Archive for April, 2009
Monday, April 27th, 2009
Reading the newspapers you would think that Toronto is a hotbed of violent crime, but that is just not so. A new crime severity index has been developed with input from police, justice officials and academics. Using this new crime index Statistics Canada reports that in 2007 Toronto had the lowest ranking out of the 27 metropolitan areas in Canada and that Toronto also had the lowest rate of police-reported crimes for cities in Canada. According to the Police-Reported Crime Severity Index (PRCSI) which measures the severity of crimes that are reported to police:
• Police-reported crime in Canada in 2007 is less serious overall than it was 10 years ago
• The incidence of the seven most serious offences, including murder, sex assault, assault, and breaking and entering are down 14% from a year ago
• Crime was less serious overall in Toronto in 2007 than it was in the country’s other major cities including Montreal and Vancouver.
• Toronto scored a 65.6 on the PRCSI, which is well below the national average of 94.6
• Overall crime severity was highest in Regina, with an index value of 189
• British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan had a much higher crime severity index than the rest of Canada
This doesn’t sound like the headlines in Toronto papers, does it? This only goes to prove the old theory that bad news sells so it keeps making the headlines and the front pages. Personally, I’d like to see more of a balance in reporting. Can we please have more good news stories and less fear mongering?
Monday, April 27th, 2009
Regardless of warnings by the Canadian Government that a high degree of caution should be exercised when visiting Mexico, last year 1.4 million Canadians visited Mexico, which is an increase of 20% over the year before. International tourism to Mexico increased in January despite the increased dangers.
In 2008, more than 6,000 people were killed in drug violence in Mexico.
The most dangerous areas are the U.S. border towns - Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and Nogales where public shootouts have occurred in broad daylight in shopping centres and other public venues. As a result Canadians have been warned to stay away from large gatherings and demonstrations.
Now it appears that a new strain of flu may be more dangerous than the drug cartels. According to WHO (World Health Organization) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this is a brand new virus that is a combination of swine, human and avian flu viruses. So far there have been over 1,300 reported cases in Mexico and 81 people have died as a result.
In Ottawa, Canadian public health officials have confirmed at least 6 six cases in Nova Scotia and British Columbia that are directly linked to Mexican travel. Thankfully the symptoms have been extremely mild and everyone is doing just fine. The question now is how widespread is this new strain of flu and will it be able to be contained or become pandemic?
For more information contact the Public Health Agency of Canada or Fight Flu.
Monday, April 20th, 2009
This is the latest information posted on CanJet’s website:
City: Montego Bay (MBJ)
Date Issued: April 20, 2009 03:59 AM ADT
CanJet Statement on Flight 918
April 20th 2009, Halifax, Nova Scotia – At approximately 23h30 ADT an incident occurred on CanJet Airlines Flight 918 at Sangster International Airport at Montego Bay, Jamaica. CanJet Airlines Flight 918 was being operated for Transat Tours Canada.
We are still working with officials there to gather information, but at this time we know CanJet Flight 918 flying from Halifax, Nova Scotia, had made a scheduled landing at Montego Bay when an armed man boarded the aircraft.
A full security operation is underway and CanJet is cooperating fully with the local authorities.
Flight 918 was carrying 182 passengers and crew. All passengers have been safely removed from the aircraft, but CanJet crew and the armed man remain on board. Our understanding is that no harm has come to anyone remaining on board and no there has been no damage to the aircraft.
CanJet takes very seriously its commitment to security onboard its aircraft and does everything it can to promote safety. Our priority at this time is well-being of the passengers and crew who were involved in the incident.
CanJet Airlines has set up a toll free number for anyone who may be concerned about family or relatives who may have been traveling on CanJet Flight 918.
Family or relatives can call 1-888-777-6429.
What else do we know?
• At least 5 crew members are being held hostage.
• The passengers are in local hotels and they have not been injured.
