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Canada’s $6.9B Wildfire Is the Size of Delaware and Still Out of Control (bloomberg.com)
211 points by ca98am79 on June 3, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 172 comments

And yet, Canada turned down help from Russia and the US. Then went around and hired 300 firefighters from South Africa that have no experience with this type of fire or equipment (they said due to lack of water, they use sticks to beat the bush fires). I understand it's more of a social help program ("Working On Fire" job assistance), but still it seems bizarre.

Or maybe I've been reading the wrong news sources and there's more to it? Cause it seems unreal.

Edit: Some sources: http://globalnews.ca/news/2690570/trudeau-criticized-for-ref...


It sounds like Canada is metaphorically and literally playing with fire by turning down help because of the logistical problems. They got help fighting fires from Mexico, the US, Australia, NZ and south Africa last year [1]

Here's some comparisons to the numbers in the article you linked to: Canada: 700 firefighters, several choppers, 27 air tankers and 46 pieces of heavy equipment deployed to fight 500,000+ hectare wildfire that has destroyed 2000+ buildings.

In Australia, 2013: 2000 firefighters, 90 aircraft, 200 fire engines were deployed to fight a 118,000 hectares fire that cost ~US$50 million and destroyed 250 buildings

Many of the firefighters in Australia (and in the southern hemisphere) are idle at the moment as it's heading into winter. It's very weird that Canada turned down help when so much property is on the line.

Source http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-02/australian-firefighter...

The numbers of firefighters in the area that you quoted is incorrect. Currently there are 2,146 firefighters and support staff, 80 helicopters and 219 pieces of heavy equipment battling this fire.

Source http://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=41701E7ECBE35-AD48-579...

there is not really any property on the line. The fire burned three neighbourhoods in Ft McMurray the first day, when it surprised everybody and residents were evacuating through the flames. The next week or so saw significant urban firefighting work to protect the rest of the city and a lot of urban firefighters from around alberta went up to help. Since then, when all the offers of aid from other countries have been coming in, the fire has left town and is mostly just burning up remote forest.

We turned down the help because it wouldn't have done any good. The fire was too large for people to put out. Only rain can kill it now.

Believe me, we didn't turn down help out of pride. We have a ton of experience dealing with these things. We know when a fire is fightable, and when it isn't.

I love how everyone else is just inventing shit about foreign policy. Folks y'all can talk good about hacking but it doesn't mean your armchair intuition is right about specialized issues in other countries

At any given point in any given summer, a large chunk of the country is on fire. That's the reality of having a massive landmass covered in boreal forest. The consequence of that is that we have a well funded, professional forest fire service that is among the best in the world at what they do.

If accepting American or Russian help would have helped save Canadian homes and businesses, we would have. The South Africans are here for diplomatic reasons more than anything, and they arrived long after the critical period when we were trying to protect property and lives.

This isn't the California wildfires. It's not threatening populated areas anymore. It's burning in a vast expanse of unpopulated subarctic forest. It's fine. The damage is done; now we wait for it to burn out while keeping an eye out for the next one.

> The South Africans are here for diplomatic reasons more than anything

So it's just a Trudeau-like "diversity" hire or something? Not to say that in a mean way, just that they are not the most qualified and have only received minimal training.

I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't being praised as "South African government sees it as repaying a debt to the Canadian people for their support for the anti-apartheid struggle"[1]. Let's just call it an aid program and be done?

1: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/300-south-afric...

Yeah, they need experience and training, so they're here to get it.

They're also getting paid for it. I'm not against it, just annoyed how it's being published. The real story is "Canada gives South Africa over $2M, trains firefighters". Not "South Africa helps out Canada; pays back apartheid debt". It's shameful to spin it like that.

I for one am very grateful they are here to help. Should be a clear win for both sides.

Talk about experience. That's got to be crazy for them.

> So it's just a Trudeau-like "diversity" hire or something?

Are you implying that they're all black because they're from South Africa?

Why wouldn't they be "diverse" (as in different) if they were white SAs? Though every picture and video seems to imply there's probably few to zero white firefighters that came over. But that might just be selective photography. (To be fair the pictures don't seem to show any women either, but the official number is around 60, or slightly greater than 20%.)

>If accepting American or Russian help would have helped save Canadian homes and businesses, we would have

How do you know this? Because the actual firefighters wanted more planes. The prime minster, who knows nothing about fire fighting is the one who rejected the help. Note that this has been an especially dry, hot season with far more wildfires than usual. And despite this, the provincial government cancelled the deal that they had to get more planes. The firefighters were up in arms over this. And that's before the Fort Mac fire happened.

Out of curiosity do you really think the prime minister just made a decision to reject help without consulting other people in the field?

No, and I suggested nothing of the sort.

"This isn't the California wildfires. It's not threatening populated areas anymore. It's burning in a vast expanse of unpopulated subarctic forest. It's fine. The damage is done; now we wait for it to burn out while keeping an eye out for the next one."

I hate this notion that wildlife and nature isn't important. Apparently only human lives and materialistic objects matter....

Over the decades they learned that fighting wild fires is counter-productive. What's left is fighting only fires that endanger humans and human structures and leave the wild ones alone. It's the product of many decades of experience! Which is missing in your statement (the experience), that tries to make this into some weird metaphysical issue.

Just an example: http://www.washington.edu/news/2015/09/17/scientists-let-wil...

