Would an Urban, Mixed-Use Box Store Development Work in West Harbour?

By Jason Leach
Published February 27, 2012

Walmart is trying to open an urban store in the funky college town of Athens, Georgia. Some of you may not have heard of Athens, but you'll certainly remember R.E.M.'s album Automatic for the People.

R.E.M. - Automatic for the People (Image Credit: Wikipedia)
R.E.M. - Automatic for the People (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

R.E.M. comes from Athens, and this album cover comes straight from Weaver D's, an Athens diner that still lives on today.

Now Walmart wants to move to Athens. Renderings of the proposed mixed-use concept by Selig Enterprises show pedestrian-oriented buildings with public plaza spaces, patios and upper floor apartments.

So here's my question to our Hamilton readers - would you support such a development on our West Harbour lands, even if it meant a big box chain locating there?

Keep in mind that our new West Harbour guidelines don't allow for a store of more than 60,000 square feet, with a minimum of two stories and no surface parking.

That would mean the single-storey 'anchor' store showed in the Athens site plan wouldn't be acceptable. Adding one or more floors of apartments or offices on top of the anchor store, however, would put the proposal in line with our guidelines.

In fact, most of these renderings from Athens seem to indicate exactly the scale and type of development that we have made room for in the new Setting Sail guidelines for Barton-Tiffany.

A proposal similar to this could very well make an appearance here in the future with sights set on our West Harbour. How would you feel about it?

(h/t to MyStoneyCreek for forwarding the Salon link)

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2012 at 08:35:23

Putting residential in the West Harbour looks to be too costly, given what we have been told by people at the City of Hamilton. On the other hand, I would have preferred they spend the $10 million they took from the Future Fund for the Mac Family Medical Clinic and had used it for soil remediation (not to mention the additional $10 million they have given to the project).

I think putting commercial and residential above big box stores is a much better idea than what happens now. There is absolutely no reason there couldn't be 8 floors (2 commercial, 6 residential) above any Walmart or Home Depot or Costco right now. I probably wouldn't choose to live there, but that's the thing, it's about choice.

Others have said it already, but the Centre Mall re-imagined as a true mix of retail, commercial and residential could have resulted in something much better than the corporate store design model that seemingly all retailers (including Shoppers Drug Mart, any of the banks) prefer. It makes it much easier for the developer to sign the deal without having to negotiate the idea that office space and apartments/condos will sit on top of the store.

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By DowntownDowner (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2012 at 22:55:45 in reply to Comment 74766

I found this link on FaceBook it seems to be exactly what you are discussing. How about something like this at the ole Studebaker factory.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 27, 2012 at 08:43:47 in reply to Comment 74766

Portland just built a new library in one of it's urban neighbourhoods and added apartments above it:

As well as a grocery store (major chain) with apartments above and surrounding it:

Seeing what happened here with the downtown secondary plan calling for a two-floor minimum, I'm expecting developers to try to skirt this new two-storey minimum by adding their second level 'mezzanine' storage space as a 'second storey'. We really should mandate a livable or office space on a full second storey.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2012 at 13:37:27

It is about Walmart but as I rambled on about in this post on The Hamiltonian, if their presence is inevitable, consideration for the surroundings would be nice - aka a Walmart on Ottawa Street.

I don't understand - completely anyway, why big box has to be all inward facing? I guess size of retail space has something to do with it as if you have entrances on both sides, there is no place for storage perhaps?

Look at the entire Centre on Barton complex. You add Barton Street-facing entrances along there and suddenly you are adding to the rise of Barton Street being a curb-side shopping experience again. Then that could rap around to Kenilworth and encourage it's revival. Instead, their rear-ends face us as we walk by. Coral would have made for a nice Barton Street-facing patio.

Same thing with this proposed Walmart. If built against Ottawa Street with a frontage not unlike their original Walton's stores, you add to the history and feel of the existing streetscape instead of threatening to be the reason for it's demise.

