Fiona Day 3

We are back in our studio on Victoria Row, marvelling at the fact that when you flip a switch, a light turns on. We also have somewhat limited Internet access.

I ran around our neighbourhood in Stratford yesterday and it was sad to see so many lovely trees felled by the strong winds. Some utility poles were snapped, and lines down, so I don’t expect we will have power anytime soon. It’s amazing that so much of our critical infrastructure is strung between teetering wooden poles.

We have a limited social network on the Island but people we have met have been kind – my colleague gave us a 5G hotspot on loan, so that we can keep in touch with the outside world.

We do have some packaged food left and some fuel to heat it with, so we should be good for a couple more days. Hopefully by then other options will appear.

A Weekend Off

I’m sitting here in my kitchen, safe, warm and dry, drinking a lovely single origin from Peru that I brewed on my camp stove.

We’ve been through all kinds of natural disasters from the 921 earthquake, which leveled mountains and towns, to yearly typhoons which blew everything off the island not battened down. Being prepared for such things is something we are accustomed to but we’ve become somewhat complacent since returning to this gentler Island, and as such when we heard that this was going to be a “historic” hurricane we were caught somewhat unprepared.

Our food stores had expired and we were a bit short on fuel for our camp stove. The disadvantage of living in a place that relies entirely on electricity for heat, lights, and cooking is that once that disappears, modern life becomes less … modern.

We’ve done fine so far, we made food ahead of time and we have enough power banks to keep devices humming for days.

But what good are these devices if you can’t use them? This is perhaps the greatest surprise of this whole experience. Never in all the calamities that we’ve lived through, have we been unable to communicate with the outside world. In PEI, and other parts of Atlantic Canada, cellular service has been unavailable. According to some reports 911 service is unavailable as well. It took hours for me to finally check in with my 91 year old Uncle and the call failed half way through. What if he needed help?

Luckily we have a radio stored away in our survival kit so that we could listen to news updates. The CBC was having a hard time initially staying online as well.

We’ve now been without power for 36 hours. I think the CEO(?) of T3 Transit explained it well on radio the criticality of our electric infrastructure – you can’t even get fuel without power to the electric pump. It’s surprising how few backup systems there are in place.

We were greeted by the Mayor of Stratford yesterday as we went for a walk to survey the damage and realized that the town hall was open. He and other staff kept the coffee hot and made sure people could charge their devices and use Wi-Fi to communicate with others. It’s wonderful to see that level of care for the community.

I had a zoom call today and no way to reach out to say I was unable to attend. So I went to Town Hall again to see if I could either join the call or send an email to say I couldn’t. Unfortunately their network was overloaded with the hundreds of people looking to connect to the outside world and charge their devices. Instead we connected with neighbors over apple pie and coffee. We’ll go back later for a hot shower.

IRAC Vs. Renters

The recent announcement by IRAC to dramatically raise the allowable rental increase on the Island for the coming year affects us – we rent. Thankfully we won’t be left homeless or miss meals like others might, but because our money has limits it might mean no restaurants, which is already a rarity due to the high cost – low reward aspect of eating out in Charlottetown. It will also have an effect on charitable giving. Yes our rent is already that high.

Housing as an investment is weird here in Canada, at least from my inexperienced eyes.

In Taiwan, my experience was that people viewed real estate as an easy investment, an appreciating asset that could either be sold or used later in life. But they wouldn’t rent the house with the same regularity that you see here. Being a landlord was too much of a hassle, and often times we would have to convince landlords that we wouldn’t cause their asset to depreciate.

In Canada, it seems landlords use various means to mortgage a house, then have renters pay the mortgage, while they gain not only the value of an appreciating investment but also a profit from the renters.

The Taiwan model I witnessed resulted in whole districts being built with beautiful buildings, but no one living in them.

The Canadian model seems to create a return to a kind of serf – lord relationship.

In Taiwan it was understood that we could find another place to live with relative ease. So if we had a landlord with unrealistic expectations, or who was uncooperative, we would simply move. Adequate supply makes the relationship more equal.

Canada has no supply, and as such you have no recourse.

One of our many mistakes in moving home was not buying a house before we arrived. It seemed too risky with no steady income, and we wanted more than just a house, we wanted a home. Of course those houses have doubled in value in the past few years, but we didn’t have a crystal ball, and we knew nothing of real estate in Canada.

