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How PM Justin Trudeau can make Canada’s premiers more productive

by John Brian Shannon

Time

An hour wasted is an hour you never get back. And through no fault of their own, Canada’s premiers are wasting thousands of hours per year.

Canada’s premiers are important people. They hold the keys to multibillion dollar economies within Canada, are privy to some of Canada’s most secret security information, and they need to hopscotch around their region to hold meetings with CEO’s, other levels of government, attend events, sometimes need to get an overview of natural or man-made disasters, and to view proposed mega-projects like hydro-electric dams, major highway systems, pipelines, and railways, all over their particular province.

In the province of Alberta, premier Rachel Notley travels around the province in a convoy of Chevrolet Suburbans worth more than many Albertan homes. With weather-related travel issues, and the time it takes to get by car from the provincial capital of Edmonton to Alberta’s far-flung cities and mega-projects, you can be sure those Suburbans are getting ‘miled-out’ and replaced every 2-3 years.

It’s a ton of money invested in vehicles ($384,043.62 worth, plus annual maintenance and daily fuel) and it amounts to a lot of the premier’s time being wasted barrelling up and down highways.

We all know that much of Alberta’s business is conducted in Calgary and that the provincial capital is 281 kilometres away, in Edmonton.

It takes Rachel Notley and her convoy of Suburbans 3-hours to travel to Calgary (in good weather) sometimes 5-hours (in bad weather) And then there’s the trip home after the meetings, which of course, doubles the travel time. (Alberta premiers typically travel to Calgary about 3 times per week)

But not only that. During the Fort MacMurray fires the highways were closed. The roads were closed a few years ago in regards to the Calgary floods, and it occurs many times during the winter months along the Highway 2 corridor between Edmonton and Calgary that it gets closed due to icy conditions. Sometimes, quite suddenly — like when you’re halfway home from Calgary.

During busy months, half of premier Rachel Notley’s working hours (and whichever cabinet members are travelling with her) might be wasted sitting in the back of an SUV waiting to get to their destination.

It’s a colossal waste of time for every premier in Confederation. Time that could be better spent. Meaning more actual productivity per hour for all of Canada’s premiers. I’m pretty sure that Alberta’s premier spends 900 hours per year being transported by SUV, which is about average for Alberta premiers.

Imagine the wasted time for an Ontario premier — a province with a much higher population than Canada’s four Western provinces combined.

And I’m not ‘fobbed-off’ by claims that the time spent riding around in the back of a Suburban is productive time. If that were true, then why are premiers bothering to personally attend meetings in the first place? If phone calls and emails work so well, why leave the provincial capital? Ever?


“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses.” — Henry Ford


A Better and Faster way to Travel

politics - Canadian Army CH-146 Griffon. Photo courtesy of Canada's Department of National Defence

Canadian Army CH-146 Griffon. Photo courtesy of Department of National Defence – Canada.

Canada’s Griffon helicopters, which are underutilized by the Canadian Army are the perfect answer to efficiently move Canada’s premiers around their home provinces, while saving thousands of hours of time and improving the security of premiers and their staff.

It’s a light helicopter that can carry 10 people and their gear, and it can travel long distances (for a helicopter) at 250 kilometres per hour. There isn’t anywhere in Alberta that the Griffon CH-146 couldn’t fly on one tank of fuel.

But with all of that going for it, it’s still a ‘boy among men’ when compared to other military helicopters, which is the only reason why it’s seen limited military use.

Let’s face it, it was built for Army commanders to tour the battlefield in the interests of creating a better battle plan for the following day, and to quickly zip in and out of combat zones with ammo and food for soldiers. A Black Hawk S-70A or Sea Stallion CH-53E battlewagon it’s not.

But for ferrying premiers and other government officials travelling with the premier, it could very easily handle that role. And, as an added bonus for the Army, the Canadian Army crews that fly them would be better able to meet their (required) number of flight hours per month. That’s reason enough right there to detail one of them to each Canadian premier.

Note: Out of the original order of 100 Griffons, the Canadian military has 20 Griffon helicopters that are parked — and not for safety reasons. They just don’t have missions. The helicopters were already paid-for, years ago. They sit unused because they have no missions to fly. And pilot skills deteriorate without a minimum of 30-hours of flight time per month.

Productivity

Would Alberta taxpayers be getting better productivity out of their premier with 2-hours of travel time per day vs. the present 6-10 hours per day, on average? The answer seems blatantly obvious.

In short; Is it better for the premier of Alberta to sit in the back seat of a multi-vehicle motorcade of Suburbans for 900 hours per year, or to fly in helicopters for 300 hours per year? Thereby saving 600 hours per year for more productive use.

When Canada’s premiers are conducting business on behalf of the people where one deal could conceivably cost or save billions of dollars, isn’t it better to have premiers that arrive refreshed and ready to negotiate — rather than arriving frazzled, after a harrowing 5-hour drive on icy roads?


This is one case where the federal government should divert from its typical overly-cautious Canadian tendencies and actually make the arrangements to dramatically increase the productivity of every Canadian premier.

In this day and age, it’s great to ‘work hard’ but it’s more important to ‘work smart’. And working smart means adding 600-hours of productive time to each premier’s schedule annually.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I urge you to direct the Canadian Army to park one Griffon helicopter and crew beside each provincial legislature for the official use of Canada’s premiers (and whichever officials are required to accompany them on provincial business) in the interests of increasing the productivity and personal security of all of Canada’s premiers.

This would be the low-hanging fruit, Mr. Prime Minister, on the path to making Canada all that it can and should be.