Monday, 21 April 2014

Stricter Fuel Restrictions Necessary for General Motors

     SUV’s and Vans have become a popular hallmark in the traditional lifestyles of many North American’s. But data from the last half decade on Fuel Consumption Ratings, especially in 2009 and 2013 indicate that this is one trend which is going to leave us all short on fossil fuels in the not so far off future.
You can search here to track more information about your vehicle’s exhaust (search must be in all caps)

     Back in 2009, the vehicles ranked worst for fuel consumption were the Lamborghini Murcielago and its roadster counterpart tied for first place with an annual fuel consumption rate of 4260 Liters of fuel. Following these two vehicle were the Chevrolet Express 3500 and its FFV (‘Flexible’ Fuel Vehicle) counterpart, consuming 4000 liters of fuel annually. Following these were the GMC Savana and its FFV counterpart also at 4000.

     Although at the time and not the worst fuel consuming vehicles on the road, GMC and Chevrolet alone took seven of the ten top spots for worst fuel consumption back in 2009.

     It’s been four years now; not only has that number risen to eight out of ten and GMC and Chevrolet are tied for first second and third for the worst vehicles fuel consumption but these two brands are owned by the same vehicle manufacturer: General Motors.

Somehow in four years the Chevrolet Express 3500 vehicle line has gone virtually undetected as it rose to having the worst fuel economy from 4260 Liters of fuel to 4660 in a matter of four short years. To put that in perspective, the 2013 Toyota Midsize Prius consumes only 820 Liters per year. This vehicle is literally consuming over five times that, the fuel value of a small street worth of your average vehicle. General Motors is single handedly killing our fossil fuel resources. 

Back in 2012, ranked by fuel consumption for the companies that produced vehicles that produced the worst fuel consumption were Chevrolet which took four spots including number one and GMC taking four more. Meaning that these two companies alone have produced eight of the top ten worst cars for fuel consumption. The list from 2013 was almost identical, with both companies taking the exact same spots. This has not changed in four years.

It was just four days ago when @GM tweeted about their commitment to environmental conservation, The fuel efficiency of new GM vehicles was even mentioned.

For those that could really use a bit of a history lesson on why the depletion of our fossil fuels are relevant and important to not only us but future generations, feel free to view this clever and informative summary of fossil fuels.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Could your province impact your weekly salary?

Actually, it could. A 2013 business census targeting employment, payrolls, and hours revealed that workers in some provinces are making up to $300 more per week than others. While Alberta is easily the most well-off in terms of weekly salary, others are watching their average plateau, and New Brunswick's average is on the decline.

The clear outlier here is New Brunswick's report from last year. While monthly averages have sometimes gone down, New Brunswick's 2013 average is the only time in the last ten years when it has declined. The other less obvious anomaly concerns the 2008-2009 difference, in which provinces like Quebec, British Columbia, and Ontario experienced barely any increase, while Newfoundland and Nova Scotia experienced a greater or equal increase than most years.

Again, however, the real story here is New Brunswick's economy. Only days ago, what should have been a $2/hour wage increase for support workers came in at only $0.25/hour.

Another major issue? New Brunswick is about to get a tax hike that will further curb what people make in a regular week. The change comes into effect on July 1st.

The data in the census report illustrates the divide between the economy in East and West Canada. While Alberta was ranked 1st in 2013, Saskatchewan was 3rd and British Columbia 6th; in contrast, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and P.E.I. were 7th through 10th respectedly.

Speaking of P.E.I., the NDP has adopted a wage increase into their platform; maybe that will be enough to push it about another province? In the last ten years, the average weekly salary in P.E.I. has never been greater than 10th.

Weekly Wage by Month: Canadian Provinces

If the NDP manages a wage increase in P.E.I. and New Brunswick continues to decline, could they swap places on the list? In 2012, they differed by over $65/week; now, that number is less than $17/hour. Also, New Brunswick isn't taking nearly the same initiative in rasing wages. P.E.I. on the other hand?

Regardless, even if P.E.I. does increase wages, they - and the rest of the East, Newfoundland aside - are still nowhere near western provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Quebec Communication Titans: Bell versus Videotron

Bell logo is property of BCE and used with discretion 

     Back in July, 2013, the BCE (Bell Canada Enterprises) annual general stockholder meeting was held with very high spirits, as this year was fantastic for the company’s total revenue. The finance report for 2013 indicated that not only did BCE reduce operating revenues by 2.3%, but they simultaneously increased net earnings to common shareholders by 7%, from $343 million last year to $584 million.

