We need to stop treating hydro and heat like luxuries..

 

Energy Poverty…. a phrase that brings to mind some third world slum with sketchy electrical service that only functions sporadically.

In the Province of Ontario,  its come to mean that people who have to choose between shelter,  food, and hydro.

This isn’t because electricity is scarce in Ontario.

A casual observer might conclude that this crisis arose because of the colossal mismanagement and incompetence demonstrated by the Ontario Liberal party over the past few years.

As I researched this issue, I came to believe that the current pricing structure was deliberately engineered to maximize Hydro One’s value ahead of issuing shares.

I also realized that,  whether deliberate or not, the Distribution Rate model that makes hydro exponentially more expensive in vote-poor ridings than vote-rich ones,  minimizes the political fallout from the efforts to make Ontario One attractive to investors.

There is simply too much data to go over in a single entry.   But I will post what I’ve discovered and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

While driving into work today I noticed that it was darker,  and colder.

I wondered how people who had been unable to keep their power turned on would fare in colder weather.

One of the things that has really irked me is that until recently,  there was simply no data available on how many customers had their power disconnected because they couldn’t pay.

Naturally,  there was no data on how long customers have gone without hydro.

Now,  Winter is Coming.

We don’t have to fear White Walkers,  or The Lannisters,  or GRRM killing us off.

The thousands of people across the province who have given up on trying to keep their hydro on have much to fear.

If you’ve ever read a disconnection notice,  you will likely have seen a warning about how old can freeze pipes and cause massive structural damage.   Along with that warning will come the notification that the utility is not responsible for any damage.

What these notices don’t say is that  cold can kill…it can also take fingers, toes,  noses and ears.

How many people in Ontario will die this winter because they couldn’t pay thousands of dollars to keep their lights on?

What percentage will succumb to the cold?

What percentage will succumb to toxic fumes, or fire caused by whatever heat source they try out of desperation?

What percentage will succumb to hopeless depression and commit suicide?

There are many individual causes that brought us to this point.   And I will talk about them in future posts.

In future posts I will:

  • explain why I think the Ontario Energy Board,  who claims to protect consumers is an absolute farce
  • talk about how MicroFit,  the Green Energy project where the Government of Ontario pays small producers of solar and other green energy considerably more than than market value for their excess power.
  • talk about how Hydro One uses distribution and regulation fees to offset the costs of bad policy

While there are many factors that brought us to this point,  behind them all,  there is one driving factor…

Apathy

Those who are responsible for the hydro rate crisis completely forgot that their actions have had a significantly detrimental effect on real, living human beings.

They’ve come to view their commodity (electricity),  as a luxury.  Something that people can do without if they can’t afford it.

 

 

 

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What happens when your employer can’t pay you…for months?

Apparently,  if you’re the Government of Canada,  not a thing.

Last winter the federal public service migrated over to a new pay system called Phoenix.

An utterly laughable name when you consider that this move has caused pay problems for approximately 80K public service employees.   Phoenix is an IBM product btw.

Pay problems such as not being paid at all,  not receiving disability pay,  and getting paid after they leave.

The last problem isn’t a pressing one (until they come to collect that).

But imagine going for months without getting paid.  You’re still expected to work,  its just that your pay cheque might be a bit late…like months and months and months late.

You can read about how sorry government official are about this mess here.

While comments on stories like this are largely sympathetic,  it didn’t surprise me to see a few talking about how lazy public sector employees are over paid,  and they don’t really deserve to be paid.   One guy went so far as to say how happy he was reading about other people suffering because of this.

I’ve said this before.  I’ve worked private and public sector jobs.  Yes,  public sector benefits are amazing,   but I’ve worked significantly harder in the public sector than the private.

In the private sector,  if I did well I was rewarded with things like cash.

In the public sector I’d be lucky to receive an atta-boy.  Performance bonuses?   Hahahaha..yeah,  right.

When needed,  we’d work through lunch,  work late,  come in early and the best we could hope for in return was a “Hey thanks!”.