• The gunman, a 20 year old mentally challenged man, demanded to be flown to Cuba where the flight had a scheduled stop en route to Halifax.
• According to reports the gunman forced his way through security and boarded the plane about 40 minutes before it was due to depart.
• Prime Minister Harper is currently in Jamaica for a one day visit and is monitoring the situation.
Let’s hope that this situation can be resolved with no loss of life. It does bring into question the security at the Jamaican airport. It should not have been so easy for someone with a gun to board a plane. Considering what has been going on in “sun destinations” perhaps Canadians should be rethinking whether the pleasure of the weather in these sunny locales is worth the risk.
Monday, April 20th, 2009
It is impossible to escape the ongoing saga of the beleaguered Big 3 Automakers, or Little 3, as they are now and the adventures or misadventures of the CAW (Canadian Auto Workers). Ken Lewenza, president of the CAW clearly has some serious issues and refuses to listen to the reality of the situation, even when it is spelled out for him.
• Sergio Marchionne, the head of Italian automaker Fiat, has given Chrysler until the end of this month to substantially cut its labour costs as a condition of forming a partnership.
• Fiat wants the CAW to agree to match the lower wages at Japanese and German car plants.
• Industry Minister Tony Clement has made it clear that the CAW must make more concessions to ensure that the deal between Chrysler and Fiat proceeds. If the deal with Fiat falls through Ottawa has the right to call its loans to Chrysler.
• Chrysler states that it needs savings of $20 an hour to stay in business.
How did Ken Lewenza respond?
• The CAW has ruled out any special concessions for Chrysler, even though that would end the potential deal with Fiat.
• The CAW would only offer Chrysler what they negotiated with General Motors.
• The CAW has offered Chrysler $7.00 an hour in savings instead of the $20.00 that they need to remain in business.
In all of the articles and news reports that I have read of the last few months I have only read rhetoric by Ken Lewenza. Why hasn’t anyone been interviewing the workers who are surely going to be unemployed in the very near future and without any great possibilities of staying in their industry? Why aren’t they jumping up and down demanding that the CAW make the necessary concessions to keep the automakers viable, which is the only way that they are going to continue to be employed? I’m sick of hearing from the union boss; let’s hear from the rank and file.
Monday, April 20th, 2009
You save all year for your vacation and you have great plans for the time of your life – until a tour operator rips the rug out from under your feet. With no advance notice or even rumblings, tour operator Conquest Vacations abruptly shut down its operations on April 15th stranding travelers who had already reached their destinations and leaving in doubt the travel plans of those who had not yet departed.
Conquest was not a new kid on the block. They had been operating for 37 years. With bookings for about 1 million travelers per year, Conquest earned approximately $200 million in revenue which amounted to a 7% market share of the packaged tour market. That, however, was not sufficient to keep them in business. They blame the economic situation, prices wars, and unrealistic and unreasonable demands by credit companies as the reasons that they shut down.
On April 15th they posted this notice on their website:
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Conquest Vacations Inc. announced today the cessation of its tour operations effective immediately.
Customers who are booked and paid using cash/check through a travel agency are requested to contact their respective agency who will assist you with respect to a refund or claim.
Customers who have booked directly with Conquest Vacations will have already been contacted.
Customers who have booked and paid for their future travel using a credit card should contact their credit card issuing institution for a refund.
Conquest Vacations regrets the inconvenience caused to the passengers due to cessation of its operations. Unfortunately this has been a result of overcapacity and price war among the major tour operators, unrealistic and unreasonable demands by the credit card processing companies, credit squeeze and economic turmoil in recent months making it impossible for companies like Conquest to continue in business even after weathering many storms over the past 37 years.
If you are a passenger scheduled to return Thursday, April 16 to Tuesday, April 21 on ACV
Air Canada Vacations (AVC) is advising agents and passengers that all Conquest passengers booked with Air Canada currently at destination will return home as scheduled. AVC will make every effort to provide agents with assistance in accommodating customers with their travel plans. For any assistance, agents can call 1-877-752-7710 or contact the customer care team at 1-800-296-3408.
