Monday, December 12, 2005 - Streetcar plan soars to $95M

Well The Star was a bit slow on the uptake on this story. By the time they published the story about the "surprise" bump in costs for the St. Clair W. streetcar right of way:

The Star - Dec 12th 2005

it was almost time to publish the story about how Council reversed itself on the issue:

The Star - Dec 13th 2005

If you are are wondering what really happened, read:

Sue-Ann Levy's column in The Sun - Dec 13th 2005

Ms. Levy is quite correct - it's one big shell game - with Messrs. Moscoe and Miller being the chief shiesters.

Hmm. Are we starting to see a pattern here?

asks Levy. Well, yes we are - but it's not a new game. The same tricks were used to push ahead with the Spadina LRT. An examination of the history of the Spadina LRT project reveals that the original EA on that effort projected the cost at $74.33 million - including $34 million for the purchase of new vehicles. Justification for the project was partly based on a financial assessment that the "LRT" alternative was the lowest cost (when capital costs were included.) By the next year (1989), the planned cost of the project had grown to $117 million - without the purchase of new vehicles! In other words, construction and related costs swelled by $77 million once approval had been given.

Surprise, surprise, the financial justification was never revisited.

The rules of the game are clear: low-ball the initial estimates, ram the project through, and then hide the realities.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

For the birds

No - this isn't about David Miller's mayoralty. It could be, but it isn't. Instead, I thought I'd give an update on the avian visitors taking advantage of my hospitality.

A couple of months ago I spotted an example of a species that I'd never noticed before. It occured to me that it would be beneficial to actually know what I was looking at. Mt edification was not the only anticipated benefit; I also wanted to be able to tell my parents. After messing around looking for internet sites, I decided that the only practical method of identification was to purchase and study a book.

There are a number of bird books out available. After thumbing through different options at my local Book City, I settled upon The ROM Field Guide to Birds fo Ontario (Author: Janice M. Hughes). This is a robust, larger pocket-size guide. While not a perfectly comprehensive book, it's been fine for identifying those species that have been kind enoug to pay me a visit.

Without further ado - here is my list:

House Sparrow - Yes - not exactly exciting - but cute and reliable. Oh - and voracious.

House Finch - Almost as frequent as the House Sparrow.

Northern Cardinal - Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal come and go. They prefer to feed off the ground - so are most likely to make an appearance when there is a good sized debris field below the main feeder. One day, I had two pair.

Downy Woodpecker - I have three or four as regular visitors. They feed from the peanut filled metal cylinder. The tube is perforated so as to allow the woodpeckers to feed, whilst keeping sqirrels and racoons from vacuuming them all.

White-breasted Nuthatch/Red breasted Nuthatch - Very pretty little birds. I've spotted these every few weeks. I'm told that they should be availing themselves of the peanuts in the tude - but I've only seen one alight on it for a brief peck.

Blue Jay - The Jays have only recently discovered the feeder.

Black-capped Chickadee - Spotted every week or so. Today, I had a pair flitting in and out. They like to spoop in and carry off.

Dark-eyed Junco - a cute ground feeder - probably around every day. I wish I could stay and home to keep a better eye out.

Robin - yes, I had Robins - in the tree no less. I'd always thought they stayed on the ground.

Brewers Blackbird - I spotted this only today. He was feeding from the debris field below the feeder. Per the guide, he's migrating - as the Toronto area is shown as such.

Starlings - Oh yes - I have Starlings

Well - that's all thus far. It's fund watching the birds flit and hop about - much better that TV. I'll be staying tuned to the birds.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bono didn't know but he knows now

Bono - the Irish rock musician of U2 fame - is now expressing his disappointment with the Prime Minister. According to reports he is:

Mystified - The Star - Nov 25th

"I'm mystified, actually, by the man," the U2 lead singer told a news conference Friday. "I like him very much, personally.


Crushed - The Star again

"The bad news is ... we don't feel any closer to a deal. I'm personally not just disappointed, I'm crushed, actually, because I really believed the Prime Minister would do that," he said. "I felt as a former finance minister he would be able to make the numbers work, it's a surplus economy and the only country in the G-8 that is a surplus economy with this kind of moral conviction."

Disappointed - The Globe and Mail

Well, aside from feeling all that, Mr. Bono should be feeling foolish. I don't mean that he is foolish for proposing that wealthy nations commit more to help the developing world - although personally I'm very skeptical of aid programs run by the state. He was foolish to believe that Mr. Martin would follow through on whatever promises and sweet-talking he used to convince Mr. Bono to become the poster boy for the Liberals over the last few years.

It's interesting that the online discussion attached to the Globe's article is full of commentss roundly denigrating Bono - telling him to butt out of Canadian politics. Funny, I didn't hear them complain when Bono spoke at the Liberal's convention.

Bono may have been foolish to believe Martin - he's in the company of many Canadians in that regard. However, he's smart enough to know that the time is ripe to aim his criticism at the bullseye on the PM's rather flabby derriere.

Thursday, November 17, 2005 - Top court upholds pesticide ban

It seems that perhaps Toronto isn't so poweless after all! The esteemed ( cough sputter!) Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the City's ban on pesticides:

The Star's Coverage

With discussions about a new City of Toronto act having been in the news recently, it makes me wonder what the fuss is all about. The new act is supposed to allow Toronto to do such things as:

- ban pesticides (already done)
- decide when and where to install speed bumps (they seem to have no real problems with this)
- appoint a city auditor general (seems that this office already exists)

The new City of Toronto act will be nothing more that politcal show-boating; and there is absolutely nothing new about that in this City.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

French reporting on French riots reported as slim

Shocking! The French media are downplaying the riots.

Fox report on Paris Riots


The relatively thin coverage by the French media of the riots — one of France’s equivalents to Time Magazine devoted only four pages to the troubles Monday. Time itself devoted six! Compare that to the wall-to-wall (concealed glee) coverage of Katrina, and it makes you wonder. Does France really want to come to terms with all of this?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Paris - where have the smuglefties gone?

The smugleft Canadians and Euros I remember cackling about all the bad things that supposedly happened in New Orleans ensuing from Hurricane Katrina seem to have taken a collective vacation - I don't hear them saying anything about the events in Paris:

Paris is a riot

According to these folks, the aftermath of hurricane Katrina proved that the heavily statist model in countries such as France was superior.

This assertion, of course, flew in the face of events in recent years - such as the heat wave in France a couple of year ago that killed 10 - 15 thousand - that should remind us that Mother Nature will exact its price on us at times. Sometimes we will be prepared, at others she will overwhelm us.

This having been said, only one-thousand or so perished as a result of the hurricane. Americans chipped in and helped the government organizations rescue tens of thousands. Community and religious groups have donated massive amounts in terms of dollars and the time of volunteers. My own university has welcomed over 75 Tulane students.

Despite the liberal-media hype at the time, it appears now that the rescue operation was a success - and that reports of all manner of thuggery at the Superdome and N.O. Convention Centre have turned out to be false.

People pull together in the face of a natural disaster. What is facing the French is more of a man made problem - the long-term disaster of statism/socialism; one that is much more difficult to recover from. Americans have the personal resources and energy to pitch in. The French, so burdened by taxes and deferential to state apparati, may not.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Out-of-towners offer their 2 cents-worth on the ROW

It seems that in transit-related matters - especially where the possibility of establishing a "light-rail system" is concerned, there is a constituency that can't seem to resist poking their noses into places where one could argue that they shouldn't. Most of these seem to be current students in various university city-planning departments.

For example, here is:

Greg D. Morrow two cents-worth

which somehow made it into The Star. Now Mr. Morrow is a PHd student - but he's not from Toronto. He makes a good point to begin:

The recent debate over the future of St. Clair Ave. is a classic case of entrenched positions and a bad planning process leading to an unnecessarily contentious battle.

an assertion that no lucid person would refute. However, as the column evolves, it becomes clear that perhaps Morrow hasn't followed the debate that closely:

...The city is not advocating turning St. Clair into an arterial roadway...

Well - St. Clair is a major arterial roadway as far as The City of Toronto goes. That is why City Council as a whole had to vote of the proposal. Changes to smaller arterial roads - such as Dundas East - are decided at the community council level.

...By reducing the carriageway from six lanes to four and adding trees on either side of the right-of-way, traffic will slow down and the scale of the street will be reduced, which invariably makes for a more pleasant place to shop...

Well - there will be many trees lost to this project. The sidewalk narrowing will mean that many of the older trees will likely be removed - as they sit at the edge of the sidewalk. I would think it likely given the rebuilding (should it proceed) that many other trees will suffer/perish due to root systems being damaged.