You can also choose to not directly compete but I am sure that's as dumb a concept in the real world as it sounded typing it out but perhaps these are the only terms of which we can agree to these evil (why sugar coate it), empires moving into our neighbuorhoods. You want to sell 10 lbs of mayo for cheap, be my guest, but why sell textile if we have an entire street offering the same thing.

Mega stores add nothing to our communities. We'd be better off working together to create start-ups along the Ottawa and Barton Streets of our cities. What don't we have now? Fuses, lightbulbs, toilet paper, etc. Why not small shops specializing in necessities. Furnace filters. You could surely fill a store with just these items above.

I heard someone say Ottawa Street struggles because it gets lots of foot traffic but nobody's spending. I am sure coffee shops and eatery's do okay because everyone has to eat in their walking/shopping travels. But what about what we need. If I can grab my light bulbs and furnace filters and toiletries while going for my walk, and not from the big box alternative Canadian Tire, Shoppers, Walmart, etc., how does that eliminate the need for the big guys?

I live where I do because I love the proximity to Ottawa Street-style shopping but I still need to wander acres of already cracked blacktop to head to Canadian Tire or Zellers or Shopper's for many things. I don't want to have to enter that maze.

It's one thing to not want these box shops like I don't want Walmart, but we have to do something about it ourselves. When thinking of opening a business and with a street like Ottawa Street in mind to open that business, shouldn't we be looking at what we need to help fight big box and to encourage the financial stability and growth of our favourite qualities of our city?

Do our BIA's put the call out to businesses asking for 'toiletry' or 'light bulb' stores? It wouldn't be my first desire as an artist and creative person myself but if you look at James Street North, everyone is a gallery on the side so perhaps there are ways to bring in some of our passions to something as seemingly mundane as a store that just sells light bulbs?

We all know the selections at speciality shops are always better than the Canadian Tires or Lowes of the world. I was just looking for a fuse the other day and I couldn't find one. There must be a speciality shop for that and it would be a nice addition to Ottawa Street.

It doesn't matter how we dress them up. They are still who they are at their roots. But if we have to accept them into our communities for now, we should be standing up for our neighbourhoods and asking them to conform to the design and feel of the area, and to be an additive part of the business community - not a subtractive enemy of Big Box gate.

Addtion: Actually, going back to the Walmat at The Centre for one moment, I bet the people who live in those apartments on the lower south side of the building are enjoying not having a building in front of them. Would make for some nice park space.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-02-27 13:41:16

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2012 at 17:58:28


That company has single handedly put more north americans out of work than any other facet of globalization or economic downturn in history.

I go out of my way NOT TO SHOP THERE.

I'll wait a moment while some of you who think you know me pull your jaws off the floor.

Yes an avowed capitalist who loathes Walmart. Why? because it is a corporation without conscience or scruples or a sense of community or national loyalty.

I get the point of the article, and it may make sense and could work. I simply don't think we would see a Walmart in that location. The concept is the antithesis of the Walmart corporate greed.... I mean creed.

I still have issues with the 8 story height restriction placed on the Barton Tiffany precinct area. It's ridiculous. In light of recent events in Aldershot, the city of Hamilton should be doing everything it can to have the shunting yard owned by CN moved to a more isolated area away from the city.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted February 27, 2012 at 23:02:19 in reply to Comment 74790

Walmart has no place in that neighbourhood. Even at only 60,000 square feet it would be a fairly substantial retail operation. I think that would not be in keeping with the character of the west harbour (not what's there now, nor what many hope it to become). It would also potentially suck life out of what's happening on James St., and probably in the downtown core as well.

I would prefer the city to pursue a number of smaller shops, preferably not mass-market chains, though a drug store or reasonably sized food store would make some sense.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2012 at 22:24:41 in reply to Comment 74790

I missed ya, Shemp.

The last thing the North End needs is a Wal Mart. They burn a hole in local economies by using economies of scale and cheap Chinese labour to bulldoze the competition, and our already struggling retailers don't need that stress.

Putting what would in all likelihood be a fairly subsidized Wal Mart on a big chunk of expropriated land in in the bayfront area would be, frankly, offensive.

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By mb (registered) | Posted February 27, 2012 at 22:04:21

A box store at West Harbour?

