Looking at the Doughnut, Part 2


Earlier this week, I wrote about focusing on the doughnut rather than the hole, listing all the things I love about Alberta. But it got too long (yeah, I know — no surprise there!).

So … this is a continuation. But it probably doesn’t matter in what order you read the posts. Or even whether you read them both.

The point is … Alberta is an incredible place!!


I mentioned the bear at Chickakoo Lake. OK, he might be a tiny, little bit off-putting. I don’t worry when I hike with the children because The Animator’s chatter would scare off any wild animal, but …

What?! You think it’s not The Animator????? Whatev.

Anyway, the bear doesn’t worry me when I’m with the children, but I do hesitate to hike alone. The whole idea of hiking where one carries a “bear bell” could keep me at home. Still, I find the idea of a resident bear rather charming. As long as I never see him.

But there are other animals around here that I do like to see. Deer, of course. In fact, we’ve had three or four deer come onto our deck to eat the seed that falls from the bird feeder. A couple of days ago, I heard knocking outside while I was sitting at the kitchen table, and I looked up to see a deer just on the other side of the glass — not six feet in front of me.

And coyotes, of course. The coyotes here seem bigger than we’re used to. We’re not sure whether they’re just healthier, a bigger breed, or inbred with domestic dogs and/or wolves. I’m not a big fan of coyotes — haven’t been since one snatched my little Doxie (don’t worry: other than a serious fright and a torn-up face, she was fine) — but they are fascinating to observe. Last week, my Doxie was outside giving her “Wild Animal Alert!,” and I went out to find a coyote had curled up to die in a sheltered spot right next to my front door. Rather unsettling. Today, I saw two of them running across the tundra.

OK, fine, it’s not really tundra. Just a huge open field covered with snow. “Tundra” sounds sooo much more romantic though, and it fits the wild freedom they displayed. Anyway, on we go.

Moose. ‘Nuff said. Fascinating creatures! We’ve had them visit the backyard a couple of times. Once, I watched a moose cross the road in front of me — at least, I think it was a moose. It was certainly a moose-shaped blotch just past the reach of my headlights. But it was easily seven feet tall. In the story I tell, it might have been a mythical ghost moose, with supernatural abilities.

Loons. There’s no more romantic and melancholy sound than loons calling. I lie awake lots of summer nights (partly because it’s still daylight long after bedtime), just listening to the loons. And because they leave in the winter, it feels like an dear friend come to stay a while when they return.

Wolves. OK, I haven’t actually seen a wolf. And I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea, even though I know they are not a danger to adults. But one of the nights I was lying awake listening to the loons, I heard a wolf call. It was unlike anything I’ve ever heard — clearly not a coyote, but not the “classic” wolf howl we all know how to imitate either. It raised the hair on the back of my neck and made me seriously consider closing the window. Suddenly the thin screen didn’t feel like enough protection.

We had a family of red-backed voles living in the  subnivian space (insulated layer just under the snow, also called pukak) on our back deck. They had an intricate system of tunnels built through the snow pile, and they’d wander out to eat the fallen birdseed. We know there were at least two adults and one baby, and we’ve loved watching them. Sadly, we haven’t seen them since the minus 38 degree (C) weather last week, so I fear they may not have made it. We’ll find out when the snow melts, I guess.

I’ve even seen a red fox in the backyard a couple of times. In all my hours and hours spent in the wilderness over the years, I’ve never seen a fox in the wild before moving here. They are gorgeous creatures.

Edited to add: First, Mars did a little research today, and learned that voles can become sexually mature in one month, and populations can explode. Yikes. Second, The Animator saw a vole eating bird seed today, so apparently at least one of them survived. Yay!!! I think.

The Government

Yes, I know it’s fashionable to complain about the government, and I know this’ll probably piss off some of my American friends, but I really think the Canadians have figured out this democracy thing.

The kids and I are studying Canadian government in social studies this year, and it’s fascinating. Canadians have, for instance, most of the same civil rights we had in the US: freedom of speech, religion, and the press, the right to assemble peacefully, etc. They have rights against unreasonable search and seizure and against arbitrary imprisonment or detainment (a right that in the US had its teeth pulled by the Patriot Act).

It’s interesting to note, that instead of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as basic human rights, Canadians have instead, “life, liberty and security of the person.” Wonder what that says about Canadian verses US culture?

They also add freedom of “thought” and “conscience” to the basic human rights, which I really like because it respects whatever you believe, even if it’s not part of an organized religion.

It’s certainly true that some Canadian rights are more limited than comparable rights in the US. For instance, Canadians don’t have (nor do they seem to want) the right to purchase an assault weapon at a gun show without even proving they’re not a convicted felon.

But that’s exactly my point. I think perhaps they’ve got that one right.

Canadians vote, just as Americans do, but instead of voting specifically for a person (e.g. Obama or Romney), they vote for a party. The party in charge then chooses the leader (it’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s close enough).

