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My Canadian Experience
Occasional Extra Information

There is an odd happening that comes along in my day to day life and so as I don't really have anywhere to put them thought I'd just add this extra page to my Canadian Experience.

There was a house fire 2 doors down from me on Lorne Avenue, Chatham on 27th December and I took a wee video of it which can be seen at:

And here are some pictures...

This first group is from another fire just a couple of months ago...

And here are pictures from the December fire...

While I was able to stay in the house my electricity was cut off for some 6 hours and as it was my newsletter day that put me well behind.

The house was demolished and a new one is now going up.

I might add that for a chip pan fire it seemed to take them at least 4 hours to put out the fire which seems excessive to me.  Perhaps they should have used foam instead of water?

Getting my brickwork pointed in 2014
The mortar between my bricks was turning to sand and I had a few loose bricks as well.  The way the house is built I have a main brick foundation and then another course of bricks is laid on the outside and those were the ones causing concern.

I got a local chap, Lee Case, who has his own company to do the work. Now I have to say that he has done an excellent job of work and I have no complaints about that whatsoever.  However his method of doing business is quite strange but apparently is quite common in Canada. 

Essentially this is a cash job but he didn't do a very good job explaining how it was going to work.  So after the first day he asked for $300 cash.  I was very surprised about that as he had his own company so was expecting to pay him once the job was completed.  Next day I also had to come up with more cash and this time also had to pay his materials bill.  At the end of the day I had to go to the bank three times to get cash out to pay him.

He explained that this was common in Canada as so many people don't pay their bills.  I paid him around $1200 for the entire job which is about what I expected but it was really irritating to having to go the bank so often and also have to come up with the cash for his materials. 

I wish he'd just made it plain he expected to be paid each day and given me a reasonable estimate so I could just have gone to the bank once to get out the whole sum. And then he wanted me to go pick up the materials for him.  At that point I refused saying that should be part of his work.  Like I have the time to run after him <sheesh>.

At the end of the day we did have a bit of an argument about his business methods although I made it plain that I considered his actual work to be first class.

I am only writing this so that any new immigrants to Canada understand how business in done here.

Sewer and Drain Problems
In May 2015 I had a leak in my basement and got a plumber out to find out what the problems was.  He indentified it was a blocked sewer line.  So I called out John P. Carey and they came the following day and fixed the problem.

I was really lucky in selecting them as they have one unique benefit in that they have records of all the sewers in Chatham so within just 5 minutes they'd located where the sewer outlet was.

I was also told that part of the problem was that I had put in these eco toilets which used lots less water to flush the toilet. The problem is that they thus don't have enough force to clean out the sewer line and as I live on my own there is simply not enough pressure of water going down the sewer and so over time it starts to fill up.

And so they recommended that every year I should look at doing multiple flushes of the toilets and running a bathful of water so that the drains get a good flush.

I found out after the event that if you are unblocking a sewer line then you are advised to contact ON1Call on 1-800-400-2255 to check to see if your gas line intersects the sewer line before proceeding with the work.

Clearing this sewer line cost $180.00.

Note: December 2015 my sewer got blocked again so looks like the job they did wasn't as good as I thought. This time it was worse than last so also needed a cleanup done.  This time it cost me $380.  I used a different plumber this time and they did do a good job.  However they think there is a break in the main sewer line and recommend that they dig up the floor so they can visually inspect the pipes and fix the issue permanently. They estimate this will cost around $800 and so I'll be going ahead with this in February 2016.

As to Chatham Plumbing
I'd first called them about the leak in the basement and it was them that recommended the above company to fix the sewer issue.  However they also took a look at my upstairs toilet as the tank wasn't filling after it was flushed and the water just ran out to the drain.

The charge for this visit totaled $67.80 including tax. 

Now as it happened this didn't fix the problem so it was back to phoning the toilet company and in discussions they were able to identify the problem and sent me a replacement part.  I then asked Chatham Plumbing to come out to replace the part for me which they did and all now works fine.

However what I find puzzling was for this last visit they have charged me $124.30 including tax. 

As you can imagine I was somewhat puzzled at the difference in cost so I phoned the company and apparently I was actually undercharged the first time as their standard call out rate is $110.00.

To be frank I think the larger charge is excessive and it causes me to have some doubts about their honesty so I may try someone else if I have to use a plumber again.

November 2015
I have been going through the process of applying for old age pensions.  Both in Canada and the UK a form is required to be filled in which asks for the locations you lived in and in the case of the UK what employers you worked for.

In Canada I got an extra questionnaire asking me for more specific information as to my residency in Canada.  Seems they couldn't figure out if I was in Canada during 2005.  And so I completed that questionnaire and took it into Service Canada where they Photostatted my UK Passport again and the woman there thought I'd answered the questions well and didn't think I would have any problems this time around.

I have still to hear back from the UK. 

I will say in the case of the UK they asked for all the addresses I stayed at when in the UK so had to phone them as I stayed in Coventry in England for around 5 years. I stayed at 4 different addresses and couldn't remember any of the actual addresses but on the phone they said the town name would be fine.