Did you know that the earth has a history of 400 million years without humans fighting wildfires? (No big plants before the Devonian period.)

Fires are natural events and are part of the process that made our environment what it is. I recently visited Yosemite park and the giant sequoias, and it was explained that during the last 100 years or so there hadn't been any fires in the sequoias area because, to protect them, all fires were extinguished.

Then it turned out that fires are actually beneficial to sequoias reproduction, because they create an environment that is better suited to giant sequoias than the other kinds of trees. So, protecting them from fire was actually damaging their future...

The northern forests of Canada are a large part Jack Pine, which require fire to open their seed cones and reproduce.

Nature takes care of itself. Constantly putting out fires just ensures the next one is even bigger...

Yup, the PM is listening to the informed experience of the guys on the ground who have been doing it for decades. They are handling it correctly.

In many cases, it's not about putting the fire out when they become large. It's about containment, control and mitigation, which (competent) people are able to do.

Turning help from Russia was stupid they actually got allot of experience the great northern forests of Russia are probably the closest environment to Canada and if they go a blaze it can cause an extinction level event on a planetary scale so they are actually well prepared for that at least as well as anyone can be. They even have reportedly tested killing forest fires with nukes if a Siberian tundra fire goes out of control.

I guess Russia is still unpopular on HN.

Russia has allot of experience with wildfires it has the largest and densest northern forests in the world combined with a permafrost that holds insane amount of methane and other carbohydrates.

Climate change and forest fires are huge national security issue to Russia and if they go out of control it can cause horrible damage to Russia and even then entire planet as it can cause a Permian extinction style event which happened before when the Siberian carbon traps went up in flames. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permian%E2%80%93Triassic_extin...

Russia has been dealing with huge wild fires every several years https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Russian_wildfires https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Russian_wildfires

They are one of the few countries that designs and builds dedicated firefighting aircraft designed to combat large forest fires. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beriev_Be-200 And while they might be arseholes on the political scene otherwise every time there is a large scale fire they do extend their hand and come in with serious help.

Canada already has a reciprocal firefighting agreement with America, so if we need external help, we have it.

Inviting a totally foreign country in which you're in a) fighting a proxy war with in yet another part of the world; and b) fighting a passive battle for northern sovereignty/control with seems like an incredibly stupid idea.

Canada has many forest fires on the go every year and are generally only worth fighting when they threaten communities. Forests are meant to burn. I have friends who work in emergency fire fighting in Saskatchewan and they have not been deployed to the Northern fires because it is not the problem the media is making it out to be!

Some forest are meant to burn yes, the problem is that with climate change forest fire now burn further north and for much longer than before.

Drought conditions and the heat traps that are cities prevent proper rainfall which stops them and changes we've made to the landscape can prevent burn outs which also make fires last longer.

And more importantly while forest fires are natural it doesn't mean it's good, we had at least one fire related extinction event, and even considerably smaller scale fires can be disastrous to humans so while it's true that to some extent the policy is let it burn in this case it's not longer really the case.

And while I would also agree that Canada is in a political muck with Russia it doesn't make sense to deny their help, Israel accepted Turkey's help to combat forest fire when their relationship was arguably at the lowest point shortly after the flotilla incident. Governments should know when it's a good time to put a halt to their differences and emergencies are as good as an excuse as any.

P.S. With forests being natural carbon traps climate change is now just as important factor as threat to communities and livelihood with the amount of CO2 were putting into the atmosphere we might not be able to longer afford for forest fires to take their natural course if we actually want to start reversing some of the changes we've made. This isn't some clear cut case, and in this case it seems that Canada does take help from certain countries but for some reason refrains taking it from others and in such cases politics should really be the last thing on your mind.

Yes, you might have a big argument with your siblings, be very angry at them, and if they still got into a car crash you're still going to be at the hospital with them. There may be political differences but we're all human beings here.

The problem with accepting any kind of help from Russia is that the Russian government is single-mindedly focused on geopolitical leverage. It does nothing out of the kindness of heart. Every offer of assistance, every interaction with a foreign government is a calculated maneuver. No thanks.

You make it sound that it's not the deal with every other country in the world.

Let's compare the number of countries that Russia has subjected to energy blackmail to that of literally any other country, for starters.

To make it more interesting, can we compare the list of counties that Russia has blackmailed to a list of countries other big countries have blackmailed? The west won't look so pretty then.

This holds for pretty much every government.

> And while they might be arseholes on the political scene otherwise every time there is a large scale fire they do extend their hand and come in with serious help.

It's difficult to top the US in terms of foreign policy assholery though.

Indeed but for most of the HN readers US foreign policy more or less aligns with their interests. In general talking about politics on HN isn't a good idea, mentioning ideas that the current conflict with Russia is largely in part due to the EU and NATO expansion is even more so. While I don't like what Russia is doing in the Ukraine and in many other parts of the world I can hardly blame them as they are living the nightmare scenario of being the largest landlocked country in the world. They've lost the post cold war "buffer" to the EU, they are at risk of losing the control over the gas and oil pipelines from the Middle East into Europe, and they are encircled by NATO. If Canada and Mexico would've joined the Warsaw Pact the US would've nuked Moscow.

Yeah, HN users, in general, have a very jingoistic point of view despite whatever progressive leanings they may have.

> a permafrost that holds insane amount of methane and other carbohydrates.

