Toronto put on U.S. govt. warning list - thanks, Harper. Losing my Porter virginity
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the G20 meetings would be held weekend after next in Toronto, some of us likely were stupid enough to thank the guy. Hey, great publicity; little cost.
Well, ain't we dumb Toronto hicks.
This mini-summit (which likely will accomplish nothing but serve as an appetizer for a main course someplace else down the road) is costing us a small fortune, thanks to fake lakes and the Tony Clement riding improvement. But worse than that is it actually might COST US badly needed tourist dollars.
Today came word that the U.S. government, far from thanking us for hosting their president, has issued a travel warning for Americans who might want to come north for a few days.
"The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Toronto, Canada to the potential for large-scale demonstrations in downtown Toronto before and during the G-20 Summit scheduled for June 26-27, 2010. This Travel Alert expires on June 28, 2010."
The alert noted that "previous G20 summits have drawn large numbers of protesters and activists, and a number of groups have announced plans to demonstrate throughout downtown Toronto. Protesters are expected to gather in Toronto in the days leading up to the Summit and access to parts of the downtown area will be restricted due to security requirements. Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable. You should avoid them if at all possible. Be alert and aware of your surroundings and pay attention to what the local news media has to say."
Ain't that grand?
This isn't like holding the Olympics, which had a security budget similar to the $1 billion-plus we're spending to keep bedbugs - yes, I know, and much worse - away from Obama and Sarkozy. The Olympics gave us feel-good moments like Jon Montgomery and Maelle Ricker and a certain couple hockey teams. The world formed a great impression of us, or furthered their already fuzzy thoughts about Canada. We looked great on TV all over the world.
But that won't be the case at the G20 or G34 or whatever it's turned into. At best we'll get mentioned on a couple of nightly newscasts - mostly on the weekend, and thanks for that. At worst we'll be the centre of violence that's beamed across North America.
That's not what we need. Of course, hosting the summit a few years back amidst violence didn't put Seattle on anyone's no-fly list. Last time I checked, Washington State was still doing okay in the tourism trade. But this whole G20 fiasco still begins to look like Harper's revenge on the city that's always snubbed him in the past.
Maybe our wonderful PM didn't mean it this way. But maybe the guy resembles Machiavelli more than we thought.
FLYING THE PORTER SKIES
Not bad, guys.
I've been meaning to fly Porter Airlines for some time, but a needed quick trip to Montreal made it a no-brainer today. I thought it might be a pain to get downtown from my home in North Toronto; the 401 to Pearson usually being pretty smooth at 6:15 a.m. But it was 20 minutes door to door to the little terminal that could at the foot of Bathurst, so no issues there.
Seamless check-in after the world's fastest ferry ride to the island, with great views of the city and the harbour; albeit for about 47.35 seconds. Easy time with the machines and friendly folks at security (hello, Pearson) made it easy. Of course, I left my laptop momentarily. Sigh.
Anyway, it was on the lounge, with great panes of glass looking out at the city skyline and a great setup with lots of comfy chairs. I'd heard about the cappuccino, which is free, but there's also regular coffee and tea and juice and water and pop, plus small packages of almonds, chocolate chip cookies, ginger cookies and shortbreads. I'm currently nibbling on a nice biscotti and sipping my second (small) coffee latte of the morning and enjoying the free wi-fi, and it's 90 per cent as good as most of the Pearson lounges I've used, which are open only to certain elite types.
Mind you, it's not so cheap. Even with the 20 per cent school discount on offer, the total with taxes and using the flights I wanted was a solid $467. I don't know for sure, but I don't think that's any cheaper than the big boys.
But the convenience is great, especially if you're downtown.
The service was great; lots of smiles. And we actually, wait for it folks, got a small breakfast; juice or coffee or tea, a slice of banana bread and a small fruit cup. Not quite bacon and eggs, but pretty extensive compared to most airlines we don't need to mention.
The plane was only maybe 40 per cent full, which can't help their bottom line. But the lounge alone is enough to make me want to try it again sometime.
It was interesting to see that WestJet chief Gregg Saretsky was talking about Porter in the papers today. Saretsky, and full points for honesty, said his company has work to in Canada's biggest city.
``We do suffer in Eastern Canada from a low top-of-mind awareness,'' he told a transportation conference in New York. ``I'm almost embarrassed to say that in the Toronto market we have a lower brand awareness than does Porter.''
Wow. That's honesty you don't often see from a big-time executive. I can't help thinking it might help Porter in its attempt to launch its recently delayed initial public offering.
WON"T YOU LET ME TAKE YOU ON A (LONG) SEA CRUISE?
Gene Sloan in USA Today explains that Princess Cruises today announced plans for "an ambitious world cruise to take place in 2012 that will include stops in a number of new-for-the-line ports."
The 107-day voyage on the Pacific Princess, which will feature calls in 38 destinations in 28 countries, will kick off in Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 13, 2012 and include a near-full circumnavigation of the globe. It'll end in Venice.
The sailing will include port calls in Santa Marta, Colombia; Puerto Quepos, Costa Rica; and Manama, Bahrain -- all new ports for the line -- as well as such unusual (for Princess) ports as Tokyo and Koper, Slovenia. I didn't see much of Koper last year, but nearby Piran, Slovenia (see photo at left) is a great little town on the Adriatic.