Category Archives: rant

Canadian Federal Election 2015 – Who to vote for.

Tomorrow is election day here in Canada!  This would not be much of current events site if the election passed and no endorsements had been given out.  Today we decide which party is the least bad choice to run Canada for the next four years.

Process:

I am now going to review the work of the Conservatives over the last 10 years or so focusing on their time with a majority. I will then read through the platforms of the two other major parties and write my thoughts as they come. Finally, I will post this with no real editing as there is very little time left today and this is already going to be a long process.  Please forgive the inevitable errors in the below text.

Incumbent: Conservative Party of Canada  cpoc-logo

Here is their platform.

The thing about being the incumbent, especially when you have been in power for 10 years, is that any promises of spending or big projects ring hollow.  If there has been no movement toward a program in the last 10 years why should we believe that anything will change if you are re-elected.

It is also important to understand that the incumbent will be the easiest to criticize because they have time in power to judge rather than just a set of goals and plans.

The Good

Cutting the GST by 2% – This one was a monster. In 2006 the Conservatives knocked 2% off the GST(now harmonized to HST in many provinces). Every point of GST adds an estimated $7-9 billion to the government coffers.  GST was a regressive tax, meaning it had a larger effect on lower income earners.

It was the Mulroney Conservatives that introduced the GST during a recession.  Inflation went to 7%, unemployment to 12% and the conservative party was almost entirely destroyed – they held on to 2 seats. Liberals ran on a platform that included killing the GST but after winning the election, kept it in place.

Tax Free Savings Accounts – People often overlook how big a deal the TFSA was when introduced. Originally $5,000 a year, now $10,000.  Allows an easy savings alternative to Canadians without all the tax headaches of RRSPs.  Money invested with your TFSA gains interest tax free and you can take it out during retirement tax free.  A properly conservative concept implemented perfectly.

Financial Crisis – The other parties have talked a lot about our deficits but the Conservatives did exactly what you were supposed to do in tough economic times as a government.  They were spending. There are dozens of countries that followed the “tighten your belt” mantra with terrible outcomes.  Governments are not households. This was exactly the right move and Canada did well during the aftermath of the 2008 crash as a result.

Overall Tax LevelsFrom the Parliamentary Budget Office who everyone accuses Harper of hating:

In total, cumulative changes have reduced federal tax revenue by $30 billion, or 12 per cent. These changes have been progressive, overall. Low- and middle-income earners have benefited more, in relative terms, than higher income earners.”

 The Bad

Balanced budget obsession –  The conservatives hung their hat on a commitment to  balance the budget. They did everything they had to including asset sales to bring in a balanced budget on time. Again, governments are not households.  They can run deficits for longer periods of time without as much worry. With borrowing rates at historic lows their obsession over a balanced budget seems more like good politics than good governance.

Insisting we are not in a recession when we are. Everyone except Joe Oliver knows that we had two quarters of what the economists like to call negative growth. Non-economists sometimes call this shrinking.

Icebreakers – In 2005 the conservatives promised that if they were elected they would purchase 3 heavy icebreakers so that Canada military and science teams could operate effectively in the Arctic.  In 2007 that dropped to 6-8 patrol boats and 1 ice breaker.  To date we have 0 new icebreakers. Currently our largest icebreaker is about 60 years old.

Mapping the sea floor in the arctic is important because those maps are used in international resource agreements.  If there are resources in the arctic we need those maps to stake a claim.  Even if you are against Arctic resource extraction you would have to agree that it is better for Canada to have those rights rather than Russia.

Painting everything in black and white – The conservative party thinks people are apathetic (they are right) and dumb (they are wrong) so they like to present their ideas in a black and white terms. When suggestions are made that nuance exists in an argument, they are dismissed.

“can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.” – Vic Toews, Public Safety Minister talking about a bill that would require telecom companies to give up identifying information on clients if asked by the police.

Tough on Crime – Mandatory minimum sentences are a terrible idea.  In 2004 the Conservatives ran an ad that said Paul Martin was not tough enough on crime and so he supported child pornagraphers.

G20 Summit – A billion dollars.  Fake lakes, gazebos, illegal arrests, police brutality.

Killing the Long Form Census – A terrible idea.  At the time Tony Clement (Industry Minister) stated this action was backed by StatsCan.  The head of StatsCan resigned in protest.

C51 – Broadly worded, poorly thought out, dangerous legislation.

Not answering questions in question period – This is more a problem with our entire political system but it is the conservatives that take advantage of the fact that there is nothing that actually forces you to answer questions in the House of Commons. You can just simply say whatever you want.   

Only watch that video if you want to get angry about how useless the question period actually is. All that heckling,yelling and stomping makes them all look like a bunch of idiot children.

Mike Duffy – “My friends knew about the bribe,  my senior advisors knew about the bribe, they all talked about me knowing about the bribe but I had no idea.” – Stephen Harper (not a real quotation)

Omnibus Bills – How do you get through legislation that no one wants?  Attach it to a budget!  That way if the opposition parties vote it down it was THEM that called the election, not you.  Shitty governance and smart but shitty politics.

Climate – Canada needs to do more here.  The conservatives didn’t have to come right out and say that climate change is real because I know they love their oil patches but they could have at least not been totally against the thought of looking into it.

 Neutral 

F35 Program – Love them or hate them Canada needs new fighters if we want to play at the international level.  Here is the post in support of the program during the 2011 election but since the process has been shrouded in secrecy and lies it goes into the neutral pile.

Canadian Wheat Board AbolitionJury is still out on this one. Read my 2012 post about it. 

Trans Pacific Partnership – We do not have the full text of this deal yet.  This is a massive international trade agreement.  It goes ahead with or without Canada so it is important that we had a seat at the table.  The secrecy around this whole process is very concerning.

Income Splitting – This does nothing for me but if you are a married couple and one partner makes a lot more than the other then I guess you will like this.

 The Challengers 

It is much more difficult to do this list on the challengers. I will use their platforms as the basis for the lists but anything they have said is fair game. Platforms are tough because lots of the ideas are nice to think about but they are often paid for by “closing loopholes” or some other vague notion of revenue generation.  If there is a change of governing expect a 1.5 month delay between the when they take power and the announcement of Oh the other guys left it way worse than we thought it was. And that is the queue to start reneging on election promises.

Since there are always things like more jobs! Kickstart the economy! Better Healthcare! in all of the platforms we will try to stick with ideas that are unique to a party.

 

Challenger #1: New Democratic Party (NDP) ndp_logo

Here is their platform.

Riding a wave of Anti-Bloc Quebecois sentiment during the last election the NDP managed to become the official opposition. This surprised everyone, even the NDP.  This time they believe they can win. Let’s take a look at their platform.

