Why Government Should Never Run Anything–XX


   Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

   We see an example today of government bureaucrats being sure about how to do things, but failing miserably. It’s not their money, so the money gets spent on theoretically sound, sure to be successful, technology. As many have said, the only winners when government employees pick winners and losers, are the government employees. They may fail without consequence.

National Post
Peter Foster

Suicidal MaRS mission
Businesses were wise to steer clear of Ontario’s now-insolvent innovation hub

The Liberals’ bailout plan involves filling half the high-price building with bureaucrats

The scandals have been piling up thick and fast for the Ontario Liberals ahead of Thursday’s election. One all-too-typical example is the revelation of a government plan to bail out — at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars — the foundering second phase of the MaRS Discovery District (the ugly financial details are provided elsewhere on this page by Parker Gallant).

The real scandal at MaRS — which was created as a whizz-bang incubator-hub-cluster for government-coddled high-tech start-ups – is not that its shiny second phase is sitting empty. It’s that the institution ever existed in the first place.

MaRS DD was based on the zombie delusion that governments can pick winners or, in this case, carefully select those whom they will guide across the socalled “valley of death” — a place littered with the bleached bones of brilliant innovators who couldn’t sell their dreams to blinkered, flinty-eyed financiers.


    The government, apparently, knows better than professional financiers where to put their money.

Using taxpayers’ money to buy jobs from South Korean Samsung — to jumpstart wind and solar “technologies of the future” — and San Francisco-based Cisco — to do computer stuff in return for up to $220-million — were both what Jane Jacobs called “transactions of decline,” but at least Samsung and Cisco are likely to stay in business.

MaRS was always doomed without ever-increasing public support. It inevitably turned into a place that was more about empire building, sunshine salaries, and serving its political masters than promoting any net benefit to the economy.

One might not doubt the conviction of those, such as MaRS’ chairman and outgoing Royal Bank CEO Gord Nixon, about promoting innovation, but one wonders why Mr. Nixon simply didn’t beef up his own bank’s search for bright ideas rather than imagining they might be more effectively promoted by this mixed-economic morass.

The MaRS mission was in fact kicked off under Conservative Premier Ernie Eves, and was rooted in ostensible publicspirited involvement by a handful of individuals and corporations — just like the Toronto SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre, home to the Toronto Blue Jays and Monster Trucks), aka the $650-million “mistake by the lake” that was later sold for something like $25-million.


     Built for 650 M in public funds and sold for 25 M. For a government business deal, this was a success. The SkyDome brought in less in revenue than its maintenance costs. There was never a chance to pay off the mortgage so the taxpayers just kicked it in.

As with the SkyDome, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, one minute you have a bunch of Ontario boosters kicking in a million bucks each and pretending to that great rarity (as Adam Smith pointed out) of “trading for the public good.” The next you have taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions.

MaRS has come up with all kinds of bogus “independent” studies to demonstrate what a great boon it has been, but do those figures include money hosed away in promoting and participating in the green energy fiasco?

Four years ago MaRS hosted one of many, many government-backed events to chastise financiers for being so slow to leap on the multi-billion-dollar opportunity presented by “Clean Tech.”

The Toronto Star, inevitably a huge MaRS booster from the get go, berated all those “risk averse” financiers, but it seems that there was a good reason for their aversion. On the far side of the valley of death was the desert of doom.

The concept of a valley of death is in any case a crock, a fiction that leaps from the obvious fact that investment is risky to the delusion that risks can be mitigated by government involvement across lots of them, and by assiduous selection of the best ideas by a cabal of businessmen, academics and bureaucrats.

At that event four years ago, MaRS clean technology guru Tom Rand opined: “We’re holding this to educate the financial community on Bay Street to let them know this is a safe opportunity.” Some guide. The Liberals’ bailout plan involves filling half the high-price building with bureaucrats and half with R&D and private tenants. The R&D bit will include, in the top four floors, Public Health Ontario, which studies infectious diseases. Fifth floor: solar. Eighth floor: windmills. Penthouse: deadly air-borne pathogens. This is just one of the reasons why private tenants are reportedly not beating down the doors for space.

When news of the bailout was leaked, the MaRS board issued a huffy statement declaring “No transaction has been finalized [on Phase 2]; therefore, there were no documents that should be in the public domain.” This amounted to telling taxpayers: “It’s your money but it’s none of your business.”

Those running the policy red planet are inevitably ideologically slanted in a predictable direction. Not only is death valley guide Mr. Rand the author of a book titled Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit, both he and MaRS super-bureaucrat CEO Ilse Treurnicht are also members of the board of the Cape Farewell Foundation.

Cape Farewell is an organization that purports to fight climate change through art, and last year staged the highly revealing “Trial of David Suzuki.” One of the less-publicized features of that event was that Cape Farewell wanted to hire bouncers to remove Sun News’ bulldog Ezra Levant should he choose to “disrupt” the event by exercising a little free speech.

MaRS’ Phase 2 building stands as a monument to government waste and incompetence, but it could hardly have ended otherwise. Meanwhile the involvement of people such as Gord Nixon, however well intended, does them little credit.

The MaRS mission was always suicidal, at least for taxpayers. Hopefully the Liberal government will wear this, along with the rest of its plethora of policy shames, on Thursday.


     There were supposed to be 100,000 green jobs in Ontario by now. They can’t get up to 10,000 even by assiduous lying.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Days of Songs and Mirrors: A Jacobite in the ‘45.”
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies


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