The content and editing of this newsletter are determined by the committee. We want members to feel ownership of In Solidarity and view it as independent of any particular segment of the union. Content comes from our base of activists, staff and other labour sources.
Where an article has a by-line, the views are those of the author and not necessarily the views of OPSEU.
While we welcome your contributions, we ask that these be constructive. All articles should be signed and include Local number and should contribute positively to the welfare of this union.
We encourage thoughtful discussion of all related issues and reserve the right to edit for libel, length and clarity, and to reply to those that seem to reflect a misunderstanding of the union and its policies.
The elected members of the editorial committee for In Solidarity are:
Virginia Ridley – Editor, Local 116
Lisa Bicum – Assistant Editor, Local 125
Katie Sample – Local 499
Craig Hadley – Local 5109
Verne Saari – Local 659
Felicia Fahey – Executive Board Liaison
Greg Hamara – OPSEU Communications
Special to this issue:
Howard A. Doughty, Local 560
Sandy Green, Local 419
Please send mail to In Solidarity, c/o Virginia Ridley, OPSEU Head Office, 100 Lesmill Rd., Toronto, Ontario M3B 3P8. Contact at: insolidarity@OPSEU.org
We are also your elected members of Informed Newsletters for OPSEU/Bulletins informés pour le SEFPO. If you require any support, advice or start-up information concerning newsletters, please contact one of the executive members.
Lisa Bicum, In Solidarity
I’m guilty. We’re all guilty. We listen to the atrocities outlined in the news, and sometimes we don’t act where we could. Maybe “guilty” isn’t the right word. “Desensitized”? “Sheltered”? I don’t know.
Semantics aside, I was jostled out of my bubble today by a back page article from the latest Unfettered, the newsletter of OPSEU Local 558, faculty, counsellors, and librarians at Centennial College. Staring up at me from the back page were the faces of 550 or so missing aboriginal women. Powerful? You bet.
The article urged me to read about the plight of “stolen sisters” at www.amnesty.ca, and I’m glad I did. Although I had paid attention over the years to the plight of aboriginal women, I had not done my part, and to tell you the truth, the details were fuzzy. It was time I was tuned in.
What had I forgotten?
It was in 2004 that Amnesty International lodged a complaint against Canada citing that aboriginal women were disproportionately in danger of death or kidnapping because of Canada’s “racism and indifference.”
It was in 2009 that a government survey concluded that aboriginal women are three times more likely than non-aboriginal women to report being victims of violent crime.
In 2014, it was disclosed that aboriginal women are four times more likely to be murdered than non-aboriginal women.
It was in May 2014 that the RCMP solidified the numbers at 1 017 aboriginal women murdered between 1980 and 2012.
In September 2014, a national action plan was announced. Experts note that this is a good start, but it’s a “piece meal” approach to dealing with this serious issue. Sadly, I was unable to find any information regarding a proper inquiry — the one thing that has been requested for years.
However, all is not lost. The Amnesty site has great information and great links. There is a national petition we can sign, and as of today, 17 834 people had signed. There are suggestions for writing, post cards, and educational materials. In addition, we can always bombard our MPs.
Regardless of method, it’s time we all spoke up for those 550 whose voices are lost and those who are systemically placed at risk of harm or even worse.
Is micromanaging harmful to your health?
Sandy Green, In Solidarity
Most of us have survived and overcome many obstacles in our lives. We are adults who have responsibilities. Working full-time is a challenge in itself; we want to feel like we are contributing, making a positive difference. Many of us are raising children, either as a single parent or with a spouse, have financial responsibilities that require prioritizing and budgeting, have elderly parents who need care and attention, are worried about friends and/or a family member, are trying to prepare for retirement, are dealing with a personal medical issue of our own and are trying to manage, organize, harmonize it all. To me, it sounds like we are all responsible, competent, skillful, efficient and commendable human beings with brains in our heads.
