Turn off your lights!

Taking a drive around town you will notice a couple things. Less traffic, the odd drunk and a lot of signs lighting up the area. Signs both large and small lighting up the area for businesses who are 99.9% of the time closed and locked up. Personally this has been a bit of a pet peeve for me because I think of the energy wasted, the distraction to drivers and the useless message it sends. “We are here but you can’t come in till we open in the morning”

Together the business and city council should work to reduce the amount of power consumption by business while closed by 20% -2 years and 60% after 4 years. The power saving for these companies would likely lead to much less of a burden on them financially and the power reduction could allow for Thunder Bay Hydro to make necessary repairs in areas around town. By turning off these lights we can allow for people to adapt to actual darkness and not the fake night of the city life.

Would something like this ever happen? Maybe, but I know one thing if it did. I would have one less pet peeve to deal with while driving around town.

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Dahla Dam Failure

One of the project’s that the Canadian government and Canadian military proudly promoted during the war in Afghanistan was the Dahla Dam. This dam was picked as Canada’s generation project and one that we could be proud of for years. This was also chosen to help thousands of farmers change from poppies (for heroin) to more conventional agriculture like corn, wheat etc.. As of 2012 and the removal of Canadian troops in country, this dam has done nothing to promote the Canadian image or Canadian taxpayers faith in government accountability.

The project was originally created by the Zahir Shah (last kind of Afghanistan) in the early 50’s. It allowed for water to be collected and distributed to the farmers in the lower valley. This is the second largest dam in Afghanistan and is a huge economic powerhouse for the local area. After years of war and lack of government spending the dam was almost useless. Large portions of the dam’s collection water would simply spill into the valley and dry up before the farmers were able to use it. The lack of water forced more farmers from conventional produces like corn, wheat to more sustainable products like poppies.

After 2006, when the Conservative Government took over power in Canada there was a large investment into Afghanistan and signature projects. The dam was chosen for a number of reasons including the placement of Canadian troops and Canada’s provincial reconstruction teams. The government invested  50 million in the project and promoted it as the mother of all reconstruction projects. The reconstruction contract was awarded to SNC-lavalin including design, security and construction. From there it seems to have gone downhill with everything from quality and money. Afghanistan was in a new phase of danger and violence in the start of the construction and a large amount of money was spent on security. The progress of the project was hard to properly time because of delays cause by security concerns and problems with local contractors. As time continued there was some questions as to the progress of the project and how much was being achieved. The government and Department of National Defense talked about how progress was achieved at the project site but blamed the delay’s on security. Even today the government talks about the success of the project but yet the project isn’t and wont be completed by a Canadian company.

When the summer of 2011 and the completion of the Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan deadline came and pass the reconstruction efforts were completed even if the projects were not. The Dahla dam is now under the watchful eye of the American military and reconstruction teams. The money spent by Canadian taxpayers seems to have accomplished little and did nothing more then line the pockets of corrupt businessmen. There is still massive issues with water being wasted even if there is a massive waterfall. While the trenches were redone and seem to be of high quality the biggest issue facing the dam still remains. The dam needs to be 3-4 feet higher to collect a proper amount of water and this was brought forward to SNC-Lavalin. The average afghan farmer knew the problems with the dam but yet the issue are still there and haven’t been fixed. Now, Canada has a bad image with the local Afghans and the Americans are redoing the work to the tune of 200 million. A couple months after this project was completed the company SNC-Lavalin was investigated for corruption and corruption with international offices.

So the questions remain?

What happened to our money?

Why wasn’t the job done properly?

Who failed? Government over watch? Provincial reconstruction teams or SNC-lavalin?

Why wont the government or SNC-Lavalin show Canadian taxpayers where the money was spent?

Land restoration tax

The topic of this blog is to purpose a new idea for a tax on industry. For years, Canadian industry has  powered the nation through the industrial revolution, wars, low and high times. We have produced everything from airplanes supplying the war effort to the automobiles that we drive everyday. With the introduction of developing countries as a cheaper alternative to industrial nations and the mass move these countries was on.

