especially the Realms (those with the Monarch as head of state). In a post Brexit world, I think the UK will have three options on the table: go it alone hacking out mediocre trade deals, become a minor partner of the USA, or try and reinvigorate the Commonwealth as an economic/trade partnership. The latter might reek of colonialism, but maybe only if the monarch was the head of the Commonwealth.

A Welsh friend of mine is appalled about Canadians apathy towards the monarchy, he believes we should be a republic. I just don’t see the point of the change. I am probably a royalist, I like the monarchy as an institution. I think it adds a to the Canadian identity and connects us with our history. That being said, I understand his trepidation towards the Monarchy, the relationship of the Welsh, Scots, and Irish with the English Crown has not always benevolent. Where in Canada (if you aren’t from one of the First Nations) the crown is an ethereal concept that we have no relationship with.

In a world where Western Countries are weakening and disgarding their political institutions I find myself clinging to the longevity of the Crown.

Vive la Reine!

The Keg

A restaurant I used to work for was just bought out by a large conglomerate. Cara Operations is purchasing the Keg for $200,000,000 adding it to their current holdings. Cara actually has a long history in Canada, originally selling newspapers, goods, and snacks at railway platforms in the 19th century; 150 years later the company’s yearly revenue is $2 billion. It was at this point when I realize that I don’t really get capitalism. What is the point of constantly accumulating money, goods, or restaurants.

To me The Keg has always been a fancier restaurant and if I wanted to impress a date or just really needed a steak it would be the place to go.  The Keg has gone from a single kitchen in the 1970’s to a Canada wide company and to me it has always had the appeal of being somewhat local. Scrolling through the Caras holdings I don’t think I would go to a single one of them by my own choice Kelsey’s, Milestones, Montana’s, East Side Marios, etc.

On the West Coast we have an amazing restaurant culture and great food and when deciding where to eat me and my friends will always choose a locally owned establishment. It’s not even a thought it’s just something we do. Franchises are often owned by locals, but it isn’t the same as going to the Turkish guy down the street to buy kabap, the Greek restaurant owned by a Greek family, or the local pub where the owner has drinks with his friends. There is an authenticity to these kinds of places that franchises lack.

Honestly, it doesn’t really matter, The Keg was already a large company and it is unlikely it will change much. At least it’s owned by a Canadian company still and not a Brazilian investment firm, ie Tim Horton’s. That is a company that has gotten worse and worse. The food has gotten worse, coffee is fine I guess, and the corporate side of the business is apparently nasty. Employees are getting thrown under the bus in Ontario because of the wage increase. (Wynne doesn’t seem to think of repercussions to her governments actions, she just keeps making horrible decisions and I am confused why she is still the Premier. Although it doesn’t seem to matter who is in charge of Ontario the province just keeps flailing, but I digress.) The corporation has not been allowing owners to increase prices to compensate for higher wages, so the employees lose.

I have worked in the restaurant industry for much longer than I wish to say and it is an industry that has some of the fewest protections for workers. A couple years ago a sister pub of ours had a unionization vote (it failed because the union wanted to control the tips and take a portion) and I understand the desire to have voted yes.

With most jobs in Canada if you work for a certain amount of hours you get breaks, paid and unpaid, not in the restaurant industry. I have worked twelve hour shifts without a break. If, heaven forbid, you take a break the manager gets irritated that you are not working. There are no benefits, no ten year gold watches, no loyalty from the company, you are a replaceable part and they let you know it. “But I’m sure if you were a good worker they would value you,” you say. Oh oh oh imaginary voice if only that were true, there is no benefit to being a good worker in this industry, because there is next to no recognition. (recently I was told from a manager that I got a gold star, I don’t know what that means but it hasn’t paid a single bill yet)

Part of the problem is that restaurant workers are not valued. I’ve seen amazing cooks come and go because they are paid poorly. There have been amazing restaurants shut down in Victoria  because they couldn’t get enough kitchen staff. Funny enough this lack of cooks doesn’t translate into better wages. I worked at one establishment where the kitchen workers asked for a raise and the owners refused, instead they forced the servers and bartenders to increase their tip out to the house. Yes that is right your server is actually subsidizing your meal, and if you don’t tip the server still has to pay the kitchen. I’ve seen servers crying because tables that spent hundreds of dollars didn’t tip and they still needed to pay the house. Instead of paying a fair wage the owners screwed over their other underpaid employees (Servers are paid less than minimum wage).

It is a pretty messed up system that is open to abuse and there is no one to protect workers. This is why when I expedited and was in charge of my small group of workers I did everything  I could to put myself between them and abuse from chefs, managers, and customers. Unions might help, but so would seeing employees as human beings.

Well that got away from me, this was supposed to a blog on capitalism with a nice anecdote about The Keg’s recent purchase. I guess I will leave that for next time.

Greece Part II

What really struck me in Greece and has lingered in my mind since then is nationalism in Greece. Museums, art galleries, archaeological digs enable a country to create their narrative and create a unified sense of self, this seemed to be entirely lacking on the Peloponnese.

Greece’s modern sense of nationhood is rooted in the Ancient world, as the founders of Western Democracy, political thought, and theatre, just listing a couple. And each city still seemed to view itself in terms of independent city-states. There is no unified narrative among Greece’s cultural institutions, Each city we visited: Athens, Acro-Corinth, Nafplio, Mystras, Nafpaktos, Delphi, showed why their own history was superiour to their neighbour. Reading plaques  on the history of the wars with Persia was what initially had me intrigued. Athens museums showcased that city as being the key to defeating the Persians and has little mention of allies. Acro-Corinth did the same thing, barely mentioning other city-states contribution to defending Greece. I saw this time and again on the trip.

