11 December 2008

The Nation's Crapital

With the crippling global economy, the shaky national political situation and many threats of uncertainty looming, is it any wonder that people are feeling a little less than “holly jolly” this holiday season?

As if all the doom and gloom weren’t enough, Ottawa residents have been hit with a few extra tidbits of “fun” – a 4.9% property tax increase, a nasty snow storm and a completely ludicrous transit strike that has turned streets across the nation’s capital into absolute gridlock. Bah humbug!

I am infuriated by OC Transpo’s decision to walk off the job at this time of year, right in the middle of student exams and the Christmas rush. Yes , I understand that timing is everything and that this gives them more leverage to get their way, but seriously, an entire city has to suffer on their behalf! Business will see a downturn in customers and workers are left stranded, having to beg rides or pay big $$$ out of their pocket to park downtown or find taxi’s into the city. Tack on a bad snowstorm with a 30cm dumping and 350,000 extra commuters trying to make their way across the city – what a horrible mess!

Thankfully I have very understanding employers who allow me to work remotely from home in such situations, however it’s still preferable to be in the office most days of the week. Yesterday both hubby and I worked from home because the roads were still a mess after the big storm. Because school busses were cancelled, many parents opted to stay home as well. Today was the first real day of absolute mayhem, as everyone took to the roads to get back to work. Thankfully I have a very generous and lovely coworker that kindly offered to drive me into work for the duration of the strike; luck smiled down on me because she only lives about four blocks away. It took us 90 minutes to get into the office this morning – a drive that would typically take only 30 minutes.

This nasty strike is likely to last for quite a few days (maybe even weeks) because neither the city not the OC Union are budging. The drivers are striking because the city wants to enforce block booking, a measure that would not longer allow certain driver’s to cherry pick their shifts and vacation days. A more structure scheduling would save the taxpayer’s millions, however the drivers are angry because this is a benefit that they would essentially be stripped of. The city, however, did offer driver a 7% pay hike, which is far superior than what Public Servants were offered in this tough economic times. Everyone else has to tighten their belts and give up some perks, yet the big unions step in and rear their heads and make matters worse for all of us. Yes, their role is to protect the rights of their employers, but at a huge cost to rest of us hard-working folks that don’t even receive close to the same wages as these drivers, nor the same number of benefits. Is it any wonder that so many Ottawa residents are siding with the city and against OC Transpo?

If there is one single positive thing to come out of this huge muddle, it’s that I have finally been prompted to get off my butt, confront my fear and book myself a driver’s test for February. I’m willing to tackle icy roads and yucky learning conditions. I’ll keep trying and practicing until I succeed, anything so that I won’t have to give another red cent to this city’s ungrateful transit system.

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