Norwegian Cruise Lines Takes a Stand Against Racism. Tunisia No Longer a Port of Call.


Amazing.

Hats off to Norwegian Cruise Lines for their swift condemnation of the Tunisian Government for their last-minute decision to ban 20 Israeli travellers from disembarking the ship and entering Tunisia during a port of call.

Not was Norwegian Cruise Lines quick in their verbal condemnation, but they also notified the Tunisian government that they would no longer bring tourists to Tunisia on their cruises, as punishment for this narrow-minded clearly anti-Semitic decision.

Digging further, I discovered that they might be a visa situation in play here where visas are needed – or were needed – to allow Israelis to visit Tunisia and visa-versa, however, in this day and age, we are talking about 20 human beings who wanted to visit a country, shop in that country, and contribute to the economy of that country and if the government there can only see them as “Israeli” (and they could be Christian, Jewish or Arab Israeli) then they deserve the world’s scorn.

I do, however, wonder if this calls for a flotilla to Tunisia, or maybe the United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant church in Canada, who launched an official boycott of Israeli products because, “With these efforts, we join with many others striving to bring peace with justice to the Holy Land,” said United Church of Canada Moderator Gary Paterson. Maybe they want to boycott Tunisian products now because what’s fair is fair, right?

It’s not about the “Jewish people” but it’s about what is “fair”.

Here is a link to one of the many articles on this story.

http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/insideisrael/2014/March/Norwegian-Cruise-Line-Writes-Off-Tunisia/

Looking Back at 10 Years of Federal Government Bullsh*t


Want to work for the Federal Government?

Last night I was cleaning out some of my files in my home office and I came across a file I titled “Government Bullsh*t”.

I opened it up and began to toss out some of the paperwork I had accumulated during my 10 years there. I had information on the mentoring program that I helped start for the office and ended up running after a couple years. But I kept that stuff as it might be useful going forward. The mentoring program was a wonderful experience for me, working with motivated staff in my area (the first couple years) and then as the prgram expanded to be an office-wide, working with key staff from all program areas. That first group flew up through the ranks in the government (not easy getting through all that red tape) and getting to know everyone was what made this experience so worthwhile.

I also found a bunch of documents on the conference I helped set up with a manager for our region. We organized a 3 day conference about 2 hours north of the city and had some giveaways and guest speakers, sponsors… It was a wonderful experience. Key staff came from all over Southern Toronto to share best practices and talk about successes.

Then I came across a nasty letter that I recieved from my former Team Leader who was trying to convince our section manager that I was “in direct negligance of my duties and should be disciplined immediately”. I read the letter and it all came back to me…

In the area I worked, there were 4 levels you could get to within the group.
Entry level
Entry level with the ability to leave the office and travel to visit clients
Resource officer – where you help the staff with technical interpretation of the tax act, help them resolve issues, coach, mentor, provide back-up team leader duties, and manage really complex crappy accounts
Team leader.

In all my time at the government I never received a substantial temporary promotion (just days mainly, and a week here and there but only once I started complaining). That meant the only way I would be moving up in the organization was on my own merit, so by writing and passing all the exams and interviews once an need was identified and a posting made. After 5 years and much frustration, I found myself at the Resource Officer level and with all my extra duties, I was VERY busy each and every day. I had multiple inventories, and mentoring, projects, school (CGA Courses) and kids, so I was really exhausted at the end of the day.

After getting flack one day by my “acting” team leader, for the handling on one account – in light of the fact that I was managing 7 inventories in addition to my duties – I asked to be moved to a developmental team to assist in the developing of future resource staff. This move was not met with great applause as the very senior, by the book, technical gurus were offended with me being there and the group that were training were surprised that I would want to be working with them to help them develop.

Frankly, I was fed up with being denied promotion and thought this fresh start would assist me in finally moving forward.

During the first week of the program, the trainees were taught how to properly summarize accounts and asked to submit their information and their timesheet to the team leader by that Friday.

I joined this team on the Wednesday, in the afternoon, as I was winding up some of my duties (the rest of the account followed me to this unit) and I was not present at any of the meetings in which this Team Leader identifed his requirements.

On the following Monday morning he emailed me asking for the information that was due on the Friday. I responded that I was not aware of this requirement and within a few hours he had all the information on his desk.

