Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Toronto Election Highlights Failure of Amalgamation

Originally featured at New Geography.

In my pre-election piece on the Toronto election, I discussed the city’s lingering malaise. It developed slowly but its roots can be traced to the 1998 amalgamation that swallowed up five suburban municipalities. This led to a six folds expansion of city boundaries and a tripling the population base. This amalgamation was initiated by the province of Ontario as a cost saving measure and faced major local opposition. Citizens and politicians were concerned that the benefits of the alleged efficiency saving would be outweighed by the negative impact of losing local decision making powers. The recent Toronto municipal election bore out this concern.

In the October 25th election, Torontonians were presented with two dramatically different visions. The first vision was presented by former Liberal Ontario cabinet minister George Smitherman. A self-described progressive, Smitherman appealed mainly to voters in the downtown core of Old Toronto. He stood for issues such as improved bicycle lanes, renewal of the downtown waterfront, and improving social housing conditions. The second version was presented by maverick councilor Rob Ford, who represented a ward in the former City of Etobicoke. Ford’s message was simple: it’s time to stop the “gravy train” at City Hall. While he had elaborate platforms on many issues, cutting waste at City Hall was his ubiquitous message.

(continue reading)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Unintended Consequences of Oil Drilling Regulations

Here is a link to a great article from Shawn Regan at the Property and Environment Research Center on how government regulations are effecting oil exploration. Rather than protecting the environment, it turns out that heavy handed regulations--driven by NIMBYs--are leading us to look for oil in all the wrong places.

The world isn't running out of oil, yet governments have essentially forced oil companies into offshore drilling. The US government has designated 80% of oil rich offshore land, and 60% of equivalent on shore land of limits to drilling. Combine this with a liability cap for oil spills, and offshore drilling all of a sudden makes plenty of sense for drillers. Michael Greenstone of the Brookings Institute summed up the situation pefectly: “The cap effectively subsidizes drilling and substandard safety investments in the very locations where the damages from spills would be greatest.”

Friday, October 8, 2010

Taxpayers Likely to Lose Hundreds of Millions on Olympic Village

Originally posted at New Geography.

The former Olympic athlete's village in Vancouver is in the news again, but this time no one is celebrating. The billion dollar plus development, originally built to house athletes then converted to a residential housing development, was primarily financed by a loan from the city of Vancouver. Millennium Development Corp., developer of the project, currently owes the city $731 million. Millennium was scheduled to pay back the first $200 million by August 31st, but came up $8 million short. They managed to find another $5 million by September 20th, but they are still $3 million short. On top of this, they have another $75 million due in January. The city is considering legal action against the developer.

This isn't the first we've heard about financial troubles with the project. The city actually took over the loan from Millennium’s initial lender due to cost overruns. The repayment schedule was considered feasible, given the strength of the Vancouver real estate market. Unfortunately for them, sales have been slow. While 223 units sold during the presale, only 36 units have moved since. This leaves more than half of the units. 454, lingering on the market. The city has actually been forced to take over the 252 units of social housing that were required to be built due to the city's inclusionary zoning laws.

(Continue Reading)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Amalgamation, and Election Year Anger in Toronto

My latest New Geography article. Toronto election year anger is a side effect of amalgamation, rather than a knee jerk reaction against big government.

Despite Toronto’s international reputation for livability, all is not well in the city. Many politicians and pundits blame the outgoing city council, and Mayor David Miller. While they’ve done their share of damage, the city faces deeper, systemic problems. The source of the problem is more fundamental than stifling bureaucracy, or the stranglehold of the public sector unions. These are symptoms of the institutional sclerosis caused by the amalgamation of Toronto and surrounding areas into the new Toronto Megacity...(continue reading)

Monday, September 13, 2010

NDP and Greens Back Fiscal Restraint in Winnipeg, While Tories Back Expensive Toy Trains

Light rail transit is seen by many progressives as the transportation method of the future. Despite numerous studies that question the alleged social, economic, and environmental benefits of light rail, they continue to advocate for it. Many studies, including an authoritative study by the US Government Accountability Office, have demonstrated that bus rapid transit is a far more efficient than LRT.

While academics and non-partisan advocacy groups continue to document the benefits of BRT, for some reason Conservative municipal politicians are embracing LRT. Calgary City Councilor and Mayoral hopeful Ric McIver and Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brian have been long time LRT backers, and Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz jumped on the bandwagon awhile back.

