Just scrubbed some toilets!

toilets
OK. I understand that it is hardly headline worthy when a person scrubs toilets. Millions of folks do it every day. I need to give some background on why this is worthy of writing on.

I am a germaphobe who can think of few tasks more odious than cleaning a heavily used public washroom facility. That being said, my wife and I recently opened a pub and coffee shop in Priddis and while things are going great, we still are on a budget that requires that we do many things ourselves in order to keep staffing costs to a minimum. Among those tasks are janitorial duty which requires my getting down in there and ensuring that our clientele does not have to endure a nasty washroom. My fiscal need outweighs my loathing of such tasks.

I was in a recent discussion regarding minimum wage and I used the term “toilet scrubbers”. I did not mean that term in a derogatory way by any means. Toilets need to be cleaned and as I have pointed out, I certainly will do it at need.

All the above being said, I sincerely look forward to the day when we develop our business to the point where I can pay somebody else to clean those toilets. I will not pay a lot to a person for that task as while it is challenging to one’s sense of personal cleanliness, it is not what could be called a highly skilled art. Training if required means pointing out where the cleaning items are and asking that the bathroom not be exited until it doesn’t smell poorly any longer and no evidence of previous use can be seen.

By the numbers right now We have employed 14 people, most of whom were previously either unemployed or under-employed.

11 are women
5 are students
4 are single parents
1 AISH recipient

None of them are earning minimum wage. In fact some of them, when you factor in tips have earnings that rival those of journeyman plumbers (particularly on wing night).

We are not employing these people out of altruism. We opened this business to make money for ourselves. I am not demanding a medal for my efforts by any means. I am happy and proud that we could develop and maintain a business that employs all of those people and won’t display false modesty over it.

Now to cut to the chase. As minimum wages rise I will be doing one or more of a couple things. I will be raising prices and I will be reducing hours for staff. Tasks from toilet cleaning to waiting tables will increasingly land on my lap while my staff will enjoy less hours of work with a higher cost of living. This is not theory. This is exactly what is about to happen so who is winning here?

I just needed to get that rant out to those simplistic souls who somehow think that we can legislate everybody into prosperity. It simply doesn’t work.

These foolish “tax the rich!” chants and demands for raising minimum wage will not either help the current minimum wage earners nor hit those apparently evil fat cats who run the world. These ideals only ensure that middle earners like myself scrub more toilets while my staff cut back on their own budgets due to reduced hours while consumers see a higher cost of living.

A strong economy is the only way to increase the general standard of living and constantly attacking free enterprise will not give us that sort of economy.

My rant is now done. I have to go clean by beer lines before opening the pub.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Supply management. An economic anvil on the necks of Canadians.

eggs

Supply management in agriculture is a policy in Canada that is harming consumers and producers from coast to coast. It is hard to believe that we maintain an economic policy that is so detrimental to Canadians as a whole. Part of the issue is that most Canadians don’t even know that such a policy even exists and I suspect if most people realized that they are paying hundreds of dollars a year due to this market control system that they would happily support dumping this primitive policy.

There are nothing but benefits to be seen for Canadians if we get rid of our supply management policies. People will spend less on food essentials and have more opportunity to eat healthier while Canadian producers will be able to expand our export markets and diversify our economy.

Supply management is a socialist market control policy that allows government to micromanage supplies of dairy, eggs and poultry products through a system of quotas and tariffs. This protects a small number of producers who have production quotas thus forcing higher prices on consumers. A dairy producer pays roughly $28,000 for the right to keep one dairy cow. That means a herd of 70 (not terribly large) has a quota value of $2 million. That price is of course forwarded to consumers. Quotas are restricted and it literally is illegal to produce milk, eggs or chickens over a certain number without a quota.

The waste from this system is brutal too. My wife grew up on a small dairy farm for example. Her father had a quota to sell a certain amount of cream but was not allowed to sell milk. The cows were milked and the cream separated and sold. The remaining milk that was not consumed by the household was literally dumped. It would have been illegal to sell it. Sounds rather Soviet doesn’t it? These sorts of examples abound in all supply managed industries and we are all paying dearly for it.

In dairy alone families pay an extra $276 per year due to supply management. When chicken and eggs are taken into account, families are spending nearly $500 per year for these policies. These are premiums paid on staple food items. If families paid regular (much lower) market cost for these items, they would be more encouraged to purchase them of course meaning a likelihood of less processed and unhealthy foods being in the cupboards.

In Canada we actually had organized crime participating in cheese smuggling because our cheese costs so much more in Canada than right across the border in the United States. This sounds like a comedy but it really is happening. When supply of an item in demand is restricted by government, smuggling is always soon to follow.

Some people lamely try to claim that these market controls protect the family farm which is utterly untrue. Supply management has actually wiped out small farms and led to larger factory style production as only large companies can afford to operate under our quota system. From 1971 to 2011 the number of dairy farms in Canada dropped by 91%! This trend has happened in poultry and egg industries too. So much for the family farm.