Someone once told me that the best managers are “no managers.” Sadly, many in the workforce are governed by “micromanagers.” Micromanagers seem to live to work. They make an employee feel like a five year old, make employees resent them, and limits the ability to be creative and to be productive. Micromanagers suppress opinions and ideas which, in turn, stagnates a department’s ability to be successful. Not only is micromanaging bad for the employee it is bad for business.
Micromanagers do not develop people; they exploit them. They don’t like competition. They prefer to control results rather than inspire creativity. They rarely hire people with the talent, experience and know-how as these types of people could challenge them. At its more severe level, micromanagement is a compulsive, behavioral disorder similar to other addictive patterns. People who micromanage generally do so because they feel unsure and doubt their abilities. Micromanagers, like many addicts and alcoholics, are the last people to recognize that they are hooked on controlling others. They come in earlier than their employees and stay later, come in during their vacations, come in on weekends and call regularly when not physically present. I know, I have worked for one.
What does micromanagement do to its employees? This behavior creates a perpetual environment of dependency, inefficiency, and unease and, at worst, renders irreparable harm to staff morale. Micromanagers create increased tension and decreased confidence among their employees. Staff members will lose confidence, creativity, initiative, and desire to be productive. Staff members wake up and dread going into work. Disengagement of employees happens which sometimes promotes a hostile work environment. No staff member wants to work in this type of environment. Who would? Staff members lose their trust in this manager. They will invest time but no effort or creativity. Employees feel that they have no opportunity to learn or to develop their interpersonal skills and feel that they are stuck in a job that is going nowhere. Micromanagers, can cause an employee anxiety, stress, depression, and feelings of despair. Micromanagement can severely affect an employee’s mental and physical wellbeing.
Micromanagers cost companies money. Skilled, competent employees will eventually look elsewhere for another position. Not only will the company lose a skilled employee, they will have to spend money hiring and training another person to take this person’s place. In social settings, employees may complain about their bosses which may impact a company’s reputation. Motivation of employees is impacted in a micromanaging environment. Sick leave is higher as staff members deal with the mental and physical effects of being micromanaged. Staff will not give their manager much support, their efficiency level drops, they will not go above and beyond for their manager, and they just come do what they have to do and leave.
Not all bosses are micromanagers. Not all bosses are bad. Not all bosses ruin our lives. To me a good boss has your back. He or she supports and appreciates the qualities you bring to the department. These managers help develop skills that need developing. For these people, being a manager isn’t about the individual: it is about the worker. Their responsibility is to help you be the best that you can be within the guidelines of your position. They suggest or recommend additional training; they teach and encourage you. They give you credit for your work. They realize that you are the one that makes them look good. They say thank you. Your boss is only as good as you make him or her. A good boss is a motivator, is fair, is flexible and is consistent. A good boss doesn’t point fingers and is not afraid to get his or her hands dirty. Not only does a good boss listen to you, he or she takes action. A good boss should become your mentor. He or she absolutely must communicate and include staff in discussions, keep staff informed and treat them with respect. You can tell who has a good boss by the morale in the department.
We all deserve to be treated with respect, consideration, and appreciation. If you are not, it is time to re-evaluate and take action. More often than not, the micromanager doesn’t leave unless told to leave.
The even bigger question is why would a company want to keep a micromanager around if the individual is costing them money, clients, and staff such harm?
Sometimes we are reminded to appreciate life
Verne Saari, In Solidarity
Most of us take for granted the lives we lead. We socialize, we work and we raise our children. Sometimes we volunteer. We do many things, some of which make us happy and some which does not.
I urge you to take stock of what you do have in your life and to be thankful for it all. I ask this after my wife and I experienced a recent “near miss” while en route to OPSEU’s annual convention. On this fateful day, a piece of rock roughly the size of a cantaloupe became dislodged from between the dual tires of a fuel truck going in the opposite and was flung catapult like, straight at our vehicle. I immediately went for the brakes, but realized that it was too late. I had raised my left hand in front of my face and exhaled, blurting out “no!” I also heard my wife’s sharp intake of breath as she was also quite aware of what was happening.
