Category: Dark Ages

Working Close To Home

My Home
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home…especially when it has an impact on your ability to hold down a job! Image from Google Maps

Caution: Coarse Language

I’m still trying to find a place to move to before the mass September 12th eviction, but let’s face it, it’s tough to find a landlord who will take me as a tenant without stable employment.

I can’t fault them for their reluctance.  If our positions were reversed, I would be very leery about taking any tenant without a guarantee they will pay their rent on time, if not skip out without paying any arrears.

This segues perfectly to the point of having a rent guarantor. Do I have one like I did when I moved into my current place? The answer is yes, and it’s the same people: members of my family who cover my current rent.  They are committed to handling the rent of whatever place I move to.

Convincing a potential landlord  to accept a rent guarantor is tougher than you think, however. The people who advertise an available room are not mind-readers. There’s no way to validate the fact I have people who will cover the rent.  In fact, going back to the switcher-roo example from before, anyone saying to me they have a rent guarantor in lieu of employment to cover the rent sounds like a bullshit story. A really bad one at that.

Gainful employment ensures the rent is paid on time, true, but a roof over one’s head to sleep  and have shelter from the elements ensures stable on-the-job performance, or at least a successful job search that will lead to such. I can tell you from experience it is murderously difficult to look for work while under the influence of lack-of-REM sleep. Without a good night’s sleep, it’s tough to focus on what needs to get done. It’s hard to concentrate on answering an interviewer’s questions to his/her satisfaction while not looking like Keith Richards after a late night bender. I can’t project a positive image during my 30-second stump speech.

Simply put, the chances landing a job that pays the rent will be significantly reduced because I don’t have a place to stay. These two issues cannot be treated as separate ones.

It is for this reason that any strategic action plan on combating homelessness and unemployment must consider this causality or the plan will fail miserably.

Thanks for reading!

David.

Nothing To Celebrate

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July 1st, 2017 was Canada’s 150th birthday, and people found time to celebrate.

Had they tried to find a reason to celebrate instead, they would have been confounded in the attempt.

I know I’m going to get flak for being a Debbie Downer about this, but I take pride in being a realist. Canada has problems, the most serious of which are in this Pixton comic I made:

Homelessness and lack of affordable housing: The numbers below (2016 report):

  • 235,000: Estimated number of people who are homeless in Canada annually.
  • 35,000: Estimated number of people who are homeless in Canada on a given night.
  • 150,000: Approximate number of people who access emergency shelters in Canada annually.
  • 50,000: Estimated number of people who are “hidden homeless” — defined as those without homes of their own who lean on friends or family for shelter — on any given night.
  • 4 million: Number of bednights, defined as nights during which a shelter bed is occupied, each year across Canada.
  • $105.3 million: Amount the federal government spends annually on the Homeless Partnering Strategy, which is designed to prevent and reduce homelessness.
  • 82,380: People who found more stable housing as a result of the Homeless Partnering Strategy.

are damning. We price homes — a basic essential — like a luxury item. Are you aware that home mortages in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal cost more than the longest ocean liner world cruise offered? Madness!

Unstable Employment: Temporary Foreign Workers, a shot work-life balance from the demand by Corporate Canada to do more with less people and pay, a low labour participation rate, part time work and full time work with less and less benefits now becoming the norm is killing is literally and figuratively each and every one of us.

Crumbling Infrastructure:  It takes longer for us to get to and from work. We now see more occurrences of power outages and floods after a violent storm. Hospitals are now stricken with disease outbreaks. Wait times for specialists and getting needed treatment for cancer and AIDs are lengthening. These are the ingredients for a perfect storm that will decimate society unless we act now to fix it.

Poverty: Salary increases have slowed yet the cost of living goes up and up. The list of medical procedures once covered by government health care is shrinking, yet your tax dollars go up and up with no change in the ROI. The rise of the precariat are the fragile bricks of a weak economy that will only increase more government spending.

Social Enclaves: Little Italy. China Town. Middle Eastern neighbourhoods with stores that serve food labelled in Urdu. The hyphenated Canadian and Justin Trudeau’s plans to make Canada a post national country. The alt-right VS the alt-left. Faith factions demanding the separation of state and religion to disappear. It seems no one wants to be Canadian, and the one thing we seem to have in common is our willingness to build walls based on ideology, race, faith, class, and gender. How can we be stand united as a nation when we seek to atomize ourselves into ever smaller groups?