Why is it that there are so many people out there who think that public sector employees don’t take pride in their work,  care about the quality of their work,  and their professional reputations?

Oh wait,  I know…because some customer-facing public sector worker couldn’t do something for them not because it was against the rules and the individual didn’t want to risk getting fired for doing it,  but because they were lazy and entitled.

But I digress…

Most of us know what it’s like to be broke.  To wonder how you’re going to stretch out the few groceries you have to last,  to spend your last $10 on dog food so they don’t go without,  and to trying to decide which bills you absolutely must pay,  and which you hope can wait.

Most of know how utterly devastating that stress is.  The constant, pervasive thought…”If we can only make it to pay day!”

Now put yourselves in the shoes of employees who aren’t being paid at all because of this Phoenix fiasco.   Not knowing when pay day is going to happen.

On top of that,  your bosses keep telling you that they’re working on fixing the problem,   and that they’re sorry….and oh hey,  you can call the minister’s office to complain!

They are in fact hiring a lot of people to get the problem fixed.   I wonder if those people are getting paid.

One of my question is,  why aren’t they hiring a lot of people to manually track people’s hours and write them a physical cheque every two weeks??

Oh yeah…it will add a TON of work to catch up with everything.  It will cost a lot of money too.

But it would show their employees that the public service’s priorities aren’t out of whack….that ensuring their people are cared for (as in being paid on time) is important.

Because right now….while I’m hearing them say it…I’m not seeing much evidence of that.

 

 

Dear Santa

Hi Santa;

It has been a very long time since I’ve written to you.

I hope I didn’t offend you in last letter when I questioned the fact that you insisted that instead of milk that we leave beer with the traditional offering.   I may have been a bit blunt in my pointing out that your favorite beer happened to be the same as my dad’s.   Black Label.

I had recently noticed that restaurants were selling “Imported Beers” and found it unlikely that Black Label was available at the North Pole.

So, uh, sorry about that.

All that being said,  I hope you get this.   I don’t know what sort of internet is available at the North Pole,  but maybe your phone will download this when you transition through more civilized locations.

Santa,  its been a tough year.  Not just for me,  but for millions of people around the world.

At this point, I believe its customary for the letter writer to point out how good they’ve been all year.

Santa,  I’ve been a good boy all year!!!

LMAO….once you stop laughing you’ll realize I was being sarcastic.

I’m going to ask for something anyway….but it is more of a global thing.

Santa,  with all the shit that has happened in the world,  I’ve noticed something….

Since 9/11,  it seemed that every time people who happened to be Muslim did something wrong,  social media feeds,  and forum posts were wall to wall hate for all Muslims.

That’s not all.

In 2001 very few people would speak up when someone vilified gays and lesbians.

Almost no one would speak up in defence of those society marginalized.  I’m talking about the homeless,  the addicted and the mentally ill.

The world seemed bereft of compassion.

I think that started to change in the past year or so.

Even in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks people who complained about Islam,  and wanted to punish all Muslims,  even those fleeing the inhumane hell that was once Syria,  were shouted down.

Not by one or two,  but by the majority!

For homophobes it got so bad that they started complaining that their ignorant hatred was actually a majority opinion,  but people were afraid of speaking up out of fear of being bullied by “bleeding heart Liberal bullies”.

I honestly believe that society is becoming more compassionate.   That people see that homelessness and addiction is not the problem,  but a symptom of the problem.

More and more people are seeing that the way we treat social welfare makes poverty nearly impossible to escape.

Santa,  I know that even with your mastery of quantum mechanics that you couldn’t have done all that.

But,  if you help move it along in any way I’d really like that.

It would make the world a better place.

Oh,  and Santa,  if it turns out I’m wrong,  and this is just some delusional fantasy….I’m good with that.

Thanks Santa,   have a safe flight.

If you do make it to my place,  as soon as you get in,  get the fridge….you’ll find some sausage in there.    If the dogs haven’t cornered you before that,  just throw them a couple of links and you’ll be fine!