The Good 

Youth Unemployment – “Create 40,000 jobs and co-op placements and internships for youth.”  Youth unemployment is north of 10% so this is a good idea.  Although if a government could just create 40,000 jobs out of nowhere I assume they would have tried by now.  Also, why not just create more jobs all around? This squeaks into the good pile.

5 extra weeks of parental Leave – New parents get 9 months right now, what’s another 5 weeks?

Small Business Tax – Cutting from 11% to 9%.  Very un-NDP of them.  A good idea.

Repealing Bill C-51 – Good idea. Something needs to be created to replace it but this is not good legislation.

Simplify access to government export services – This is rather vague but it is a good idea.

Reinvesting in the Canadian Space Agency – Great idea.

Introduce Green Bonds – Surprised I had not heard of this until now.  This is a good idea.  It sounds like private venture capital going into green projects.

Phasing out interest on all federal student loans – A good idea but it could be argued that with lower (no) interest rates people would qualify for more funds on their loans which universities will realize and raise their tuition rates.  Why not introduce education bonds?  People can buy bonds at low interest rates that fund student loans. No federal government needed.

Bill C-475 – Although I think it is corporate suicide these days to try to cover up a data breach this law would make it illegal as well.

Office of the Parliamentary Science Officer – A new position to “to ensure that parliamentarians have the best possible access to science-based analysis.”  Sounds good.

The Bad 

Restoring Home Mail Delivery –  Bad idea.  Many communities have been using super boxes for years.  If they do bring it back maybe they can reduce the number of delivery days so you get all your crappy fliers on just Tuesday and Fridays.

Returning the retirement age from 67 to 65 – People are living much longer, a two year increase makes sense.

TPP – NDP is against the TPP in its current form.  Although they have not read it.  Canada has to be a part of it. This is straight up pandering to their union supporters.  There is no doubt the NDP would be fiercely protectionist in any trade deal.  Protectionism rarely works.

Directing the CRTC to crack down on excessive cell phone roaming charges –  this is a really good campaign idea in 2007.

Bank Fees – “Cracking down on excessive ATM fees and ensuring Canadians can access a low-interest credit card.”  Hard to be against this. Wording is strange here though.  “a low-interest credit card”?  Just one? Like a government credit card company?  why not “access to low-interest credit cards”?  Having read further it appears they will make sure there are “no frills” credit cards with prime +5% interest rates available.  Not sure what the market for these looks like. People that have good enough credit for a prime+5% credit card would probably just use a line of credit.  Also why 5%?  Why not 4 or 6?

Further in the details they have a graph that shows household debt and how horrible it is. So they want to give people low interest credit cards to help with excessive debt?  This just got bumped to bad idea.

TFSA Rollback – They will reverse the increase from $5k to $10k a year on the TFSA.  Yes, it likely benefits the rich the most but it is still the best way for any Canadian to save for retirement.

Using the US as a measure for corporate tax rates – Most of the big corporations have billions of dollars in offshore companies in Ireland or other low tax jurisdictions because the taxes are so high in the US.  Saying we will raise taxes because we would  still be below the US is nonsensical argument.

Immediately moving to restore the long-form census – No brainer.

General Spending – Hard to separate out the billion and billion of dollars that they have listed in this document.  There is no way they could implement all of this and still go after their promised balanced budget.  More healthcare, more military, more schools, cheaper school,  more infrastructure, more money for women’s right, more funds for aboriginals, more foreign aid. Something will have to give. With all this new spending here are the projections for debt to GDP ratio under an NDP.

ndp fiscal plan

 Neutral 

$15 a day child care – Child care is expensive.  It is a massive burden on families that want to continue to have both parents work full-time. This is a good idea but it is expensive.  It would probably go into the good category as idea on its own but people without kids subsidize people that do so it gets a neutral.

$15 Federal Minimum Wage – A good idea but it gets bumped to neutral because of their dishonest representation of it.  They are fully allowing people to think it will be an across the board $15 minimum wage but it only applies to federal workers.   Real minimum wages are implemented by the provinces.

2,500 new police officers – They specifically mention the RCMP.  The RCMP is already having problems getting quality candidates.  They have thousands of open slots they are trying to fill, adding 2,500 more won’t help anything.  I like the sentiment though so Neutral.

Review the F35They claim that they will review the process but I think that once they get into it they will realize this is the only option.  It would be a mistake start a whole new procurement process.

Challenger #2: Liberal PartyLibLogo

Here is their Platform

After losing power and then failing to maintain its position even as the official opposition the Liberal party thinks they have a shot at a majority with their new leader.

 The Good 

Tax Cuts – People making between $44,700 and $89,401 a year will get a 1.5% tax cut.

Jobs for young people – Sure.  Same as the NDP. Whatever trick they do to create these jobs they should definitely try the same trick for non-young people.

Removing all GST on new capital investments in affordable rental housing – Had not heard of this one until now.  This is a sensible approach. Incentivize the market, don’t direct it.

Immediately restore the mandatory long-form census – No brainer.

Infrastructure Spending – The announcement of a massive increase in infrastructure spending by the Liberals and an acknowledgement of their planned deficits was a turning point in the election.  It was the first major differentiator between the NDP and Liberals.   Good idea.

Infrastructure Bank – Along the same theme as the previous point obviously.  This is a good idea.  Maybe my city can fix some extra potholes with some low cost loans.

Flexible parental benefits – Allow parents to take parental leave in smaller chunks rather than all at once.  Good idea.

Eliminate the First past the post system – Great idea. My post on it here.  This one will be tricky but worth doing.  It is also in the best interest of the Liberals and NDP as it would eliminate the split vote problem they have when battling a united political right.

Reform the House Had not heard of this one until now.  It is a great idea.

  •  A question period directly for the Prime Minister and accountability to actually answer questions.
  • Free votes in the Liberal caucus outside of election promises and confidence votes. This one could be abused when they warp was is and is not an election promise.
  •    No more omnibus bills.

Chief Science Officer – Like the NDP, this is a good idea.

Marijuana – Legalize it, regulate it, tax it.  Money to be made on taxes. Money to be saved on law enforcement and jails.  This should have been done years ago.

 The Bad 

Tax IncreasePeople making over $200,000 will pay an extra 4%. The effective marginal tax rate on someone making $200,000 is currently 47.97%.  With this increase it will be 51.97%.  So for every dollar this person makes over $200,00 they keep 48 cents.  Not sure that works to “bring back fairness

Returning the retirement age from 67 to 65 – Like the NDP. People are living much longer, a two year increase makes sense.

General Spending – Similar to the NDP.  More education, more jobs, less poverty, more money for mental health, transit, etc, etc.  Just more money all around.  Not well costed although the weed tax could be a new revenue source.