Watch McGreal's head explode if that happens.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 28, 2012 at 06:57:09 in reply to Comment 74799

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted February 28, 2012 at 09:30:41

I won't bother to repeat Undustrial's comment, which I wholeheartedly agree with, but will add that should this actually be a serious proposal, advocates should start doing their homework now to demonstrate net benefits to the neighbourhood.

It is highly likely that the SMEs nearby would have their business cannibalized, and neighbours would notice more traffic on their streets as cars came and went from this Free Trade Zone and accompanying parking lot. A box store isn't the kind of development that people walk to or has drivers sticking around after they shop, so James N. won't suddenly become a bustling streetscape.

The only way someone could pitch this concept and make someone like me happy is if it were urban-designed and directly connected to a high-density residential development, so that the project as a whole necessarily brings more people into the core.

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2012 at 09:50:16

seems to me there is a fundamental problem with walmarts business plan. McDonalds has managed to rebrand themselves into something closer to urban, recognizing that the urban demographic - young families and old people - is suited for a brand that can cross the age divide. But Walmart depends on being high volume and lowest price. They are one tiny step away from Costco. So two problems: I can't see how they could do without parking, and I can't see how they could create a new aesthetic that isn't Klieg lights and exposed steel beams.

Moreover, who would ever buy a condo above a walmart? Groceries are one thing, but even then it has to be a Loblaws or Longos - not a No Frills.

Personally I don't have a problem with Walmart per se. They are a feature of out collective economic and political choices. But good urban living is a totally different mode of making those choices, and I can't see how to cross that divide. The best I think you'll get is some fake walls, new colour scheme, soft white bulbs, maybe a new uniform - but no change of location or product.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted February 28, 2012 at 10:28:08

But Walmart depends on being high volume and lowest price. They are one tiny step away from Costco.

Sorry, can't let that one go. As it was discussed elsewhere, they are a BIG step away from Costco, including pay (~$17/hr vs min. wage) and unionization (allowed vs crushed).

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted February 28, 2012 at 15:07:24


"Moreover, who would ever buy a condo above a walmart? Groceries are one thing, but even then it has to be a Loblaws or Longos - not a No Frills."

I take your point, but what if at the retail level there was a Scotiabank, a Shopper's Drug Mart, a privately owned hair salon/spa, and a Winners or a restaurant?

What if on the next two floors there was a dentist's office, a medical clinic, insurance broker, call centre or ad/design agency, etc.?

What if the next 4 floors were geared to income rental that permitted purchasing your own rental unit through a creative and affordable purchase program?

What if the last 4 floors were condominiums?

What if the building was not set back, but was part of an existing (or new) street wall?

What if the parking was a combination of underground and some surface parking at the rear of the building, as well as metered parking in the front?

Even if it was a Walmart and it was only 3 storeys high, the upper floors could be used for other enterprises. A health club? What about a coffee shop on 2/3 of the third floor with a large (1/3) outdoor terrace overlooking the street?

I'm not saying this is fabulous urban planning, or even edgy architecture, but it's one hell of a lot better than what we got at the Centre Mall.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted March 03, 2012 at 14:00:18 in reply to Comment 74832

The idea is corporate investors bring good neighbors and planners when they march into wartorn (urban decayed) areas. Graham's idea is a better one and I think center maul was originally designed to face the street. However, a certain chill does go through me when I think of Walmart with condos/apartments above. I think of Walmart housing their employees in a kind of vertical company town.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted February 28, 2012 at 21:10:34

Ah the Centre Mall.

My soon to be 91 year old grandmother upon seeing the Mississauga style cookie cutter suburban boxville on Barton. And I quote directly.

"What the F&$! DID THEY DO THIS FOR?"

Followed by "How the hell am I supposed to get from Zellers to the bank in February when it's 20 below and windy?"

City Hall needs an enema.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 09:52:42 in reply to Comment 74835

Love this Shemp. How F&$!ing true. But it looks better than what it was allowed to succumb to right?


I haven't heard any more about the Walmart at The Centre but I really want to find a way to peacefully and creatively bring it down.