Market diversification and creative production is stifled by these horrible policies. Free range chickens are much in demand by consumers. Nobody is allowed to produce more than 300 chickens without a quota however which is not enough to live on while a quota application could take years and may never be granted. Quotas are usually in the range of 70,000 or more birds too which hardly helps a small producer. How does one get started in this foolish system? The same applies to eggs.

Small farms making specialty cheeses or types of milk are nearly impossible. I remember a story of a small ice cream producer in Ontario being shut down because the cream costs were simply too damn high. How many other small to medium sized enterprises are we missing out on because of supply management?

Our policies are costing us billions in lost exports as well according to one report. Tariffs and quotas get our producers barred from foreign markets thus costing us countless jobs and tax revenue. Our outdated policies have been a sticking point in many trade negotiations with other nations too so we are losing on import and export opportunities that range outside of supply managed products due to these disputes.

Supply management is a losing policy that costs us all and only benefits a tiny number of people who hold those precious quotas. Most nations on Earth have moved away from supply management policies and have seen nothing but benefits in doing so. New Zealand is now known as “the Saudi Arabia of milk” now that they rid themselves of their supply management and let their economy develop and expand. With the size of our nation with so much viable farmland, we really are missing out on huge opportunities here.

Rarely is a single policy ever doing so much damage. People fight back and forth about the merit of cutting taxes to put more money back in the pockets of consumers. Well, if we got rid of supply management we would put billions of dollars back in the pockets of consumers and it would not cost the government a cent.

The protected dairy, egg and cheese producers are price fixing in a way that would be illegal if any other industry tried it. They are a strong lobby and are essentially racketeers sliding under the radar of public perception. Government hides from the issue for fear of angering the producers with quotas while all consumers and most producers pay the price.

We need to inform the public of the price they are paying for these idiotic policies and then have government repeal them. There is nothing but benefit to us all in doing so. As far as I can tell only the Libertarian Party of Canada is promoting such a repeal.  We need common sense and open markets and neither Harper nor Trudeau appear prepared to give them to us.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s get real on secondary suites in Calgary

lawnpark

Every time secondary suites come before city council in Calgary, we hear the usual chorus bemoaning the status of secondary suites in the city. The process is indeed tedious and not an efficient use of city council time as every suite application comes before council for discussion for approval or rejection. There is no doubt that this is a terrible system of approval and it needs reform. That being said, this does not justify the radical changes to zoning that the secondary suite obsessed want to see throughout the city.

Nenshi has a vocal cult following and secondary suites have always been a frustrating pet issue of his. This of course has led to quite the crusade over the years by his faithful to push to have secondary suites legalized throughout the entire city. Every year the hype gets louder and if these zealots were to be believed, everything from homelessness to nose-warts would end if only those darned stubborn NIMBYs in the city would allow widespread secondary suites.

What we have is a mess in the system for approval and regulation that indeed needs to be addressed. The potential benefits of widely legalized secondary suites have been grossly exaggerated by proponents for years though and we have to get back to reality here.

To begin with, how many new secondary suites would Calgary really gain if they were legalized throughout the city? A study back in 2008 estimated that there were 50,000 to 80,000 “illegal” suites in the city already. In the six years since then the city has grown of course so those numbers are likely higher. What this tells us is that those who want to build secondary suites are building them already despite current regulations. Clearly whatever legislation there is against secondary suites is of little to no deterrent for people who want to build these suites. Getting realistic, how many more suites could we expect if the suites were legalized? To be blunt, not a hell of a lot.

The numbers above do not mean that there is no benefit to legalization of more suites, but it does demonstrate that legalizing suites will not be the panacea to solve issues of high rents and homelessness in the city as the fanatical pushers of these suites like to imply they are. The supply really won’t grow by that much.

druh

 

Druh Farrell has long been a strong proponent of the mass legalization secondary suites throughout the city. Druh loves to wax on about the misery of tenants living in illegal suites as they have limited protections in landlord/tenant issues and can often live in unsafe conditions. Druh then loves to point out how high rents are and how limited availability is within the city. The true depth of Farrell’s rationale came to light in a radio interview though when she vapidly went into circles in confusion when confronted with the reality that if we found and regulated all of these illegal suites as she wants us to that we would actually end up with less suites and much higher rent. Druh and her ideological kin have always had something of a deficit when it comes to the concept of supply and demand.

We may have as many as 100,000 “illegal” (grey market) suites in the city of Calgary. Likely well over 75% of them need at least some upgrades to bring them to code in a legal and regulated market. Bringing a suite up to code in Calgary can range in cost anywhere from $10,000 to over $100,000. It simply isn’t cheap. Landlords who find themselves confronted with the sudden legal need to upgrade these suites will have to choose between closing the suite and evicting the tenants or doing the renovations and raising the rent considerably to recoup their costs. Landlords are not charities people. The bottom line is that we will either lose a suite or costs will rise. Neither of those two options aids in availability of suites or rental costs of course (that supply and demand thing). We need to work to ensure that suites are safe but let’s not pretend that enforcement won’t have a very big impact on supply.

