We have to admit there is a problem.

I am lucky in many ways.

I have never experienced workplace sexual harassment.

I was raised well by parents and teachers who made it clear that the concept of “no means no” is an immutable rule to live by and have always found it easy to follow. In the past, I have found myself attracted to some women only to find that they were simply not attracted to me. While that was frustrating at the time perhaps, it never occurred to me for a second that I should heighten coming on, dropping hints or try to pressure the other person to get intimate with me. It simply wasn’t an option.

It was and is unthinkable to show attraction or get some sort of thrills through surreptitious contact with extended hugs, unsolicited kisses or creepy efforts to brush against women. I sure as hell never considered for a second trying to use a position of workplace authority to try and force a woman to respond to me. The thought of a woman being with me simply because she felt she needed to in order to keep her job is outright repellent. It is just rape using a threat different than a knife to the throat. These rules of living applied and apply inside and outside of the workplace.

It all seemed so common sense to me that I really couldn’t let myself grasp that many men for whatever damned reasons don’t find these simple and respectful rules in dealing with people they are attracted to worth abiding by. I really assumed that this really could only be happening due to a tiny number of men in society.

I was wrong.

The world has changed this year and I think its for the better though the events that surfaced in order to bring about this change are horrifying.

The exposure of Harvey Weinstein was an eye opener. Not only did this man spend decades using his position in order to sexually assault women, he got away with it for decades due to a culture of silence on the issue. These men exist and in numbers higher than any of us like to admit. These men are covered for all the time by both men and women and it has to stop.

The #MeToo movement has exploded and is encouraging all sorts of victims to come out, expose their abuse and most importantly expose their abusers.

I have been dismissive of and annoyed with the #MeToo movement. Often the voices speaking for that movement are coming from the extremes of feminism. Often those extreme feminists are firing out vitriol and are outright attacking the entire gender of men. I tire of being told I am guilty of all ills due to my sex and it puts me on the defensive. This unfortunately has also led to me ignoring the rational voices coming from #MeToo that have been increasingly speaking up. Like any movement, the extreme are often the most vocal. We can’t let them drown out the productive discussions and I can’t use those extremists as an excuse to quit listening to the majority in the movement.

As I can’t directly relate, I need to listen to the people that can and learn from them.

Admittedly, it took listening to a fantastic statement from a politician that I respect before I really tuned in. Better late than never.

Michelle Rempel delivered a fantastic and powerful statement today on Bill C-65 and sexual harassment on Parliament Hill.

It is very well worth a listen by clicking here. 

It is not just the content of the statement made by Rempel that struck me. It was the emotion. You could see it in her body language and feel it in her tone. Rempel expressed frustration, some anger and some pain in speaking to this issue. In just seeing the live commentary in videos that she does I get a hint of what she deals with. I can’t imagine the entirety of what a good looking woman working in the old boys world of parliamentary politics deals with daily.

So yes, I have not committed sexual harassment in my working life. Have I done anything to stop it though? No. I have not.

I have worked most of my life in a predominantly male industry so have seen few examples of harassment in the field. I suspect I have seen some but never took it as seriously as I should have. I know I never spoke up about it.

Yes. Women have rightly decided that they need to speak up and speak loudly on this issue. Men need to do so too.

I am not saying that all men are guilty. That attitude drives me nuts. I think we all have an obligation as people to speak up when we see something happening though and we have been trained for far too long to simply look the other way. The issue makes us squeamish. The perpetrator is perhaps a friend. Maybe the perpetrator will threaten the job of the man speaking up as well. It doesn’t matter. We have to make it clear that we won’t accept this behavior any longer.

I am often quite critical of Islam. I take issue with the culture of violence and oppression of women that is associated with that faith. I understand that the worst offenders in Islam are in the minority. When confronted with this I usually tell people defending Islam that it is up to them to weed that minority out of their ranks. It is up to the majority of Islam to reform itself so that the minority no longer feels comfortable in acting out. It is up to the majority to expose and correct the violent minority.

If I am to believe the logic I expressed above, does it not stand to reason that the majority of men need to stand up in order to correct the minority who are giving us all a bad name? Is it not up to the majority of us to change the social standards of our sex? If not for the women (and occasionally men) victimized, maybe we should do it for our own sake no? If we are actively and openly working to fix this, it will be much tougher for the extreme and the anti-male to keep trying to tar us all as being the same.

Every case is unique. Trials are now being held on social media rather than in court. Facts are all over the map. Yes. Some of these claims of harassment appear exaggerated and difficult to believe at times. Some are indeed bullshit and they are wrongly ruining some people’s careers. Way too many of these claims are outright true though and are exposing long and ongoing sexual misconduct being perpetrated by people.