CanJet, West Jet, and Air Canada have made statements saying that they will honour return flights and get stranded passengers home, but they will not honour future bookings. Some stranded Conquest travelers were being forced to pay enormous amounts of money for the things that they had already paid for – hotels, travel to the airport, and in some cases flights home. Many Canadians in Mexico called the Canadian consulate in Cancun to ask for advice and assistance. They were told to pay the amounts asked for because the consulate didn’t know anything about Mexican law. If that is the case then the Canadian consulate has no purpose or function and I suggest that we shut it down and end the taxpayer funded permanent vacation that the officials are enjoying.
If you were one of the stranded travelers and you are now back home there are measures that you can take to recoup your money providing that you have a receipt from the hotel and/or transfer company in exchange for payment to support you claim. Contact the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) to request a claim form. You can do this by phone 1-888-451-8426 or (905) 624-6241 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you purchased a package from Conquest and have not taken your holiday, the Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund may reimburse you for travel services that you purchased from Conquest that were never provided. You can request a claim form from TICO at the same email address.
Monday, April 20th, 2009
Let’s discuss realities. The TDSB (Toronto District School Board) has no money. There are 39 school swimming pools slated for closure because the TDSB can’t afford to keep them open. The province is cutting the TDSB’s funding for computers by 21% so Future Shop offered to donate $50,000 to each of two needy Toronto high schools within 7 kilometres of a Future Shop store for computer labs. What does Future Shop ask in return? The labs would be painted in the official Future Shop corporate colours - light grey with red trim - and possibly reference their name. Many of the TDSB’s computers are obsolete, so why aren’t they jumping at the offer?
There are those who are opposed to corporate funding with strings attached and they consider Future Shop’s request for the paint colour and possible reference to their name a string. Big deal! Where is the harm? They are an electronics chain. They do not sell or promote anything immoral, illegal, dangerous, or harmful. They have every right to ask for come consideration for their sponsorship. It’s about time that the public sector got onboard with sponsorship. Hasn’t anyone noticed the Rogers Centre, the Panasonic Theatre, the Air Canada Centre, the Rexhall Tennis Centre, and the list goes on? Everyone benefits. Corporations get to do good deeds in exchange for a little visibility and the public sector that has no money gets to reap the benefits.
The TDSB should be encouraging these types of corporate relationships. Perhaps if they got off their high horses and stopped worrying about what strings are attached, 39 swimming pools wouldn’t be closing.
Monday, April 20th, 2009
Why should anyone have the right to tell you when you can or cannot work? If we want to earn more money by staying open longer or on holidays, why should the city have the right to tell us that we have to stay closed? Isn’t this a basic right in capitalist society? They don’t tell doctors or lawyers or computer programmers or painters or plumbers when to work. So, why should the retail industry be under their proverbial thumb?
This foolishness is not be perpetrated upon us by the feds or the provincial government. The province amended the Retail Business Holidays Act (RBHA) in 2006, exempting the City of Toronto, so that the city can decide without provincial or federal interference whether or not businesses can open on statutory holidays. You would imagine that the city would have taken the opportunity to allow shopping on statutory holidays, thereby leaving it up to the individual retailers to decide whether or not to open. In March 2008 Toronto’s City Council voted to leave things as they are and to only allow shopping on statutory holidays in designated tourist areas. A change in policy would have benefited many retailers and the tourists who take in the entire city and not only the designated areas.
Some adventurous retailers along Queen Street East decided to open on Easter this year and take advantage of the foot traffic being generated by the Beaches Easter Parade. These retailers were very courageous or had a good plan in case they were caught because they could have faced fines of up to $50,000. Interesting enough, not one ticket was issued largely due to the fact that most of the bylaw enforcement officers were taking a holiday as well.
When are we going to end this foolishness and let hardworking people work instead of forcing them to take holidays that they don’t want?
