The Return of Stuff Happens, week 33: Water, water, everywhere …

Houston and much of Texas was devastated this week by Hurricane Harvey, or Wally, or Larry,  or whatever it was called. (Note to the people who name hurricanes: if you know it’s going to be a big one, give it a powerful name. Hurricane Harvey doesn’t exactly inspire fear, but if they had named it Hurricane Rex or Hurricane Skullcrusher, people would have taken it more seriously.) The damage is in the hundreds of billions of dollars, which is terrible news for homeowners, but great news for home renovators. If I had a home repair business, I’d be on the next plane to Houston.

Usually, natural disasters like this one have little to no impact on us here in Alberta, but this one is different. Texas produces a lot of fuel (the state has one-third of U.S. oil reserves), so when Texas refineries go offline, there is bound to be a ripple effect. But, as usual, Big Oil is taking advantage of a natural disaster to goose the price of gas.

I can understand how losing Texas production will result in higher prices eventually.  But across Canada, thousands of kilometres away from Texas, gasoline prices soared. This is the same gasoline that on Monday sold for one price, and on Tuesday sold for a much higher price. This is gasoline that was produced and sold days, weeks or months ago, but somehow becomes much more valuable overnight. The overnight price hikes, in my view, are straight-up price gouging, disguised as price reaction to a natural disaster. I may be wrong (it has been known to happen), but if anyone can explain to me how a disaster in Houston creates an overnight spike in gas prices in Canada, I’d love to hear it.

And now, a little perspective …

Not to downplay the disaster in Texas, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the disaster currently ongoing in Asia. In the past few days, more than 1,200 people have been killed, and the lives of some 40 million others turned upside down, by torrential rain in northern India, southern Nepal, northern Bangladesh and southern Pakistan. Yes, that’s one thousand, two hundred people. But, it’s a long, long way away, and disasters are part of everyday life “over there”, so you will be forgiven if this is the first you’ve the heard of this.

The return of Mr. X

Remember David Xiao? Probably not. Let me jog your memory.

Xiao is the shadowy ex-PC MLA for Edmonton-McClung, whose only only claim to fame is being one of the leading spenders on travel expenses ($32,000 for his own car in 2013, even though he lives in the west end within 20 minutes of the legislature). Before the last provincial election, he announced that he was going to step down to run for the federal Conservatives in the last election. But the Conservatives disqualified him, for reasons unexplained. Oh, and some time ago he announced he was suing CBC reporters, a couple of bloggers and Wildrose party members for making statements that he had “deliberately and improperly channelled government funds to his political fundraisers, was guilty of corruption, graft and improper use of government monies, (and is) dishonest and unethical.”

Let’s see now … a defeated ex-PCer, shunned by the Conservative party, suing media outlets and other politicians … sounds like one hell of a city council candidate. Please, if you live in Ward 5, keep this in mind.


Walter Becker, 67, guitarist, bassist and co-founder of one of my all-time favourite bands, Steely Dan. With partner Donald Fagen, Steely Dan produced unique hit songs like Reelin’ in the Years, Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, Hey Nineteen, Kid Charlemange, Peg, and of course, Deacon Blues, which is in the Top 5 of my all-time favourite songs … Shelly Berman, 92, a very successful stand-up comic in the 1960s, and frequent comic actor. He most recently played Larry David’s father on Curb Your Enthusiasm … Skip Prokop, 73, co-founder and drummer for the great Canadian band Lighthouse, described as the world’s first 13-piece rock orchestra. Lighthouse had hits with One Fine Morning, Sunny Days, and the truly great song, Little Kind Words.