I am shocked to read on this site, people being submissive about a box grocer going into our downtown or at at Barton & Tiffany.

Maybe Loblaws or Longos are much better socially I do not know much but I think we can dream better for both areas.

What's the rush in the Harbour. Please. I know it looks like hell right now but look what rushing did to the Centre. Please, please learn from that and fight for your neighborhood.

I grew up on the mountain and heard the 'north end' stigmatizations. Just like you native north-enders likely heard or used the 'mountain dwellers' vernacular.

Two of my band mates live and I believe grew up in the general vicinity of Barton and Tiffany. I love this area of our city. I was shocked the more I ventured down to the 'hood', just how beautiful and charismatic it was/is.

Don't rush it. You don't want a Walmart or Smart Centre or even traditional shops. Make it something special and spill out every idea that's in your head and truly make it a destination the world wants to visit because it has that potential and we all know it.

Why can't we create a Farmer's Market style space that sells what we go to the big super markets for? Is it doable? This is what I would love to see both down town and in West Harbour. Why can't we have a small town type pharmacy like at Dundurn and Aberdeen? Why can't we have 100 business owners and we likely could if you broke down what our super markets/big box drug stores, offer.

We shouldn't be settling for anything just because it's better than what we have now. Shoot for the moon and yes we will have to eventually 'agree' - not settle, somewhere in between but we all know that 'well informed' or not, Walmart may not be far from what others are becoming, but they are the top dog and worth keeping out and then going even further and working towards bringing everything else down to size.

I don't want to be American. Is that too much to ask? They are infiltrating our market and turning what's left of 'Canadian' like Tim's and Crappy Tire, more and more American every day so that these 'Canadian' companies can stay competitive.

I have a lot to learn but I also trust my heart and when I walk into a Walmart kicking and screaming, I know what I feel in my soul and it doesn't feel like I am in Kansas any longer and poor Toto is even frothing at the mouth.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-02-29 10:54:42

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted February 28, 2012 at 21:45:52 in reply to Comment 74835

Why would you allow your grandmother to shop at Zellers when you are so ardently against their competitor (Walmart)? Zellers, soon to be Target or closed, follows the same principles.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 09:19:32 in reply to Comment 74838

No one ALLOWS my grandmother to do anything. She is her own person and makes her own decisions. Having discussed the impending change with a cashier at Zellers they are all quite excited. Target it turns out employs more people per store than Zellers, Wal Mart, etc. So while all of the Zellers employees will have to reapply for their jobs, its seems they will all get rehired.

I have not suggested that Wal Mart does not treat employees fairly. (provided they don't try to unionize). My criticism of that company is related to the fact that they promote themselves as a good corporate citizen (and in some respects they are), while using buying power and practices that have devasted small and medium sized manufacturing sectors in North America.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted February 28, 2012 at 21:47:55

I am one of the few who is not anti-Walmart. Their practices are unscrupulous and ethics questionable but they are a product of their times. Thank NAFTA, globalization and the almighty dollar for what they are.

My better half worked at Walmart. She was paid more than minimum wage and was well looked after there. They look after their own. I don't have much of a negative nature to say about them.

I think that it would be great to see something like an urban Walmart there. An anchor tenant to draw people in, then do some shopping, maybe take in a meal, do some other shopping at some other stores, go for a walk along the pier, it's doable.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2012-02-28 21:49:30

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 08:06:33

Good feedback so far folks, although much of the discussion has centred on Walmart. Truth be told, I thew this out there hoping to get feedback on the concept of a big box in a mixed-use development at the harbour, not just Walmart. Think a big Fortino's, Winners, Target etc.... I'm sure most people agree (including me) that we don't Walmart on valuable harbour lands, especially now that they've opened a whack-load of stores in Hamilton. But we are allowing for 60,000 sq foot stores - again, the Metro at Centre Mall is just over 50,000. Would certain 'box style' stores be acceptable, or none at all?

