Friday, February 25, 2005 - PM fires back in missile row

Oh the sillyness... - PM fires back in missile row

I'd prefer that the US NOT consult us first. We are likely to be better protected by not being reliant on the dithering politicians to make decisions.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Globe and Mail: Martin's missile fumble

For once the Globe has hit the nail on the head...

The Globe and Mail: Martin's missile fumble

I'd expect the P.M. will get used to the on-hold musak on the White House phone system.

P.M. Hi, this is Pau..
Operator: Hold please
la di da... time passes
Operator: How may I be of assistance?
P.M.: Well - er..
Operator: Hold - we've heard a rumour that a tree fell in the forest (somewhere), Must run - please try again later.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

In Niagara Vino

With the snow beginning to swirl down - just in time to make trouble for the Monday morning trip to work - it might be a good moment to cast one's mind away from this mobility-impaired metropolis and towards the ever-improving wine-belt down in the Niagara Peninsula.

Like many, you may be asking why I am brining up a warm weather subject on a frosty February evening. Well, although grapes do only grow and ripen during the warmer weather, many or even most wineries are open for tours and/or tastings throughout the year. In fact, new wines are brought out when the winemaker judges each to be in a state of readiness. (What might be ready for the winemaker is not always ready for you or I as wine consumers.)

So - without further ado - here are my humble recommendations:

Angel's Gate Winery - Beamsville

This is a relatively new winery. The product-line is not as large as some - but the quality is high. Top picks include:

Old Vine Chardonnay 2003 - Nicely-balanced, oaked Chardonnay
Pinot Noir 2002 - Good now - better in 1 year
Merlot "Sigle Vineyard: 2002 - A lush, rich, dense Merlot with a fine chalky tannins

Daniel Lenko Estate - Beamsville

The Lenko's used to supply grapes to more established wineries in the area. Roughly four years ago, Daniel decided to begin making and selling his own wine. Lenko has eschewed building a fancy tasting room. The venue for tasting and sales is the family kitchen. This has not impeded success. In fact, tasting hours have had to be curtailed. When last I checked, hours are 12 - 5 on weekends (reopened at the beginning of this month.)

Top picks:

Unoaked Chardonnay - i.e. fermented, aged in stainless steel tanks - crisp, flavourful
"French Oak" Chardonnay - i.e. fermented in French oak barrels - consistenly one of the top whites from the Peninsula, and one of my favourite white wines from anywhere in the world.
Viognier - The 2002 won many kudos - includes a Gold medal or two. I liked the 2003 better.
Cabernet Franc - As of lasy weekend, Lenko has the 2002 and 2003 on sale. The 2002 is a wine for cellaring - while the 2003 is ready to drink. If you enjoy Cab Franc as I do - both are winners.

Mountain Road Wine Company - Beamsville

MRWC opened to the public only in the last two years. Quite newly released are the following:

Cabernet Franc Reserve 2001
Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2001

both of which are rich, balanced, and just plain delicious red wines. When I picked these off the shelf to take to the cash, my eyes almost popped out when I saw the alcohol by volume 15.5%!

Well - I haven't even left Beamsville yet - so perhaps I'll discuss some of the other wineries in that area in a futire post.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Call the Doctor...

The Fiberals may have caught a case of common sense... - Province gives Toronto another $45M

McGuinty and crew will no doubt be skewered by tomorrow's Toronto Star editorial for "short changing" the city. However, it's actually good news for the city. The sooner the spendthrifts at City Hall are forced to take the smallest step towards fiscal sanity the better. Past overindulgences from higher levels of government only have resulted in the city padding its already bloated cost structure - which just means more pain when the day of reckoning arrives.

Of course, for appearances sake, Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen repeated the zombie-like refrain about Toronto being the economic driver of Ontario. The fact is that Toronto has been hemmoraging jobs to the 905 belt for decades. The 905 belt IS the economic engine of the province - whereas the City has become a rather ungainly caboose. The Liberals are to be commended for rejecting the City's request to raise business taxes - a move that would have accelerated business flight to the 'burbs.

The Star's censors must have missed cutting out part of the story:

Earlier today, before the funding announcement was made public, the province released figures showing Toronto's administrative costs for welfare had increased 42 per cent since 2001, even though the city's welfare case load decreased slightly during that same time.

"These increased costs seem disproportionately high, and inconsistent with what is happening in other communities across Ontario," wrote Community and Social Services Minister Sandra Pupatello in an open letter to Miller.

which shows that the McGuinty cabinet has begun to form the same common-sense conclusions about the way Toronto is run as its predecessors.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Kyoto meets reality

The Star's Royson James may be only reporter in Toronto with the patience to keep up with the cash flows between different levels of government. A case in point in his column today: - Premier may take hit on TTC hike

shows that while the Province is pumping more and more $$$ into the City - supposedly for the TTC - the City is actually using the money for other purposes.

Now part of the rationale for:

1. The disproportionate excise tax on gasoline
2. The disproportionate share of the tax that is provided the Toronto vs. other municipalties

is to help give transit a boost over the ever-hated car.

Instead, the City has decided that it is more important to keep filling the trough feeding its never-satiated unions, rather than to boost transit use. (Personally, I think the money should be used to help reduce commercial property taxes.)

It's seems to me that Canadian are serious about reducing CO2 emmissions - as long as someone else feels the pain. If the ultra-left Toronto city council places more importance on maintaining its unions' gold-plated contracts, what are the rest of us to do?