Leading up to this, my wife had been conversing with our oldest son via Bluetooth through the car sound system. The microphone for this is right above the driver’s head in the roof liner. He heard the events unfolding as they happened. This event took place so quickly, yet it seemed an eternity. I honestly thought we would be wearing that rock. We often hear of people describing how time seemed to slow during what could be a harmful event.
I now know what this feels like.
I felt and heard a loud bang right above my head. A second of silence ensued. I was shocked we had not taken it right through the windshield! In that instant while pulling over, I very quickly realized just how lucky we were.
Was it luck? Or was it just not meant to be? Regardless, I felt a warmth spread throughout my body – maybe this was shock.
I was instantly grateful that our son did not have to hear anything more than a loud bang on our end of the conversation. In reflection it could have been a horrible life altering event for him had it not turned out as it did. I smiled as I got out of the vehicle and surveyed the damage. I momentarily winced at the sight before me. The roof of our car was dented in considerably, but metal can be repaired. People never fare as well when a mass that size travelling in the opposite direction impacts with them.
So once more, take the time in your life to appreciate what is in your life. Also, be careful. Sometimes fate is cruel. Sometimes, it is not.
Howard A. Doughty, Local 560
If Noam Chomsky had done nothing else, he’d have been famous for his writings on “analytic philosophy.” He’s called “the father of modern linguistics.” His theories of innate language capacity and universal grammar stood the study of communications on its pointy academic head. But, he didn’t stop there.
In February, 1967, when Chomsky was almost forty and at the top of his academic game, he wrote an essay called “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” in The New York Review of Books. (I clipped it and have had a copy at hand ever since.) It wasn’t about the structure of human language. It was about Vietnam. It said that, regardless of their specialties, people with the luxury of higher education had a responsibility to address moral issues. Chomsky examined his country’s foreign policy. He concluded that it was morally wrong.
Since then, Chomsky has continued working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s written two dozen books on language, and over seventy on politics. He’s only 86-years-old. He says he has a lot more to give. He is one of the most hated (and also beloved) “public intellectuals” in the USA and the world.
Chomsky’s opinions are inflammatory to big business, most politicians, military leaders, mass media moguls and others in the ruling classes. He offers withering critiques of authoritarianism, imperialism, capitalism and state socialism. He urges rational solutions to the religious carnage in the Middle East and warns against indoctrination in schools and on television. When you read his ideas on topics as wide as freedom and censorship, wealth and poverty, war and peace, his arguments are so clear, obvious, sensible and decent that it’s a wonder that anyone could question them. That’s why he hated, for speaking truth to power.
Power Systems is an excellent introduction to Chomsky’s ideas. It consists of conversations with interviewer David Barsamian (who sensibly raises issues and lets Chomsky deliver well-crafted mini-lectures). They’re vivid, clear and uncompromising – a joy to read. Then, when you suddenly discover that he’s taught you something that you didn’t know about the world or, better, that you thought you knew but now understand better, you’ll want more – but be careful; if this is your first Chomsky book, you’ve over a hundred to go.
Noam Chomsky, Power Systems (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2013), 211 pages. ISBN 9780805096156
Gouged to survive
Verne Saari, In Solidarity
Over a span of many years, much research has been compiled regarding the following topic by persons educated far beyond my own level. Sadly, the results and recommendations have not been heeded. A simple Google search on “Northern Ontario food prices” will provide you with more information on this important topic.
Groceries. Foodstuffs. Comestibles. Call it what you will — these are items we all need to survive.
In reference to food prices, the amounts can vary hugely depending on where you live in the province. It would seem that the further north one travels, the more one will have to pay. Not just in Ontario either, so I have come to find after just light research. Our entire country suffers this same issue. I have contacted various people all over the province in relation to this situation. I compiled a short list of common grocery items that one would find in the average consumer’s shopping cart (see chart on opposite page). These are items most of us make liberal use of to feed ourselves and our families.