Thousands of jobs slowly eroded as these companies moved there factories to other countries for higher profits and business reasons. The things that stayed after the companies left were the buildings and the damage that they had done to the land. Thousands of empty factories dot the Canadian landscape rotting and slowly falling apart. The companies that originally owned them usually have long gone and the problem falls onto the tax payer. Not all of these sites that are contaminated were owned by industry, some site such as military installations were owned by the Canadian and American governments. Recently, it was announced that the government would have to pay close to 7 billion to clean up the heaviest polluted sites in Canada with the costs expected to rise significantly. Close to 2000 sites ranging from polluted lakes to military silo installations all leaking chemicals, pollutants into the ground. The idea for this tax would be to create a pool of money that could be used to clean up and restore sites if a company were to leave or go into bankruptcy.

How it would work:

A 1% tax would be added to all sites that fall under industrial. This tax would be collected through the same means as normal taxes but the 1% would go into a collection pool for environment projects. This bank account would grow until projects such as one previously listed at ‘high or extreme damage’ can be properly fixed and returned to normal. For every 10 dollars provided by industry the government would throw in a dollar of its own to help clean these project earlier. This tax would also have reductions where a company could reduce the amount it pays by doing there own environmental projects such as the Red Leaf project (Molson’s). A reduction of 0.10% for every $500,000 spent on environment projects in and around the area that the companies facilities sit on. A max of 30% reduction to the annual tax would be allowable for companies to claim. Sites would be determined by the toxicity of the contents, size, location and possible future damage to the environment. Once cleaned a site would need to sit idle for 10-20 years to allow the land and area surrounding it to recover and provide some relief to the area. Items that could be sold for scrap would go to the highest bidder to help cover restoration costs  and other items would be cleaned up accordingly. This fund would help to return to the past mistakes and correct them to the best of the ability of today’s technology and time.

Everday there is the chance of companies going under. The past mistakes we have made were to allow companies to come in to our land unchecked and make there billions in profits only to leave us the damage. We need to protect our land from this happening in the future and make sure the land returns the way we found it. Making sure we leave a better country and land for the next generations will allow us to take what we need and allow the space for more to grow elsewhere. Removing these structures from the land would allow the land to reclaim what is her’s and slow down the damage we have done to it. Hopefully its not too late.

Blackberry 2013 Road Map

A quick look at the road map that RIM should be following these next few months.

 

Thanks to BlackberryOS.com for the picture.

The Q1 2013 results for RIM were a disaster and the worst part was the delay of BlackBerry 10. The delay of the first new device powered by Blackberry 10 and QNX was a huge hit for the company. With BB7 last legs long gone in North America this phone needed to be released in time for the school year. Unfortunatly for RIM it wont be and the struggles that face RIM and Blackberry will continue.

I’m a optimist and I try to look at things in a good light.

The delay was blamed on the amount of coding that the workers have to put together to make the phones OS great. If that is the truth then I’m totally ok with that. RIM released BB7 and playbook without major features and got burned hard for it. The Playbook was and is a great tablet but without the major features it received lackluster reviews and got a bad reputation from the start. Blackberry 7 was the culmination of the original Blackberry operating system and was supposed to be the cream of the crop. Again, half baked the phones released without as many of the great tools promised and it wasn’t until much later when BB7.1 came out that these tools were released.

If the phones aren’t released because of the coding and the need/want to make sure its fully cooked when it releases then wonderful. The advantage of pushing the phones back to Q1 2013 is that the enterprise will not have to wait for the qwerty phone that they have been wanting. Lots of news has been going around of companies preparing to end there contract with Blackberry because of the delay for the new phones. Much of the news was pumped into the mainstream media before the CEO of RIM announced that they would be coming in January. It would be interesting to see the reaction of those IT experts and CEO’s now that they know it wont be too far behind the original schedule. With RIM releasing both of these phones together they will be able to market them better and push more elite phones to carriers. Having both phones will also allow for more Blackberry loyalist to upgrade right away instead of waiting for the next release. While the delay sucks and will make for lots of bad news against RIM, as a end user I completely understand and like the stance.

