Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Did Ford Nation Cause Another Upset?

Looks as though the tide has turned in Toronto. Rob Ford was late to endorse the Conservatives but stepped up this past weekend. The votes are still trickling in and it seems that the Conservatives have taken quite a few GTA seats. To be fair Toronto and the GTA wasn’t all blue and white. Jack Layton and the NDP easily held some key seats in Toronto. Bob Rae hung on to his seat but there are doubts for Ignatieff as he lost his.

The next four years… Are we in for more of the same? Pension reform and security? Will this translate into more funding for the TTC? Public Healthcare? The loss of the TSX and Bay Street jobs to London UK or a stronger economy for all? Will the Conservatives hold a heavy hand or will they entertain some suggestions from the opposition?

Polls Are Not Prophecy…Or Are They?

Yes, this just in. Another poll has been taken by 400+ people. Undecided has been polling in the 20 to 25% range and I think they will be the key to this election. After all a lead in a poll is just that.

If polls are so statistically telling why is it that less than 40% actually vote? Am I supposed to judge whom I vote for based on the opinion of 40% of 400 people when 40% of them will likely go to the ballot box. Hmmm, 64 people out of 600,000+ that typically vote. The most important poll is when the other 99.99% get off their butts and go to the polls. This long running election campaign is proof that ranked ballots or other type of election reform is long overdue. In my opinion ranked ballots (1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice) are the way to go. There is a clearer mandate for the winner. There is no run off election required and the tally would immediately show who the majority doesn’t want to win. I can only dream at this moment, we are stuck with the status quo for now.

As much as the front runners bawk and jockey for position the large number of undecided voters is telling. In my opinion it tells of a public nervous and uneasy with the list of “front runners” shoved in front of them. Is it the quality of their platforms, the substance of their character, the apathy that was broken by a 40 day garbage strike coupled with fear? It may be any number of those or a combination.

It is interesting that all “front runners” platforms present tax increases. Yes, I know that sounds crazy when many are talking about cutting spending but paying essentially the same amount of taxes and receiving less services is also a tax increase. It’s like paying for a large coffee and getting a medium or small one instead. One of the majors is actually saying they will increase taxes at with some exemptions for low income individuals and seniors. As much as people seem to hate it, Torontoians will get only the services they pay for, contract or otherwise.

Frankly I’m distressed that when two of five the “front runners” dropped out of the Mayors race that two or more others were not bumped up from “fringe” status by the major media. After all Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson were not the only ones to put up their $200 fee and vying for the job of Mayor of Toronto. Actually there are 38 candidates to choose from (after Rossi and Thomson dropped out). I would have loved to see coverage of other “fringe” candidates like Himy Syed, Tibor Steinberger , or any of the other 36 people brave enough to put their names on the ballot. Ah, but how many people will just skip over the list of candidates like the Classified Ads.

The reality is that the Mayor of Toronto is but one voice out of 45 (well or only 22 under one candidate’s platform). At the end of the day consensus not conflict will get the city’s work done. That is why if you are truly at a loss as to who should be Mayor you should at least vote for council. We need as many competent people at the table voicing the needs of Toronto’s citizens as possible. To achieve that tall task, we may need more than 4 or every 10 eligible voters going out and voting on October 25th, 2010. Dave Meslin said it well, vote with your heart!

City of Toronto Elections

Just glimpse of the some of 100 debates over this year…
CBC Debates
CP24 Debate
BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) Debate

Closing Comments of Habitat for Humanity Debate

Be Thankful For Taxes

I hope my fellow Torontonians filed their taxes by yesterdays deadline. How else could we fund and provide for our heroic public service providers. Services that are so often taken for granted like Toronto Fire Services. As much as everyone likes to grunt and grown during tax season it is a necessary evil. One only has to look at the outstanding work of the Fire Department and how the handled a dangerous roof fire in less than one hour. Your tax dollars at work indeed!

