Archive for March, 2009

As Expected – Metrolinx To Take Over GO Transit

As blogged by Steve Munroe yesterday and reported by The Star today, Metrolinx and GO Transit will merge. Metrolinx was created in 2006. The take over of GO Transit has been anticipated since the province set up Metrolinx and there has been pressure for the entity to perhaps move to run the TTC. Not necessarily the best course of action there.

Metrolinx has been often critiqued for limiting public dissent, oversight and disclosure. Infighting over control has tarnished efforts to broaden GTA transit initiatives and cross-border fare integration. As potential king makers, members of Metrolinx, like chair Rob MaacIsaac have made controversial decisions about the scope of transit expansion. GO Transit’s Lakeshore West line full service was recently extended to Aldershot, rather than Hamilton. Aldershot happens to be MaacIsaac’s home GO station. Other “turf wars” have hampered the progress over other initiatives.

The changes to Metrolinx and GO include changes to the board. The efforts behind the change appear are an effort to change make up of the organization from public officials to more from private industry. Toronto Mayor David Miller, TTC chair Adam Giambrone, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion and other regional spokespeople are being replaced. New Metrolinx legislation explicitly forbids a politician or an employee of a local municipality from sitting on the Board. The transition board has a wealth of experience but few with any transit or city planning experience.

Localized interests aside, Metrolinx “inaction” up to now also comes down to funding, budgets, and lack of authority. Infrastructure funding from Ottawa has been slow to go to Queen’s Park. Queen’s Park, without Federal funding, have been reluctant to act any recommendations from Metrolinx. Changes to Metrolinx are meant to limit “turf wars” but public disclosure is still lacking. Requirements to discuss investment strategy, capital planning and projects, or the Metrolinx budget in public have been removed. Not exactly a change for the better.

Infrastructure spending is important for shaping the future of this city. We can only hope important work to better integrate GTA transit becomes a reality with some transparency. After all, Metrolinx, GO Transit and the Ontario government are supposed to be acting on our behalf.

Judge Blocks British MP’s Request To Enter Canada And Speak In Toronto

It’s official. British MP George Galloway’s request for an injunction to enter Canada has been denied. A Federal Court judge has ruled against his motion. Galloway was to speak tonight at Metropolitan United Church. The Toronto stop was to be the first of a four-city speaking tour GEORGE GALLOWAY: RESISTING WAR FROM GAZA TO KANDAHAR. The organizers of the Toronto stop, Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, have said that their event would continue regardless of the judge’s decision.

Galloway is no stranger to controversy. His response to the U.S. Senate regarding false allegations that he took bribes from Saddam Hussein was memorable. He has long taken criticism for his anti war stance and support for some pro-Palestinian causes. This support for some Palestinian groups has some people labeling him as a “terrorist supporter”. The Federal government stance, and latest justice decision seems heavy handed. Some have argued other “war criminals” (George W. Bush?) have been allowed into the country to speak. A view equally exaggerated, perhaps, but no doubt a strange precedent has been set with Galloway.

Place Hands @ The Press Club – TONIGHT

march2709poster

Place Hands are back! After taking a break to start a family and work on other projects Place Hands are returning to the stage tonight at the Press Club. They will be joined by Brides and Into The Other. A great way to rawk into the weekend.


PLACE HANDS with BRIDES and INTO THE OTHER

@ THE PRESS CLUB – 850 Dundas St. West
$5

Ontario Liberal Budget Invokes Misguided Anger

Looks as though Ontario is joining the ranks of provinces who have harmonized sales taxes. Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan delivered his budget at Queen’s Park yesterday. This tax reform is somewhat of a surprise but not entirely.

The Federal Conservatives and some advocacy groups have long pushed for provinces to adopt a harmonized tax. From from the province’s own task force on competitiveness to Jim Flaherty the pressure has been on. Up till now the Ontario Liberals have rejected the notion. They likely could not bow down to the pressure now, especially from the Feds .

With feeble stimulus funding from the Feds and tied in/matching fund financing for infrastructure the provinces have to go deep into debt to finance their projects or get no action at all. Ontario is not the only province running a deficit this fiscal year or next. The Federal Conservatives again are shifting the blame and responsibility to lower levels. The GST “cuts” and Economic Action Plan have been two tools in this aim.