Women are going to social media rather than authorities at the workplace or with the law because they feel they have nowhere else to go. There have been too many cover ups. Too many incidents where the victim becomes victimized further as her character is questioned and it is implied that she asked for it. Is it any wonder that conventional channels of complaint are being shunned?

We need to change our outlook. We need to speak up before the small cases become big ones. We need to take all complaints seriously (but still can’t immediately assume all complaints are true as Trudeau implied). We need to make victims understand that they will be supported when they speak up. This is how we will stop this trend of public trials by social media. We need processes in place and we need to follow through with them.

Most of all, we need to change our attitude.

I will finish with one other thing.

I tweeted the other night about how recent incidents will make it more difficult for young women to find jobs in the political workplace (and perhaps others). I still stand by that. I am not saying that this is good or right. I am saying that this is another negative consequence of these sexual harassers are bringing upon people. Even those who were not harassed are being victimized indirectly.

Nobody is winning with the status-quo.

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Cash Cow

 

Anybody who has traveled on Highway 22X in the last few months know’s what I am talking about.

Last summer, a great deal of construction began over a 10 kilometer stretch of the highway in what I assume is part of the Southwest Ring Road construction project. While little work was done on the highway itself, there was a lot of activity near it so the speed limit was reduced to 70 KPH for the entire stretch.

As a man who worked many years as surveyor, I had many opportunities to work on roadsides while jackasses speed by at what feels like mere inches from my setup. I understand the need for construction zone speed limits and I fully support the strong enforcement of those limits.

The problem with the zone on Highway 22X is that there has not been any active construction in months but the limit is still 70 KPH!

As soon as the snow flew, all construction stopped. The equipment left and everything went to normal aside from the reduced speed limit signs.

Construction will not start again for months so why the hell are we still being forced to slow down?

As can be seen above, we are talking about a wide stretch of divided highway with large shoulders and not a single corner. In most places, the limit would be as high as 110 or at the very least 90. 70 KPH is utterly pointless and painful to maintain for that long stretch.

As soon as you leave city limits on the highway, the limit goes to 100 KPH.

What difference is there between those two pictures aside from the speed limit signs? What factor made the above picture unsafe to drive at 100 KPH while the one before that was 70 KPH?

The answer is none. The limiting of speed provides utterly no safety benefit whatsoever or the entire highway would languish at that absurd speed limit.

So why keep the limit low? Who benefits?

The picture below tells you.

Highway 22X has become a favorite fishing hole for lazy City of Calgary police officers who want to fill their quota of tickets with the least amount of work.

Cops know that commuters are frustrated with the unreasonably low limit and that they will eventually simply speed eventually as it almost hurts to crawl along so slowly on such a fine piece of road. Due to this, they set up on that stretch constantly and nail commuters who while they were indeed speeding, they were not putting anybody in any danger at all.

If the cops truly were pursuing traffic safety, they would be enforcing in areas with a high degree of risk or a high number of accidents. Actual active construction zones (there is no shortage of them) or playground zones come to mind.

Alas, many officers prefer to set up to try and get a big fish as they nail people going 30 kph over the limit as that is a safe speed to drive on the road despite the limit.

With the cash rolling in from these fines, there is little incentive for the powers that be to change the limit to something realistic until the construction starts again.

Foothills councilor Suzanne Oel has posted on facebook advising that people contact the powers that be with the project. 

I imagine that Ms. Oel is getting tired of constituent complaints on this issue.

Lost hours are lost living. Thousands of vehicles are delayed daily from this idiotic limit which cumulatively leads to countless hundreds of thousands of people’s hours wasted in driving. While folks who don’t need to do this commute may brush this off, this is a large irritation for those of us forced to do this drive daily. Especially if we have been nailed with one of the ridiculous tickets that the cops are handing out like candy on Halloween in the area.

Remember, the next “construction zone” could be in your area next.

As usual, it takes citizens to initiate what should be common sense as the bureaucrats are incapable of it.

Please email info@SWCRRproject.com or call 403.212.0565 to tell them to pull their heads out of their asses on this one.

It may help them apply a little common sense on the next project.

 

 

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On economic realities in food service & “living wages”

The fallout continues to mount as the cumulative effects the Notley government’s anti-business policies come home to roost.

With minimum wage hikes, hikes in stat pay for people who never actually work on those stat holidays, carbon tax hikes and new regulations piling on monthly, even restaurants that have managed to succeed for decades are beginning to fail.