Shockingly, Katz is now being opposed in his attempt to introduce LRT to Winnipeg by NDP Mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis. Even more surprising is that she has garnered an endorsement from Green Party leader Elizabeth May. That's right. The NDP and Greens are supporting efficient transportation policy, while a partisan Tory Mayor (endorsed by at least one Tory MP) is advocating for billions of dollars in capital expenditures. It seems that the Tory strategy of strategic capitulation (read: selling out) is backfiring in Winnipeg. I haven't had a chance to look into the rest of her platform, but I would imagine that I'll wind up supporting her at this point. She may be bad on every other issue, but she probably couldn't spend the savings from scrapping the LRT system if she tried. Besides, it's time for the grassroots to send Tory sellouts like Katz a message: show some fiscal restraint, or your base will stay home--or vote for someone who will. Even if it's a New Democrat.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What Does $600 Million of Provincial Transit Funds Get You?

The City of Ottawa just received confirmation that the Province will kick in $600 million to fund the city's light rail transit exansion. What will they get out of that? A Twelve kilometer extension. Yes, that's right. For the price of 1000 state of the art hybrid buses, they get a measly 12 kilometers added to the light rail line. Sorry. I lied. They don't even come close to getting it for $600 million. The total price tag is $2.1 billion, and that is before the inevitable cost overruns. In other words, for the price of tripling the number of buses in the OC Transpo's fleet, they're getting a glorified monorail extension.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Vancouver: Planner’s Dream, Middle Class Nightmare

Original featured at New Geography.

Vancouver is consistently rated among the most desirable places to live in the Economist’s annual ranking of cities. In fact, this year it topped the list. Of course, it also topped another list. Vancouver was ranked as the city with the most unaffordable housing in the English speaking world by Demographia’s annual survey. According to the survey criteria, housing prices in an affordable market should have an “median multiple” of no higher than 3.0 (meaning that median housing price should cost no more than 3 times the median annual gross household income). Vancouver came in at a staggering 9.3. The second most expensive major Canadian city, Toronto, has an index of only 5.2. Even legendarily unaffordable London and New York were significantly lower... (continue reading)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Electric Vehicle Subsidies: Greening the Earth, or Subsidizing the Wealthy?

Here's a great article from Slate Magazine on the futility of subsidizing electric vehicle technology. While EVs may one day be viable, subsidies for EVs are little more than kickbacks to those who are actually wealthy enough to afford them. I wonder if the author read the report I published for the Cascade Policy Institute last summer?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Is Homeownership Overrated?

Originally featured at New Geography.

Home ownership has been considered an integral part of the American Dream for as long as anyone can remember. Now it has come under scrutiny, notably in a June Wall Street Journal piece by Richard Florida, which claims that that home ownership reduces employment opportunities for young adults, since it limits their mobility. To support ownership, others — particularly Wendell Cox — have argued that home ownership levels do not correlate with the economic productivity of cities...(continue reading)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Libertarian Centrism

Libertarianism has an ambiguous place within American federal politics. Since libertarianism became popular in the 1960's, libertarians seem to have defaulted towards reluctantly supporting the Republican Party. This loose alliance reached a peak during the Reagan years, as well as during the Republican revolution in the early 90s. While most libertarians continued to vote Republican through the last decade, many libertarian public figures disavowed the party during the Bush Administration. This has lead to many debates among libertarian intellectuals about how best to work within the political system to advance individual liberty. Should libertarians continue to support Republicans, or move over to the Democratic column. I will argue that neither is appropriate. The only way for libertarians to influence American politics at the national level is to remain an independent swing vote. The flip side of this is that they need to be willing to back moderate proposals from either party that will serve to advance freedom. In other words, libertarians need to claim the center.

*Before proceeding, I should point out that this argument is exclusively referring to American federal politics. Libertarians still do have something to be gained from a loose alliance with conservatives in Canada, since Canadian conservatives are nowhere near as socially conservative than their American equivalents, and tend to be far more reasonable on civil liberties issues. It also doesn't necessarily apply to State governments, since the issue set is different than at the federal level.*

A recent debate in Reason Magazine between Brink Lindsey from the Cato Institute, Jonah Goldberg of National Review, and Matt Kibbe of Freedom Works has been the subject of a flurry of discussion recently. The genesis of this debate can be traced back a few years to an article Lindsey wrote in The New Republic in 2006. His claim was that Libertarians had nothing to gain from their 'fusion' with conservatives, and should instead focus on co-operating with liberals. While he didn't expect to convert liberals en masse, he hoped to work with liberals to use market mechanisms to achieve progressive goals. He referred to this philosophy as 'liberaltarianism'. Goldberg was one of his most prominent opponents from the beginning. Goldberg wished him luck, but doubted that liberals would have any interest in using market mechanisms to achieve progressive goals.

