I really don’t think ranting is useful. I prefer to vote with my feet and spend my money elsewhere. Yet I find myself beyond white hot angry AGAIN. After 4 months of trying I apparently will take another 100 days to actually be rid of these pathetic fools from Bell.

Forget the fraudently activity that I had to pay for then fight to get my money back. – still waiting by the way!

Forget after the poor service I still need to pay them for an additional 30 days after I cancel.

Because My cancellation will be effective 5 days into my next billing cycle, they will bill me for a complete additional month, beyond the 30 days. Then I will need to wait 74 days to get the excess refunded.

FIFTY FIVE (30 for notice + 25 for balance of billing cycle) days to make the cancellation happen plus SEVENTY FOUR days to give me my money back. 129 days and that is if they don’t f-it up again.
And its probably 74 business days so that is 104 real days so it could be as much as 159 days… it is beyond belief

I recently did a complaint post on my cellular service from Bell. I think complaints only get you so far. I’m not their customer anymore (well net 30 days), they have no need to get/keep me happy.

I do want to go to the other side and deal with what works. Rogers was having alot of issues with there service last fall (2009). There was a 2 week period where the phone was having serious problems. The scuttlebutt was that Rogers was doing rolling upgrades across the country and this was our turn. While I never saw any notice of this, a local cellular store reported receiving emails through the service channel.

I am typically slow to complain, as it seldom has any real affect. A vendor may give you a credit, apologize for the service, or just stonewall you. Since none of that really solves my problem why waste the time.

There is a bigger purpose for complaints. Hopefully people inside a vendor service organization can start to use them to actually fix things. So in this case I took it up the ladder.

This is where things get better. Rogers has a complaint path that includes their customer service center, escallation to a manger, the office of the president, and an obudsman. And after that, there is the CRTC and the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS).

With the prevalence of multi-year service contracts, I think a ‘remedy’ for poor service would be to reduce my contract by at least the same number of days I had the bad service. I think the risk of increase customer churn is a true motivator in the cellular business.

I didn’t get that but I did get was a quick response and a credit on my bill. The process worked as best it could and certainly alot better than it did with Bell.

I seldom get ‘white hot’ angry when dealing with vendors but this week was an exception.  Dealing with major service providers is always a challenge and telecommunications seems to be worse than most. I can’t remember having a problem with my electricity or natural gas company. My phone provider (VOIP) can be annoying but I haven’t had to deal with them much. Cable TV is way too expensive but I still pay for it, so that is more my fault than theirs. Then we get to cell phone providers.

I’ve had to deal with all of them. I started as a Cantel (now Rogers) customer in 1991 with the slimmer version of a Motorola Brick. It was pure geek envy with vary little justification for the cost. Over the years I’ve bounced between Rogers, TELUS, and Bell including stops at Clearnet and Fido. But now we are in the world of mobile data – and I’m an addict.

In an attempt to reduce my cost I got a MiFi, hoping to wrap all my family’s mobile use into one service. The device is great. No matter how great a device, you need to deal with a carrier and if they can’t take care of things it really doesn’t matter – I vote with my feet and my dollars.

It always starts simply, the MiFi was recalled and I needed to send it in. They provided a temporary USB stick, which didn’t do me much good for connecting iPhones and iPod Touches. I lost use of it for two weekend trip. Oh-well. Stuff happens.

Shortly after I got my MiFi back I was checking my online account to see the usage and some additional phone numbers had been attached to my account. I thought it might be related to the swap and the temporary device. The email on the account had also been changed which is a major red flag on any internet transaction.

  • I contacted vendor on initial problem, advised it would be rectified and I would not be billed.
  • Bill arrived 10 days later, charges were on bill, contacted vendor multiple times including security department, advised this would be credited and not appear on my credit card.
  • Credit card was billed, contacted the vendor again multiple times. They advised a credit against the card would be processed.
  • Waited 2 weeks to see the credit, called again, they advised the credit was never put through and I would need to wait another 2 weeks.
  • Contacted them when credit card bill was due, advised it was still going through audit, there was nothing they could do, I would need to wait at least another week.