When an inquisitive shopper asks a store manager why the prices are so exorbitant in the more remote northern towns and villages, the answer is very quickly attributed to cost of delivery. In locations where the only access is to fly in or utilize a winter road, (for those not informed of these winter roads, they are opened only after the forest floor and lakes have frozen for the winter in the more northern climes as the muskeg is impassable for the rest of the year by vehicle), the inflated cost can be almost understood. Almost.
If a person really thinks about it, the trucks that bring these goods will almost invariably be fully loaded so as to offset the fuel cost and to increase profitability for the company that engages in this lucrative enterprise. There are no governmental controls in place to protect the consumer from hyperinflation. So it would seem that the price of many items must reflect that they were shipped individually in an empty truck. Ludicrous prices are the norm. An entire population of northern residents are being extorted by profit greedy companies. These are not luxury items. We need them to survive.
We have a government that can standardize the price of alcohol sales across the province, but yet it will not help curb the robbery that is being imposed on some of its citizens. Additionally, alcohol is a proven health risk, while nutrition is proven to be necessary to sustain the growing bodies of children as well as keeping adults healthy. Does anyone else see the idiosyncrasy here?
We are informed to “make wise choices.” Well, thank you to my government! I write this article with a sense of shame and disgust at the manner in which some Ontario citizens are being subjected to prejudice due to where they are located and choose to live. In often third world conditions, dietary needs are not being met. Diabetes is rapidly decimating our indigenous and northern populations. Our government spends our tax dollars for media ads to tell us to exercise and eat healthy. Really? Who can afford that when the prices are way beyond the average person’s means?
I think you have already taken the first step. You are now aware of the problem. Most of you have are reading this may not have even known that this is happening.
Now that you know, there are a number of things you can do:
- you can share this article and help to raise awareness;
- you can lobby our provincial and federal government to take action;
- you can even take part in several initiatives, or start one of your own, sending food baskets to families who are impacted by the gouge.
I hope that you choose to be a part of the solution.
Six things to know about that federal election
Randy Robinson, Political Economist, OPSEU
The October 19 federal election rolled up a sitting government; it also rolled out the red carpet for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to move back to his childhood estate at 24 Sussex Drive. Here are six things every OPSEU member should know about the election:
1. It’s good to be rid of Stephen Harper
Where to begin? A radical free-marketer, Stephen Harper wanted to be Prime Minister because he didn’t like government. Harper loved to cut government revenues. He cut corporate taxes. He cut personal taxes. He cut the GST by two percentage points. Those three cuts alone slashed federal revenues by $55 billion a year, every year. That’s $55 billion that’s not available this year for public health care, post-secondary education, food safety, or any of the other services Harper went after. And he was rabidly anti-union as well. His famous Bill C-377 had one purpose only: to tie unions up in expensive red tape so they couldn’t represent their members. Harper’s Bill C-525 makes it harder for federally-regulated workers to join unions.
2. We lost some really good MPs
Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) was a teacher and activist with his union before winning office in 2006. Raised in Kirkland Lake, Megan Leslie (Halifax) became Deputy NDP Leader based on her amazing work on environmental protection, Pharmacare, poverty, and a host of other issues. Peggy Nash (Parkdale-High Park) was a top union staffer before she became the NDP’s finance critic in Ottawa. These and dozens of other MPs who lost their seats will be sorely missed.
3. The new government has some promises to keep
Our new PM made some good promises on the campaign trail. Justin Trudeau said he would:
- launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls;
- repeal Bill C-377 and Bill C-525;
- “enhance” the Canada Pension Plan; and
- restore the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to 65.
Good promises. Let’s make sure he keeps them.
4. Justin Trudeau is a big fan of public-private partnerships
Justin Trudeau’s campaign platform promised a major hike to federal spending on public infrastructure projects like transit, roads, schools, and the like. What he didn’t mention was how that money would be spent. Like his Ontario Liberal cousin Kathleen Wynne, Trudeau is a big fan of public-private partnerships (P3s), where government lets the private sector manage and finance big public works projects. Ontario’s Auditor General says P3s cost more – waaaay more – than traditional public-sector methods and take money out of public services. But that’s no issue to our new PM. “Justin Trudeau has made it abundantly clear that he is a big proponent of the public-private partnership model,” the Canadian Business Journal observed.