Now the next question is whether or not a big market of prospective landlords is waiting in the wings just salivating at the prospect of opening a secondary suite but has not done so yet because it is illegal. The city of Calgary waived their ridiculous $4,500 application fee which is a good thing. This led to what was described as a “rush” by homeowners to apply for rezoning. How many applications were in this “rush”? 11!!! Yes, folks even with free application costs the grand total of initial applicants for zoning was 11 people. There were a couple dozen more pending. We are speaking numbers in the dozens in a city of well over a million people. Folks who want to rent secondary suites are already doing so in the grey market and will continue to no matter what the regulations.

We need some degree of oversight and regulation on where we will or will not allow secondary suites. Some neighborhoods simply are not well designed to handle them. Some people purposely seek out neighborhoods with low numbers of rental properties and they pay a premium to live in these neighborhoods. These people have a right to speak up and be concerned if the city wants to suddenly change the deal in zoning. The fervent followers of Nenshi spit out the NIMBY term at such folks of course but it has to be kept in mind that most of those followers are hipster renters who dwell in the Beltline who have little regard for the property values or taxation of others. These are issues that cant be dismissed.

There is a great deal of overreaction to prospective suites too. As I pointed out, there really are not that many folks who want to open new suites out there and having a suite or two on your block wont be a disaster by any means. Stuffing 10 suites into a cul-de-sac however will cause havoc and that is why rezoning still has to be considered case by case even if not by city council itself.

There is a need to reform policy on secondary suites in Calgary. Let’s set aside the zealous density ideals though and be rational about what needs to be done and what benefits can be gained. If one’s concerns are about availability and cost of living in the city, they should aim their guns at the essential suburban land freeze that Nenshi’s administration is practicing. The effect that broadly legalized secondary suites will have on homelessness and cost of living in Calgary will be negligible at best.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Is there anything Albertan that Alison Redford actually likes?

I think that most can agree that one of the main causes of Alison Redford’s downfall was that she didn’t endear herself to pretty much anybody. It is hard to imagine a person in public service getting into such a high position while being so abrasive to all but Redford managed to pull it off. What Redford proved though was that while a miserable person can manage to get to a high position in public office they simply don’t have a hope in hell of maintaining it in the long run. Due to countless incidents and clashes with staffers, press, opposition members and even her caucus members, when tough times came for Redford she found herself with utterly no allies. The race to throw Redford under the bus by her own compatriots was unprecedented. Nary a voice has been heard to try to make even a weak defense for Redford and this is not for lack of defenses (politicians can always come up with some excuse). The reason nobody is coming to Redford’s defense is simply that nobody likes her.

redbean

Some folks have tried to point out that Ralph Klein routinely abused the provincial aircraft as if this somehow justifies Redford’s abuse of them. It is a sad justification of the abuse and really only proves that Progressive Conservative entitlement has been alive and well in government for a long time. It does bring an interesting question though, how did Klein get away with such abuses with only minor critique when similar actions outright destroyed Alison Redford? The simple answer is that people liked Ralph Klein.

When Klein got himself into trouble (and he often did), he had a masterful knack of extricating himself with an apology and a promise not to do whatever he had done again. That tended to close the matter and we moved on to other things. The reason Klein could do so is that his caucus and a great many of the Alberta public genuinely and simply liked Ralph Klein a great deal. Ralph had allies when the crap hit the fan. Redford had positioned herself to be all alone and it cost her everything.

Politics is a popularity contest no matter how some may wish it wasn’t so. Policy is important but the person presenting that policy is even more important.

So why did people like Ralph Klein so much when Alison Redford earned herself almost universal provincial scorn? The bottom line is that it was clear and evident at all times that Ralph Klein loved Alberta and loved Albertans. It is much harder to dislike somebody when they clearly like you and it is much easier to forgive their errors when they do. Ralph was one of us for better or for worse.

Alison Redford never really appeared to like Albertans. She seemed to suffer the necessity of us at best. Redford never seemed to leave her UN roots behind and felt that her world was to be an elite one of diplomatic functions where Albertans were there to serve her rather than the other way around. This was evident in Redford’s constant incredibly expensive world travel and her efforts to make sure she never had to travel with the unwashed. Redford spoke repeatedly on how she wanted to change Alberta’s culture. I don’t recall Albertans as a whole really asking Redford to change their culture. The only cultural change that Redford brought about was a short term aristocracy with her at the top which thankfully is over with.

