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.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Toronto Sun Columnist: Sue-Ann Levy - TTC fare hike gives riders the fiscal finger

The Sun's Sue-Ann Levy reports on the latest fiscal outrages - and the latest blather to come out of TTC Chair Howard Moscoe's mouth:

Toronto Sun Columnist: Sue-Ann Levy - TTC fare hike gives riders the fiscal finger

Moscoe and a number of other commissioners will be headed off to Rome in June - just before their terms on the Commission are coming to end. Says Moscoe:

I don't apologize for sending people to get educated

Well - why have they waited until the end of their terms? How are these folks going to apply this new found knowledge if they are only in the job for a couple of weeks following the vacation (er business trip). Skeptics might well believe that the Commissioners will learn more about the Sistine Chapel than helping transit.

The good news is that Moscoe and a number of other folks will be off the TTC. The TTC's performance over the last decade or so has been abysmal - especially after David Gunn gave up trying to work with Moscoe. As this graph:

Comparison of Costs per Passenger

shows, the TTC's costs have risen rapidly, while the most comparable transit system (that in Montreal) has controlled costs. It now costs the TTC about $0.54 to move a passnger than it does the STM.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The subsidized housing conundrum

Carol Goar is the queen of The Star's bleeding hearts. Here she writes on the apparent roadblocks in the way of building more subsidized housing: - A vacancy of political will

Socialists always label it a 'lack of political will' when they don't get the lavish spending programs they want. (Come to think of it - spending programs could never be lavish enough to satisfy them.)

I have a different idea of where this lack of political will resides. As Royson James of The Star explained a few weeks back the City has:

95,000 subsidized housing units
65,000 people of the waiting list
4,000 who moved off the list in 2003

Now consider a few things:

1. Most of the 65,000 are not homeless - they are people who want to live in subsidized housing but currently living in some other accomodation. Hey - who wouldn't want a deal!

2. Based on the 95,000 units and 4,000 turnover in one year, the average social housing tenant resides in the subsidized unit for 23.75 years. I'll bet my bottom $ that many of these could afford to find an normal, private sector apartment. In fact, a number of people in a city housing in my area are regulars at my bagel place. If they can afford to eat breakfats out every morning, they can certainly find an apartment.

Hence the political will that is missing is that which will implement stricter means testing on current and prospective social housing tenants.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Louise Arbour plays Mark Anthony

offers a crown to the Supreme Court in the role of Julius Caesar.

It's a small mercy that Louise Arbour is no longer on the Supreme Court of Canada.

Arbour urges courts to protect rights of poor

Arbour wishes to 'launch a debate' as to whether (or when and how in her way of thinking) the court will surplant the democratically elected government. She states that the 'Charter is full of promise' - meaning it promises to allow the Supreme Court to attain supreme power in lieu of Parliament.

Arbour conveniently forgets the place for debate is in the electoral realm - during campaigns and within Parliament. Canadian continually debate the basic balance over the fine line between providing a social safety net vs. a welfare trap 'hammock' that removes the incentive for people to do something useful with their lives. We debate this in some form in every election and budget - federal, provincial and municipal.

If Arbour is interested in this question, she should run for office - elected office that is.

Since she is so keen on wondering about definitions, she might consider the following:


The act of organising or encouraging efforts to subvert or overthrow the Government. (

In my view, Arbour's statements as reported:

Canadian litigants and Canadian courts, including her ex-colleagues at the Supreme Court, to be less "timid" in tackling head on "claims emerging from the right to be free from want."

demonstrates seditious intention in usurping the role of Parliament. She is encouraging her former colleagues to govern in place of Parliament.

Friday, March 04, 2005 - No heir to Galbraith in sight

I wonder whether Carol Goar has actually read JK Galbraith. hmmm - No heir to Galbraith in sight

It should be in no way surprising that there is no intellectual 'heir' to Prof. Galbraith. When one's ideas are stillborn, one shouldn't expect any progeny. Many Americans still remember the Galbraith-inspired 'war on poverty' - which left generations trapped in that exact state.