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 09:12:51

Despite the Downtown's attempt to equate Walmart with its competitors (Walmart "looking after" employees isn't unheard of, but about as rare as a February 29th), all box store chains are not the same, but unfortunately the race to the bottom is reducing these subtle differences.

One thing that a brand like Fortinos or Longos has going for it, at least, are local roots and a sense of shame. Walmart, on the other hand, is accountable to no one in Hamilton, so they don't rightly care if their appearance closes down half a block of small retail, or if their low-wage/no-union policies further impoverishes its community by lowering the bar.

No, all they are expected to do is sell a lot of cheap, Chinese-made crap, and funnel the money back to Arkansas.

Downtown in Hamilton noted, "Their practices are unscrupulous and ethics questionable," but as he also ably demonstrates, despite these flaws, many consumers (like him) are still willing to bend over and take the lower living standards and working conditions with a smile.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2012 at 14:55:11 in reply to Comment 74848

>> take the lower living standards and working conditions with a smile

From 2002-11, Canadian households increased their net debt by $349.3 billion.

In that same period of time, Canadian corporations have ran a collective surplus of $521.6 billion.

Here are the years, since 1961, that Canadian corporations have run surpluses.


In the past two decades, corporations have gone from being net borrowers, to net lenders of capital. In other words, the economic power has shifted from workers to owners.

Furthermore, real GDP has not improved during this period of higher corporate profits.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2012 at 16:45:45 in reply to Comment 74993

When it comes to our economy, there are 4 main players...

Government, Foreign, Households and Corporations.

When you total their respective surpluses/deficits, they ALWAYS add up to zero.

G + F + H + C = 0

If, for example, corporations increase their savings, the other three sectors must collectively decrease theirs. Similarly, when the government(s) runs a surplus, the three components of the private sector (F,H,C) see their savings fall. Lastly, if we run a large trade deficit, that increases the savings of foreigners and depletes the savings of Canadians.

In the last decade, corporations have run big surpluses. In 2011, it was 3.62%/GDP.

That 3.62% represents cash that could be spent creating jobs, paying down the public deficit, or buying imports. Instead, our governments think the best thing to do is cut corporate tax rates and allow them to hoard cash...

Apparently, "Canada's tax advantage" refers to draining the savings of households and giving it to corporations.

Here are the (surpluses/deficits)/GDP of Canadian corporations from 1961-2008.

1961 -0.0061
1970 -0.0193
1980 -0.0256
1990 -0.0199
2000 0.0103
2008 0.0355

In the future, one, or a combination of these three things must happen...

1.) Corporate tax rates must increase (lower corporate savings)
2.) Canada must devalue the dollar to increase exports (lower foreign savings)
3.) Public deficits must go from 5% of GDP to over 10% (lower government savings)

If none of these things happen, Canadian consumers will reach their borrowing limit and our economy WILL tank. Instead of 7.6% unemployment, think over 10%.

Good day.

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2012 at 22:28:43 in reply to Comment 74994

A Smith seems not to be aware that his head exploded recently

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2012 at 23:20:16 in reply to Comment 74998

Here is something that will blow your mind...

From 1990Q3-1995Q3, Canadian real GDP averaged 1.75%.

Since that time, we have focused on being lean and mean. Low deficits, low welfare and corporate tax cuts.

What have these changes done for economic growth. Well, since 2000, real GDP has averaged only 1.57%. It gets better, from 2005-2011, real GDP averaged only 0.89%.

Meanwhile, we have more people accessing food-banks and record household debt.

In the U.S., the story is similar. From 1990-95, prior to welfare reform, real GDP averaged 2.62%. Since 2000, it has averaged only 1.78%. And from 2005, it has managed only 0.89%.

You said this a while back...

"that's because morality is not, and should not I think, be part of economic decision-making. "

Okay, then how about pragmatism?

If it can be seen that higher welfare leads to better GDP growth (and likely lower health costs), isn't that a good reason to help the poor?

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 10:05:55 in reply to Comment 75000

I'm all over that. Love these posts A Smith. Can't beat evidence.