We are in a better position to buy now, we are more settled, but the question that we keep wondering, is this investment worth it? It was 4 years ago, but now at 2x the cost? It seems everyday the answer inches closer to no, but renting on the Island is not tenable over the long term (for many reasons), so that may mean a move to somewhere else. Somewhere with a functioning medical system perhaps, maybe Europe this time, instead of Asia?

Goodbye prime

“Your HappyEars Canada order is now complete.”

I’ve been shopping for earplugs to replace the freebies I received from Upstreet brewing a few years ago when I was there to hear Lady Soul. They were handing them out when people started complaining about the excessive volume, to which the sound engineer just laughed and turned the volume up even more.

HappyEars didn’t work for me, but I always thought that the language was odd considering I had yet to receive the product. Doesn’t my experience with the company continue after they receive my money? And shouldn’t they consider that?

The same can be said with Amazon, whose Prime we stopped subscribing to as the value proposition all but disappeared. In major markets Amazon handles delivery but PEI being remote, Amazon relies upon low cost providers for the last mile of service. When they used Purolator and Canada Post, service was great, now more often than not you will see someone pull up in their car with the backseat overflowing with packages. The results are predictably poor.

Over the winter we would see our packages in snow banks or tossed at random doors. Today I got a phone call telling me they found my package outside.

Considering that Amazon deliveries are slow at the best of times, why would you choose to subscribe to Prime? More TV? Admittedly the ability to order just coffee filters was nice, but some advance planning is all that’s needed, and Mother earth might appreciate the smaller carbon footprint.

The effect to Amazons profits of losing some customers in the Atlantic region due to poor experience is infinitesimally small, but smaller companies should find ways to at the very least let their customers know that they are there with them throughout the customer journey.

Coffee prices

With the exception of the cost of fuel, in much of our day to day the effects of rising costs brought on by the cause of the day hasn’t seemed to be that apparent. We eat less steak and fish, but that’s been a thing for years.

Today it hit home. We’ve been buying coffee from a number sources since we moved back, finally settling on 49th Parallel and Green Beanery as our most frequent place to purchase beans. Coffee of the quality we buy we consider our treat; other people buy wine, we drink good coffee.

Coffee has gone up since the pandemic but not so much so that we had to reconsider our habit (I drink about 5 cups a day).

Today marked a change. I abandoned a Green Beanery order because the shipping seemed excessive. Heading over to 49th Parallel I thought to restart my subscription until I saw the new shipping price. Our subscription was once 3 bags of single origin for $50 shipped, a great deal for the quality of beans. That subscription is now $80, a result of increased shipping costs, though I don’t see an increase at Canada Post who they ship with.

We do now have a good roaster in town, so perhaps we will be relying on her more often.

New Glasses

I received a pair of computer progressives yesterday which now allow me to see all the UI of Logic Pro, and text in general, with greater clarity. The effect is more magnifying glass than simply bringing objects into focus, so I’m not sure I will stick to it, but will give it a couple of weeks.

Thailand redux?

I run my life via my Aeroplan Visa card and have over the course of the past few years slowly accrued a lot of points.

Yesterday I found out that I have enough points to fly the four of us from Halifax to just about anywhere we might want to go. Flying to Thailand would leave some points for a flight elsewhere.

For some reason I hoard points like its real money (see Loss aversion) – I have enough PC Optimum points to buy weeks of groceries – but perhaps it’s time while we are all still under the same roof, to have a family vacation in one of our most beloved places, and enjoy some sunshine during the cold Canadian winter. Now if only we can get our passports renewed before 2023.


Sheryl and I shared a look last week when I mentioned yet another couple of news items, one about the failing health care system, a day doesn’t go by without at least one article, and the other of yet another failing in one part of the giant bureaucracy of Service Canada.

It had been close to nine weeks since Sheryl filed for EI and numerous phone calls had shed no light on what the problem could be. Her case was elevated so many times it might well have been on the desk of the PM himself. Each time she called, the person who she talked to didn’t have any answers, and the person who did was either away or unreachable. The person on the other end of the call has an unenviable job. Yesterday she got an answer. Her SIN was inactive.

She asked how that could be possible – she drew EI last year for a month, voted in an election, they gladly took her tax money, even asking her for more based on her past EI claim, and she has been living and working back in Canada for years. The representative didn’t know.

So she spent a couple hours at Service Canada yesterday afternoon, patiently waiting while people were on coffee break, in an effort to prove to the Government that she does indeed exist so that she can receive the service she has been paying for.

It was recommended that I look into doing the same. But before I spend an afternoon at a Government office convincing them of my existence, I wonder if there are any benefits of living here in Canada, but not existing?