Wheelers, Dealers, Thieves and Crooks…

I’ve heard first hand about some wheelers and dealers in Toronto and their love of rock star nights on the town. Not to say that all patrons of Toronto’s fine venues are thieves and crooks, but not everyone can wine and dine themselves with $10,000+ diners and afford that lifestyle through legal means.

The Toronto Star has an interesting article regarding some drama after a night at Harbour 60. This article may shed some light on the lenient sentence Rahim Jaffer after facing charges of drunk driving and cocaine possession. Although Jaffer may have boasted insider influence in the past but the Conservatives are denying any ties to him at present.

As a whole it is disturbing how tough on crime we appear to be but how soft things are for white collar criminals. Time will tell whether any justice will be served. Unfortunately crime knows not of a recession.

Enough Whining People, There Is Enough Pain To Go Around

I know everyone has been just thrilled with all the post Olympic political action lately. It’s nearly as exciting as the record Winter Olympic frenzy. The Federal speech from the throne, a Federal budget and let’s not forget Ontario’s speech from the throne a few days ago. It has many armchair athletes turning to armchair politicians.

The latest heart stopping event. A press conference that Mayor Miller called yesterday. So press and citizens were all in a frenzy when Mayor Miller was about to announce “something”. The “let down”, it seems for most, is that the estimated surplus Toronto expected to post for 2009 was actually $100 million more than forecast. People are mad?! Really? During a recession, difficult (often questionable) service fees and labour unrest the city managed to post a bigger than expected surplus. Oh. Get this, they are willing charge (gouge) less for property taxes based on these surplus funds. How is this a bad thing? Oh, and Miller asked Ontario to keep its promise to fund the TTC. This is hardly something to really complain about.

Hey political cheerleaders out there. Miller’s reign has not been perfect but it is hardly as horrible as people cry about. Sorry to the whiners but you can’t exactly cry about getting this present. We are lucky to get it. Judging from the stink the Parliamentary Budget Officer is making about the Federal Government’s structural deficits and unsustainable budget we will have enough to cry about in a few years (months if another election is called). I hope the hot air spewing about is preparation for voters getting out of their armchairs and out to the ballot boxes. If not you can always sit back down and watch the opening of the Paralympics tomorrow.

The Right To Accommodate Is Well Established But…

It’s maddening to think that people continue to be oblivious to mobility issues. I’m sure that the latest fight won by a man in the GTA may be a good reminder that the fight is far from over.

With an aging demographic and well established rights for elderly persons and those with mobility problems it’s hard to believe such a fight was so difficult. Paul DiSalvo had to wait a year and a half to have his condo to equipped with an accessibility ramp.

Why the condo was built without some form of accessibility in the first place? An entirely valid question. Too often simple design features like a wheelchair ramp are omitted or simply excluded from the plans. This often means expensive retrofitting for relatively inexpensive enhancements that add value. Unfortunately the dwellers of the condo will get tapped for the Halton Condominium Corporation’s damages/fees. Sad since the condo corporation’s board were not doing them any favours by fighting such an easy accommodation and for so long. Wouldn’t take a genius to come up with the cost benefit of accommodation (of a legal requirement) versus a year and a half of legal fees, damages and a ramp! Whoa!!!

At the end of the day whether or not one or many residents need a wheelchair ramp everyone benefits. Who knows whether a resident will eventually need one due to health or have a relative or visitor that would require it? Such a feature only enhances the value of the property and improves the quality of life of the people who use it. The more that employers, businesses, transit authorities and the general public are mindful of these issues the more we stand to gain.

Toronto To Host The G20?!

Toronto may be the new venue for the G20. The Globe and Mail is reporting that the Feds are now realizing that Muskoka may not have the resources to house and secure guests arriving for the G20. Oops. It should have been obvious that even a modest make over would fall short of delivering the necessary requirements.

The Conservatives have been trying to frantically upgrade Muskoka’s infrastructure via a $50 million G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund founded in February, another $5 million in security upgrades for the North Bay airport and other funding initiatives under the Economic Action Plan. More fuel to critics fire on the current government’s priorities favouring Conservative jurisdictions. This of course is Tony Clement‘s home riding.