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 09:44:46 in reply to Comment 74848

that's because morality is not, and should not I think, be part of economic decision-making. Ethical investing and shopping may feel good but I think it has zero impact on the economy, outside of single issues like apartheid or boycotting archie magazine for portraying a gay wedding. Prices drive the economy and they are set mostly by regulations.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 11:04:27 in reply to Comment 74851

Great! I guess this means we can bail out struggling economies without demanding counter-productive austerity measures for fear of 'moral hazard'.

Comment edited by highwater on 2012-02-29 11:04:59

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 11:22:57 in reply to Comment 74855

Moral hazard says people abandon prudence where there is no cost, ie people behave rashly where they have insurance - I think. So you're saying that absent ethical limits, people will be wasteful? That's true - but I don't think this is a useful factor in individual decision-making in the narrow field of economic action. I'm not saying it's true of all social relations, nor even all transactions. But at the level of market transactions, where information is not equally available, I have trouble seeing how my sense of ethics, say to choose Pioneer gas over Shell, has any value.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 14:08:28 in reply to Comment 74856

So you're saying that absent ethical limits, people will be wasteful?

No, I'm saying you can't have it both ways. If the wealthy shouldn't be letting morality govern their investment decisions, then they can't turn around and impose their morality on the industries and economies they invest in. Either morality plays a role or it doesn't.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 12:04:09 in reply to Comment 74856

Pioneer versus Shell in your example may or may not mean a heck of a lot on a larger scale. It's still oil and polluting cars and all of that stuff.

To me, these choices are really about training ourselves to think about these things more. Zellers may be Target now but I shop there over Walmart and likely still will once the change is made. The Zellers versus Walmart example might even be about the practice of being willing to pay a little more for moral or ethical reasons.

Yes, Target is #2 so the separation of evil perhaps isn't all that far removed but the mind is consciously starting to think about these things and I think the world in general is starting to more and more. My mother even shocked me at her disappointment over a Walmart replacing her life long Zellers on the corner. I didn't know that there was a political side to my mother. I smiled.

When the Shell versus Pioneer decision truly starts to become a powerful one, is when you suddenly find yourself maybe taking the train to work one day to do a little more good for humanity and the planet. Then you realize you love that one day of downtime and it becomes a weekly thing say every hump day. You read, write, listen to music and just kick up your feet and relax. You have taken that next step.

Then, you start actively seeking where you can by furnace filters or light bulbs instead of going to Home Depot.

Then you start sharing these findings and maybe only one person decides to shop on Ottawa Street instead of The Centre to buy their next hat, but it all starts with 1 more - bad or good.

All Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 10:39:38 in reply to Comment 74851

morality is not, and should not I think, be part of economic decision-making.

Adam Smith's head just exploded.

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 11:33:07 in reply to Comment 74853

it feels wrong to quote from a wikipedia article on such a heavy work - I'm no doubt diluting an already thin gruel - but doesn't this support my point?: 'However, Smith rejected the idea that Man was capable of forming moral judgements beyond a limited sphere of activity, again centered around his own self-interest'

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 12:29:43 in reply to Comment 74860

I pointed my link there as a convenience. Obviously I'm going to suggest that you read the book before drawing conclusions about it, but for a brief summary: Smith explicitly argues that benevolence - the ability to sympathize with the plight of others - should drive public policy, and that morality cannot be reduced to self-interest.

While the market system, broadly understood, is the full, unintended consequence of individual freedom to pursue voluntary trades and transactions, such a system cannot function well except in the context of a strong, clear morality to moderate people's passions and indulgences and to govern their conduct.

Quite simply, without morality - without sympathy and a well-developed sense of fairness, justice and reciprocity - it becomes impossible to engage in good-faith market transactions of the sort that, taken as a whole, tend to increase wealth and uplift society.

This makes a priori sense. Without mutual trust, the capacity for fair exchange is severely constrained and the potential for market forces to enrich society is crippled. As it happens, a century of economic research supports this axiom.

(As a sidenote, the book is surprisingly psycological and empirical - surprisingly modern - in its approach to the subject of morality and human motivation.)