5. Canadians still care about democracy.
Voter turnout in this election was the best in 20 years, reaching 68.5 per cent of eligible voters. Apathy was down. Participation was up!
6. Voting reform is really on the agenda.
During the campaign, Justin Trudeau declared that, if the Liberals were elected, the 2015 election would be the last using the current “first past the post” (FPTP) voting system. Well, they were elected. So what will replace FPTP? The Liberals mentioned two options: “ranked balloting,” and “proportional representation.” With ranked balloting, voters list all candidates in their riding in order of preference. If no candidate has a clear majority of first choices, the bottom-ranked candidate is dropped and his or her supporters’ second choices go to the remaining candidates. This continues until there is a clear winner. With proportional representation, on the other hand, parties win seats in Parliament based on the percentage of the vote they get (On October 19, the Liberals got 54 per cent of the seats – a majority – with less than 40 per cent of the vote – nowhere near a majority). It’s a big change – expect a lively debate!
Changing our perceptions: Mental Illness
Sandy Green, In Solidarity
I am one of the lucky ones who suffers from depression, anxiety, and ADD/ADHD. I have had these disabilities since I was a teenager, and I am now 55 years old. I suffered post-traumatic stress a few years ago and didn’t even know it until one day when I could not get out of bed. I was completely debilitated. I know what it is like to feel like you are in that “big black hole” with no way out. Other than my family and close friends, this is the first time I have ever talked about my illnesses.
Would I feel comfortable talking to my manager about my illness? No. Would I feel comfortable asking for an accommodation for my illness? No. The accommodations I would need would not be approved. I know this because they have not been approved for others in my situation. I would need to sit by a window so I could get direct sunlight (unfortunately, you cannot use a light box near a computer). I would need extra time for doctors’ appointments or time off to attend the anxiety clinic at my local hospital.
If you don’t suffer from depression, it is hard to understand. The stigma that surrounds mental illness is still there, and I’m not sure it will ever go away. I am well now. Exercise, light therapy at home, past psychotherapy, medication, and my sense of humour have all contributed to my mental wellness. In my workplace, the biggest thing that would help me is for me would be to sit by a window. However, I fear that would be a great way to endear myself to my co-workers. They would not understand and would view it as special treatment. Dealing with my illness has not been easy, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if my workplace supported me and treated me the same way they treat others with visible illnesses?
That said, workplaces are starting to take mental illness seriously. Mental illness is a reality, and depression and anxiety disorders are the most common illnesses. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five people will suffer from some kind of mental illness at some point in their lives. Organizations are starting to realize that employee mental wellness plays a vital role in the success of a company. Mental illness needs to be viewed by employers, bosses, co-workers and individual as a disease, just like other chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, or back pain. Co-workers are continually taking time off work to go to their chiropractors and physiotherapists appointments. How would it be perceived if I said I have to go to my psychiatrist’s appointment? I can hear it now, “There goes Psycho Sandy.”
Workplaces are focusing on education and communication with their employees about mental health. Workshops are being offered to employees, and some organizations are even educating their leaders on mental health and wellness so, in turn, they can better help their staff.
Bringing mental illness to the forefront, communicating with staff, and offering workshops is a beginning. However, I am wondering if this is where it ends. The reality of the situation is that there is a certain stigma that is associated with mental illness. People are viewed as weak, crazy, dishonest (faking their illness), pathetic, negative, lazy, and irresponsible. Because of this stigma, people suffering are less likely to come forward and get help. I certainly was, and I know others that are. They are very reluctant to talk about their illness and are embarrassed by it. Most people suffering from a mental illness tend to keep it to themselves; they suffer alone.
I hope I am alive to see mental illnesses treated the same as other illnesses, especially in the work place. The first steps have been taken by employers. There are still many steps to go.