Tax Benefit for Teachers for School Supplies – Terrible idea.  You are subsidizing individual purchases of school supplies where massive volume discounts could be taken advantage of.  This is essentially giving a free pass to inefficient school boards that don’t buy enough school supplies. If you want more supplies in schools, give the money to the schools.

This is also the perfect program for fraud.  Teachers are the group that claim that they need to have their sick days paid out because otherwise all the teachers would fake being sick to get the days off.  There is no doubt in my mind that teachers would use this tax credit inappropriately.  AND it’s a refundable credit. Do I need a new category for extra bad idea?

Save home mail delivery – Same as the NDP. I don’t want to pay millions of dollars for government workers to deliver flyers and junk mail daily. Bad idea.

F-35 – My post from 2011 on F35s here. The Liberals must have short memories.  When they came to power after Mulroney they kept an election promise to cancel the purchase of new helicopters to replace our aging fleet of Sea Kings.  The cancellation cost $500 million dollars in 1993.  Equivalent to about $740 million now.  They said they would get a better deal somewhere else with an bid process.  Sound familiar?  We still don’t have replacement helicopters.  Canceling these jets would be a mistake.  This one alone is almost a show stopper for me because the Liberals should know better.

One more thing. This case is a bit different because we have not yet committed to buy any F-35s, we simply agreed to pay for some of the development.  This means that we should not see any massive cancellation fees. The strange part  is that the new “open bid” process will not include the F35 as a possible candidate. It makes no sense.

Neutral 

Income Splitting – Liberals will repeal this. Again, this does nothing for me but if you are a married couple and one partner makes a lot more than the other then you will not like this change. The difference from the NDP here is that they will not end this program for seniors.

Increase the maximum Canada Student Grant – This is for low income families.  an extra $3k a year in grants, not loans.  This is a good idea but does not solve the larger issue of the cost of education so it gets neutral.

Carbon Market – This is a dangerous one.  Yes it is good that we put a price on carbon. The main problem arises if we are the only ones that do it.  Then all of our industries are paying extra and we lose our competitiveness internationally.  Neutral.  If we go to the Paris climate talks with a good plan and everyone else agrees then we can safely move this to a good idea.

C-51 – Supported Harper on bill C-51 but now says that he will repeal the worst parts of it. We shall see.

 Conclusion and Endorsement: 

In Canada we don’t vote for a Leader, we vote for a local party member but really we are voting for a party.  However, the elections races always focus so heavily on the leaders it is hard to put it out of our mind.  Am I choosing between Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau or Conservative, NDP and Liberal?  This year I have to believe I am voting for a party because none of the leaders appeal to me.

The Conservative party has lost it’s  way.  They are not even clear what their objectives are anymore. People want fiscal conservatism not social cynicism.  They lie, cheat and steal but worse they wreck Canada’s image abroad.  Historic lows on foreign aid, sabotaging climate talks and cold relations with our closest allies.

They also made a massive political error not following the Liberals’ move to the left during this election. The Liberals were so far left all the Conservatives had to do was move to the middle and they could have held on.  Conservatives are out.

To steal a line from the Joker, I think if the NDP got a majority they wouldn’t know what to do with it. Their platform is not solid.  Their tendency toward protectionism is economic suicide. I just don’t see how they can spend everything they have planned.  Also, I don’t trust them to keep costs low in the long run.  I think they will buckle under union pressure; both public sector and manufacturing leading to increased fixed costs and hurt our international competitiveness.  NDP is out.

So this has been a long day of reading and comparing. I now find myself rocking back and forth in my chair repeating to myself that I vote for parties, not leaders.  I think Justin Trudeau was the right person to add a little energy to a stagnant party but I don’t think he was the right choice to lead a ruling party.

When I watch the debates I can’t stand his breathless speaking style.  They have coached him so much that he can barely speak. His canned responses come so rapid fire that he can barely finish one before he moves to the next.

I cannot picture him sitting across a table from Vladimir Putin.

Here is a clip of him telling Peter Kent he is a piece of shit in the House of Commons.

Here is a clip of him throwing himself down a set of stairs, as a gag.

Both of these clips were when he had his terrible mustache which he no longer has. So there’s that.  I am the last person to say that a person need be historically perfect to run for office but that first clip is IN the house of commons. Not exactly a crazy night out with university buddies.

My hope is that the team he had around him will force him to grow into a proper leader with a distinct personality.  My fear is that he will regress to leftist populism and run this country into the ground like Wynne in Ontario.

So based on the promises of House of Commons reform, infrastructure spending, legalizing weed, and eliminating the first-past the post system it is with a heavy heart that I give the official Webernet endorsement to the Liberal Party.

Open Letter to Rogers with My Review of Their Ignite 250u Package.

All Updates will appear at the bottom as they happen.

Hello Rogers,

It has been awhile since I have been a Rogers internet customer.  I remember the terrible customer service on all levels and the inability of any single Rogers employee to resolve an issue on their own. I saw your new internet packages and thought I would switch back from Bell to get the 250u Ignite deal.

After this new experience with your install process I can say that you have taken the period of me being a Bell customer and used that time to truly perfect the art of terrible customer service.

Wednesday March 18th

Technician 1 arrives, plugs the modem into the wall, attaches the coax cable and I ask if this unit has the AC wifi and he says “this one does it all”.  So I specifically ask if it is the top model and he then says no and that this one was just as good.  He then runs out the door before the modem is even booted up.  Modem is the N model.

I run a speed test.  90 down 10 up.  Not the correct speed. So I call into technical support to see what is wrong.

Technician says my connection works fine. He claims the reason that the speed is slow is because the work order on my install has not been completed.  He says he needs to transfer me.  I questions why it would run at half speed in that case. He transfers me to customer service.

I speak with customer service.  She tells me that the work order is complete and after checking a few things and obviously not knowing how to fix the issue says that I need to wait 30 mins after plugging a modem into the wall for it to get to full speed.  I questions why it would need 30 mins to increase the speed and she says to wait 30 minutes and then to call back if it’s not up to speed.  An obvious punt but I am not going to argue because she obviously can’t fix the issue.

I wait the 30 mins, just in case she wasn’t punting me and call into Technical support again.  This technician tells me that there are various types of cat5e cables and that I need to swap out the cable. I correct him by saying that there is only one cat5e and maybe he is confusing cat5e and cat5 but that my cable is in fact cat5e, as required. This obviously goes nowhere and I realize I sound like a jerk even arguing this point and I swap the cable.  No change in the results.  Meanwhile he is insisting that my speed is supposed to be 250/10 and I said that the package is 250/20.  We go back and forth a few times but I know it is going nowhere so I give up.

Time:  73 minutes (not including time technician was at my place since he left so quickly)

 

Thursday March 19th

A tech is scheduled to come to my place again today to look at the lines.  He arrives with his test gear and a laptop and this is good because the first tech had neither of those things.