Perhaps this is the reason that our cattle still can't cross the border. Look at the damage that one imported Canadian mammal can do to a country!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Ignorant Rant of the Month - Warren Kinsella on BMD

Wow - only a few days into this 'in like a lion' March, and we have a hands-down winner for Ignorant Rant of the Month.

Warren Kinsella's column in the National Post

The Post used to run a column by Linda McQuaig. You could never get through more than a third of one of a Linda's columns without encountering an obvious syllogism. While logic was (and is) not one of Ms. McQuaig's strong suits - she at least keeps up with the news.

Not so Warren Kinsella.

Kinsella's sneering, rambling column attempts to single out the National Post for having dumped on Prime Minister Paul Martin's decision to withhold Canada's participation in the US Ballistic Missile Defence system. Asserts Kinsella:

BMD has no champion in Canada -- apart from the National Post, that is.

I'd expect Kinsella - as a self-acclaimed expert - to at least read the editorials in the country's larger newpapers. He must have missed the editorials in The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Sun, and The Toronto Star - all of which disagreed with Martin's decision.

He claims:

BMD pits us against the world.

Perhaps Japan, Australia are part of a different world? These nations are working with the US on the Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) component of BMD. A number of countries (Britain, Italy, Germany) in Europe have been developing anti-missile capabilities.

And finally:

BMD doesn't work.

Warren just isn't keeping up with the news! This was on most of the major media outlets:

CBS News - U.S. shoots down missile in test near Hawaii

which documents the high success rate of the BMD tests conducted so far.

It's understandable - and forgivable - for the average Canadian not be so up-to-date on these matters. However, self-acclaimed experts such as Kinsella should be able to keep up. This man is ignorant.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Gomery, Chretien and Martin

The Gomery inquiry into the Chretien-regime sponsorship boondoggle has now switched venue to Montreal. We'll now be subjected to investigations into the minutiae of where the money went. Frankly, much of this is irrelevant. The earlier testimony from Messrs. Chretien and Martin has already revealed what went wrong.

Let's take the R.H. Jean Chretien first. His defence was that he was not a micromanager - and he'd instructed his underlings to make sure they followed all proper procedures. Well this simply doesn't cut it.

If a CEO of a private corporation put up the same type of explanation with regards to an important project that had gone awry - he'd be quickly carted away. In business, a competent CEO will always want to be kept up-to-date on the status of critcal projects - including where the money is being spent. The sponsorhsip program WAS important. It wasn't a project to build a bridge in Lethbridge. Jean Chretien was not a competent CEO.

Now onto Paul Martin. His defence was that he was only the Finance Minister - and that his responsibilities ended with the production of a budget. Now is the business world, the responsilbilities of the CFO (or other top financial officers) only begin with budget! A large part of the job of a CFO/Controller is to design and implement control strategies, mechanisms, procedures etc. to ensure that the budgeted money goes towards fulfilling the purposes defined in the budget.

The fact that the spornsorship program was being "managed" outside of normal "channels" should have been a red flag to both these gentlemen. The fact that they failed is indicative of garden variety imcompetence.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Toronto's "budget" passes

Toronto City Council has passed the operating budget for fiscal year 2005. Personally, I don't call this a budget. A budget means prioritizing requirements - and cutting back on or even eliminating items that are not important. This is not a budget.

The city operating budget is also supposed to be balanced. In my mind, this does not mean selling capital assets and depleting reserves. Toronto council has done just that.

Toronto claims poverty and whines that there was no choice. Hard numbers put a lie to this. Sandra Pupatello - the Ontario minister in charge of social services sent and open letter to David Miller asking why Toronto's administrative costs in the Social Services department had risen so steeply since 2001 - despite a reduction in the caseload. Miller has apparently responded that this was due to provincial regulations.

It seems then that Hamilton - as an example - must be in a different province:

Admistrative costs per social services caseload:

Hamilton: $685 / case

(Per 2005 budget presentation - see page 4 of

Toronto: $2,439 / case

($153 million in 2004 for an average monthly caseload of about 62,700 - see this report from the Globe & Mail: )

Toronto's social services staff is only slightly lower that in 1998 - when the average caseload exceeded 90,000 each month. It just seems that City of Toronto is so whipped by its unions that it can't let any staff go.