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Morning Brew: December 17th, 2008

Posted by Jerrold Litwinenko / December 17, 2008

20081217_mb2.jpgPhoto: "Snow walking on Brunswick Avenue" by ardenstreet, member of the blogTO Flickr pool.

What's happening in the GTA (and sometimes beyond):

We've got snow this morning, and plenty more is coming. The timing couldn't be worse for me... I'm about to drive to Ottawa, in a rental car with "all-season" tires, where a public transit strike is in effect. For future reference, is anyone aware of a car rental company in Toronto that has vehicles with winter tires?

Crime in Toronto is down in 2008, almost across the board (including murder, assault, theft, robbery, etc) and despite troubled economic times - but the number of shooting incidents is up 18%. In Toronto so far this year, 336 people have been shot, a number much higher than I would have guessed.

Canadian Idol will be "resting" for 2009. Despite its serious popularity, CTV just can't sustain the show during the ongoing financial crisis. In the US, American Idol will go on, but will scale back on costs by canceling its annual American Idol Gives Back fundraiser.

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The controversial TTC employee drug testing issue has reared its head again. Bob Kinnear is up to his usual antics, talking tough to the media and making it clear that his union employees "will NOT be tested".

Through community building, specialized services, and perseverance, independent bookstores in Toronto are somehow managing to stave off defeat by the big retailers like Chapters, Indigo, and Amazon. The Star chats briefly with the folks at Pages, David Mirvish Books, Nicholas Hoare, and This Ain't the Rosedale Library.

Charity organizations are also feeling the crunch and the Toronto Children's Breakfast Club is just one example. Donations are down 80% and their charity manager is worried that their operation could collapse completely within 6 months.

Discussion

26 Comments

Torontonian / December 17, 2008 at 08:57 am
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Canadian Idol will be off the air but Ben Mulroney will probably stay on with e-Talk and any CTV awards showl.

Somebody, please show him the door, just like we did to his father.
Ryan L. / December 17, 2008 at 09:04 am
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<i>"I'm about to drive to Ottawa, in a rental car with "all-season" tires, where a public transit strike is in effect."</i>

Just don't drive over to Hull with those all-season tires unless you want to risk a $200 to $300 fine.
Eve replying to a comment from Ryan L. / December 17, 2008 at 09:11 am
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"Just don't drive over to Hull with those all-season tires unless you want to risk a $200 to $300 fine."

You would get a fine only if your vehicle was registered in Quebec. Incidentally, the new Required Snow Tires legislation in Quebec (I know that's not the official name!) is probably why it's almost impossible to get a rental with snow tires outside of Quebec.
theTVaddict / December 17, 2008 at 09:43 am
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Canadian Idol, Ben Mulroney and the trifecta of talentless judges are off the airwaves. Finally, some good news to come out of this economic downturn.
i / December 17, 2008 at 09:50 am
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I'll bet that American Idol is still paying Simon Cowell his $25 million salary while stiffing their charity to "cut costs".
David H. Johnston / December 17, 2008 at 10:02 am
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Here in Ontario, you will probably have a very hard time finding winter tires on rental cars purely for the reason that they will get stolen. I remember a friend of my fathers was a manager at a rental agency a while back and he mentioned that it wasn't uncommon for somebody to rent a car and replace the tires with their worn out tires from home.

I guess it happened all the time he said.
Malcolm Bastien / December 17, 2008 at 10:23 am
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Speaking of the discount bookstores surviving in this time, does anyone know just *how* BMV manages to sell like new books for a fraction of the price of retail?
Diane / December 17, 2008 at 10:28 am
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"I'm about to drive to Ottawa, in a rental car with "all-season" tires, where a public transit strike is in effect."

You should have paid the extra for an SUV, and be less of a hazard to yourself and others on the road. Not only would you get far better traction and ground clearance, an SUV is more likely to come equipped with chunkier near-winter grade tires.

"Incidentally, the new Required Snow Tires legislation in Quebec (I know that's not the official name!) is probably why it's almost impossible to get a rental with snow tires outside of Quebec."

