March 12th 2003
Ali Baba and the Petrol Companies are up to their tricks again.
Every Monday and Thursday the price of petrol is increased.
This has been going on ever since I landed here. Initially we were talking about small amounts. Sometimes even in tenths of cents. And generally the price hovered around 45c to 50c a litre.
Monday night the price would be about 48c. It would then drop to around 46c before Thursday evening when once again the price would shoot up to 48c and the whole process would start again.
Since the end of 2001 however the whole process has been rather interesting to watch.
Come Monday night the price will be 48c. The price will then drop to 45c by Thursday when the price goes up to 48.5c. By Sunday the price will have dropped to 45.5c. On Monday night again it goes up to 49c. Thursday during the day sees the price at 46c while when it is put up in the evening it is now 49.5c! I am sure you get the picture though.
There has been a slow but steady increase in the price such that now it is at 80c and climbing.
In fact today the garage around the corner was at 81.9c
Actually all the garages around the corner were at 81.9c.
You see there is this amazing coincidence that occurs all across Canada at exactly the same time every Monday and Thursday. To the exact minute and second every single garage, every single garage owner, every single pump has an epiphany and the price of petrol is adjusted to the exact same amount. Of course this all happens completely randomly without any of the garages being aware of anyone else doing exactly what they are doing. Pure coincidence!
Or so the spokesman would have us believe.
The world's best example of the collective conscious acting collectively. Not for the common good mind you.
Unless you own shares in PetroCanada in which case no doubt this will please you. Considering the obscene amount of profit they made last year. The really, really obscene amount of profit!
Which is a total snotklap to Canadians if you will.
As I understand it PetroCanada was initially set up in order to make Canada self-sufficient. So that Canadians wouldn't be at the mercy of all the overseas companies plundering Canada's resources.
I suppose that being at the mercy of a Canadian company plundering the resources is just slightly more appealing?
I find it both intriguing, and bloody annoying, that PetroCanada stations always seem to have the highest priced pumps around when prices are fluctuating.
Anyway even the Canadians are starting to smell a rat as far as collusion goes. Which means that this rip off is so blatant that it would have had people in court anywhere else in the world.
Here in Canada the muted chorus of anger has been growing.
As has the spin doctoring on the part of the Companies by the way. Horror stories about how we can expect the price to be over $1 by the middle of the year have suddenly started to appear. Of course when it only goes up to 95c or so then we are all supposed to be so grateful to the companies for managing to contain costs!
This little ploy has been tried before successfully and like all good propaganda, when it works once, you then milk it for all it's worth! I can remember the same tactic being used about a year ago and there was this outpouring of relief when the anticipated price did not rise to the level that was being hawked about. No one questioned the actual rise, which was way above the rise in the price of a barrel of oil and inflation and any other excuse that could have been used if needed.
In fact the most insulting part of the spin doctors attempt to pretend that they weren't ripping off the masses was the comment that has become the ultimate excuse at the moment:
“It is due to the war in Iraq”
Yes! You did read that right. He did say “war in Iraq” Not once but repeatedly.
Which is bloody insulting!
Because what it actually says is “ we think you are a bunch of ignorant idiots who will swallow any bull we trot out!”
It did however have the interesting effect of galvanizing a few more of the masses into being a little more annoyed. And it focused a lot more attention on the whole issue.
At which stage the most ludicrous comment of the lot from the companies was brought forth.
`Ah” says the spokesman. “Aside from the taxes which make up most of the price you pay, it is actually the garage owners who are making all the profit from raising and lowering prices.”
So now they even insult the people who work for them!
I must admit that paying GST on top of the tax on petrol is pure theft, but this Government has never been shy about stealing taxpayer's money. I just don't see why the petrol companies should do the same thing when I don't even have the choice of voting them out of business.
So what I do at the moment is wait until the Monday or Thursday afternoon before I fill up. I'm still being shafted but I feel better that at least I spend the least amount I can. And I wait for the greedy bastards to push it a step too far one day and actually waken the Canadian electorate from its self-imposed torpor.
That may be fun.
March 3rd 2003
This is my one hundredth article for SAW. A milestone if you will, but probably, given that it is one hundred and this is written in Canada, that should be more of a kilometer stone!
That is a little more than two years of commentary on the people, places and general insanity that marks immigrating to, and living in Ontario.
In retrospect I am still amazed that I had the testicles to actually pack up everything and immigrate to a brand new country as a single parent with three teenage children, no money and no job prospects.
It's the old fools rushing in aspect I suppose.
I really didn't think that it would be as hard as it has proven. Despite being given advice from various people before I left (and after I arrived as well!) about the rather interesting attitudes of the locals toward foreigners I found the adventure more appealing than the warning. And anyway it isn't as if I haven't had an “interesting” life before. It's just that I was a lot younger and didn't have the added responsibility of children to add to the equation.
I can actually remember one of our Secretaries telling me how impressed she was that I was moving and telling me that “everyone always talks about doing things. You actually do them!”
Well yes! If only she knew!