I never had this thought until now, but the things you eat are called carbohydrates whilst the things you burn are called hydrocarbons.

Carbohydrates like Glucose contain Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen (C6H12O6). Hydrocarbons like Methane contain only Carbon and Hydrogen (CH4).

I take your point, but do we not say that ethanol powered cars run on hydrocarbons?

You are correct sir! :D Never drink and post

Here are the criteria for rating the risk of wildfires in Alberta http://wildfire.alberta.ca/fire-smart-landscapes/wildfire-th...

The fire presented a risk right at the beginning and seemed to spread into populated area's faster than could be responded to, once that risk was no longer present outside assistance was not required.

Turning down Russia I can (sort of?) understand. The last conservative government was keen on playing hardball with the Kremlin over Arctic sovereignty - seems there's no reason to back off that stance now.

Turning down American help was strange though. I'd like an explanation for that..

Not only did they turn down american help, they haven't even called on the Canadian military yet - apart from a few aerial imaging assets, they're still just on standby. It's pretty silly to call on external firefighting assets when we still haven't expended our domestic resources yet.

Apart from Fort McMurray (which is now pretty safe) it's a mostly unpopulated area, and fire is a great natural renewal process in a boreal forest. Letting it burn for a while longer and just trying to keep guiding it away from anything valuable with minimal resources is a valid strategy.

They didn't turn down American help, there's 200 US firefighters there right now.

Source - http://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=41701E7ECBE35-AD48-579...

Canada and Russia recently got into a pissing match over another Russia space craft coming down near. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canada-says-it-didn...

Actually our airspace was saturated. We had more aircraft ourselves we could have put up but it would have been unsafe to do so.

Really? The fire is over 1000 square km, and there's only like 30 aircraft, right? Plus SA isn't contributing aircraft, only people that have gone through a 10-day "boot camp".

It seems very weird that Russia and the US have nothing to contribute, but inexperienced folks from SA do.

With a wildfire there's no point in fighting 99% of it - you fight the edges that are near people/property, try to contain it, and wait for rain and for it to run out of fuel. So of a 1000 sq km fire it may only be a few dozen linear kilometers that are being actively fought.

This is the correct answer.

From a forestry management perspective, you don't want the forest to live forever, and trying to prevent old, dead trees from burning is a nightmare. Let the fire burn, protect the property, and the forest will reseed itself during the fire.

By the time Russia came along, much of the populated area's were out of harms way. Adding more aircraft that are all using 1 or 2 airports is just more congestion.

An advantage of all Soviet-era planes is they can use any crappy airfield without breaking a sweat.

Russian firefighting aircraft are sea planes they are designed to land in a lake or in littoral waters to take on water they've been very successful at fighting fires in Greece and Israel with using the med as their water supply.

They don't land just anywhere, plus you need a tower to coordinate them, and Ft. Mac is hardly a bustling metropolis.

No it was not, please don't repeat made up excuses for bad political decisions.

I suspect Canada's prime concern was the very high carbon footprint of firefighters from USA and Russia.

You're kidding right? This wildfire isn't doing anything to help Canada's carbon footprint.

I think/hope he was being sarcastic.

I am not sure why learned members of HN don't get sarcasm.

But anecdotally Trudeau was worried about carbon footprints from a camp fire he once attended, but these wildfires don't bother him.

Poe's law.

I've seen far too many (AFAICT) absolutely sincerely intended idiotic statements here. I mostly simply let them fly. xkcd 386 only gets you so far.

Adding a </s> tag to your comment helps.

I don't think </s> is necessary one your rely on his/her own human intelligence.

Evidence suggests otherwise. Which is precisely what Poe's Law is about.

because you can't trust assuming sarcasm on this site.

People come to HN to feel smart, and to discuss things that make them feel smart. Things nobody else in their house understands, like JSON and Node.js and jQuery.

They don't feel smart when they can't tell if you're being facetious or literal.

It's pervasive aspergers. Generally people don't appreciate humour here, which is sad, but for the reason above, that many here find conversational implicature hard, and prefer clear, logical steps.

I know you are being sarcastic, but this may have a grain of truth (not the concern but the concept itself)

Eventually these trees will die and rot/burn anyway, but new ones will grow and recover near equivalent carbon. Trees just hold carbon temporarily.(Underground gas is another story though)

If you burn oil from deep underground, that carbon would never have escaped without human intervention.

I returned to Fort McMurray yesterday, after being evacuated a month ago. It was raining. Today the fire is a bit better because of the rain.

I'm one of the lucky ones. My house is still standing, and there's no damage.

I cannot imagine how that feels to come back to your house intact. I've wondered ever since an acquaintance of mine, who had a house in the Oakland hills during its fire [1], talked about it. She had come back to her house and it was still standing, and then went on to relate how, for her, it was a mixed blessing.

The house was there, and the stuff was there, but everything smelled of smoke (and would for years afterward). Some of her neighbors lost their homes, and a combination of the rebuilding challenges (dealing with insurance, contractors, budgets etc) resulted them in selling their houses and moving away. Some of her neighbors were living in 20 year old houses instead of over 50 year old houses (this was back in 2011). Her neighbors had much better wiring, stronger foundations, and built in home fire sprinkler systems. Things which improved their homes in a number of small but important ways.

