Moving On…

Dealing with our Government

To start, I never thought I was going to share these stories publicly.

Not that our personal story is critical, or desperate, now that I have been hearing of other people’s similar misfortune, I thinks it’s best if everyone speaks up.

I will leave names out of our story, I don’t think they are relevant because the problems appear to be systemic.

Our story has two parts, two different government programs, and one government office.


We live in London Ontario and on May 20, 2006 we became parents to a healthy baby boy.

At two years of age we became concerned about his development after he lost almost all the verbal communication skills he had already developed1. He was diagnosed as having regressive autism after a journey that involved relatives, our family doctor, a developmental paediatrician, and the Thames Valley Childrens’ Centre2, and we are thankful for everyone that helped us along that path to getting our son the diagnosis he needed.

Getting an official diagnosis allows you to apply for many different forms of assistance, and there is a whirlwind of applications that were filled out. If there is one piece of advice I would give to another parent going through the same thing it would be to get organized and document everything. We didn’t get organized until it was apparent we had dropped the ball on a few things, which I will mention later.

I am so thankful for my wife, she is the organizational bedrock of our family.


 SSAH (Special Services At Home)

During our frenzy of paperwork one of the programs we applied to was to provide relief or respite care for parents. It is a program that even if you qualify for it, you face a long wait as it is poorly funded by the government.

We filed the paperwork and heard nothing.

This is where keeping records would have helped us. We lost track of the application after not hearing anything until two years later when we received a phone call asking if we had applied for assistance from SSAH.

Slightly befuddled, we said yes and asked why they wanted to know. Apparently our application had been sitting on the desk of someone who no longer worked at the office for two whole years. At least they confirmed we qualified for the program and would be put on the wait-list, the back of the wait-list.

It was explained to us that there was no way they could put us in line where we should have been to correct their mistake.

Well, almost four years later and we have had no assistance from SSAH.

ACSD (Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities)

Although a smaller case, it shows the manner in which the staff there are treating customers.

We were receiving ACSD for a few years, a supplement to help out families dealing with a severe disability. The supplement is geared to income and while some families never need reassessment, we own our own business and have been asked twice.

This spring we were asked for proof of income and we happily sent it off, hearing nothing in return, until one month the payments simply disappeared. No problem, this happened last time we were reassessed, so we called to see what was going on. We were notified we had (barely) exceeded the high income cutoff and would not be receiving ACSD.

When asked why were not notified of the change we were told it was the summer student’s job to send out notices and apparently they had failed to do so.

We were removed from the program and we were free to re-apply if our income changed. We are not upset by the rules of the program, but by the way the payments dropped off without warning. For a less financially stable family this could have been devastating.

The fact that an important role in the office was delegated to a summer student and not checked to see if it was completed is shameful.

We still have had no notification other than our phone inquiry.

Why am I sharing these stories?

Because I think it is important to let other people know what they face when dealing with bureaucrats. Document, document. document.

Follow up, and ensure your paperwork has not fallen through the cracks, and if it does, you wont get much help form them. Send a letter to your Member of Parliament, Member of Provincial Parliament, or City Councillor depending on jurisdiction, they are your advocate when it comes to dealing with government programs. If your issue is with a provincial program you can also contact the Ontario Ombudsman.

Why didn’t we make a bigger stink when these happened?  Mostly because these battles are exhausting, on top of caring for a family member with a severe disability. Also because the ACSD was a battle we had nothing to gain from other than perhaps an apology, but as we hear more and more examples we realize our situation is not unique and something needs to be done to correct the problems in our government offices.


1 For more information on the red flags for autism go to

2 So thankful, our son represents TVCC and is currently on the front page of their website and in many of its fundraising materials.

Stop Donating Start Investing

I’m happy to see the discussion in the nonprofit and charity sector tuning away from who has the lowest overhead. Although keeping overhead low can be a sign the organization is not wasteful, it says nothing about how effective they are.

Dan Pallotta

One of the first vocal activists against the overhead stigma was Dan Pallotta, his TED talk was one that opened my eyes to a different way of thinking about fulfilling objectives instead of just watching you cost of fundraising.