And since the streetcars stop at virtually every corner, shopkeepers need not worry about losing business. In fact, retail streets with smaller carriageways and effective transit universally outperform those located on wide streets carrying relatively high-speed car traffic.

I guess it depends what is meant by effective. Queens Quay W (a.ka. Harbourfront) is a retail wasteland. I've been told that the owners of the Queens Quay Terminal have given up on trying to make retail work - and there really wasn't anything else to speak of from a retail perspective. Of course, this street has exactly the type of set up that Morrow is touting. Hey - shopkeepers at QQT don't have to worry about losing business because there wont be any left!

Then there is the example of the Waterloo student from Edmonton who set up a blog to promote a boycott of St. Clair Avenue. I must say that the U of W has fallen in my estimation. What exactly does such a person know about the area, the people, and their hopes and aspirations?

Monday, October 31, 2005

The sidewalk vanishes

On my home from a trip to a client site up in North York, and dinner at my sisters in the St. Clair West area, I came home to the Beaches via Yonge & St. Clair.

My understanding is that the construction on the streetcar right-of-way had already begun at that corner. From what I could see, the alignment will/would cause a severe cutback in the sidewalk. My bank is on the southwest corner of the intersection, so I'm familiar with the area. From a sideways look, the sidewalk was difficult to make out. I circled the block to have another look - again it looked very narrow - hardly appropriate for a major intersection that is the hub of an area that most consider an urban success.

The great urban cities I'm familiar with - Montreal and London - don't short change the pedestrian realm to make way for rail vehicles. In fact, they don't uses surface rail on thoroughfares.

PS - I've subsequently found a link with a picture - scroll to the end of this post:

Link to pictures showing what's left of sidewalk

(Be sure to skip the introductory drivel and whining!)

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Assessment fun

I recently received the provincial assessment of my property value - i.e. the MPAC assessment. I'm one of the lucky ones whose property value has increased more that the city average. I guess I'd be luckier if MPAC had royally messed up and calculated a lower valuation - however, the number they came up with is pretty well spot on.

I'm not sure whether MPAC new I had a new shingle job, new deck/landscaping and a completely renovated bathroom. Like almost everyone else in the Beaches, I've been putting quite a bit of $$$ into the place - really a necessity if you want your neighbours to continue to think well of you.

I'm very happy with the place - and why shouldn't I be. This is a great neighbourhood. It's close to downtown. We have the beach, and more than our share of parks, plus the Leslie St. Spit. The city has spiffed up the library, and upgraded the cycling trail along the Boardwalk. Not only that, the waterfront revitalization effort will see the establishment of a big new park area.

However, there's a fly in the ointment - at least according to my local city councillor - a certain Ms. Sandra Bussin. I just received a long rant from Ms. Bussin complaining that the assessments were unfair. She doesn't like the fact that properties are assessed on their current values. However, she doesn't propose an alternative. Would it be fair to base taxes on value from 5, 10 or 15 years ago?

There's nothing unfair about having one's property increase in value and paying a proportionate increase in taxes. What isn't fair to anyone is the huge leaps in city spending that are causing tax increases for everyone.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Tale of two cities - transit wise

This morning I picked up and read The Star's smaller brother - i.e the Metro, which is distributed free on the subway and at bus stops. On page 5, there are two TTC related articles:

On the left, is Ed Drass' column in transit. This edition's column discusses the 191 route - i.e. the highway 27 "Rocket". Apparently, this is a very crowded route. In addition, the pick-up/drop-off point for this route as Kipling Subway has some serious logistics problems. The TTC is promising to improve the frequency of the route and to rework the setup at Kipling - perhaps next year.

Ed Drass column - Metro - Oct 20 2005

What's the hold-up? Money of course. So where is the money going? It's going to keeping streetcars running - and to projects such as the St. Clair right-of-way currently being litigated. Coincidentally, the right-hand side of the page discusses the latest legal happenning on the St. Clair West front.

It seems that the TTC will spare no expense to fund its ineffecive streetcar system - while eschewing opportunities to grow ridership outside of the city's core. The problems at Kipling with the 191 are not isolated. The waiting area for the Finch W bus from Finch subway is atrocious. The TTC discussed plans to create a slip road so that buses could get out of the terminal more quickly. To my knowledge, nothing has been done.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - City on `cusp' of creative rebirth

Actually, this isn't one of Honderich's guest columns,

Honderich on Toronto's creative rebirth

but rather a report on an address he made touting the importance of 'creativity' to the future of the city's economy. You can tell it isn't a Honderich column because it isn't full of short paragraphs consisting of solitary staccato sentences.

Nonetheless, from the reporting, the typical Honderich type nonsense 'shines' through:

The time has come for Toronto to throw off its shackles of self-doubt...

he says. Well - perhaps Toronto would have less self-doubt were the economic strategy being pursued by its leftist elite (of which Honderich is a charter member) not simply to spend like drunken sailors while hoping for Santa delivers large wads of cash in neat piles beneath the tree each year.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Honderich calls for - guess what - more spending:

In order to fuel it, however, the city needs to enrich its investment in public education and the arts; foster a creative spirit and insure governments are creatively organized; spend more on arts on a per capita basis; establish sustained funding from all levels of government; envisage a civic agency to foster the creative process and draw on other cities' creative successes.

Now what Honderich seems to have overlooked is that the cities where art as purely art has flourished have had other sources of cash to fund the artists. Leaders and patricians in Florence and Venice funded the Michaelangelo's and Da Vinci's using cash from industry and trade.

A better strategy for Toronto is to attempt to reinvigorate itself as the location in Canada in which to locate head offices. [Other growth areas could be medicine and higher education - although these are held-back due to tight state control. ] This will require real belt-tightening at City Hall - perhaps a 3 year wage freeze and a staffing reduction of 5% for starters. The city might also ask its unions to help fund some infrastructure projects. A 5% 'tithing' on TTC wages would give the commission about $400 million for capital projects each decade.

Sunday, October 16, 2005 - Transit ruling a victory for persistence

Go-o-olly, the way some supporters of the streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair W. are talking, you'd think Toronto will plain just come to an end if the project doesn't proceed:

Toronto Star - Oct 15 2005

From the article:

"This is a nightmare," says Gord Perks of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. "The thing that's infuriating about all of this, if you look at the 50 biggest cities in North America, over 40 of them have in the last 10 years either put in exclusive rights-of-way for light rail or plan to. Toronto, which is theoretically the streetcar city, can't seem to do that."

Well, perhaps it's because Torontonians know more about streetcars than people in those other cities. I suspect not many other cities are installing 'streetcars' as non-rapid transit - they are in fact installing light-rail systems.

Of course, two of the most successful transit cities - Montreal and Ottawa - have been successful at building transit use in recent years by deploying busways and rapid-bus services. I guess we should phone up the STM and OCT and warn them that they will be incurring the transit gods wrath for not using light-rail systems!

Thursday, October 13, 2005 - City's next step for St. Clair project on hold

More often than not it seems that I find some surprising news on the political front awaits me when I return from a vacation. In 1991 or so - who can quite remember - I returned to find that the Peterson Liberals had been thrown out of power as Ontario voters had elected Bob Rae's socialist government. What followed was perhaps the darkest half decade in Ontario history. Rae's policies and spending precipitated a collapse of the province's economy.

This week I returned to find the McGuinty government down one Minister of Finance - as Mr. Sorbara has stepped down due to an ongoing RCMP investigation. This was a surprise - although the issue had on low simmer for a while.

In the very next blurb on 680 Radio, I learned that the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way project had been stopped as a result of a court ruling. The project is now in limbo.

The Star - October 13 2005

A three judge panel has blocked the construction of the dedicated right of way (ROW) - however it has not yet published, or given any indication of its reasoning. The appelants - the Save our St. Clair (SOS) community group challenged the project using three arguments. The judges may have agreed with one, two or even all three of these as the basis for the injunction.

Some commentators - for example The Star's Royson James - have blamed the 'setback' on an over-exuberant but well-meaning haste on the part of the ROW proponents. I beg to differ. I blame it on hubris and dishonesty. The entire EA process was a sham. Proponents such as Howard Moscoe never had the slightest intention of listening to community concerns. I sat in the deputations at City Hall. I don't remember even seeing Moscoe. Mayor David Miller drifted in and out - and was clearly not engaged.

I was sure at that time that the issue would be headed to court. People do not like having something rammed down their throats. People expect a fair process, not a rigged one.