He followed up with the letter that I found in my file…

He asked me to come with him to meet the Section Manager to discuss how “disappointing I was to him, in just the first week of the program”.

In front of this manager, he explained how he outlined the program, the requirements, the importance of learning this information and the fact that I was being disrectful by making him follow up. He felt I should be reprimanded. He openly questioned my reasoning for being in the program, the lack of my technical knowledge and the fact that I should be knocked back a level if I cannot even submit time sheets on time.

I sat still looking at the manager quite stunned and very offended. I could feel my skin getting hot, as I was burning inside listening to this TL act completely inappropriately.

One he finished, she looked at me and asked for my response.

I told her I was here voluntarily to assist the staff and that, after joining the team midway through the week, this team leader did not bring me up to speed on any requirements and that after hearing from the staff this was required, that on my own, I started wotking on it. In addition to the fact that I was already at that level – for 2 years – and this Team Leader was the chairperson on the hiring board that I moved up on so he should have known this. I also mentioned that we are talking about timesheets, for g-d sakes, and that I was chosen, that year, as the employee of the year, for the entire region – covering 14,000 employees for all my efforts at the job, through volunteer work, and in personal development through courses I had taken and for my technical work on key accounts. I think he picked a fight with the wrong person…

She was livid.

She apologized to me and asked me to leave.

I stood outside the door and listened to her rip him out. She told him that there was no way I could go from being chosen the regions “MVP” by senior management to being “Incompetant and should be disciplined” in a mere 6 months.

I knew from that moment that this team leader was going to be a thorn in my side, and boy was I right. Every opportunity he had to overlook me or praise someone else, he did. Right up to my last day in this program – I was leaving my 9 months of paternity leave – I overheard him commenting to my colleague on how he didn’t think anyone was going to finish all the requirements for this program within the one year, let alone me who had only been with the group for 6 months.

Not one minute after those words left his lips did I peek my head into his cubicle and ask him to sign off on my last requirement for the program.

I was finished. The program itself was great, the team leader, really needed to develop his managerial skills. He was very disappointing and petty.

What got me the most was not even one day after I had left to begin my leave I received an email from a colleague thanking me for all the help I had given them (I kept that email too) and telling me that this Team Leader was trashing me to the group saying that I didn’t do any of the work – none of it was on time – and that they should move on and forget I was even there.

If there was one thing I learned while working in the Federal government it was that if you wanted to move ahead in the organization, you had to keep your nose clean, do as you are told and do not challenge the old boys network. I did none of the above and still managed to move up and eventually out.

While it made for a tough battle day-in-day-out, I worked on my accounting and eventually got my MBA before I left (and no they did not pay for it), but the remaining legacy of my time there is not the programs I created and ran to develop and support staff, or the committees I was asked to join and help out with, or the processes I suggested to improve employee morale, but rather the message that a couple managers chose to spin about my work ethic being poor, or my lack of attention to detail.

Not too long ago, I decided to ask for access to records kept in the government which included my name and I got to select from a variety of people, and of the 900 pages I received, there were a good 200 pages in which conversations between several managers occurred for the purpose of getting the story straight on how they were going to avoid having to promote me and what they were going to tell the staff.

The effort they went to to smear me looks to be far greater than the amount of time they spent doing things like managing their teams and improving morale.

I’m just glad I have it in writing…

I’m tired of having to “set the record straight”.

Can’t wait to see what else is in that folder. :)

Working in the Trenches: A tale of a CRA field officer


This post is yet another post that I was encouraged to write by Elliott of Supernova.com, after telling him this tale while our boys were in karate class.

I was spouting off about my days working for the Canadian Tax Authority, when my responsibilities afforded me the opportunity to leave the office and visit clients to discuss their tax debts / compliance issues.

Unlike others who “may” have abused that authority, I loved getting out to visit clients. I’m a social guy, and it was always in my best interest to leave a good impression on them and help them resolve their issues, while also promoting the CRA.

I would always set up a full schedule of visits, and spend the entire day seeing as many as I could. When I first started with this role, I would wear a tie, but as I became comfortable with the role and spoke to many clients I realized the tie made me appears like I was a salesman, or worse, Jehovah’s Witness, so people refused to open their doors for me.

