Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Flaherty on Eves' Record?

In yet another article revealing the stupidity of our provncial premiers on the "fiscal imbalance" issue, I found an interesting quote from our federal finance minister, and former Ontario Common Sense Revolutionary...

"We're not about to run the federal government into deficit in order to fund provincial programs. I hope the provinces will recognize that and realize that it's their obligation, generally speaking, to raise their own taxes to pay for their own programs," Mr. Flaherty told Canadian Press on Sunday.

This struck me as interesting, given the Harris-era apologists who try to blame his excessive cuts on Paul Martin's budgets. As I've always said, Mike Harris and his finance minister Ernie Eves had a responsibility to manage this province properly. A campaign promise to slash taxes doesn't trump the real needs of important programs, and a transfer cut from Ottawa is no excuse.

Is there T.O. in John Tory?

Royson James had a column on Monday in which he asks "Where's the T.O. in Tory?"

He criticizes John Tory for not voting for the New City of Toronto Act. As I mentioned earlier, the Toronto Star is so eager to trumpet their acheivements that they insist on equating this relatively minor bill with the New Deal that they were earlier campaigning for. John Tory's valid criticisms of this point are brushed aside in the middle of all this self-congratulation.

Yes, James is right to say that if Tory thought the bill was positive but insufficient he should have voted for it and campaigned for more. And yes, I do wonder what other reasons Tory had for voting against this bill.

But, John Tory is exactly right when he says:

Passing this bill without addressing Toronto's real financial issues represented the easy way out, weak leadership of the highest order.

Okay, maybe not weak leadership "of the highest order", but it is rather lame.

The Globe and Mail reports:

Mr. Tory, as a mayoral candidate and as provincial Opposition Leader, has been a strong booster of a "new deal" for Toronto, including added powers to make its own decisions and a promise to rebalance the fiscal relationship of "who does what" with the province.

Tory understands that what Toronto needs is a reversal of the Harris-era downloading, which inappropriately shifted some responsibilities onto municipalities. Having the power to put in speed bumps without provincial permission is nice, but doesn't represent a "new deal". Even though reversing downloading would be the right thing to do, Dalton McGuinty can't and won't do it because it would be another hit on his budget.

As for whether or not a Premier Tory would be good for Toronto, we'll have to wait and see how his election platform shapes up. It's easy for him to talk now.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hun Raiders Held By Canadian Subs

Over at my original blog, I have the following...

Looking around some old files in the house, my Dad found this article from World War I. I wanted to post it to see if anyone familiar with military records could help us with information on the people mentioned. But as I read it, I realized it is actually a very interesting article with some Canadian naval history pertinent to the west coast, and a general glimpse of life in the navy during that period.

Click here.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


This is a follow-up to my posting last week about climate change. In that post I expressed skepticism that we'll ever really get our act together on that issue, in part because the general public isn't sufficiently motivated, both in Canada and globally.

There's a part of me that feels we should be channelling our efforts into addressing more local and more tangible issues such as smog.

Smog is undoubtedly affecting people in the present tense. It's a serious, visible problem in our major cities. When I travel, I can literally taste the poor air quality on my return to Toronto.

There are steps that governments could take to address this issue, and I wonder if this is the sort of thing us green people should be pushing for?

In some ways this plays into the Conservatives' hands. Their platform has taken on overtones of "Why worry about climate change when we can get results in REAL problems instead?" What I wrote above seems to echo this.

I don't want to support the shirking of our climate change responsibilities. But in the world of realistic outcomes, forcing the Conservatives to get serious results on issues like smog is a lot better than letting them shirk Kyoto and also pay mere lip service to other issues.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Quebec Carbon Tax

An article on the Globe and Mail site says that oil producers are secretly happy about Quebec's carbon tax proposal because they will be able to pass the cost on to consumers and because it will apply equally to both domestic and imported fuel.

Really, I'm surprised that any other option would ever have been considered by anybody.

Meanwhile, Quebec's environment minister says it would be "odious" of the oil sector to pass these costs on to consumers. This is doubly silly. The obvious reason that it is silly has already been talked about by many: of course the companies are going to pass on an added cost of doing business... what else could they do?

But the real reason it is silly is that a carbon tax that doesn't affect prices at the pump is a carbon tax that doesn't change behaviour. Isn't the whole point of a carbon tax that if you tax polluting activities those activities will be reduced?

(The estimated effect is 1.5 cents per litre, which is rather negligible in any case.)

