Fire, Uber upset and ransoms, and we’ve only started May

Our column: The Sky is Falling! ... Again

And just how’s your week going? He asked with abattoir dark humour. Because if my week is crazy-busy and a sewer sandwich of stress, I can only imagine that yours out in the industry must be insane. And of course, it should go almost without saying that all of us are thinking of those thousands made homeless by the Fort McMurray wildfire. With more than 1,600 homes and buildings estimated to be destroyed—and let’s keep in mind, the count isn’t over—we’ve been wondering in the office if this won’t be this year’s “Lac Megantic.” Or if you want to stick to Alberta for metaphors, first the flood then the fire.

Once again, the industry is being tested in terms of a large-scale disaster, and as science keeps warning us, tragically, we’re going to see more of this kind of thing.

But once again, I’m moved—this is not sucking up, this is sincerely felt—by the industry leaping into action. Yes, the claims work will be brutal, but what’s happened to these people is obviously worse than brutal, it’s knee-capping, low-down devastating. It’s hard to imagine many things worse than seeing the base of your life reduced to charred ruins, a lunar landscape of ash and wreckage… and then to know that close relatives, friends and neighbours all must cope with the same disaster. This is a business, yes, and there will be forms and questions and data, but I get the impression from my low perch that those rushing out there genuinely want to help victims back on their feet.

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Oh, Uber, how you keep feeding us copy. The gift that keeps on giving… And now that we have new rules in the city of Toronto that require UberX and taxi drivers to get $2 million in liability insurance, what the hell was the point of all that ranting and stomping up and down and holding your face until it turns blue on the part of taxi activists? Liability insurance is a good idea for such a disruptor, whether you agree with its growing presence or not.

The CBC went surveying opinions, and one councilor told the MotherCorp, “We have made it rougher on the driver and ‘peachy’ for owners of companies like Uber.” She thinks drivers will have a tough time making a living if prices are allowed to be adjusted depending on demand. ”How [the driver] makes a living, I really don’t know. They’re going to get a lot of dabblers.”

Okay, first, duh, basic economics should tell you that price on many things has to adjust according to demand. Two, does this politician understand that many cab drivers start out as “dabblers?” That quite often, a driver for the night may not own the vehicle itself? Three, of most importance, since when does the municipal government of the biggest city in the country owe the damn taxi industry a living? Was there a powerful lobby at city hall that we didn’t know about for stables and blacksmiths when horseless carriages got popular?

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ci-sept14-kidnap-ransomA quick follow-up to my column last week regarding ransoms… I was see-sawing and debating and grumbling to myself over taking a shot in my piece at Amanda Lindhout, perhaps because my judgment was a bit clouded by knowing someone who’s dealt with her personally, who heard first-hand some of the more horrific details of her ordeal. In the end, of course, I took my shot anyway, but it’s rather interesting that Lindhout came out with a column in the National Post, basically agreeing with me.

It was noticeably short on rationale and more of a rehash of what she went through to impress upon the reader that she knew what she was talking about. Instead, she offered a few quick and vague lines on how policies could be adjusted to help families of kidnap victims. “While the government shouldn’t be in the ransom business, it’s cruel to forbid a family member from doing so,” she wrote.

Well… No, Lindhout. It’s not cruel. What would be the point of allowing the loophole if we’re trying to keep the terrorists from getting their way? The government has to be strong when the thugs count on the resolve of loved ones to weaken. But there’s no point in a firm prohibition against families paying ransoms simply because of practical reasons. There will always be ways to do end-runs and get the funds over, probably via Bitcoin or another virtual currency.

As I wrote in my earlier post, I am not anti-ransom per se, I’m just in favour of running the bastards down after they collect their funds.

 

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Transcontinental Media G.P.