She said it was the most surreal thing in her life in terms of how she "should" feel, how she "did" feel, and how she thought about and remembered the fire. In 2006 she had upgraded the insulation in the attic to make the house more energy efficient and removing all of the old insulation released a lot of smokey smells again which brought a lot of the scene, the craziness, back.

I've thought about that a lot since I talked with her. All through my life my parents and the government has spent time and money telling me to "prepare" for disaster and no money at all telling me how to live "after" disaster.

Something that helped her was that she began writing a journal in the days and weeks and months that followed the fire.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oakland_firestorm_of_1991

> Some of her neighbors lost their homes, and a combination of the rebuilding challenges ... resulted them in selling their houses and moving away.

If this occurred in an urban/suburban environment, it would instantly cause the sort of "shrinking city" problem affecting places like Detroit—suddenly, your house might be the only house on its block, so the viability of delivering power, water, or mail to your lone house (or even keeping the roads maintained around you) would have to be reconsidered as a matter of urban planning. Your house might still be there, but if the city decides to redraw the city limits to exclude it, you may as well give it up as lost anyway—it doesn't have market value any more.

On the other hand, if this was a farm—probably then on unincorporated land—a very different set of considerations would be in play, since you (or a co-op you're a part of) would likely own an independent contract for the installation and maintenance of the entire run from the utility to you. On one hand, it would probably end up your responsibility to pay for any repairs to power poles/water mains/etc.—which might be a lot. On the other hand, knowing that, you'd probably have insurance for those "backhauls" for just such occasions. (A lot of farming is risk management of often-volatile commodities. There's a reason the CFTC—the US futures-market regulator—is under the Department of Agriculture.)

The math on this seems wonky as some areas are very low density and still have electric water and sewer. I suspect detroit has problems from poverty and poor management not density.

PS: <rant> Underfunded pensions are a huge issue that's often ignored until way to late. People need to sound the alarm at year one when the pension is not at 110% not year 30 when it's way to late. IMO, a company should not be able to have a dividend or stock buy back if their not over 100%. </rant>

> If this occurred in an urban/suburban environment

It happened in Oakland, CA.

Is there any smoke damage? I would imagine that would be incredibly expensive to fix.

Glad to hear you're doing well.

No smoke damage at all. Last thing I did before leaving was turn off the AC and close all the windows.

Some of my neighbours weren't so lucky -- some have a lot of smoke in the house, so have to replace or clean some furniture and have walls cleaned.

Still, even that's nothing compared to completely losing a house.

I lost power for a total of 20 minutes through the whole thing. My video surveillance system kept running throughout the evacuation, and I could VPN into my house and check on things.

Wow, what could you check? Presumably a video feed told you if on fire/ not on fire. That's one stressful check to be making.

Canada seems to be in so much trouble - I am wondering how things are there.

# Massive flooring of the Canadian dollar.

# Continued job losses months on end - Unemployment rate of 7.1% !

# Most expensive Natural Disaster in Canadian history.

At least they got their Obama.

In a historical sense, Canadian dollar isn't particularly low, at least not so low that I would call it "massive flooring". [0][1]

Canada's unemployment rate of 7.1% is normal. [2]

0: The 80s were turbulent: http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/map-history-dollar/

1: There was a spike and collapse where you'd recently expect: http://www.profitconfidential.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12...

2: Historical unemployment data: http://well-being.esdc.gc.ca/misme-iowb/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.js...

>In a historical sense, Canadian dollar isn't particularly low, at least not so low that I would call it "massive flooring".

There was only one period of history where we were this badly fucked. And that was when this idiot's father was PM and destroyed our economy. It took 3 decades to pay back the debt he created and have our dollar recover. And now it is happening again.

It happened again, already. Harper contributed the largest deficits and the biggest total new debt of any PM; and he started -before- the 2008 crisis.

>Harper contributed the largest deficits and the biggest total new debt of any PM;

Neither of those statements are correct. Do leftists seriously just make up nonsense because they like the way it sounds?

My apologies, Mulroney was worse[0]; as a conservative I tend to block Mulroney from my memory. At the time of Harper's 2008 budget, a deficit budget and the first of his majority government, the Canadian economy was being lauded internationally for its resilience in spite of the American collapse.

0: http://www.canadaka.net/forums/federal-elections-f43/trudeau...

1. The value of the Canadian dollar right now is much closer to the historical norm than it was when at parity for a relatively short period.

2. The unemployment rate is marginally higher than in the USA. It's bad here, but it's bad over there too... the recession never ended.

3. That's true, and to be honest, I'm glad it's expensive. Expensive means there is something and/or someone there worth saving. I would argue the Halifax explosion was far more decimating, but cost significantly less to respond to, as everything and everyone was there one minute and gone the next.

Canada is and was doing fine. As much as my heart breaks for Fort McMurray, in a country this large, most of us are a world away (Ontario myself) and it has had little tangible impact on us beyond a marginal increase in gas prices.

No offense, but Trudeau is not 'our Obama.' Trudeau is the son of a former Prime Minister who is attempting to implement dramatic social reforms just as his father did. Despite the easy comparison of Democrats to Liberals and Conservatives to Republicans, when you actually look at their policies it's clear they do not reside at the same points on the political spectrum.

The Obama comparison resonated with me - not in the specifics like policy, or how left/right they are - but in spirit, level of excitement and general sexiness. Obama after bush feels alot like Trudeau after Harper.

I understand, and at times share, the sentiment. But it's important for us not to confuse policy and enthusiasm.