Art Taylor, Jacob Harold, and Ken Berger

Recently three very influential people in the nonprofit community have released a letter to the public, and to nonprofits warning about the obsession with keeping costs low. You can read the letter at

You may also want to listen to an excellent interview with them on Tony Martignetti’s podcast Nonprofit Radio at

Ken Stern

Recently I read With Charity for All by Ken Stern, it’s a must read for anyone in the nonprofit sector.

While profit is an easy way to measure how effective a for-profit company is, it can be a little more difficult to calculate how effective a non-profit is, but still a core part of fulfilling the mandate of the organization.

Ken’s book has some great real-world examples of where some organizations may actually hurt the very cause they were created to help. This is why people need to start acting more like an investor and less as a donor, expecting a return on their investment.

This is difficult because of poor research and reporting by many organizations. This needs to change. I wouldn’t invest in a company that didn’t know if it was, or ever will be profitable, why would I donate my money to an organization that didn’t know if it had any impact?

Bicycle Shopping

Yeah, these posts get way off the beaten path sometimes. Today is no exception.

Most people know I like to ride my bike to work. I have a great bike for that, a Trek FX7.2 that I purchased exactly for that reason. It wasn’t crazy expensive, but I invested a good amount of money into a bike that would be reliable.

I also have been riding at Fanshawe Conservation Area, a fun 23km off-road trip with sections of varying difficulties. I have ridden my Trek FX7.2 hybrid/road bike around the loop, but with a rigid front suspension and narrow tires the bike is a poor match to the task. One of the guys at my local bike shop looked at me a bit sideways and kindly asked, “You know the bike’s not designed for that, right?”

I knew the bike wasn’t well suited to the task, so the next time and every time since, I have ridden my department store mountain bike that we bought as a matching pair for about $150 after my wife’s and my own bikes were stolen along with my truck over 10 years ago.


Now my 10 year old mountain bike is really showing its age, (actually the bike is a Franken-bike made of the remaining good parts from both bikes and the occasional upgrades like new shifters, grips, and a new seat) the bottom bracket, front suspension, and rear brake cable all need replacing. Replacing all this on the bike would probably cost more than buying a new department store bike. Replacing the suspension forks for the front would be half the price of a new bike. The bottom bracket although not expensive, requires specialty tools to remove the lock ring and the cranks. These tools and the replacement part would chew up the other half of the price of a cheap department store bike, and I would still have a 10 year old department store bike.

On a side note, I am seriously considering joining Purple Bikes, the bike workshop at Western. For only $5 a term (4 months) you get access to the tools you need to fix your bike and affordable new and used parts.

The challenge, find a bike for off-road use in the $200-$300 range.

So, to be completely honest, I’m considering buying a Reebok bike from Sportchek.


Why not buy used? Trust me, I would love to, but there are so many problems with buying used. I hoped to purchase a used low end name brand quality bike, something that would cost $400-$600 from a reputable bike shop when new.

First, how do know you aren’t supporting the black market stolen bike trade? I have been searching Kijiji for a bike and I realized I was often seeing the same phone number. I also kept seeing the same address. It appears there is one person on there, with at least three accounts, selling at least 20 bikes this month. Other posters often have multiple bikes or needed them gone “today”. This makes me uncomfortable buying a used bike privately.

I could buy a used bike from a reputable bike shop, but the bikes they sell used are the ones that cost $1500+ new. Bikes that don’t lose much value in the one or two seasons they were ridden before the individual decided to upgrade. They also wont bother with selling lower end used bikes that have a poor profit margin (and I don’t blame them).

Second, the price of used bikes is all over the place. Aside from the “too good to be true” bikes, most used prices don’t look like much of a deal. This is mostly because many of the bikes have upgraded components which pushed the new price of the bike higher, resulting in a price too high for me to consider. Either that or some people think they have a bike that magically doesn’t depreciate in value over time.

Third, buying used means you are buying a bike that may have its own issues. I know I can spot most current mechanical faults, but how much life do those components have left in them? My bottom bracket on my current bike felt fine just weeks ago, now it feels awful.

So here I am, considering a cheap department store bike.