Dishonest Government: Liberal, Tory, same old story. When was the last time we had a government that actually kept its promises and worked for the people instead of lobbyists for big business and special interest groups? Why are we spending millions of dollars on art that is not really art while basic needs such as housing and proper medical care for all are being ignored? It’s gotten to the point where government justifies their dishonesty rather than denying it like they used to do in the past.

High Taxes:  It’s a given we need taxes to pay for the things we take for granted, especially those things that keep us warm, safe, and connected with each other. Having said this, one would think the amount of taxes we pay would reflect the quality of services we receive but there’s increasing evidence that’s not the case. In my situation. I’ve hit nothing but walls when I’ve tried to access social assistance and employment placement programs to return back to financial self-reliance and sustainability. I don’t qualify because I’m either not completely destitute or the wrong gender and skin color, or the damned career program is simply not covered. I get a Volkswagen Beetle at the cost of a Limousine.

We’ve done well but the wheels are going off the train of progress and the road map for a better future has been misplaced somewhere in the cab. We’ve lost focus. The concept of a compassionate society, a Canadian invention, has been forgotten in the name of greed, power, and glory. We worship false gods in music, entertainment, and sports and attempt to emulate their lifestyles that is both hedonistic and destructive.

We can do better than this. Let’s find a reason to celebrate the next Canada Days ahead.

Let’s make Canada a better country.

Thanks for reading.

The Madness Of Our Manufacture.

Chris Christie
Got your sunscreen there, Guv’ner? Christie and family soak up sun on New Jersey beach he closed to the public.

WARNING: COARSE LANGUAGE.

I’m sure most of you by now are familiar with the story about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who used a public beach “that has been closed to all other New Jerseyans amid a government shutdown that Christie ordered Friday.”

His defense that ‘‘the governor has a residence at Island Beach….that’s the way it goes” and “run for governor and you can have the residence.’’ is logically correct but still reeks of qu’ils mangent de la brioche. 

In other words, “let them eat cake.”

I can see why Tuja, who once ran an excellent job search blog, has such a deep hatred for this guy. We’ve had some insensitive pricks up here in Canada in charge of federal, provincial, and municipal governments, but this guy — pardon the expression — takes the cake. Actually, by the looks of him, he must have taken a lot of cake.

It’s no wonder that many of our social issues — such as poverty, homelessness, unemployment, high taxes, long wait times to see a medical specialist, crumbling infrastructure — are still around and kicking our collective ass. It’s not that these issues are hard to fix: with the right leadership and planning, most of them could be resolved within our lifetime.

It’s just that the men and women we elect to office, whom we expect to fix these issues, are hardly leadership material. Christie’s behaviour might be an extreme example to use as evidence of this, but it can still serve as the “confirmed sighting” that politicians are self-entitled assholes who do not have the people’s interests in mind and at heart.

Having said this, is it enough to just point blame at the badly-behaving politician, or perhaps we need to look further for the reason why government no longer serves the people?

It’s true what  lawyer, diplomat, writer, and philosopher Joseph de Maistre once wrote: in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve. Christie’s a dick, but the last time I checked America is still a democracy and he was voted in, not appointed by divine rule as dictator. In Ontario, the Kathleen Wynne government has enough evidence stacked against them to show that they are both inept and corrupt, yet when given the choice nearly four years ago, the people re-elected the Liberal Party. Justin Trudeau has proven himself to be clueless about the economy, terrorism, and what defines national unity, yet he was elected Prime Minister of Canada instead of having Stephen Harper return for another term.

We can grind our teeth all we want about the next new tax, rant and rave about how it’s “do what we say and not as we do” with people like Christie, or sigh in resignation you just can’t fight City Hall, but this madness is our manufacture.

For not doing our homework at election time and not taking charge  in how government should serve the people, this is what we deserve.

That does not mean it has to always be this way.

If we want better in government, we need to look for better within and amongst ourselves. We have to turn our BS detectors up to 11 and look past the false promises listed in election platforms that look more like marketing strategies. More importantly, we must ask each person who is running for public office at election time this question:

“What will you do if you fail to keep your promises?”

It’s a fair question. Most people are fired when they don’t carry out what their employers tell them to do. Why should this be different for politicians? Are we not their employers? Shouldn’t we send them packing when they don’t do what we ask them to do? Apparently we don’t, and this is what we get.

