Saturday, December 3, 2022

A Brief Programming Note

 Time for a blogging break. Be back soon.



Ontarians Opine


People are probably getting tired of my monomania regarding the depredations of the Doug Ford government, so this will be my last post on the subject for a while. Indeed, after this, I will be taking a brief respite from blogging to recharge my batteries.

In any event, here are some letter-writers expressing strong views about the provincial government we are currently saddled with, especially their plans for urban sprawl, Greenbelt development and hefty gifts to their developer supporters, aiders and abettors.


Doug Ford’s housing bill has ‘nothing’ to guarantee more affordable housing, says report, Nov. 22

On reflection, I have to say Premier Doug Ford seems to have a gift for being able to make money for his friends on the backs of public crises.

In response to the crisis in long-term-care homes and under the guise of improving the system, he found a way to shovel hundreds of millions of dollars to the very private companies who were responsible for the majority of the deaths among the seniors in care.

Now, in response to the housing crisis, he’s found a way to divert billions of dollars to wealthy developers by eliminating development fees. In both cases, those funds come out of our pockets.

At what point will people in this province begin to understand Doug Ford’s priorities?

Robert Osborne, Toronto

 The Greenbelt grab, Nov. 19

In 2018, Premier Doug Ford told his developer friends (and donors) that he would open a “big chunk” of the Greenbelt for development. He tried to walk that back with the public, but in the premier’s own words, “promises made, promises kept.”

The stench around the purchase of Greenbelt lands by Ford’s friends is starting to become overwhelming. These developer buddies also own way too much land along the proposed route of the new and unnecessary Hwy. 413.

Abandoning his plans to build on the Greenbelt would remove some of the odour from our premier. If he is to continue with this folly, at the very least the government should expropriate these lands so Ford’s friends do not obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains.

Ken Caudle, Brampton

The final letter suggests a strategy that is already under discussion in some jurisdictions, In my view, it represents the best weapon against Ford's destructive and mendacious ways.

Taxpayers ‘are going to be hit’ by costs, Nov. 28

“Instead of debating Queen’s Park,” Mississauga Coun. Carolyn Parrish, “wants cities to emulate the union that pressured Ford into repealing the law that stripped education support workers of their right to strike and imposed a contract on them.”

That’s easy. In response to Bill 23, all Ontario municipalities should declare a moratorium on growth. In fact, it’s the only fiscally responsible thing to do, given they will no longer have the money required to finance the required infrastructure. Refusing to line the pockets of Premier Doug Ford’s developer cronies by handing the bill for Development Charge discounts to their citizens is the right thing to do.

And there’s a precedent: the Town of Collingwood used an Interim Control bylaw to pause development in that community because of the lack of “water and wastewater servicing capacity.”

Municipalities need to take a stand for democracy, the environment and sound planning principles. Bring on the moratoria!

 Susan Watson, Guelph, Ont.

 

Friday, December 2, 2022

Please Pardon My Cliche

But there is only one taxpayer, something Ontario municipalities may need to be reminded of.

 

I say this because I am discerning a possible divide-and-conquer ploy at work by the Doug Ford government. As I have posted extensively over the past several days, that government is doing its damndest to enrich developers by obviously leaking information to them as to what lands would be removed from the Greenbelt. 

However, there is much more to their largesse, a largesse that will cost all of us dearly.

That involves the freezing, reduction and removal of the development charges they pay as they build new houses, that money used mainly to fund the infrastructure to service new surveys as well as build truly affordable abodes. This gift to well-connected developers is being justified with the risible lie that the crisis in affordable housing will be thus mitigated by another fiction, that homebuilders will pass on these savings to those purchasing a new home

It is a measure that will require that municipal taxpayers assume those costs. One estimate places those costs at $5.1 billion over nine years.

And this is where we come to the divide-and-conquer strategy. Because public outrage is growing, not over those costs but the noisome stench of corruption emanating from Bill 23, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steven Clark has extended an 'olive branch' to Ontario's capital, Toronto.

On Wednesday, Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark sent a letter to Tory saying the province would commission a third-party audit of Toronto’s finances to help determine the effect of the legislation, and is committed to ensuring the city is “made whole” if “there is any impact” on its “ability to fund housing-related infrastructure and services because of Bill 23.”