No it's not. Most major rental agencies have always refused to pay the added expense of purchasing snow tires and labour for swapping between them and all-season tires on every car in their fleet twice each year. Mostly because they are not forced by law to do so. (Though this may now have changed in Quebec.)

Believe me, I have had protracted discussions with all major rental agencies at the Calgary airport, in the middle of a blizzard, regarding this. Apparently I should shut up and be grateful that there was a snow brush in the damn Celica (which they insist is a full-size sedan, by the way).

"I remember a friend of my fathers was a manager at a rental agency a while back and he mentioned that it wasn't uncommon for somebody to rent a car and replace the tires with their worn out tires from home."

I think the rental agency manager was BSing. What garage would swap tires on a rental car for a private citizen? And how would the car pass the return inspection, where their goal is to try to find the most obscure flaw to charge you damages for?
Roger / December 17, 2008 at 12:42 pm
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How about renting a car and paying a garage to put winter tires on it? Then, maybe charging the rental company for the labour. :P
Erin / December 17, 2008 at 01:35 pm
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Oh boy.
SUVs aren't necessarily safer:
-at 2-3 times the weight of a sedan, they take longer to stop
-four-wheel drive is useless if the tires slip
-a higher center of gravity makes them more likely to slide sideways
while making a turn
-it's not the tread that makes a winter tire, it's the rubber
sidekick / December 17, 2008 at 01:39 pm
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Autoshare just announced recently:
"We are the first (and only) car-sharing or car rental provider in Toronto to offer winter tires on a portion of our fleet. Effective December 15, 2008, all our Toyota Matrix Wagons will be outfitted with winter tires until March/April of 2009."

But you've got to be a member to use their cars...
serotonin / December 17, 2008 at 02:34 pm
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Re Erin & Diane

Erin is right. The key element of a winter tire is the rubber, which provides better traction and handling at below 7 degrees C, whereas all-seasons and "summer" tires are better at above 7 degrees C.

Four-wheel drive is also only useful in gaining or maintaining traction in terms of acceleration. It can reduce wheel slippage when moving from a stop, or to help maintain speed and control in a corner, for example, but four-wheel drive has nothing to do with stopping capability.

Unfortunately, your average person in an SUV in the winter tends to get an inflated sense of confidence and rely on the vehicle more than their own abilities as a driver.
Shawn / December 17, 2008 at 02:37 pm
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Kinnear is one of the major stumbling blocks for improving the TTC.
August / December 17, 2008 at 02:46 pm
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All season tires are fine if you don't drive like an idiot (difficult this far south, I know). I lived for twenty years in the far north of the province (by which I mean near Manitoba, not Barrie), where virtually nobody changes to winter tires. All they do is drive to match the weather conditions, and, miracle of miracles, they manage to get where they're going without incident. Many people, down here in the more urbanized parts of the province in particular, seem to view winter tires as license to drive as though it hasn't snowed, whereas they have far less impact on your car's winter performance than regular maintenance and responsible driving habits.
Experienced Driver / December 17, 2008 at 03:20 pm
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One way to get a bit better traction out of regular tires is to let some air out of them. Take about 10psi off the recommended pressure. The tire ends up with more road contact, more friction (which obviously leads to worse gas mileage and can lead to heating of the tire if you drive extensively at highway speeds - heating isn't that much of a problem in the winter though).

But really, you should just drive slower. You can't go 120kph in snowy conditions! Or rather, you can, but you will eventually crash.
Diane / December 17, 2008 at 03:37 pm
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Erin, you're wrong on all counts.

"-at 2-3 times the weight of a sedan, they take longer to stop"

This would be true if SUVs were in fact 2-3 times the weight of a sedan. Typically, that's not the case. (Comparing a Hummer to a Smart is not a typical case, BTW.)

"-four-wheel drive is useless if the tires slip"

That's exactly what four wheel drive IS for. It transfers power to the wheel that is slipping less.