I would love to know if you have any serious suggestions.

Anyways, Its late, I’ve rambled enough, and I have to work in the morning, but I thought I would get enough of this out of my brain to let me sleep. Night y’all.



I did buy what is essentially a department store bike tonight.

I didn’t buy the one mentioned earlier in the post, I picked the next bike up, the Reebok Oregon from Sportchek (I also got the last 17″ in stock (yes I’m short)). The Sphere’s components were simply too cheap with a twist grip shift and non-indexed front shifter.

After weighing all the options, the bike store bikes couldn’t touch the price ($239).

F.Y.I. the cheapest Trek at my local bike shop sells for $399 ($160 more).



I usually steer people away from department/sports store bikes, there’s a lot of crap out there and you really have to watch what components are on these bikes. I feel a bit guilty for going against the advice I give many other people when they are looking for a bike.

The Reebok Oregon has pretty standard Shimano parts, my only concern is the no-name front fork (but at the bottom of the price range all bikes come with no-name forks), but the bike uses a standard 1-1/8″ threadless headset which is also very common if I do ever feel the need to replace it.

A Case Study

Sorry for not keeping this on Twitter, some conversations are a bit difficult to have in 140 characters (or less) and the list of people involved is getting pretty long.

I feel for a lot of the individuals in the manufacturing sector, they watch plant after plant shut down, down-size, or move out of the country every day. Any person with the potential to retrain and move into another sector would be wise to do so, but the move is a difficult one, if not impossible.

While my situation is slightly different, I can easily empathize with theirs.

Biggest issue is the catch 22 of education. Like many of the factory workers I’m in my mid-30’s and 3 years to go to Fanshawe seems like an incredible waste of time unrealistic investment of both time and money.

Traditional College

Not that there is anything wrong with Fanshawe’s program, I’m sure it’s a great education, and it is what most employers look for when hiring an entry level developer. In fact my wife went back to Fanshawe as a mature student for graphic design so I have first hand knowledge of the challenge returning to school can be. I’m not about to put our family through that again.

Career College

If time is an issue there are always career colleges like TriOs and Westervelt, but they are pricy, intense, and don’t sound like they get much respect. (Note: Please, let me know if anyone has had a different experience.)


A promising new education opportunity has emerged with MOOCs (Massive Online Open Course). These are typically free and a great place to receive an education, or is it?

The largest problem with MOOCs is the inability to grade participants. Once you start grading, it requires teachers (or TAs) to spend hours reviewing student’s work, which is not feasible to do with free programs. These are still valuable learning experiences, but I don’t see companies easily accepting any sort of self directed education as “qualified”. I don’t anticipate or expect my reading list of management books will ever be considered an equivalent to an MBA either.

Online Tutorials

Some hope is in programs like Codecademy where you complete tutorials and earn badges. These at least give markers of progress. On a side note Codecademy is a bit rigid, while teaching principals, there is no way to to succeed except the standard accepted method, no points for creativity, and often has difficulty when even a correct answer is not what the site wants, verbatim.

So when do you think employers start accepting credentials from a MOOC or other online tutorial service?

What do you think an intelligent individual working a decent ($45k/yr.) factory job and supporting a family should do to switch careers and fill the gap in qualified tech workers, and do you think it’s feasible?

Giving Yourself a Nickname

AM980’s Devon Peacock yesterday discussed nicknaming London “The City of Champions” on the Pulse, or the Craig Needles show, I don’t remember now, he hosted both yesterday.

I personally don’t like the idea of giving ourselves a new nickname. Not that I’m crazy about the name “The Forest City”, I don’t think it is really fitting either. Our city looks to be the forest city in name only, we don’t have much more tree cover than other Canadian cities of our size.

My objection is over the idea that you can fix anything with a name.

I could call myself Batman all I want but the name doesn’t make me a kickass crime fighter. The only way to accomplish that is to go out there and actually fight crime. The coolness in the name follows from the individual’s actions.

In other words,

“a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – Shakespere

or in our case, no matter what we name the city, we aren’t going to fix the underlying problems without rolling up our sleeves and working towards making this a better city.

