Saturday, January 31, 2004

Speller grilled on beef gouging
By CHRIS MORRIS

FREDERICTON (CP) - Federal Agriculture Minister Bob Speller ran into some serious beefs Thursday from New Brunswick farmers who claim the mad cow crisis is causing marketplace gouging.

Speller took questions following a speech to agricultural producers meeting in Fredericton and was asked what he intends to do about the high prices consumers still have to pay while farmers get next to nothing for their beef.

Bethany Dykstra, a farmer from Salisbury, N.B., told the minister she's selling her beef for 83 per cent less than she did before the mad cow crisis.

"I don't see 83 per cent reductions on the shelves in the grocery store," Dykstra said. "So someone is making money and it's not the primary producer.

"Explain to me who is between the consumer and me."

Dykstra answered her own question, saying it's the retailers and processors who are reaping the gravy from the huge price differential on beef.

She said she can't understand why the federal and provincial governments are simply standing by, allowing the gouging to go ahead unimpeded.

"I'm being exploited," Dykstra said, adding she just sold 500 pounds of beef for $92. "Government should step in when they know this is happening."

Speller said he's not convinced there is a problem, but added that pricing issues have to be carefully examined.

"We need to know exactly what is happening on the ground," he said. "Sometimes there are perceptions and I want to make sure I know before I make any decisions in that area exactly what the facts are."

The minister said he has asked his officials to look into gouging questions.

"We need to find out whether or not these sorts of issues are real out there or whether or not they're just being perceived," Speller said.

Dykstra said her farm will lose $100,000 in income this year as a result of the price reduction on beef. Until something is done, she said she'll send her culled cows to the food bank, rather than to a processor.

Mad cow disease, known formally as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, is a threat because humans can develop a similar brain-wasting illness, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, from eating contaminated beef products.

The crisis arose when a mad cow was discovered in Canada last year and borders closed to Canadian beef. As well, an Alberta-born Holstein with BSE was identified last month in Washington state, leading dozens of countries to ban U.S. beef.

Canadian officials have said they plan to increase the number of cattle tested annually from 5,500 to about 30,000 over the next five years, and that there is no need to test every single animal.

But Japan, which tests all animals bound for human consumption, wants Canada and the United States to adopt similar safeguards before resuming beef imports from North America.

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Business centre should get own house in order

Regarding the article, Business centre in money bind (Jan. 27).

The irony of it all -- and it's the same story every year. How can this money-sucking, government-sponsored sinkhole possibly "help" new small businesses and "advise" existing ones when it can't even keep its own business house in order without begging for taxpayer subsidies?

It's laughable, especially because it considers itself "a bargain." It should practise what it preaches and put together a business plan for itself to make it self-sustaining, just like any other business in the private sector would do before it can claim even a shred of credibility.

They want only $180,000 -- this year, eh? Begone I say, and do taxpayers a favour for a change.

R. J. W. Smink

St. Marys

Letter to the editor, January 31st edition, London Free Press

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No reason for payouts to be surprise to board

Regarding the article, Board faces $10.4 million in payouts (Jan. 29), about the Thames Valley District school board facing millions in unpaid sick-day payouts. The reaction from the board would suggest this liability was a huge, unavoidable surprise.

The most recent financial statements of the TVDSB show the board was fully aware the liability existed but chose not to actuarially determine the value (fiscal 2001-02 financial statements).

In non-accounting terms, the board chose to stick their collective heads in the sand, while hoping the problem would disappear. It is the TVDSB that negotiated the salaries and benefits for these overpaid teachers. This problem was created by the board and it's about time it took responsibility for its actions.

Rick Campbell

London

Letter to the editor, January 31st edition, London Free Press

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New financial service offers farmers advice

Free Press staff 2004-01-31 04:07:39

Money advice for farmers is now available through a single service that will offer financial information, advice and trouble-shooting. Federal Agriculture Minister Bob Speller and provincial Agriculture Minister Steve Peters announced the opening yesterday of the Canadian Farm Business Advisory Services.