The City/TTC position on one of the questions before the court exemplifies the duplicity and dishonesty exhibited by proponents throughout the process. They actually argued that the ROW was not a 'rapid transit project - but simply 'surface transit improvements'! This is despite the fact that the term 'rapid transit' is all over the TTC and planning documents:

TTC memo - Dec 9 2002

The memo in entitled 'STREETCAR RAPID TRANSIT ON ST. CLAIR AVENUE' - and funds for the EA came from the budget for rapid transit studies!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

My head is spinning... trying to keep up with the goings-on at City Hall. Last week Ms. Cosburn and Mr. Carnevale were suspended. On Monday, we learned they were having an affair. Now, this affair never involved sex - hmm - and we are learning about the possiblility of a whole web of wrong doing involving everyone and his brother. We are seeing eveidence of widespread nepotism.

One begins to question not where in City Hall there is corruption - but where there isn't.

I don't wish to slag the average, honest municipal worker - I'm sure most are not corrupt. The fact that is so much corruption and questionable ethics - in my view at least - stems from the overall culture in Toronto municipal politics. The characters we see getting what they can out of the system are taking their cues from the very top.

It's a culture of 'What can I get?' - which pushes aside real concern for the long-term health of the City and its taxpayers/tax base. This is how the budget process works. This is how union negotiations work.

Remember how the ATU almost walked out of contract talks with the TTC when they found out that the TTC was going to spend money on a service improvment study. This is because they wanted to get the money for themselves. They felt (at least they postured) that the TTC had been holding out on them - as if the TTC had no right to spend money on anyhing else!

Remember the St. Clair ROW debate. For many involved on the affirmative side, this was as much a way to get goodies for their neighbourhoods as about transit. This was their turn at the trough - and they weren't going to use it no matter how bad the idea was.

What is worse in the long run is the deep intellectual corruption at City Hall. Mayor Miller and minions continue to increase spending dramatically - yet cry poverty and whine for a 'new deal'. This dishonesty surely doesn't go unnoticed among bureaucrats. The message is clear: get what you can, don't worry about how.

Monday, October 03, 2005 - McGuinty, Miller to meet on new city powers `New deal' talks at critical stage

The Star's Ian Urquhart muses about planned discussions between Mayor Miller and the Premier McGuinty about a 'new deal' for Toronto:

Urquhart column - Oct 3 2005

Urquhart's money seems to be on the allowance of some GTA-wide tax provision to help "poor" old Toronto. [Yep - the Toronto that receives almost $200 million in transfers from the other parts of the GTA, the lion's share of the gas tax allocated to municipalities, supersized business taxes..]

Here's a new deal for you my suburban friends - you get to pay higher taxes to help bail out Toronto - a city that hasn't even tried to stop its runaway spending express train. And guess what, Mayor Miller and his tax and spend loving leftist council will get to raise this tax over and over again. Run for your lives or at least hide your women and children.

Sunday, October 02, 2005 - Garbage hurricane heading for Ontario

Today's editorial in The Toronto Star:

Garbage hurricane heading for Ontario

is quite correct: the Province will very likely need to find a solution to an impending garbage crisis. Toronto and a number of nearby regional municipalities rely on a large dump in Michigan to dispose of solid waste. The cross-border flow of trash is not new. However, until Toronto eschewed a plan to convert the abandoned Adam's open pit mine into a landfill for Toronto and other parts of the GTA, the issue flew under the radar.

So yes, the McGuinty Liberals may well end up having one very messy and hot potato. I don't have a great deal of empathy - as this is a government that decided to score some cheap political points by putting more nails in the Adams Mine plan's coffin.

Isn't it funny how The Star continually propagandizes that the City of Toronto should get the 'keys to the car' - i.e. should be allowed to take on more responsibilities. However, as soon as something at all difficult comes along, they cry for the Province to step in and take care of the mess.

Thursday, September 29, 2005 - Top court: B.C. can sue Big Tobacco

I've never smoked - and would be perfectly happy if the practice could be effectively banned. However, today's ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada is very worrying.

The Star's Report on the ruling

This basically allows a province to pass a law that makes people and companies retroactively liable for something. In the case that something is the sale of tobacco products, this something is a legal product - yes it's still a legal product on whose sales governments rake in $billions.

The arguments is that tobacco sellers knew of the risks caused by smoking - and hid the information. The inference is that governments didn't know. Poppycock! Almost as far back as tobacco has been available in western society people have known. King James I of England's viewed it as:

...a custome loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible stygian [dark and gloomy] smoke of the pit that is bottomless...

In other words, The Crown in the form of the King of England knew of the dangers. This very same Crown - in the form of the Province of BC somehow didn't.

The Crown should either make tobacco illegal - or stop bugging the tobacco companies.

Blink and you'd have missed it

Well - actually, you would have missed it. It was The Toronto Star coverage of a recent analysis that rated Toronto the most difficult place in Canada in which to conduct business. What's this you say? Well, if The Star is your only source of news, then you wouldn't have heard that Canadian Business Magazine rated Toronto 40th out of 40 Canadian cities as a location to start or expand a business. They simply decided not to rport on it.

Now the truth be told, Toronto does offer of advantages that cannot be captured or emasured in such a study. It has the size and diversity of skills, as well as the cultural amenities that can attract head offices. In fact Cadillac-Fairview has just announced that is considering a new office tower in the downtown core.

However, as everything in business, advantages and disavantages are weighed on opposing plates of the balance scale. If we go by the record of the last 15 years or so, the number of business voting with their feet to leave has outpaced those deciding to expand. The net result is that Toronto is the struggling economic heart to a robust overall regional economy. It isn't a healthy situation.

So while Mayor David Miller might well be right that "if your are serious about business, you come to Toronto", for many businesses, Toronto means Mississauga, Markham etc. GE has had its Canadian HQ out in Missisauga for as long as I can remember. IBM and many other technology companies seem to have set up their main shops in Markham. These companies are certainly serious about business.

It's troubling that the likes of The Star and the hard-left wingers running the city wish to minimize, hide, obfusctate etc about the issue. Then again, they do that about everything.

Monday, September 26, 2005

James - Miller's way or the highway

The Star's Royson James brings to light the idealogical cleansing that is going on at City Hall:

It's Miller's way or the highway

Well - this is one his best efforts - but it isn't news. I wrote about as much last November:

Entry from Nov 29 2004

As James writes, the axe is falling on people who are quite talented - but dared to raise dissenting viewpoints.

The real problem at City Hall is not financial corruption - but rather intellectual corruption. That's soon all that will be left.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Apres vous M. Albert!

It is not that otfen that I get out in front of The Toronto Star's editors:

Star Editorial - Sept 19 2005

I'm quite certain that they didn't read my "editorial" from a couple of days ago. Nevertheless, they've made many of the same points. The paper has inadvertently touched on another reason that the TDRC and other do-gooders are resisting a count. If the homeless census indeed helps track where these vagrants have come from, it will very likely reveal that most have strayed in from other places in Canada.

In other words, Toronto and it's policies are magnets attracting the hobo crowd. Heck, why would a vagrant try to live in a railroad boxcar when he can get handouts from the city?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The politics of counting

If you thought hurricane Ophelia moved slowly, you should see Toronto city council's efforts at counting the homeless. As this article in The Star:

Homeless count gains ground - Sept 16 2005

details, many other cities have managed this feat without calling in Hercules. So what's the deal here in Hogtown?

For the most, the foot-dragging is a result of a concerted propaganda campaign by Toronto's homeless industry - and certainly a fair number of councillors who share their views. These folks are experts in smoke-screens and red herrings. There arguments are typically along these lines:

"The count wont be perfect"

Well, no count is perfect. The Census isn't perfect. Accouting is rarely perfect. I'm not perfect. However, the goal is not to measure the precise number of people camped out in the City's open spaces. The goal of counting is to determine whether - over time - the $200 million or so pumped into the homeless industry is actually helping.

"Counting invades the street peoples' privacy"

Come now! Does the Census invade people's privacy? What about this waiting list of people who wish to get into subsidized apartments?

hmm. Some these arguments are thin gruel. So what's the hidden agenda?

Well, many of these do-gooders (especially the 'Toronto Disaster Relief Committee') are busy building their political careers on the backs of the homeless problem. The institution of a periodic count of the homeless threatens them in two ways:

1. If the problem doesn't get better over time - despite the vast $$$ spent - the public will begin to question the program's efficacy. Well, many people already are.

2. If the process of counting reveals that the problem is alleviated over time, then these do-gooders will be out of a job.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Jumping Jack Layton flash, it's a gas gas gas...

but his brain is running on fumes...

The Globe and Mail's editorial on gas prices is one of its better efforts:

That's not gouging at the gas pumps

I certainly don't enjoy paying higher prices for anything - gas prices included - but I can tolerate them. What I can't tolerate are politicians such as Jack Layton who won't take the time to understand how a market works. Per Layton:

"What we see is [gas companies] all acting in parallel," he said. "Whether or not it's collusion, one can draw the conclusion that they're all moving in lock step.