In retrospect the only part of the whole immigration process that I would definitely do differently would be to move when I was younger. Which is of course easy to say now. When I was younger I had a different attitude toward immigrating as well, so I suppose that comment is a bit disingenuous! But, and it is a big but, the older you are the harder it gets to fit into a society that values youth above all else. The cult of youth overlooks the wisdom of experience very neatly here.
Oddly enough the attitude of Canadians my age here is that they want to retire young and leave all the drudgery up to the youth anyway. Or the immigrants! Although that appears to be a last resort!
So in the beginning the hardest part was going from a fairly comfortable life to one of abject poverty. In case you are raising your eyebrows about that comment allow me to point out that existing on a packet of rice, one loaf of bread and a packet of chicken vienna sausages (hey it's protein in there somewhere and at 99c a packet cheap as well!) for four people for a week is generally classed as poor. Paying out more in rent than your salary brings in will do that.
Which is why we were added to the housing list and found assisted housing out in Oakville. I always laugh when people assume that because we live there we are rich.
That is one of Canada's sterling qualities. Helping people!
I sometimes wonder what would have happened in any other country if it weren't for that initial lifeline that I was thrown.
The even brighter part of the whole experience is that, because of where the housing complex is situated, my sons were able to attend one of the best schools in Oakville. So there is always good around no matter what.
About the only annoying factor that has dogged me though is that I have a really hard time getting into a career here.
Aside from once being told that I am too old and that my boobs are too small to get back into my chosen field I have bounced around in areas that bear very little resemblance to what I am experienced in. OK I am rapidly approaching being experienced in every bloody field but in the meantime this doesn't create continuity nor give me any stability. Having been in three companies that have gone bust you can understand my need to get a long term career up and running.
Which means that my other passion for travel and sightseeing has also suffered to a degree. In fact I tend to see and do things in and around Ontario in fits and starts.
Oddly enough this has meant that I tend to go out of my way to “make a day” of it when I do get a chance to get to new places. It is also the reason why I tend to write about new towns and areas infrequently.
Looking on the bright said again though, it means that I do go on more sightseeing type tours rather than any lavish or expensive activities and so I think I have seen more of the “real” countryside rather than the glitz and glamour of many of the tourist destinations. Where a seemingly bottomless pit of money is necessary to get in, eat, buy t-shirts with inane slogans, buy souvenirs and in some cases get out again.
In general I find the Canadian to be a nice and helpful person. In fact most of the really nasty experiences I have had can be laid directly at the feet of immigrants.
Given the choice I would never want to work for an immigrant, thanks in part to the way I have been treated. Which is a sad thing to say actually. And rather unfortunate because of the “networking” aspect to the job market here. Most Canadians find their jobs through their circle of friends and acquaintances. Figures bandied about say that up to 80% of the jobs out in the market are filled this way.
I have had first hand experience of this when I was once phoned up and offered a job by Canadian I had worked with earlier. Until the company went bust it was one of the best periods of my time here.
Bearing the vital necessity of this networking then, I was astonished to discover when landed here that there was NO South African organization or group set up to help other South Africans. Or if there was it was very well hidden.
I would look at the other communities out in the city who had offices everywhere and who put a lot of time and effort into helping their fellow countrymen and wonder where the hell my people were. . I'm not saying that everyone was provided with milk and honey but the silly little things were available at a moments notice. Information on OHIP, driver's licences, job searches and a myriad of activities that helped the people to settle down earlier. Even legal advice if necessary.
At first I thought it was because there were so few of us. Then one day I read some statistics that said that the biggest consignment of Africans in Ontario came from South Africa!
Even the Ethiopians have more public recognition than South Africans and they were way down on the list!
So I decided to start my own organization. I did say that angels cross over to the other side of the street when I go for a stroll didn't I?
And anyway with the Internet it is fairly easy to get something up and running. It is reaching the critical mass needed to become a force that takes time. The objective of the South Africans in Ontario website being to provide a meeting place for people who live here, to provide information on gatherings and events and to give advice to newcomers so that they won't have to go through what I went through.
Actually slightly different to most other South African sites in that the objective is not to dwell on the past but to go forward into the future!
With a regular newsletter now and the ability to inform well over a thousand Seffricans of events and meetings the idea of a community is taking shape.
One day I hope to also see an office or two up there with the name South African Cultural Organisation (or some such name!) emblazoned on a sign!
Hell if they can have a little Italy, Portugal, Greece or Chinatown why can't we do the same?? And no! Just because so many Seffricans live in Doornkop, north of Toronto, that doesn't count!
Anyway, that is my vision for the future and I will see it happen.
So the most important part of this missive is the question as to whether with all the hardship I would consider going back to South Africa.
Oddly enough despite the family and friends that I have back there and who I miss, like everyone else, I am not thinking of that as an option at all.
I find Canada to be a refreshing country. With a totally split personality which makes it so intriguing to live in. Unlike many people I don't find Canada boring at all.
And it so big. So very, very big!
For all the problems I have encountered there is still so much to do. To see and do. Enough for a thousand more columns probably.
And besides I'm a stubborn old Coot. I don't like being messed around.
In fact I'm thinking of a nice comfortable Cabinet position in the Canadian Government one day! That should yank a few chains!
My great grandfather did it. So can I!
I will keep you all informed.