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Dear Justin;

I hope you don’t mine me calling you Justin.  If you do, you can start your own blog and call me Mr. Rothbauer if you want.

This morning,  the day after the 42nd federal election I woke up and wondered if last night actually happened.

It did,  and I am so incredibly happy for Canada,  and for the world in general.

When Stephen Harper won his majority government I posted that I wept for my country.  I didn’t really,  it was a turn of phrase.

Last night I posted that I wept for my country again,  but these were real tears.  Tears of relief and joy.

As I typed “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau” I teared up a little again,  with good reason.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that the last 10 years have made it hard to identify myself as Canadian.

It became difficult to understand what being Canadian meant.

Until the Harper Government took power,  being Canadian meant so many things that were overwhelmingly positive.

So many adjectives to choose from, polite, hard working,  honest,  fair,  tolerant, friendly, caring…. all summed up with one word:  “Canadian”.

We’ve reached a point where being Canadian could easily be associated with fear,  intolerance,  uncaring.   Terrible adjectives that stained our national identity.

There are still many people in the world still us as being good,  but globally we’d lost our place in the world, and the Canadian flag became less and less welcome.

This morning so many of us woke to the very real hope that Canada will be restored.

Stephen Harper promised to unify Canada,  and in the end he failed on that promise.

You however managed to bring us together.   You,  Justin Trudeau,  gave us hope,  and we gave you the reins.

When you won the leadership of the Liberal party,  I joined.

My faith in you never wavered.   Even when you supported bill C-51,  I had faith that you knew what you were doing.

When others were pointing to Mulcair as a better option,  because he was running a better campaign,  my faith never wavered.    I saw that you were playing the long game,  and you stayed on message,  and did what was right,  even if it meant a load of bad press.   That takes guts,  it shows tremendous character,  and is the sign of a truly great leader.

I first noticed you when you delivered the eulogy for your father.  I was struck by the charisma,  your words,  and its delivery.

I knew then that you would become something great.

I wasn’t wrong.  (I am usually right about things like that 97% of the time (15 times out of 20 with a 92% margin of error))

And now you have a majority government!

I just want to say this…

We placed our trust in you,  and see you as the way back to what being Canadian was 10 years ago.

We are so thankful for the hope you’ve brought back to Canadians.   A departure from fear and divisiveness.   Of being told of what you’ll do for us,  instead of how awful other people are.

But…

If you let us down.   If you become like all the old school politicians who thought you weren’t ready,    we’ll show you the door just like we did Harper.

Because one little known thing about Canadians is that we have little tolerance for bullshit.  We’re polite about it though.

Thanks

David.

Politicians are humans too – so how far back is too far for social media gaffes?

We are the closing days of one of the most exciting, contentious, and perhaps revolutionary federal election campaigns in Canadian history.

While I could go on at length about the various issues (and still might),  there is something else I want to address.

Throughout the campaign there have been numerous news stories about candidates resigning because of “inappropriate” comments made in social media.  Mostly Twitter and Facebook.

Ala Buzreba,  a 21 year old Liberal candidate resigned over vitriolic twitter posts made when she was a teenager.

Seriously….if we were all held accountable for things we said and did as teenagers we’d all be unemployed!

Maria Manna, another Liberal candidate resigned over Facebook posts she made questioning the 9/11 investigation several years ago.

The CBC has conveniently compiled a list,  you can see it here.

The point of this blog is not to defend,  or debate things that were said, posted, or implied.

Rather I want to suggest a different way of looking at this.

When someone steps up to a leadership role,  how far back do we do in someone’s social media history do we go back before opinions expressed become irrelevant?

Naturally there are cases where is absolutely appropriate to distance your campaign from someone’s expressed views or activities.   I will resist the temptation to link a few example of those.

But when such opinions were expressed in the distant past,   shouldn’t we look to more recent opinions?

Honestly,  I would rather cast my vote for someone whose made a few mistakes in the past and has clearly learned from them.

No one is perfect, and any one who has a blemish-less social media history is hiding something or doesn’t use social media.