Well Mr. Layton, gas prices are going up because there is a sudden shortfall in refinery capacity, If prices didn't rise, we be all be lined up at the gas stations waiting hours for the next delivery to arrive - sort of like Russians used to line up for everything under the Soviet system. Come to think of it, much like Canadians have to wait for medical services.

This is all beyond Layton. The man is purportedly educated - which shows how much little this can actually mean.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

More TPA fun

The Globe's loyal NDP sycophant - aka John Barber - follows closely and lovingly at the heels of Councillor Chow in bashing the Toronto Port Authority.

The Globe and Mail: Please, Sheila, take a look at our Little Mexico-on-the-Lake?

Watch out Olivia - it's endearing until he mistakes your leg for a fire hydrant.

Anyway, if you read Barber's rant, you will find that he despises the TPA. He complains that it is losing money and has therefore no right to exist. hmmm - what about the TTC and VIA rail? John, are you there?

Barber fails to recommend any alternatives. Perhaps he favours the city taking over the Port. In this case, the operations would still be losing money. The city would be crying 'downloading, dowloading' and be asking Ottawa for a bailout. The last thing Toronto needs is another money-losing transportation operation to mismanage.

Alternatively, the Port could simply be closed. Businesses such as Redpath Sugar would relocate, more jobs would be lost and our already over-burdened roads and rail lines would have to carry the thousands of extra loads of aggregate to feed the construction indsutry.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

TPA fun

For those who haven't been following this "critical" topic, the TPA is the Toronto Port Authority. You have to feel bad for the TPA's management. They have a job to do - a fiduciary/legal responsibility - which is to operate the port as best as they can. And yes, that includes the Island Airport.

It probably isn't part of their job descripition to have to ensure a steady stream of invective from the Mayor and various councillors. The latest example is a complaint from Councillor Olivia Chow that the TPA didn't give adequate warning about the demolition of some derelict buildings. Talk about petty!

I'm not sure why the likes of Miller, Chow continue to excoriate the TPA for simply doing its job. If they want the airport closed, or to take over the running of the whole Authority, they should be dealing with the politicians in Ottawa.

In my opinion, the last thing the City needs is another monet-losing transportation agency to mismanage - they already have the TTC.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Will he or wont he

Hogtown editors and columnists are almost as preoccupied with Mayor Miller's non-visit to the gun-play plaqued areas of Toronto as the headline writers are with the gunplay itself. The Star's Royson James wrote a heart-felt column about why the Mayor should make the journey.

The Globe's John Barber navel-gazed about why criticism of the Mayor from some of his usual antagonists has been muted. Well, perhaps it because it might seem unseemly to remind everyone that Miller and his minions orchestrated the removal of a popular police chief. On the other hand, there is little need to remind everyone of this - or the fact that Miller was caught joking about 'his' police force being in jail.

But let's get back to why the Mayor is hesitant to visit the troubled areas. Here's my theory:

FACT: The Mayor and many of the leftists on council would like to take money from the police budget and use it for the other things they would like to spend money on.

CONJECTURE: The biggest reason for pushing out Fantino and bringing in someone more anonymous is that Fantino had the profile and skills to defend his budget. Miller, Pam McConnell and Co. were hoping that the new chief would acquiesce to some chopping.

PRACTICAL CERTAINTY: The rash of shootings will make it difficult to cut the police budget. In fact, there will be pressure to increase it.

The more Miller can downplay the issue, the better chance he has to take money out of the police budget down the road. He hopes that by the next budget cycle, people will have forgotten the long hot summer.

Visiting the troubled neighbourhoods would only raise the profile of the issue - and that's the very last thing Miller and Co desire.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Left's whipping boy

No kidding, Mayor Miller and cabal have been trying to blame the current spate of shootings in TO on Mike Harris. What a tired, old, baselesss refrain. Of course, I heard some twit on the Metro Morning phone-in line repeating the same nonsense.

It's all too predictable that Mayor Miller and other members of the leftist plague that fouls our otherwise fair city would blame Mike Harris for their own problems. The fact is that in the year 2000, Statistics Canada tells us that Ontario's murder rate had fallen to 1.3 per 100,000 - the lowest since 1963, and far lower than the national average.

We are only seeing a spike in violence in Toronto - not throughout the province. Should we not blame the profligate tax and spend policies of our own city for causing businesses to flee, and subsequently denying many young people the chance at a good job? Would not there be plenty of money for youth programs had not Miller and his cabal agreed to such generous pay hikes to 'buy labour peace'?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

'coon wars

Sorry to have been away so long. I've been out enjoying the sunny summer weather.

In addition, I've been fighting a war against my local supersized nocturnal omnivores - i.e the racoons.

I've finally (fingers crossed here) managed to 'coon-proof my woodpecker feeding station.

1. Nocturnal omnivore deterrent devices (NODDs) on the top of the post and beam (i.e. nails). The most damage/theft was done my the 'coons reaching down from the top.
2. The easy opening clasp has been replaced by one that screws shut.
3. There are additional screws attached the feeder from to the post. Some of the 'coons are supersized - so the extra screws are needed.
4. Picture hanging wire has been woven across the top of the feeder - see just below the cap. If the varmints manage to lift the top off, they will have a tough time scooping out the peanuts. I can still fil the container using a funnel.
5. More picture wire hanges down from the bottom of the feeder - and is tied onto the rather substantial hook (not shown). This prevents the 'coons from lifting and upturning the feeder.

hmm - there are so many racoons in Toronto, it almost makes one think that they are running the place. Who else could have devised the green-bin program - with the 'racoon-proof' latches. Come to think of it, David Miller's face is shaped a little like a racoon's. hmm, and the hair is a little too perfect. Naah - it can't be...

Forified Bird Feeder Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Globe and Mail: Shocking suggestion

A clever letter here to the Globe & Mail:

The Globe and Mail: Shocking suggestion

if I say so myself. Well - actuallly, my mom and dad thought it was great as well.

I guess is hardly surprising that former Hydro executives Bartholemew and Campbell as still trying to foist a Hydro monopoly back on Ontarians; after all they wouldn't wish to admit guilt. They actually have the audacity to complain about 'gross mismanagement' of Ontario's power situation over the past decade!

Column by Rod Anderson, Ron Bartholomew and Tom Campbell - July 20 2005

(Hmmm - former Enron executives get to face jail time, while former Hydro execs are living comfortably on their golden parachutes and pensions.)

What's more amazing is that Rod Anderson a former managing partner in Ernst & Young has signed onto the effort. Given that the column evidences a pre-JK understanding of financial economics, it's hardly any wonder why he is a former managing partner.

Update: Per his website, Mr. Anderson gave up professional life decades ago. He has since been concentrating on composing poetry and music. Rod - my advice is to stick with the poetry and music.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Slight to Miss Universe 'silly', mayor says

Despite his policy follies, Mayor David Miller is a smart enough politician to recognize a public relations disaster - and to attempt to distance himself from it: - Slight to Miss Universe 'silly', mayor says

Now you might believe that preventing Miss Universe from being Miss Universe at a Thai community event in Nathan Phillips Square was simply the fault of an overzealous and/or misguided underling at City Hall. In reality, the tone is set from the top. The unfortunate soul(s) who made the decision no doubt did so based on a reading of the smoke signals from 'on high'.

More disturbing is the implication inherent in Miller's assertion that he would have allowed the appearance had he been asked. It is not the job of the Mayor to sit in judgement of whether something is tasteful, nor is it his job to interpret by-laws - this being the job of the judiciary. [It's his job to run city services effectively and efficiently - apparently he hasn't read the job description.]

...and another thing... a few weeks ago the Miller and some other members of his cabal marched in the Gay Pride parade. This parade included many bikini-clad men. These men have every right to dress and march as thus - but an argument can easily be made that the behaviour is both degrading and stereotypical.

What's degrading to Miss Glebova is that the City doesn't respect her honest, well-intentioned, and public-service spirited decision to participate in pageants.

Monday, July 18, 2005 - LCBO workers threaten strike despite 'no sale’ vow

The LCBO workers know when they have management boxed into a corner, and are too ready to move in for the kill: - LCBO workers threaten strike despite 'no sale’ vow

The provincial Liberals have painted themselves into a corner by being:

1. Desparate for $$$
2. Unwilling to privatize the LCBO (despite commissioning a report that points to doing just that.)
3. Wishing to appear palsy, walsy with the public sector unions

My guess is that Sorbara will cave to the unions before a work stoppage. The cash flow from the LCBO is just too important a cash flow for this profligate government.