The trough of course looked deep enough for locals, close to $450 million worth of applications were chasing $50 million worth of the gravy. On the upside some short term construction jobs have been created. It is hoped that local tourism would get a boost as thousands of officials and media types migrate up to the area. It’s more likely that when the summit kicks off next summer that rich government officials will be enjoying cottage land while high paid security police block off potential protesters, terrorists and cottage goers. At least the local communities will benefit by having new facilities to host future events along with improved infrastructure.

Sad that by trying to snub Toronto and move both the G8 and G20 events to cottage country they will have to put at one here anyway. All lot of added expense for nothing. No question there will be immense pain with such a move for Torontonians. Traffic and security for these events, a nightmare! Perhaps the Government were trying to minimize the numbers of protesters close to the meetings by moving the summit away from an urban area? Well a private web-chat or conference call would have been preferred to the mountain of wasteful deficit spending for this circus ride.

Finally! Council Approves Deal To End Strike

A bit of grandstanding by some but Toronto city councillors voted this evening to approve the deals worked out with two CUPE unions. The strike is over!

The special day long meeting resulted in a 21-17 vote in favour of settling. Seems like a decent compromise despite media hype, doomsday projections and hyperbole.

Read the background info. This was one of the lowest settlements among public sector employees in the province. The city is allowing some OT for union workers to clean up the mess BUT is not restricted to hiring contractors if it saves the city money. (Note that some contractors have billed, some who have needed their services The sick day plan benefit has been grandfathered much the same way as in other municipalities like Mississauga.

The bargaining committee for the city, and Mayor Miller, did a relatively good job. If many were paying attention the strain on the city’s finances, started with downloading by the Harris Conservatives. More services dumped down have meant more we have tax increases. All told, while some benefits are still intact for unionized employees, demographics will favour the city as pay outs and the costs of these will fade away. The unions get modest increases and don’t completely hijack to city’s pocketbook.

The workers are back, the services are restored. We’ll have two weeks of unlimited Green Bin and garbage pick up. The ferry services will return to full service Saturday too. Let’s enjoy the rest of the summer and the the Caribana Parade!

Nortel Assets Find New Home

Much to the annoyance of RIM, Sweden’s Ericsson has emerged the winner in the bid for Nortel Networks Corp.’s wireless division. Research in Motion claimed that they had been blocked from the bidding process. Not surprising.

The quest of the current government to divest or sell off Canadian assets stretches further than nuclear isotopes. Jim Balsillie, RIM’s co-chief executive officer stated,

“RIM is extremely disappointed that Nortel’s world leading technology, the development of which has been funded in part by Canadian taxpayers, seems destined to leave Canada and that Canada’s own Export Development Corporation is preparing to help by lending $300 million to another bidder. RIM remains extremely interested in acquiring Nortel assets through a Canadian ownership solution that would serve the dual purpose of keeping key wireless technologies in Canada and extending RIM’s leadership in the research, development and distribution of leading edge wireless solutions, but RIM has found itself blocked at every turn.”

Selling off Canadian innovation in our national interests to keep seems counter-intuitive, but not to the current helm at Industry Canada. Hate to think how they will handle a tourism portfolio when Jim Flaherty has mentioned he may sell off Via Rail.

Yes, the addition of The Marquee Tourism Events Program (MTEP) to Indusrty Minister’s (Tony Clement) plate comes after sexy isotopes and hopes to privatize nuclear medicine in Canada. The tourism portfolio inheritance comes with the turfing of junior cabinet minister Diane Ablonczy (likely over $400,000 of funding to the Toronto Pride Parade). Marry this off with further sell offs of Canadian patents and technology and the new “Conservatives” are taunting the opposition and adding fuel to the election fire.

Well a fight seems to be brewing at least here at Queen’s Park. Dwight Duncan, Ontario’s finance minister, feels that technology funded with Canadian taxpayer money shouldn’t easily be sold off to a foreign company.

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.

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