He tests with his laptop and his special line tester.  Cable looks good. Signal looks good.  Still at 90/10.

Swaps out the modem. Still 90/10

He calls his support line.  They confirm I am on the right package and that there is nothing wrong on their end.

Technician tells me there is nothing wrong with the lines and nothing wrong in the computer and there is nothing else to be done.  He calls his supervisor who tells him to plug the modem power into the wall instead of my power bar.  Same result

He tells me that whenever Rogers releases a new service it is glitchy and that if I just wait awhile then the speed should eventually come up.  Couple of weeks should do it. I mention that the 250 service has been around for months and it is just the Ignite name that is new. He leaves.

I call into technical support.  I tell him everything that has been done to troubleshoot.  They run through all the steps again.  He repeatedly claims I should only have 250/10 and I tell him the package is 250/20 but that it doesn’t matter because I am getting 90/10.  After a while he determines that yes he is going to escalate the issue.  He claims I should get a call in 24-48 hours from a technician.  That is where I am now.

Time: 17 mins + 30-40mins for technician visit. 

As you can see, this would appear to be a perfectly coordinated effort to screw with me and yet I know it isn’t   You have it set up so that each employee can only do one thing and in some cases, they don’t even know how to do it.  I am not going to threaten to cancel because I want the 250 speed and no one else offers it.  I really did expect the bad customer service because I know that you can never call Rogers just once. Anytime you call Rogers for anything you must call at least twice because your agents will screw something up the first time.  I fully expect to have to call back in after the connection speed is fixed to fix my bill.

The best part of this is that you are charging me for this service.  Install and activation fee? Yes please!  I am considering sending you a cheque for $1000 to come to my place and kick me in the balls but we’ll have to conclude this transaction first.

In summary, I expected bad service.  The bad service coupled with the agents that cannot or simply refuse to attempt to resolve the issue was a surprise. You have truly shown the world how being the only game is town allows you to not give a shit about your customer service.  Impressive.

 

Saturday March 21st

Rogers attempted to help through twitter yesterday.

rogers_twitter

The image is poorly shopped to fit all the messages.  I only cut out my my phone number.

So yes you were so concerned about my tweet that you wanted to know the problem.  Although you didn’t read the tweet because it has all the details (this post).

I did get a call while I was in a meeting at work yesterday.  Perhaps it was a Rogers rep?  No message was left and no one called back.

It is now Saturday at 9 am. Current status:

rogersspeed_mar20

I expect that anyone that can fix this issue is probably off for the weekend.

Sunday March 22nd

I received a tweet from RogersHelps yesterday telling me that someone had left me a voice mail on Friday. To check I actually dialed into my voice mail box which I had not done in a year or two.  Normally any voice mails I gets are sent to me as text with an audio clip attached.  When I remembered my password and logged into my mail box there was a message from the “Office of the President” (OP) there.  So the reason I didn’t get the voice mail was because my Rogers  voice mail service didn’t work properly which I found pretty funny.   I called them back and spoke with someone there.  They agreed that, so far, I had not received good service.  They informed me that they would look into the issue and call me back but that a technician would need to be sent out.

They claimed that this time they were going to send a senior technician.  I told them that the second technician that had arrived claimed to be a senior technician.  The rep was surprised by this.

The rep from the OP then said that I should be getting the speeds that I pay for at 250/10.  I mentioned to her that everyone there keeps saying that it is 250/10 so it must be in their system somewhere written like that but the service is actually 250/20 on their website.  I suggested that either the website was incorrect or their internal systems were.  She said she agreed that one was wrong and that she would look into it.  Rogers.com website, for the record:

rogersspeeds

This morning I got a call at 9 am that sounded at first like a telemarketer because the line was silent for 5-10 seconds before the robot voice came on.  It informed me that Rogers appreciates my patience and that they are still looking into my issue.  Rogers robocall! First time I have had one of those.

 

Monday March 23rd

I got another robocall from Rogers today.  In its half automated half bored human voice it told me that my issues have all been resolved.  It also gave me Rogers’ full mailing address in case I wanted to contact them. Maybe it didn’t trust that my internet or phone would be working.   At home I tested what the robot told me.

rogersspeed_mar23

Turns out the robot lied to me.  Nothing has changed.  The hilarious part is that I don’t even have to make things up to make Rogers look bad.  I just need to keep documenting the normal customer service.

I have not yet received a callback from the Office of the President.

Tuesday March 24th

I heard nothing from Rogers today.  I called back into the Office of the President at around 4:05 pm.  They close at 4 pm.  I left a voice mail.

I suppose I could have called back into your tech support but I didn’t feel like spending another hour on the phone power cycling my modem.

My speed is still 90/10.

Wednesday March 25th

I called into the OP today and they said they did not have a technician appointment for me yet but they were looking into it and that they would call me back.  Rogers is going to send an in-house technician rather than a contractor and hopefully they can find some answers.  All possible remote tests have been performed and no problems have been found.  I should hear back from the OP tomorrow with my appointment date.

I have also been told that my first month of service is going to be free.

Thursday March 26th

Today I have some average news and some good news.

The average news is today Rogers called me 6 times and threw a lot of excuses at me. Got my hands on some audio recordings.  Since I am lazy, here you go!

I cut out silences and names.

So now the good news.  Speed test when I got home was similar but I then ran another test at about 10:30 pm and…

rogers_speedWow, they really fixed the hell out of the download speed!  Upload is still a bit low but I am fine with that for now. I called and left a voice mail for the OP to cancel the technician.

To be clear, everyone I dealt with was polite and I can’t really fault them.  In most of the cases if they didn’t know something it was because they were never trained on/told it.  I do wish they would refrain from making things up when something doesn’t work out.

Final Review 

When that speed test finally hit 250 and then jumped up past it I was pretty happy.  I have tested some downloads out on the Steam network and the transfer speeds I am getting are unreal. Yes, it was kind of a pain to get the service up and running but I had a connection the whole time; it wasn’t like I was without internet. I recommend you get this service if you like to download things stupid fast.

 

TL;DR Of Whole Post

Rogers Ignite 250u is crazy fucking fast.  Get it.

Update:  I ended having so many problems with Rogers customer service that I tried to switch to the slower Bell service but their customer service was brutal. Their internet connections are fine but their customer service is beyond bad.  I have settled on a smaller company that leases lines from Rogers.  In a way Rogers is still getting my money but at least they get less of it.

Regarding the Bank of Canada Interest Rate Decrease

Stephen Poloz and the Bank of Canada shocked markets this week by dropping the target overnight rate by 0.25%.  In my previous post I spoke about all the reasons that the BoC would likely be raising the rate at some point this year; you can go back and read that if you like.  This is a long post so you might want to go get a beer before you start reading.