It’s time to look our problems square in the face and proposing workable solutions, not feel-good rebranding.

We also need to divide the responsibilities between the private and public sectors.

Infrastructure is a public responsibility. Fixing that will create jobs, but not enough.

Job creation falls to the private sector. The only thing the municipality is responsible for there is to get out of the way and listen to see if there are any ways it can assist business.

Cheapest Rent in Downtown London

You may, or may not know me to be a big advocate of heritage. Truth is that I think we need to save what we can, there is no going back when it comes to the wrecking ball.

So my recent tweets may surprise those in favour of historical preservation.


All of this was brought on by the fact that I was surprised to find most of the city in favour of the incredibly low price paid to use the facilities by the London Majors.

To completely come clean, I am in favour of preserving Labatt Park.

Although I don’t think that decision is as easy as some think.

I wouldn’t call any of the structures on the property worthy of historical designation, most are modern structures. From reports the field is in a different orientation than the original, it’s the reason for the controversy over the oldest ballpark moniker. Finally, I didn’t think London cared about location, just look at the Fanshawe Pioneer Museum (where we store all our old stuff), 199 Queen Street and the Fugitive Slave Chapel, both which were considered victories if we could keep the structure, but lose the location.

On the other hand, it is pretty cool to have such an excellent ball park at the center of the city, one I didn’t know had such devoted fans until this week. The location has been in continuous use  since 1877 (the same year as the invention of the phonograph), which is deserving in its own right, and some historical players have stepped foot on the field of play in London.

Aside from historical reasons I think Labatt Park is a special asset for our city, and excellent facility for sports. I have competed on the field myself in my younger years.

Then there is the legal reason. From what I have read (and Wikipedia wouldn’t lie) the Park was donated to city on the condition it was named after the Labatt family and was “for the use of the citizens of the City of London as an athletic field and recreation ground”. I’m not a lawyer but if we cease baseball operations would the property revert to the Labatt family?

That kind of shoots down the idea of the city selling it to a developer.

My big question is that of our subsidy to the London Majors.

I spent many a summer nights on the wooden benches on the first base line, in fact our family visited Arden Eddie’s home to pick up our season’s tickets.

The Majors are an institution that is ingrained in the history of London. I just don’t want to be unofficially sponsoring a business, especially if that business is producing profits. I would rather make it official and transparent.

I’m not even sure of the business’ structure at this point. As far as I have understood the team has owners who bought the team in 2004. Non-profits don’t have owners, but someone at the London Free Press wrote an anonymous piece calling them a non-profit.

From “PoV: A shame to lose Majors should city play hard ball”:

But the Majors provide a summer of cheap entertainment at a facility they’ve called home since 1925 and one wonders if the city would propose such a fee hike for other non-profits.

The baseball team has a two-year deal with the city to use the park for an annual $8,700 flat fee, 20% more than the per-game fee it’s paid in the past…

…Would such a proposal be on the table for any other non-profit?

Fact, or intentionally muddying the waters? Nobody who could intelligently answer the profit status of the team was willing to answer the question on Twitter.

I think I know who wrote it, but I will keep that to myself, no need to point fingers.

So there you have it, without slant, as much as I am capable. My apologies for not editing this post.

The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.
– Blaise Pascal.

Now I’m moving on…


Thanks to @dereksilva for pointing out a critical line I missed.

…which is in the process of converting to non-profit status…

Yes, I fail at reading sometimes.

(Wow, am I glad I didn’t point fingers.)

This Might Surprise You…

…but I think, just maybe, we should cut Dale Henderson a bit of slack.

Dale has been taking a bit of a beating in social as well as mainstream media as of late over DaleTV and his expense reporting.

Sure, he screwed up. At least he is screwed up while trying to do something.

The videos, website, and equipment cost more than they should have, but he is not an expert in any of this. It’s really not difficult to over spend on technology.

If I were doing the videos for myself or someone I supported the expense would be nearly zero. I am capable of building the site inexpensively (roughly $50/yr), I already own the necessary video equipment and I wouldn’t have bothered with that ridiculous TV studio backdrop or even a green-screen.

