Archive for July, 2012

It’s never as it first appears

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Situations are never as they first appear. This week, my grandson came for a working visit. Grandpa needs some hard work done. Grandson needs a working holiday. Grandpa needs an old sidewalk hammered out and cleaned up. Grandson needs money. Something about wanting a car by the time the driver’s license arrives.
So we start to work on this old busted up sidewalk. Well actually Grandpa with the sore back (really, honestly it’s sore) shows the lad how to break up cement with a sledge hammer. Then the fun begins. We knew it was two layers, that was obvious from the splintered, frost heaved shards. What we didn’t know is that underneath was a layer of broken bricks. The dumpster is really going to fill up fast now.
Same old story, nothing is ever as it first appears.
Years ago, I did a large number of farm debt cases. I had clients all over southern Manitoba. Part of the process was to assess the actual debt situation for farm families and work out a solution. We had a fair amount of success. To figure out what was really happening to a business, we would make a list of assets and debts. Then we would ask who the creditors were. To totally ascertain that we would do a search of the Personal Property data base. Those reports never came back exactly the way the family believed they would. There were always differences. A vehicle loan might not have been recorded. A sold vehicle might still show up as security. Paid off debt would sometimes still be on the list. It was an education. One certainly learned to check the paperwork carefully, and twice.
In my latest job, as a mayor, I have learned a new appreciation for paperwork. If a paper trail is important anywhere it’s in the municipal world. We are always referring back to a by-law or a resolution, a policy or a regulation. Again, rarely is the wording exactly the way any person remembers it or assumes it to be. You have to love paperwork and bureaucracy.
I am reading a biography of Winston Churchill, the well known British Prime minister who is credited with uniting the free world in the fight against Hitler in WW II. From the very first emergence of Hitler as a leader in war-torn Germany, Churchill warned that Hitler needed to be stopped. The majority of English politicians didn’t believe him. Neither did the public for many years. The majority of the British, along with much of Europe, did not want to believe that war would ever break out again. It was wishful thinking based on the horrifying experience of WWI. Nobody ever wanted to back to that devastation of life, limb and property. But Churchill knew one thing that few others knew. Appeasing your enemy doesn’t make them a friend. 
It doesn’t matter if you are re-constructing a sidewalk or building a nation, few things are as they first appear. Perhaps that’s for the best. If we saw all the problems at once we might never start a project.

How can you tell it’s summer?

Friday, July 13th, 2012

There are many ways you can tell it’s summer. Here’s how.
• The federal parliament isn’t sitting and neither is the legislature in Winnipeg, but there are politicians at every barbecue, at the Calgary Stampede and at local events everywhere. That’s not being cynical, the summer BBQ season is the time when you can get a few minutes of uninterrupted time with your politicians. It’s a good thing. Make use of it, politicians are there to listen and most do actually listen to the people. Whenever you get frustrated with politics in Canada, just think how much better it is in Canada than it is in other countries.
• It’s  also a slow news time so there’s no one topic to dominate a publisher’s column.
• Sunday shopping is back in the news. Nothing like Sunday shopping to stir up a few opinions. It really shouldn’t be an issue. Why the government has any control over shopping hours is a bit of a mystery.
And why churches would even get upset about it in this day and age is even more of a mystery. The Christian church, centuries ago, wandered away from their original example and mandate. The earliest church met daily, prayed daily, met needs daily, were in the community constantly and thereby, many times, gained respect. Today, the official church huddles in their corners for an hour every Sunday morning and demands that stores stay closed. The “real” church is out in the community 24-7 doing what they are called to do.
• The province has jurisdiction rules over Sunday shopping and has recently expanded the legal hours. The local town council has the authority to expand to the provincial level, expand part way to the provincial level or leave things as they are. Not many councils in small towns are anxious to change shopping hours.
• As stated above, why are there shopping rules anyway? The marketplace will decide what works and what doesn’t work. 
• Laws restricting hours of business are a waste of time. If you have a business with less than four employees on duty, you are basically exempt. Hospitals are 24-7, so are care homes, many factories, lots of places. Farmers work 16 hour days many times. I talked to man who worked 16 hour days for 21 days straight in the oil and gas fields. I talked to a man who worked 12 hour days for 121 days straight, also in a gas and oil-related business.
The marketplace decides and if we let that happen, it would be a lot simpler.
• The farm fields (as of Tuesday morning) are starting to look a bit dry in this area. Meanwhile some areas have had more rain than they can handle. It’s pretty much a normal summer with heat in July taxing the soil’s moisture to its limit and in some cases, storms are causing severe damage and even flooding. We need to pray for our farmers and our food supply. Without farmers, the grocery stores wouldn’t have any reason to be open, Sunday or not.
• If people get upset that stores are closed when they pull up to them at what they consider off-hours, how much more so should we be upset when churches are closed? Put another way, and by way of a small example, the local Immigration and Settlement Services office adjusted their hours a few years back. There was no use being open when the newcomers were at work but it was smart to be open after 5 p.m. when the workers were available to come to the office. Makes sense to me. The office wisely let the need or demand dictate the hours.
• In our newspaper business, we keep hours that make business sense and we are also available 24-7 by way of voice mail, email, internet access and, in Neepawa, we even have an old-fashioned drop-off box. If our business merited being open longer, we would be open longer. If it merited or needed to be open Saturday and Sunday, we would do that. We are also out and about after regular hours, on weekends and holidays. That’s the nature of the newspaper business and we don’t need a government regulation to tell us how to run it. The market place does it quite nicely.
• The over riding theme of this summer column is: may the crops grow, may business grow, may people grow, may the rains and blessings come. And keep the politicians at the barbecues, they make fewer rules when they are there than when they are in session. This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247