In January 2016 I learned about double taxation which means if I don't do something the UK pension will be taxed and then I'll also be liable for Canadian tax as well.  There is a form I need to complete and get stamped by Canada that I then have to send to the UK so that they won't tax the pension and if they have done so I can claim that back.  Yet another complex form to fill in.  Life is certainly not easy when it comes to pensions.

The agreement on tax is based on the Treaty between the UK and Canada, Article 17.

All of that said I find I am in a very good position as right now (January 2016) the looney (Canadian dollar) is now at a 13 year low and has just gone below 70 cents to the US dollar.  As we were at parity not long ago that means my pension has increased dramatically. Right now 1 GBP buys 2.08 CAD so all in all I'm doing very well indeed. It is projected that the looney might fall still further and is likely to stay low for another 5 years seeing as the looney is a petrol currency.

Knights Templar
I also attended the Knights Templar Investiture in Windsor and to my mind there is a big question as to the validity of the Grand Prior of Canada.  At a meeting in Ottawa he and the Vicar General (Past Grand Prior of Canada) and other officers of the Grand Priory agreed he would serve for 3 years. Traditionally the Grand Chancellor would then take up the position of Grand Prior.  However his 3 year term is now up and so Grand Prior Peter Kelly seems to be holding onto office without clarifying his position to the order in Canada.  I don't find that honest or transparent so am considering my position as to continuing as the newsletter editor and whether I should continue my membership when the boss has now proved himself to be dishonest.  We don't need his kind of person leading us in my opinion. I also question if he has done anything for the order in Canada. Three years ago he said we needed to do better at communicating which is why I took up the job of newsletter editor. However he was also to fix our Grand Priory web site and that was given to now Deputy General Secretary Stuart Ross and in my opinion it is now worse than it was.  So its taken him 3 years and if anything it's worse and not better.  He also seems to prefer attending American events and asked at a very late date for Edmonton to change their investiture date so he could attend an American event.  I could go on but it seems pointless to do so. At least our Grand Chancellor is now a Grand Croix and so can invest the new Knights and Dames.


I got in this letter along with other information which confirms my eligibility for the ODM Program. As you may be aware in Canada you do need to pay for prescriptions although there are various plans that can help with this cost.  However, when you reach 65 these costs are capped at $100 per year plus handling charges for your prescription which is usually $6.11 per prescription.  So as I am a diabetic I actually have 5 prescriptions so my handling charge would be $30.55 which would be a monthly charge in addition to the basic annual charge of $100. The above scans provide basic information.

Grass cutting and gutter cleaning
In 2015 I have a new helper called Doug and he now cuts my grass when it needs done and in the Winter period will also clear the snow from my pathways.  In with this he will do a little weeding where needed. He charges $10.00 at a time which is a very fair price.  He has also cleaned my gutters of all the leaves and cleared one of my drain pipes that was clogged and also did a high pressure wash of the siding on the house.  For this he has charged a one off fee of $40.00 which again is a very fair price.

I learned today (December 2016) that I am paying a lot more for my Natural Gas than I need to.  Right now I am supplied by Just Energy on a 5 year contract and my current rate is 24.9 whereas if I had just purchased from Union Gas my rate would be 11.0 which is a large difference.

Just Energy is a retailer that purchases gas from the main supplier and then sells onto residential and business customers.  The idea is that you can lock in a rate when it's low so you benefit over time. However, this is not the case and it's clear I would have been far better if I'd just stuck with Union Gas.  So you live and learn. 

I can of course cancel my contract with Just Energy but there is a large penalty for doing so.  I find my contract with them comes to an end in April 2016 and so just 5 months to go.  They must under law send you a renewal contract with the option to not renew your contract.  I'm told you must use the form to cancel or not renew your contract and send it to them otherwise you might be stuck with another contract. 

If you look at your Union Gas bill near the top on Page 2 it will say "Your gas supplier is Just Energy". It may of course say another name if your contract is with another Energy supplier. 

Where you are uncertain about this I'd encourage you to phone Union Gas and ask for their rates and then compare them with your current rates. Both phone numbers are supplied on Page 2.

Tree Down
Part of a tree fell down on the house and took out the Hydro in the process on December 28, 2015 and eventually got things sorted and power back around 8 pm on the 29th.

Still need another visit from the Insurance company as the tree needed to be removed before we could inspect the other damage.

I did in fact get another inspection and they have agreed to fix the bit of damage to the porch and also replace the guttering on the porch and the house.  There is also some painting to be done but that's likely to have to wait for better weather in the Spring.

I might add that the insurance didn't include clean up but the tree cutting company did in fact do a clean up for me.  They also cut the limb into chunks and they stacked that on the kerb side. They said they would be gone within 24 hours and indeed they were.  Seems many people have wood stoves and are always on the lookout for suitable wood.

I took the opportunity to ask for a quote for cutting down the tree and that came to $2000 which included clean up but they advised talking to the council as they thought it was within their remit given where they were located.