So I kept the nice clothes, but lost the tie.

One fine spring day, I found myself assigned to a business quite far north of the city who had been filing for the GST (now HST) for around 5 years, but they had been getting quite a lot of money in credits and for some reason had stopped filing, and their account had credits sitting there, un-issued.

Over the months proceeding this visit, I had called and left many messages and sent several letters, but there was no response, so I set up a visit during the day to initiate contact.

Upon arriving at the address I located in my Perlies, I realized I was in a very secluded, run down, commercial area which appeared to be pretty vacant – really odd for a weekday.

I approached the unit, the door was open, so I walked in and yelled, “hello, anyone here”.

I heard a voice respond back to me that I should enter the warehouse – that he were back there with another employee.  The front foyer of this unit had some electronics and other electrical gadgets so I briefly stopped to make some quick notes as to what I thought this company did, as I made my way to the back.

Once in the warehouse, I was shocked…

In front of me was this huge dark, empty warehouse with a desk at the back of it.  At the desk were 2 males, and there was one light on in the warehouse and it was just above the desk, like you would see on TV.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

“You can come closer”, the man sitting down calmly said to me.

“No thank you, I’d rather stay here”, I replied surveying the situation.

“What can I do for you?” said the other man, standing to the right of the man sitting at the desk, his arms crossed.

“I’m here from Revenue Canada, it would appear that there were some errors on your GST reports and I had left several messages but no one called me back, so I came to visit to see if we could resolve this in person”.

The response I got shocked me…

The man sitting down said to me; “Do you see that baseball bat behind the door?!?  We use that to take care of people like you!”  He then stood up.

I looked at the 2 of them and said; “The CRA owes you guys money, however I do not feel welcomed here so I am leaving.”

I turned around and left, hoping not to hear them come running after me.  I must say thinking about it now that I must have raced out of there, and I remember my heart pounding – thinking about my family.

I had parked across the parking lot facing the unit so that when I arrived I could take notes in my car about the business – like traffic, registered names, condition of the building…  I opened my door, sat down, locked my door and called my team leader.  As the phone was ringing the 2 guys rushed out of the unit and came towards my car.  I rolled down my window very slightly and told them I was talking to my boss and they should stay back from my car.  I turned it on.

They asked me to hang up – said it was a misunderstanding, that they were expecting a “bill collector” and they had been harassed.  They wanted the money owed to them as it might be enough to get this debt off their books.  My TL answered the phone and I told him briefly the situation.  I told the guys I would not leave my car, and have to come back with my TL, possibly tomorrow.  I handed them both the information they needed including the missing returns and the amount of the credit on file with the CRA.

They stood there looking at me…

My TL told me to leave.

I did.

One week later we returned with the RCMP.

The place was raided, the men arrested and a bunch of weapons seized.  All the electronics were stolen goods.  The credit on the GST account was seized by the RCMP as having been proceeds from crime.

I closed the GST account.

From that day forth I realized some people are intimidated when they receive a visit from the tax department.  I used this to my advantage, but never entered a building which made my spidy-sense tingle.  From that day on I clearly identified myself and my intentions up front before I would enter a building or house.   If it looked shady I would come back with another person bigger than myself (I’m 5 foot 11, 225 pounds).  We looked like thugs there to break some legs.  :)

So now you know.

What’s wrong with government Part XVI


Last night in the Urban Daddy household, my wife and I were laying in bed watching this fantastic sitcom called Modern Family, which neither of us had ever come across before.

That afternoon and into the evening my wife had been peddling her wares – home-made beautiful jewelry – at a show not too far from our house. She had a good show which makes all of us happier and we even found this great gift for our boys – home-made capes with a lightening bolt on it, ala Flash Gordon (my favourite super-hero of all time).

We thought the kids would appreciate the capes since every night after their bath, my 3-year-old takes his hooded bath towel, puts it on his head with the rest of the towel draping behind him and tears through the house yelling, “flyer man to the rescue!!!”. He persuaded the 5-year-old to do it too now. These capes should fit in just fine!

Anyways… Are you still with me?

So while watching Modern Family on her new iPad (which she LOVES), I mentioned to her that there was a manager of a team working for the City of Mississauga who had been abusing his staff by duct taping them to the chair, to the floor, and spanking them on the ass and hitting them in the groin.