It's a national service that includes consultation and business assessments for farmers and takes the place of some other programs that provided financial advice.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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407 owners, Grits dispute tolls increase

The province pledges a rollback even though they are set to go up.
CP 2004-01-31 04:07:45

TORONTO -- Ontario's Liberal government is promising to roll back tolls on Highway 407 even though rates are scheduled to increase tomorrow. "That idea isn't dead yet," Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar said yesterday. "Everything is hard to do, but we are determined to do it."

The private company that operates the highway, 407 ETR, tried yesterday to appease the Liberals by offering to discount the fee hike for up to 60 days if the government agrees to bypass the first two stages of dispute resolution in their contract and go direct to mediation.

"Let's skip the meetings," said 407 ETR spokesperson Dale Albers. "Let's both come to the table with an independent third party within this reasonable time period of 60 days and have it resolved."

Under the company's offer, it would still raise tolls by one cent a kilometre at midnight tonight, but drivers would receive "discounted" rates while the two sides sort out their differences.

But Takhar rejected the offer, saying accepting it would undermine the public interest.

"If 407 ETR is serious about demonstrating good faith, then we call upon them to freeze tolls immediately and without conditions," he said.

Takhar said the offer shows 407 ETR is worried about its position.

"For all their bluster about an ironclad case, the company is clearly running scared," he said.

The Liberals believe the contract signed by the former Conservative government just before the 1999 Ontario election calls for provincial approval of any rate hikes on the highway, which runs across the north end of Toronto parallel to Highway 401.

"We feel we have a very strong case," Takhar said.

"It's not rhetoric. They are aware that this position has never been taken by this province before."

The government had asked 407 ETR to hold off while the two sides go to a dispute resolution process called for in their contract.

"What we are asking them right now is to follow the terms of the contract and follow the process under which they can increase tolls," Takhar said. "And if they don't follow the terms of the contract, then it will mean they are in default."

The minister also wouldn't say how much the province is prepared to spend in legal bills fighting 407 ETR, but admitted the dispute could end up in court if the company is found to be in default.

"If it gets ordered out at the first stage (of the resolution process) there will be a very minimal cost. But we are absolutely determined to protect the drivers."

In 1999, the Tories said the contract to privatize the 407 called for toll hikes that reflected the rate of inflation, but the company maintains it can raise rates as long as traffic keeps increasing.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Air clampdown coming

Anne McLellan meets top officials in the U.S. and vows to beef up airline passenger screening and security.
BETH GORHAM, CP 2004-01-31 04:08:09
WASHINGTON -- Canada will be able to collect information about airline passengers on domestic and outgoing flights to identify security risks after the Public Security Act is passed, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan said yesterday. Right now, officials only screen arriving air travellers.

"It's very important for us to get C-17, which provides us with the legal authority to go further," McLellan said after meetings with U.S. officials.

"We're going to look at the whole area of aviation security . . . and the kinds of information we think can be usefully collected."

Similar plans for U.S. domestic flights have caused an uproar. Civil liberties groups and airlines are worried about the personal information that will be used to colour-code each passenger's perceived threat level and whether race will play a part.

It appears Canada is prepared to follow the same general aviation security procedures as the United States. McLellan did not say how passengers inside Canada would be rated.

Canada's passenger-monitoring program will spread to include people arriving by train, bus and boat.

U.S. and Canadian officials have yet to reach agreement on sharing information about passengers travelling between the two countries, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said after meeting with McLellan.

Said McLellan: "Clearly we want to work with our American counterparts. We want to understand the details of and the timing of that program as it rolls out."

Beyond aviation, the next step in U.S.-Canada security co-ordination is protecting the Great Lakes and thousands of waterways linking the two countries, Ridge said.

