We Get Letters

August 20th, 2018

We get letters.  Often, fun ones.  Canadian Standards Association (CSA) staffers write us, you know. 

Well, it’s been five months since our great big, huge, not in any way wee, showdown at the Federal Court of Appeal.  We expected the Ruling in March.  Ever since the Hearing, we’ve been holding our fire on much of the CSA file, not wanting to muddy deliberations any more than CSA annoyingly prods necessary.  So we wait.

Feigning patience is a bother, but we can soothe things with some amusing letters.  This week’s article features a selection of readers’ letters from 2018, carefully and completely stripped of all identifying details (for obvious reasons) and excerpted from traceable context (for obvious reasons) as sent from folks who feel abused by CSA (for obvious reasons).

For instance, the following advice, following our release of Knight’s Code;  “Print and sell till the RCMP bust down the doors, if necessary.”  We’ve got the sentiment, but we took the RCMP bit under advisement.

Another;  “I’m fascinated by all this. My primary question […] is how organized is the group of folks who are abusing the system?  I keep picturing organized crime (literally, obviously) of a white collar type (the better kind, of course) who must be making a killing?”  That’s about right.  How many outfits spend ~$100k per day on travel, for instance?  That’s just one such instance, but if you want the list of them, they’re linked here.

One CSA employee wrote us to explain the “making a killing” thing, saying;  “On another note, in many cases the ‘quasi-academic’ person from the government side who goes to bat for CSA to approve a grant is doing so to assure themselves a seat as a Committee ‘Co-Chair’ which gives them the excuse to attend all the lavish international meetings in exotic locales. In most cases the actual Committee ‘Chairs’ are legitimate experts with real business obligations In Canada and too busy for such frivolous trips, so the ‘Co-Chair’ gets to fill in as the ‘representative from Canada’. As you can imagine, most of them are really not qualified to be there, but gosh it sure is fun to rub elbows with a bunch of real experts from other countries.”

Here’s a fun one, though we can only quote a small portion of it;  “I really enjoy the [redact] articles, even at the risk of applauding my own work.”  Folks, can you guess which CSA departments talk to us?  Hint: “The Ship of State,” said Humphrey, “is the only vessel that leaks from the top.”

Sometimes we get worrying letters.  That is, while we’re fine with the sentiment expressed therein and we’re pleased to assume the best of all our readers, sometimes the phrasing, the tone and tenor suggest something else. 

One such letter employed the term “hoplophobe.”  The writer used it correctly, if I may add, showing impressive diction.  It’s just that the term refers to an irrational aversion to weaponry and is most often (often?) employed in gun control debates. 

Then we had a writer wax on about “a conceal carry permit” and nasty government types “disarming everyone else.” 

I recall a quote from Sharon Carstairs, the former leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, who once suggested that if the public knew how legislation was passed, without review, in the small hours of the morning, when no-one was watching, they’d “have us all lined up and shot.”  So, you know, even the most pinko of politicos make salty references.

We also get what amounts to fan mail from the electrical trade.

“I have continued to sing [your] praises through the intervening years at every opportunity.  […]  I am just about to wrap up a couple of contract stints as an instructor where I’ve been plugging the Commercial & Industrial version of ECS. […]  I wish you every success in your battle, for your own sake as well as the principles at stake, and thus for all of our sakes collectively.”

And another;  “I have never liked the idea of being told I am breaking the law, but we won’t tell you which law unless you pay for it.”  Yes, we know this well, the absurdity of the thing!

A few more:

“We recently bought [a few dozen] 2018 CEC’s for our apprentices that we supply to them when they take our [...] code class.  I would much rather give them your book, not just for the price difference but to help support.  We run this class [several] times a year and it is mandatory for all our apprentices.”

“Needless to say the whole industry will benefit from this impending correction in industry, electrical and otherwise.”

“I know how much stress this type of nonsense can cause!  Thanks for the update [and] your books are great and keep us safe!”

“On behalf of all (or almost all) electricians and apprentices, thank you for fighting the good fight, time and time again.  You guys rock!”

Ooo, that’s nice.  In my youth I wanted to be a rock star.  So, naturally I went into publishing.

Moving on, vindication is sweetness, especially when it comes from the cube farms of CSA bureaucracy.  Some responses from within the echelons of the Evil Empire;

“Your recent descriptions of Federal Gov’t lobbying activities and questionable business relationships is pretty much as it works, especially the Nuclear program [sic]. The two youngest members on the [redact] Team both got their start with CSA and ‘made their bones’ on the lucrative nuclear grants over 10 years ago, but to be fair they are both […] capable engineers and much better executives / people than their predecessors were.”

Capability is relative, my friend, but I take your point.

A snarky insider’s note after a particularly sensitive article;  “Starting tomorrow, management in Toronto and Cleveland will be scrambling to find the tipster.  Lotsa luck!”

We hear about this too.  The CSA’s management is, shall we say, displeased with the choices of their staff.  Meetings are held, the shouty kind, with hand-wringing and finger pointing and catered coffee, and all to identify who’s talking, who hasn’t drank the Kool-Aid.  The apparently lesser staff, those without travel budgets, fetching their own coffee, have their own speculations.  They tend to have fewer qualms about speaking out, but then their CSA experience is less, um, rich.

Alright, how about this one;  “It should be criminal, the way CSA operates across many areas, not only in this instance.  Their overall incompetence with certification testing, value to customers, gouging and extortion for necessary standards documents etc is beyond the pale.”  This guy should write for us!  “It would be almost justifiable if they paid for all this material but they don’t, they rely on the donations of time and money from professionals (engineers, electrical planners, electricians etc) to write their codes and standards in the first place…which they then charge fortunes for without compensating those people.”  See?  This letter was succinct, forceful and accurate; a RestoreCSA article on a platter.

We also have an American audience, a fairly diverse one actually.  A surprising number of US lawyers are watching this case.  They know, as we’ve hinted on this site before, the real fight is coming on several fronts in the US.  We’ve experienced the oddity of having lawyers cold call us instead of the usual research project to find legal counsel.  One lawyer who’s been following this site for some time wrote as follows;

“I’m an American lawyer - one who is skeptical about my chosen profession.  I’ve been watching this the entire time that SDA has linked to it and - well, I am convinced that you are insane, in a wonderful, divinely inspired way.  Even though I am not at all involved in your endeavor, every time I see something like this I am grateful that people like you exist who take the process and run with it fully against all odds even when it is a loss.  When it is a win, it is all that more delightful.”

Now that’s endearing!  Until that letter, I’d never been called “insane,” you know, nicely.

And finally, every now and then we get a letter that completely nails the issue, the struggle and the likely outcome.  So far, this is the best from 2018;

“A thought occurred to me after reading many of your articles.  The reason the CSA ‘hasn’t learned anything’ is because they started this fight.  The only way to (somewhat) save face, is for them to lose in court.  Although they have boasted about their criminal activities, admitting they were wrong is too much for them.  Also, admitting they were in the wrong would be a blow to the Canadian Government, Justice system, and also eliminate all credibility of CSA itself.”

That’s about it, that nails it.  The CSA did all of this, they are the authors of their own misfortune, it’s just that CSA leadership lacks the strength of character to own their errors.  But think about the cost, and not just the financial cost; all of these dark-hearted efforts, the perjuries and needless liabilities, their morale problems and reputation liabilities, and all of the costs they’ve caused to both sides, and all for the futility of expressing their own woolly-headed arrogance in an utterly, totally, entirely hopeless cause.  It’s a case study on the cost of combining government corruption with feeble leadership.  It’s CSA.