Monday, April 20th, 2009
Don’t we have enough sanitation workers on the payroll? If not why aren’t we hiring more in the employment blitz that the City of Toronto is planning?
Toronto has officially begun its spring cleaning. Last year over 3,500 tonnes of litter were picked up during the three week clean-a-thon. This year so far over 1,600 tonnes of winter debris have already been removed. The culmination of this clean up effort is the 20-Minute Toronto Makeover on Friday, April 24th and Mayor David Miller’s Community Clean-up Day on Saturday, April 25th. This is a major undertaking with 500 staff members, 300 pieces of equipment, and 125 pickup trucks participating. So why do they need me?
Last year over 135,000 Torontonians participated in this massive cleaning operation. While I think that it’s commendable, I can’t imagine the appeal for picking up litter and doing the job of paid employees. The City of Toronto is trying to sell it as a fun activity for family and friends to do together as if picking up trash is a bonding ritual. If you want to spend a lovely Saturday outdoors with friends and family, how about a BBQ, a trip to the Toronto Islands, a picnic in the park, a golf outing, a bike ride, … The list could go on forever. Toronto offers many wonderful opportunities for outdoor pleasure and picking up trash isn’t one of them.
So why don’t we leave the clean-up to the city employees who are paid to do the job and enjoy any number of pleasant outdoor activities with friends and family?
Tuesday, April 14th, 2009
Truth be told, I was never a big fan of Billy Bob Thornton. I always thought that he was more famous for wearing a vile of Angelina Jolie’s blood around his neck than for any work that he had done. Never the less he is taken seriously as an actor and as a singer and he has a following in Canada. Or at least he did have until his interview with the CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi. Apparently Jian Ghomeshi was told in advance not to make mention of Billy Bob’s acting career. During the introduction to the interview, references were made to Billy Bob Thornton’s career as a Hollywood actor, director, and screenwriter. And as they say, that was all she wrote. Billy Bob refused to answer questions and became belligerent. He then made this comment about Canadian audiences. “Canadian audiences seem to be very reserved. We tend to play places where people throw things at each other. Here, they just sort of sit there. And it doesn’t matter what you say to ‘em . . . It’s mashed potatoes but no gravy.” In case you think that this was a little throw away comment that got no air play, over 1.2 million viewers had watched the YouTube video of the interview.
When Billy Bob and his band the Boxmasters walked on stage at Massey Hall he was greeted with boos and catcalls. Then quite mysteriously after the Toronto show they pulled out of the rest of the Canadian tour with Willie Nelson and Ray Price citing the flu, which came on at a most convenient time. Willie Nelson would not make a comment and Billy Bob Thornton says that he loves Canada.
Tuesday, April 14th, 2009
Given today’s economic climate, the earlier that financial education begins the better. Debt is crippling the world right now and many cities, particularly in the U.S. are considering the addition of financial literacy to their curriculums. Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustee Josh Matlow has proposed that students should be taught about financial matters like credit cards, personal finances, debt and the stock market and Education Minister Kathleen Wynne says that she’s willing to consider adding economic literacy to the provincial curriculum.
I think that it’s a great idea to educate our children with valuable skills for living. We need to do more to prepare children for life in the real world. Although I can still remember that the definition of osmosis is diffusion through a membrane from biology class, financial literacy classes would have benefited me much more. The TDSB currently offers optional economics courses in Grades 11 and 12, but nothing prior to that. Mr. Matlow believes that understanding economic literacy should be part of an Ontario diploma and suggests that economic literacy classes should start as early as Grade 4.
Financial education should not rest solely on the shoulders of our school boards. Families must play their part and start talking about money with their children. Teaching children the value of a dollar begins at home. This can be done with allowances, payment for chores, and saving for a special purchase. Children learn spending habits and attitudes towards money from their parents. You can’t take them to the mall and buy them everything that they want and then argue in front of them about money problems. Be honest about money and include your children in the discussion.