She looked at me with that face that said, “WTF are you talking about?!?”.

Then I realized she was probably the only person in the Greater Toronto Area who missed out on this story. Or possibly, having had a less than stellar work experience at the government I was just over-sensitive to this story not because of the abuse but because of the fall-out. So typical of government punishment (or lack thereof).

Anyways, I posted both links below – thank you Toronto Star – and I recommend you give them a read.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/mississauga/article/817776–mississauga-employees-duct-taped-abused

Essentially, a City government manager in Mississauga has been duct-taping and spanking employees for 5 years?!? Someone finally used a cell phone to video the abuse, showed HR, and from there the news of these practices broke.

And, of course, in typical government union fashion, the manager STILL works there!!! I actually believe he is on sick leave or stress leave right now.

Personally, I feel that the manager and any of the HR staff who I’m sure had known about this for a while (and any staff who knew but didn’t speak up) should be severely reprimanded or fired.

It’s so sad it’s laughable…

But now the police are investigating the matter and there is a good chance that this manager will be charged.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/mississauga/article/818334–police-probe-duct-tape-hazing-at-mississauga-workplace

I’m sure you, like myself, is reading this story, or heard about it already and are shaking your head in disbelief.

It happens!

People in unionized jobs don’t want to give up their perks, whatever they may be; pay, preferential working hours, no pressure to perform, great maternity / paternity leave benefits… There are many positives about unionized government jobs. As well, there are many reasons not to complain about harassment and they include the perception that if you tell HR or your union rep that you will be labelled and therefore never be promoted or move up in the organization, or probably worse for most people, you will be ridiculed, harassed, and made fun of. Your clique will no longer hang out with you and you will be shunned. It’s like high school in that to survive in the government you need your posse to watch your back.

It took me MANY years to realize that the fear of lack of promotion was the least of my worries and I had to speak up and ultimately get out of that poisoned environment in order to be happy.

In the private sector if a manager did that or even joked about it, they would be fired, sued and unemployable. Justice is swift and accurate.

The City of Mississauga needs to wake up to the environment that allowed this abuse to occur and not be mentioned. The people that lived it must be punished to understand that it is NOT okay to keep this to themselves and the manager who carried out these acts MUST be fired, without pension IMMEDIATELY and not given a golden handshake or given the option to resign.

A clear message must be sent to all current managers in government – any and all levels – that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated.

And for the government staff who think they can now scream abuse or harassment when your manager questions your workload… You need to sit back, zip your mouth and understand what real harassment is.

It was this.

Weekend Update


OY.

What a weekend!  I’m going to need a few days to recover, indeed.

Friday ended for me in the afternoon with a contentious call with the government and the phone being hung up on me in a conference call over some tax related issues.  I left the office to pick up my oldest boy and the other kids in his carpool and just made it in time.  (Heck, it was -16 degrees out there and the kids were outside waiting).  I dropped everyone off, went to get diapers for the baby and ended up dropping my son at Starbucks to hang with his grandparents while I ran into the grocery store.  I came back to pick him up with diapers and bananas only to find him and his grandmother using those wooden stir sticks to teach him about roman numerals.

Once at home I logged back into my office computer to catch up on some work – set the table for dinner, bathed the kids, ate, cleaned and went back to work until about 3am when I decided it was time for bed. 

6:30am wake up.  Got the kids ready for skating (Pancakes for the big boy, oatmeal and raisins for the younger son), and just made it to the arena in time to lace up and jump on the ice.  By just made it I mean my skates were still undone…  One the ice, my little – not so little – boy decided he was not skating and spent most of the time on his ass or his back whining and crying.  I asked him in front of his skating coach if he was having a meltdown and he said, “no”.  OK.  So off the ice we went so he could calm down / pee.  Once in the dressing room we call his mummy and he explained that his feet hurt from the skates.  Too tight.  Hmmmm. 

So back on the ice we went for the last 10 minutes of class.  I signed the boys up for the end of program ice show (LOL) and in my amazement turned to see my 5 year old standing by himself on his skates and jumping up and down on the ice.  “WOW”, I blurted out.  He said he taught himself that, not the instructor.  He’s getting it.  Yay.