> The unemployment rate is marginally higher than in the USA. It's bad here, but it's bad over there too... the recession never ended.

That's blatantly incorrect.

- The US unemployment rate is 9.7% on the U6. The Canadian equivalent would be closer to 13%-15% [1] (the Canadian R8 is not the equivalent of the U6). That's not a marginal difference, it's a significant difference. The US U6 rate peaked at near 18%, six years ago. A 50% reduction is a very obvious signal that the recession ended a long time ago. The U6 rate before the recession in 2006 was 9%. If the recession had never ended, the U6 rate would still be extremely elevated.

- The US has gained a massive number of full-time jobs since the recession. That metric is at a record high. [2a] [2b]

- Total US employment is six million higher than the peak before the recession.

- US manufacturing output is at all-time highs and has climbed dramatically since the recession [3]. Total construction spending on manufacturing in the US is three to four times higher than it was in 2002-2006. None of that would be happening if the US were in recession.

- Real hourly earnings have been expanding since 2012-2013 [4]. While simultaneously inflation has been tame by most measures. Hourly earnings are about 7% higher than 2006. If the recession hadn't ended, that would not be the case.

- Government tax revenue, which is highly dependent on income taxes, is at record highs.

- The labor force participation rate has been stable for three years, despite millions of boomers retiring.

- In terms of income vs debt, US households have dramatically de-leveraged from the debt highs leading up to the great recession, and are in far better shape than Canadian households [5a] [5b].

- US household median disposable incomes are among the highest on earth. That metric obviously would not be doing so well if the US had spent the last ten years in a recession. US GDP per capita is ranked #5 out of all nations, 25% higher than Canada - an excellent sign of high economic productivity. [6]

So US economic productivity is extremely high, US unemployment has fallen by 50% back to a historically healthy level, full-time employment is at record highs, wage growth has been outpacing inflation for years, household income to debt ratios have improved dramatically, household balance sheets have never been higher, manufacturing output is at record highs. Uh, so what's the problem exactly?

[1] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/ec...

[2a] http://i.imgur.com/ERDhQLZ.jpg

[2b] http://i.imgur.com/zCC6ytm.png

[3] https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/OUTMS

[4] http://i.imgur.com/5Q7c27x.jpg

[5a] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/ca...

[5b] http://business.financialpost.com/investing/outlook-2016/can...

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28no...

The US measures unemployment differently, you're right. Which one is a more accurate measure however is up for debate. Given the higher US poverty rate, lesser social services and lower minimum wage, I don't think underemployment in Canada and underemployment in the USA carry the same weight.

I should add current Canadian unemployment (as of March) is under 1% higher than the 2006 level as reported by StatsCan.

I think you can attribute the high level of Canadian household debt to the insane cost of real estate in urban Canada. Real estate prices have inflated dramatically.

You're right, I didn't use the word recession correctly. But I don't think anyone can reasonably argue Canada or the US are currently in boom time.

US GDP per capita may be higher than Canadian GDP per capita, sure, but US external debt is 114% of your GDP, versus 92% of Canada's.

I'm not an economist.

Not to mention Canadian household debt is setting records.

On the bright side, it is opening up some long-overdue political dialogue. For example diversification of the Alberta economy away from natural resources.

Calgary's downtown office towers have reached record high vacancy rates, with so many engineers laid off. I'm hoping this is an opportunity for tech companies to take notice and move in.

>> On the bright side, it is opening up some long-overdue political dialogue. For example diversification of the Alberta economy away from natural resources.

As far as I know, Alberta's provincial government hasn't prevented growth in other sectors. Natural resources have made a lot of sense, giving their abundance here. And despite the roller coaster ride of natural resources, the province's finances are some of the healthiest in the entire country: - Lowest Debt-GDP ratio in the country (-1.2% for Alberta, compared with 39.6% in Ontario and 49.6% in Quebec) - No Provincial Sales Tax - 3rd highest spending per capita, next to SK and NL (30% higher than Ontario and 43% higher than Quebec) - GDP/Capita almost double of every other province And all of that doesn't include the transfer payments which go out to the Eastern Provinces.

All that to say, I do hope your right and the tech ccene is Alberta can grow from current vacancies and other problems in the province. I think the province could really benefit from some natural growth in other sectors.

[0] http://www.rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/pdf/provincial... [1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equalization_payments_in_Canad...

I am not sure this is going to happen. Calgary is a very conservative city, very little public transportation, a terrible cab system (and a city council who opposes alternatives), terrible road network (especially crowchild) no nightlife and very conservative drug and alcohol laws.

Software engineerings in Calgary are lucky to make 70k canadian (54k usd), so the good ones just move the the USA or work remotely. I don't see Calgary becoming a booming tech scene anytime soon.

>Software engineerings in Calgary are lucky to make 70k canadian

I have to disagree with that statement. As an example, here is a system admin job posting by City of Calgary. The pay range is $77,891 - 117,609 per annum


Those city and CBE jobs are few and far between and usually pay much higher than private jobs. The 77k is starting wage more or less no matter what seniority and rises with yrs of service in the union.

I think most intermediate / senior engineers can make 75k a year, but starting is very low, like 50k.

That seems really wrong to me. I work for TELUS and starting wages for entry level programming positions is around the 55k-70k, and then for more intermediate positions (something like 5 years experience) you are looking at 70-100K

> Software engineerings in Calgary are lucky to make 70k canadian

That's significantly less than I was making as a software engineer in Calgary. Maybe I was lucky, but I suspect your numbers are wrong.

