The hollowness of political promises.

You have to love political promises.  They cost the person promising them nothing.  They are only creative when the voters do not recognize instantly that they are being bribed with their own money.  Take the recent promise by Ontario Premier Dalton McGinty to make GO Transit give you your money back if your commuter train is late. It was a brilliant offer.

The offer was also meaningless.  It played to a demographic in which McGinty is neither warmly nor overwhelmingly approved.  Suburban commuters using GO trains tend to be upscale in income, small-C conservative if they have a political leaning and are not overly interested in the political scene.  Almost all have families waiting for them when they get home and if only four per cent of their trips are delayed, that is too many.

These commuters are going to see the money-back guarantee as their right and you would have a hard time getting them to understand that it is a false promise.  First of all, the exceptions covered in the small print are going to mean very few of these refunds will ever be made.  There might also be a tendency among GO employees to see if they can blame one of the exceptions before paying.  And even if you do get your money back a few times, the increased expense for GO will be paid with higher fares.

The people unhappy with this election promise are GO executives who recognize that this offer will be a pain in the ass rather than good customer relations.  Since they work for the politicians, they know to keep their thoughts on this to themselves.

The only other people who might be displeased are New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath and Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.  They will be glaring at their staff people who are supposed to be coming up with these ideas and asking why McGinty got there first.  If they come back at McGinty with promises of giving double the cash back, the GO Transit execs will really start to worry.

McGinty can claim that the point he was making is that GO Transit is much better than the old Canadian National Railways passenger service.  We always used to consider CN to be on time if it arrived on the right day.

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