Mission Impossible: Telephoning the Government

 May 13, 2019 1:00 PM
by Marcel Strigberger

      The findings of the recently released Auditor General’s report on the efficiency of the Canadian government are not rosy. Most disturbing is the finding that people can’t reach a live person at a government department on the phone. Callers are referred to websites or redirected and told to hold. Many simply gave up and hung up.

     This of course is unacceptable. I for one would hate to be a 64-year-old calling about old age security and by the time the pension office answers the phone, I’m already eligible. Or even worse, you might actually be over 65 and get through to someone but they get nasty and they say something like, “Given that you’re a pest, we are revising your birthdate to note that you are now 61 years old.”

     I don’t know what the answer is, but I know what we would all like to see.

    You call the Employment Insurance office. The telephone rings once.

    AGENT: EI office. This is George. Sorry for keeping you waiting.

    CALLER: I just got laid off and I’m not sure how to complete these complicated employment insurance forms.

    AGENT: No problem. Tell you what. Better yet. The government will give you a job starting tomorrow. Can you start at 10:30?

    Or you call the Canada Revenue Agency about your income tax refund. Phone rings 2 times

    AGENT: CRA. This is Benjamin speaking. Are you still there? I just dropped my coffee mug running to get the phone.

    CALLER: Yeah, I haven’t received my tax refund yet of $547.00. I filed my return over a week ago.

    AGENT: What is your social insurance number madam? Never mind. I have it here. I will personally ensure that you refund goes out today...by FedEx. And due to the delay in handling your return, I am adding a bonus reward. The government is now partnering with Aeroplan and we are giving you enough points to fly anywhere in Canada aboard Air Canada....Is there anything else I can help you with?

    Or perhaps you are concerned about the climate and you wish to discuss the matter with Environment Canada.

    AGENT: Good morning, this is Marie speaking. Can you please hold just a minute? It’s hot in here. I have to open the window.

    CALLER: No problem Marie. My name is Larry. I just want to express my concerns about climate change.

    AGENT: Certainly sir. Let me put your call over to the person who can be most helpful and who in fact is always ready to discuss this matter with you.

    AGENT 2: Hi Larry. This is the Prime Minister speaking. How can I help you? ...It’s hot in here. Let me just turn on the AC.

    I doubt the Auditor General’s report makes any of these suggestions to fix the problem. The question is, if we were to telephone his office, would we get through?


Donut Rhapsody

 May 7, 2019 12:00 PM
by Marcel Strigberger

     Tim Hortons' iconic roll the rim to win contest isn’t working. Seems Tim Hortons’ recent reprise of their annual promo is not raking it in. Profits are down and the food giant is trying to figure out a way to refresh the game from the way it has been since the 1980s. As the saying might go, you have to know when to roll ‘me and when to fold ‘em.

     I wish to share my own experience with the contest. I have been a loyal customer of Tim Hortons way back while Tim Horton himself used to score goals against my beloved Montreal Canadians. I enjoyed the products and I did not hold those acts of aggression against him.

     In all the years, I must say I did ring the bell once and rolled up the rim to find I had won a free donut. You are asking no doubt, did that contest score change my life?

    You hear stories about how contest victories do not bring happiness. There may be a big high initially. The lucky person may get extravagant, and binge. He or she might buy a new car or take a lavish trip. Then the mood drops, and they sometimes even get depressed. I found I did not follow that scenario. I just claimed my donut, no special fanfare. And actually I was happy ongoing. I never considered seeing a shrink about post contest trauma disorder (PCTD?).

    You also see stories about how charitable organizations get in touch and offer congratulations to the winners, expecting a hand-out. I was not sure if that would happen in this case. One thing for certain, I did not expect to hear from the Canadian Diabetes Association.

   As well you hear that people who have hardly noticed you for a while suddenly surface. That did not happen either. I will say my daughter Natalie who was about 10 at the time and who was generally pre-occupied with her friends and social activities, did notice my fresh chocolate sprinkled donut on my desk and she suggested it would be a noble and grand gesture if I were to share my winnings with her. She reminded me that chocolate was her favourite food and that in any event, donuts were not healthy for older men. I handed her the donut in toto.

   So, in short, to answer the question, my life was not altered much by my contest kill. I did not go out and buy a new car or take a lavish trip. And Tim Hortons, take notice, for the record I rolled many rims since, all unsuccessfully. Maybe there lies some of the problems for TH. They should enable more people to win. Then again, I am not sure I want another donut. My daughter is a now a mother herself and I am a much older man.



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