Thursday, 17 May 2012

Nothin goes to windward like a...

So I've been struggling to put together the relocation cruise. First there was the time off work issue, which was resolved. Then the issue of timing came up which was also resolved, but forced some compromises. After that there was the crew issue, which resulted in a few responses to a classified ad online, and selection of a guy who seemed able to do the job and a couple who were excited to give cruising a try. Then Stephen Harper made some budget cuts.

Now normally I would say federal politics has very little to do with sailing, but in this case, the national Conservative Party is stepping right into the middle of my summer vacation plans.

Since we are fighting for an economic recovery, and since so many Canadians are struggling to pay for essentials like groceries and houses, my summer vacation isn't very important. To that end, the Harper Government has decided to cut funding to Parks Canada to the tune of thousands of jobs. Which I understand. Certainly the frills of advanced society are the first things to go to prevent further economic decline. Except that, well, the Harper cuts are preventing me from visiting a dozen towns to buy bagels and cream cheese, dinners out, and ice cream.

But the federal government is saving a LOT of money by cutting the staffing in the parks.

I thought about the impact of the cuts and decided to call Parks Canada directly to see if I would still be able to buy bagels in Bobcaygeon, or if the plans to transit the Trent would have to be scrapped. A cheery operator named Philippe or something answered my call. He sounded thrilled to hear from me and his french accent was gentle and kind.

"Le canal vill operahte vid de normale howers, but ve canot guarantee le efficiency of ze staff."

I wasn't sure what he meant by "Cannot guarantee the efficiency of the staff." I asked for clarification.

"Vell, ze staff could be very busy vid ze extra verk, and zey could be cutting ze grazz ven you need to go true de lock."

I was starting to see what he was trying not to say. "Are you worried about work to rule or job actions?"

"Parcs Canada cannot comment on vaht ze unions may do zis summer."

"OK thanks."

I hung up the phone and thought about it a little bit. Harper has had unions in his cross-hairs since he sat on his throne after getting a majority government. He has played games with postal unions, airline unions, and other government employees. Heck, under his watchful eye, the Caterpillar plant in Ontario recieved millions of taxpayers dollars in government subsidies, and then was shut down under the reasoning that teh union was too expensive. He knows that a lot of people feel like parks should be among the first round of cuts if we are adopting the current trend towards austerity, and the parks workers likely have a twitch in their trigger finger right about now.

The parks staff can actually stand up to him since they would never be mandated back to work (like he did to postal and airline employees) if the parks staff do decide to work to rule or to strike or to take other job action, I don't want to be trapped in a lock or on some lake watching the clock tick down on my vacation time. Harper can't close the canal (a la Caterpillar) since it is a national historic site, but the unions can kill it for anyone wanting to transit the system. Heck, all they have to do is close one lock and no one can get through.

That uncertainty, coupled with the crewing challenge, tight timeline and vagaries of weather had me pretty shaky. Then as I was discussing the route and challenges with the good folks at the rigging shoppe, Michael made a comment: "Nothing goes to windward like a gasoline engine and four tires."

Uncle Charles will be pulling Iris to Whitby behind his dually pickup truck, and I just saved myself a bunch of worry and a week's vacation time.


  1. Chris,
    I can sympathize with your situation and understand your concern about getting stuck in a lock somewhere. Seems I read recently (maybe on the forum?) about a couple being stuck for weeks in a lock because of a walk out or something to that effect. I nearly ended up in mainland Portugal when the pilots of TAP Airlines walked out while I was on vacation in Madiera and needed to get back to the Azores where I was stationed. Fortunately the walkout lasted just about a day less than my vacation and I was able to fly "home" instead of back to their hub.

    I love the quote "Nothing goes to windward like a gasoline engine and four tires".

    1. Thanks Dave - I'm sure I can put teh vacation time to use in other ways!


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