Category Archives: Caveat emptor

Darryl Plecas’s Rose-coloured Mirror.

‘If I’m guilty of anything, it’s changing my mind,’

What a banal way to make an action that calls to mind words such as renege, weasel, forsake, apostatise – sound almost noble.

Before we rush to knight Speaker Plecas for gallantry let us consider a few facts.

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Continue reading Darryl Plecas’s Rose-coloured Mirror.

Media: Public Myth Versus Bottom Line Reality Part I

”Why is the hard-headed Clark suddenly morphing into a soft-hearted mushball?”

There is a widely held public belief that the media’s job is to provide the information that the public needs to be informed on issues

As is the case with the majority of widely held public beliefs, especially the beliefs/myths we base the governance of Canada on, the myth is untrue.

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Continue reading Media: Public Myth Versus Bottom Line Reality Part I

Death by Bureaucracy

Did you ever wonder how many people die a year from bureaucracy?

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Of course, the last thing politicians and bureaucrats want is anything that smacks of accountability for the human cost of their actions. And since the politicians and bureaucrats make the rules, you don’t die of bureaucracy but of ‘complications of diabetes’ even though the complications result from or are worsened by bureaucracy.

Continue reading Death by Bureaucracy

BC Hydro’s Choice

BC Hydro’s newly appointed [July 2014] President and CEO Jessica McDonald,  BC Hydro’s Board of Directors [Appendix 1 below] and BC Hydro – a Crown Corporation – have chosen to become directly, personally involved in/with homelessness in Abbotsford.

They have chosen to pre-empt a question currently before the BC Courts – if not Jubilee, if not Gladys then where do the homeless go?

They have chosen to ignore questions raised by a BC Crown Corporation, an instrument of the BC Government and the citizens of BC, acting to pre-empt a matter currently before the BC Courts; not next year or at some indefinite point in the future but before the Courts NOW.

They have chosen to become involved directly with homelessness in Abbotsford and to pre-empt the question of the Charter Rights of homeless Canadians currently before the BC Courts, without a clear, demonstrable, imminent risk that required or demanded they act now and prevented them from waiting another month or two [or three] for the BC Courts to adjudicate the question of: Where do the homeless go?

In choosing to pre-empt the BC Courts on the question of the Charter Rights of Canadians  CEO Jessica McDonald, Stephen Bellringer [Chair of the board], Bill Adsit, W.J. Brad Bennett, O.B.C., Larry Blain, James M. Brown, James P. Hatton, Q.C., John Knappett, Tracey L. McVicar, Janine North, ICD.D, John Ritchie, Jack Weisgerber and the Crown Corporation  BC Hydro have, in addition to the disturbing precedent of a Crown Corporation usurping a matter before the Courts, taken on personal responsibility for answering the question Abbotsford City Council has never answered: Where do the Homeless Go?

Since, by their own choice and of their own free will, CEO Jessica McDonald, the Board, employees of BC Hydro and the Crown Corporation BC Hydro have chosen to become involved in homelessness in Abbotsford and pre-empt the BC Courts on the question of the Rights of Canadians and where are the homeless to go they have, as a consequence, made themselves responsible for – and to – the homeless in Abbotsford for answering where the homeless are to go………

“When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action.”
Lois McMaster Bujold, Memory

“A responsible choice is a choice that creates consequences that you are willing to assume responsibility for.”     Gary Zukav

……We [I, the homeless, citizens of Abbotsford] await the unveiling of BC Hydro’s plans for the relocation of the homeless from Gladys, and BC Hydro’s answer – and plans – to the thorny question of where the homeless are suppose to relocate to.

 

 

Appendix 1

BC Hydro Board of Directors: 

Stephen Bellringer, Chair of the board

Bill Adsit

W.J. Brad Bennett, O.B.C.

Larry Blain

James M. Brown

James P. Hatton, Q.C.

