The Pinto Effect (or Nova Scotia Power to the people)
By Mark Farrell 9 January 2019 Share this story
I have always loved the movie Airplane! Sure (not “surely,” and don’t call me that), some of the jokes in it are to put it euphemistically (the English language should have nicer sounding word for it then “euphemistically”), out of date, but I don’t get that creepy vibe watching it that I do when I see a Bill Cosby sitcom, a Kevin Spacey movie, or a Louis C.K. bit.
I have never laughed as hard in a theater on purpose. (Keanu Reeves in Dangerous Liaisons made me laugh hard but that was for a different reason) There was a sequel to Airplane!, written and directed by Ken Finkleman, a man to whom I owe a big chunk of my “career.” He cast me in his television show Married Life and then in The Newsroom, a CBC comedy of which many people have fond memories. Ken’s movie is pretty funny with some great jokes but I have always felt that the true sequel to Airplane! was Top Secret!, the movie the creative team behind Airplane! did next.
Where Airplane! parodied among others, the Airport movies (it actually used the story of a film called Zero Hour! as a blueprint for its plot), Top Secret! made fun of war/caper movies, like Where Eagles Dare and The Guns of Navarone. Its main character, played by a pre-Saint Val Kilmer, is Nick Rivers, a pop singer who helped popularize a craze that combines skeet-shooting with surfing. There is a great joke in the movie, involving the Ford Pinto that I’m reminded of everyone time the Nova Scotia Power Corporation gives a reason for one its outages. (Watch it on YouTube.)
Whenever we lose power in Halifax because of a butterfly flapping its wings in China, I wonder if this is what people mean by “government should be run like a business.” You hear that a lot if you listen to private radio call-in shows. It’s almost as popular as “vaccines don’t work,” “climate change is fake,” and “Uber will solve all our problems.”
I’m not anti-business. Some of my best friends are business people and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. I just don’t agree with the people who say that government should run like one. For these folks, business is the panacea for everything. Why, the world would be a great place if governments were run like a business. Start here in Nova Scotia. Don’t bother with elections, just put John Risley in charge! Why, Nova Scotia would be a utopia and we wouldn’t even need those pesky unions! You’ll see!
Or that’s how the thinking goes. In fact, the new populist premier of New Brunswick, Blaine Higgs, said that he will treat taxpayers like customers. Not “shareholders”—”Customers.”
Maybe “customers” sounds good to you. As in “the customer is always right.” I suspect it will be more like the word “customer” in Rogers (or Bell, or Eastlink etc.) “customer service.”
I prefer the time we were called “citizens.” It was bad enough when we became (thanks again to whiny private radio callers) “taxpayers.” Now we’ve been downgraded to “customers.”
And here’s where I remind you that Nova Scotia Power is a BUSINESS and is run like one. Quite successfully, if you go by the accepted metric of profitability.
Its business model is both viable and enviable: have no competition, and keep costs down by avoiding any investments in infrastructure and then eating some overtime when the power goes out.
That’s great if you’re a shareholder of Nova Scotia Power. Not so good if you’re one its customers.
This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.
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