When we deny someone an opportunity to step up,  someone who had the courage and intestinal fortitude to throw their hat into the ring,  we must do so carefully.

The other often over looked consequence of bringing up ancient history is that any one thinking of stepping up will think twice because the internet never forgets.

We could be losing out on having some excellent future politicians out of fear of having some past skeleton exposed.

I know from my own past that if certain things I’d said, and believed were brought to light that it would be mortifying.

The internet, being what it is would completely ignore any recent opinions I’d voiced, but focus on vile things I’d said as a teenager.

But those comments do not reflect the man I am today.   The very fact that I once believed them caused me to take a serious look at how I viewed the world,  and it changed me…for the better.

I know you’re dying to know what that was, but I’m not going to tell you. Unless you tell me yours….and if you say you don’t have anything like that in your past…you’re either young, or lying.  (and I’m only joking I don’t want to know your dark secrets!)

When assessing someone’s character we should look at the person they are today,   and not in the past.

My own opinion as to how far back is that it depends on what the person believes today…..even if they posted something stupid yesterday.

After all one of the traits I look for in a leader is the ability to learn from one’s mistakes, and admit when they’ve screwed up. That takes guts,  character,  and its rare in politicians.

Apparently a poor credit score means that you’re likely going to steal from your employer….

Its been a very long time since I posted a rage post….and this is a good topic to rage about…

Apparently the use of credit checks in pre-employment screenings is on the rise.

We’re not talking just jobs where people handle money.  The linked article above mentions that even Tim Horton’s workers have reported the requirement to submit to credit check during the recruitment process.

The article refers to an email from a TransUnion spokesperson Clifton O’Neal which states:

One study found a job applicant with a troubled financial history was almost twice as likely to engage in theft as an applicant who lacked any financial history issues,”

You have to sign up to the website in order to read the study in detail,  however,  denying someone a job using such subjective and controversial data,  based on a single study is reprehensible.

Its made even more so by the fact that the same company,  while testifying in Oregon in 2007 said:

“At this point, we don’t have any research to show any statistical correlation between what’s in somebody’s credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud,” government relations director Eric Rosenberg said at the time.

One has to wonder how much revenue these pre-employment screening checks generate for the credit reporting bureaus who tout their efficacy for weeding out thieves during the hiring process.

As one whose had credit issues in the past, I find it galling that anyone would factor a credit history into determining one’s character.

This would be especially true when you consider that many job seekers are unemployed,  many for extended periods of time.

You need a job to pay your bills,  you lose your job,  fall behind on your bills,  which causes you to not be able to find a job.

In that scenario,  who loses out?   The job seeker, absolutely,

The creditors (those other clients who rely on credit bureaus) also lose…because if a person can’t find a job because of a poor credit rating,  their creditors are not going to get paid back.

It seems to me that the extension of their client base only benefits the credit bureaus.   After all,  if an employer has to keep running credit checks for the same position, until they find a satisfactory one,  who gets paid for those repeated reports?

The employee doesn’t benefit at all,  because they’ve had a potential employer leafing through their financial history.

The employer might think they’ve avoided a bad hire,  but that might be a false sense of security.

Are there any studies that show that a good credit score is an indicator that someone WON’T steal?   Maybe they live beyond their means, but were smart enough to start stealing from their employers BEFORE their bills came due.

I also have to wonder if people who think this is a good idea have ever had issues with dealing credit issues.

How many of us have found erroneous, and derogatory entries on our credit report?

How many  of us have been faced with the option of paying a creditor sometimes hundreds of dollars to satisfy an invalid debt,  simply to remove it from a credit report?

How many of us have refused to do this as a matter of principal?

I’ve encountered all these things,  and while we are assured that there are mechanisms in place to deal with such matters,  it is a daunting task which must be repeated for all the major credit bureaus.

Then there is the matter of information making it onto your credit report that is false?

You can (and should) periodically review your credit report from each of the major bureaus.

You can get a free credit report from TransUnion through the mail (snail mail).

For just under $17/mo you can get unlimited access to your credit report as well as notifications of activity on your account.