While I suspect the 'audit' will find that there is no need for provincial aid, others want to get in on the 'offer'. Mississauga's mayor, Bonnie Crosby, estimates the shortfall to her city at up to $885 million over 10 years with costs to taxpayers of $300 to $600–a year over the next decade, and that, of course, is on top of whatever other things are budgeted for, like libraries, community centres, etc.

Said Crombie,

... cities need to be compensated for the significant losses they’re set to accrue and said she would welcome an audit of Mississauga’s finances to show that the municipality only collects what it needs to function. 

“I would welcome the opportunity to correct the record and run the province through our numbers. We are fiscally responsible in Mississauga,” Crombie told reporters. 

“I would also welcome a similar commitment [that Toronto received] that Mississauga be compensated for any losses from Bill 23. 

Which brings me back to the beginning of the post. There is only one taxpayer, and while provincial funds would reduce the impact on local ratepayers, they would do nothing to address the inherent obscenity of wasting taxpayers' dollars to subsidize wealthy developers. And all of this ado could have been so easily avoided, given the absolutely unnecessary opening up of the Greenbelt.

The government equally insists that the betrayal of its promise not to develop the Greenbelt was forced on it by the province’s housing crisis. But that is contradicted by a report from the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force, an expert government panel that concluded in February that “a shortage of land isn’t the cause of the problem.”

It is further troubling that, according to the government, the Greenbelt carve-outs will produce only 50,000 new homes. The Ford government’s overall goal is to build 1.5 million homes over 10 years; in other words, it can presumably build 1.45 million homes – well within an acceptable margin of error – without rewarding speculation in the Greenbelt. 

Doug Ford has long proclaimed that Ontario is open for business. What he failed to add was that in many instances, the business he is promoting is shady and reeks of corruption and disdain for the citizens of this province.


Thursday, December 1, 2022

J'Accuse


The sad state of Ontario provincial politics should be evident to anyone who reads a newspaper or watches the news. Those who do should also look in the mirror to see if the following applies to them:

Doug Ford has abandoned the people to put politicians first, Cohn, Nov. 19

After reading so much negative publicity about how Premier Doug Ford is trashing our province, I say shame on you to those 57 per cent of voters who were physically able to get out and vote but did not.

You could have made a difference had you done your homework, got involved and realized what damage Ford had done in his first tenure as premier. Perhaps you found the other candidates unappealing, but they may have offered a better choice had you bothered to look into it. Now we have to put up with — and fight — some of Ford’s policies for another four years.

Please educate yourselves about the candidates and get out and vote next time.

Jane White, Scarborough

Let's all try to be better citizens next time around. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Stench That Cannot Be Ignored

 


H/t Moudakis

A Star letter-writer observes that Doug Ford must think Ontarians are stupid. In that I hope he is wrong, At least, as seen in the report that follows this letter, his political opposition is not letting his depredations of the Greenbelt go unchallenged.

Changes to the way Ontarians live are coming thick and fast from Premier Doug Ford.

From rearranging regional and city governments to take away oversight and responsible decision-making, to cutting health care costs at a time of unprecedented demand, to destroying the Greenbelt he seems to have gone mad with power.

Which begs the question: Is there no way to check this man? Has Ontario become an autocracy complete with its own dictator?

Our premier must think Ontarians are stupid as he works to restrict health care wages, safety protocols and access to medicine to try to drive our health care system to the breaking point so he can tout privatization as the only solution. Of course, he will never admit privatization — with a built-in profit factor — will cost more. So he lies about his motivations and goals to make his strategy more acceptable.

Turning to the Greenbelt, prior to the election he was caught discussing plans to open it to development. He then publicly stated he would never do that. Once he was re-elected, he did just that.

It is said people get the government they deserve.

But does Ontario really deserve Doug Ford?

J. Richard Wright, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

Meanwhile, as Richard Benzie reports, Municipal Affairs Minister Richard Clark brazenly tries to deflect attention from the apparent corruption in his government's relationship with well-heeled developers, a corruption the Opposition demand be investigated.

Asked by reporters Monday if “cronyism” was at play, Clark said, “No, it’s a bold action by the government to ensure that we meet our housing target at the end of the day.”

The Tories are facing criticism after revelations party donors stand to benefit from the opening up of 7,400 acres of protected Greenbelt land to housing construction.