Bank of Canada’s Policy Shift and Stephen Poloz
Before we get into the effect this is going to have we should say that on page one, paragraph one of the “How to be a Central Banker” handbook it says do not shock the market.  Mark Carney made a habit of being boring and predictable and everyone praised him for it.  They liked it so much they drafted him into the big leagues at the Bank of England.  Avoiding this shock alone was a good enough reason to delay this rate change.

Forward guidance is the term used for when a central bank indicates ahead of time what it is likely to do in the near future and in the long term.  It helps markets decide what they are going to do in response.  Calm, collected responses.  When the US Fed says it will not change rates until unemployment is below X%, that is forward guidance.  Poloz has said that risk assessment is the new way forward for the BoC.  Yes, forward guidance has worked well for us in the recent past but now we are going to try something new.  In October he might have dropped a hint that most people (including myself) missed.

Some of you may be wondering why we aren’t being more specific about the likely future stance of monetary policy. Let me answer by saying that forward guidance remains a key element of the policy tool kit – but one that we will reserve for times when we believe there are net benefits to its use. There will no doubt come a day when we will offer forward guidance again – but not this day.

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But more importantly he said this in September.

We have begun putting our growth and inflation forecasts in the form of ranges rather than points, and have given even more prominence to uncertainty and risks in the Monetary Policy Report. We have refined our analysis of financial stability risks and raised the profile of our Financial System Review. And, we have begun to offer a more fulsome description of how those risks are entering our policy deliberations. These changes have brought more transparency to policy decision making, and our policy narrative has shifted from one traditionally seen almost as “mechanical engineering” to one now characterized as “risk management.”

Why is that important?  Well with the rate changes today it indicates that possible or perceived risk is now the most important  thing when the BoC makes policy decisions.   In this week’s announcement press conference Poloz said this.

Accordingly, we decided that it was appropriate to take out some insurance against that downside risk in the form of a lower interest rate profile. Policy insurance is a logical part of our risk management framework. Today’s action is intended to reduce the risk that our inflation path might move materially to the downside, as well as cushion the impact of lower oil prices and facilitate the economy’s sectoral adjustment to its new circumstances. The Bank has room to maneuver should its forecast prove to be either too pessimistic or too optimistic.  

So now interest rates are an insurance policy against possible future risk and this is the new framework, got it.  Also, you will notice that this statement basically says that lower rates are not out of the question.  I would hope at least they have a model that is predicting this and that their nice precise model would tell them how much of a cushioning effect this rate cut would have.  Because thinking that a central bank has a great model that lets them see things that the commoners do not is part of the game they must play.  What does Poloz have to say about this?

Oh.

Please, for the love of god, STOP CALLING IT INSURANCE!

Housing
Although mortgage rates should follow long term bond rates rather than be tied directly to the overnight rate we can expect to see lower mortgage rates sometime next week.  It only takes one bank to set everyone off.  Ratehub is currently showing 2.18% as the best 5 year variable and 2.69% as the best 5 year fixed rate.  This means that we could be seeing sub 2% variable rates.  If you are looking to buy a house this is good news.  If you are at the CMHC and you are trying to cool the real estate market with tighter lending rules, sorry, you can go to hell.  All those predictions of bubbles bursting in Vancouver and Toronto will have to be pushed back again.  Calgary could certainly run into some problems in real estate so maybe his is a good thing for them.

Currency
From the press conference this week.

Finally, we discussed the risk that by moving today we would surprise financial markets. We generally prefer that markets not be surprised by what we do, and believe that transparency around our analysis of the economy will minimize the scope for surprises. In that respect, we took comfort from the observation that the consequences of the drop in oil prices appear to be well understood, and that the possibility of a rate cut had begun to enter markets in the last couple of weeks. Moreover, given the magnitude of the shock, we concluded that the benefits of acting now rather than waiting would outweigh the costs of any short-term market volatility that might arise.

Our dollar dropped 3 cents versus the US dollar immediately.  So  the markets had not already priced this in. At all. We are glad you discussed it though.

We will have to wait until this month’s total data is in for the CERI fluctuation but I imagine the Canadian dollar dropped everywhere.  (Less so against the Euro)

Trade and Local Prices
A weaker dollar means that all of our exports are cheaper.  This is good for our GDP.

It means that we will not see gas prices as low because our weaker dollar buys less on international markets.

Inputs to manufacturing are more expensive assuming they come from other countries.  Any capital investments in machinery or other equipment that need to come from other countries is now more expensive.

Almost all consumer goods are more expensive.  Electronics, clothing, some food. Anything not made in Canada is now more expensive.

Conspiracy Theory
If I was a journalist (Like, a real one, not a guy with a website) I would probably put in a freedom of information request for all communications over the last few months between the government and the BoC.  Why?

Government delays budget because oil prices are sagging and they need more time to balance the books. If only there was a way to boost exports to pick up the slack from those low oil prices to help reach the promised balanced budget.

BoC drops the interest rate when markets are expecting a hike within the year and what do you know, the currency tanks.  This is good for exports!  What a coincidence.

The BoC would never manipulate the currency like that.  After all in September Poloz said,

A floating loon is a thing of beauty, and so is a floating loonie, at least from this economist’s perspective.

How can you not trust an economist that talks like that?

Household Debt
When interest rates are low, people take on debt.  When interest rates are low for a long time people take on a lot of debt.

That is why on December 10th Poloz said.

Let me just add a few comments specific to the most important risk discussed in the FSR: the difficulty that highly indebted households would have servicing their debt if they were to face a sharp decline in their incomes or a sharp rise in interest rates. This situation raises the risk that a shock to the economy could trigger a correction in house prices. The probability of this risk materializing is low, but if it did occur, the effect on the economy would be severe.This risk would be greater if house prices were judged to be overvalued relative to fundamentals. … Although there is considerable uncertainty around this question, various approaches – including our own – suggest that there is some risk that the housing market is overvalued, and our estimates fall in the 10 to 30 per cent range.

Yeah so Canadians really need to get their debt under control.  Now lower interest rates should allow you to pay down more of your debt but unfortunately most people see it as a chance for cheap borrowing.  But since this is all caused by lower oil prices what did Poloz say about that this week?

 Canadian consumers will spend less on energy, but they could save some of the windfall rather than spend it

Fools!  You are trying to save the money you are not spending on energy since the price in oil dropped? Well that is bad for the economy.  Lower interest rates! Borrow more!

The fact that he sees money not spent on energy as a windfall says a lot here.

Currency War
We’re in one.  More on that in a dedicated post to come later.

Final Thoughts
As mentioned, shocking the market is not a good move for any central banker unless you have a specific goal in mind.  I do not think this is a great move but I do not have access to the data sets or models that the BoC does.  Their 25 page Monetary Policy report reads as if it was written with a rate freeze in mind and then edited at the last minute so it made more sense with the rate decrease. I would really like them to try to justify their decision a little more clearly but then again I think there are only a handful of people that read the MPR when it is released anyway.