The reason I am off on this tirade is a small thing I noticed in the latest FOIP release of information from the Redford Regime. This was from the communications of Redford’s personal travel scout for her globe trotting missions. I feel that trade missions are important but they do have to focus on promoting Alberta and Albertan products as opposed to preening in the diplomatic world of luxury that Redford did.

While on her $450,000 trip to India (the government site still bullshits and claims it cost $131,000), Redford’s very expensive personal travel scout reported: “Getting some intel on India gifting. I think ammonite will work here. I know it may not be premier’s favourite but gemstones are very popular.” This is actually some valuable information from this travel scout. Gifting is an important part of these sorts of missions. It is a sign of respect and it is an opportunity to promote items unique to your nation. This has been done since the days of medieval ambassadors.

It can be seen that the scout made a point to ensure that the translator doesn’t talk to Redford at any time. That gets back to that issue of why nobody really could find themselves liking her.

What is odd here though is that it is clear that Alison Redford does not like Alberta Ammonite (ammolite). Jewellery preference is a very subjective thing but that applies to what one wears personally. When it comes to gifts like this though, one has to look at what you are representing and promoting. Alberta ammonite gems are a growing industry with First Nations involvement. These gems are the rarest organic gemstone on earth as they are only found in Alberta. What could be better to promote on such a mission particularly when gemstones are very popular in the place you are visiting?

Well despite this sage advice, Redford chose to give watercolor paintings of grain elevators to the dignitaries. Art is nice to promote too but I wouldn’t be surprised if the paintings were done by a relative of Redford’s. Why deviate from the advice of the well paid scout? Honestly, why does Redford dislike this stone? Either way, Redford let her personal dislike of ammonite lead to losing an opportunity to promote this Albertan product while on her mission. Why was she supposedly there again?

redpaint

I have to give full disclosure here, my family is involved in the Alberta ammonite/ammolite business. We in partnership with members of the Blood Reserve have been mining and retailing in a manufacturing/retail outlet in Canmore. This is of course what made my ears perk up as soon as I saw the gem mentioned. It has taken decades for Alberta ammonite gems to get recognition worldwide but it has been steadily gaining popularity. Government has never really done the industry any favors unfortunately.

I will take advantage of this issue to segue into giving some background on this great stone though as it is better known internationally than it is right here in Alberta (and of course I will plug the family business).

ammonite

Ammonite is a fossilized nautilus from the cretaceous period around 70 or 80 million years ago. While ammonite fossils are found throughout the world, it is only in small portions of Alberta where the fossils demonstrate the brilliant colors as can be seen in the picture above. The best fields of these gems are on the Blood Reserve in the Saint Mary’s river area. When the gem is harvested from these fossils, it is then called “ammolite” which is why we see both terms used at times. The gem makes stones and pieces such as these below.

cab

finished

Tours and sales of course are available at the Ammonite Factory in Canmore. It makes for a great day trip and you can’t beat the mining/cutting direct prices provided.

Ahh, there are few things more satisfying than giving a well founded critique of Alison Redford while making a self-serving plug for the family business. 😉

In summary, Redford’s abrasive personality and apparent dislike of most things Albertan led to her downfall and people should pop by the ammonite factory for a good deal on a unique gem.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

How about letting Calgary evolve as Calgary?

calgary

Hardly a week goes by when we don’t hear from some apparently self-loathing urban dwelling Calgarian wistfully sighing about how Calgary must become like <insert ancient European city here> if indeed are to become “world class”,

Last week during one of the countless obscure festivals that seem to bubble up we saw this attitude in spades at the “Spur Festival” (whatever that is). Guest speaker & American Author Daniel Brook derided Calgary’s “urban character” as being a “Texas in the Arctic” to the roomful of giddy collected hipsters. Brooks then went on plugging his book which celebrates cities such as Shanghai, Mumbai and St. Petersburg and the autocratic regimes that brought them about. I do become uncomfortable when people show admiration for the efficiency of autocratic regimes. Stalin’s 5 year plans did wonders for Eastern European development for example but came at a rather steep price. All of the aforementioned cities developed over 1000 years before Calgary did and in utterly different cultural structures but apparently we somehow can and should become more like them. Maybe if Nenshi had more autocratic powers…… Ahh that speculation goes down the city charter road which is fodder for another posting.

Next up of course was Calgary’s controversial and density obsessed city planner Rollin Stanley. Stanley retreated from his prior gig in Maryland after having offended most of the county having labelled those who challenge his density goals as being “rich white women” who apparently travel in a “coven”. Yes, Stanley is all class and we should be proud that Nenshi managed to scoop him up for us. Surely the room was breathless as Stanley gave his stock speech on why we must fight consumer demand and press development inward.

The trend of berating people who dare speak up for their communities in the suburbs and the contempt shown to them is troubling.

I am sick of hearing how Calgary must change it’s character. I tire of some people within our own city calling the Calgary Stampede our biggest claim to shame. I tire of people wagging their fingers at the 90% or so of Calgarians who dare to choose not to live downtown no matter how hard city council tries to stuff the vaunted “East Village” down our throats. I am tired of whining hipsters labelling us all as rednecks every time a civic policy goes against the density mantra.

