COLUMN

A simple question that has no simple answer

Allan Fotheringham January 31 1994
COLUMN

A simple question that has no simple answer

Allan Fotheringham January 31 1994

A simple question that has no simple answer

COLUMN

ALLAN FOTHERINGHAM

Why doesn’t anything work any more? We are trying to fly from Toronto to Vancouver. The radio tells us that the fuel pipes at Toronto airport are frozen and there will be massive flight delays all day. We phone Air Canada and are assured that nothing is wrong.

We go to the airport and the flight is delayed. Why? Because the fuel pipes are frozen and each plane must be refuelled by truck. How long will the delay be? Well, 30 minutes. Then another 30. Then “indefinitely.”

When we are finally loaded, the pilot informs us that the truck, uh, only had half a load of fuel. We don’t have enough on board to make it to Vancouver. We will have to stop in Winnipeg in search of more.

Is this another Gimli Glider? The nervous mind flashes back a decade. An Air Canada jet from Montreal headed for Edmonton suddenly coughed and choked and ran out of fuel. It seems a mechanic in Montreal couldn’t figure out metric and didn’t fill up the tanks. Luckily the pilot had gliding as his hobby and, using those techniques, guided the huge and silent jet to an old abandoned runway he remembered still sat in Gimli on Lake Winnipeg. He skidded to a stop, the nose undercarriage collapsed, with nary a casualty.

Why does nothing work? An international pilots’ association awarded him a medal for his brilliant performance. And Air Canada suspended him because of the Montreal botch-up.

I said to a nice Air Canada man in Winnipeg that they must bury their fuel pipes deeper than in Toronto. “No,” he smiles, “we just use trucks.”

Why doesn’t anything work any more? My friend Roy Peterson, whose illustration decorates this page each week, lives in West Vancouver and sends his artistry to Maclean’s in Toronto via a world-famous courier service. Last week, he delivered his package and the world-famous courier service shipped it off— to Montreal?

Why do so many people not realize what

work is? Every morning, as a loyal taxpayer, I listen to CBC radio. When the weatherman delivers his bad news, the CBC host says: ‘Thank you very much.” When the sports guy delivers the morning hockey scores and the latest hot dirt on Tonya Harding, the CBC host says: “Thank you very much.”

When a newspaper reporter gives his peerless prose to his city editor, the city editor doesn’t say: “Thank you very much.” It’s the reporter’s job to produce the stuff. When the editor sends on the prose to what used to be called the composing room, the chaps back there don’t say: “Thank you very much”—as if someone was doing them a favor. It’s a job. Get on with it.

When politicians come on CBC Radio, the CBC host says: “Thanks very much for doing this.” Lor doing what? That’s a politician’s job, to communicate. When a ditch digger disturbs your sleep with a jackhammer, do

you go out when the pavement is down and say: ‘Thank you very much for doing this”?

When Peter Jennings gets a report from a correspondent in Bosnia or Somalia (who probably makes about $150,000), he says: “Right, Ralph. Talk to you later.” If he was back at the CBC where he started, I guess he’d thank the guy very much and his mother and best wishes to his aunt.

Why doesn’t anything work any more? It is now discovered that in the current cold snap more than one-third of the cars in Toronto that won’t start have to be towed to a repair shop. Why? Because of the on-board computers that we supposed were to zoom us into the future. This is progress?

Moving right along, all the brilliant scientists and politicians in Ottawa somehow could not figure out that the cod were disappearing off Newfoundland. When they finally in a panic shut down the cod fishery, they shovelled out $587 million to the 39,000 fishermen and plant workers in Atlantic Canada who were deprived of their groceries.

It now turns out that cheques for some $15 million were sent to souls who had little or no connection to the fishery—including some who had already retired, were fishing illegally or weren’t even in Canada, and some who were dead.

Why doesn’t anything work any more? The auditor general tells us that the Mulroney government wasn’t telling the truth in claiming that the cost of flying cabinet ministers and other VIPs about the globe wasn’t $27.5 million for one year. The cost in fact was $54 million to a government which had refused to give the watchdog access to information on the expenses of its ministers.

The Ontario government has spent $4.2 million just to count the number of computers it owns. A public inquiry into the taintedblood scandal in which more than 1,000 Canadian hemophiliacs and blood-transfusion patients were infected with the AIDS virus is about to begin. When? On Valentine’s Day!

Ottawa has doubled the staff and equipment needed to collect the Gouging and Screwing Tax, but almost one-third of all companies and self-employed individuals filing are delinquent and owe the government some $800 million. And Revenue Minister David Anderson, who tried to sue his own government for $450,000, says he is going to crack down on tax evaders.

The airline can’t figure out how to fill ’er up, the couriers find the wrong city, the CBC thanks people as if they were doing charity work and the government sends cheques to dead people. Leel better now?