McLellan also met yesterday with U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Bentley in full stride

Ontario's affable labour minister admits he has a huge learning curve ahead of him.
CHIP MARTIN, Free Press Politics Reporter 2004-01-31 04:08:21


It was vintage Chris Bentley, chronic nice guy. The freshly elected Liberal MPP for London West was asked by a colleague expecting a cabinet post in the new government of Dalton McGuinty a few months back if Bentley would give up his two family passes for the following day's swearing-in of cabinet.

Sure, said Bentley, still excited about his election win, never imagining he'd want his family present for a cabinet ceremony.

Hours later, McGuinty was on the phone. He wanted Bentley as his labour minister, a move that shocked the Londoner.

Bentley couldn't wait to share the news with his wife,Wendy Harris Bentley, back in London.

"I called Wendy and I said I've got some good news and some bad news. I made it to cabinet. But I gave away your tickets."

The future minister was able to find replacement passes the following morning, but when he reported for the ceremony that day, security shooed him off to the area reserved for the public. A quick explanation later, Bentley was directed to the right place.

London's new cabinet minister still laughs at the circumstances surrounding his appointment. As a lawyer, Bentley was known for his good sense of humour and gentle self-deprecation.

Bentley, 48, joins Agriculture Minister Steve Peters from Elgin-Middlesex-London riding as the London area's voices in the Ontario cabinet. Peters, a former St. Thomas mayor and grocery store clerk, had one term under his belt before he became agriculture critic.

Bentley's appointment surprised many observers, including himself.

He's gone from a well-respected courtroom lawyer, not known for bragging about his wins, to a minister of the Crown.

A fellow lawyer, who prosecuted drug cases against Bentley, is Russ Monteith. A Progressive Conservative who sits on London board of control, Monteith remembers Bentley as "a very good lawyer. He was always well-prepared and he gave his clients 100 per cent."

"He is a very good person," Monteith says. "We are fortunate he is representing us in the Ontario legislature." High praise from a political rival.

For his part, Bentley says he used to rely on a judge to make decisions, now he is a decision-maker, a change he relishes.

"It's the chance to make a change," he says. "As a lawyer you can do that on a small scale. In politics you can do it on a much larger scale."

He's in charge of a ministry that has 1,400 employees, an annual budget of $120 million and he's also responsible for outside agencies such as the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, which employs 4,000, distributes $3 billion a year and helps 500,000 clients annually.

"I have a huge learning curve," Bentley concedes. "It's a fabulous opportunity."

He is learning about his staff and his staff is learning about the mild-mannered new minister.

One of his first steps was to visit ministry offices at 400 University Ave. in Toronto. He started at the top floor and introduced himself to every employee he could find. He shook hundreds of hands and startled more than a few at their work stations.

"They told me they hadn't had a minister do that before."

Concerned senior staffers also suggested Bentley might want the walls of his 14th-floor office repainted. There was a predominance of blue, a colour associated with the previous government.

No problem, insisted the new minister. "I told them I wasn't elected to decorate."

Despite winning the Liberal nomination in London West by acclamation and knocking off Progressive Conservative Bob Wood by 10,000 votes in his first try, Bentley knows how hard it is get elected.

He spent more than a year knocking on doors and getting to know London West before the actual election. And for two decades he worked for nearly every Liberal in provincial and federal campaigns.

"I was a front-line worker, knocking on doors, pounding in signs and delivering pamphlets," he recalls. His own long-term goal, formed before law school, was to seek election himself.

He opted to stand for office this time because his family was growing up and "it was a better time than it had been."

Wife Wendy, also a lawyer, has taken over part of his criminal law practice. His two daughters are becoming independent. Julia, 19, attends the University of Toronto and Jocelyn, 16, is a Grade 11 student at Laurier secondary school.

As minister of labour, Bentley says health and safety are his major priorities, given the millions of dollars lost to workplace injuries.