So after class we went home – Stewie cried the entire way.  We ate lunch then packed up our stuff and went to the mall for the afternoon.  After finally finding a place to park, I woke up Stewie and Berry (2 month old baby) and in we went.  Part way through the mall trip the boys saw the Godiva store and they were making chocolate dipped strawberries.  Guess what the boys cried and whined for the rest of the afternoon?!?

I also walked into Harry Rosen – again – with the boys and again could not get a sales agent to come up to me.  Even after falling in love with a gorgeous $85.00 dress shirt but wanting to ask a question about it, no one wanted to give me the time of day.  You would think any customer is a good customer, eh?  They don’t know what I can afford and if I am going to buy one shirts to 10 of them… Their loss.  I’m going to contact the store’s PR department!

So from the mall – and another Stewie meltdown (“I can’t walk”) we took the kids to dinner at the Genghis Khan Mongolian Grill.  The kids “ate” while I held a cranky baby so my wife could eat.  I was glad we were all out together and the prospect of eating cold food didn’t matter to me that much considering my wife is with the baby all day and all night and she deserves to eat and have a few minutes to relax.  So we hung there for a couple hours and off to home and bed – 10:30 for both my wife and I.

Sunday began with a rush as we all headed out to the kids karate class.  Stewie and his friend were the only kids in the Little Dragon’s class with 4 sensei’s. They had lots of attention and both did very well.  In Linus’ class, he performed much better than last week, but he was distracted from 2 seriously goofy kids in his class.  One was jumping up and down like a frog and the other was a complete goofball – taking flying leaps at the karate dummy’s and looking out at the parents instead of paying attention.  Must get him away from these boys…

After karate we split the boys up and went to birthday parties – I took Stewie to a party where I knew no one and he was not being adventurous.  He fell in love with a giant gumball machine (he’s never eaten gum) and required me to hold his hand for most of the 2 hours we were there.   We left a touch early and met my wife and baby at a new outdoor mall to check out a new store called Anthropologie… Beautiful clothes there and Linus really liked the fancy door knobs.  We left there to go grocery shopping and from there she took the kids and I drove to the other end of the city to pick up Linus and his friend from their birthday party – set to end at 6pm. 

Once in the Car, I turn on the radio, listen to a little satellite radio, then bored, switch over to real radio only to find out that there were 2 blockbuster NHL traded made by my Toronto Maple Leafs.  The managed to get another team to take 6 average commodities in exchange for 5 new bodies who appear to have more upside and come with a name.  I get Brian Burke now… He’s building the team with young talent… He has my confidence now.  After an awful 5-3 loss Saturday night (after having a 3-0 lead) the team has totally transformed.  WOW.

So I picked the kids up from the party, chatted with some dads about the trades and off to drop my son’s friend, then pick up our nanny to bring her back home.  I learned a very valuable lesson with my son and I in the car… Don’t hold your pee too long or your kidney’s hurt and you pee in your pants… Hopefully we both learned this lesson!  When you gotta go, you gotta go!

Home, snack, bed for the boys, while my wife cared after the baby, I cleaned up the house, showered, and hopped back on my office computer to clean up some files and do some tax research.  Saw the Royal Rumble was last night – Toronto-born wrestler Edge returned from a ruptured Achilles and won the rumble.  Yay.

I started working,  blinked and decided it would be best for my sanity if I went to bed earlier than Friday night, so Sunday night’s bedtime came at 2am… UGH. 

Monday brought a tough, slow morning for me…  The baby is sneezing and her eye looks a little puffy and red, but I have some serious meetings today and an appointment at the gym with my personal trainer…  Also have to get my ass in gear so that I can be home for the kids swimming tonight at 6pm since it’s parent’s night and the one night of the year the parents get to watch the kids swim. Exciting.  My wife is coming to see – she’s never seen them swim.  The boys will be SO happy!

After that it will be some more work, then off to bed so it can all start again tomorrow…

Update: Linus was smiling and waving in the pool and having a fantastic time so we asked him in the car if is always this happy in the pool.  He said “no”.  Puzzled we asked him why he was so happy, and he said, “I don’t know”.  Odd, but he was REALLY REALLY happy.