I guess it's better to work for a government corporation that sells booze than for one that transmits power. The Hydro-One strike is saving the provincial treasury a pile of dough - that's why there is no pressure to settle it.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The shapes of things to come?

The last few weeks have borne witness to a flurry of activity on the Toronto political scene.

We've seen a report from the Toronto Office Coalition documenting how the City's stratospheric commercial and tax rates are pushing businesses to locate in the suburbs. While the substance of the report is not news, the coverage received - even in The Star - has been surprising.

Highly-related to this has been a proposal drafted by the City Finance dept/committee that would see a gradual transfer of the tax load from the commercial sector and onto home owners. Surprisingly Mayor Miller made a number of grunting sounds indicating that the tax gap between the city and the burbs is a real problem.

Thr trouble is that the proposal will come close to doubling the real tax rate payed by home owners. The press around the proposal claims that it will keep residential tax rates increases below 5% a year for the next 15 years. Well, 5% a year for 15 year doubles the rates. It isn't clear whether the 5% is the rate of increase including inflation - or whether this is above and beyond inflation.

Meanwhile, of course, the City has caved into its unions again. Overall payroll costs will continue to outpace revenie growth. Miller has promised that there will be savings from productivity improvments. I'm not holding my breath!

On the back burner is the work towards a new City of Toronto act. Will the act cure the City of its fiscal lunacy. Again - fat chance.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Barber's urban bias

Readers might be swept away by John Barber's torrent of exuberance over Professor Thomas Courchene's ideas on funding cities.

Globe and Mail - Saturday June 25 2005

However, those who manage to remain on dry ground should question Courchene's basic assumption. Are 'city-regions' really the 'prime centers of growth in new knowledge-based economy', or should we instead be crediting the companies and institutions that often happen to exist in those regions?

A key measure of success in the knowledge-based economy is the number of patents issued. The number of patents issued to universities especially portends of the long-term health of the 'KBE'. Per Courchene's hypothesis, urban areas should predominate in the standings of university patents issued. However, in 2003, five out of the top ten US universities in terms of the number of patents received are in small cities and towns. These are the Universities of Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida, and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The total number of patents granted to these five institutions alone far exceeds that granted to all Canadian universities.

We should be concerned more about our universities than about our cities. Canadian cities score well in quality-of-life measures - and most major urban areas are seeing strong growth. Most Canadian cities are in good financial shape. With one notable exception, our cities seem to be able to handle the always challenging task of balancing their budgets.

Only Toronto appears incapable. Despite strong growth in property values, booming residential construction, large social services transfers from neighbouring municipalities, extra-high business tax rates, regular bailouts from the Province, and now the lion's share of the Ontario gasoline tax - the situation seems to worsen.

Instead of trying to devise different ways of allocating tax dollars, Courchene would serve us better by coming up with a plan to restructure Toronto's costs.

Friday, June 17, 2005 - Ontario pledges millions for ethanol

Oh the idiocy! - Ontario pledges millions for ethanol

Here we have a province that is in grave danger of running out of electric power, yet the province now plans to subsidize the construction of new ethanol plants. You may be wondering why this should raise a red flag. "Surely this is a good source of energy that we can produce locally?" you might naturally ask.

The trouble is for the full production cycle - from growing the corn, to processing the corn into liquid fuel - takes a lot more energy than ends up being available for transportation purposes in the end product. Here are some articles that explain:

Science Article

Health & Energy Article

Here is an excerpt:

Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion into ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make one gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTUS. Thus, 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in it. Every time you make one gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 BTUs.

So, ethanol plants are the last thing Ontario needs. The energy used will be:

1. Motor fuel purchased from outside the Province to run the corn farms and move the corn to the processing plant.
2. Energy to run the processing plant - either:
- Natural gas imported into the Province - This uses up resources that will be in short supply - both gas, and gas pipeline capacity
- Electricity from the overall grid - if there is any left
- Electricity co-generated from refineries, chemical plants - isn't this a source being counted upon to help close those dirty old coal-powered generating stations?

Let's do the math:

The plan is to produce an additional 700 million liters a year.

At 131,000 BTUs a gallon - or about 34,210 BTU / litre - this will require 29,347 billion BTU a year.

This converts to 7,018,281 Megawatt Hours a year

With 8760 hours in a year, this will require the equivalent of an 801 MW power plant!

Surely it is better to let other jurisdictions subsidize the production of ethanol - and buy the stuff as cheaply as possible.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

New streetcar, what new streetcar?

The Save Our St. Clair Group - understandably and predictably - are launching a lawsuit to stop the contruction of a decidicated streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair West. - Group aims to derail new streetcar

I'm not in any way surprised that the environment minister gave the go ahead for the project - without granting the additional environmental assessment requested by the group:

"We believed the ministry's decision was political," said Margaret Smith, spokesperson for SOS.

She got that right. I suspect Minsiter Dombrowski would have rather hidden out in Timbuktu for the rest of her term than incur the wrath of David Miller and his cabal. Now we are headed for court.

There is plenty of evidence that the EA process was a sham. The TTC and the ROW proponents were a private corporation (we wish!) they'd likely already be up before a comsumer priotection tribunal.

The EA propaganda pushed the idea of light-rail - but in reality, there will be between 5 and 20 years of excruciatingly ineffective streetcar "service". An expose in the Globe and Mail few weekends back showed how the TTC had misrepresented the success of the Spadina "LRT". This is called 'bait and switch'.

More bait and switch came in the at the council meeting where the plan was approved. There were resolutions to look at providing more replacement parking - as well as asking Toronto Hydro to bury the electricity lines along St. Clair. Well - guess what, neither is going to happen. No money - surprise, surprise! The streetcars suck up all the money - and there is nothing left for anything else.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Education minister in need of education

Let me get this straight.... - Province suspends funding for 9 boards - From The Toronto Star

... Ontario Education Minister Gerald Kennedy has just pulled money off the table from a nine ongoing negotations with teachers' unions. We can only guess that these are cases where the unions thought they could get more by pressing on with the work to rule.

Says Kennedy however:

“We are definitely moving away from that era of conflict.”

I guess he's right - sure. One side cancels kid's sporting events and refuses to issue proper report cards - and the other side then pulls a pot of money off the table. That isn't conflict, and furthermore freedom is slavery and 2 + 2 =5!

Kennedy obviously believed that his unilateral capitulation and payoff to the teachers - offering a well in excess of recent inflation 10.6% over four years to elementary and secondary teachers - would have bought an "labour peace".

Well - Mr. Kennedy, the teachers' unions are not interested in labour peace. They are in the game to negotiate more money for less work for their members. Conflict and confrontation are the main tools in their arsenal.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The French say 'Non' to EU constitution

The French electorate's rejection - French say 'Non' to EU constitution from The Star
Euro Declines After French Voters Reject EU Constitution from

of the EU's proposed constitution is hardly a surprise. I'll admit that I haven't read the document - nor do I care to do so. Apparently, it is a voluminous document - the PDF file is 1 Megabyte or so. I wonder how many voters actually read and understood the whole thing.

My instinctive reaction would be to reject the proposal based on its size alone. A constitution should be a simple document that the common man can understand. This having been said, the rejection may well be a body blow to the French and continental economies that they are not in any shape to take. The French economy is a frightful state. If I were French, I may well have voted 'Oui' out of fear of the economic repercussions.

However, the French voters who turned thumbs down on the proposal appear to have done so for other reasons. Left wingers seem to have felt that the proposal might lead to a more 'anglo'-type economic model (i.e. a model of reasonable economic growth and opportunities for employment - Quel Horreur!.)

Monday, May 23, 2005 - Grown-up city ready to borrow family car

The latest in The Star's propaganda campaign for a 'New Deal for Cities': - Grown-up city ready to borrow family car

The analogy is a weak one. Let's not forget that the city's power to raise the commerical and industrial mill rate (i.e. property taxes) was taken away for a good reason: the rates were too high. Not only that, they still are.

It's troubling - although not surprising- that The Star is suggesting that the lifting of this restriction be the first 'installment' of the new powers for the city. This is akin to suggesting that a bottle of Jack Daniels be the first gift for a recovering alcoholic.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Spadina Subway extension - a good idea?

It's been a quiet week or so on the Toronto scene. Perhaps the fuss going on in the nation's capital has drowned out local goings on.

Regardless, there are some Toronto issues that are always simmering on in the background - an example being the proposal/plan/wish to extend the Spadina subway line north and west to York University and beyond.

Now, no one who's been stuck up in that corner of the city could argue that it hasn't significant traffic problems. However, the real traffic problem appears to be caused by freight traffic. The area is home to many warehouses. It's close to the airport, the 401, 427, 407 and 409 highways. Conversely, there are few significant residential or commercial office concentrations. Other than the presence of York University itself, the area appears to be a poor fit for a subway.