One of the major things that RIM has wanted to do is Focus. While down from the crazy numbers of phones they used to release 4 phones and 2 tablets may be a little much for a struggling technology company. The Playbook could have been a great success and taken over the 7 inch tablet market but several different factors including price, lack of features like email and the introduction of many other tablets turned the game around on them. The playbook has been a flop and after only a year they have sold around 1.2 million. As shown a Q4 release is to be expected for the Winchester 2 which is the 3G/4G Playbook. Originally expected out shortly after the wifi version of the Playbook this one was met with delay’s and other issues. While the specs have been improved it still is basically the same playbook and still trying to sell with the tarnished name. RIM will likely continue to sell this playbook along with the Wifi version to help keep interest in BB10 and keep developers happy. The plan to announce a 10 inch version to likely compete with the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Ipad is a mistake. The Ipad owns this market and to try and unseat it would be a waste of cash and resources. If RIM was really ready to focus then it would look at redoing its tablet and giving it a new chance at life under a new name.

Based on what I have seen with Blackberry 10 I am super excited. The operating system is a mix of all the best from iOS, Android and windows phone. This should help to propel RIM back to a better place then they are now and return them to a former glory. As I said before I try to be a optimist and I am excited for the chances of RIM. They have a hard road but the team seems to be in place to get the job done and do it properly.

Good luck RIM

Could HTC and Blackberry work together?

The mobile tech space is a fast paced and unforgiving sector where only the strong survive and the weak die. There are numerous differences between these two companies but there are also a couple major similarities that could help to revitalize these two. Both companies are currently struggling with the changing mobile space and are being forced out by bigger and better known companies like Apple and Samsung.

HTC phones run on Google’s Android operating system which is the largest and fastest growing OS of any currently available. Google’s Android OS is open scourced which allows any company that wants to license it from Google to use it in there own phones and add little touch ups to make it there own. The OS has garnered a lot of success with companies like Samsung, HTC, Google, Motorola, Asus, and more all using it for there devices. Having all these different options also allows for developers to have a better audience and many companies support the operating system for that reason. The problem that companies like HTC are now realizing is that Samsung is starting to muscle them out of there market share. HTC has been pushed out of a couple markets by different companies and the budget sheet is starting to show the effects of the loss. Its also widely thought that Android is synonymic with Samsung and that many people are using the brand because of the name. HTC has had trouble differentiating itself from the rest of the pack and is starting a downward slope.

Blackberry is also a struggling brand and is in major need of good news. Research in Motion who owns the Blackberry brand lost 500 million last quarter and shipped the lowest number of phones since 2007. The brand is currently in transition to its new operating system Blackberry 10 from the BB OS brand which has served them for 15 years. While the operating system has yet to be proven there has been a lot of support and excitement for what has been seen to date. When released in January, 2013 the BB10 OS will only be available on a Blackberry phone. The time between today and the release will be important for the company as a whole to keep afloat and to have enough cash to push the product. One of the ways that Research in Motion has talked about staying afloat is possibly licensing the BB10 operating system to another company or opening up portions for a fee. Companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, Samsung and Amazon have all been rumored to have interest but nothing has officially materialized.

Two companies that I could see working together at HTC and Blackberry. HTC is a company that is getting lost in the mess of Android, even as they produce good phone. Blackberry is in the middle of pumping out a new OS which could help to find its way in the changing marketplace. Blackberry’s weak point in the past has been a full touchscreen phone and that is likely were HTC could help out the most. HTC has only built touchscreen phones and has been successful in making extremely good phones. In turn for the help HTC could license BB10 and allow them to become a company with a different perks then the other android phones. These two business could come together to build a stronger platform and create a viable third option to iOS and android. Together these companies could form a strong relationship like Nokia and Microsoft to try and reclaim the 3rd spot. Each has there own strengths and weaknesses but together they could push out a great phone and a great OS to reclaim a portion of the mobile space.