Personally, I was floored by the announcement.  I really expected a freeze.  I will be keeping an eye out for lower mortgage rates and if I see something at or below 2% then it will be time to call my banker.

No-Season Tires Revisited. A Solution to the Problem of People Stealing My Time

Last winter I wrote about people with “all-season” tires on their car. Read that post here. Today’s rant will cover the same topic.

The roads have once again become cold/wet/icy/snow covered and so it is time to revisit this issue.  Winter has come a bit early this year and we have had at least three evenings in the last two weeks where the roads have been snowed upon.  My standard drive home is about 30 minutes.  On these three nights my travel time was between 50 minutes and 1 hour 45 minutes.  There were no accidents, no closed lanes, no damaged street lights; just people having to massively reduce their speed because their cars are not prepared for the same winter conditions that come every year.  Every year.

While I was driving home today at between 10-20 km/h there was lots of time to think about a solution to this problem.  Here is the thought process and conclusion.

  • There are negative externalities here that are not being priced into the market.  No-season tire users pay nothing for the massive delays they cause for everyone else on the road. This is a market failure.
  • Even far right conservatives agree that one of the roles of government is to step in when there are market failures.
  • Government goals are better achieved when they influence people to take action rather than forcing them to take action.
  • In Quebec the government made winter tires mandatory. I agree with this but…see the previous thought.

Therefore, the reasonable conclusion is everyone’s favourite thing, taxes.  The government of Ontario would start imposing a new tax on “all-season” and “all-weather” tires.  The revenue generated by this new tax would be used to subsidize winter and summer tires.  “All-season” tires would become more expensive while both summer and winter specific tires would become cheaper.  It would not even have to be an actual subsidy, just a reduction in the current taxes and levies.This would make it more attractive for people to have the appropriate tires in all conditions.  Better grip on dry pavement or in the rain during the summer and better grip in snow, ice and wet in the cold of winter.

The nice part is that after everyone finally moves to two sets of tires the number of accidents on the road would likely be reduced. This would reduce the cost of emergency workers, repairs on light posts and signs that people smash, etc.  These saving could be used to offset the ongoing costs of keeping the taxes low on season specific tires. The new tax would also reduce the thousands of hours people spend in traffic behind people forced to drive at a snail’s pace by ultra predictable, yearly re-occurring  weather. Problem solved.

So yes, today on the drive home I got so frustrated with people that think that their no-season tires are good enough that I invented a new tax.  You’re welcome.

 

 

No-Season Tires. Free Riding Externalities

 

Today’s post is a rant thought up during the drive home but we will be touching on two economic topics, negative externalities and the free rider problem.

An externality is basically an unexpected, or unaccounted for, effect when an action is taken.  When economists talk about externalities they often use pollution as the example.  A factory is manufacturing its product and people are buying it at cost plus some profit level.  If the factory is polluting in order to make their product then the pollution is a negative externality.  The air quality is worse, health issues arise in the community surrounding the factory but the effects are not accounted for in the price of the product.

The Free Rider Problem is exactly what it sounds like.  It is where one party in a situation refuses to pay their fair share and still receives the benefit. Examples include; the one neighbour that refuses to pay their portion for putting up a fence in a new housing subdivision, people that pirate video games or someone that sneaks into movies.  A Free Rider benefits from other people paying the costs.

Now, on to our main topic.

As you can see by the highly detailed map at the top of this page Webernet.ca is based in Southwestern Ontario.  In the winter, in Southwestern Ontario, it snows.  Sometimes it snows a lot in a short time period and the streets become covered with said precipitation.  In fact, although not certain, there is a good chance that this phenomenon, which we will refer to as “snow-covered roads”, has occurred at least once a year for last 50 years in this region. Sometimes, it happens more than once a year. Also every year when summer turns to fall, and fall turns to winter there is a certain percentage of the population that say to themselves,

“I don’t need winter tires. My all-season tires are good enough.”

These people are walking, talking, free-riding sources of negative externalities. Winter tires and rims cost money. Some people choose to purchase them, some do not.  The people that do have them can travel on a wet winter road at their normal speed, travel on a snow-covered road as the speed limit and they can travel on a severely snow-covered road at a reduced speed. People with all-season tires can travel below the speed limit on a wet winter road, at a drastically reduced speed on a snow-covered road and just get stuck on a severely snow-covered road.  The externality here is that the people with the all-season tires reduce the speed of all traffic. They chose not to get the proper equipment for their vehicle and force everyone else on the road to pay in extra travel time.

If you see someone stuck in the snow, you go help push them out. I have already pushed a few people out this year and I am totally fine with doing it.  However, if the car being pushed out is using all-season tires one cannot help but think about how the money they saved by not buying snow tires is being at least partially paid for by the efforts of the helpful strangers. So as everyone outside pushes, the driver sits warmly in their car — Free Riding.

To be clear, I am not against helping push people out of deep snow.  I have been stuck, it happens. What makes me angry is the fact that because some other driver decided not to get winter tires they drive 20 km/h on a main city street while thinking,

‘This is plenty fast for everyone in these conditions.”

Don’t be a Free Rider. Don’t be a mobile emitter of negative externalities. If you drive in a region that gets snow, ditch the no-season tires, drive at normal speeds, take the bus or stay home.

Canadian Wireless Code of Conduct: Consumers Finally Win the Right to Pay Higher Prices

In January we looked at the proposed changes to the rules that govern wireless service providers in Canada.  Those changes have now been implemented and Canadian wireless providers are no longer allowed to offer 3 year contracts, 2 years is the maximum. In a surprise to no one with any understanding of how a business works, all the major providers have announced that their rate plans are increasing in price and that phones will now have lower subsidies and will therefore be more expensive. Thank you CRTC. Thank you for making cell phone service in Canada more expensive.  Two possibilities exist. Either the people at the CRTC are completely incompetent or they are malicious. Let’s explore the first possibility as I would like to think that the government is not just straight up trying to cause harm to consumers.

As mentioned in a number of posts, I have no love for my service provider.  Interacting with them is one of the most frustrating things I can do on a regular basis because it seems like they are actually trying to anger customers with every policy implementation. Any time they make a change to my account it is done incorrectly and a second phone call is required to fix it. However, I have been with them for over 10 years because I know that it is absolutely not any better at the other providers.  I know this because I worked for one of their competitors, in the call centre, taking calls about people’s bills.

With the 3 year contracts a customer had some power to negotiate a deal every three years.  So that tiny window every three years is the one time that Rogers, Bell, whoever you are using, cares to listen to you.  That power is now diminished.  Now you can sign up for a maximum of two years which means less guaranteed income for them and less power for you when you are negotiating a deal.