Rather that buidling a tube to carry people to and from the corner of the city, a batter idea may be to build tubes to carry freight. The type of industries and warehouse facilities in the area would seem ideal for the implementation of a system of automated freight guideways that would run underground.

The benefit of moving freight underground (as opposed to people) is that freight tunnels do not require the same environmental controls as do people-moving subways.

Palleted freight could be moved by automated electric vehicles - programmed to moved from origin to destination. This system would greatly reduce the number of LTL (less than trialerload) movements. This would save siginificant energy and labour expenses. The potential savings for businesses might even mean that the contruction could be privately financed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Spadina chickens come home to roost

The Globe had a rare moment of originality this past weekend - publishing the results of an analysis of how well the TTC's vaunted (by them) Spadina "LRT" line is working.

The Globe and Mail: Rapid transit? Not on Spadina

As it turns out, the line isn't a rapit transit line - just an expensive way to run the TTC's ridiculously ineffective streetcar vehicles. Neither speed nor passenger volumes have increased since the line went into service. The TTC can pretend all it likes that this it's streetcar system is a light-rail system, but even light-rail booster Greg Gormick isn't buying:

We have to decide whether we're doing light rapid transit or streetcars. Both are good concepts, but Spadina is neither fish nor fowl..

Well Greg - the streetcar system isn't all that great.

The TTC's Manager of Service Planning, Mitch Stambler reponds:

"We have emphasized over and over again that on Spadina or St. Clair or any other route where we're looking to establish a right of way, it's not an issue of speed," he says. "Service reliability and regularity matter first and foremost."

I guess Stambler follows the theory that if one is caught with one's pants down, that one is best make up the most outrageous lie you can think of, and hope that people are so dumbfounded they can't respond.

The only problem is that service reliability on the Spadina line is poor. The CLRV vehicle has exceptionally slow loading/unloading - especially when busy. This causes big problems with vehicles bunching up. I've used the Spadina line twice in the last few months - both in peak when vehicle headway should be three or four minutes. Instead, I've waited 10+ minutes in the dank, crampled waiting space at Union - before two vehicles showed up.

Now what would life be like if the TTC really got serious about running proper light-rail vehicles as part of a proper light-rail system?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

NIMBY runs wild

In Toronto, erveryone gets into the act - a veritable NIMBY fest.

Scarborough residents are still trying to stop - or just slow down - a subsidized housing project. This is to be on land that was supposed to be used for the Scarborough Expressway - a project long-ago killed by NIMBYism. - Housing proposal sparks protest

There's about as much chance of stopping this one as there is of stopping a devoutly religious person from attending services. As Don York of a local ratepayers group puts it:

"We cannot let religion or the term `affordable housing' stand in the way of responsible decision-making and accountability."

but that's exactly what will happen. The only reason the left-dominated council would allow hundreds of trees to be chopped down is for their Holy Grail - socialized housing.

Meanwhile, ultra-leftist councillor Pam McConnell is vowing to prevent a festival called Wakestock from being held again next year.

"But I can tell you there is no way this is going back to the Toronto Islands next year. The islands are an environmental treasure of this city. And those islands belong to all Torontonians."

Whines McConnell. I guess she means it belongs to all Torontonians other than those who wish to have a little organized fun one day during the summer. What's next - is she going to ban volleyball tournaments at Ashbridges Bay?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

An agreement in 'principle'?!

The NDP and Fedfibs have agreement in principle - now that's a good one.

The Globe and Mail: Layton, Martin see eye to eye

The NDP's 'principles' seem to be based on the taxing efficient businesses in order to subsidize inefficient ones where their union supporters are employed. This is also know as the principal of political graft.

The Fedfibs 'principle' is 'Sell your mother to get elected - and if that doesn't work sell your father'.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Seems that Mr. Bono does know ...

...much about Canadian politics!

The Globe and Mail: Bono 'annoyed' with Martin's delay on foreign aid hike

Poor Mr. Bono - oh I forgot, he's a mega-rich pop star who doesn't need to worry about paying a mortgage, saving for the kids' tuition and all that mundane stuff - laments:

"I'm bewildered, really. I'm disappointed...I can't believe that Paul Martin would want to hold up history."

all because Canada won't be meeting a 0.7% of GDP target for foreign aid. Bu-hu!

Mr. Bono is wrong on two counts:

1. The prime minister has just made history: his grovelling in front of voters last night was certainly a moment that will go down in history.
2. Canada's Kyoto blood money is foreign aid - as it helps poorer countries burn fossil fuel and develop their economies on our nickel - er rather our billions.

Thursday, April 21, 2005 - Residents feel railroaded

The powers that be in appear ready to foist another train barrier upon Toronto residents - in this case in the form of a proposal that would cut off a number of local streets in the Weston area. - Residents feel railroaded

The railway line that will be used for the planned express train service from Union Station to Pearson. Due to the higher speed and greater ferquency, threelevel crossings (=grade crossings) may need to be eliminated for safety reasons.

One alternative is to fence off the crossings. This is less expensive - but would cut off local streets. The other is to build underpasses - which would cost the big $$$.

If the process for "deciding" the course of action is anything like last years Battle of St. Clair Wesr - the decision has already being made. In that case, the "consultation" (under the guise of an Environmental Assessment) was a complete sham. This article captures how things really worked. As reported in the article, and as I can attest from being at the deputations before council:

As the day wore on many councillors got up and left, missing many of the heartfelt testimonials and well-crafted arguments from the affected community.

Mayor Miller drifted in and out of council chambers during the deputations. He seemed to be working on other matters. He didn't ask any questions of the deputants.

Can Weston residents expect the same type of sham? Time will tell.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Light-rail bait and switch

Monday's National Post (April 19th 2005, P A10) has an interesting piece on the possible replacement of the TTC's streetcar's with a light-rail system. This is full of interesting tidbits I haven't seen elsewhere.

I knew that City Councillor/TTC Commissioner Joe Mihevc has been pushing for the TTC to consider buying light-rail equipment instead of following through on current plans to refurbish the CLRV version of the streetcars. Last fall, I emailed Mihevc inquiring as to whether the planned dedicated streetcar lanes on St. Clair West would be built to be able to run light-rail equipent. The councillor was kind enough to respond - but didn't have answers ready at that time.

Well, now answers are becoming available. It seems that - at least as far as light-rail equipment made by Siemens and now running in Houston TX is concerned - there would be serious difficulties in deploying this equipment on the St. Clair line:

- the grade up the hill from Bathhurst to St. Clair is too steep for the heavier LR vehicles
- the turning loops along and at the end of the routes are too tight
- longer platforms would need to be built to accomodate the service
- new carhouses would be needed to support maintenance work

It is not clear if equipment from other suppliers would have the same problems.

Mihevc puts the pricetag at about $1 billion in total - which is a chunk more capital than the $214 million to refurbish the 196 CLRV streetcar models. What the article does not include is any discussion of the operating costs savings that the TTC could garner with the new equipment.

Light rail service would require fewer vehicles and hence fewer operating hours - hence lower costs. Furthermore, the operating costs per hour of light rail equipment is lower than the streetcar. Let's do a quick calculation:

Streetcar total operating hours (2001): 843,000
Number of hours CLRV (2001): 843,000 * 196/248 = 666,242
Number of hours of LRV replacement: 666,242 * 134/196 = 455,492

Steetcar hourly operating cost (2001): $133/hour
Assumed cost growth since 2001: 10%
Estimated current streetcar hourly cost: $146.30 / hour

Average light-rail operting cost (2001) : $88.50 / hour (Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, SRT)
Ratio vs streetcar: $88.50 / $133.00 = 66.5%
Estimated cost for LRV in current $: $146.30 * 66.5% = $97.35

Estimated current cost of CLRV operations: $146.30 / hr * 666,242 hr = $97.47 million
Estimated total operating cost of LRV replacement for CLRV = $97.35 / hr * 455,492 hrs = $44.34 million

POTENTIAL ANNUAL SAVINGS: $97.47 million - $44.34 million = $53.13 million

Now at a 6% rate of return, $53.13 million a year in savings can finance capital of $885 million - which is actually almost $100 million greater than the $786 million gap between the figures mentioned earlier.

The big unknown is whether the TTC could achieve cost / hour comparable to other light-rail systems. In my view, most of the current streetcar lines would not be suitable to achive the costs. St. Clair W. might be the only current route with a good chance of successful LR operations. The Spadina line's underground terminal loops would seem to me to be too tight for light-rail equipment.