This week’s closure was the Bear’s Den restaurant that operated in Northwest Calgary for 14 years.

What infuriated the hysteric left and Notley apologists with this closure was that the owner dared speak openly on what pushed his formerly prosperous business into closure. Yes. Government policies on all levels are pushing places out of business. The only thing I can fault this man with is that he neglected to mention how federal and municipal governments have been piling on small businesses as well. The blame in these deaths by a thousand cuts lands on all levels of government as none of them have been doing small business any favors of late.

The ignorance being displayed by Notley’s social media fartcatchers on this closure has been both striking and predictable.

Armchair restaurant managers spring forth like weeds and begin to explain all the reasons that these businesses keep failing and they work to understate the damage that is caused when these places close.

This clown is a prime example. He went on with multiple tweets about how the prices were too high and that it only led to about 12 people losing their jobs anyway. He of course took that common assumption that the owner of the restaurant was filthy rich and would retire upon a pile of money.

In reality, 26 jobs were directly lost from that restaurant alone. This closure also reduces revenues for the companies that serviced and supplied the restaurant and likely added up to at least another job or two lost.

Odd how those who always claim to be standing up for the little guy are so quick to dismiss the impact of job losses for these little guys.

In their lack of understanding of economic realities, many lefties conflate high prices with high profits. They assume that if a restaurant is upscale, the profits must be as well. Alas, the margins remain the same for food service businesses whether in upscale eateries such as the Bear’s Den or in a food court stall in a mall. They are incredibly thin.

I saw one comment where the person exclaimed upon looking at the menu:  “$14 martinis? No thank you!” As if that statement alone explained why this restaurant failed.

Head to any bar. I know first hand as a pub owner that we don’t pay a hell of a lot less for liquor than retail customers do. We need to mark that booze up. If taxes didn’t account for nearly 50% of the cost of booze, I promise you that you would get better prices. The market is competitive.

Either way, martinis are cocktails that are doubles and usually use premium vodkas or gins. They take time to mix and present and have a garnish. They range at best from $12 to $16 in bars. $14 was average.

The Bank of Canada thinks that as many as 60,000 jobs will be lost due to minimum wage hikes alone. Shall we dismiss this? Is this a desirable outcome? Are we somehow winning here?

 

What people don’t seem to get is what a profit margin is and just how thin those margins are for restaurants and bars.

According to stats Canada, the average profit margin in restaurant and bar lands under 4%.

To put it more simply, for the average owner they may see $4 for every $100 of product sold.

Think of it this way. It takes a hell of a lot of work just to run a mid size establishment that grosses $100,000 per month. I assure you that in pretty much every place of that size there is an owner/operator. It would never be profitable at that scale without the owner working full time in it. That owner would gross roughly $48,000 per year.

Not exactly the “rich fat cats” that some folks are working so hard to demonize. It is a lot of work for a relatively meager income.

I don’t begrudge any business a profit or a good margin. The entire purpose of taking that gamble to invest time and money into a venture is to make a profit.

If indeed folks insist on playing the repugnant politics of envy and really want to drag down the successful (and many indeed do want to do that), they are way off base in who they are targeting.

I will put this in the form of charts that even a Notley supporter should understand.

Here is what the average restaurant profit margin looks like:

Pretty damn skinny and I rounded up.

Let’s compare that margin with the mining industry:

Guess how mines can afford to pay better than restaurants (leaving aside the reality that mining is a much more dangerous and skilled trade than a role in a restaurant).

Rail transport has some splendid profit margins. Being an oligopoly that is heavily protected by the state helps of course.

Speaking of oligopolies, how about banks. Well Royal Bank’s profit margin ranged from 25-32%. There is good money in lending. Just look at how much the Alberta government is spending on debt interest.

Securities and financial services in general enjoy solid average profit margins around 40%. Insurance companies are up there too.

Now I don’t want to see those high margin industries dragged down. I am just saying that the vitriolic and envious left is really flying over the wrong target these days in their quest to ensure that nobody dares make too much money.

I (unlike the anti-corporate left) understand where pension fund growth comes from so no, I would never celebrate the reduction of profits for corporations.

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce established that the combination of higher property tax, carbon tax and minimum wages will cost the average restaurant $60,700 per year. That is more than the average restaurant owner makes.

Restaurant sales are indeed climbing in Alberta but unfortunately the increase in expenses is outpacing that sales growth. It doesn’t matter how high your sales are if your margins are in the negative.

