America goes topless? Thank goodness for Canada's competition watchdog
I'm constantly amazed at how Americans (I was born and raised in the U.S. so no hate mail from down south, please) can put up with senseless violence on the streets and on TV but be so prudish when it comes to sex. I don't get it.
So I was mildly surprised today to see a Trip Advisor study in which 78 per cent of Americans said it was okay for women to go topless at the beach or the pool. The study DID have an important caveat, that being that this would only be okay in places where toplessness is deemed "culturally acceptable." Which, presumably, means no topless beaces on the Great Salt Lake or along the Mississippi in Iowa.
On the other hand, it could mean a chance at loosening of laws in places such as South Beach in Miami or Ocean Beach in San Francisco, where, trust me, you don't really want to shed much clothing, even in summer.
We've already seen topless pools in Vegas (see photo from the Moorea Beach Club), a trend that shows little sign of abating. So let's go for it. It's not that big a deal, folks. Now, fat guys in Speedos....
CANADA'S COMPETITION WATCHDOG BITES BACK
I've been critical of Ottawa for not giving more landing rights in Canada to the likes of Emirates and Etihad. It seems to me the Tory government consistently makes rulings that favour our bigger airlines and ignore consumer concerns.
But yesterday came the news that our competition watchdog is trying to block Air Canada's proposed merger-like deal with United/Continental.
The Air Canada-United Continental proposal “would mean the integration of all their North American operations,” commissioner of competition Melanie Aitken said in an interview published in the Star this morning.
“That leads you to eliminating competition between the airlines. And when you do that, you increase prices for consumers and businesses, and you decrease service and you decrease choice.”
The airlines say they’ve suspended any move toward the joint venture “pending further developments," The Star's John Spears reported. She said similar arrangements in the U.S. have led to price increases in the range of 15 per cent; a sizable sum given today's sky-high air fares. On a $500 ticket, a 15 per cent hike would be $75. Multiply that by perhaps four people in a family and it's a $250 difference.
I don't know Melanie Aitken but I admire the heck out of her for taking a stance. Canadian airlines aren't allowed to merge with U.S. ones, and it looked to me as if this was going to be a merger in very thin disguise, or at least something strongly resembling the same.
Air Canada (which does a pretty good job and is several steps above most North American airlines in terms of its airplane setups) disagrees, of course, as do the folks at United/Continental. They issued a press release spouting the usual, broad-based and utterly silly comments about how the move would mean "lower fares, better coordinated flight schedules and connection times, more route choices, and improved frequent flyer benefits.”
I can see the frequent flyer benefits and maybe some route improvements. But better coordinated flight schedules? What does that mean? And I simply don't believe their claims of lower fares. If you've got a monopoly on that many flights, you're not going to reduce fares I don't think.
The Star, as well as the Globe to be fair (and maybe others), published an interesting chart that showed the potential impact of a combined operations/merger-like deal between Air Canada and United/Continental. It showed that, if it went through, 100 per cent of several important routes would be controlled entirely by the company. Among them: Toronto-San Francisco, Toronto-Houston, Toront-Washington, Toronto-Cleveland, Toronto-Denver, Calgary-Houston, Montreal=Washington and Ottawa-New York.
Aitken has applied to the federal competition tribunal to block the proposed joint venture, Spears reported in the Star. So there's still some chance, I think, that this deal will go through. Tough odds, though, given Aitken's tough words.