My Property or the Council's?
I forgot to mention that my lawn was dug up so the Telco's could lay new fiber optic cable. Now while I have no basic problem with this I do have a problem with the process.  Firstly they just appeared and commenced to cut a trench and a pit in my lawn to allow them to do this. 

I was quite unhappy with this so phoned the council and they told the council has the right to come in 5 meters into my property to do this type of work.  However there is no requirement for them to inform me that they would be doing this.  I feel this is not acceptable that people can come onto your property and start to dig holes into your lawn without having to notify you.  That in my mind is just sheer bad manners.

However as the two trees that caused the above fall of limbs that damaged my home are also within that same 5 meters I'm now asking the council to cut them down. At time of writing I haven't yet heard back from them as they need to inspect the trees before they can decide if they are responsible.  I figure if they can cut into my lawn without my say so then they should also take responsibility for the trees.  I'll keep you informed of progress.

On 18th May 2016 I still hadn't heard back from the council so phoned and this time was given a work order 80108 and was told someone would get back to me.

I also thought I'd find out who my local councilor is and was told there are 6 that represent the city but not one specific to my area which I thought was a bit weird.  I was given the name Michael Bondi on 519 436 3246 as a contact.

On this date I also learned that the Insurance company was waiving the $500 minimum deductable for an insurance claim due to me apparently not claiming much in previous years.  So that was certainly good news.

I've been driving past a shoe repair shop ever since I came to Chatham and I just discovered a hole in one of the soles of my brown pair of leather shoes I decided it was time to visit them.  They are going to resole them and to give them a couple of weeks and they should be ready.  They are Hems Shoe Service at 256 Queen Street on 519 351 3716. They only accept payment in advance but they do take debit and credit cards.

In September 2016 I decided to get the tree at the back of the house cut down as the bark had come of the tree and frankly it didn't look very safe.  I got two tree companies and the council to check it and they all agreed it needed to come down. So biting the bullet I went ahead at a cost of $2,000 cash.  It took them around 4 hours to remove it. They did also inspect the tree where the large branch had come down and declared that it looked ok and they also removed one branch which was beginning to sit on my roof. 

The British Shoppe, Sarnia
This is around an hours drive from Chatham and on Friday I headed to Sarnia to purchase some purely British products like sliced sausage, fruit and black pudding, bridies, cheese and onion pasties, etc.  As it happens the British Store there were celebrating their 50th anniversary and as a result I got some free Yorkshire tea and a 20% discount.

After completing my purchases I decided to try The British Shoppe...

The menu

I tried the Celtic option as I wanted black pudding but on reflection I think next time I'll go for "The Full Monty" and get black pudding as an extra. I got there around 2 pm and as I'd only had a slice of toast for my breakfast I was well able to try the all day breakfast.

Note: This cafe is now under new ownership and no longer does the Scottish breakfast.

In October 2017 I noted the steps up to the porch at the front of the house had rot setting in and they didn't look that safe.  I thus got my garden guy, Doug, to replace them for me.  The wood, etc. cost almost $200 and the labour was $65.00 so I now have brand new steps.  I decided to get the "green" wood as they are specially treated to resist rot and this time I've decided not to paint them as even when you do a primer and a couple of coats of paint it seem to only last for a couple of years before needing a new cost of paint. He also fixed my fence in the back garden which cost $30.00 all in.  So externally I am sound once again.  Once the leaves have come down Doug will also clear the gutters for me so I'll be prepared for Winter. 

I might also add that last week I went to London, Ontario to the British store to purchase a stock of Irish type sausage links.  They are almost identical to the thick Richmond Irish sausages I used to purchase in Scotland. I no longer purchase their sliced sausage or their black pudding as they weren't that good.  They have also stopped stocking the cheese pasties.  So I really only go there now for the sausage links and a couple of packs of 2 bridies which I do enjoy with baked beans and fries.

In Chatham I can purchase black pudding from the local Dutch market as also smoked back bacon and they also do a jar of baked beans which in my view are almost identical to the old British Heinz baked beans. The Canadian store in Chatham also stocks Melton Mobury pork pies.  Note that they do freeze them so if you don't see them on sale ask the staff for them as I find when they aren't on display they still usually have them in stock in the freezer. So apart from the sausage links I can get pretty well everything I need in Chatham. As to haggis I either order the lamb version from Caledonian Kitchen online or pick up tins of it from the British store.  The 1 pound steak pies can be purchased from the British store but I've taken to making my own now but if I was in Toronto I would buy them from But n Ben but I'm rarely there these days and the shop doesn't open on Sunday or Monday so that means it's very rare I can get them.

Given the number of Scots in Canada I am surprised that Canadian butchers don't make these as almost every Scottish butcher used to make their own.  I mean all you need to do is stew up some beef with options for adding onion and/or kidney and put that in the one pound aluminum tins and then just roll out a puff pastry top and then bake it in the oven.  You can then freeze them and so have a few on stand by as they can then be cooked from frozen in about 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

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