> Software engineerings in Calgary are lucky to make 70k canadian (54k usd)

That sounds low to me. Rates in Edmonton are considerably higher and I doubt Calgary skews that much lower.

Hand-wavy, since it varies by exact variety of software you're doing, but I'd say that was more than 20k+ below market for intermediate-senior exp. Still lower than the US, of course.

> Calgary is a very conservative city

Economically? Sure. Socially? no way.

>Sure. Socially? no way.

Compared to what?

Calgary is more conservative than Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, Vancouver, and Victoria.

Perhaps it's more liberal than Red Deer or Kelowna, but that's not saying much at all.

It's also just an awful place to live. The urban sprawl makes public transit pale in comparison even to Vancouver which also has really bad transit. It's an 80 dollar cab ride to the airport which is like an hour and a half from the downtown.

There's the Stampede, I guess, but frankly I've never found the culture in Calgary much to write home about either.

If you like pickup trucks and imported American culture, then sure, Calgary sounds great.

Calgary is demographically young and cosmopolitan. The average Calgarian came from somewhere else in Canada. Their political views reflect this. When Nenshi was elected, Toronto's media had a massive freak-out over the fact that he's a Muslim. This did not happen in Calgary because Calgarians didn't view his choice of religion as being pertinent to his job. Meanwhile, the enlightened, progressive people of Toronto elected Rob Ford.

Calgary's CTrain has the third highest annual ridership among North America's light rail systems [1]. The bus system is lagging behind, but the LRT system is being expanded. The airport is a 22 min drive from downtown under normal circumstances. There is traffic congestion during peak travel times, but absolutely nothing like in Toronto or Vancouver.

If all you know about Calgary's cultural scene is the Stampede, one has to wonder if you've even been to Calgary.

In short, thanks for slagging a city you clearly know nothing about.


>Meanwhile, the enlightened, progressive people of Toronto elected Rob Ford.

I'm not from Toronto but the fact is that the barely-literate, anti-intellectual, suburban outlying population of places like (edit) Etobicoke elected Rob Ford.

edit: ah yes, the old reddit-style downvote because the truth hurts. The simple fact is the man was a train wreck, and his supporters are basically Tea Party North.

Ok, I'll bite: You realize that Markham is a separate municipality and it's residents aren't eligible to vote in Toronto municipal elections?

As I said, I don't live there. So no, I didn't know that. But I do know that the bulk of Rob Ford's support is/was mostly in the outlying suburbs of Toronto, and not "old toronto". Substitute Markham for someplace like Etobicoke and I think the point still stands.

> It's an 80 dollar cab ride to the airport which is like an hour and a half from the downtown.

There's a bus from downtown to the airport. It takes 40 minutes and costs $3.15. Driving takes 20 minutes.

I get the impression Calgary has changed somewhat since when I lived in Edmonton in the 90s.

I still think Edmonton is cooler, and would never live in Calgary, cuz, well, I'm from Edmonton area... :-) But it seems a little less cowboy these days.

Still sprawly, though.

Let's remember they elected Nenshi

Your mention of Alberta made me realize—the low dollar, the unemployment, and the wildfire are all hitting the province of Alberta in particular. (Respectively, oil dollars, oil jobs, and oil sands, may be responsible.) And the three are intertwined: the fires aren't just destroying nature and wildlife, they're destroying liquid-asset real estate and arable farmland (i.e. jobs) as well. A lot of people are going to be suddenly qualified for income assistance in Alberta this year.

If Alberta were its own country—as a few of their conservative pundits have semi-jokingly called for—this would be the point where you'd start to see pleas for international relief aid on the news, like those from Indonesia after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Instead, the Canadian government is going to have to try to soak up all those losses on its own. I wonder if its treasury is even that big?

If Alberta were it's own country their coffers would have been much bigger to deal with this mess. They probably would have also have accepted firefighters right away from other countries instead of waiting. They're is really no farmland up near fort mac. Don't know how farmland jobs are being destroyed?

Considering how they managed their Heritage Trust Fund, I somehow doubt that.

They have over 18 billion still in the fund.

The city in Alberta that makes more sense for an software engineering industry is Edmonton. The University of Alberta is one of the top CS/engineering schools on the continent.

I keep mentioning this to my coworkers at Google. A second Canadian engineering office in Edmonton would be awesome. And then I could move closer to my family.

Please no. With the oil downturn we can finally find qualified software devs to hire... the last thing we need is Google snapping them up!

Who is we and what are you hiring for?

Why you want to depress our wages ?

No, just supply.

During the more heated oil years no one was looking for a job. And this might come as a surprise, but that actually makes it really hard to hire, even if you have competitive offers.

This might be different in other markets where job hopping is common and the overall supply of qualified hires is high (Edmonton often loses out to Calgary and Vancouver), but you don't see that as much here, unfortunately.

Same difference you just weren't offering enough $ or an interesting job to attract people.

I can only hope, but i'm not optimistic. Diversification seems a long way off.

Interesting to know.

I have been thinking of moving to Canada due to all the good things I hear from my Canadian friends.

But I get conflicting view from the news and statistics.

I hope you understand that unless you have a job lined up or citizenship it is somewhat difficult to move to Canada.