 But an investigation by the Toronto Star and the Narwhal found that of the 15 areas where development will soon be allowed, eight included properties purchased since Premier Doug Ford’s election in 2018.

NDP MPP Marit Stiles (Davenport) has asked the auditor general to probe the land deals. She said the Tories are making changes to “benefit powerful landowners” with ties to the governing party.

“Given how suspicious this looks, the least the government can do is be transparent about what has been happening behind closed doors,” said Stiles. “How did the government choose which lands were going to be removed from the Greenbelt?”

Despite his blithe dismissal of accusations of cronyism (I prefer another word: corruption), it is clear something is rotten in the state of Ontario, a fact not missed by Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, who said the Tories are

“absolutely rewarding literally a handful of wealthy land speculators who are going to turn a million into billions.

“This is a huge land play for a handful of people to cash in and the people of Ontario are going to pay the price for it,” said Schreiner, warning of other consequences for agriculture and the food supply.

“People don’t realize that once you start saying protected land can be developed, you can engage in speculation on protected land,” he said.

“So it’s going to make that land unaffordable for farming because farmers are never going to be able to purchase land that is being valued for (potential) development.”

As Rob Ferguson writes, Schreiner has filed a complaint

with the provincial integrity commissioner seeking an investigation into the property deals.

“Over half the parcels of land being opened for development in the Greenbelt were purchased after Premier Ford was elected and some of those parcels of land were purchased as recently as September of this year,” Schreiner said.

“This doesn’t pass the smell test … we need to clear the air.”

Schreiner is right. Ignoring a stench this fetid does no one other than the Ford government and its developer supporters any good.

Ontarians, public morality and justice demand much, much more.


 

 





Tuesday, November 29, 2022

On Being Slyly Subversive

When a democratically elected government becomes dishonest and dictatorial, any legal action to hold it to account is welcome. Ontario, groaning under the yoke of the Ford government, may find this young lady's suggestion useful:

You want stop Doug Ford from “getting it done” and privatizing our healthcare and education and destroying Greenbelts. This young lady has a solution!!! 👇👇👇👇#onpoli #dougford #healthcare #educatorsjobs #Greenbelt

#onted #cupe

H/t 
Bev
@Garnet_2203



Click here for the PC Party Site.

Monday, November 28, 2022

UPDATED: The Smell Of Urban Doom


It is expected that the Ontario government will today pass Bill 23, a.k.a. The Doug Ford Gift To Developers Act. The consequences of that legislation will be far-reaching, so much so that it warrants a united opposition from all who live in cities and enjoy the amenities that urban living offers.

Mississauga City Councillor Carolyn Parrish stops short of calling it panic. But in her 38-year political career, she says she has never seen the kind of stunned apprehension that Ontario’s More Homes Built Faster Act has evoked among municipal officials.

Known as Bill 23, the sweeping act aimed at building 1.5 million more homes in the next decade will freeze and reduce the development fees cities charge developers for the infrastructure to support the residents their buildings will house.

Across the GTA and beyond, politicians and bureaucrats are reeling at the prospect of what the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) estimates will be a $5.1 billion revenue shortfall over nine years, including $400 million in lost funding for community housing.

Civic officials across the region are using words like “unfathomable” and “devastating” to describe the fallout — tax hikes, service cuts and axed capital projects such as roads, sewers and transit.

The largesse that the Ford cabal is serving up to its developer overlords will come at a heavy cost to municipal taxpayers.

Mississauga says the new development rules will mean an $885 million loss in revenue over the next decade. Filling the gap would require a five per cent property tax increase every year for at least 10 years and/or cuts to city services and capital projects, according to city staff.

The government's propaganda would have the simple believe that the bill will result in more houses built in a cheaper and more timely manner. As well, Housing Minister Steve Clark says it will provide incentive for developers 

to build more affordable and purpose-built rentals thanks to new fee exemptions on those projects. It will also help reduce the cost of housing for those looking to buy.

Critics say 

there is nothing in Bill 23 that compels developers to build the kind of affordable rentals and supportive housing that protects against homelessness.

“If municipalities lose this funding they’re put in an impossible position. They will not have enough money to pay for the infrastructure that we need to continue for current and new Ontarians,” said Toronto NDP MPP Jessica Bell, a member of the legislative committee charged with gathering public feedback on the bill.