Prince Arthurs Landing – Buildings Review

In 2007 when the master plan was unveiled for the marina update the city and its citizens were stunned. Some took well to the plan and got behind it and supported to updating of the park and another group stood against the plan and protested every change. Fast forward to 2012 and the marina is open to the public and summer 2012 the public really gets to enjoy and use the park. There are a total of 4 new buildings (minus the yet to be built private development) and almost all of them are available to be used by the public.

Water Garden Pavillion – 11 Million dollars – Completed in 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This building is the main focus of the public portion of the redevelopment. Its built to a Gold LEED quality and is a jack of all trades. The building currently holds 4 bathrooms of which 2 are gender designated and 2 are available to anyone. It also hosts a changing area for kids to lace up their skates and allow parents to watch while staying warm. In the winter this area will be busy with children and families coming together to enjoy a day on the ice. Moving deeper into the building we see an open area which is being used for displays to the Canadian Navy and the shipping history of Thunder Bay. This area ranges from one end of the building and also had a concessions area with ceiling design to look like a ship. The final area of the building is an opening designed to host a restaurant. Currently, there isn’t a restaurant in the building but the area is being used by people enjoying the view and the furniture.The building also has a ‘living roof’ to lower the operating costs and also have a number of solar panels to provide electricity.

Pro’s – Interesting design inside and out, the uses of the building for the most part well thought out and work with the overall design.
Con’s – Cost might be a tad higher then expected, a restaurant should have come with the building when opened not 6 months down the line.

Baggage building addition – Cost Unknown – Completed 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was one of the original buildings from the early days of Port Arthur and Fort William. This building was used for freight when the railway ran through this area on a constant basis. In the renovation a new section (as seen) was added to allow for more uses of the building. The old section of the building was returned to its former glory and the masonry has been allowed to shine. The building is now an art gift shop run by a local company and available to the public from May-September. The new addition is a much less used section but still has a lot of potential. This area looks like it could host art gallery get together and auctions. This building is also the area where the water portions of the water are controlled from.

Pro’s – Nice building with nice features, lots of potential
Con’s – Not being used to full potential, open only 1/2 year

Other Building – Unknown Cost – Finished in 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

The majority of this building is a shed for items to be used in and around the park for big events. There is a number of paddle boats in the building which will eventually be the main use for the building. On of the side there is a well used ice cream shop that is a mainstay for the area.

Pro’s – Ice cream shop
Con’s – A big shed in a area with a nice view, not being used for the intended purpose.

Together these 3 buildings add a lot to the area. They have some con’s but together the pro’s outweigh those. The water garden pavilion is the most used and the anchor to the area.

One step closer

The public portion of the waterfront is complete and is being utilized and today with the news the private development shouldn’t be too far behind. The condo’s sales office was today opened to the public and the welcome they received was in the form of sales agreements. After about 6 days of sales, the first condo building (52 units) was 60% sold and all the penthouses were gone ($600,000 CAD). This news was a sigh of relief for the waterfront committee and for the City of Thunder Bay (council and admin).

The private portion of the development has been heavily criticized by some that the buildings would block the view of residents and that the owners wouldn’t allow anyone to walk around that area of the park. While those concerns have been addressed and in many cases written off as majorly false there was still trouble for the private developers. Many dates were set for the release of the hotel operator and many dates passed with little or no information about who it was. It lead many to believe that the hotel wasn’t going to be built and that the land could end up like ‘lake marriot’. Council and administration were grilled in session and in comment boards about the lack of production on this case and it put a lot of heat on them and the project.

With today’s news that the condo office is open and the rate that condo’s are going it bodes well for the community and the project. There was also the unofficial announcement that Delta hotels will be the operator and its just up to them to sign the papers and start building. Today’s news will lead to construction jobs, new contracts for local companies and a positive economic climate in the north core. The news will also help to push forward the sections of development that the private sector took from the city. The market pavilion and square will be a great place for people to go and sit for the day while the kids play in the splash pad.

Overall the news is good that this project is continuing and now has more solid ground to sit on. This announcement will help to get more people interested in the project and show the public that it will be moving on. This brings us one step closer to the vision that was presented to us as citizens in 2007 when the idea was first announced.