Saturday, November 12, 2011

Keystone XL delayed; and how many Wal-Marts does Hamilton need?

It was a big surprise but also a delight to hear that Hillary Clinton's State Department has ordered Trans Canada Pipelines to reconsider the proposed route of the Keystone XL project, in particular the section that would have gone through Nebraska's Sandhills.   As a result final approval has been put off until sometime in 2013, a year after the next presidential election; but it also means TCP has to go back to the drawing board and write a whole new environmental assessment.

The States won't be off its addiction to oil for a long time to come; but while I as a Canadian would welcome our American cousins ending its purchases of OPEC oil and buying more of ours (which would also, in turn, improve the national security of both countries), that does not automatically make tar sands oil "ethical" by any means, no matter what Ezra Levant has to say about it.    There are absolutely cleaner ways to extract the liquid gold from the bitumen but these projects only account for maybe 1 or 2% of the total.   Unless Alberta forces the issue by increasing royalty rates or requiring improved processes, I think the US is well within its rights to defer the issue.


Also this week but little reported, Wal-Mart ™ got approval to build yet another store in Hamilton, this time at Fifty Road (so called because it's fifty miles from the US border) and the QEW at the far eastern edge of the city (the Winona district).  Ah yes, the sleepy community that gave us the Thomas Brothers (Dave and Ian) will be home to a "supercentre" when there are already WM hyper-marts on Upper James, Wilson Avenue West and Rymal Road East.   (The fifth, a conventional department store at Eastgate, is scheduled to close and move up Centennial to the QEW, two interchanges west of the Fifty Road store; and the new store will also be a hyper-mart; and if reports are to be believed, there will also be a sixth at Centre Mall in the next year or two and it could very well be a hypermart too).

Yes.   The Hamilton mega-city, an area double the size of Toronto, will have six WMs compared to Toronto which with five times the population gets by with just eight.

To be fair part of the project does include a transit hub -- this part of Hamilton is poorly served at present by public transit; one presumes both local bus service as well as commuter bus and rail (GO) will improve a great deal.   If it gets people to carpool then transit, that would be great -- it certainly has helped Toronto which has long had transit hubs in the outer 'burbs.   And there is talk that this store will have a "green" format like the location across the harbour in Burlington (solar and wind power and recycling water on site -- an "off the grid" store if one will).   A measure of long overdue corporate responsibility -- but it doesn't excuse its anti-union sentiments.

I plead guilty to shopping at Wal-Mart, especially the one stop shopping stores (there is actually local food and the price makes it worth the drive) -- but come on.   Six?    In most parts of the States there is nowhere near that kind of saturation.   A quick search shows down the highway in Buffalo they have five locations (with double the population of Hamilton).   Niagara Falls (both side) has a total of three and they get WAY more tourist traffic than either Hamilton or Buffalo.

I don't know what to make of this but I have to consider that the road signs at the entrance to Hamilton says "One City, Many Communities" and "City of Waterfalls" (125+, although about twenty or so of them don't really count because they're drainage overflows that spill over the Niagara Escarpment that slices through the city).

It would be more honest to call Hamilton "City of Wal-Marts."   Steeltown is no longer true and "Art is the new steel" is catchy but only applies to a few gentrified areas of the city where the arts has taken off.

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