John Knappett

Tracey L. McVicar

Janine North, ICD.D

John Ritchie

Jack Weisgerber

Apples and Apples OR Oranges?

That is the Question that I asked myself after I finished reading Let Minor Sports Use Abbotsford Centre.

Now I know that people after reading the opening sentence may well be thinking ‘He’s lost it’ if they know or read me and that anyone reading my writing for the first time is going ‘Huh?’ how can comparing an arena to an arena not be comparing apples to apples? Especially if they have stood in both the Abbotsford rink and the Langley rink and know how very similar the rinks are.

Disclosure:

When the Abbotsford Centre was originally completed and city council was scrambling desperately because they had built this $100,000,000.00 facility and had no tenant lined up to play there I called for council not to let their egos have them paying any price to save face by getting a hockey team to play in their Great White – Empty – Elephant and to save the Abbotsford’s taxpayers $3,000,000.00 a year by leaving the facility closed until they had a sound business plan.[Here we go again – Rush, Rush, Rush,  Not another costly ‘profit’,   Abbotsford’s $expensive$ AHL pipedream ]

Since the Heat have left town I want to know why council renegotiated Global Spectrums contract for the Centre rather that mothballing the Centre, an action that would save taxpayers $3,000,000.00 per year. At least until such time as council finely came up with a viable business plan.

The fact is that in several ways comparing the Langley arena to the Abbotsford arena is comparing an apple and an orange.

Consider this chart:

One of the things that always leaves me shaking my head sadly is that once you have stood inside both Arenas and experience the extent to which both arenas are the same, it boggles the mind that the taxpayers of the Abbotsford paid 667% more than Langley’s taxpayers paid.

Given that Abbotsford City Council always makes excuses and never accepts responsibility for the consequences of their errors in judgement it is no surprise Council has refused to explain to taxpayers how it is that Abbotsford’s taxpayers paid 667% more than Langley’s taxpayers did, for what is effectively the same arena.

It is even more mind boggling that for some unfathomable reason, Abbotsford taxpayers, in light of the fact they have re-elected those responsible and never question the WHY of paying 667% more [6.67 times as much], seemed to be comfortable with and accepting of the fact they, as Abbotsford taxpayers, paid 667% more for the same arena, than did Langley’s taxpayers.

I find that acceptance unfathomable because the only reason for the difference – the vast difference – in the cost to taxpayers between Abbotsford and Langley is the decisions, actions and competence of the two councils.

During the fiscal year Abbotsford pays $6,696,000.00 [7,884,000.00 – 1,188,000.00] more then Langley for their arena.

So, even if you assume that Langley’s arena is as badly managed as the Abbotsford Centre is and thus runs the same yearly operating deficit of $3,000,000.00 as the Abbotsford Centre does, the $6,696,000.00 less per year for construction and interest costs paid by Langley and its taxpayers, gives Langley significantly more flexibility, affordability, when it comes to paying for an annual subsidy of $3,000,000.00.

I think it highly unlikely that Langley’s arena is as badly managed as Abbotsford’s arena for several reasons.

First is that over the past decade plus Abbotsford’s council has time after time demonstrated a lack of basic financial and management sensibilities or abilities. Every time that council has promised a profit or savings or senior government grants, the reality has turned out to be losses/operating subsidies or large cost over runs or Zip, Nada, Nothing from the senior levels of government – because Abbotsford council failed to handle the grant request properly. So while Langley’s council may not have demonstrated masterful financial, business or management skills…… they have demonstrated their ability not to ‘screw up’ financial, business or management as Abbotsford’s council has repeatedly done over the past decade plus.

Second is the fact that the Langley Chiefs were partners with Langley in building the arena – after Abbotsford’s council turned down the Chief’s offer to partner with the City of Abbotsford to build a new arena for the Chief’s to move into and play out of. Langley benefits from the Chief’s experience with the arena in Chilliwack. More importantly Langley has a stable, profitable franchise as their anchor tenant.