Either we hold our elected officials to a higher standard, or we better get used to seeing more stories like Christie’s in the future, and they won’t just be just the odd extreme exception but an everyday occurrence.

Thanks for reading.

David.

Safe Space

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Some constables of the Region of Waterloo paid my place a visit, and they were not smiling like these folk. Source: Waterloo Region Police Flickr page.

I’ve been asked by a few people why I won’t go to a men’s shelter, as I’ve stated in previous posts and during my “David Needs A Job” videos on YouTube. To answer, I need to tell you about something that happened this morning (Wednesday June 21st, 2017).

We had an incident this morning at the group house I’m staying at. One that involved the police being called and I having to give one constable a report.

My neighbour across from me often has friends over, and some of them are pretty sketchy. Now, I admit I shouldn’t be so judgemental: I did say in a previous post that the tenants and I who live at this house are not at their Sunday best, and would rather be at a better point in life. So, people in glass houses, after all…

One particular friend of his is borderline schizophrenic. He will sometimes swing from polite and friendly to berserker lunatic without warning. He’ll start using the F-word so many times he sounds like a helicopter. A screeching shrieking one at that.

When this happens he’ll hit my neighbour, issue death threats, and start damaging property and scaring the crap out of the rest of us. If it happens in the afternoon, I’ll grab what I can and stay at a Tim Horton’s or a library until I get the all-clear to come home.

If this happens overnight during a stayover, it’s different. I can’t just go out in the middle of the night because nearly everything is closed in the Region of Waterloo, and the buses don’t run overnight. This isn’t Toronto after all. The best I can do is lie in my bed and wait until the screaming and hitting stops and he leaves, then go back to sleep.

I’ve talked to my neighbour about this on several occasions, gently suggesting that maybe he shouldn’t let him stay overnight any more. My neighbour agreed, yet his friend still came over and sometimes it happens yet again.

Now we get to the present. This morning, he stormed into the basement and charged into my neighbour’s suite. After hitting my neighbour…again…he goes into the main hall and sings (yes, sings) about killing his neighbour, killing police and firefighters, and ranting about what a genius he is and he’s smarter than everyone else. How he got in is anyone’s guess. I always lock the back door before I go to bed : I know it’s locked because I always have to unlock it in order to leave for my job search or any temp work the next morning.

I don’t know who called the police but they came to detain my neighbour’s friend. Because I knew about the past incidents  involving him and how he behaves, I was asked by one constable to fill out a three page report. I did so, as well as showed the constable a record of the times my neighbour and I talked about this. This included some Emails.

So why am I sharing this, and what does this have to do with why I won’t go to a men’s shelter?

I told you before most people like myself who are in need of social assistance and affordable housing usually are not at their Sunday best. You go through depression and mood swings which could lead to having a mental disorder, assuming you already do not have one.

It’s no secret that fights, assaults, and thefts happen at men’s shelters. Imagine what happened at my place magnified by a factor of 10 or more. That’s what goes on in these places. That’s why we need affordable housing that bring dignity, stability, and privacy to the individual who is trying to get back on their feet. Band-aid solutions like group homes and shelters are not the answer.

Everyone deserves a safe space to eat and sleep in.

Thanks for reading.

David.

The Fast Track Right Over The Poor

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From immigration.ca, that has an article about the new Global Talent Stream program which allows the fasttracking of foreign worker hiring.

I want to bring to your attention a new program that will be great if you are looking for work in the Region of Waterloo’s growing technology market, as well as other parts of Canada.

Before I introduce it, there’s a catch: you cannot be a Canadian citizen. You have to live outside of Canada to qualify.

On June 12, 2017, Canada launched its new Global Talent Stream (GTS), offering fast-track, two-week Canada visa and Canada work permit processing for employers seeking to hire specialized high-skilled foreign workers.

Communitech, an example of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare that does little to address poverty and homelessness in the Region of Waterloo, and instead make the rich technocrats even richer, will be an agent of referral for those who qualify.

I do not qualify because I am a native born Canadian citizen, nor do I have a Canada work permit which is what Communitech and other agents of referrals ask for.

This program, in a nutshell, helps businesses find global talent to fill vacant job positions in the technology field at the expense of local talent.