As Andrew Coyne wrote years ago , the “cut” in GST was merely an “incentive” for provinces to raise their sales taxes via harmonization. Other “incentives” have been cuts in transfer payments despite unheard arguments over fiscal imbalance. Provinces (and municipalities) have to raise their taxes or deal with whatever they could get from the Feds. The Economic Action Plan,

“makes available up to $6.4 billion in new and accelerated funding for provinces, territories and municipalities in 2009–10 and 2010–11 at this critical time, and it is intended that this funding will be matched by provinces, territories and municipalities.” -Economic Action Plan, Immediate Action to Build Infrastructure

This just means the provinces and municipalities have to foot a larger part of the bill in order to get funding for infrastructure. How else could they do that? Taxes and deficits. That or do nothing at all to fix aging infrastructure, transit or other public services.

While the Liberals are wise to provide some relief to lower income families under this harmonization transition it seems that the help wont be permanent. Runciman and the Ontario Conservatives are saying now that they oppose the measures to cut corporate taxes and introduce the harmonized tax despite Conservatives supporting such measures in the past. Andrea Horwath has also criticized the timing of such a move since many family expenditures will become more costly.

You have a right to be angry but the problems start at the top my friends. In the end we are still paying taxes. How those tax revenues are being managed (mismanaged?!) is up to us to fix. No sign of an election on the horizon so get out your pens and write your MP’s, MPP’s and city councilors. After all it’s our money their spending.

Julie Doiron at the Horshoe Tavern – TONIGHT

julie-d

Julie Doiron‘s latest album, I CAN WONDER WHAT YOU DID WITH YOUR DAY, came out this past Tuesday. I’m quite impressed. Caught a sneak peak in Hamilton last night but tonight’s show will be just as great based on the lineup. $100 will also be playing. It will be a real treat to hear great vocalists like Simone of $100 and Julie play at the Horseshoe.

Julie Doiron singing at Pepperjacks in Hamilton last night.  Julie stops in Toronto tonight and plays with $100 and Rick White at the Horseshoe Tavern.

Julie Doiron singing at Pepperjacks in Hamilton last night. Julie stops in Toronto tonight and plays with $100 and Rick White at the Horseshoe Tavern.

Hard Times, Cold Stares and Frozen Zombies

A would be bike thief strolls casually Sunday afternoon along College & Beverly wielding a handsome hacksaw and a brown windbreaker and yellow shirt.

A would be bike thief strolls casually at about 6pm Sunday at College & Beverley wielding a handsome hacksaw and a brown windbreaker and yellow shirt.

Yes, the recession is hitting hard. Bad news is abounds but Spring has finally sprung. I’ve been trying to enjoy the extra hours of daylight and walking whenever possible. Cabin fever no more!

Still the winter chill and ominous market conditions have frozen hearts. I was in disbelief yesterday night on my stroll along College. I heard an odd sound and noticed a man wielding a huge hacksaw and making his way through a big U-lock. Umm, I’m I the only one noticing that someone is trying to liberate what looks to be a nice mountain bike from in front of U of T?

No… but no one cares. Not the people coming off the street car, the woman walking her dog. Weird. I didn’t have my SLR with me but I decided to “spook” the perpetrator by taking his picture (with my crappy cell phone). It worked the dude moved on an scurried up the street. Yeah, one less bike in Toronto stolen. The funny thing was that when I started heading South the local thief had doubled back. The guy was off to find his next bike and was again walking in front of me on the other side of the street. As before the dude paused and was about to try his luck on another bike. I lingered a bit and then took my own detour after he moved on from victim two. I didn’t want to be hacksaw victim three so I did some scurrying myself.

Not only amazed that people are “forced” to steal but how many people didn’t care to report or discourage the would be thief. These are hard times and now more than ever we need a cure for apathy. Well, if you parked your bike on the North side of College East of the Second Cup your U-Lock lasted long enough for one person to care that your bike wasn’t stolen.

Contra Magazine #3 Out Now

Toronto’s Contra Magazine has come out with a banging third issue. More visual stimulation if you haven’t had enough already with Fashion Week and the sunny rays of SPRING.