Here’s a link.

Other credit bureaus have similar deals.

So,  you can get a free report through the mail,  but it costs money to get a copy of your credit bureaus almost instantly, electronically.

I guess Transunion pays its servers more than who ever it is who physically prints and mails these things out.

But I digress…

In today’s age of identity theft, and unethical collection practices,  credit monitoring is very important,  and the monthly cost (multiplied by the number of credit bureaus you open an account with),  could save you a lot of money and headaches in the future.

Having said that,  I have to ask…

Why are consumers forced to pay credit bureaus to monitor their own accounts for suspicious activity?

When you consider how credit bureaus are now profiting from employers using their services in order to screen applicants for positions that don’t involve handling money,  I have to question if such a service is even ethical.

Credit bureaus are providing a service to employers that make is essential that any job-seeker subscribe to these credit monitoring services.

These same credit bureaus provide such monitoring services,  to consumers,  for a fee.

In my opinion there is a clear conflict of interest.

This leads me to my next point:

It is relatively easy for a business to pull your credit report,  or file a derogatory incident with credit bureaus

I had that happen to me once when I did subscribe to monthly monitoring.

A business I had never heard of did a hard hit on my bureau.   By hard hit,  I mean a query that indicates that I had applied for credit.

I saw the email, and contacted the bureau in question (not TransUnion in this case).

I was told by the credit bureau’s customer service agent that,  (and this is a quote):

You will have to take it up with business in question.

So,  this company that collects sensitive data on millions of ordinary people,  and provides said data to anyone who says that they have your permission failed to act when notified of a fraudulent query.

I did follow up and discovered that the business had acquired another company with whom I did have an account (in good standing),  and that the query was “human error”.

That doesn’t excuse the reporting agency’s apathy in dealing with a privacy breach.  (This happened before I became intimately familiar with PIPEDA).

A logical question here is:

Why is it that with today’s technology there isn’t a mechanism that would allow a bureau to directly request a consumer’s permission to release credit information instead of relying on the business to honestly indicate that they have permission to do so?

As far as I can tell,  credit bureaus don’t sanction businesses that run afoul of the rules,  and ruin people’s credit in doing so.

The point I’m making here is that if the credit bureaus are going to provide services that will make it more difficult for people to find jobs,  then they have a duty to strengthen consumer protections.

When you consider this case,  where a guy was awarded $21K  by the courts because Bell TV ran a credit check without permission,  it would be safe to say that if things don’t change on their own,  litigation may force some sweeping changes.

The crux of the matter is best illustrated in this quote from the article:

“In this day and age, when we often can’t meet face to face, how do you determine someone’s character? We do it through looking at their past history and see how they’ve paid back debt,” Nadim Abdo, Equifax’s client solutions vice-president, said in 2013.

So, this Equifax guy is obviously under the impression that someone’s debt repayment history is a great indicator of someone’s character.

Apparently a quick credit check more accurate and objective than spending 20 to 60 minutes calling a person’s professional references and asking about what kind of individual the applicant is.

For many professional positions,  you could simply use Google or one of the other search engines out there.

Of course,  you could always refer to the criminal record check that is done alongside the pre-employment credit check.   A criminal record is a pretty good indicator as to whether or not someone is a criminal.

It won’t surprise many of you to hear that I have a big problem with that too.   Especially with The Harper Government making it harder and more expensive to get a pardon…but I’m not going down that road here.

What is boils down to is sheer laziness.

Recruiters who agree with Nadim Abdo’s statement above are really in the wrong profession.    If you can’t meet face to face with a candidate and can’t form an opinion of their character by doing some basic research,  but instead rely on a credit report (which may or may not be accurate),   are you really hiring the best candidate?

I can imagine that there will always be companies that forego this check.

If I’m right, and the ideal candidate you reject because of their credit history might end up working for your competition,  while you hire the second or third, or fourth best candidate because they’ve got a better credit score.

What employer would fair better in the long run in such a situation….

Here’s a hint….not yours.