Calgary is a city that is booming and growing. That growth is far and away predominantly outward as the vast majority of Calgarians pursue single detached households in the suburbs. We need to quit whining about that reality and begin planning for it. Nenshi’s virtual development freeze has only led to a boom in development among bedroom communities and a catastrophically expensive downtown. These kinds of efforts to fight the natural development and evolution of our city are indeed changing the character of the city but not for the better.

Calgary is still the frontier. People of ambition are coming from all over the world to settle in and make a life in the city. Most of these people are working in the energy industry whether directly or indirectly and the vast majority of these people do NOT want to live downtown. There is nothing to be ashamed of in this. Perhaps those people who can’t handle the realities of the true character of Calgary should drop the spite and move to Manhattan where they can split rent on a $3500 per month tiny apartment with 7 other baristas and liberal arts graduates to see just what a paradise urban density can be.

Calgary is unique in culture and general nature. Let’s embrace that instead of aspiring to be something else. The self-esteem movement sure works hard to ensure that individuals accept and embrace who they are instead of trying to be somebody else. That concept should apply to entire cities as well.

 

 

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Calgary secret taxi police to set up sting operations! Priorities indeed.

taxi

The antics of Calgary City Hall never fail to amaze and depress a person. The city of Calgary has actually strangled taxi licenses so much over the years that “gypsy” cabs have been appearing to provide transportation to stranded and desperate Calgarians. In response to this issue, rather than address the gross shortage of taxis in Calgary, city hall’s top livery bureaucrat is threatening “grotesque fines” and even says there is a “covert operation” where these evil and uncontrolled drivers may be caught and charged for daring break Calgary’s archaic taxi laws. In Nenshi’s Calgary the truth is indeed often stranger than fiction.

Despite numbers painting a clear and hard reality that Calgary has a desperate shortage of taxis, Calgary’s city council still inexplicably continues to make excuses rather than pursue the rather simple and obvious solution of just issuing more damned licenses. Councilor Shane (Mr. Flipflop) Keating has spoken of a bizarre concept of temporarily deputizing drivers at peak times while most of the rest of council has stayed oddly silent on this issue.

Mayor Nenshi has gotten outright belligerent. A person innocently tweeted him to ask about this circumstance and got the arrogant and snotty response from Nenshi pictured below.

nenshisnot

It’s just snowstorms Nenshi? Don’t recall many of them during Stampede or summer concerts. People should really expect at least some courtesy when they ask our mayor on a real and pressing city issue.

Why is it so complicated to simply release more licenses? Why are taxis so special and coddled as opposed to other businesses? Do we regulate how many restaurants per capita Calgary has? Car dealerships? Jewelers?

Excuses abound from Calgary’s city council. Even St. Nenshi has laid out the rather weak excuse that Calgary has a dispatch problem and suggests that changes to license regulations are needed rather than admit that we have a shortage of cabs.

The numbers make the fact undeniable (despite Calgary City Council’s denials).  CALGARY HAS A TAXI SHORTAGE!!!!

Let’s look at the simple numbers here. In 1986 Calgary had 1311 taxis servicing a population of 640,000 making a taxi to person ratio of 1-488. Today Calgary has about 1500 taxis (city just added 55 precious new licenses) servicing nearly 1,150,000 people making a taxi to person ratio of 1-767. While the city population has nearly doubled, the number of taxis allowed has grown by less than 15%! If we are to insist on treating taxis like some special, precious commodity that needs such direct management we should at least increase the numbers to reflect population growth.

The density obsessed in Calgary’s city hall love to try and point to New York City as some sort of density paradise where people eschew cars. Well in New York City the cab ratio is about 1 for every 159 people. That ratio goes to 1-117 in Manhattan. That is around 650% more taxis per capita than we have in Calgary. How do they expect people to quit using personal vehicles when city council insists on strangling transportation alternatives? I assure you, folks are not flocking to the damned bike lanes in January.

How much longer do we need to see these headlines before our oddly silent city council will act on this very simple problem?

Temporary taxi stand idea aims to alleviate Stampede travel headaches (the stands were scrapped shortly afterwards and were an utter failure)

Excuses keep coming for Calgary’s taxi ‘service’ even when the cabs themselves clearly aren’t.

People had three hour waits for taxis at Calgary’s airport last week and many resorted to renting cars in desperation. While Calgary City Hall spends $500,000 on idiotic blue ring lightpost “art” in order to make us “world class”, we can’t apparently get our visitors out of the airport. While there may be outright dozens of folks drawn to visit our fine “Peace Bridge”, I can assure you that thousands of visitors got a bad taste in their mouths as their first impression of Calgary was waiting for hours to get out of the airport. World class indeed.