In the Reason debate, Lindsey unambiguously disavowed any kind of alliance with the left. He recognized that "for now and the foreseeable future, the left is no more viable a home for libertarians than is the right." The left is inflexible on economic issues, as the right is on social issues. Rather than fusing with the left or the right, Lindsey advocates working with the left on social issues, and the right on economic issues. Rather than throwing money at the Republican or Democratic Party, he believes believes that libertarians should fund individual candidates who are committed to both individual and economic freedom, rather than funding candidates based on their economic views and just hoping they won't trample over civil liberties.

While Lindsey's position hasn't been fully fleshed out yet, I find it persuasive. One need only look at the survey data on Tea Party activists that Lindsay provides:

"Tea Partiers hold distinctly unlibertarian views on a wide variety of issues. According to the Times poll, 82 percent think illegal immigration is a very serious problem, and supporters of decreasing legal immigration outnumber those who want to liberalize immigration by 42 to 14 percent. Only 16 percent favor gay marriage (compared to 39 percent of the country at large), and 40 percent call for no legal recognition of same-sex unions. Meanwhile, 77 percent support either banning abortions outright or making them more difficult to obtain. "

The standard libertarian position on immigration, marriage, and abortion is laissez-faire. Furthermore, most libertarians feel strongly about at least one of those three issues. This should give libertarians pause before supporting any party who will pander to the Tea Party. I am much more opposed to mass deportations than I am to tax increases, so there is no way that I can align myself with the Tea Party. It is also worth noting that there are a non-trivial number of activist libertarians who attend Tea Parties. Remove them from the above numbers, and I suspect the numbers get far worse.

The biggest problems with working with Republicans that Lindsey pointed out are that they tend to rely on two impulses: anti-intellectual populism, and/or dogmatic religiosity. This is precisely the opposite of the libertarian ideal. Of course, the far left is no better. There is no way to reason with people steeped in anti-corporate conspiracy theories, and revolutionary sentiments. Rational, secular discourse is required for a thriving liberal democracy.

There is one major problem with breaking away from conservatives: fundraising. Libertarian think tanks have been fairly close with conservatives, and by explicitly moving away would jeopardize at least some fundraising capacity. However, I don't see any need for think tanks to change their policy focus, or their outreach efforts. Most think tanks have very limited political advocacy efforts anyways. What's more important is how libertarian donors and activists act.

The fundamental rule for activism and political donations for libertarians should be to always work towards divided government. Neither party can be trusted with the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. In terms of specific candidates, I would recommend a two track approach. Obviously, actual libertarians like Jeff Flake and Scott Garrett deserve our support. More importantly, libertarians should work with moderates in both parties. There are several reasons for this. First, they are typically more thoughtful than the average member. This means that they are more open to shifting policy positions. Second, they compose large blocks of semi-independent swing votes. Third, they tend to have very high national profiles. One way to achieve this would be to start a liberaltarian version of Freedom Works. I'm not sure how feasible this idea is, but it would be an excellent way to provide the fundraising and volunteer muscle that would be required to show these candidates that there is something in it for them if they adopt slightly more libertarian policies. This sounds crass, but it's the game that conservatives and liberals play.

When thinking about how to influence politics, libertarians often refer to the Overton Window (not the unrelated Glenn Beck book). The Overton Window theory dictates that there is a middle ground of policy positions that are politically palatable. If legislators move too far to the right, or the left, they risk alienating the average voter. The key for libertarians is to try to move the window of public policy options into a more libertarian direction. The strategy for advocacy groups (not necessarily think tanks) has been to try to move towards more economic freedom without much regard for social freedom. This has prevented libertarians from gaining as much traction as we could with young people. Since younger people are more preoccupied with social issues than economic issues, they naturally gravitate towards the left. That is a major missed opportunity for us.