If I may make a modest suggestion perhaps try visiting Canada for a period of time in a region where you would want to eventually live instead of relying on the opinions of your friends (who may be biased) or statistics (which may not tell the whole story.)

Many countries can get work-holiday visas to Canada. It's a very nice deal, and you can get "serious" jobs with it, too.

Canada is big. Calgary is one small part, and that guy was exaggerating anyways. Let's remember that Calgary elected mayor Naheed Nenshi, a famously liberal Muslim who is pushing for better transit and more intensification. Iirc, Calgary was also the provincial stronghold of the NDP, a hard leftward swing of Alberta politics against the long control of the Progressive Conservative party.

But yes, the pay sucks for coders outside of Vancouver and Toronto, and there the insane housing market makes it not worth it anyways.

> Calgary was also the provincial stronghold of the NDP

Correction: Edmonton is the stronghold of the NDP. Premier Notley's seat in the Legislature is in Edmonton's Strathcona riding, and I believe before last year Edmonton was the only city to elect NDP MLA's. Calgary has always been a Progressive Conservative stronghold.

Calgary has been die hard right wing for years. Edmonton is the stronghold for the NDP. And historically that was always the case. (I'm old enough to remember Jan Reimer as mayor in the 80s...)

He's pushing for better public transit, not necessarily private transit ;) #UberScandal

Move to BC.

It's great.

Unless you like cities and want to ever own a house, but don't worry about that.

> # Continued job losses months on end - Unemployment rate of 7.1% !

I wouldn't get too hung up on that -- historically that's a fairly decent rate for Canada.

For a variety of reasons (difference in the way the rate is measured, and structural differences between the two countries) Canada's unemployment rate has generally been several points higher than the US since the late-70s.

At least one analysis I've seen of the structural differences pinned the higher rate on the fact that unemployed Canadians were more likely to be seeking to return to the workforce than US counterparts, inflating the number since they don't "drop out" of the workforce entirely.

edit: and the low dollar is a mixed bag. Higher basic good prices, but somewhat of a protective for middle-class manufacturing jobs.

No we're not in trouble.

Massive mining industry including potash, precious ore and diamonds.

Massive hydroelectric power system (Northeastern US guess where much of your power comes from).

Massive agriculture industry

Massive seafood industry

Massive forest industry

Add to that movies, music, manufacturing, cars, steel mills, shipbuilding ($26B ship contract near me), munitions and software industry. We used to have some pretty good hardware too remember Matrox and ATI video cards?

Oil and gas aren't the only things we produce but even so there is also a lot of it on the east coast.

I think fishing and forestry are both shadows of what they once were

Anecdotally, most people I know and talk to in Canada (myself included) are doing fine; the low dollar hurts if you want imports or to travel abroad, but is good for exports and tourism. Alberta is hurting because of oil, but other provinces are doing decently well employment wise.

Film industry is going berserk. It's like they can't film enough things here now.

A lower Canadian dollar is good for Canada. We are an export economy. It's not great for consumers, but the dollar isn't even that bad right now. It has been far lower, and during 'boom' times.

If it's in so much trouble, why are property prices increasing at a ridiculous rate? http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/top-busine...

1) Extremely low interest rates combined with government backed mortgages (CMHC) means lots of people now have mortgages they will be unable to carry if interests rates rise by 1% (as that would be a 50% increase in their interest payments...) 2) Foreign investment (Vancouver+Toronto).

my word - that's a key sign they are in trouble...

Well, long term this may be healthy for the economy and unemployment. Hardly polite conversation, but this allows infrastructure upgrades on a massive scale, which implies employment of many and an increased cash flow for the region.

Our Obama? How so? Obama campaigned on change. The only thing that is a change w/ the way the liberals do things is they're going to legalize marijuana. Everything else is just icing on the same cake.

> At least they got their Obama.

What? Obama wasn't elected on the strength of nice hair and Daddy's legacy.

His dad has a horrible legacy out west.

The west doesn't tend to have a lot of influence. Especially when a candidate is popular out east (Ontario and Quebec). When it's conservatives coming to power it's different since Quebec tends to avoid voting conservative.

I'm from BC. Polls close and the victory is called before votes even results even really start coming in.

That's not a representation of influence, if timezones were reversed the same would happen with Quebec, minus the larger population.

With all due respect, I don't think you understand how the Canadian system works.

Out of 338 seats in our parliament, 231 are held in Ontario and points east.

Pierre Trudeau is not not very appreciated by a large proportion of Quebecers:


>What? Obama wasn't elected on the strength of nice hair and Daddy's legacy.

Neither was our current PM. You're thinking the way the Conservative political strategists did. They ran their election against Trudeau Senior, not the current one.

Do you really think Trudeau would be PM (now) without his name?

2nd youngest PM ever, and the youngest is Joe Clark.

Still rather have Trudeau than harper, I just dislike electing people based on legacy.

>Do you really think Trudeau would be PM (now) without his name?

Yeah I do. You've got a young, good-looking, charismatic leader with what look like progressive policies on things like drugs and other social issues who occasionally slips up with the etiquette like calling an MP a piece of shit on the floor of the Commons. It makes him look like a real guy, and less like a standard shitty politician, which is what the electorate are sick of. He's also a relative newcomer and time spent out of the limelight of either the PMO or the Official Opposition means he looks like a fresh change.