The final cost consideration that needs to be consider, another significant negative financial factor for Abbotsford is that Abbotsford’s council has been playing….fast and loose shall we say….with the DCC [Development Cost Charges] funds, using the funds to avoid the large tax raises that were required to pay for council’s profligate, spending.

Actually, not avoid having to have large tax raises but to push the large tax raises into the future in hopes of……an economic miracle that would allow council to avoid or further delay having to crank taxes by double [10% or more] digits?

There has been no economic miracle and Abbotsford’s taxpayers are on the hook to pay back the money used to keep tax increases artificially low. Since the DCC funds are to be spent on infrastructure, not operating the City, Abbotsford’s taxpayers are facing large tax increases, deep cuts to city services or some combination of tax increases and service cuts to repay the DCC funds.

It may well turn out that Abbotsford’s civic government either saves $3,000,000.00 by mothballing the arena OR cuts $3,000,000.00 from other parts of its operating budget or raises taxes by $3,000,000.00.

No matter how similar the Abbotsford and Langley arenas may be in structure, when it comes to the financial realities of each building, the buildings are as different as a luxury penthouse condo and one of Abbotsford’s many [thanks council] homeless camps.

There are also significant differences between two Centres structure and infrastructure.

Langley’s arena is part of a complex that has outdoor sports field, indoor basketball courts, meeting rooms etc. Abbotsford’s arena is squeezed onto a piece of property that only has room for the arena itself..

The Langley complex is surrounded by acres of parking – free parking.

From the day the site of the Abbotsford Centre was proposed parking has been an issue, a nonexistent nightmare.

Why would any local sports team, teams that depend on parents and their participation, want to use the Abbotsford Centre and tell parents: you can park free at a mall and transport yourselves and all the hockey equipment to the arena by bus, reversing the process [bus to shopping centre parking lot] in order to leave; there is paid parking available for only $1 for every 2 hours. Of course the parking is a long or longer distance to be hauling hockey gear so you might want to consider dropping your hockey players off before looking for parking; parking times are strictly enforced and fines for violations are not cheap; there is free parking available if you can handle the 2 – 3 [or longer] kilometre walk to the arena.

Finally, importantly, there is also the fact that there was no need for another ice surface in Abbotsford. The ice surface at the Abbotsford Centre was constructed not to meet a community need or demand for more ice but to meet the needs of mayor and councillors egos.

Enticing teams to use the ice surface at the Abbotsford Centre simply reduces the use, the revenue, at other city rinks – at the cost to taxpayers of $3,000,000.00 a year.

Oh, BLEEP!  An idea that will cost, waste $3,000,000.00 of taxpayers hard earned dollars? Just the types of idea Abbotsford’s mayors and councillors have shown they love.

Suing Ensuing

To sue Shaw or not to sue Shaw that is the question…….although, admittedly, at this point the question is rather moot.

The discussion about homelessness and housing that resulted from the ACS housing proposal, made it clear that citizens do not appreciate how many barriers exist for anyone trying to move off the streets and into housing and  just how difficult it is overcome those barriers.

It is also clear that there is no understanding of just how hard it is to remain housed once one succeeds in finding housing. Especially if one lives on a fixed or low income where your budget has your money spent before you ever get it, months in advance.

Where an unexpected and unavoidable expense presents, at best, a severe financial challenge or begins the death spiral down into homelessness on the streets of Abbotsford once more.

A budget were all monies received are committed to covering expenses such as rent, insurance, phone etcetera; a budget without any ability to set aside some money for emergencies; an emergency that requires you to spend money means something, or several some things, does not get paid.

Which pushes you out onto the slippery slope that leads back to the streets and homelessness; a slide I have witnessed many suffer. It is a prospect, a threat, you are forced to live and deal with; a prospect that weighs on your mind and grinds away at you; a prospect that, even if you manage you finances with skill, puts you through periods of economic strain, poverty and mental stress and distress.