In my opinion, the most effective libertarian advocacy organization is the Institute for Humane Studies. I use the word advocacy loosely, since they are actually an educational organization. That distinction is exactly why they are effective. While Freedom Works is out recruiting older conservatives and libertarians to Tea Parties, IHS is inviting high school and college students to educational seminars. The mistake that advocacy groups make is to focus on herding existing sympathisers. Instead of doing this, the IHS is helping to build the activist base. Far from brainwashing students, they encourage them to debate classical liberal philosophy. Above all, they encourage disagreement, and scepticism. Since any student who is motivated enough to spend a week at a seminar is likely more inquisitive than the average student, IHS is confident that their participants are able to make up their own minds about whether or not they agree with libertarian principles. This approach is all the more important since most intellectually interested young people identify with modern liberalism. For every one that embraces libertarianism, there is one less radical activist. More importantly, each one of these new recruits will no doubt discuss these ideas with their friends in their own language. Yelling out anti-government slogans doesn't appeal to young activists. Rational discussion sometimes does.

In short, we have nothing to gain from pandering to the right. They are reactionarily anti-government anyways. They won't vote any different on any substantive policy, no matter what libertarians say. The Tea Parties won't go away just because libertarian activists stop showing up. The key is to work with moderates, to show them how more economic freedom will help to achieve the policy outcomes they desire. Distancing ourselves from the Tea Party is crucial if we intend to do this. This doesn't mean libertarians shouldn't work with conservatives on certain issues. It means that we should focus equally on working with liberals on important issues like immigration, and drug war reform as well. We need to be a swing vote, rather than a faction.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Latest Post at New Geography: Revisiting Toronto’s G20 Costs

Originally posted at New Geography, and picked up by the National Post.

In the lead up to the G20 conference, the security costs were projected to approach a billion dollars. As high as this number sounds, sources are now speculating that the total bill could be closer to $2 billion. Shocking as that number is, the costs incurred by local businesses may have exceeded that total.

In addition to the physical damage to the hundreds of shops that were smashed in, there were major productivity losses during, and in the week before the conference. The most visible opportunity cost was the sharp decline in retail sales...(continue reading)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Reason Magazine Article About EPA Regs and Craft Beer

Here's an article I had published in the July edition of Reason Magazine. I examine the unintended consequences of federal EPA water regulations on the craft brewing industry in Oregon. Is it worth spending $400 million to save zero lives, and potentially decimate a $2.3 billion dollar industry? You decide.

p.s. I'm not sure if I'm proud or ashamed of my bio in the contributors section, but everyone seems to like it more than the article.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Toronto G20 Conference: A View From The Wreckage

Here are my observations from this year's G20 conference in Toronto. I have inserted as little political commentary as possible, opting instead to share my personal experience.

June 25th, 2010

10:51 PM

I arrive in Toronto to a surprisingly vacant parking lot on the Esplanade, in the heart of Toronto's bustling financial district.

10:56 PM

Quietest Friday night I've ever seen in Toronto. Barely a soul out in the usually packed financial district.

2:12 AM

On the way back to my lodgings, I pass by the French delegation's bus. The hotel workers had been on strike for the previous few days. The hotel company is owned by a French company, so they decided to go on strike while the French delegation was there as a bargaining tactic. The picketers left hours before my arrival.

2:14 AM

The Esplanade is conspicuously devoid of returning bar goers.

June 26th, 2010

10:39 AM

I arrived a few minutes after a scheduled keynote speaker at Allen Gardens that I heard about on Twitter. The tent town built by protesters has already been broken up, and its occupants dispersed.

10:40 AM

The speaker went on anyways, with a small crowd. I was told there would be a 1:00 PM rally at the Provincial Legislature, Queen's Park.

10:56 AM

In the meantime, I headed to Bay Street, the heart of Canada's financial district. I figured if there were pre-rally disruptions, they would be here.

11:04 AM

All's quiet at Queen's Park. I decided to walk down to the security barrier surrounding the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where the summit was being held.

11:11 AM

The Art Gallery of Ontario was one of the many high profile venues that closed for the conference. Mirvish cancelled all of their shows, including the high profile Rock of Ages musical. The Blue Jays were also forced to move 3 home games to Philadelphia.

11:18 AM

University Avenue. One of Toronto's busiest streets. Empty.

11:29 AM

Arrival at the Security barrier. A few officers hanging around, but surprisingly quiet.

11:30 AM

The police decided to use tightly meshed chain link fences to make climbing the barriers extremely difficult. I used a Canadian bill for scale, which may be slightly deceptive to Americans (since our bills are slightly shorter, and wider). It still appeared to be somewhat climbable, but I didn't dare test my theory.

11:36 AM

I caught the subway at Osgoode station to head back to Queen's Park. It was quieter than it usually is at 1 AM on a Sunday.

11:55 AM

A scene from the University of Toronto, which was also closed for the conference.

12:06 PM

The people in orange hats are the legal representation for the protesters. They're prepping for a long day.