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-02-29 12:32:20

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 16:29:04 in reply to Comment 74866

I should read this. I would probably get to page 15 and then zzzzzzz.

'without morality - without sympathy and a well-developed sense of fairness, justice and reciprocity - it becomes impossible to engage in good-faith market transactions of the sort that, taken as a whole, tend to increase wealth and uplift society.'

I completely agree. A good faith transaction, continuing my gas example earlier, would involve me buying gas with cash or credit and them selling it to me. A bad faith one would be me giving counterfeit bills or them selling me diluted gas.

The externalities of the transaction are the things people seem to be concerned about. I'm not saying you can't make an ethical decision not to buy gas, or that this is not meaningful or even effective for single issues like blood diamonds. City council has a penchant for making grandiose boycotts signifying nothing: ie shark fin soup. But I don't think those decisions will impact the supply and demand of the product on a large scale.

It's similar to the point people make here about policing v planning. Individual training to change behaviour is largely insignificant compared to regulation.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 09:14:15

Corporate motivations aside, again in principle I'm not against the concept..... as long as it's NOT 1 floor surrounded by acres of surface parking. I like Grahams description of what he possibly envisions there.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 11:50:10

that's because morality is not, and should not I think, be part of economic decision-making.

Dare I ask: Where in the world did you get that ethically bankrupt idea?

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 12:30:38 in reply to Comment 74862

I just think it's the way things work. It's not a position I'm supporting - by 'should not' I mean within our model of economic behaviour. I don't mean no other models are possible.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 13:31:59 in reply to Comment 74867

Jackson, you seem like a keen observer, and as such, I can understand that, given the present zeitgeist, why you might conclude that economics and morality are divorced.

But every decision or choice we make is an opportunity to challenge this cultural amorality and apply our own, distinct vision of "what ought to be", as informed by our personal ethics.

While I take your point about information assymetry, that should not be an excuse for wilful ignorance, nor does not absolve an economic actor from making ethical choices.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 12:10:40 in reply to Comment 74862

ethically bankrupt

Love that.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 13:31:54

Here is a link to Walmart Canada's Corporate Responsibility page.

Not sure if that will work.

Anyway, read it. There is talk of waste diversion, energy efficiency, women as a percentage of their workforce, and get this "ethical sourcing" from its suppliers around the world.

There is not one mention of encouraging suppliers to invest locally to produce the good Walmart buys and sells,

This is wrong.

Walmart is one of the most profitable companies in the world. Yes. But it is morally bankrupt. It banks profits on the purchases of its consumers, while at the same time eroding the economic base that those consumers must work in to purchase goods and necessities.

It is ironic to me that one of the most profitable companies in the world is headquartered in Arkansas, one of the most poor states in the Union, with one of the lowest literacy rates, highest unemployment rates and least attractive places to invest.

Were I on the board of that company, that would be an embarassment.

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with profit. Lots of it. But I hold to the principle that it must be attained with a sense of responsibility and ethics.

Here is a linc to corporations that make scads of money and do it ethically. Wal Mart is not on this list.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2012-02-29 13:32:54

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 13:35:05 in reply to Comment 74875

Amazing link, Greg.

And if Jackson is still wondering if making ethical choices can make a difference, notice that even a serial sweatshop operator like Nike can clean up their act and become a "good corporate citizen" (if that's really a thing).

Comment edited by Borrelli on 2012-02-29 13:35:15

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 17:31:56

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 21:14:23

Here is the link to an article titled "West Harbour floated as possible site for new education centre" by Teri Pecoskie on tonight:

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 22:30:28 in reply to Comment 74906

No thanks...the Board rep says "the Crestwood plan can fit at Barton/Tiffany". Ya, we really want a mega parking lot on valuable harbour lands.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 01, 2012 at 14:50:33 in reply to Comment 74909

Demanding underground parking at this location would be nice. How much does this add to a project? Not sure how many levels underground would be required for their needs.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted March 03, 2012 at 20:10:01

Baseball stadium on West Harbour.

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By DrAllanHawryluk (registered) - website | Posted May 18, 2012 at 03:32:39

Nice Blog! Keep it up!

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