I may have purchased the lighting, and I probably would have also bought a good microphone.

Would I do it for free for Dale? Not very likely.

Would I do it for free for a few of the councillors I support and admire? Very possibly.

The follow-up offer to provide the setup to others sounds ridiculous but $150 to transport equipment, assemble the studio, film several takes of a councillor stumbling over their words, and process the video (lets face it, there wasn’t really much editing) actually sounds low. I doubt that’s enough for me to take time away from the other jobs I’m doing.

Yes, some people are saying they would do it for free but you get what you pay for. One notable one filmed a response in their car. For a quick two minute “on the run” update it would be great, not for longer form videos.

I am most disappointed  by the fact Dale shows potential, but displays a complete lack of communication and political savvy. He also doesn’t seem to understand dammage control. I am constantly amazed by his ability to dig the hole deeper.

I almost think he’s doing it on purpose.

Dale needs a handler. Someone who can talk to him, distill all the ideas running through his head, and give him the talking points he needs to get his pont across. Otherwise he will relegate himself to being cannon fodder for the media.

Rexall Digital Thermometer – RX500

RX500 Digital Thermometer

A long, long time ago we bought a great little thermometer at Rexall. It’s great for our son because it reads the temperature from the temple.

The only problem we have is that it somehow gets changed from fahrenheit to celsius.

We own two of these , one rarely gets used because it is stuck in celsius (and the conversion is not easy to do in your head), and we lost the instructions almost immediately after buying it. I’m posting the solution here for anyone who may have the same problem.

I finally found the answer on how to switch the units on these little surface thermometers. I have posted the solution here for anyone who may be in the same boat.

  1. Make sure the thermometer is off.
  2. Press and hold the “START” button for 5 seconds (the button you press to read the temperature)
  3. After 5 seconds the display will read “– -F° ” or “– -C° ” with the letter blinking.
  4. Release the “START” button.
  5. Press and release the “START” button.
  6. The thermometer will blink the new unit symbol for roughly 3 seconds and will then start up like normal but with your selected units.
  7. Take the temperature as usual.

We bought these at the Rexall in London, Ontario, they may also be sold elsewhere with other branding. The other identification is inside the battery cover and reads:

Model Number: RX500

Rexall Brands Corp.

5965 Coopers Avenue

Mississagua, Ontario

L4Z 1R9

Lot Code: 0605-9134

Perpetuating a Myth

What inspired me to collect all those stats and post about the city tax rate was actually hearing a caller on AM980 saying the city has all kinds of money they aren’t telling anyone about.

The conversation took place on The Craig Needles Show.

February 12, 2013


Arn: …most of the houses in the city of London have not had a tax freeze, at all, and more than that the city is getting that revenue.

Craig: Yes, well it’s assessment growth.

Arn: So there is reassessment money that is coming into the city that they just aren’t talking about.

Craig: Yeah, I can understand how its not a freeze, its not the exact same bill that you got the year before and I don’t think that they should imply that it would be.

Arn: No, no don’t call it not the exact same bill, talk about an increase…

Craig: Sure

Arn: …its an increased bill.

Craig: Yeah thats fair.

– Or go listen for yourself.

Where this all goes off the rails is Arn’s declaration that there is “reassessment money”, reassessment money is revenue neutral. It is only new assessments (from new building or changing classification i.e. from residential to commercial) that adds to the city’s revenue.

I don’t think it was intentional on Craig’s part to agree to this, he correctly referred to “assessment growth” at first, and to the fact that Arn’s taxes may have increased. He probably just missed the accusation that this created extra money for the city.

I think Arn also has a direct line to the studio, so arguing could end up being a long-term battle.

Property Taxes and Assessment

It amazes me how many people think that reassessment is a goldmine for the city.

It is not.

The city reduces the tax rate every year to counteract the reassessment of the average existing properties.

Want proof?

LdnOnt Taxes PDF

Unless you remember politicians boasting about our 10.4% decrease in property taxes since 2007, I would say that idea is busted.

Still wondering how the city calculates your taxes? Sandy Levin has a good write up over on the Emerging Leaders site that lays out the basics at