She said she was struck by the sheer enormity of the housing bill, which is hitting at the same time as the Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has allotted strong mayor powers to Toronto and turned over 7,400 acres of the protected Greenbelt to housing development.

Richmond Hill Mayor David West said his city has also asked the province to pause Bill 23 to allow for consultation.

“The costs to municipalities when growth does not pay for growth will be unfathomable,” said West.

“You either have to do without growth infrastructure, or the infrastructure can’t be paid for any other way but through property taxes,” he said. “That tax base was never designed to pay for this kind of growth.”

Clearly, there is method in the Ford madness. As has been observed, Bill 23 comes at a time when many new city councils have yet to be sworn in, and even those that have been have had no time to digest the full implications of this retrograde bill.

I recall not too long ago that Doug Ford was booed publicly. I suspect that experience will ultimately be dwarfed by the massive outrage that will ensue once the effects of this destructive bill are felt: closed libraries, decaying infrastructure, massive tax hikes: these are not the rantings of prophets of doom. Rather, they are the inevitable outcomes of having elected a government whose primary allegiances are hardly with the people they, in theory, serve.


 


 UPDATE: Bill 23, the More Obscene Profits for Developers Act, has passed.

 

 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Smell Of Protest

Tomorrow marks the day that the Ford Government enacts Bill 23, The Gift To Developers Act. It can also rightfully be designated The Environmental Destruction Act, since it will not only fill the already overloaded bank accounts of Ford's wealthy friends, but also deplete the natural reserves we have to battle the ever-increasing pace of climate change. 

Of course, Conservatives have never been known for their long-range planning capacity.

Nor has this government for the people ever been known for listening to the people. Nonetheless, protests continue, one hopes a cogent reminder that some people have long memories. Here is a clip from one of the protests conducted yesterday:


I suspect the Ford cabal is sadly mistaken that people will return to their usual quiescence once the bill is passed. Too much is at stake environmentally; add to that cost the much higher taxes ratepayers will have to pay since the bill also greatly reduces the fees developers must pay for the infrastructure needed in their sprawling developments. Indeed, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario estimates the bill could leave communities short $5 billion and see taxpayers footing the bill, either in the form of higher property taxes or service cuts.

Like the bully he is, Doug Ford thinks he can imperiously sweep aside opposition by legislative fiat. Yet he is grossly underestimating the popular opposition Bill 23 has provoked. He is also underestimating the power municipalities have in either stopping or greatly slowing down his sprawling vision. As I recently wrote about what some on the newly elected Hamilton city council are contemplating:

Simply deny the budgeting funds needed to pay for the costly infrastructure that new, far-flung development entails. It is difficult to see how the Ford cabal could counteract such a measure, unless the premier invoked another notwithstanding clause threat to overturn local democracy.

May the passions and forces coalescing against Ford's heavy-handed rule ultimately prevail.



Saturday, November 26, 2022

The Smell Of Manure

Unless they have spent their entire lives within the confines of a city, I doubt there are many people unacquainted with the smell of manure. This pungent organic waste, while offensive to many, is instrumental in helping to ensure that the land growing our crops is sufficiently fertile to produce good crop yields.

Unfortunately, there is another kind of manure that exhibits a greater stench, that of corruption and the granting of privileged information to select interests. That stench emanates from Queen's Park and the Doug Ford Conservative government.

I recently posted about the Toronto Star-Narwahl joint investigation into that government's decision to open up parts of the Greenbelt to housing developments, a decision that stands to increase the great wealth of several developers with deep ties to the Ford government. 

And therein lies the stench.

A report by CTV News the other day makes clear that insider knowledge has been shared with select developers, one of them being Green Lane Bathurst GP Inc., of which developer Michael Rice is the director. The following report, in my view, definitively illustrates the more-than-cosy relationship Rice and other developers have with our self-proclaimed 'government for the people'. (The video is of subpar quality, as I had to record, compress and then upload the file from my computer: 

Unless one has a naive disposition, one likely will conclude that the evidence of unethical, even illegal, conduct on the part of the Ford cabal is strong. The NDP is calling for the auditor general to investigate this entire imbroglio. I would suggest the Opposition go one step further and request that the Ontario Provincial Police open an investigation and look for the criminal wrongdoing that is strongly suggested by all of this.






