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Archive for the ‘In the news’

Vic Toews, Bill C-30 and Accountability

February 21, 2012 @ 12:14 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, General, In the news

By now, you’ve probably heard about An Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts, otherwise known at Bill C-30, which was put in front of Parliament by the Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews.

Bill C-30 seeks to, among other things, give the government and law enforcement warrantless powers to invade your privacy. In other words, they’ll be able to ask your ISP for all sorts of personal information about you and your online habits without first obtaining a warrant.

Needless to say, this has made a lot of people very unhappy and resulted in a number of campaigns against it, including the #TellVicEverything hashtag on Twitter.

When questioned about the warrantless access in the House of Commons, the minister basically said that there was nothing about warrantless access in the bill and told people that if they didn’t support the bill they were supporting pedophiles. (Even though the bill makes no reference to pedophiles or pornography.)

And then it appears he actually read the bill he’s endorsing. (more…)

Easy come, easy go: Why you should always have car insurance

December 22, 2011 @ 10:19 By: gordon Category: In the news, Seen on the 'net

Apparently, an American chain of convenience stores called Maverik  ran a contest called “Joe Schmo to Lambo“:

Maverik is excited to team up with teamgive to raise money and awareness for the treatment and cure of rare neurological diseases by giving away a Lamborghini Murcielago!

Maverik is all about adventure, so when teamgive approached us with the idea of giving away a Lamborghini to raise money to find a cure for rare neurological diseases we jumped in with both feet.

The Lambo will be given away to one of 10 qualifiers in September 2011. Enter to qualify and you could drive home in a car that will change your life forever!

What would you do with a Lamborghini Murcielago?

Well, apparently the winner decided to give his family and friends rides in his new $380,000 car. Understandable, and I think most people would do that. I mean, just how many people win Lamborghini Mucielagos?

Unfortuantely, the last ride didn’t go so well. In the words of the owner…

“We were coming up a hill, going around a corner; and as soon as we came up the hill, we either hit some black ice or loose gravel or something, and all of a sudden we just started spinning. We ended up in a field, and I back-ended a couple of fence posts.”


Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like anyone was hurt, but the car has damage to its rear some damage to the front, a puncture in the wheel and scratches along the side. Fortunately, he was required to take out insurance before they gave him the keys, so he doesn’t have to pay for most of the repairs. I wonder what his insurance premiums are going to be when it’s repaired…

Oh, and did I mention he also won driving lessons at a road racing facility?

ATU 279 threatens to strike because drivers can’t blow up at passengers

November 18, 2011 @ 13:49 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, In the news

Apparently the fear of losing their jobs if they lose their cool and blow up at passengers is grounds for threatening a strike, at least according to the president of Local 279 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents OC Transpo bus drivers.

“With the flick of my fingers, we could end up with having the buses not being out on the road” –ATU 279 president Garry Queale

I heard that priceless quote on CBC’s morning show as I was getting ready to head to work this morning and it’s in a story on CBC’s website, too.

In the last week there have been there have been at least three incidents where OC Transpo drivers have behaved completely unprofessionally towards passengers and at least two of them have had repercussions for the drivers:

Most people would probably agree that bus drivers don’t have the easiest of jobs. While they are well-paid, they take the brunt of the complaints and abuse from passengers unhappy with the service for whatever reason, even if it’s beyond the driver’s control, such as the recent changes to the bus routes in Ottawa. Even with this, many bus drivers put up with it and strive to provide good customer service so they can take pride in their work. But this doesn’t seem to be true for every bus driver, as evidenced by the list above.

Contract negotiations between ATU 279 and OC Transpo are scheduled to start December 8th. ATU 279 reportedly is interested in improving workplace conditions instead of salary, but the fact that they’re already threatening to strike suggests that perhaps the union’s negotiation strategy is based on threats and intimidation rather than genuine negotiation. Someone should remind them how that worked out for the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organizaton (PATCO) in 1981 when they tried something like this. (Hint: On August 5th, 1981 unemployment in the US  increased by 11,345 people.)

OC Transpo drivers

November 17, 2011 @ 12:29 By: gordon Category: General, In the news

There have been three high-profile incidents involving bus drivers in the last week or so. One that CBC reported on yesterday involves a passenger who asked a driver why he was 40 minutes late and after a short back and forth between the two of them the driver got off the bus. The ATU 279 has responded by supporting the driver saying he did the right thing in extricating himself from a conflict situation with a passenger. In the video attached to the story on the CBC site, the union is reported as saying that all their drivers should report conflict situations to their controller, pull over and put the four-way flashers on and wait for someone to show up and that if this means that buses are pulling over on the 417 “so be it”.

It concerns me is that this could result in buses stopping at the side of the 417, a highway where there’s often not a lot of clearance at the sides of the road, particularly downtown, meaning that any vehicle at the side of the road is at risk of being hit. In the case of a bus where there could be 30 or 40 people on board, that’s putting an awful lot of people on the bus at risk, not to mention passing drivers. I hope that drivers will be more responsible and leave the 417 and pull over at the side of the road after they’ve left the high-speed highway where it will be safer to stop.

As for the passenger in yesterday’s incident who demanded to know why the bus was 40 minutes late and upon not being told why encouraged his fellow passengers to complain, too, I think he needs to remember that the drivers are accountable to their employer (i.e. OC Transpo) for their job performance and not directly to the passengers. There can be circumstances beyond the driver’s control, such as being called in to replace a bus that broke down or heavy traffic that can cause a bus to be legitimately late. One shouldn’t automatically assume that it’s the driver’s fault that he or she is late. Even if it is the driver’s fault, there’s no need to be a jerk about it and take it out on the driver — call customer relations at 613-842-3600 or file a complaint online at http://www.octranspo1.com/about-octranspo/customer_service.