I contacted them to complain about the whole process, advised this was unacceptable, got this:

Thank you for your recent email.

My name is XXXX (Emp# XXXXXX) and I am pleased to assist you.

Upon full review of your email, I regret that our services may not meet
your needs or that some of our policies may not address your concerns to
your satisfaction.  I thank you for providing us with your opinion on
this matter. Although you will not be contacted by a representative,
rest assured that a copy of your message has been sent to our

I’ve contacted Bell’s management, they don’t have an executive complaint form (like Rogers Does) so I had to use a general email address.

I’ve also attempted to registered a complaint with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) as the CRTC site advises but got this:

Your complaint does not fall within our mandate for the following reason(s):

  • We cannot take action on a complaint that is currently before or has been the subject of a previous determination by another agency, court or tribunal that has the authority to compensate a customer for losses claimed arising from the occurrence at issue.

We will be unable to proceed with your complaint. However, we strongly encourage you to provide us with additional details relating to your complaint as we provide aggregated reports and statistical information to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to assist them in identifiying areas of concern to consumers.

I have disputed the charges with my Credit Card company when my bill arrived, which I really should have done as soon as the charge went on my card.

Needless to say I called and cancelled the service. Only you can’t cancel it right away. I will be charged for the most recent bill plus another week. As they need 30 days notice to cancel my service. I’m dumbfounded.

One of the big problems with the online world is the lack of apparent borders in a world that has many real borders. Being next to the USA makes understanding the differences in Canada even tougher.

I worked in Education for 15 years and the number of times I ran into US assumptions on things like Canadian copyright. For example, the US has a concept of ‘Fair Use’ that doesn’t exist in Canada. Whether for education or other purposes there is no amount of a book or publication you are allowed to use without payment or permission.

This became such an issue that the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) formed a consortium to pay license fees to cover schools use of copyrighted materials. They have advocated for a ‘Fair Use’ provision in Canadian Copyright.

Another major difference between Canada and the US is the ownership of ‘public’ data. In the US, the Constitution created a government ‘of the people’ so by definition the people ‘own’ the data produced by government agencies. Canada (and most other Commonwealth nations) the government is a extension of the Crown. All contracts signed by the BC Government are “Her Majesty the Queen, in the Right of the Province of British Columbia” and the results of any work are subject to Crown Copyright.

This makes is extremely difficult to us the material produced by Canadian Governments without seeking explicit permission. That hasn’t been much of an issue but the advent of online tools that can mashup data as made the need to access and reuse data increasingly important.

On the access side, data.gov in the US has been a major initative to provide ready access to government content. In Canada, a new site datadotgc.ca attempts to do the same for Canada. And the project is asking for help with datadotgc.ca. Props to David Eaves for his great work on this topic. David will be hosting a panel at the upcoming Northern Voice conference that I’m really looking forward to.

We’re still left with the issue of permission to use, but hopefully the current sources will start to provide permissive licensing until a more broad standard can be set for all government data. Statistics Canada provides a good example of permissive licensing.

We still run into a regular problem with the online world, just because material is freely available – doesn’t mean its free to use.

Only problem is .. not really clear it has one.

For my call to expertise on such issues, the first stop is always Michael Geist’s Blog.

In his comments following the recent policy decision:

It seems appropriate that on the day the CRTC released its decision, a new study was published that found Canadians now spend more time online than watching television. While the world is increasingly moving online, the CRTC decision acts as if the Internet scarcely exists.

In a pure ‘value for money’ look, it is very hard to justify a $60 to $100 cable bill. The limitation seems to be live events such as sports. Short of those, there really isn’t anything on the TV that can’t be had in a more convenient form elsewhere.

The concept of Peacekeeping has been held by Canadians to be a source of pride. And it was Lester Pearson, while Minister of Foreign Affairs who brought the idea forward to solve the sticky problem of Britain and France trying to oppose the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egypt. The Suez Crisis put in motion a concept that still is held as a way to avoid more catastrophic conflicts by putting a third party between the opposing forces.

