Monday, December 20, 2010

The One-cent Solution

"The Senate finance committee is recommending that the federal government remove the penny from circulation ."
- CBC News - December 14, 2010

Hi. Penny’s the name and currency circulation is my game.
For centuries, I’ve been doing the tough work when it comes to keeping the country’s finances afloat. Those big bills like the twenty, the fifty and the hundred get all the glory but I’m the specie that makes the whole cash economy work.
But now I hear there’s talk again of getting rid of me. Seems like I’m not carrying my weight, some so-called experts are saying. They figure that it just doesn’t make sense to keep me around, especially when it costs a cent-and-a-half to manufacture me.
Look, I’ve heard all this cheap talk before. It seems every time we’re in a recession, someone comes up with the idea of centicide - i.e. - killing off the penny - i.e. - me.
Nobody likes pennies, they say. We’re a nuisance that could just as easily be eliminated. Half the time, we end up in sock drawers, dresser trays or penny jars. Nobody even bothers to pick one of us up when we’re dropped on the street.
These cheap shots are nothing new. For years, I’ve been listening to people trying to get rid of me. It doesn’t really even bother me anymore. After all, I’m 94% steel with a copper coating so I’m tough. I can take the criticism.
It’s not me I’m worried about. I’m much more concerned about my fellow Canadians. They may think that a cent-free Canada will be no big deal but I’m afraid they’ll be in for a big surprise.
Get rid of me and how the heck are you going to teach Canadian kids simple arithmetic? We’re already verging on national innumeracy and with no pennies around to force kids to learn how to count when buying candy, we’ll soon have a nation of arithmetically-challenged dummies quickly headed for third world status.
But what’s the big deal, some say. Why can’t we just round off to the nearest five cents when making purchases? Yeah, and why not do the same with accounting entries? That’s just the kind of lazy thinking that will soon have us bailing out too-big-to-fail banks.
I’m also worried about all the other denominations. Get rid of me and you know who’s going to take all the heat then, right? The nickel, that’s who.
The five-cent piece will be the next currency punching bag. And every coin up the ladder will be taken down a notch. The dime’s not doing so well as it is. Imagine how life will be for him when he’s only one step from the numismatic cellar.
Don’t believe me? Ask the loonie and the twonie how they feel about themselves now that they’re coins instead of bills. It used to be that the dollar and two-dollar bill had a place of pride in Canadians’ wallets. They were currencies folks would look up to.
Now, thanks to their coinization, the buck and it’s two-buck friend are devalued in all respects. People toss loonies and twonies around the way they used to spend dimes and quarters. They simply don’t get the respect they used to. And if I’m no longer in the picture, that won’t help their status in the currency jungle.
So what if it costs more to produce me than I’m worth? We’re in a recession, for goodness’ sake. The last thing we need to do is cut more jobs.
And what about those penny trays you see in stores everywhere? Apart from making people feel charitable or thankful, they also create lots of jobs in the "take-a-penny, leave-a-penny" tray industry.
Finally, if you get rid of me, you also get rid of the lucky penny. Where else can you get a chance at good fortune for such a small cost?
So don’t eliminate me. That might be penny wise but it would definitely be pound foolish.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Public Service 2.0

"[Clerk of the Privy Council Wayne] Wouters called GCPEDIA ‘one of my priorities’ that he wants bureaucrats to use. It’s a massive wiki....where public servants can share information, post reports, publish work or collaborate on projects that could affect a slew of departments."
- The Ottawa Citizen - April 11, 2010

Coffee break
A coffee break is a midmorning or midafternoon break from the work routine lasting anywhere from fifteen to fifty minutes. Not to be confused with ‘lunch break’ which is a midday break generally lasting twice as long as allotted.

Coffee specials
Depending on where you work, a variety of coffee specials are available to public servants. For example, if you work in or near the Meadowview Shopping Complex, Bob’s Deli has a large coffee for $1 before 9 A.M. Those stationed in the Government Centre at Duflin and Byer Streets can get a medium coffee and a muffin for $1.50 after 2 P.M.

Early exit
An early exit means leaving one’s workplace prior to the scheduled time of departure. If you don’t have a scheduled time of departure, feel free to improvise and leave when you want. If, however, you do have set hours of work, be careful not to leave too early too often.

Early exit - Desjardins
For those new to the Desjardins Building wishing to sneak out early, take note of the rear stairwell. Although the exit door on each floor is marked "Emergency Exit Only", if you open the door very slowly, you can escape without tripping any alarms. Perfect for those who need to leave before 3 P.M.

Hockey playoff pool
Most government offices will have at least one playoff hockey pool. Each participant pays an entry fee and gets to select a certain number of players for the duration of the playoffs. Enquire of your co-workers and you will likely find one individual in charge of running the pool whose name is usually Bob, Mike or Ted.