This is simple math people. A restaurant can’t run at a loss for long. A restaurant owner in these situations has only two options when margins evaporate. Increased sales only mean increased losses.

We can raise prices and we can cut expenses.

Food service prices are terribly inelastic. That means we can’t raise prices very much before the associated drop in sales volume removes the benefit of the price raise. The industry is fickle and competitive. Consumers only have so much to spend and they will move on in the face of price increases that pass their budget. I guess if your goal is to drive consumers into eating at home more, this is a good route to go. Cold comfort for the unemployed workers however.

In cutting expenses we have limits as well. Many of our expenses such as utilities, taxes and lease payments are fixed. We can reduce food costs to a degree but most restaurants are already at peak efficiency in this regard. They have to be when dealing with 4% margins. Labor makes up over 33% of the expenses. While we can only cut that by so much while remaining in operation, it is our most flexible area to work with. Part time and lower paid staff may be shed while more work is placed on the remaining workers. Places may move more into a self-serve system which again costs jobs. As we saw with Tim Hortons, some prior benefits such as paid breaks or health benefits may be cut. We simply don’t have a hell of a lot to work with here.

Simply raising minimum wage is not enough for some of course. Many of the economically illiterate feel that every job whether in a starting position, unskilled position or part time position deserves what they determine to be a “living wage”.

What is a “living wage”? That all depends on how far out in left field the person proposing it is actually. It can range anywhere from $17 per hour up to $30 per hour.

This dingdong is a typical self-styled business expert.

“If your business model does not include paying employees a living wage, then you do not have a good business model.”

She indicates that anything less than this ambiguous “living wage” is “exploitive”.

Very nice comrade but of course utterly unrealistic.

Still, lets explore the viability of this “living wages” in the food service industry.

If this non-“exploitive”  business model does indeed exist it should be no problem finding all sorts of restaurants in the thousands across the nation who use it.

Look at this! There is even a Canadian site that works as something of a registry for businesses that pay a “living wage”. Excellent. Surely these establishments must number in the hundreds with it being such a great business model and all.

 

Hmm. I see a lot of charities. Government bodies such as the City of Vancouver. Some left wing activist groups and unions.

You know what is missing?

You guessed it. Restaurants. Not a single one among them.

How is this so? Did we not just hear that a living wage model is good business?

While this business model does appear to be quite popular among self-proclaimed business experts on the left, actual business people seem not to have embraced this stroke of genius yet.

Fear not. Perhaps this guide wasn’t comprehensive enough. Maybe all those living wage restaurants were so damned busy that they forgot to register.

In searching google I finally found some examples.

Here is a beauty. Bartertown Diner is a union shop and not only do they pay living wages, they have no management hierarchy. Every employee is equal in compensation and in decision making.

It just doesn’t get any more fair than this.

Let’s look ahead and see how this little socialist paradise worked out..

Aww shit.  Say it ain’t so! How could this collectivist Nirvana have possibly failed?

Oh yeah, the same way socialism always fails. Nobody wanted to work. Nobody paid the bills. Everybody lost their jobs.

OK OK. Maybe they were a little too idealistic. What if the outright Marxism was dropped and a restaurant simply adopted the “living wage” part.

Looks like Ritual in Vancouver did just this:

Groundbreaking! Brilliant! This is Vancouver too so there must be an abundant supply of folks who want to pay an extra 20% or so in order to patronize a place that pays “living wages”.

Let’s follow up and see how that all went…….

Aww shit…..

Their website is down and by all reports it appears that they went broke.

How is this possible with the brilliant model of “living wages”?

Maybe people really actually wanted to pay more but were constrained by the menu prices. The folks behind the Harvest Cafe realized this and set up a business where customers could choose what they pay. How could a place not  prosper and pay massive wages while tapping into all that natural altruism in society?

Hmm, their website seems to be down

Facebook site looks to be gone too.

Aww shit……

Somehow they went broke.

OK OK. Maybe it is a little too much to ask folks to pay what they can. Maybe if restaurants went without tipping, but raised the prices by the amount that would be tipped and claimed to use this new revenue to pay a fair living wage.

Sorta just re-branding a price increase and robbing the servers but lets see how that all went.

Earls in Calgary did just this. How could the managers who so brilliantly shit on Alberta beef while the bulk of their restaurants resided within Alberta possibly go wrong?

Aww shit…..

It didn’t even make it three months.

Damned customers clearly don’t know whats good for them.

The only models I could find that let customers pay what they want while the place claims to pay “living wages” are essentially charity soup kitchens.