In the time of Pearson, it was Canada, that acted as the honest broker while the French, British, Egyptians and Israelis – all under pressure from the United States – solved there ‘differences’. The concept was that the parties would not seek further trouble by taking on the peacekeepers. And for the peacekeepers part, at least at Suez, they were of sufficient military strength provide a presence that could not be easily ignored.

That isn’t to say that various sides haven’t tested that principle. The idea that peacekeeping is somehow a safe and benevolent practice has also been tested and found wanting.

image of de Havilland Buffalo

In 1974 a Canadian transport airplane carrying nine passengers (5) and crew(4). The de Haviland Buffalo #461 (s/n 115461) had been assigned to carry Canadian peacekeepers to Damascus, Syria. This was part of the UN peacekeeping mission that followed the Yom Kippur War in October 1973.
On August 9 after being cleared to land in Syria it was hit by 3 Syrian Surface to Air Missles which destroyed the aircraft killing all aboard. This remains the largest single loss of Canadian peacekeepers.

A fragment of the wreckage remains in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa:

Buffalo Shoot Down

A restored aircraft has been painted as Buffalo 461 by the Canadian Warplane Heritage in Hamilton.

The names of all the peacekeepers killed are recorded in the Book of Remembrance which is on display in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. On the day I visited it was open to the page from 1974 showing the crew of Buffalo 461.

Book of Rememberance The complete Books of Rememberance can be viewed online

In 2008, August 9th was designated National Peacekeepers’ Day, now you know why.

The idea of Canadian national pride is a little hard to find most days. Maybe we are just too polite to talk about such things.

But in the absence of real examples Canada gets represented as a stereotype. Not unlike some of the cliches trotted out at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics.

I like to think I’m a pretty proud Canadian but I’m not much of a fan of some of the stereotypes. When Canadian Tire advertises the tools for that “tough Canadian winter ” they aren’t really talking to me in Victoria. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of Tim Hortons coffee.

On the other hand I was a loyal shopper at Woodwards and Eaton’s when they were around. I’m a diehard CFL fan. And I still can brought to tears with a passionate rendition of our anthem.

For the most part many Canadians can live large chunks of their lives without encountering real symbols, monuments, our ceremonies that honor Canada. There are remarkably few Canadian National Monuments. The largest is probably the Vimy Ridge Memorial and you need to travel to France to see it first hand.

And outside of the odd sporting event, we really don’t celebrate too many symbols of what is means to be Canadian.

As a sports fan I remember my heros past and present from my beloved Eskimos. The fact that Tom Wilkinson wasn’t born a Canadian was a fluke of Geography. That subdued “awe shucks” attitude I think it typically Canadian. Small acts, like when Warren Moon and Ferguson Jenkins thanked Canada during their induction into the Hall of Fame in the United States for their respective sports say a lot about what makes this a great place.

Beyond that as a pilot, I identify with the bush pilots that are real Herod of mine. If you don’t know Wop May, Punch Dickins, and Max Ward (among others) really should. These folks flew all over the remote areas of Canada. They are the 20th Century’s version of Thompson and Fraser.

You don’t have to be an athlete or an aviator to make the list. Arthur Currie the great WWI Canadian General started out as a real estate agent in Victoria.

And for understated courage, the Image of Terry Fox says more than anything:

Terry Fox, Ottawa

And I think the idea that Canadians are too polite to talk about the things that make this a great place – is one stereotype that we can afford to stretch a little.

Its seldom that people say nice things about paying there taxes but I have to give some serious credit to Canada Revenue Agency for their e-pass services. E-pass is the federal government’s electronic record service. A single account can be used across multiple federal services. Access to each services requires a specific security code that is emailed to your address of record. It isn’t pure two-factor authentication but it is stronger than most online services offered for sensitive records. The fact that the entire process is opt-in for each service you want to enable to your account is also a great feature.

For the purpose of your taxes, you can see returns back several years (for me it was 2003 and later) including the critical lines in the tax return. (see list from the FAQ below)

The Help page also includes specific directions for individual browsers and shows at least basic support for most of the major choices, the exception may be Chrome:

Many people will get nervous about enabling electronic access to this type of information but for those of us who prefer not to archive larger and larger piles of paper every year this is a great option. Nice Job and at least the Web site looks more inviting that their headquarters:

From CRA’s FAQ list:

What can I do on My Account?