A better solution for Wynne: Craft Brew Stores
Craig Hadley, In Solidarity
In 2014, the Liberals successfully won a majority government, despite the fact that they are a party mired with scandal such as the cancelled gas plants, E-Health and Ornge. Last April, the Ontario Government released the spring budget. A budget that served up austerity measures, smoke screened by the promise of ‘modernizing’ Ontario’s liquor and beer market.
They campaigned on the promise of keeping the LCBO public. A promise that appears to have been comprised of half-truths and grey area. The plan is to auction off liquor retailing permits to grocery chains in an effort to squeeze more profit out of the already provincially lucrative alcohol retail system.
The plan seems like an easy way to generate income for the cash-strapped Liberals wrestling with a 12.5 billion dollar deficit. It promises greater consumer convenience and uses buzz terms such as “alcohol modernization” and “fairer approach” with respect to helping Ontario craft brewers. Realistically, their plan is flawed.
The mark-up on Ontario beer and wine is minimal even with the buying power of the world’s largest alcohol purchaser, the LCBO. Under the current plan, participating grocery stores need to sell $233,000 worth of beer just to pay the annual $7000 permit fee. They also have to create a designate beer selling area while contending with shrinkage and logistical expenses.
With any other product the added fees would normally be passed on to the consumer, but the grocery stores are contractually obligated to keeping prices on par with The Beer Store and LCBO. This requirement almost guarantees keeping large retailers in, and small retailers out. It almost also guarantees that the large grocers will lobby to drop permit fees and use beer retailing as a gateway to sell spirits in the future. This predictable path will eliminate Wynne’s beer retailing gains and eventually hand over provincial liquor profits to the private sector.
The Liberal argument of helping craft brewers is also flawed. The craft brewers want easier access to the market and to grow their brand(s). It’s hard to accomplish these goals when additional players such as grocery stores hack away at the already thin profit margins. It’s extremely doubtful grocery stores will contribute to the craft beer industry as the playing field heavily favors the large foreign owned brewers.
Here’s the solution:
The province could open Ontario Craft Brew Sores as a division of the LCBO. These stores would only sell craft beer, leaving the Beer Store to sell large domestic brands such as Labatt’s and Molson’s.
The Craft Brew Stores would be owned by the province. They would work in conjunction with the LCBO, utilizing the LCBO’s quality control and logistical system. Listing fees could be minimal or non-existent (currently a major complaint of the craft brewers), which would give small breweries the ability to compete with larger brands. The Province would ensure craft brewers have an outlet to sell their wares, while maintaining the LCBO’s trusted social responsibility program. The LCBO’s award winning construction and design staff could use their expertise in designing a craft brew shopping experience second to none and worthy of praise.
The stores could also act as “green centres”, alleviating some of the Beer Store’s recycling burden and saving the 30 million a year The Beer Store receives for this responsibility.
This project would provide good permanent unionized jobs and a slew of secondary jobs in the construction and various trades. Retail profits would be kept between the province and craft brewers which benefits both parties.
The alcohol beverage industry doesn’t need another hand in the profit pool. If the goal of the Wynne government is to generate more income for Ontario, then sharing profit with grocery chains is not the way to go. Keeping profits in Ontario is. If the Liberals don’t want to make a capital investment in craft beer stores, then at the very least, open more LCBO’s and leave alcohol retailing to the pros.
One of those days…
Virginia Ridley, In Solidarity
Have you ever had a bad day? Not just the regular kind of bad day, but an “Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” kind of bad day? I may have had one just recently. I suppose I question whether it was truly a bad day, because as I try to think globally and beyond just myself, in the grand scheme of things, how bad was it really?
I really need to tell you about my past 24 hours, just to add some perspective – then perhaps you can judge. I travelled from home, London, to Toronto to work at OPSEU head office on this exact In Solidarity issue. As I departed, everything was fine. I had attended a few meetings, wrapped up everything I ended to at the office and planned appropriately at home to cover off eventualities.
