Monday, April 05, 2004


Oh, I have a lot of ground to cover today.

First things first, one of the pastors at Al Baker's.
church has created a great blog called Stations of the Cross. Go visit at Stations of the Cross.

If my attempts at setting links fails, Al's blog is and Stations of the Cross can be found at

I know, I should have this basic stuff mastered. I have to go back and relearn my HTML and I am inherently lazy about these types of things.

Second, the NHL playoffs start this week and I am STOKED about the Leafs' chances this year. Their 6-0 win over a shockingly uninspired Ottawa team was a thing of beauty and I hope it's a harbinger of things to come in the next two weeks. The Leafs look pretty serious about things and I'm loving the fact that all of their traded-deadline pickups are contributing (Calle Johansson contributed 3 assists in the Ottawa win and Ron Francis chipped in the first goal of the game). Eddie B.'s back seems to be holding up, too. Looks like he knew what he was talking about when he said it was better to rest it for a month in February than push to regular season glory and flame out in the playoffs. Wise man. After all, nobody remembers who wins the President's trophy (well, unless you're a Detroit fan).

Third, the Junos went down last night and we see once again just how much talent there is on the Canadian music landscape. According to those outside Canada, we have pretty much two music talents of note: Shania and Celine. I don't consider EITHER of them talented, but at least Shania can sing pretty ballads (I really like that new song she has on the radio). But then we hit the Junos and Shania won the one she was supposed to win (Best Country Album) and then it's clear the decks for the real talent, as Sarah McLachlan (whose music I've liked since her first single, "Vox"), Sam Roberts, Nickelback and Nelly Furtado took over. I REALLY like Nelly's song, Powerless. It's just such a happy song that gives me such a lift whenever I hear it. It was absolutely the right choice for Single of the Year. My only beefs with the awards were giving 50 Cent International Album of the Year as Canada falls prey to the U.S.'s problem of giving out awards to rap's Flava of the Month, and no recognition to the Barenaked Ladies, who have a great single out there in Another Postcard (Chimps) and, I think, deserved a little something, although they are running against the high-flying Nickelback. Oh, well.

Finally, I have to vent about our economic structure in North America and the world. There was a little story in today's paper about how unions for Air Canada employees were digging in their heels against the company's need to further cut jobs and pensions. For those not in the know, Air Canada is in bankruptcy. A white knight, Victor Li, made an offer to buy the national carrier and lead it out of bankruptcy, but the unions refused his overtures. This is a common lament shared by a number of large corporations who are headed for big trouble.

You see, when companies expanded during the baby boom era, they had huge payrolls and thought nothing of giving the boomers the same pension/benefit packages the boomers' parents had received. Unions saw companies growing and becoming more profitable, so why shouldn't workers get a decent share of the pie? Makes sense, no?


Today, every company is battling on a number of fronts and are seeing the very real possibility of any future profits being flushed by their pension commitments to those same boomers, who are about to start stampeding toward retirement. Today's company is forced to live on razor-thin margins thanks to the Wal-Martization of our economy. In order to ensure there is enough money in the pension coffers to meet the obligations of retirees who gave their best years to these companies, management is forced to find savings in such dirty practices as "offshoring" and "outsourcing". Not to mention the push for higher productivity gains from technology. We are a society that wants things at the lowest possible price, while earning the highest possible wage. Something's a little bit out of whack here.

You see, a big part of the problem is that we, as a society, largely suck at saving money. I know, I used to be that way. We live in houses beyond our means, drive two (or more) cars, and dump money into all kinds of things that we think are necessary, but really aren't (I mean, really, if you need 100+ channels of TV to find something to watch, aren't you getting a LITTLE BIT over-selective). We don't bat an eye at a family night out to the movies that now runs close to $100. For crying out loud, BUY the DVD for $25 and add in $5 for microwave popcorn and a bottle of soda. You'll save $70 and your feet won't stick to the floor. We expect that the Government and our company will cover us for the future, assuming we live that long.

I have news for you.

That measly 2% of income you're contributing to the company pension plan. NOT ENOUGH. The 4% contributed to CPP? NOT ENOUGH. Assuming that the amount is matched, you will be living on 12% of your current income. That's a gross oversimplification of the argument, but it makes the point. The company is MORE than matching your pension contribution and is about to slowly go broke honoring its commitments to our parents. Especially when you consider that the majority of people are living into their 80s and beyond. Don't try to tell me that companies were planning to support their retirees for 20 years or longer.

Compounding this problem is the fact that many pension funds took a BATH when the stock market tanked a few years ago. Canadian pension plans took massive hits when Nortel cratered and are, just now, getting back to where they were in the latter half of the 90's. Once the drawdowns begin in earnest on pensions, drug plans (and don't think for a second THAT will be cheap) and other medical plans, corporate profits will dwindle and that will mean cost-cutting. Or, like Air Canada, insolvency. We live in a global village, where China and Japan cheat on valuing their dollar so they can flood markets with the low-price imports we so dearly love to buy at the local Wal-Mart. They also can pay their workers one-tenth of what we pay ours and they'll think they're living like princes. Companies aren't dumb and they'll do what their capitalistic hearts will always do, find the lowest-cost, best-quality solution in order to protect their bottom line.

The love of money is the root of all evil. If you think corporations are evil now, wait'll the money begins to evaporate.

The solution? SAVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My wife learned at her father's knee. My father-in-law is one of the wisest men I know. He appreciates the value of a buck, lives sensibly and has taught us both the importance of socking away money for the future. We have savings plans already started for Aidan, so he (and we) won't go broke paying for University. I'm not trying to paint myself as some renaissance man. I have my money weaknesses too (namely a (un)healthy love for movies and music), but I have a God who convicts me when I'm not honoring my commitments by making my wife confront me with the reality that is our checkbook. It comes down to this: depending on others to provide for our future while being a poor steward of the gifts God provides us today is a recipe for disaster.

Sorry, long post. I'll try to make the next one shorter.

God bless.