Back to how the CRTC thinks the world works. Cell phone companies are now going to lock people into 2 year contracts.  Each of these new contracts is 1 less year of guaranteed income. When the Rogers’ accountant is balancing the books he now has one less year put into the net present value of a new contract.  Less NPV, less posted profits.

Take a customer that stays with the company for 10 years. Here is an extremely high quality infographic to show the hardware upgrade cycle.

upgrade_cycle

The phones represents when the company will offer a hardware subsidy to the customer.  I will allow you to draw your own conclusions on how this might affect a company’s profits.

With less guaranteed revenue and more frequent payouts of hardware subsidies the cell phone companies raised their prices. If you hear someone say they are surprised by this then that someone either lives in a fantasy land of benevolent corporations or they run Canada’s federal telecommunications regulator.

 

CRTC’s Canadian Cellphone Company Code of Conduct

Here in Canada you can pretty much guarantee that you will never hear this statement:

“I love my cell phone provider.  They give me fair rates and great service.  My favourite thing about them is that if I do ever have a problem, I call in and they solve it for me the first time, every time. Also, my bill is always exactly what I expected it to be and prices are fair, especially compared to the U.S.”

Well this week CRTC announced something they referred to as a draft code of conduct for wireless providers in Canada.  I would like the final document to be named the CRTC’s Canadian Cellphone Company Code of Conduct, or CCCCCC.  You can see it here.

Sighs of relief went up around the country as people felt there was finally something being done about the evil cell phone companies that had been screwing us all over since the dawn of time. Today we will look at the suggestions that have been outlined in the draft and how they might affect you as an individual.

Let me start by stating that I am no fan of cell phone companies. People that know me have heard me rant about them in the past. However, I think this draft code of conduct is not the correct solution to the problems we face as consumers. Also, I should mention that I used to work in the call centre for one of the major cell phone providers in Canada and so I have a pretty good understanding of what people are upset about when they talk about their cell phones. Let us begin.

We will use the nice summarized list of the new suggestions from the CBC.

  • Monitoring usage: Customers must be given tools to monitor their usage compared to the limits of their plan in order to be aware of extra fees they might incur if they go above the limits.

A great recommendation.  Rogers thought it was so good they travelled back in time and implemented this years ago.  You can see usage details on their website or directly on a smart phone app that is free to download and comes installed on most phones by default.  Bell had an even older service so that even before smartphones you could send in a text and it would autoreply with your usage and overage fees.

  • Bill caps: Customers must be allowed to restrict features that could incur additional fees and have the ability to cap their monthly bill at a certain amount. Once the user hits the cap, the service provider would suspend services that could result in extra fees.

This is a spending cap on Bell and CLM(Credit Limit Monitoring) on Rogers.  These are usually implemented automatically on people with weaker credit scores but you can put them on your account voluntarily as well.

  • Personalized summary of terms, conditions: Customers must receive a personalized summary of key terms and conditions in their contract, such as how much they would pay in cancellation charges at different times during their contract and what tools are available to help them monitor their usage of different services.

Yes, a normal cell phone contact could take minutes and minutes to read through and you want your phone now! Now, now. Make them give us bullet point contracts! Also, they already tell you in your quick start guide how to monitor your usage. In case you were wondering, that is the booklet you normally throw in the recycling bin after you take your phone out of the box.

  • Unlocking wireless devices: Wireless providers are required to give customers the option to unlock locked wireless devices. The fee that can be charged for this option and the time frame in which devices could be unlocked would vary depending on whether or not the cost of the device is subsidized by the provider.

I agree with this.  Locking phones is dumb.

  • No fine print: Policies governing the terms or use of service “must be written in clear, easy to understand language” and in an appropriate font size.

Confusing contracts are already against the Consumer Protection Act of 2002.    Here is a link to the summary of your rights.  So I guess now they can be fined $250,000 as a corporation AND it will be against the CCCCCC. Also, I am not sure we need to take the term “fine print” so literally as to regulate the font size.

  • Advertised prices: Advertised prices for a contract must include the total monthly amount the customer must pay on a recurring basis and indicate whether the figure includes sales tax and government-mandated fees.

Yeah we already have this protection as well.

  • Cancellation of service before contract is up: Early-termination fees can only include the subsidies the provider has absorbed to lower the price of mobile devices and discounts the customer received for signing a fixed-term contract.

I am fine with this but most people will still think these fees are too high.

 

The number one thing missing from this list is a statement about the length of contracts.  This is a huge complaint from customers in Canada.  Most countries have two year contracts, in Canada the contracts are normally three years.  Everyone is demanding that the contracts be limited, by law( or CCCCCC rules in this case), to two years.  Make three year contracts illegal! The angry internet people type (sometimes in all caps).  Of course, right now you could get a two year contract if you like, or no contract at all.  You could just go buy a phone and start a plan with a provider.  But wait! Phones are expensive, who wants to pay so much for a phone when they are practically giving them away with a contract?  In reality people want the fanciest phone at the lowest possible price and so they sign up for three years.  There is no reason to legally limit the contracts to two years.  You don’t want a three year contract?  Don’t sign one.  Pay more for your phone. Then other people do that. Then the companies start giving better deals to people on two year plans because everyone wants one.  This is a new system where people demand something and then others sup…  provide it. I have just invented it.

We should be talking about the real problem with our cell phone market here in Canada; the limitations on foreign investment on the wireless industry and the spectrum auctions.

Not too long ago it was illegal for a wireless provider to be owned by a foreign entity.  That is, only Canadians could own Canadian wireless providers. Now we changed the rules so that if you own less than 10% of the market then you are allowed to accept foreign investment. Great. As far as I could tell there is nothing written about what happens when you accept that money and then grow up to 10% of market or beyond. At 9.99% of the market you can have European or US companies investing.  10.01%? I guess you give all the money back or sell your extra share to domestic owners. It really is not clear what happens.

Spectrum Auctions.  It may not seem like it but there is only so much air to go around when it comes to cell phone signals. This year sometime there is going to be an auction to see who can take up what parts of the air that has recently become available. You may have heard about how over-the-air TV(antenna, bunny ears, etc) switched from analog to digital in the not so distant past.  Well, that freed up some spectrum space that is really nice for wireless companies. It turns out that the signals that travel in this spectrum space are great for high speed data and for going through walls.  So you can get faster speeds and your signal will work in more places like parking garages and elevators. Good news right?

The auction process the CRTC came up with is that each major service area will have its spectrum divided up into four blocks.  Yes four.  You would not want three because that would benefit only Bell, Telus and Rogers.  Remember, this is an auction so the highest bidders get the spectrum space. They have basically left one block open for another company to buy in each service area. See, competition. Rejoice. Although not too much competition because if those smaller firms that are supposed to come 4th in these auctions got an influx of money and were able to buy too much of the spectrum then they would go over 10% market share and then they would not be allowed to use the money that allowed them to grow over 10%…  I wish I was making this up.