They rely on donations and volunteers (people working for nothing?? How “exploitive”!).

Others rely on well heeled celebrity ownership for publicity along with donation and volunteer labor such as Jon Bon Jovi’s place

Sure helps if the owner has a few hundred million in the bank to backstop things if funds should run a little short.

 

Hey. I am sure Bon Jovi is a great guy and he doesn’t have to do a damn thing. This is a nice effort by him.

Let’s not pretend that this glorified soup kitchen is a viable business model that will change the face of the food service industry across North America.

We have to face it. Consumers want good product and service provided to them at the lowest prices possible. If the prices are too high, they simply won’t buy. It doesn’t matter how much they claim to want to support “living wages”.  That is why restaurants must manage with 4% margins. Not because they want to walk that razor thin line. They simply have to.

Yes restaurants will always come and go even if government leaves them alone. It is abhorrent seeing government intervention causing an inordinate number of establishments go out of business however.

Yes. Some of the most creative and the ones with the most capital behind them will survive and the weak will fall by the wayside. Mom & pop places will disappear and be replaced by large corporate chains and franchises who can utilize economies of scale in order to keep operating.

Fewer restaurants will exist, they will employ fewer people of course and the general cost of living will rise.

Is this winning? Is this a desirable outcome from piling taxes and regulations upon a struggling industry?

Some may think so.

Those finding themselves losing those ever so important entry level jobs, those servers who worked part time to supplement their income, those seniors who worked part time to supplement their retirement income and those students who worked part time to offset tuition costs may feel otherwise.

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Mob mentality is winning.

The cowardice being shown by institutions when confronted by threats of violence from mobs is distressing to say the least.

The hysteric left has been increasingly using violent mob actions in order to shut down speakers or gatherings of people that they disagree with lately. The reason that these violent protests are increasing is simple. THEY WORK!

Rather than increase security or call the police when threatened by protesters, venues whether municipally owned or whether on University campuses generally take the callow path of cancelling the event and claiming safety issues as a rationale for their caving to the screeching minority. It is a path of perceived least resistance and it is emboldening people who feel that violence is an appropriate response to contrary thought or speech.

Alas, using the threat of violence to hinder others is not unique to left wing folks.

Today the City of Calgary cancelled a private nude swimming event that had been booked at a leisure center. It was not a walk in event. There was going to be no more exposure of nudity to minors than happens every day in public changing rooms. It was simply a group who like to gather and swim nude who wanted to book a facility for a private party.

Don’t like it?

Don’t go! This shouldn’t be so damned complicated people.

Despite this being harmless, Calgary’s neo-puritan population was enraged. Social media was afire as keyboard evangelists predicted that this will surely lead to mass Satanism and potential child abuse. Petitions exploded as an increasing number of prudes felt justified in telling other people what they may or may not do with themselves.

The righteous ire was palpable.

When it looked like this harmless event was going to happen despite the mass indignation demonstrated through internet petitions, some nutbars decided to threaten violence. Guess what? It worked! 

The City would not point to a specific event but referenced “volatile public commentary” and vaguely spoke of some communications.

I am sure the irony will be lost on the uptight fools who went haywire about this event, but I suspect that many if not most of them are folks who speak out against the garb worn below.

The rationale behind the burka is that men will become uncontrollably aroused by the sight of female flesh and will be forced into committing a sin. That is why rape victims in Islamic nations are usually convicted. Surely they tempted those men into raping them. Perhaps they showed some public ankle!

The anti-nude swim gang in Calgary went one step farther. They felt that there are numerous pedophiles lurking around every corner who will become hopelessly aroused and will molest kids at this event. As an organizer pointed out, if a man becomes aroused at a nudist event it becomes rather evident and will be dealt with rather quickly.

You can’t go to a public change room and start snapping pictures of nude children nor can you at these private events. There really was no issue here.

Back to the initial point of this post, we have allowed threats of violence by protest groups to succeed yet again. The gravity of this precedent can’t be understated. This will of course only encourage more violent people to use this as a tool to get their way when they find themselves in an aggrieved minority. This is not how a civilized or democratic society is supposed to act.

Yes. The safety of the swimmers is paramount as the City of Calgary said. Instead of cancelling the event though, they should have sent police and security. Anybody threatening violence should be immediately arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We can’t let extremists know that threats of violence are effective.

This applies to speeches and gatherings whether in community halls, campuses or any other venue. In a free society we have to protect free assembly and speech with all that we have or we will surely lose both to the mobs.

The City of Calgary’s cowardice in this issue has only invited more violent responses to events in the future. Sad.

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