With My Account you can see information about your:

  • tax refund or balance owing;
  • direct deposit;
  • RRSP, Home Buyers’ Plan, and Lifelong Learning Plan;
  • Tax-Free Savings Account;
  • NETFILE access code;
  • tax returns and carryover amounts;
  • disability tax credit;
  • account balance and payments on filing;
  • instalments;
  • Canada Child Tax Benefit and related provincial and territorial programs payments, account balance, and statement of account;
  • GST/HST credit and related provincial programs payments, account balance, and statement of account;
  • Universal Child Care Benefit payments, account balance, and statement of account;
  • children for which you are the primary care giver;
  • Working Income Tax Benefit advanced payments;
  • pre-authorized payment plan;
  • authorized representative; and
  • addresses and telephone numbers.

With My Account you can also manage your personal income tax and benefit account online by:

  • changing your return(s);
  • changing your address or telephone numbers;
  • applying for child benefits;
  • arranging your direct deposit;
  • authorizing your representative;
  • setting up a payment plan; and
  • formally disputing your assessment or determination.

Spent a week of holidays holidays touring Ottawa. I think I’ve visited there 3 times in my life, mostly as a bored teenager, and lived there briefly – almost too young to remember. So this visit as an adult was significantly different from anytime I had been there before.

But, I can make a few comparisons from the 1980’s version of Ottawa. The most obvious is the massive improvement in the national museums around the capital. The Museum of Civilization, War Museum, National Gallery, and Aviation Museum were formerly located in older buildings that were not designed for the purpose of a museum. Now all of these are in purpose built space that provide enough room to really show what these institutions have and with the interactive and information tools that you expect from a major museum.

The large spaces for vehicles at the War Museum, the open colonnade that leads to the National Gallery, and the open gallery for the six houses of the First People’s exhibit at the Museum of Civilization are all examples of what purpose built space can do over the ‘make do’ kind of spaces that existed before.

Travel Tip:
Used the Museum Passport to get to most of the attractions in Ottawa, not a bad deal if you get to at least 4 of the 9 that are part of the package. ($30/person – $75 for a family of 5)

The Museum Passport includes:

  • Canada Agriculture Museum
  • Canada Aviation Museum
  • Canada Science and Technology Museum
  • Canadian Museum of Civilization
  • Canadian Museum of Nature
  • Canadian War Museum
  • Laurier House National Historic Site of Canada
  • National Gallery of Canada
  • Royal Canadian Mint
  • National Arts Centre

The addition of the big museums are going to be a big draw but there is still the obigitory trip to parliament hill. The tours there are free and tickets are given out first come first serve starting at 9AM each day.

Travel Tip:
Visits to Parliament are best on weekends or days when the House of Commons and Senate aren’t sitting. Those parts of the building are not availble for tours while in use.

I love the unique and free, so the Bank of Canada’s Currency Museum is a winner on two counts. I really thought they did a great job with it. The vault with examples of currency from all over the world as well as just about every variation of money ever used in Canada was very interesting. They also do some good presentations on recognizing fake bills.

While the Royal Canadian Mint was an interesting tour, the Ottawa location only does specialty and commemorative work, if you want to see where the pennies come from you need to go to Winnipeg. The Mint was decked out in Olympic decorations to celebrate their work on the medals for the games in Vancouver.

While the big events of visiting a city and its sites can be easily listed. The real experience I got was the little things that happened at or between the ‘big’ things.

  • I saw a swordat the War Museum that matches the family sword that has been handed down to me.
  • I saw a section of the de Havilland Buffalo shot down in Syria in 1974 at the War Museum, then when I went to the Peace tower, the book of remembrance was open to that page
  • At the museum of Civilization, they had a display about Francis Rattenbury including examples of his work from Victoria – little irony there
  • Museum of Civilization had a mock up of Vancouver airport with some vintage CP Air memorabilia, recognized a photoshop-ed background as they show the airport runway that was built long after the airplanes they show on it.