On our trip we met up with a Greek professor and over coffee I asked her a little bit about how Greeks view themselves. Dr. E told me how in Athens few people actually identified themselves as Athenian. She explained how Greece had rapidly urbanised, but the connection to the home village was still strong. She herself had grown up in Athens, but saw herself as from her families ancestral home in the Peloponnese.

I wonder whether some of the modern disconnected narratives of Greece are rooted in the fact that city-states were independent actors. If a country is using that kind of myth as its base identity does it not invite fraction? When Greece revolted it was the first time an independent Greek state had existed for two thousand years (the Byzantine and Latin Empires were arguably not Greek but Frankish, Italian, and Roman). Oh to go back in time and find out whether Greeks in the 19th century viewed themselves as those ancient Greeks who gave us so much.

Part of my conundrum is that I am sitting in Canada, I am Canadian, and the idea of having a history that reaches back millennia  is befuddling. Our history as a state goes back 150 years, with settlement occurring somewhere in the last 400 years. Presently on Vancouver Island a fringe on the periphery of Canada was only considered for settlement in the mid 19th century. For most of Canada’s history our identity was as a part of the British Empire and this continued on after Confederation. The massive settlement of the Prairies at the start of the 20th century as well as the gold rushes in British Columbia took all the energy of the government, there was little concern with nationalism.

Often we attribute Canadian nationhood to the Great War and the Canadian Corps, baptism of fire and all that. But even then I wonder whether this is a modern myth that didn’t take root until the 20’s or 30’s. What makes us Canadian is hard to say but it is a growing concept.

Greece on the other might have too much to work with, or maybe being occupied by various kingdoms and people washed away unity, and like Canada is struggling to find a modern sense of self.

So you want to open the constitution huh? While we are at it why don’t we just…

Premier Couillard has laid out a vision of Quebec to become a signatory of our constitution, it comes with the regular requests from La Belle Province for recognition, immigration rights etc. Prime Minister Trudeau quickly shot down the idea of opening the constitution, as most PM’s probably would after 1995. But I’ve been thinking a lot about Canadian Federalism recently, (who doesn’t, right?), and I started to wonder if there isn’t a few things that perhaps should be amended in Canada.

Chris Hall  has referred to the opening the constitution as “Pandora’s box” since as soon as negotiations start a whole slew of issues comes to the fore. He believes Premier Wall would demand the abolition of the Senate, and MP May would want environmentalism enshrined. Personally I think if the constitution was opened up why not deal with the festering issues in Canada.

I’ve never felt the Senate to be much of an issue, despite my living in the west it’s balance has never bothered me. I think the whole house of sober second thought is commendable, but it is a part of our democracy that has irked the Prairies for decades. I actually think the appointment of intelligent Canadians that are not constantly politicking for votes is a good thing. Perhaps they should be appointed by the Premiers? I’m not sure. I think Liberals were right to stop their party association in the Senate, it should be non-partisan. All said maybe it just needs a seat redistribution to reflect current population?

As long as I am creating a wish-list constitution I am going to include an issue close to my heart: municipalities. Every couple years I come across an article saying that Toronto should become its own province. I generally dismiss these, but the recurrence of this concept shows there to be a deeper issue here. Cities need more power to work with their citizens, the current federal distribution to municipalities is not addressing the demands of the public need.

Cities are  the life blood of a country, they are closest to the people, and should be able to address issues directly. Unfortunately, they are the least powerful government in our federation. In the past few years I have watched cities like Vancouver and Victoria (presumably others I just live on the West Coast) constantly needing funding from provincial and federal governments to build, fix, and expand infrastructure. And if the government does not feel like handing out money the city and its citizens get screwed. I think a potential solution would be to give cities the ability to have a sales tax.

Now I have been putting a lot of thought into this, (and nearly no research), but I believe a city sales tax (CST) could be beneficial. Here me out before you condemn. I would want the PST decrease, but to balance with the CST. In BC we have a 7% sales tax, I propose that with in cities this decreases to 4% or 5% with the city then getting a 2 or 3% sales tax. ( These are entirely arbitrary numbers and I would love to see a study to figure what the proper balance would need to be). This redistribution would give cities the ability to act independently to meet the needs of their populations.

I see a more powerful city being able to alleviate pressure off of provincial governments. Social issues, like fentanyl ( and other deadly drugs), low income housing, immigration programs, public transit, city infrastructure, can all be better addressed by a municipal government, but they would need funds to do so. ( I realize that cities do work on these issues already, but I believe they need more resources to do it well).

There is a glaring issue (at least for me, since Elsie keeps glaring at me) of this screwing over rural communities and small cities that would not be able to produce the revenue to take care of their citizens. I don’t believe this tax could be a blanket solution. There would need to be a threshold for this to be feasible, (I don’t know what it is), perhaps cities over a certain population? or ones that have their own police force? both probably happen between 100k-200k people. There are only twenty cities in Canada with a population above 200k so maybe that is the balance. Cities below the threshold, what ever that would be, would remain under provincial jurisdiction. I would not want the province to lose all taxing powers within the cities since these areas are the greatest tax revenue source because of the high population. These regions to an extent subsidies the necessary infrastructure to more rural regions, and this is a good thing. The balance though would need to be studied.

While I do not believe any premier would agree with my opinion I do think cities need more power granted to them by the constitution, and if we are opening it up hey why not?

P.S why not make the territories provinces as well?