City addresses cab shortage concerns with the start of Ramadan

Yes, rather than address the shortage by putting more taxis on the street, the city erected a prayer tent for drivers. Brilliant.

Calgary cabbies buck bylaw, ignore customer calls a third of the time. Bottom line here is that taxi drivers are taking advantage of the critical cab shortage. They are purposely ignoring short trips from dispatch in order to cherry pick the more lucrative ones. The consumer as always loses.

Want a taxi New Year’s? One public official says… ‘Give up!’

The above advice applies to Flames games, concerts, Stampede of course, pretty much any last call on a weekend or any other time that more than an average number of people may want a taxi. You are not advised to wait a little longer, you are advised that it is hopeless.

The bottom line is that Calgary has a critical shortage of taxis. The next time a city official whether elected or not tries to claim otherwise, call bullshit on them and point them here. This is a simple problem with a simple solution.

With the vigor that many in city hall put into protecting the broken status quo in taxi management in Calgary, one is forced to wonder just who’s palms are getting greased here. To go to the point of sting operations for possible illegal operators? Unreal.

Calgary needs more taxis! Nothing less will address this chronic issue.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Time to put Canada Post and it’s union out to pasture.

cupw

Reality is quickly catching up with Canada Post as the obsolete Crown Corporation continues to bleed record losses every year. $129,000,000 went down the hole in the last quarter alone and these huge losses will only grow as electronic communications and an ever efficient private sector fills the void where conventional mail used to be.

On top of these losses that the taxpayer will surely end up paying, Canada Post is carrying a $6 billion pension deficit with no realistic means in sight to pay that out. This monster of a debt that accumulated through decades of buying labor peace through unrealistic pension promises will surely be biting us all soon. That growing black hole will only get worse as long as Canada Post is in operation.

Along with technological realities making the services of a Crown postal carrier obsolete, Canada Post has been burdened with one of the most activist and self-destructive unions in the country. CUPW used to gleefully strike just before Christmas every few years. In holding the country hostage at holiday time, huge pension obligations grew and letter carriers became grossly overcompensated for what truly is unskilled labor.

I remember well in the 90s when a tipping point was hit with the postal union. Postal workers made a great deal of noise as usual and hit the streets with the usual demands of more compensation for less work. What CUPE had not realized at that time is that the fax machine had removed business dependency on them for document delivery and things such as telephone banking were beginning to take hold. Consumers found the postal strike to be an annoyance at best as opposed to crippling as such strikes used to be. After some time picketing to an indifferent populace, the postal workers returned to work with their collective tails between their legs. Following that strike loss, Canada Post actually managed to profit for a few years as they could restructure with a cowed and humbled union. That was simply putting off the inevitable though as technology simply continued to advance and need for postal services declined.

The Canadian Union for Postal Workers should have been watching out for their workers and working with Canada Post to try and restructure the company for the future. Instead of using such foresight, the union went on extreme left wing activist crusades that were totally unrelated to their mandate of labor such as an ongoing and fervent CUPW campaign against Israel. Opportunity has passed and now the layoffs of the workers that the union was supposed to be protecting will be in the thousands (and Israel still exists).

Canada Post is rightly phasing out home delivery which will lead to the loss of 8000 jobs. That is simple reality and this can’t be fought. Letter delivery will be going up to as high as $1 as rates must be hiked dramatically in a vain hope of achieving solvency. While this increase in service charges is clearly needed, it will also speed up the process of people leaving conventional mail delivery behind.

In their usual bizarre manner, the idiotic Postal Union feels that Canada Post should expand into financial services and banking. I can think of few ways where billions more could be lost and pinned on the taxpayer. Why don’t those clowns pool their union dues and start their own damn bank and show us how it’s done then?

It is time to work on an exit strategy. There really is nothing that Canada Post provides that the private world can’t do (and usually does better).

The billions in pension debt will surely be a disaster as it is. Let’s end the growth of that debt and the ongoing burden to the taxpayer of constant Canada Post operating losses while we can. Things are not going to turn around.

The next dinosaur on the Crown Corporation list is the CBC but that is a matter for another post.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

WestJet, doing business right.

As a person who is constantly flying I can tell you that there is a great deal of truth to the rule that it is the little things that matter. WestJet has continued to grow and expand even in those post-911 years while Air Canada continued to lose money, whine for taxpayer bailouts and demand preferential treatment on the allotment of gates at airports. While both airlines provide pretty much the same services, the differences in the provision of them are profound when you are the air traveler. The most glaring difference is simply attitude. Air Canada has a well earned reputation for surly service and unreasonable lineups while you feel like they are doing you a favor for simply answering a question. Air travel can be a harrowing experience at the best of times and dealing with Air Canada people can truly compound what is already a bad day.

WestJet has always focused on service and getting you from point A to point B with no frills but with as little stress as possible. Their perky service and in flight jokes can be a bit hokey, but they make the experience much more tolerable and they have built a loyal and growing client base on it.