Embarrassing emails

October 04, 2011 @ 22:15 By: gordon Category: In the news

A Canadian Press story on CTV’s website today caught my eye. You may be familiar with the $50 million slush stimulus fund ostensibly for last year’s G8 summit that basically allowed Tony Clement to funnel a huge amount of money into his riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka. A large volume of emails between him and Claude Doughty, the mayor of Huntsville, reveals that Tony Clement was micromanaging the fund.

The revelation of these emails by the NDP who dug them up has embarrassed the mayor to the extent that next time he does business with a federal minister he’ll be careful not to leave a “reproducable [sic]” email trail of such discussions – he’s going to do everything by telephone. So, basically, if there’s ever a dispute over what was agreed it’s going to be a your word vs. mine situation, which I don’t see him winning. Yikes!

Maybe he’ll take a leaf from Richard Nixon’s book and start recording all his conversations.

Search and rescue: Privatization is not an option

July 22, 2011 @ 14:08 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, In the news

According to a CBC story, the Conservative government is considering privatizing the search and rescue roles currently carried out by the Department of National Defence and the Coast Guard.

WTF??!!11!eleven?! If true, then this idea would have to go on the Top Ten Stupid Things The Conservative Government Has Thought Of list. (I’m not sure what would be bumped off the list… that’s for another day.)

Search and rescue requires highly trained, well-equiped people who can, if necessary, be ordered into harm’s way. The military and Coast Guard have both the highly-trained personnel and equipment necessary to undertake search and rescue missions, which often result in their going into very dangerous situations. No private company is going to be able to staff such a venture without recruiting the people from the military or Coast Guard. And even if they can find the people, what company would be willing to assume the incredible liabilities that come with running search and rescue missions?

And then there’s the cost. Flying airplanes and helicopters, running boats and having highly-trained personnel is a very expensive business. How would a private company pay for such a venture? Presumably they would have a contract from the government, but would it really cost less than the current situation? Doubtful, particularly if you take into consideration the fact that the SAR personnel are likely going to come from the military and Coast Guard meaning those organizations are going to have to replace some of the highly-trained personnel.

Search and rescue must remain a function and responsibility of the government. Privatization is not an option.

A tip o’ the hat to Trashy for blogging about it this morning.

Basketball net vigilantes

June 01, 2011 @ 00:29 By: gordon Category: In the news

posseThere was a story on CBC Ottawa’s morning show Tuesday about some people in Manor Park who went from door to door in their neighbourhood trying to find out who complained to the City about their basketball nets. Apparently, the basketball nets are on the edge of the road, which is a violation of a city bylaw that doesn’t allow streets to be blocked.

Nine homeowners mustered a group of 30 adults and children who went from door to door until they discovered who complained. It turns out that the complainant is a an elderly woman who believes the nets are a safety hazard. The group had proposed putting reflective tape on the nets, but that wasn’t enough to cause her to withdraw her complaint. According to the story, if she withdraws her complaint the city will drop the matter.

The ringleader of the group, Natalie Belovic, says that the bases of the nets are filled with water or sand making them too heavy to easily move them.

This bylaw is the same one that kids playing street hockey ran afoul of a couple of years ago. In that case, the city eventually relented and passed a motion declaring children had the right to play street hockey. Belovic is quoted as saying…

“We actually would like them to take the same stand exactly as they did with the road hockey situation, which is just basically to turn a blind eye and ignore the quote-unquote problem”

And she went on to say that she still hopes that some compromise with the elderly lady can be reached, though I’m doubtful because she ran to the press immediately rather than try a bit harder to work something out.

Personally, I’m on the side of the elderly lady in this case. She called and reported a problem in her neighbourhood. The City sent a bylaw officer out to ask the people to move their nets back on to their own properties, which is the appropriate response on the city’s part. The owners don’t appear to have been given tickets for the violations (yet).

The owners’ response was to form a posse and hunt down the person and try to intimidate her into withdrawing her complaint. When the complainant stood her ground, they went to the media to try to get the court of public opinion to convince the lady to change her mind – basically more bullying.

According to the story, some of the people have already moved their nets, but Belovic and a couple of others haven’t (yet) because their properties are sloped, presumably meaning the nets would topple over.

Should the city “turn a blind eye” to the situation? No. This is not like the street hockey situation a couple of years ago for a couple of reasons. First, street hockey nets are temporary and moved when someone yells “car!” and they aren’t stored in the street. The basketball nets are, by Belovic’s admission, too heavy to be moved easily, so they’re not temporary.

Second, street hockey has been around for several generations of kids and it probably pre-dated the bylaw, while these freestanding basketball nets are a relatively new phenomenon. Growing up, I, like many kids in my neighbourhood, had a basketball net mounted over the garage door. In fact, if you watch this video that Belovic has on YouTube promoting Manor Park (she’s a realtor), you’ll see a number of houses in Manor Park have basketball nets over their garage doors. If Belovic et al. can’t have freestanding nets on their property, they could install one over their garage doors instead, or they could probably take a spade and level out a little square of dirt on the edge of their lawns, put a couple of patio stones down and have a nice, legal place to put their basketball nets. If they don’t the city should cite them, even if the complaint is withdrawn.

A tip o’ the hat to Legends of America who had the photo on their site.