Thursday, November 24, 2022

A Tale Of Two Realities

This is the story of two 'realities'; one is grounded in the ugly facts of a respiratory illness, RSV, in children; the other, essentially an anti-reality, revolves around shortsighted, reactionary hysteria that does nothing to serve the public good.

First, a tale of a medical emergency involving RSV.

When Weronika Drab’s seven-week-old baby — an otherwise healthy boy with a thick head of dark curls — stopped showing interest in breastfeeding and began flaring his nostrils while catching his breath, she knew “something wasn’t right.” What ensued was a harrowing battle against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), waged over seven days in the local hospital’s pediatric unit.

The portrait of those suffering severe symptoms of this illness is graphic and heartbreaking. Doctor Ronik Kanani, head of pediatrics art North York General Hospital, describes some of those symptoms:

Quick, rapid breaths, wheezing and using extra muscles to breathe are signs infants or young children are having a hard time breathing, Kanani says, noting RSV can also cause pneumonia.

“You might see their belly moving up and down to help them breathe. You might see muscles sucking in between their ribs to help them breathe. There’s so much mucus and inflammation in their lungs they need to use these extra muscles to get a breath.”

Weronika Drab's baby had such symptoms, so she rushed little Ayden to emergency. 

 Drab recalls the first night in the emergency department as “one of the most terrifying of my life” as she watched her son’s oxygen levels plummet on a nearby monitor and a crowd of nurses caring for Ayden.

She said she remembers one nurse supporting Ayden’s head, while another suctioned sticky mucus from his throat and upper airways.

“I couldn’t do anything,” she says. “He was crying — I’ve never heard him cry like that before — and you could tell he was scared; he was so scared.” 

Ayden spent seven days in the hospital’s pediatric unit. He received IV fluids to keep him hydrated and oxygen support through special nasal prongs in his nose. Nurses would often suction out the sticky mucus that caused him to cough and choke and struggle to breathe.

The story goes on, but I think the picture is clear - respiratory ailments in youngsters can be life-threatening and nothing to be dismissive about. 

And yet dismissive is one of the milder words one could use to describe a faction of people attending a school board meeting in Ottawa, where mandatory masking in schools was to be discussed. First, a couple of brief videos capture the madness of 'freedom-fighters' in attendance:

And here is another, showing these 'freedom fighters' in their full faux patriotism, a patriotism that would willingly endanger the lives of the vulnerable:


New trustee Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth introduced the motion Tuesday for masks to be required during all activities except for music and other performing arts or sports where they can't be worn, as well as during lunch or snack breaks.

As you can see from the above videos, it did not go well, to the point police had to escort several people out of the building, and the meeting continued only after removing the public and a CBC reporter. 

In response, Kaplan-Myrth posted on Twitter Tuesday night that she's "disgusted that anti-maskers' tactics prevailed."

"They chanted like an angry mob," she continued. "To those who think that your disrespectful conduct is a 'win,' Ottawa children who get sick are your victims."

And what is the rationale for those so adamantly opposed to masking? Of course, the usual suspects were in attendance with their chants of freedom, etc. But there were also parents there who believe their children should not be restricted in any way:

Salma Al-Shehabi, a mother who presented her perspective virtually with her son by her side, requested trustees refrain from implementing mandate masks, citing the importance of children's ability to communicate freely.

She suggested a solution for parents and children concerned about rising respiratory illnesses in the community would be to turn to online learning.

Al-Shehabi said masking "was a personal choice," citing the Ontario Health Ministry's stance. She also noted Moore appeared maskless at an event last week — only days after he "strongly" recommended masks in indoor public settings.

Blake Maguire, a father of four, explained in person how masking has affected his kids. 

"I've noticed anxiety, I noticed depression, my A-student became a C-student," said Maguire, getting emotional. "They're not good for kids right now."

It appears there was at least one rational parent in atendance:

Carolyn Moffatt, a mother of four students, made a virtual presentation in favour of the mask mandate.

Moffatt, who said she was once a midwife with neonatal ICUs and a policy adviser who worked with influenza guidelines, pointed to the current strain on Ontario's children's hospitals due to a surge of respiratory illnesses.

"Do now what you did then. Help our community now," she pleaded with trustees, asking them to repeat their vote to mandate masks in April amid a sixth wave of COVID-19.

So there we have it: a clear and present danger to young children, met with a rabid resistance by misinformed malcontents and misguided parents. 

Oh, Canada indeed.