     Essentially, business is booming and hard evidence that the transition towards fiber optic technology in 2012 for all phone, internet and television was a successful one. Bell Canada has experiences incredible growth and still remains the leading communications company in Canada. Although Quebec, Ontario has expanded into Bell services in this year as well, the rate has been much hindered due to the presence of Videotron, the forerunning in Bell’s French competition.

     A significant topic in the meeting was whether or not the plan decided during the previous meeting in 2012 had been a successful one. Videotron prides itself on offering a more affordable rate plan by implementing cheaper rates for additional services with the company, totaling over $30 specifically from having the four services offered (phone, internet, mobile, TV), which Bell combated in the previous two years by offered a cheaper plan of $25, something that’s only specific towards Quebec. Additionally, Bell has adapted to competition with Videotron by becoming establishing over 85% of all French language TV viewers during 2013.

     Bell is also now ranked as the leading radio broadcaster in Quebec, with 25 stations reaching over 5.7 million listeners. The stockholder meeting indicated that the estimated growth cycle for 2014 is to be around 2%-4%, indicating that these techniques have worked to keep BCE the prominent Canadian media figurehead.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Smokes Poutinerie: bringing a Quebec classic to the world

One of the many Smokes Poutinerie in Toronto, located at 218 Adelaide Street West

Fries, cheese curds and gravy, the hallmark of any good Canadian stereotype. You can just picture it, us burly lumberjacks riding our snowmobiles across the frozen tundra towards our cities of hockey and poutine. But we all know deep down this stuff just isn't true. It’s not like Canadians have restaurants that exclusively sell poutine…Oh wait.

Smokes Poutinerie has quickly become one of our most popular locations to eat in downtown Toronto. With over forty-five locations all across Canada, Smokes has taken on a life of its own during its quick assent to greatness. 

Ryan Smoklin, CEO and founder of Smokes Poutinerie takes great pride in what he does, and works everyday towards his goal of one day reaching ‘poutine domination’ as he calls it.

Ryan might have started the company, but he attributes his success within the poutine industry to none other than the face featured in and on every Smoke’s Poutinerie door; Smoke. 

This is one iconic face that quickly took on a life of his own after the first restaurant opened in 2011.

‘Smoke is the man, he is the brains. He is the spiritual leader, that’s why his name is on the buildings. He is not a character. He feeds me all the ideas nightly”.

The true face of Smoke’s Poutinerie, Smoke might be stuck in the 80’s but he makes some great poutine.

At three years old, Smoke’s is a very new player into the fast food community and has been met with a wide degree of competition from other companies trying to catch onto the trend of fries and gravy. 

“I’m loving it. They are spending tens of millions to make a mainstream product out of a company I own. It’s cool to see knock offs happen and the big boys chasing”.

With a menu featuring twenty-eight different types of poutine including the chicken bacon ranch featured below, Smokes is a perfect example of taking the phrase ‘why improve on a good thing’ and giving it a good shake.
Stop it, we can hear you drooling

International poutine lovers are in luck as well, as Smoke’s as already started expanding out of Canada. 

“We’re just about to open our first location off the sunset strip in Hollywood. Australia and the UK are next on the hit list, we’re in full steam baby!”

One question that just had to be asked was how many potatoes Smokes Poutinerie went through. As it turns out, the answer was A LOT. 

“We go through about 4 million pounds of potatoes per year, that’s about 80,000 per location. We plant our own potatoes in PEI, we actually have our own field”.

The many faces of Smoke, a true Canadian at heart

In summary, if you’re not allergic to French fries and you have a heartbeat, you should really give Smokes Poutinerie a shot. It is well worth the visit. 

Blog edit: after publishing this post, we found a slightly strange chart; according to StatsCan, potato production has heavily decreased since 2003, but the value of those farms has gone way up. Potato farmers? Whatever you're doing to convince us of your worth ... it's working. Strangely.

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Distillery Historic District

It is nearly impossible to map out Toronto's niche nooks and crannies without in some way mentioning the Distillery Historic District. While it usually caters to tourists, the district keeps buzzing in the winter, with cafes serving warmer, more 'winter-y' fare.

The Cafe Uno, for instance, stays open year-round by changing their selections to compliment the temperature.

"We do a lot of grilling on the barbecue in the summertime, especially on weekends," said John Sloan, one of the owners of Cafe Uno. "We try and have more soups and comfort foods in the winter months ... the food gets lighter as the heat gets more intense."

John and his wife, Lise Sloan, have owned the Cafe since 2011. 

"It's much quieter this time of year, of course ... right now it's very, very quiet."

The Distillery Historic District originated in spirit in the 1830's, with Gooderham and Worts brewery. James Worts never lived to see William Gooderham brew his first batch of whiskey in 1837, sadly. Then, after 150 years of sweet alcoholic business, the Distillery became Canada's most sought-after film location.

