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3 things catching my eye this morning…

Possible VIA strike

Word this morning is that VIA ticket vendors and maintenance workers have voted for strike action at the end of June if a settlement cannot be reached. Bad timing for riders, of course, but a strategic move for the Union as the summer tourist season begins.

I’m not going to comment on a possible strike and what a hassle this will create for those of us who use the service, but rather on some of the comments I’m reading on the MotherCorp story.

Check it out:

There is something wrong. In many countries rail travel is the most economic way to travel. No not in Canada here in Canada to go from Winnipeg to Vancouver, economy class Via Rail: $258.76. Greyhound bus: $96.00. Like the roads the rails are there.
What make this so ” humane kind of travel” so expensive.
Right the “Via Rail workers have voted in favour of going on strike “.
They are pricing Via Rail out of business.
I love rail travel but not at those prices. As one commentator said: “Take away the subsidies and make it private.

The writer is making two points – rail is too expensive, and that the system should be privatized.

Yes, it is expensive compared to travel by road and is about on par with a flight for many cases. Against the air option, there is no contest, rail wins hands down. When I am traveling for biz to Montreal or to Toronto, I almost always go by rail; the exception being if the meeting I am attending is near the airport. No hassle. Comfy seats. Good food. and best of all, NO security!

And it IS used by many, many commuters in the Windsor to Montreal corridor – contrary to what this guy says:

Not a good move, I can’t name one person who relys (sic) on Via to get them around! Train travel is now a novelty thing , the odd tourist, vacationer thats (sic) about it.

Hmmm… it just occurred to me that comments like this may be coming from the West – where many like to bask anything that may be perceived to have an Eastern Canada bias.

As far as privatization, I don’t know if that is the solution. I know of folks who took Brit Rail both before and after the breakup of the national system and most would agree that it is far worse now than before. As well, I’m not so sure the Amtrak system is the cream of the crop in the States. So, at best, the jury is out.

Besides, privatization would only be effective if there were a profit to be made. In this vast country with wide spans between destinations, could a private firm offer a palatable service, pay their workers a living wage and still get a half decent RoI? I’m not so sure.

One other comment I want to say something about:

Here we go – the Union dummies don’t realize we are still in a recession.

Um, apparently this dummy doesn’t realize that we are NOT in a recession anymore. They should Google the definition.

I can’t begrudge the union trying to get a wage increase. As someone who belongs to a union that has been completely de-clawed (no cost of living increases for the next few years, meaning that our purchasing power will be 5-8% less three years from now than today) by the Harperites – as have all Federal Unions, I say go for it and good luck!

Another thing that caught my eye:

Apparently, a planetary alignment today is going to cause earthquakes, tsunamis and whole bunch of other end-of-the-world stuff.

Kongpop U-yen, a Thai engineer who works at the US National Aeronatics and Space Administration (Nasa), said the alignment of the planets today could cause natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

NDWC chief Smith Dharmasarojana agreed with the forecast, saying it was backed by scientific data.

The forecast, however, met with criticism from the scientific community as authorities did not clarify the prediction.

Mr Smith recently said during a TV interview that a solar eclipse was due to occur on June 12 as a result of the alignment of the Earth, the moon and the sun.

He said the alignment would release considerable cumulative energy, which could affect the Earth. Mr Smith, quoting Mr Kongpop, said the phenomenon would have a direct impact on the Earth in the forms of climate disruption, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.


And finally:

How true it is…


Grits and ReformCons – no statistical difference between the two

The latest Harris-Decima poll conducted for The Canadian Press shows that neither party is within reach of a majority and both would be risking a defeat at the polls if one of them forces an election this fall.

Thirty-two per cent support for the Liberals and 31 per cent for the Harperites ain’t gonna buy you a whole lot of love at the ballot box..

This is in stark contrast to a we threw darts a the dartboard Ipsos-Reid poll that indicated – contrary to any other poll done over the summer – that the Harperites had built up a huge lead.

Predictably, the Cons are are jumping up and down like a nudist standing on an ant hill about how a forced vote would create political instability, cause dogs and cats to mate and bring about a plague of locusts. This is all in response to Iggy suggesting having a fall election wouldn’t be harmful at all to the economy. I can understand his position because those ReformCons are damned tough to work with and he is not sure how much longer he can hold his nose.

“There’s not one single person in the world who’d agree with him on that. You can’t just say things that are so outrageously false,” Transport Minister John “So what if my face looks like a pitbull” Baird said.

Mr. Baird said an election would mean government would “grind to a halt,” and all those really important decisions (like what colour jumpsuit to wear on a helicopter) just wouldn’t get made.