Trip Photos at Flickr

It has been my experience that the universe is resplendent with irony and serendipity. Sort of two sides of the same coin really. On the last day of 2009, I expressed gratitude for the lucky circumstances of the prior year. As if to reinforce my thoughts of the prior day, I met some folks on the first day of this year that only made me more grateful.

I’ve always believed that you make your own way in life but you needed to recognize that your accomplishments are never solely because of your own effort. If you forget the latter part of that the universe has a couple ways to remind you. Irony tends to focus on the negative or annoying side of things. Serendipity provides for the more positive reinforcement of your actions.

My favorite quote on irony is from Blackadder;

“Baldrick, have you no idea what irony is?”

“Yes, it’s like goldy and bronzy only it’s made out of iron.”

If I was to track my affinity for faith in the ebb and flow of the universe, it would likely go back to my early twenties. I was flying a group of air cadets at Boundary Bay airport. The weather was getting increasingly bad and I just had one of those feelings that it was time to put the airplane back on the ground. There was much disappointment and, all things being equal, I would have felt like an idiot for a good, long time but Serendipity stepped in. As I remember it, that night on TV there was a story of two other pilots in a Mooney who crashed into an area of south Surrey known as Panorama Ridge. This is not intended as a story about making the right choice but rather about being confident in the choices you make – right or wrong. Learned to have confidence in my own decision making and always trusted those little feelings every day after that.

Fast forward to last Friday (Jan 1), a unique Canadian tradition is the New Year’s Levee. When various levels of government open their doors to the general public to welcome the new year. I attended the Levee at my local Municipal Hall. A minor thing, expected to go in shakes some hands, have a cup of coffee and be out in less than and hour. But then Serendipity comes in again ….

At the end of the receiving line there is a gentleman in a white shirt helping out with the food service. An older gentleman to be sure, like semi-retired. He was having a conversation with someone else and I found it interesting enough to join them. Turns out he had served with the Black Watch of Canada. A storied Canadian Regiment known for there heroic but devistating attack on Verrières Ridge during the battle of Normandy in 1944. In a breif conversation I learned he has a son in the Navy, and a grandson in the PPCLI due for deployment to Afghanistan in the next couple months. This unique little piece of Canadian history had just dropped into my lap. I couldn’t end the conversation without offering my hand out of respect and offering my best wishes for the safe return of his grandson from his upcoming duty. The Princess Pat’s are as fine a unit as you will find so that young solider is in good company but the thoughts of their recent loss in an IED blast couldn’t be far from that Grandfather’s mind.

Had it ended there, it would have been a nice anecdote to share. However it didn’t. While standing and having a conversation another unlikely story unfolded. Another older gentleman joined that circle. He was Polish by birth, had been interned in Russia after the fall of Poland in 1940. Interned is probably a little to polite. Russian prisons under Stalin didn’t show a lot of compassion to anyone. He survived the conditions long enough to see Russia join the war against Germany at which time he was allowed to leave to join the Polish Forces in England. He was a paratrooper and mentioned he had jumped in combat twice once in France and once in Holland. Well my sense of history was again peaked. There was only one major airborne operation in Holland and the Polish connection sealed the deal. My response was “You jumped at Arnhem?” – he did. If you don’t know the story of Operation Market Garden , I’d recommend the book or movie “A Bridge Too Far” as a primer. Again a story of valour and horrible loss.

Now I don’t expect this to mean as much to others as it would to me. I find history, especially military history compelling. Serendipity had placed these two stories in front of me in the most unassuming way. All it does it reinforce the value of putting yourself out there and being open to the experiences that arise around you.

But the story doesn’t quite end there. I found myself out at lunch today just randomly wandering deciding where you grab a coffee. Whether it was serendipity alone or a unconscious sense of something else. I found myself standing by the side of a street in downtown Victoria shortly after noon as the procession carrying the body of another PPCLI soldier passed by. I paid my respect to Lt Nuttal and went on my way.

My favourite quote on serendipity is from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas Adams, on following random choices that come before you:

“it doesn’t always get you where your going but it frequently gets you where you need to be…”