Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Getting Flipped Off By A Fed

Not sure what is with the Conservative Party these days? Are they daydreaming about golf, summer vacation or “sexy” isotopes. No matter I’m hopeful that the funding the TTC is supposed to get for the new accessible streetcars goes through.

Federal Transport Minister John Baird apologized to Toronto Mayor David Miller for using colourful language criticizing the city’s application for stimulus funding. The June 27th deadline to pursue the TTC’s Bombardier contract is approaching. I’m glad Baird apologized and that everyone can move on. It looks as though something constructive will actually happen between the two levels of government. Good thing we didn’t just F__@ off and wait to see if we would actually see some stimulus money.

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.

The Beginning Of The End For Cometic Pesticides?

Public health will trump the need for the perfect front lawn. Starting today Ontario is banning the sale and use of about 250 pesticides and ingredients, including 2,4-D and malathion.

The health risks and environmental impacts of these toxins are well documented (even blogged here). The science behind limiting widespread use of synthetic chemicals is mounting. For once it appears that Ontario is doing its citizens a good service.

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.

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.

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.

Pondering The Shape Of The Green Energy Act

Hoping for the best as the Liberal government unveils their Green Energy Act. Their efforts to start dismantling coal fired power in the province do more than clean the air and improve the health of residents. The flight from socially costly sources of fuel and energy should carry on. Renewables like wind are not “always on” but can definitely minimize the demands placed on other sources of power.

The real challenge is updating our antiquated policies and bylaws that discourage residents and farmers from becoming part of the green energy solution. Better city and rural planning would also minimize waste and maximize our ability to deliver power where and when it is needed.

The concern. Worse than the bailouts for auto dinosaurs, nuclear power, especially talk of refurbishing antiquated (dangerous??) power plants will cost taxpayers billions and for little benefit. If real gains are to be made from investing in our energy infrastructure renewables will be the key. Some groups like Renewable is Doable have long outlined a prudent phase out of Ontario’s current structure and building a real future in Ontario. The abundance of Uranium in Canada is but a small consolation. Uranium is correlated to Oil and yes that means that the cost of going nuclear power has skyrocketed in much the same way as natural gas and gasoline.

Ontario doesn’t need to go big to go far. Reduce demands on the grid and provide incentives for the little guy (businesses and individuals that sell back to the grid) and you’ll see that green, from hydro, wind or solar, can improve or trump our current energy mix. Investing in infrastructure that reaps benefits of “free” sources of energy is simply investing in Ontario’s future.

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