Archive for the ‘frustration and venting’ Category

City Strike Ultimatum?

An ultimatum of sorts has been cast. Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE Local 416, has said, “we must have a settlement by midnight on Sunday or we are finished”. No resolution by then and he will walk away from the negotiation table and head to the picket line.

The municipal workers began to strike June 22. Only 6,000 of the city’s 30,000 workers continue to provide essential services. The work stoppage continues to affect city-run daycares, parks, pools, and yes, garbage collection.

Hoping that some progress can be made soon. We should try to head the lessons learned from Windsor’s recently resolved 100 day strike.

The Garbage Blame Game

The stalemate has yet to lift and we are nearly 2 weeks into the garbage strike. Many Canada Day celebrations were cancelled. We were lucky after 1 million people enjoyed the Pride Parade that it had its own private clean up crew to help clean up. We are still on the hook for the garbage we create during the strike that’s for sure.

I find it amazing that there has been little talk of conservation or limiting of our garbage. People want to continue business as usual and expect different results despite the lack of garbage service. In this “economic environment” it shouldn’t be difficult to cut out on take out or drive thru restaurants. Waste less and you’ll have more money in your pocket and less garbage to throw out.

Toronto’s efforts to reduce garbage going to landfill by 70% are valiant. Many municipalities have bragged of diversion rates of 60% over the last 5 years so this is not an unattainable goal. Mayor Miller has been reluctant to implement incineration and has focused more on reduction and recycling in an effort to limit garbage going to Michigan.

In this aim to reduce landfill Toronto has implemented a Green Bin program less strict than several Municipalities hoping for higher compliance rates. Toronto allows green waste to be placed in plastic bags, “disposable” diapers, and pet waste like kitty litter. This makes it harder to sort and turn our green waste into compost though. Shortcuts revealed by a Toronto Star shows that our service providers are skimping on their implementation of Toronto’s plan with much of the green waste still ending up in landfill or incinerated. As noted in today’s follow up article, city councillors are right to call for an audit of the services Toronto is paying for. If the city is paying a company to safely and efficiently deal with our garbage and green waste it should be accountable for it. The Ministry regulates these service providers and should wield a heavier hand.

At the end of the day it’s our tax dollars and our garbage. Reducing the amount of taxes need to clean up the mess and reducing the pile of waste starts at home not in Ottawa, Queen’s Park, or Mayor Miller’s office.

The Nortel Shell Game

It’s not every day that you see a company with a 127-year history in Canada dissolve before your eyes. Or is it? North America’s biggest maker of phone gear filed for bankruptcy protection in January of this year. I’m sure that in the current climate refinancing their debt is difficult but this downward spiral has been mounting.

Bankruptcy protection, at least these days, is nothing new. Nor is the mismanagement of Nortel, as recently as 2007 the company paid a $35 million fine to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claims that it was manipulating earnings from 2000 to 2003. Lately executives have been touting a renewed focus on stabilizing its customer and supplier base but one must follow the money.

The company had been hoarding cash leading up to its bankruptcy filing and had been slow to pay severance payments. After a fight that went to Ontario Superior Court, Nortel was allowed to pay $45 million in bonuses for close to 1,000 executive and nonexecutive employees (including the eight senior executives). With thousands let go you it’s not hard to think of how many current or former employees feel. The gravy train is coming to a halt. The fire sale has begun. The demise of Nortel is criminal, but many will say this is business as usual.

Only a matter of time until Nortel will be delisted from the TSX. Nortel was Canada’s most widely held and valuable company (one of the few “dot com” companies with real assets) worth over $350 Billion and employing 95,000. Now it’s worth a few hundred million and employs less than half that staff count! Pity.

Are We There Yet?

The TSX is looking a little better these days. Is the optimism too much too soon? I mean we have made quite an improvement here.

I for one wont fret for a marked increase in my financial health but calls for the end of THE END OF THE RECESSION are a bit premature. Hang on to your hats folks, the market is a wild ride.

Porter Air Looking To Push For More Expansion

The battle for the Island continues as Porter Airlines pushes to grow. Robert Deluce, the founder and CEO of Porter Airlines will likely reveal Porter’s expansion plans Monday as federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and other top officials visit Toronto.

Community AIR and other advocacy groups are upset that efforts are being made to double capacity at the island airport. Porters current fleet of 8 planes is due to be increased by at least 10 aircraft. Groups sight noise and environmental concerns with the airport as short haul flights are of the most polluting form of travel.

With billions of both public and private sector money in waterfront development at stake you can bet that Toronto’s fight for the Toronto Island is far from over.

Internet At Full Throttle?

The debate continues. Groups like Save Our Net have been advocates for changes in legislation. Currently internet providers appear to be charging for high speed connections then throttling down user connection speeds. “Traffic shaping”, the providers argue, is necessary to allow some users from monopolizing the network. In principal the only time resources would be minimized would be to reduce the threat of viruses or malware. Many see ISP measures like these as efforts to steer the internet away from the essence of net neutrality; core principals of democratic participation and free speech.

With digital TV already replacing analog in some jurisdictions one can see that a new digital media battle is being waged. Will your internet service become yet another version of cable tv? Could traffic shaping and user fees limit access to information, social networks or the number web pages visited per month? Could shaping help fight piracy or make it thrive?

One thing is for sure. Public consultations with the CRTC will determine whether traffic shaping should continue or in what form. Petitions and opposition up to this point have provided this avenue for public input. Speak out or get throttled.

Billy Bob’s Joaquin Phoenix Moment

It was unfortunate to see Billy Bob Thorton’s meltdown play out on Q. In a strange parallel to Joaquin Phoenix on Letterman Billy Bob was offended by host Jian Ghomeshi references to his other work (both on the screen and his screenwriting talents). Unlike Letterman, Jian Ghomeshi was not belittling or condescending. He well recognized the Billy Bob’s catalog of music to date. Jian was rightly impressed and inquisitive about the Boxmasters output in such a short time together. The resulting meltdown was shocking and disappointing to say the least.

Jian Ghomeshi remains one of CBC jewels. His show Q remains one of the best programs/podcasts CBC offers up Canada and the world. Hopefully Billy Bob Thornton and Boxmasters, recover from this public pouting fit. As an artist, actor and writer Billy Bob Thornton is exceptional despite this behaviour.

Well the dust has settled. Boxmasters play Massey Hall again tonight (April 9th) in support of Willie Nelson.

WILLIE NELSON with special guests Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters and Ray Price
Massey Hall
April 9, 2009 7:30 PM
$125.00 – $59.50

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.

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.

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