"-a higher center of gravity makes them more likely to slide sideways while making a turn"

Not at all. An unequal front-to-rear weight distribution would make a vehicle more likely to slide sideways. A higher centre of gravity would increase the chances of tipping, were the axles not raised and suspension stiffened to compensate.

"-it's not the tread that makes a winter tire, it's the rubber"

While rubber for winter tires is formulated to stay softer at lower temperatures, the tread design is paramount. Winter tread is designed with broader channels that are also wider at the surface in order to shed compacted snow while the wheel turns. Without this capability, snow impacted into your soft winter tire would give it an effectively smooth profile, with predictably unhappy results.

Serotonin, you are correct that "four-wheel drive has nothing to do with stopping capability", but I never said anything to the contrary.

"Unfortunately, your average person in an SUV in the winter tends to get an inflated sense of confidence and rely on the vehicle more than their own abilities as a driver."

Idiots will always be among us. But most of the ones I see each winter are driving racer-boy Hondas with giant spoilers, and going way, way too fast.
Kevin McLaughlin / December 17, 2008 at 04:56 pm
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Yes Jerrold, AutoShare does have snow tires (on our Matrix, about 15% of our fleet). And to help with that membership thing, if you use the promo code `snow tires 50` before Dec 31st I`ll knock $50 off the price of membership (you pay only $75 total).

Kevin McLaughlin
President
Cassandra / December 17, 2008 at 05:04 pm
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My dad works for Discount and he laughed when I asked him if they put winter tires on their fleet. He said the company's philosophy is, and I quote, "If you crash a car it's your problem." You being the customer.

Good luck driving!
Jerrold replying to a comment from Kevin McLaughlin / December 17, 2008 at 09:52 pm
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@kevin

Can one take an Autoshare car to Ottawa and back (2 days total)? Can one reserve a car with snows?
Jerrold replying to a comment from Diane / December 17, 2008 at 09:54 pm
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I see more SUVs in ditches than I do any other kind of vehicles.
Diane / December 18, 2008 at 10:17 am
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"I see more SUVs in ditches than I do any other kind of vehicles."

Or perhaps you're more likely you notice it when it's a sport utility vehicle in the ditch. Do you pump your fist and shout "Yes!" too?

Your concerns for the environment, while laudatory, should not lead you to spread knee-jerk disinformation that could possibly cost someone their life.
Jerrold replying to a comment from Diane / December 18, 2008 at 10:22 am
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<i>"Or perhaps you're more likely you notice it when it's a sport utility vehicle in the ditch. Do you pump your fist and shout "Yes!" too?

Your concerns for the environment, while laudatory, should not lead you to spread knee-jerk disinformation that could possibly cost someone their life."</i>

Ummm. Did I say anything about hating SUVs? Did I make any statements about the environmental costs of SUVs here? Provide disinformation? All I said was that I see a lot of SUVs in ditches.
Diane / December 18, 2008 at 10:55 am
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"All I said was that I see a lot of SUVs in ditches."

What you wrote was "I see more SUVs in ditches than I do any other kind of vehicles." There's a significant difference.

One might think you were trying to imply that SUVs are the most dangerous kind of vehicles.

If that's not the case, I apologize. If that IS the case, YOU apologize.
Jerrold / December 18, 2008 at 11:06 am
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Seriously, Diane? You read my statement, made a few very assumptive leaps, started talking about unrelated issues (the environment? fist pumping cheers?) and you want me to apologize for revealing a personal observation if my opinion is that SUVs are more dangerous than other vehicles? Forgive me if I'm not willing to go any further on this one with you. :)
George replying to a comment from Jerrold / December 18, 2008 at 11:21 am
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You sure can take a car to Ottawa or anywhere else in North America. You can use our cars for as little as 1 hour or as long as you need.

George
AutoShare
Diane / December 18, 2008 at 12:36 pm
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Well, Jerrold, here's hoping that your Ottawa trip is a safe one, no matter how you choose to do it.

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