Here’s the part I was most pleasantly surprised by: the winning party is accountable, not only to their own party, but to all the citizens. Majority wins, but there’s a legislated tolerance for the minority. And the citizens have a civic duty to accept it when their party loses. No hard feelings. No one shouting proudly that they won’t obey a law they don’t believe in just because a majority of the citizens did vote for the party promoting it.

Canadians are human, of course, and abuse of the system happens. And people do complain when laws are proposed that they disagree with. Heck, the right to petition the government is specifically legislated.

But in the US, we don’t even claim to try to get along to that extent. And it results in some pretty ugly fiascos — like losing our Blue Chip borrower status because we couldn’t pass a budget.

Health Care

Canadians do not routinely go bankrupt just because they get sick. In fact, they find the whole concept appalling. Frankly, I agree with them.

Granted, residents of Canada all complain about the system, and it’s frustrating when one has to wait for services or find a new doctor. But I don’t think many Canadians would give it up.

In a First World nation with so much wealth, it just doesn’t make sense that people — working, productive, well-paid people — can lose everything if they get a serious illness or are in a major accident. It never has made sense to me, and having now seen the other side, it makes even less sense.

Relative Wage Disparity

In the US, the average CEO of a Fortune 500 company is paid 380 times more than the average worker in his employ.

In Canada, the highest paid CEOs are paid 189 times more than their average employee.

Note that that’s the average CEO in the States and the highest paid CEO in Canada. So the real figure is skewed even more.

‘Nuff said.

CanLit and the Arts

A couple of years ago, I compiled a list of my favorite books for a friend. I went through all the books I’d read for the past five years, and pulled out the ones I most loved.

I was shocked to realize about one-third of them were from Canadian authors. One-third. Not of the books I read, mind you, but of the books I loved. After moving here, I began to understand at least part of the reason. Canada supports the arts in a way the US never has.

For instance, parents get a tax credit for money spent exposing their children to arts, recreation, or culture (and it’s doubled for disabled children). This includes art, languages, public speaking, chess, crafts, music, Scouting, Girl Guides, drama, pottery, tutoring, sculpting, painting and photography.

And there are grants for all sorts of things. There are umpteen Writers in Residence in the area, not to mention groups devoted to the arts like the Writers Guild of Alberta and the incomparable Banff Centre.

Consequently, the average Canadian novel is just a step more literary than the average American novel, and the average Canadian reader has fairly sophisticated tastes.

Separation Between Church and State

Like the US, “freedom of religion” is a basic human right in Canada.

But in the US, it seems to be interpreted as freedom from religion. It seems that in the US, you can be vocal about being an atheist, but you have to keep quiet if you are religious. If you do speak openly in public about religion or your faith, you’re assumed to be a radical (usually a radical member of the far right). Perhaps this is the result of the fact that those are the believers who shout the loudest, but for whatever reason, that does seem to be the case.

In Canada, people seem to talk quite openly about religion — but with no hint of evangelistic motives. Rather, they talk about it casually as part of their lives, like their children’s hockey teams or the weather.

Nor have I seen evidence of intolerance of other religions, not even the Muslim persecution that is so fashionable in certain radical US circles right now.

People even pray in public, even at government functions. We’ve twice attended the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast here, hosted by the mayors of two local cities and the county.

It’s hard to imagine that in the US.

Support for Disabled People

Then there’s provincial support for the disabled.

But … oh, shoot! Once again, this post has gotten too long. And I have at least this much more to say.

Turns out there’s a lot more doughnut in Alberta than I was seeing. But you’ll have to come back later to see the rest of it, I’m afraid.

6 Responses to “Looking at the Doughnut, Part 2”

  1. Jim Says:

    Bring on the doughnut, Girl! Forget the holes, doughnut or otherwise. So happy to see you up and in print. Do you think about maybe looking at a light for SAD for next winter? Just a thought. Much love, enjoy the doughnut!

    • Katrina Stonoff Says:

      Jim, that’s not a bad idea. There’s no question that SAD is a problem around here. I haven’t thought much about it because it’s also a problem down there, but I never noticed it in myself. But it’s worth thinking about.

      If you notice me going into a funk again next November, say, would you remind me of this conversation please? Just in case I forget.🙂

  2. Tax incentives and the arts « Scissortail Art Center Says:

    […] Via Stone Soup […]

  3. Tax incentives and the arts « The Aesthetic Elevator Says:

    […] Via Stone Soup […]

  4. Laura Says:

    That’s odd, i think of the US far more openly and committedly “religious” that Canada. I mean, i do not even know what Stephen Harper’s personal beliefs are, but i sure know Obama’s. Maybe it is just the most vocal ones setting the tone– just as the ones using their guns set the tone there– but i don’t think atheists get an easy ride in the States.🙂
    Anyway.Great post, thank you again for reminding me what’s so great not only about Alberta but Canada too. We can too easily get complacent and start taking it for granted.

  5. Gina B Says:

    Well now this is a good post! It’s made me envious, lol. The fact is all that stuff, especially the government, is desperately broken here, and it makes me wonder what it will take to fix it. Because something as broken as the US government is right now is bound to fail. The scary question then is, does it get fixed or does something sinister take it’s place?

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