The misappropriation of the gas tax in Toronto is not the only example where we Canadians are showing our true colours:

a. city council has recently turned down a number of property developments than would have leveraged existing public transit infrastructure.
b. it took but a few months for the Martin government to agree to allow Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to keep their oil and gas revenue - a much faster turnaround than the still-awaited Kyoto plan.

Kyoto seems fine as long as it doesn't mean:

- higher taxes/higher prices
- higher density/bigger buildings in one's neighbourhood
- cutbacks in pay/employment

Is the picture getting clearer?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Globe and Mail: Fare rise will hurt the poor, TTC official acknowledges

More about the TTC fare hike.

The Globe and Mail: Fare rise will hurt the poor, TTC official acknowledges

It's interesting that GO transit raises fares each year - yet this never results in the level of acrimony seen in response to such moves by the TTC. It's also escaped most commentators attention that GO Transit's ridership has climbed every year. So what is going on here?

Well, the TTC's P.R. problem in raising fares is very much a case of being hoisted by one's own petard. The politicos at and around the TTC have waged a years-long P.R. campaign blaming the Harris government and the subsidy cuts for a drop in ridership. They've persisted in this claim despite the fact that the TTC experienced the bulk of its ridership decline in the early 90's - during the NDP regime under the bright but severely misguided Bob Rae.

This period saw employment in the city fall precipitously. As is true for all transit systems, the majority of the TTC's riders use it to travel between work and home. In Toronto in the early 1990's there were fewer and fewer of these each year. The decline in ridership revenue forced the TTC to raise fares on the remaining riders.

Now increased fares do cost ridership - but the impact is marginal, and in my view temporary. The fact is that those who can rely on full-service transit systems such as the TTC save thousands of dollars a year when compared to the cost of owning and operating a car. People do not run and and buy cars because fares have risen by a dime or a quarter. Some may choose to walk or bike instead.

It's heartening to hear hear Councillor Joe Mihevc touting the great value the TTC provides - a welcome respite from the nonsense spewing forth from the likes of Gordon Perks. The TTC should follow through on its plan to improve bus service. It is well behind Montreal and Ottawa in establishing express bus services.

There have been too many years spent chasing subway dreams. It's too bad that so much of the available money is spent on useless streetcar projects. Without these, we'd be a lot further along.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Pitty poor Mr. Perks

It's only Thursday, but already the award for whining hypocrite of the week can be awarded - to Gordon Perks of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

Toronto Sun: NEWS - TTC fare hikes set to roll

Perks is complaining about the TTC decision to raise some of its fares. The adult cash fare will rise from $2.25 to $2.50, while the price of a token or ticket will rise 10 cents to $2.00. The price for a Metropass is not going up.

Per Perks, his family are heavy users of the TTC. Per his statements as reported in The Sun, his family currently pays $4,300 in TTC fares a year - a figure he claims will rise will rise by $300 - $400 with the impending fare increases.

Perhaps Mr. Perks should acquaint his family with tickets and tokens - which are hardly going up that much - the math simply doesn't work. Indeed, if his family members are such regulars on the TTC, they would certainly be better off getting Metropasses - or better yet, using the Metropass discount plan. The price for the Metropass isn't going up at all.

Then again, Mr. Perks is obviously not that good with math. He and his TEA lobby pushed hard to get the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way approved. At $65 million to reduce the average riders trip time by one minute, the math doesn't work on that either.

Without the St. Clair project, the TTC could easliy have avoided this year fare increase. Mr. Perks is reaping what he helped sew. Let's not shed a solitary tear.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


My neighbourhood is seeing many undersized homes either demolished completely, or upgraded through the addition of a second story. In all of the examples I've seen, the projects result in vast improvements to the housing stock - and hence the appeal of the neighbourhood.

A case in point is a small, ugly bungalow on Elmer Avenue. Construction has now started on the addition of a second floor, the addition of bay windows. I'm hoping that the riotously ugly brick (the colour of month old phlegm) will be covered up as well.

This week, the wood for the project arrived. As of this moring, something curious has been erected on the front yard. This is a wooden fence - signposted by the city denoting that it is to protect the trees. The trouble is that there are no trees on the front of the property. I know, I walked past thousands of times. Futhermore, one can peek though the fence to verify that there is no tree. There isn't even a bush of any size!

I wonder how much it cost the city to come and install the fence!?

Friday, February 04, 2005

Miller, Moscoe play hookie

In case you missed it, Mayor David Miller and TTC Chairman Howard Moscoe skipped out on a critical TTC budget meeting. - TTC fare hike `likely,' Miller says

Apparenty, this dynamic duo were at another begging meeting - i.e. where they beg for more money from the upper levels of government. Commissioners David Shiner and Bas Balkissoon then bolted from the meeting - thus denying quorum. This means that the TTC budget will be set by council, by default.

In the larger scheme, although this type of behaviour is unprofessional at best, and childish at worst, it is actuallty a traffic-ticket misdemeanour compared with the other budgeting and control faux-pas committed by the TTC and Council over the years. These include:

- failing to contribute to reserves as the asset-base (subway cars etc) depreciated.
- continuing to operate streetcars - thus draining the financial capacity to fund expansion of frequent service bus routes to the more suburban areas of the city
- allowing operating expenses to grow more rapidly that inflation
- ramming through the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way without assessing the full life cycle costs