Once all of my preparations were done, my hotel reservations confirmed, my vehicle was fueled, and my tires checked; I could leave.
On this particular day, all of my preparations went off without a hitch. I made it safely past Woodstock, Kitchener, and Mississauga; the end was in sight. It was then that the small annoyances started. I was caught in bumper-to-bumper stop and go traffic. This is relatively normal lately when driving into Toronto – my two-hour drive of years past is routinely three hours these days. I’ve planned for this. I’m prepared with an audiobook, and I enjoy the down time. I was driving (to be honest, my car was not moving) in the left lane, because some small part of me always hopes it will be the quicker one. I was hoping that I would avoid merging traffic and, perhaps, cut a few minutes off the commute.
Suddenly, while stopped, I glanced in my mirror (as I do every thirty seconds because Brad, my driving teacher from years ago trained me this way) and I saw a car. In my driver’s side view mirror. If you are following along – you will remember that I was in the left lane. While I don’t know what precipitated this, I suddenly felt my body lurch forward. I was hit from behind. After taking a breath and assessing my well-being, I realized I was okay, and knew I needed to see how the other driver was. Thankfully we were both ok, and our vehicles were both drivable. Unfortunately most of my bumper and taillights remained on the 401. After exchanging information, we both drive away. Truthfully, my accident launched my day into suck mode, although, in the grand scheme of things, was being rear ended really bad enough to make my day a “bad day”?
For those of you still following along, my response was no. I wouldn’t yet qualify this day as a “bad day.” As much as I was rattled, I was inconvenienced. Most importantly I was safe.
However, my excitement didn’t end there. Upon arriving at the hotel, I entered the elevator. The doors shut, the elevator started to move, and then I was pitched into darkness with a sudden jolt. You may have guessed it. The elevator stopped. Again, things happened. I took a deep breath and assessed my well-being and decided that in such a situation, a normal and rational person would ring the alarm button. I pushed the button with a red icon for the first time in my life, and nothing happened. My panic started to grow as I began wondering what to do. I could not see inside the blackened box. I was unsure if there was a phone or a button and if either would have worked. I took my cell phone out of my purse, and just as I realize I had service, the elevator door opened. I stepped out and thought to myself, “Wow, today is not my day.”
Next, as I dragged my luggage up a flight of stairs, I noticed an eerie calm. And a dim building. At least now I knew why the elevator stopped – the hotel building had lost power. I made my way to the front desk to begin the check in process. The desk staff were wonderful and friendly as other staff scurried about trying to find out how far the impact of the power outage was. I was able to check in, thanks to one computer being linked to their emergency backup services, and made my way to my room.
As I entered the room, I tried to adjust to the lack of lighting. If I am honest here, in my oblivion, I tried to switch the room lights on, twice, before I had a “duh” moment. There was no power. It took two and a half hours for the area to regain power. During that time, to make the most of the darkness, I, like most of the guests made my way to the lobby where the dim glow of the emergency lights and an eerie lack of white noise brought us together. I posted my day’s adventures on social media with humour and happy face emoticons much to the dismay of many of my followers. Their supportive comments referenced my “bad day” and offered me support.
In reality, today was just a day, like many days. It was one where not everything goes right, and in fact could be considered bad. In hindsight, however, it was really just a day. I survived and am healthy. I also have a new story, perhaps the best story, to share – about “one of those days.”
We all have those days, and when you think about it, it’s really not about what happens, but about how we handle ourselves in those moments that counts. I would like to think I handled myself with grace and calmness, and perhaps I was able to act calmly because I was able to put things into perspective.
Wynne’s Big Brewery Shakedown
Craig Hadley, In Solidarity
In 2014, to the surprise of many, Wynne’s Liberals announced big changes in how the province will handle beer and wine sales in Ontario. Without any clear plan, the proposed changes rest on a platform of customer convenience, increases in provincial revenue, and better market access for Ontario’s microbreweries.
Where did this come from?