A major automobile expense ripples through my finances with all the subtlety of a tsunami. Couple that with one of the twice a year financial landmines of severely reduced cash flow caused by the interaction of bi-weekly pay periods and monthly payments  and you are staring down the double barrels of increased arrears and homelessness.

The money, robbed from money budgeted to pay the Shaw bill, to pay the automotive expense leaves you scrambling to squeeze money from anywhere in your budget you can to keep internet access.

The severe reduction of cash flow from one of the twice a year landmines means there is no extra cash to be found to appease Shaw and one is faced with the reality that service charges of $85 out of a budget of $100, means you are only going to sink deeper into a financial quagmire and it is time to stop digging.

The introductory low rate of $30 available if you switch service providers permits you to not only pay off what you owe, but will present an opportunity for fiscal wiggle room.

Budget less reduced rate [$100 – $30 = $70] leaves money to catch up, to pay off the amount owing..

So to Shaw’s on-line chat, where you find out you must phone in if you want to disconnect your Shaw service – giving Shaw an opportunity to retain you as a customer. So it is off to the mall to locate a pay phone [car repairs and the looming financial crunch of a month of reduced cash flow have resulted in the loss of phone service – the internet being judged a more vital connection] and speak with Shaw’s customer retention people.

Where I was offered a package that would result in a lower cost, a cost that would let me pay off the balance owing without changing providers and, as the package rate was to be ongoing, it would provide future financial wiggle room and/or the opportunity to add a specialty channel package (Space, BBC).

Even better, the package included phone service.

Unfortunately I would need to pay for connection etc so I would have to do without a phone a while longer. The agent asked me to hold while checking to see if they could include the phone connection.

YES! A day and time [6 – 8 PM on the day of the homeless count]  was arranged for the phone to be hooked up and a number chosen.

With phone included in the cost the budgeted phone cost could pay off the amount owed and allow for setting aside some money each month so the next emergency would not automatically threaten a return to homelessness.

I went to bed that night with……well, dreams of sugarplums dancing in my head and a profound feeling of relief.

The next day I go to use the internet and there is no internet. After nearly an hour online at the Library to access Shaw’s chat I find out that Shaw has decided to renege on the agreement I reached with their representative and am directed once more to phone Shaw’s customer – so called – service.

Where it takes about an hour for Shaw to confirm ‘No Deal For You’ and give me [figuratively] the bums rush out the door – don’t let the door hit you in the ass.

No mention or suggestion of working something out so I could keep Shaw as my service provider. Just a threat about the account being sent to a collection agency if it was not paid off in a month and a transfer to Accounts Receivable where a reasonable person said they would make a note on the account after I explained about tight cash flow and set out what I could budget to pay the balance off over the next three months.

24 hours. Talk about a mood swing, about triggering depression, anxiety, panic, catastrophizing…..

Not only was I left with major challenges to my mental wellness to clean up – I was left Vexed and Vexed I remain.

Being vexed is what had me requesting, just before i was threatened with a collection agency and drop kicked to Accounts Receivable, for a name and address to send a letter outlining what had happened and my thoughts on the matter; a request that was met with direction to the link on the Shaw website to send an email.

I did not ask about emailing, I asked about an address for a letter as this is not a matter that you send off an email about; it is a matter that demands a written letter sent via Post.

Fortunately years as an accountant, in business and management have made me familiar and comfortable with forms. So I have no problem stopping by the courthouse to pick up the documentation to file a claim to sue Shaw in small claims court.

I did as I was instructed, phoning and speaking with an authorized agent of Shaw who made me an offer which I accepted. Offer + Acceptance = Contract.

As customers Shaw does not permit us to say: sorry this is not a deal that should have been made. Try this and they will take every penny out of your hide if necessary

I may not know where or to whom to send a letter about this matter, but I rather expect that I will find serving Shaw with the papers for a small claims court action far more satisfying than a letter – and far more conducive to my mental wellness.