12:10 PM

Queen's Park begins to fill up with all of the usual suspects. Union activists, environmentalists, and anti-war protesters seemed to be the bulk of the crowd.

12:30 PM

Things seemed quiet, so we decided to go for lunch. When I saw Greepeace approaching, I knew it wouldn't be quiet much longer...

12:34 PM

...and then I saw people in their midst who appeared to be Black Bloc anarchists. They are notorious for their role in the Seattle WTO protests of 1999, where they caused major property destruction. Given that they show up to protests specifically to attack corporate buildings, I had to stay close by.

12:43 PM

Things got pretty busy at Queen's Park. Despite the rain, an estimate put the crowd at 5000.

12:48 PM

A crowd protesting the Ethiopian genocide filled the streets of Queen's Park. I told my photographer not to worry about them. They had nothing to gain from being violent. Spoiler: I was right.

1:00 PM

The Queen's Park subway station. Moments after this photo, I was told that this stop, among others was closed. First sign that the police were prepared to funnel the crowd down University Avenue, to avoid anyone getting to Bay Street. Given the number of anti-bank banners, this was probably wise.

1:14 AM

A frustrated streetcar driver looks on as protesters and police shut down University Avenue. Combined with the subway closure, passengers has little option but to wait for the march to end. I have no idea when this streetcar was actually up and running again.

1:41 PM

The demonstrators have now officially shut down University Avenue. Frustrated motorists driving south on University are stuck for minutes on end, trying to plow through the crowd.

1:56 PM

The crowd continues south on University. They are flanked on either side by police. I instructed my photographer to stay as far north as the police. The last thing I wanted was to get caught with police and protesters on either side. I wanted to maintain an exit strategy.

2:26 PM

After a long march south, the protesters are all funnelled to the east side of the street. This bolstered my theory that the police were trying to contain the protests between Queen's Park and the barrier. A classic pincer formation.

2:37 PM

My first sighting of riot police.

2:45 PM

I was proven wrong. Rather than contain the crowds (which would lead to immediate confrontation), the police formed a human funnel to shunt the protesters west on Queen Street. They were betting that dispersing protesters towards bohemian West Queen West would give them fewer targets. Given that they decided to use dispersment, rather than containment as their strategy, this was not unreasonable.

2:47 PM

The view from Queen West. Seems remarkably quiet. Few protesters left in sight.

2:55 PM

A little bit of hipster irony. This was going to be my caption photo had there been no destruction. Clever stunt, I must say.

I chatted with some riot police to see if anything had happened. No reports of violence. I decided that nothing was going to happen just yet. I began heading east to meet a friend at a pub. As I reached University, I noticed the police were once again blockading. I was talking to bicycle police, and pointed out that that the riot police one street south were putting on gas masks. They looked back, looked west down Queen, and noticed that the protesters were marching back East. There appeared to be police officers fighting with protesters, so the police told us to head north immediately, or we would be collateral damage. He wasn't being threatening; just acknowledging a reality.

At this point, we left. As we walked north, we bumped into someone who had come from further west on Queen West. He informed us that rioters were breaking every window in sight. We then turned east to try to get far enough away from the protests to head back south to where we were staying. The protests seemed to follow us in lockstep each time we went South. It turns out that many of the protesters who were funelled west simply headed south, and turned back east to avoid the police. Hence the riot police with gas masks a block south.

3:48 PM

We eventually ended up walking south on Church. As we crossed King Street, we saw a cloud of smoke. It appeared too dark to be tear gas.

3:48 PM

It turns out the smoke was coming from a burning car in the middle of the road. We later found out it was a police car set on fire by protesters with Molotov cocktails (one of at least 3). We decided it was time to get out of downtown.

I met my friend at the pub (C'est What?), and told him there was a car on fire down the street, and protesters were rapidly moving our way, leaving behind a swath of destruction. We headed a block north of Yonge and College to another bar.

After ordering a drink at Bar Volo, the owner walked up to our table, and told us to move away from the window. There were people breaking windows of shops just south on Yonge, and he didn't want his customers to get hurt. We hopped in a cab, and fled to north.

We spent the next few hours at Rebel House. Ironically, this was the launching point for one of Canada's biggest political clashes, the Upper Canada Rebellion. The irony was unintentional.

11:46 PM

We returned downtown around 11pm to have a quick drink at Duggan's, a local microbrewery. Upon leaving, downtown was once again eerily quiet. Some business owners had the foresight to board up in anticipation of the riots.