Gun Raffle Invitation Withdrawn, But Not The Prize…

Good thing that Canadian Sport Shooting Association decided to withdraw their invitation to their Annual General Meeting And Dinner this April. I mean a gun special interest group that is inviting an Conservative MP could look a bit strange.

MP Garry Breitkreuz was invited to attend since he is, “a voice of reason in the House of Commons regarding firearms legislation”, according to Tony Bernardo, Executive Director of the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action had head of the CSSA. MP Breitkreuz’s private members bill and efforts to abolish the “long” gun registry strike a chord for the CSSA faithful.

The Canadian Sport Shooting Association (CSSA) Annual General Meeting and Dinner is to be held at the Best Western Toronto Airport West, 5825 Dixie Road, Mississauga April 18th. The most contentious issue is not the all you can eat buffet dinner of roast beef, chicken and salmon. Nor is it that Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz was invited only to have this offer rescinded. The negative media attention thus far is granted as the CSSA appears to be insensitive to the community.

While there are aproximately 2 million law abiding gun owners in Canada that doesn’t provide any excuse to wave a gun in Toronto’s face. The CSSA will be auctioning off a handgun at their AGM. Not just any gun, a Berreta Px4 Storm. This gun is just like the ones used by Canadian Border officials and law enforcement. The CSSA describes the gun as follows:

“the PX4 “Canadian Edition.” This is a very special “Limited Edition” of the
PX4 Storm and only 500 units were made, specifically for Canadian shooters.
Featuring a factory Beretta 106mm barrel and a 10 round magazine, this
previously “prohibited” pistol qualifies for “restricted” status”

Berreta handguns have been only available in Canada legally since 2005. There were little more than a handful of registered up until the Dawson College shooting. After this shooting registration of Berreta’s almost tripled. Were these buyers all criminals? Not necessarily but perhaps the “hype” was due to the fear that these guns could soon become more difficult to obtain or become banned.

The outrage expressed by the mayor’s office, citizens, families and victims of gun violence is warranted. The reality is that 30-40% of legal guns are getting into the hands criminals. The gun registry is not contributing to criminal activity nor can it be our only measure to reduce gun violence. Yes, it is true that the gun registry has cost over $2 billion dollars but this is largely due to some 2 million Canadian gun owners and gun manufacturers/lobbyists crying over registering their legal weapons. The Conservative government has had some talk of making restricted weapons harder to obtain but not too loudly. Their “tough on crime” stance is softer than they would care to admit.

The majority of people in Toronto back Mayor Miller’s push to make semi-automatic weapons illegal. If you are a good law abiding citizen, civic duty and respect to the community in which you live is not burden, it is a priviledge.

Spring Means New Food On The Streets

Of course when hunger strikes you have many options. Buy groceries and prepare your own meal. Perhaps you may treat yourself or the one you love to dinner at your favourite restaurant. In a pinch you might grab some “street meat”. The concept of variety and street vendors used to be veggie, sausage or regular.

As of today 8 applicants have been added to Toronto’s street food choices. I’m hoping that this “Toronto a la Cart street food pilot project” becomes permanent after this Spring’s launch.

Regulate all vendors, as we do any restaurant selling food to the public, and Toronto will be no worse off (perhaps an even better place). Of course purists can still grab a hotdog after the game but the prospect of pad thai, souvlaki, nann and rice, and more would be amazing.

Yes, Toronto has many flavours. Can’t wait for the Spring to savour more.

Art On The Mind For FRIDAY?

Of course this Friday is the night of Hamilton’s Art Crawl. It’s always nice to hit up all the gallery openings along James Street North. Considering that most galleries stay open until 11pm it makes the trip to the Hammer all the more leisurely. I may still hang in the city though. There is a a fundraiser for a local art mag, Bad Day, at Lennox Contemporary Gallery Friday night. I haven’t been to the Lennox but this might be a worthy excuse. Eva Michon is the editor of Bad Day and has produced some fine work (right here in Toronto).

BAD DAY Magazine Fundraiser – Lennox Contemporary Gallery
Friday March 13, 2009

12 Ossington Avenue at the centre of the Queen West Art and Design District.

Accessible
Parking on the street or in the lot just north at 18 Ossington Ave.
TTC via the Ossington bus or the Queen St. streetcar.

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