My suggestion would be for the TTC to abandon most of its current streetcar lines. Any new LR equipment would be used on new arterial routes - in locations to be determined. Wellington and Adelaide - as they are one way in opposing directions - could be used as the downtown collector for the LR system.

The annoying part is that the TTC's PR campaign for the St. Clair ROW (a.k.a. the sham environmental assessment) practically promised residents that they would be getting light rail. The promo material was full of pictures of the light-rail vehicles from Houston, Strasbourg and the like. This seems unlikely at this point.

The Globe and Mail: Martin addresses foreign policy needs

The Martin regime's long-awaited policy paper on foreign affairs is out. Since I never have too much trouble getting to sleep, I'm not likely to print this out and read it. Martin's introductory remarks were reported by the Globe:

The Globe and Mail: Martin addresses foreign policy needs

Per Martin:

You cannot engage in the kind of robust foreign policy (I'm hoping for) if all you are going to do is empty moralizing.

It seems to me that this may not be the best thing. There is widely-held view that a business is best to 'stick to the knitting', in other words, to keep doing what it is good at. Since Canada is a world leader in empty moralizing, should we be so hasty to disavow the practice?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Those dirty capitalists?

The City of Toronto is putting more of an effort into reducing significant litter problems.

Toronto Sun Columnist: Sue-Ann Levy - Cleaning up a Hogtown

Of course, we could afford more cleaning were it not for the platinum-plated union contracts we are stuck with.

Isn't it curious that Toronto - with the highest proportion of leftists of various shades - has by far the worst litter problem of Canadian major cities. In contrast, Calgary, with the highest concentration of right-wingers and capitalists, has been ranked the cleanest city in the world. Dirty capitalists eh!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

"Buzzing" with puzzlement

The Financial Post's Monday comment section is often one of the best reads of the week. CAW head honcho Buzz Hargrove is among the regular contributors. Yesterday's FP Comment included a Hargrove column extolling the virtues of working less: shorter hours, longer vacations and all that.

Heck, I'm all in favour of working less. My plan is to work my 40 hours a week or so, earn a good living, save some money and retire early. To me that's preferable to working part-time into my 80's. That's my choice. "Buzz", however, feels that I shouldn't have the choice. His few grey cells have been hard at work dreaming up new ways for the government to make the choice for me. Thanks Buzz, but no thanks.

Buzz writes:

"I've always found these 'longer working time is better' arguments puzzling. Just how is it that workers are better off if they get 20% more pay but work 20% more hours?"

Well - Buzz probably finds the daily task of tying his shoelaces equally puzzling. He needs to be introduced to the concept of a bank account. I'm sure I don't need to explain the concept here. Unlike Hargrove, many CAW and other union members don't have the same fear of getting paid more. They certainly never object to getting more for doing less - but are equally eager to pile on the overtime hours.

I don' t see much hope of Buzz escaping his state of confusion. I'm sure he could not absorb the fact that Europe's curtailed work weeks have done little to cure raging unemployment levels in countries such as Germany and France.

Sunday, April 10, 2005 - Canada 'complicating' Kazemi probe, Iran says

I think that's Iran's 'diplomatic' way of saying 'Buzz off Canada - You soft-power pedalling pib-squeak'. - Canada 'complicating' Kazemi probe, Iran says

The great sucking sound at the TTC

Per reports, the TTC and its largest union are at the bargaining table somewhere in the GTA. The union is claiming that they've been short-changed over the last few years. Union chief Bob Kinnear is obviously holding to the theory that if you are going to lie, you might as well lie big.

The truth is that since 2000, wage and benefit increases above the rate of inflation have consumed every penny of the increased subsidies various governments have made to the TTC. Of the $188 million in cost increase from 2000 to 2004, only $68 million can be accounted for by normal inflation and ridership change. This means that the $120 extra increase has completely consumed the $106.5 million increase in operating subsidies.

Cost control at the TTC - Sort of! Posted by Hello

Based on what Howard Moscoe and minions have already promised the union (and been turned down) the next three or four years will see the union wolf down all of the gas tax money that will be flowing from senior levels of government.

The only train being funded by these subsidies is the union gravy train - which is certainly cannot be considered light-rail. Snarf, gobble, grunt - can you hear the great sucking sound?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Checking in with Europe's Old Guard

In a recent purge of the old magazine stack, I came across an article on the Euro in The Economist. It really hasn't been that long since the Euro officially replaced national currencies in Germany, France and a number of other EU countries. This group has become known as the Euro-zone.

I remember many North American leftists trumpeting the Euro as a harbinger of Europe beginning to replace North America as the world's economic driver. However, as The Economist pointed out in this article (Jan 5 2002 - p 39):

"It's a glittering new currency, no doubt. But behind the glitter there is no glittering economy"

- and quite correctly so. The Euro's keystone economies - those of Germany and France - were not healthy. German unemployment was approaching 4 million. It's budget defecit was close to the Euro-zone's required 3 percent of GDP limit. Quarterly GDP growth was alternating between negative territory and neglibibly positive.

France's economic picture was not nearly as gruesome - but unemployment was at about 9% and rising again.

Since then, look what's happenned - the French and German economies have been duds. The United States has outperformed each by a wide margin:


2001 2.1%
2002 1.2%
2003 0.2%
2004 2.1%


2001 0.8%
2002 0.2%
2003 -0.1%
2004 1.6%

United States: (Department or Commerce)

2001 0.8%
2002 1.9%
2003 3.0%
2004 4.4%

Bear Stearns' economist David Brown stated the problems succintly:

"The German recovery is dead in the water right now and the French recovery looks like it has hit a brick wall as well." (Nov 12 2004)

France, Germany and the US all have budget deficits in the 4% of GDP range - but the US seems to get economic growth as a result. Despite efforts to deossify their economies, the Euro-zone's non-dynamic duo have at best spun their wheels. Perhaps after decades of convincing their citizens that there is a free lunch, it may take a decade or so for the reality to sink in.

Friday, April 08, 2005

It's not about "need", it's about "can"

I'm not sure whether Mayor David Miller is being purposely coy in his reaction to the implending TTC strike: - TTC workers set to walk out Monday

Says Miller:

“We don’t need a strike, a strike isn’t necessary"

Surely he should know that a strike isn't about "need", it's about "can". The ATU have weak and compliant prey in the form of the City and the TTC. They feel that they can get more $$$$ by striking, and they are probably right. Even though the TTC has already offered outrageously generous terms, the ATU don't want to leave any money on the table.

If I were in there shoes - i.e. negotiating will the likes of Moscoe, Miller and minions - with a mealy-mouthed McGuinty at the provincial level unlikely to force a roll-back to a sensible 2% increase - I'd be doing exactly the same thing.

Day of decision in TTC talks

Today is the TTC main union's stated deadline for an 'acceptable' offer. It's impossible to know what will happen. I'm guessing we'll have a strike. The TTC and City have rendered themselves defenseless against the unions by swearing off contracting out. A strike of up to a week is likely, as the union has little to lose. My projection is that the eventual settlement will push up the TTC's cost by a rate of 1.5% a year greater than inflation over the next five years.

As shown by this graph, this has been the pattern over the last four or five years.

With pension top-ups, other benefits and an annual increase of about 2.5%, TTC real costs (i.e. adjusted for inflation) will grow about 8-10% over five years. This will consume most of the gas tax money so graciously provded by the province. Voters in Peel and York can watch millions of their tax dollars fatten TTC employees wallets - while doing nothing to improve transit

Wednesday, April 06, 2005 - New Pearson Airport's first birthday

The new Terminal I at Pearson Airport here in Toronto is perhaps the most overhyped piece of architecture around. - New Pearson Airport's first birthday

I'll admit that it's new, light and pleasant inside - but in no way much of a standout. Many US Airports are just as good. Newark International has very nice light - but it has many more amenities for those on layovers. T-1 is pretty sparse - but perhaps things will improve once construction is completed.

My main beef with T-1 is the horrendously long walk from the terminal parking to the entrance. Not only is the walk long, the layout is confusing - and at $21.75/day the parking is outrageously expensive. For short business trips, parking at the airport is still cheaper than the cab/limo option - but not by much. The parking experience with Air Canada at T-1 is just another reason to take WestJet out of T-2. In T-2, one can park pretty near the crosswalk over to the terminal - and it is far less confusing.

I'd prefer an airport similar to Philadelphia International. It's well organized for the customer - and there are many amenities. A SEPTA commuter train runs every half hour to 30th Street Station and Suburban Station downtown - for $5.50 US. The train line and platform run between the arrival and departures zones.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005 - T.O. set for a power surge

Mayor Miller and his minions are working with the Province to create a new 'City of Toronto' act - a classic example of the inmates running the asylum. - T.O. set for a power surge

None can be certain what will come of this. Speculation is that the City will be allowed to decide more matters on its own - without oversight from provincial mandarins. Today, as an example, the city must have provincial permission before installing speed bumps.