Hmmmm… the Harperites weren’t too concerned about shutting down the House last Fall  in order to avoid a non-confidence vote… just as the economic shitstorm was picking up steam… funny, that.


The U.S. adds to its troop strength

In yet another valiant attempt to add to its already $37 gazillion budgetary deficit, the Obama administration has decided to increase its troop strength to deal with pressures overseas.

Though it is sometimes difficult to keep track of exactly how many wars Uncle Sam has his fingers in, these new low income, inner-city and naive brave troops will be based in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, can someone please explain to me what kind of warped logic would lead otherwise rational men and women to, during the greatest economic crisis since the 1930’s (and possibly ever) decide to add to America’s growing economic malaise by investing further in two wars that are going very, very badly.  It is akin to a household with multiple and huge credit card debt to take out another credit card, draw the max cash advance, and give the money to that lazy uncle who you know is going to head straight to the track and lose the bundle. Bad idea, right?

Here’s a thought for Obama and for Harper too. Instead of digging yourself deeper in these unwinnable wars, start planning your exit strategy. The money spent on troops can be more wisely invested at home on helping your countries get through these difficult economic times.


In the news recently

Possible summer election

As much as I’d like to say that I’d like to see an election this summer I have to counsel caution… leadership numbers still too soft, unpredictable and therefore the Grits are vulnerable to the slightest slip-up. Give Iggy the summer. The Harperites will no doubt stumble some more and give the Grits some firm wedge issues on the leadership front.

The risk is that we really are seeing the beginnings of an economic recovery and this will bode well for the Harperites. I doubt that this is the case and that we are at least a year away from seeing real recovery. And even then the manufacturing sector in Ontario will still be undergoing a long period of restructuring.

Regardless, give the ReformCons the summer to (pick one or all of the following:

  • Say something stupid about race, religion, immigration or language
  • Leave Top Secret docs on an OC Transpo bus
  • Leave Top secret docs in the washroom of the Spark Street CBC studios
  • Reveal information that links a sitting ReformCon MP to a white supremacist group or a  loony religious sect
  • Miss a photo op with other world leaders
  • Wear a leather vest or something equally unflattering – like a sweater vest for instance


Ottawa will expand the boundaries of the City by a few hundred hectares.  Despite the Official Plan provisions that intensification projects be preferred over more suburbanization, the City staff and politicians will undoubtedly give in to pressure from developers and allow a further stretching of the designated urban area.

I am a Planner by training. Have a Masters degree in the field as a matter of fact. And, in planning school we were taught that sprawl was bad. Infrastructure costs are higher, a sense of community is more difficult to foster, there are higher GHG emissions due to higher automobile traffic, etc., etc.

Haven’t we sprawled enough? Time to give up the quaint notion of the Greenbelt and plan our City more sustainably.
The kids who are running the government

Is it my imagination or does it seem like most of the staffers who work with the ReformCons are under 30? Not to put down those who have yet to experience the delights of middle-age, but the inexperience is beginning to show. Witness the problems that various Ministers have experienced lately that have been the direct result of ill-prepared staffers.

Still. The buck stops at the Minister’s office, doesn’t it? Folks like Lisa Raitt have to accept responsibility and not use the poor kids as scapegoats.


Nortel, AIG and the culture of corporate entitlement

So the suits at Nortel are asking for permission to pay bonuses to its top executives because they have done such a damned great job.

Check it out:

Wow! There is a list of accomplishments if I ever ever seen one! If my annual performance review ever looked like this, I would not only lose my job, but my employer would haul my sorry ass in front of a judge and I’d end up making license plates while enjoying the company of my new bunkmate named “Bunny“.

What gall! It’s the Canuck version of the AIG fiasco.

Give us our bonuses ’cause dammit, we drove the company and our shareholders right smack into a platinum coated wall and then left the scene with our wallets intact! After all, we are entitled to this compensation!

But hell, since y’all seem a little pissy about this, I tell ya what – we’ll “ask” our trough feeding execs to give HALF of the bonus back! Does THAT keep you quiet?

The crass greed of these guys and those inhabiting the soon to be sold exec suites at Nortel are the best (and worst) examples of the odour of corporate entitlement that has permeated much of corporate culture. Now, I am not at all against paying those who are in charge of large companies (or governments, for that matter) a considerable amount of coin when it comes to their compensation. BUT, when these same captains of industry let the wheel goes free and the ship head butts an iceberg… well, they don’t deserve anything.

They merit even less when the said ship is raised again using public funds and those same Captains of that same ship clamber back aboard, raise the sails and raid the treasure chest that have most thoughtfully re-stocked with public money.




Ikea expansion in Ottawa


What recession?