Interdepartmental hockey playoff pool
You can stick to your interoffice hockey pool if you like. But if you want a real challenge and a shot at some serious money, sign up below. But be sure to use a pseudonym. No point in irritating management. E-mail Ted at

Memo boilerplate
Most memos follow a standard form. If you’re stuck for wording for your latest missive, check out the searchable database for the perfect phrase. Just enter your search terms like "saying no nicely", "saying nothing nicely" or "current favorite catch-phrases" and you’ll be provided with a wealth of helpful options.

Nap time
Nap time is any time of the workday when you feel the need to catch a bit of shuteye in order to better serve the public. Those lucky souls who have an enclosed office can simply close the door and nap for up to one hour. Those working in an open office will have to improvise or find a private getaway or retreat.

Nap time - Trudeau Complex
For those suffering from the afternoon fade in the Trudeau Complex, help is at hand. Check out the room at the end of the south hall on the fifth floor. Formerly part of a disbanded nurse’s station, the room has two cots and various donated reading matter. The combination for the door lock is 3-2-5. Remember though; mum’s the word.

Performance appraisal
A performance appraisal is an annual or semi-annual assessment of an employee’s performance based on whether he met certain predetermined goals. Ostensibly used in evaluating employees for promotion or reassignment although there is no recorded instance of such ever having been done.

360-degree feedback
This is an evaluation process which includes assessments of a supervisor by her employees. If you are an employee who is asked to participate in such an exercise, politely decline unless you are prepared to lie (see suck up).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

WikiLeaks Leaks

"A massive document WikiLeaks.....sent shock waves around the globe.....America’s allies, including Canada, were braced for unflattering and embarrassing revelations....."
- The Globe and Mail - November 28, 2010

Later this week, it’s expected that WikiLeaks will feature some internal communications about Canada from officials at the U. S. Embassy in Ottawa. However, WikiLeaks apparently has its own security problems and pre-publication leaks have already revealed the following potentially embarrassing communiques from American diplomats based in our nation’s capital:

November 28, 2010
A football team called the Montreal Hallowets (sp.?) today defeated another team called – get this – the Saskatchewan Roughriders (seriously!). Someone in Washington should probably pass on congratulations. But be sure not to insult what they call "Canadian football." Apparently the field is bigger or measured in meters or something and they get a single point for kicking the ball in the end zone. Try to keep a straight face when they call it football.

November 17, 2010
Prime Minister Harper (he’s the chubby one with no sense of humor) has announced that Canadian troops will leave Afghanistan in 2011. He sounds serious but not to worry. He’ll likely backtrack so long as we don’t publicly pressure him. Remember, this is the guy who was ready to send Canadian troops to Iraq. He’s one of the good guys, albeit not that bright.

November 5, 2010
Canadians are celebrating the fact that their dollar is on par with ours. They call theirs the loonie which seems appropriate since this is hardly something they should be celebrating. But don’t disabuse them of the notion. Pretend we’re ticked off although we all know that it’s really going to help our balance of payments problem. Silly Canucks.

June 9, 2010
The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup by defeating another American team, the Philadelphia Flyers, in six games. Best to avoid mention of this to the locals as no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since 1993. Canadians like to think hockey is their game. Best to say nothing so as not to upset them unless you want to hear an hour-long harangue.

October 30, 1995
Well, we tried but the "Yes" side narrowly lost the Quebec referendum. Here’s hoping that Chretien fellow annoys Quebecers again so they’ll hold another separation vote soon. Nothing like a divided Canada to finally help us realize our 200-year-old dream of a truly continental United States. Fifty-Four Forty or Fight, eh?

October 26, 1993
You won’t believe who got elected prime minister yesterday. Jean Chretien! Crazy wild, huh? Anyway, everyone says this is good news for us since he sounds like a real doofus and should be easily swayed if, say, we need help some day to invade a middle eastern country on a whim.

March 17, 1985
Don’t know much about this clown Mulroney but it looks like POTUS has got him wrapped around his little finger. He sang "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" with Reagan and it looked like he was ready to dance with him, too. Looks like we can get just about anything we want from this joker, maybe even a free trade deal.

February 15, 1968
Rumor has it that some guy named Pierre Trudeau will be running for the leadership of the Liberal Party (they’re the ones in power right now). He’s currently the Minister of Justice, a real lightweight and possibly a commie sympathizer. Inside sources say not to worry though since there’s no way he can defeat favorites like Paul Martin, Robert Winters and Paul Hellyer.

March 4, 1966
You know that gal Gerda Munsinger we hired as a triple agent? Well she’s paying off big time. Seems like some high level Canadian bozo slept with her and all hell has broken loose. Best to stick to the story that she’s an East German playgirl and KGB spy. What a laugh!
Don't forget to check out my new book "Dare to be Average" at