There is only one solution to this.  DE-regulation. Rather than trying to get better customer service and lower prices through adding more laws which cost the government money to enforce, we need to remove restrictions on who can buy our spectrums.  The idea here is that if the big companies in the U.S. had access to our market some of their deals might start showing up here.  Or, they would start moving up here and all of a sudden it becomes cost effective for Canadian companies to decrease their pricing. I am not normally so Fraser Institute on topics but in this case it makes so much sense to just de-regulate the market and watch the benefits roll in.

Although, we should make sure the de-regulation is printed in a nice easy to read font.

 

Wi-Fi Shutdown – Electromagnetic Hypersentitivity in Ontario Schools

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) is known by various names but I will use EHS. I first heard about this a long time ago as I was working as tech support for a large computer manufacturer.  The customer had made his way through the first few levels of support when he finally reached me.  He calmly explained that no one had been able to help him to this point.  His issue was that he needed to know the frequency of the electromagnetic radiation that was being emitted from our monitor.  I asked him why he wanted to know this information and he calmly and very matter-of-factly explained that he had a condition called electromagnetic hyper sensitivity. I had never heard of this so I asked him to describe it to me.  He said that when he sits in front of one of our monitors and turns it on that it feels like his skin is burning.  I did not believe him at all so I asked a few follow up questions.  It seemed that it was not just our monitor, but all electronics, that gave him this reaction.  He said that if he walked into a Future Shop that it would cause a burning sensation all over his body.  He then began to explain to me the various ways he went about avoiding this problem, including special headphones he would wear.  Yes headphones.  It became clear that the customer had other issues that did not involve electromagnetic radiation. Since that time the references to this phenomenon have exploded on the internet and around the world.

Why am I writing about this?  Back in 2010 I posted this. It was about a school banning wireless internet.  And now we have this.  The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association(OECTA) is recommending all schools disable their Wi-Fi networks. This is a position paper released by the OECTA. In it, they recommend school turn off wireless networks and use traditional wired networks instead. It is only 8 pages long, including appendix, so feel free to read it. At this point in writing this post I was just going to mention how ridiculous this all was but instead I decided dig a bit deeper because this is getting out of hand.

There are a number of very broad claims made by the paper and each seems to be well cited. If you want to read up to page 5 you will see this:

“Approximately 3 percent of the population (over 1 million Canadians) has been diagnosed with environmental sensitivities (ES) which include multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) and electromagnetic sensitivity.”

And this is the article by Park and Knudsen they cite for it. We run into a problem here because the quoted text does not appear in that article. Go ahead and check that if you like. On top of that the article is titled “Medically unexplained physical symptoms.” That really should give some indication how compelling an argument can be made by citing it. Directly after that they have:

“Some studies show that adults who are electrically sensitive react to this frequency (2.4 GHz) at levels 0.3 percent of SC6 Guidelines.”

The study they cited can be found here on page 273. This is the main argument behind the article and when searching for this article I noticed that every website that cited it appeared to be dedicated to letting everyone know how horrible 2.4 gigahertz radiation is  (That is the frequency that Wi-FI and many cordless phones work on). Written by Madga Havas, PhD from the University of Trent and published in the European Journal of Oncology it appears to offer evidence of EHS.  Unfortunately there exists a very compelling rebuttal which you can read here.  In short, it mentions that the European Journal of Oncology may not be the most reputable journal around and that the methods used in the study were imperfect and likely lead to a false conclusion. That one you should read because it does a really good job of picking apart the original study.

The OECTA does actually forget to mention one of the most popular articles on this topic.

http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/67/2/224.abstract

This is a meta analysis of all studies about EHS.  A meta analysis looks at all studies on a topic to see if any conclusions can be drawn from them.  Using 31 studies they conclude that the effect has never been proven to exist.

If there are health issues that arise from extended Wi-Fi exposure then I am all for shutting it down until we come up with an alternative. I live in a appartment where at any point I can see 15-20 wireless networks.  If there were any credible evidence to support the claim I would not have a basis for this post and would likely be guranteed to get whatever Wi-Fi is supposed to cause.  At this point turning off the networks is silly and there is no reason to do so. With the publication of this paper I suspect we will start to see more schools turning off their networks and that is sad.  This is a teachers association – you know, the people that teach the children – and they could not take the 10 minutes required to verify their information before they posted this embarrassing position paper. I really question how well these same people can set educational standards.

 

Canadian Election Results… What Next?

So the votes are counted and (most of) the results are final. The Conservatives won a majority with 39.62% of the vote.  In the next four years we will see new fighter jets, new prisons, lower corporate taxes and strict new copyright laws.  These we know for sure.  The question now is what else will we see?  With a minority, a government can refrain from acting on controversial issues and blame the opposition for holding things up. With a majority they will need to take action on a number of lingering issues.  How will they fix the Canadian pension plan?  Will they allow individuals to contribute more to their federal pensions or will they bow to the banks?  They will need to make a real effort to come up with a plan for a future Canada that is more environmentally friendly.  I understand that our economy is heavily dependent on natural resources, but relying on vague ideas about carbon capture and sequestering to solve our emissions problems will need to end. (This is a technology that is extremely expensive and unproven, a bad combination). One thing I believe we will see is an increase in free trade agreements all over the world.

I am in favour of free trade but if we are going to expand our free trade agreements to Europe, South America and the rest of the world then we also need to balance this with strong investment in education. We cannot compete on labour prices with developing countries so we will need a highly educated workforce that is able to provide highly skilled labour that is not as easily moved elsewhere. Manufacturing jobs are hard to keep when there is an unlimited workforce in foreign countries that is willing to work for a fraction of domestic wages. 

What I am talking about here is not simply pouring more money into the current system.  We need to really understand how the amount of knowledge in our world has increased in the recent past. First year university courses are teaching the same thing today as they did ten year ago. In order to understand the latest innovations in any field students require an education well beyond a standard undergraduate education. We need to figure out a way to make a major shift in education levels.  What I mean is that we start a transition that would see elementary and high schools begin to teach more advanced material earlier.  This would allow our universities to begin first year with more than the basic concepts. It would truly make university a place of higher education rather than somewhere people go to learn the basic skills of an advanced economy. I am not an education expert and I understand that we cannot simply shift the curriculum overnight. I also understand that there are many factors that affect the effectiveness of basic education. It just seems to me that for a long time people have been happy to keep everything moving along at a snail’s pace.

The problem with all of this of course is that this change in education does not have a short term effect while jobs that are lost to cheap foreign labour most certainly does.  This is hard to justify to voters because they see big spending and the loss of jobs but if we want to have stability and prosperity in future this is a necessary step.

More discussion on election results as the week rolls on.