UPDATE: More from Andrew Potter Greenpeace is also confused.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Bizarre Toronto Star Self-Promotion

The Toronto Star likes to see themselves as leaders in promoting better governance for the Greater Toronto Area. They usually do a good job of highlighting real issues and bringing them forward. They then act as cheerleaders that keep the issue in the news until something is actually done.

The problem is that when a mediocre (or worse) reform takes effect, they don't stand up and say "um, this won't really solve the problem". Instead they applaud this result as a great success... for which they deserve much of the credit.

The latest example is in today's paper: Unified roar made New Deal a reality.

Personally, I still refuse to spend my own money on a newspaper that so moronically and so unapologetically campaigned for the "Megacity" amalgamations.

Climate Change Initiatives

Ignatieff has come under fire for briefly mentioning a carbon tax as an approach for addressing climate change. I happen to think that this would be the most efficient, fair and effective way to reduce GHG emissions. But, in some ways, that's beside the point.

Harper, at budget time, came under fire for slashing Canadian Kyoto-related activities. But, I feel the reality is that no Liberal government was going to produce substantially-better results.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require people to make changes and sacrifices, at least in the short-run, and probably the medium-run. This is a big deal, and it will be impossible to make such big changes without a sea change in the public's disposition. No party will do this until the public is truly ready, if it ever is.

Real and significant change would require strong leadership that can transform opinion and -- most likely -- an election focused on this issue. The focus on climate change by some Liberal leadership candidates is admirable. But they are talking to their base, not fighting a general election.

I have not seen An Inconvenient Truth yet. That's the sort of campaigning that is required, but I suspect it just scratches the surface. Climate change may just be a much-too-large collective action problem for humanity to ever solve. I find it difficult to imagine how we (as a species) can avoid burning every fossil fuel just about as quickly as we can get them out of the ground.

Yes, new technology. But what force and what economic rationale makes this new technology come into being? And if it is invented, what prevents people from burning fossil fuels anyway? In the end, the new power sources need to be cheaper than digging and burning, or a penalty needs to be applied (globally) to digging and burning.

Not easy when people can't agree to take this seriously.

The End of an Era

Well, really the era ended several years ago, but this punctuates it. The City of Detroit is planning to tear down Tiger Stadium.

I spent many great hours there during my teen years and into my twenties. The economics of Tiger Stadium might have been poor, but I was able to show up just before game time and buy tickets that are better than what exist in most stadiums today. (I liked section 419.) You were so close to the game in a great natural, historical environment.

When I was a little kid, just beginning to listen to baseball on the radio, I was introduced to icons that would last right up until the time I was moving away from Windsor to Toronto. Ernie Harwell was on the air. Sparky Anderson was the new manager and Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell were just coming up from the minors. 15 years or so later, I realized how lucky I had been as a fan to have that core group there throughout my childhood.

Given that the team has moved on, and that I have moved on, I can see that it might not be such a bad idea to keep the baseball field as the square at the centre of a new development. At least people will still be able to get at it.

Anyway, Google Maps satellite can go to ridiculous zoom levels in Detroit. Check it out.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tory on the New Toronto Act

The province yesterday passed the New City of Toronto Act. It's an idea that began with big thoughts of a "new deal for cities" and ended up with some minor new authorities and taxing powers for Toronto. It's no big deal.

I was surprised, however, when I first read that John Tory's Conservatives voted against the deal. The Liberals have called attention to this in a press release.

It was interesting, then for me to come across this honest account in the Toronto Star:

Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory fears it will actually cause more [problems].

"This is a bill that focused on new powers to tax and new ways to get money from taxpayers," Tory said.

The province should have fixed the city's fiscal problems caused, in part, by downloading instituted by the last Progressive Conservative government, he said.

"I hope the city doesn't use those powers to tax going forward because taxpayers are paying enough," he said.

(Emphasis mine.)

Tory has identified what I also see as the flaw of the New City of Toronto Act. It doesn't address the real problems that created the municipal crisis we've been facing for the past 8 years or so. Honest of him to take partial responsibilty for those problems... but would he really fix it if in power?

Maybe that could be part of the problem

The Globe and Mail has an article today about the arrests of suspects in the Jane Creba shooting. Apparently some neighbours of the accused were upset by the arrests and claim innocence.

Just when I was thinking this article was a complete waste, I came across this interesting section:

This area of Toronto is territory of the Bloods gang, said one woman, who wore a red shirt embroidered with the phrase: "Wanted: If you give tips on guns and gang crime you'll end up missing. Stop snitching or end up at Sunnybrook."

And people wonder why the police have trouble sometimes.

This woman, like the others, thought that her friends were innocent.

World Cup Flags

Here a list of the flags I've seen in Toronto supporting World Cup teams this week, in order of frequency:


13 down, 19 to go.