That's exactly the opposite of Harper and Mulcair, the former of whom comes off as stodgy, out-of-touch and kind of an asshole, and the latter of whom comes off as one of the most fake, manufactured politicians of the modern age.

I know which one I'd bet on every time.

Would he even be liberal leader?

Name? Maybe. But his hair and apparent good looks got a lot of votes as wel - sadly.


Canada seems to be in so much trouble - I am wondering how things are there.

# Massive flooring of the Canadian dollar.

# Continued job losses months on end - Unemployment rate of 7.1% !

# Most expensive Natural Disaster in Canadian history.

# They got their Obama.

No offense but based on what happened here point #4 isn't profit. However if you read up on him they may have gotten closer to a Sanders if anything. Based on his actions he has try to what Obama promised to do (Transparency, cabinet mandate and such is publicly available) but never intended to do.

The question that exist is, will his continued openness/transparency in governance keep alive the honeymoon period long enough to deliver on the large number of promises made in an unfriendly economy. You can promise the moon but economics will not let him deliver it.

Interesting fact: Aboriginal people living in North America before first contact with Europeans used to perform periodic controlled blazes on the land. Motivations including making the land easier for hunting and preventing uncontrollable fires from gaining strength.

Now, the land grows thick until fire comes to clean according to natures' idea of natural process.

I tree planted in BC/Alberta, the land grows so thick that they often have to fly you in helicopter to re-plant land that previous tree planters failed to plant correctly.

It only grows that thick after it has been clear cut. Old growth forests have a high canopy that starves thick underbrush for light. Humans clear cutting are part of the problem. When there is a forest fire in old growth the brush might burn but the big old trees will survive several fires.

The north is different. The trees are not the giant cedars of the pacific coastal rain forest. There often isn't anything to call a canopy.


Canadian here. I'm often amazed at how tall the trees are, when I've visited the southern US. I'm not even that far north (I'm near Ottawa), but the differences are still quite obvious to me.

the ottawa valley has been completely logged as well. 100ft tall white pines used to cover the area

ah ok. I've only been up north once around terrace and bell 2 which is still kind of coastal compared to fort Mac

This is true. But Aboriginal's did execute controlled burns for reasons XYZ.

One reason for controlled burns was to create a funnel in a thick new growth area in order to funnel the herding animals for hunting purposes.

These controlled burns had successs in diminishing the risk of wild unstoppable fires.

Suddenly almost everyone in HN knows more about extinguishing wildfires than the Canadian firefighters, who pretty much invented the category. Just three words: zero lives lost.

Six billion yes, but this is Fort Mac, not New Orleans. It is a working town. Insurance will pay out, the government will help here and there, but the town will recover largely on its own. Or, should the economic realities of lower oil prices dictate, the town will never come back to what it once was. Either way, the fire is not the deciding factor.

In some sense, probably not out of control, but a huge debt to what nature does by itself.


Another wild over-valuation on Hacker News.

What we need is an app to warn people of nearby fires... Tinder?

and people think technology will solve global warming, but floods, fires and tornados still unmatched by human ingenuity.

2060 - year when rainforests disappear

2049 - year when oceans get empty

tech, solve that!


This comment breaks the HN guidelines, as have others you've posted. We ban accounts that do this, so please stop doing it, and instead post civilly and substantively, or not at all.


We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11833516 and marked it off-topic.

Offtopic, but this is a repeated offence. Why not suspend or terminate the account?

If it seems like there's a chance someone might improve, we'd rather give them that chance.

I respect your work and I have no intention to challenge your authority.

That said, I fail to identify the guideline that lead to this decision. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

I'm also willing to justify my claim, if it seemed gratuitous to any.

EDIT: I'm unable to justify any of my claims. I'm unhappy about living in Canada, and I can't help but feel jealous of american people when being exposed to HN or mainstream media. I was wrong for claiming that OP's friends would lie to him. I was wrong for claiming that Canada is a third world country. I'm sorry.

Canada was allies with with the US after WWII. Therefore, they were 1st world. Your claim is wrong.

If you are referring to undeveloped vs developed countries, Canada is 9, while USA is 8 in the HDI. Still considered developed. You are still wrong.

In terms of every measure there's no way to qualify Canada as "third world". GDP per capita? Longevity? Quality of education?

Anyone who thinks otherwise would think Manhattan as no different than Calcutta because they're too angry to notice the differences.

I appreciate your responding thoughtfully, when it would be easier to double down (as many people do).

On HN we're trying for respectful, substantive discourse. We don't always get there, but it's clear that we can't have users putting down entire countries without things degenerating pretty quickly.

If you'd err on the side of editing out incivility from your future comments, we'd appreciate that too. It's something a lot of us have to work on (including me) and are learning together. I'd like to think the community is making slow progress in that direction.

Seeing as you split your time between the two countries in question, what's your current preference? From my Bay Area perspective, Canada often seems pretty appealing.

I like them both a lot. But what else could I say? Fortunately it's true.

Accusing people of lying is not being civil. There are many reasons why someone might disagree with you.

Just post some kind of source to quantify/ substantiate your claim. Its very inflammatory as posted.

$6.9 billion? sounds like this fire is razing quite well

I find it kinda sad we can rocket around the universe but we can't put out a fire in our backyard. Airports should be built and staffed like fire departments for our wilderness. Wouldn't take a lot of staff except for the pilots of course. I think the money spent, taken from the military budget, would work perfectly.

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