To understand the current alcohol distribution system in Ontario, we need to roll back the calendars to the 1800’s. In Ontario, spirits, beer, and wine were easily accessible at any store, that is, if you weren’t making it yourself. Alcohol was unregulated and untested. Quality assurance was non-existent which resulted in severe variances in alcohol content and bad batches that could lead to blindness and even death. The negative social consequences of alcohol lead to the Temperance Movement, a brief stint of Prohibition and, eventually, heavy regulation that established the government controlled LCBO. The government at the time (1927) had no interest in owning province run beer stores and allowed the private interests to create the Brewers Warehousing Company Ltd. which later became Brewers Retail/The Beer Store.
The concept of Brewers Retail was simple: hundreds of Ontario’s brewers distributed their product through a retail network owned by the brewers and regulated by the province. Over the span of 50 years, market forces eventually led to the bigger breweries buying up or driving small brewers out of business. Big-budgeted advertising of the large brewers convinced beer drinkers to shy away from different tastes and embrace standardized, non-offensive brew such as Labatt Blue and Molson Canadian. The end result is what you see today: three multinational corporations owning the retail beer distribution system in Ontario. The system works from a social responsibility perspective, but according to critics, it fails in allowing the surge of microbreweries any shelf space in the Beer Store’s retail network.
This arrangement hasn’t gone unchallenged. Previous provincial governments have sought to breakup Brewers Retail/The Beer Store but were often stopped through generous campaign contributions, the supply of important venues, and the supply of free beer to all three of Ontario’s political parties.
Fast forward to today. The Wynne government has promised to balance the budget and is desperate to find additional revenue streams to make it happen. The Wynne government decided it was time for the Beer Store to cough up additional fees to the government. This modern day shake-down was met with fierce resistance resulting in a political stand-off between Wynne, the Beer Store, and their respective owners: Labatt Brewing Company, Molson Coors Brewing, and Sleeman Breweries (Sapporo). The end result had Wynne promising to place beer and wine into large grocery chains, naming grocery giant Loblaw as an example. Interestingly, the last $15,500 per table Ontario Liberal Fundraiser was well attended by the Loblaw Corporation brass replacing the normally generous big brewers.
It doesn’t take an economist to figure out the obvious pitfalls in Wynne’s plan. While the government may profit from the arrangement of grocery store paying for the right to sell beer and wine, it neglects to ensure the new sellers will sell the product under the same social responsibility mandate currently being followed by the LCBO and The Beer Store. It also will almost guarantee increased consumer costs unless the current alcohol taxation formula is recalculated to absorb what will be expensive permit fees designed to keep large grocery retailers in and small grocery stores out of the retail alcohol business. If alcohol taxes are reduced to increase the very thin beer/wine profit margins, then the entire principal of more government revenue will be lost.
The Wynne government will dress up their decision as a victory for craft brewers and consumer convenience. They’ll parade this policy as modernization of the alcohol business. Do not be fooled: it’s not. It’s a product of a government that has run out of ideas to counterbalance a decade of bad financial decisions that has contributed to provincial debt, has increased deficits, and offers fewer social services Ontarians rely on.
Wynne’s decision will end up costing us more, as consumers, and as the recipients to the increased social problems that accompany easier access to wine and beer. Get rich quick schemes rarely pan out. This spring reach out to your MPP and tell them you’re against wine and beer in grocery stores.
Meet the In Solidarity team
Editor’s Weekend 2015 has come and gone. This bi-annual event saw 75 members, from all regions participate in workshops such as Web Design, Photography, Videography, Mail Chimp, Coming in New, Info Graphics, Blogging and more.
On Sunday morning, elections were held to elect the 2015-2017 In Solidarity Committee. Eight members ran for the five available committee spots. The new committee is:
Virginia Ridley, Local 116
Lisa Bicum, Local 125
Craig Hadley, Local 5109
Verne Saari, Local 659
Katie Sample, Local 499
The committee is tasked with electing an Editor amongst themselves. The 2015 – 2017 Editor is Virginia Ridley. Congratulations to all the elected committee members.