The recent WestJet promotion with the Santa and gifts was nothing less than brilliant. This is the sort of idea (and willingness to follow through on it) that sets WestJet apart from the others. If you haven’t seen the viral video below, it is well worth a watch.

I encountered a cynical person on twitter who took terrible offense to this initiative last night. He howled on about how Air Canada does charities and that this WestJet thing is just a crass publicity stunt. He yelped about a TV being given to a man in a $600 jacket (apparently only people wearing rags should have gotten gifts). I suspect that this gentleman works for Air Canada (probably a union shop steward or something) and his attitude of bitterness and spitting out at this initiative perfectly demonstrates how Air Canada indeed just doesn’t get it.

Yes, this was a promotion that had the promotion of WestJet in mind in the end of things. Welcome to capitalism. This promotion brilliantly used social media and a true human element in order to go viral as it did. The effort was not disingenuous on the part of WestJet and that is why it has been embraced. As a company they do truly care (as much as any company can). It has been years of these kinds of efforts that have made it so that people in general do accept the human side of things with WestJet as being genuine.

The video is nearing a million views as I type and I expect that it will spread further as it goes international. It really was that good and striking as a promotion. WestJet does a whole pile of charitable works too as can be seen here, but it is the little things like the Santa idea and video that really add up.

For the above effort as well as countless other small things done by WestJet I will continue to go out of my way to use WestJet as much as possible. I do hope that WestJet’s competitors can learn from WestJet rather than keep trying to lash out at them.

Merry Christmas

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

On the latest manufactured panic over water sales….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The sale of water has long been a favorite issue for the hysteric-left to try and build up some good old jingoistic patriotism and protectionism. Maude Barlow with the Council of Canadians has built herself a good personal career spreading fear that the big bad Americans are going to come up and steal our local water supply to irrigate the deserts of Arizona and California. The logistics of such water thefts (or even sales) make it utterly impossible for the water to be reasonably moved south. Barlow and others in the fear industry are well aware of those simple logistical facts but of course overlook them when raising money for their very lucrative advocacy careers. Just last weekend I was driving along the very long and very full Koocanusa reservoir and was wondering to myself just how Maude thinks the USA will haul our water over these giant reservoirs in order to get it way down south.

The gormless-left have now evolved their water pap in that they have tied the evils of water sales into a nasty multi-national corporation. It has been released (as if this was something new) that Nestlé Canada has been bottling water without paying a per-litre fee. Check out the hysteric and loaded headline below as an example:

Billion-dollar Nestlé extracting B.C.’s drinking water for free

Nestlé Waters Canada takes 265 million litres a year of fresh water from a Fraser Valley well

Oh dear. Doesn’t that sound terrible? For “free”? Millions of litres per year??? Why, Langley B.C. will surely run totally dry within days at this rate will it not?

Now, lets look at some real numbers here. Facts are to leftist pap as light is to vampires, particularly when they are on their water hysteria.

To begin with, let’s look at what is considered “free” here. Nestlé is paying taxes to all levels of government here to the tunes of many millions of dollars along with employing over 70 people and spending money to extract and treat the water. Just because there is not a clear dollar-per-litre fee does not mean that Nestlé is getting the water for “free” by any measure. That is simply hyperbolic bullshit (as usual).

But what of all of those millions of litres of water taken from the eco-system? Surely this is a catastrophe in the making is it not? Not even close.

To be blunt, 265 million litres per year is squat in the scheme of things. My modest household well just south of Calgary is capable of pumping 9 million litres of water per year at capacity and I assure you it is a small well. Why don’t they go by litres per decade or cups per millennia if we are out to make it sound like such a nasty number.

Think of things this way; the Langley facility is in the Fraser River Valley. The Fraser River moves 3,475,000 liters per second! This means the river could theoretically sustain about 400,000 water facilities of the same size as this apparently evil Nestlé water bottling facility. I assure you, we will not see that many plants springing up.

Where do all these bottles of water go anyway? While perhaps not pleasant to think of, pretty much all of that water will return to the eco-system through sweat and urine. Nestlé is not taking this water and sending it off to space where it will never be seen again. At best, this water is being rented.

Resources get used and we don’t need government to tax every bit of it. Water is used in countless plants. So is air and sunlight. Get over it. The government extracts it’s pound of flesh in a myriad of ways.

Look at the prime ingredient in many products. All of these products will go up in price if we suddenly start taxing the crap out of water use. Do you want to pay more for almost all of your food products? All of your liquor products? Shampoo? Lotions? Paints? Water is used in the creation of them all.

Water pollution is a real issue as well as some of the water used in enhanced oil extraction where it gets pumped out of the cycle. Those issues are not simplistic enough however and do not lend themselves to the bombastic headlines that sell books for Maude Barlow as she tries to paint a picture of a world where water is being stolen and where we are at risk of running dry.