Businesses claim they cannot find local talent so they must hire abroad. While that might be true, it does not address the WHY of it. In other words, why can’t they find local talent and that is something I want to address today.

Let’s start with the cost of getting the qualifications in order to land that job. It’s no secret that the cost of post secondary education is quite expensive, with technology diploma and degree programs being especially so. I’ve argued in a past post that we are in danger of having the working class being synonymous with wealthy class because only that economic class will be able to afford training programs.

We’ve also entered an era where very few entry level positions are available in most professions. Back in the 1980s, the information technology field had many entry level jobs (such as computer operations, data entry, help desk) that not only required very little qualifications but gave one a chance to get in-house training and rise up the job ladder. Those positions are now either automated or rolled into other job descriptions through right-sizing/downsizing and credential creep.

These two points do reduce the number of local applicants, but this problem is one of our own manufacture. We chose to hire governments that did not make post-secondary education more affordable for our young people and those in need of retraining during a career transition due to obsolescence. We allowed businesses to implement policies that laid off many people, even to the point of violating certain employee rights and all in the name of increasing profit. Human Resources is now the equivalent of a line item on an expense report, where salaries are lumped in with toilet paper, office supplies, and coffee vend machines.

Had we invested more in local human capital, not only would this lack of local talent issue not exist, the country as a whole would be more prosperous.

In closing, hiring foreign workers to fill those positions does not address the problem of the local underemployed, unemployed, and the homeless. They will STILL be around and drawing from social assistance programs while they struggle to get out of poverty. Whatever tax revenue increase that will come from the success of GTS will be offset by the ever increasing social infrastructure costs needed to help Canadian citizens who live below the poverty line. Even worse, their number WILL increase as a result of GTS.

On the eve of Canada’s 150th birthday, it seems downright unCanadian to look outside our borders for workers. It’s time to start helping our own by getting them back on the payroll.

Thanks for reading.

David.

 

 

No Guarantees In Life

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A SANYO R227 Internet Radio, produced by the company I worked for nearly 20 years. A great product, but a pity it was released at the wrong time. Picture from Digital Trends website, where the R227 was reviewed favourably.

WARNING: COARSE LANGUAGE

(Note: While every effort was made to write this post with as much fact and objectivity as possible, it should not be considered THE truth of the day. Read this as an analytical commentary of the current state of chronic unemployment and lack of affordable housing and not as a critique of the company from a former SANYO Canada employee)

One of the arguments made by proponents of the minimalist government model — those who believe there should be no social assistance programs and everyone should take care of themselves — is that the business world has the ability to ensure everyone is financially self reliant through employment. In other words, it’s the fault of the unemployed for being where they are, because they don’t want to work.  Lazy bastards and bitches, the lot of them. Find a job, you have rent and food. Simple, simple.

The problem with that reasoning is that the collective employment potential of the business world is far from being able to guarantee that.

There are many reasons for this. One reason I’ve already mentioned is the hit song, “Do More With Less! Downsize! Downsize!” that Corporate Canada dances to in order to make a profit. I’ve also mentioned technological unemployment where automation is doing away with jobs without provisions being made for retraining those being let go. Since they were already covered before, I won’t expand on either any further.

What I DO want to discuss today has something to do with the company I worked for. I never mentioned my last full time job by name because I wanted to wait seven years after the day of my departure and the expiration of the terms of my exit strategy before talking about it. Now that I’ve reached that point in time, I can talk about the company within the context of the topic of this blog post.

I started with SANYO Canada back in 1991 as a temp employee of Universal Support Systems. I worked as a night-shift computer operator. This went on for two years until SANYO Canada offered me a full-time position.

On the day that happened, I was on Cloud Nine.  It was busy, but not breakneck stressful. It was an awesome place to work for. I had a great boss who praised me for my good work but — on thankfully very rare occasions —  was also not afraid to tell me when I made a mistake.

Because the company was very close to where I lived, I was able to walk to work, even on crappy weather days. We had enough staff in our I.T. department to cover for vacationing employees. We even had our own secretary.

It was a great job I enjoyed doing. That enjoyment brought forth good employee performance. I was promoted from night shift computer operations to programming and then later to applications developer.

I received paid-for company training for things involving my work, attended lavish Christmas parties, enjoyed company BBQs, and went on trips on the SANYO blimp.

Nothing lasts forever, however. Over the next 15 years that followed, my dream career began to unravel.