11:52 PM

We were greated by hundreds of riot police outside of our lodgings. We litterally had to be escorted accross the street. There didn't appear to be anything amiss.

12:42 AM

From the roof, we were able to discover what the police were up to: resting.

12:45 AM

More riot police arrived. They appeared to be regrouping in prepartion for more protests. The next day, we found out that hundreds of people were arrested just outside. There also appears to have been a journalist abused and detained in this flurry of arrests. I suspect we'll hear much more about this.

June 27th, 2010

1:56 PM

I decided to drive around the Queen West/Bay Street areas to survey the damage. This Bank of Montreal was one of many banks that was attacked.

2:09 PM

After being questioned by police, we resumed photographing. Given that I was driving around taking photos, this was unsurprising.

The CIBC accross the street from Bank of Montreal was another of the Banks smashed in. It surprised me how quick the vandalized establishments were boarded up. No remaining shattered glass visible from the road.

2:11 PM

The Gap was one of the predictable targets for protesters. There were dozens of less prominent shops that were also vandalized.

2:12 PM

Starbucks. The absolute favorite target of anti-corporate vandals.

2:13 PM

The vandals also targetted the CTV news building, as well as several media vehicles. Their commitment to free speech seemed questionable by this point.

2:13 PM

A window at police headquarters broken during the riots.

2:14 PM

Yet another CIBC location with broken windows.

2:15 PM

I continued along Queen Street, passing by the Four Seasons Centre, home of the Canadian Opera Company. My favorite building in the city. As I crossed the intersection, I heard a loud rumble. Yet another protest march coming down Queen Street, following a police car. I quickly pulled a U-turn, and headed north on University. I kept going, and exited the city.

There are plenty of lessons that one might learn from this experience. This was my second G20, after last year's meeting in Pittsburgh. This was far more chaotic, possibly even worse than the Seattle riots in '99. The lesson that I want to impart is simple: major political meetings should never be held in large cities. They are a magnet for violent protesters, and endanger local residents. The destruction, and the billion dollar security tab will hopefully make politicians think twice about foisting these events upon major cities. Like I said before the meeting, it should have stayed in Huntsville, a small tourist town outside of the city where it was initially supposed to take place. This is my personal opinion. You decide.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

**Do Not Watch Splice Under Any Circumstances**

★ ☆ ☆ ☆

**Spoiler Alert**

Ordinarily, I do my best to avoid spoilers. However, I think it would be a disservice in this case. Simply put, Splice is the most disgusting movie I have ever seen. It is the only movie that has ever made me feel physically ill. Inter-species sex? Really? I can't imagine why anyone would want to see that. I guess it wouldn't be so bad if there were redeeming qualities in the movie. There weren't. Sadly, the critics loved it. It was widely considered an intelligent exploration of the moral dimension of genetic engineering, and a parable for the difficulties of parenting. What rubbish. It had all the moral complexity that you would expect from a dinner table political discussion.

Splice is about a genetic experiment, which leads to the creation of a human/animal hybrid. The experiment began as an attempt to create a new medicinal compound, quickly spun out of control. In short, it is a diatribe against genetic engineering. While I'm sympathetic to this position, I was disappointed by the simplistic approach director Vincenzo Natali took to the issue. He aimed for a purely visceral reaction, which is exactly what he got. However, I'm not sure it actually caused anyone to think any deeper about the issue.

For a movie that has been praised for it's treatment of complex moral issues, the dialogue was surprisingly amateurish. The rushed conversations were filled with talking points, and flippant reversals. It felt like a made for tv movie, with slightly better special effects. While Adrian Brody wasn't terrible, Sarah Polley put in a performance unworthy of a b-movie. Instead of the suspense that it aimed to create, the film elicited little more than unintentional giggles, and a good deal of disgust from the audience. Guillermo del Toro should be embarrassed to have lent his name to such an amateurish production.

It seems that the entire purpose of Splice was to 'push the envelope.' Given that critics seem to mistake edginess for thoughtfulness, this was probably a good marketing ploy. Ironically, I wouldn't be surprised if this tactic was self defeating. After all, this project received $2.5 million from TeleFilm Canada, a Canadian Government funded cultural agency. Given the number of people who left the theatre in disgust, I wouldn't be surprised if there were calls to review Canadian film subsidies. Though I'm against most forms of censorship, it's hard to blame people for not wanting to fund films that they find incredibly offensive. If there is a market for inter-species sex scenes, film companies should be able to raise the money themselves. Somehow, I doubt that this market exists.