Look beyond the headlines folks.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The show must go on. We can’t stall pipelines forever.

Revenues have gone down, taxes have gone up and folks have lost jobs thanks to the trend of hysteric opposition to the safest form of oil/gas transport known to man: pipelines. Time and reality will win in the end and Canada will continue to increase exports of oil and gas products despite the irrational blanket opposition to all development coming from groups that purport to care about working class Canadians.

pipeline

TransCanada Corp announced that they are moving forward with their proposal to build infrastructure to bring crude oil to St. John New Brunswick that would transport over a million barrels per day.

The usual union backed suspects are already gnashing their teeth in opposition and rounding up bored hipsters and natives to try and stage protests against Canada’s latest effort to bring jobs and prosperity. The ink isn’t dry on the proposal and it does not need to be. Reality and facts are of no consequence as organized labor claims to care about the working man yet consistently opposes all efforts to create infrastructure to support an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people. Screeching members of the loony-left automatically oppose all energy development while howling for more expenditure on a myriad of social programs. The folks truly have no concept of where the cash comes from for their beloved arts projects, welfare and even health care. They really believe Canada will be fine without the billions and billions of tax dollars brought in annually from the energy industry.

Now on to reality. The aforementioned chronic opponents of development can and will be dismissed as they are truly irrational and there is no reasoning with them.

Reality: THERE IS NO REASONABLE ALTERNATIVE TO CARBON BASED ENERGY YET!!!

We can make windmills, talk of tidal and geothermal and dream of solar energy. The reality is that none of those sources can generate power in nearly the volume required or at a cost that is at all reasonable at this time. What happened to the hydrogen fuel cell powered car anyway? How about the Volt? How is that biofuel black hole going? Governments can be pressured into investing into many pie-in-the-sky alternatives but fiscal reality inevitably returns to bite them (and the taxpayers in the arse).

Reality: CANADA’S PRODUCTS MUST GET TO MARKET!!!

Canada has some of the largest energy reserves on the entire planet. Our prosperity as an entire nation is not only dependent on our development of these carbon based products but on our selling of those products to consumers outside of Canada. Protectionism is always a shallow farce. We need trade and oil/gas are our strongest items for this. It is not reasonable to turn ourselves into a third world country in refusing to trade with our best asset.

While keeping our energy in could indeed lead to cheap domestic fuel prices, we would be broke otherwise. Venezuela is a wonderful example of foolish policies (socialism). While they have some of the cheapest domestic fuel prices of earth, damn near none of their citizens can afford cars. Not really a good trade.

Reality: THE USA DOES NOT NEED OUR OIL AND GAS

Peak oil has been a myth propagated to keep folks in fear for over 50 years. A few minutes on google can find countless predictions of the world running out of energy and they have all of course been wrong. There has always been somebody predicting the end of the world and to date none have been correct.

New fields are still being discovered and new extraction technology is always coming on-stream.

In the last five years I have spent more than half of my time working South of the border on American oil/gas exploration projects. While we piss and moan and delay domestic energy projects, a very mobile workforce has been taking it’s expertise (and tax dollars) out of the country. We are not going to sit and go broke and wait for common sense to ensue.

I have worked in oilfields in Pennsylvania that are literally well over 140 years old that are now getting new life thanks to fracturing and seismic technology. Texas and Oklahoma are booming as new wells are being drilled and product is flowing. North Dakota is discovering whole new and giant reserves.

I spent three years working in the Arctic on the ice North of Inuvik. I assure you there is at least a couple more generations of oil and gas sitting up there and not a drop has been taken out yet. We need to look ahead but we are a long way from running out of reserves yet.

The USA does not need our energy and pricing ourselves out of the market will not help. We need to get our product to the coastlines in an increasing amount if we want to retain our standard of living across the country.

Reality: OIL AND GAS ARE ALREADY GOING TO OUR COASTS AND IT HAS FOR DECADES!!

It is painful listening to the daft, shallow souls howling about tanker traffic suddenly coming to Canada’s West coast or pipelines spanning our Rocky Mountains when we consider that tankers have been going to the coast already for decades and we have been pipelining oil across the mountains for over sixty years already.

We have transported untold millions of barrels across the mountains and then the Pacific without major incident and our technology is only becoming safer.

Rail traffic in crude oil has quadrupled in just the last few years and it will continue to grow if we keep foolishly delaying pipelines. More bears will get splattered and a much higher risk of spills and derailment will continue if we keep forcing the use of rail despite a safe means of transport being in front of us.

Governments are sensitive to the environmental lobby but they are even more sensitive to revenue. These new pipelines will get approved and will be built no matter how hard the union funded opposition howls. What we have to ask ourselves is how much more time and resources we will waste before getting on with it. We can’t afford as a nation to keep pissing around with this and we will not no matter who heads the next federal government. Reality dictates this, lets accept it and work with it.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,