Well - I'm all for removing useless bureaucratic steps. However, it hardly seems that the current act has in any way constrained the City's ability to install speed bumps and speed humps. We must have the highest density of these traffic calming devices anywhere. These humps and bumps have rather perverse effects:

1. The bad/aggressive drivers speed up to get extra elevation going over them
2. Pizza delivery drivers do a high speed swerve to the side of the road so that at least one axle stays on the level. This scares the heck out of pedestrians - and is not to mention very dangerous.
3. Responsible drivers - the ones who were already obeying the speed limits - drive even more slowly.
4. Emergency response is delayed - and who knows what damage these humps are doing to our fire engines.

However, since the province rubber stumps the installation of these humps - it might as well not be involved.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Globe and Mail: Light-rail cars for TTC might be the better way

TTC vice-chair/Toronto City councilor Joe Mihevc discusses the possibility that the TTC may replace its streetcars with a light-rail service.

The Globe and Mail: Light-rail cars for TTC might be the better way

I agree with many of the councilor's remarks about the streetcars. Although these vehicles have fans - many of them ardent - one couldn't purposely invent a less effect mode of public transit. The streetcars are costing $50 million extra a year to operate - not including vehicle replacement/deprecation.

The CLRVs and ALRVs require massive amounts of maintenance, yet break down more than twice as often as buses. They are purported to provide higher capacity than lowly 40 foot bus - but in reality are achieving roughly the same capacity (per service hour) at a much higher cost. If there is any one factor pushing Toronto towards bankruptcy, this is surely it.

Says Mihevc:

"If we really want to bring Toronto into the 21st century, to become a transit city, I can't see us keeping the old ones," he said. "I just can't see it."

The TTC's current plan is to refurbish the streetcars (the small ones) at about $1.2 million a pop. Replacing the streetcars with light rail would require about $300 million extra in total. The light rail service would be less costly to operate - and could move passengers at higher speeds.

My question is why this type of analysis was not carried out before last year's battle over the streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair West. If the TTC decides it can't afford the switch, then St. Clair West will be stuck with an ineffective transit system hogging two lanes of traffic. Buses would be better.

Friday, April 01, 2005 - Loud, troubling ruling on rights

A Ron Laffin from Toronto has hit the nail on the head in his letter to The Star: - Loud, troubling ruling on rights

Writes laffin:

We should all be very concerned with this message from our Supreme Court. But we should also feel a certain measure of empathy for it. After all, as a group of political and social activists posing as judges, it has a tough row to hoe.

The criticism is well-deserved: our esteemed justices have just confirmed that the principal of 'separate by equal' is something Canadians must live with. This allows the state to discriminate between people on the basis of origin: Canadians are divided into arbitrary groups - and have different rights based upon the group each falls into.

Let's not be too hard on the Justices, however. They didn't appoint themselves - for this we can thank a succession of Liberal prime ministers.

Now where is the Liberal government on this issue? This is the government that has raised such a ruckus over the right to same-sex marriages. Over and over again, the Fedfibs have stressed that the impetus behind their legislation to allow same-sex marriage is based on the need to protect equality rights:

Irwin Cotler: "My view is that this is an issue of minority rights and equality rights.'' (CP - Jan 11 2005)
Paul Martin: "I rise today in support of Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act. I rise in support of a Canada in which liberties are safeguarded, rights are protected and the people of this land are treated as equals under the law. " (Feb 16 2005 in The House of Commons)

So far we haven't heard a peep from these gentlemen in regards to the Supreme Court rulings. I'm not holding my breath either. Obviously, some rights are less important to the Fedfibs that others. It seems to all boil down to votes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 - TTC strike called unlikely

Veteran City Council windbag Howard Moscoe is trying to assure us that there will be no TTC strike. Perhaps so, but having personal experience in dealing with Councilllor Moscoe, I'm not reassured. The man is either severely myopic - or holds the truth in low regard. - TTC strike called unlikely

My guess is that there will be a settlement at a little over 2% a year - but the contract will be loaded with expensive goodies on the benefits side.

The TTC should be negotiating improvments in the union's atrocious record on absenteeism and the associated overtime. I'm not hopeful that this issue will be tackled. Like everyone, I'll have to wait and see.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Schiavo case dominates

It's been a quiet week in Toronto politics - I'm guessing that the movers and shakers are all away on break somewhere. Perhaps Council heavy-spenders such as Howard Moscoe are off on a tax-payer funded junket is some sunny location.

The clock is ticking down to a TTC strike as of the end of the month. This will likely mean chaos for Beaches residents and business who will have to endure delays in the reconstruction of the Queen St. E streetcar tracks. TTC unions have rejected a 5-year, 2% increase a year contract offer - apparently they believe they should get raises greater than the rate of inflation. More likely that believe that they can get more.

Regardless, the case of the unfortunate Miss. Schiavo is monopolizing the media space. It's hard to know what to make of this one. Schiavo is obviously not conscious - but is apparently healthy enough other than that. She requires only a feeding tube to be kept alive. Recalling the Latimer case here in Canada, it seemed that Tracey Latimer was in far worse shape. Yet, Tracey's father Robert Latimer was convicted of second degree murder. I'm troubled by the US court's turning a blind eye to death by starvation.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Dean the scream in Hogtown

Howard Dean was apparently up here in Toronto proselytizing (and screaming?) to a gathering of Democratics Abroad. - Spreading the message

Dean is pushing the Dems to adopt a 'keep it simple' approach in crafting its political message. The Dems had a:

"tendency to explain every issue in half an hour of detail"

lamented Dean - in explanating his party's 0 for 3 performance in last November's US elections - failing to gain the White House and taking a harsher drubbing in the House and Senate races.

Well - perhaps American voters are smarter than he thinks. There is a long-established principal in philosophy called Occam's Razor - the crux of which is that a simpler explanation, model, or theory is preferred over the more complex ones. To quote from the above link:

In any given model, Occam's razor helps us to "shave off" those concepts, variables or constructs that are not really needed to explain the phenomenon. By doing that, developing the model will become much easier, and there is less chance of introducing inconsistencies, ambiguities and redundancies.

This principal is infused to all modern mathematics and philosphy. Isaac Newton stated it succintly:

"We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances."

Occam's Razor can be applied to this case. Compare the following:

Theory #1: The Democrtas lost the election due to a combination of a complicated message, dumb and/or lazy voters, rigged voting machines, and other elements of a vast right-wing conspiracy.

Theory #2: The Democrats lost because they had a weak candidate and no persuasive ideas.

Now theory #2 is a lot simpler. Occam's Razor indicates that it is likely the better.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

London's lesson for Toronto

Wow - Globe columnist John Barber actually makes a good point.

Barber Column - March 19 2005

Barber contrasts the way London (the English one) is moving ahead with redeveloping parts of its waterfront. There is no doubt that Toronto could learn from London's action-oriented way of approaching matters. Laments Barber:

"The most obvious example today is the waterfront corporation, which has not only failed to undertake any major initiatives over its half-decade of existence but is now deeply engaged in a classically Canadian "governance review." Rather than actually doing anything, it has backed up into a study of how to do it."

I'd quibble only with the Barber's labelling this issue as 'classically Canadian'. I've concluded that it is 'classically Torontonian' instead. Let's face it, the last builder of any stature in Toronto was R.C. Harris - the man who had the foresight to build the Bloor viaduct "subway ready". Harris had a big city vision of Toronto - just as Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau had for Montreal.

However, with the stoppage of the Spadina Expressway back in the early 1970's, the vision of Toronto as a great center were obscured by the vision of a Toronto the small, Toronto the stagnant. Conversely, Montreal ploughed ahead with the Decarie Expressway.

Decades later we see the difference: those Toronto neighbourhoods Jane Jacobs was so keen to 'protect' by stopping the expressway are now beset by horrific traffic problems. Evening rush hour sees an unending line of cars inching its way up what should be quiet streets such as Davenport Rd. Transit vehicles are forced to creep along in the gridlock. In Montreal, the heavy traffic has been diverted to the Decarie expressway - unburdening streets such as Cote St. Antoine Road from having to carry thousands of cars. It Cote St. Antoine were in Toronto it would be clogged with traffic.

Jacobs and the like have permanently damaged Toronto and harmed the GTA as a whole. Yet Jacobs is revered. In Toronto, the glory goes to those who stop things from happenning. NIMBYism is a blood sport. It's hardly a surprise that nothing happens.