The one you'll see now? It opened in 2003, after a detailed renovation project - and is curently home to small businesses and art galleries.

One such, the Arta Gallery, specializes in international art, but can also be rented out by local independant artists. One artist, Lori Molnar, started painting as hobby two years ago.

"I used to be an interior designer," said Molnar. "I guess that's where it's from, with colour [and] shading."

Molnar, along with three other artists, rented out the Arta for two weeks. She was encouraged by her teacher to showcase her art, and in two weeks, sold 

"One fellow came in yesterday morning, and bought three of them," said Molnar. One, the poppy-filled Remembrance, is one of Molnar's favourite pieces.

A map of the Distillery Historic District, with the Arta and Cafe Uno, can be found below.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Snakes and Lattes

For those bored with the same-old, Toronto’s Snakes and Lattes deals a full hand of tabletop games, cards, and coffee - a perfect combination for the all-age rabble at Bloor and Bathurst every night. Subtle puns aside, there are few places in Toronto as atmospherically sublime as the little game shop.
Once there, with the crowd of people quietly murmuring between shelves upon shelves of game boxes, its popularity is evident. According to Chris Matheson, a veteran employee at S&L, it’s like that every night.

This is Chris.

“We are busy every night," Matheson said. "Monday to Sunday, every night we’re busy - and then Saturday all day, and Sunday, pretty much all day.”
The entrance fee is five dollars, and you can stay as long as you want (for all those Axis and Allies players out there). You’re given regular service, besides the whole “let’s play Settlers of Catan over chocolate milkshakes” thing. They have nearly every board game you’ve ever played, a few you’ve only heard of, and that one Star Wars game that should have never been published but was, because, as we all know, cross-developed money-makers can’t go wrong.

A valid reason to keep a pocket knife handy.

Unlike their recently opened “Snakes and Lagers” spinoff (on College Street), Snakes and Lattes is a family-oriented location. While many of the regulars are young adults, Matheson is quick to point out how diverse the cafe’s visitors are.
“We get a broad age range … anything from younger kids to people in their forties. Families come here with their kids. It’s actually a pretty broad spectrum.”
For first time S&L gamers, it goes like this: show up early. Snakes and Lattes opens at 11 a.m. and goes well into the night (past midnight from Thursday to Saturday), and they don’t offer reservations; if you’re looking to get seated immediately, arrive before two. As a courtesy, if no seats are available, they’ll take your number and text you as soon as one becomes empty.

Comes with more of a ‘pub-like feel’ 
than most Toronto pubs.
Pro tip: food/drink and Cards Against Humanity should be handled with caution. I’d avoid scalding drinks entirely while playing, unless you’re a veteran at handling both.
Because some players just aren’t satisfied with playing the same game on a daily basis, regardless of how utterly badass checkers can be, Snakes and Lattes is constantly getting new games in. Some are so good, the staff themselves can’t put them down.
“I’m all about this two player game right now; it’s called the Duke,” said Matheson. “We actually have a Duke League happening in the store between the staff right now, because we’re totally obsessed with it. It’s sort of like chess; its a board game, played on a grid. Very similar to chess.”

Snakes and Lattes is located at 600 Bloor Street West, near Bathurst station. For full information on Snakes and Lattes, along with their menu, click here.

The full audio for the interview with Chris is here:

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Facepalm: a common expression of my feelings

     I recently posted on "Bus Etiquette". One rule I proposed was the "not changing seats" rule, in which people should not swap seat while on transit. Curiously, this happened today:

     My girlfriend and I go down the 25 every morning, early. On our way there, via the 190 Express (the most beautiful sight on Sheppard before eight o'clock), we hit Vic Park and watched as a few people left - including two, formally sitting beside each other. I have to explain, however - they were sitting at the end of a full, five-person bench, and as soon as they left, the person sitting right in the middle shifted over one seat.

     And hey, about ten people got onto the bus, and a few jumped into those empty seats.

     Now, we usually try to grab seats on the 25 because it's typically a 40 minute ride, to Pape Avenue. The 190 isn't an issue, and we don't mind standing ... but as a rule, we keep an eye open for double seats, because double seats are the shit. When one opens up, there's a three-second "let's see what happens" period.

     And in those three seconds, this person decided to jump in the middle of these three seats. Dammit. I wasn't mad, honestly. We actually kinda laughed quietly ... but my point is, if you're riding the bus, think. Use your brain. And be considerate to people who're vamping on an apple for breakfast because they needed to leave by 7:30 in the goddamn morning.