UPDATE 9:44: Add 2 more, Tunisia and Saudia Arabia (on the same vehicle)

UPDATE 10:24: Croatia just drove by my window. I've now counted 16, which is half the total.

1:30pm: Both Poland and Australia just drove by in a short time period. 18 down with 14 to go.

Thursday 8:40pm: Last night on my way home from work I saw Ecuador and the Czech Republic. Some of the remaining teams are going to be hard to find.

2:50pm: Spain just drove by. 11 to go.

4:17pm: Japan. I may or may not have seen Serbia's new flag yesterday.

Friday 4pm: Yes, saw Serbia's new flag again. Also saw a Persian flag this morning. 8 flags remain. Ivory Coast, Togo, Paraguay, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Costa Rica, United States. Some of those won't be easy, especially since 3 of those countries have been eliminated and 3 others are fairly likely to be.

4:26pm: Surprisingly, a Swiss-flagged van just drove by.

Monday 8:20am: Over the weekend I saw Sweden and the Netherlands. That leaves 5 and I doubt I will see any of them: Ivory Coast, Togo, Paraguay, Costa Rica, USA.

TheStar.com - Flaherty backs `transitway'


The above linked Star article is found via the Spacing Wire.

I'm not sure what it proves more: that no-one is really serious about stopping the spread of urban sprawl, or that half the people at the Toronto Star are brain-dead.

The article is about plans to build new a highway across the GTA, north of the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Because the federal finance minister suggests any such highway should have a transit lane built into it, the Toronto Star tells us this will be "music to the ears of transit boosters".

Clue: the vast majority of the 905 region is so far from the density required for viable transit that it would take years and years of intensification of already-developed lands before many people there could reasonably think of relying on anything other than cars. Another ring of sprawling municipalities even further out will just mean more land covered by development that is only accessible by car.

Building a new highway would crush any pretentions to "smart growth". Maybe people don't care. But please don't bother with a "transitway" for buses to take people from nowhere to nowhere.

Test of hyperlink

This shouldn't work but here goes an attempt to put a link into my emailed blog posts...

<A href=http://www.andrewspicer.com/>Andrew Spicer's Weblog</a>

Coyne on Equalization: Money is the root of all principle


One of the topics that earned a lot of ink while I was away from blogging was equalization.

It was frustrating for me, because it seemed like nothing was being said that hadn't been said before.

Some people, like Ralph Klein, revealed an appalingly poor comprehension of a rather simple system.

And most players in the equalization debate introduced irrational arguments to support a better deal for their province.

In other words, nothing had changed at all.

The column Andrew Coyne posted today explains a bit of this..

And, more interestingly, it explains Stephane Dion's proposal for sorting out equalization. As you would expect from him, it is a perfectly rational, perfectly systematic, and perfectly fair. It cuts through all the usual bullshit.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

TheStar.com - Ignatieff attacked on Afghanistan


I found another article with more details on Ignatieff's Afghanistan argument. As reported on the CBC, the rationale he brought forward for voting for the Afghanistan extension comes down to supporting the troops.

As I see it, the Canadian Armed Forces are a resource of the Canadian nation and the government has a responsibility to apply this resource wisely in our national interest.

"Supporting the troops" is a valid idea, but it applies to moral and material support for the soldiers and their duty, as well as the proper degree of respect. It is entirely independent of whether or not a particular mission should be extended.

In a later interview Ignatieff gives some real reasons for supporting the Afghanistan extension. So, he certainly may have a valid reason himself.

However, to drag out the "support the troops" line is a pathetic attempt at using patriotic vapour in lieu of an actual argument. We don't need that in Canada, and I regret that it's also the style of our sitting Prime Minister.

Reasons for Afghanistan


The above linked article is about a debate in Winnipeg between the 11 Liberal candidates for the party leadership. The extension of Canada's commitment to Afghanistan was a hot topic.

Ignatieff and Brison were the only two in favour. Ignatieff said he voted that way because one of our soldiers died the same day and he had to support our soldiers who were putting their lives on the line.

Brison supported the extension because he was concerned about what would be said in the New York newspapers.

I really hope this is just bad reporting. Otherwise, those are two pathetically lame excuses.

It is possible to have a real debate about the war, and there are valid arguments for either side. These two arguments are shamefully irrelevant and shallow.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Spacing Wire ยป Spacing wins National Magazine Award

Just a test of sending a link from my blackberry to the mobile blog. This probably won't be clickable, but oh well.


Oh and congratulations to Spacing.

Another test

No signature file this time. Right?