When I was a kid, you had an appliance that served a specific purpose: TVs for television shows, phones for telephone calls, stereos and radios for news and music. A this for that in other words.

All of that can now be done on either a smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Very convenient, very portable, and consumers in general love portability and convenience.

Companies that adapted to this changing consumer landscape (such as SONY, Samsung, and Apple) weathered the storm. Companies that couldn’t…? Well, let me continue with the story.

SANYO Canada and its parent company could have made products (like smart phones) that rode on the convergence trend. It didn’t. It decided to get out of the business of making cell-phones in 2008 and go for gimmicky niche products instead.

The R227 (shown above) played news and music over the Internet but had a nostalgic look with the chrome and knobs. I was one of two I.T. guys who had the pleasure of working with the initial prototype. I tested out some of the features and sent a short report to Marketing that reported any issues with the product design. The R227 was a great product, but in the mid-2000’s it was already out of favour before it hit the store shelves. We were living in an on-demand world at that point, with streaming audio and video already available on devices that were smaller and more affordable.

Consumer marketing gambles that backfired were not just limited to the R227.  In a time when people were ditching their landlines (including cordless phones), SANYO thought making cordless phones where you could change the colour of the handset’s faceplate was a solution to bolster the product line’s sagging sales. It didn’t work. In fact, nothing meant to improve the consumer side of SANYO’s business worked. The company was in trouble and that’s when the austerity cuts to the company began.

It started with the frills. Gone were the lavish Christmas parties, to be replaced with Christmas office pot lucks. No more expensive company lunches and outdoor BBQs.

Next came evaluating the operational costs.

Our I.T. infrastructure was moved to our head office in San Diego after the first wave of staff cuts in my department began. We could not implement any software or hardware solution that directly plugged into our core business processes unless San Diego approved and most of the time they refused. VPN access for employees who wanted to work from home was only permitted if we used the client software we were told to use, not what we needed. In the end, having our head office host our I.T. infrastructure crippled SANYO Canada’s ability to adapt to the changing B2B and B2C needs of our customers.

The corporate tree was flattened, and the  I.T. department merged with the Finance department. The position of I.T. manager was removed with the staff reporting directly to the head of  Finance, who had the designation of Vice-President.

As my department shrank, my workload increased. I went from being just a developer to also wearing the hat of systems administrator, security officer and first level backup for EDI and PC support. My pay didn’t increase in proportion with my new duties but my blood pressure and stress level sure did. My weight ballooned to a very unhealthy 200 pounds.

SANYO Canada moved out of Toronto to Vaughan to reduce rent and business tax expenses. My commute went from a delightful walk to a daily round trip of 4 hours by transit.  I left my apartment at 6:30 a.m. in the morning, and did not come home until between 8 and 9 in the evening. On nights where I worked late, that trip became downright dangerous when transit stopped running.

The move out of Toronto didn’t just affect employee commute times. It also made it damned inconvenient for customers needing servicing for their products. The Toronto location was pretty easy to get to both by transit and car, since it was smack in the middle of a high-density residential area. Its new home in Vaughan placed it in an area surrounded mostly by light commercial and industrial businesses, served only by a single transit line that ran once every 30 minutes out of rush-hour, and reachable only by the highway.

Our warehouses were outsourced to a third party logistics company. The staff who worked in those warehouses lost their seniority after becoming employees of that third party company.

 

By the time the Great Recession was in full swing, SANYO had endured many cuts and departmental restructuring, but that was not enough to save it. It became a subsidiary of Panasonic with all staff relocated to work at its Mississauga office. The office we moved into from Toronto — which was specifically built for us and was trumpeted in fanfare as an example of businesses moving to Vaughan — was vacated and sold to another company.

Any product lines bearing SANYO’s logo are now being grandfathered out. I was already long gone at that point, with the company and the job I had nothing more than awesome memories of what was.

What was the point of sharing all of this, you ask? To show that there is no such thing as job security any more. You can still do all the right things at work. You can be a stellar employee with a dream career but shit can still happen.

Your financial stability and security can be taken away at any time, without warning and out of your control.

This is something the minimalists need to understand. This is why businesses cannot be expected to be the white knights against unemployment. This is why we need a social safety net to catch people when they fall in this Age Of Austerity and The Jobless Recovery.

Thanks for reading!

David.