He's also anxious to encourage a better balance between business and labour, the pendulum having swung back and forth wildly in recent years under the pro-labour New Democrat and the pro-business Progressive Conservative governments.

"Everybody has a place at the table now," he says.

Bentley says he is trying for balance in his own life, between that of elected riding representative and government minister.

"I was elected here first," he says of London West. "You have to look after local issues. You learn to make the time" to wear both hats.

Juggling his clothing between his London and Toronto lives is a bit harder.

"I'm always wondering where the suit is," he laments. He's discovered it's best to have suits in both cities as well as razors and running shoes. The first are needed for public appearances, the second for personal appearance and the latter to indulge in his nightly habit of running about six kilometres. A marathoner, Bentley says jogging is "a great stress-reliever."

With workdays of 12 hours or more and big responsibilities, he can't have enough running shoes.

THE BENTLEY BIO

- Born in Toronto, moved to London at age 12 when his engineer father took a supervisory job at the then-new Ford assembly plant near Talbotville.

- Attended law school at the University of Toronto, called to the bar in 1981, same year as wife Wendy Harris Bentley was called to the bar after studying law at the University of Western Ontario.

- Both Bentleys attended Cambridge University in England, taking graduate law degrees in 1984.

- The Bentleys have lived in Old South on Windsor Avenue since the late 1980s.



Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003



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Ontario plans no-smoking bill


CP 2004-01-31 04:08:15


TORONTO -- Smoking in all public places and workplaces will be banned in Ontario within three years under legislation to be introduced this year. "Our commitment in the campaign and our commitment today is to have in place a law within three years, and we will," Health Minister George Smitherman said yesterday after a speech to the Association of Local Public Health Agencies.

Although he doesn't have a date to introduce the legislation, Smitherman said the smoking ban "is an important priority and will be getting lots of attention in the calendar year '04.

"We've got to get that legislation tabled as quickly as we can."

The ban will be a priority for Ontario's new chief medical officer of health, Dr. Sheela Basrur, who starts her new job on Feb. 16, Smitherman said.

He said the government wants a full ban on smoking at work and in public places, hinting that this could mean the end of smoking rooms that have cropped up in restaurants across the province.

"The legislation will put in place a very clear framework that says where you cannot smoke," he said.

"We are looking for a piece of legislation that is not exemption-laden but rather which is extensive and provides the necessary protections to Ontarians," he said, since smoking causes a decline in health and costs the province financially.

Manitoba plans to implement a provincewide smoking ban this year, while health ministers from New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have considered the subject. British Columbia tried a ban, but it was short-lived.

A ban is key. "Too many Ontarians smoke, because it's a No. 1 killer, because it's preventable," Smitherman said.


Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Friday, January 30, 2004

London taxpayers avoid expensive boondoggle


Vancouver nets jr. hockey

Vancouver, British Columbia, 2006. Buried here are the hopes and dreams of small hockey communities everywhere. It's what will be written on the tombstone marking the death of the world junior hockey tournament for any community without a major-league-sized arena.

When Hockey Canada awarded the 2006 world junior hockey championship to Vancouver, it basically sealed the fate of cities such as Kitchener, London, Red Deer, perhaps even Saskatoon or Halifax and any other similar-sized cities with medium-sized arenas. You may be an outstanding junior hockey city, but if you don't have an NHL-type building in your backyard, don't bother. When the 9,000-seat John Labatt Centre isn't enough for junior hockey, the only way most junior hockey centres will see this event is on television.

"I don't know how we could go through this again with their financial requirements," said John Winston, manager of Tourism London, who headed the bid. "I don't know how much more than $800-a-ticket package we could ask for."

The answer is simple: Not one penny more. London/ Kitchener will never host a world junior hockey tournament. They can't afford it.

London/Kitchener and Vancouver were two of five cities shortlisted for the 2006 event. Ottawa, Quebec City and Saskatoon were the others.

Members of the selection committee were Canadian Hockey League president David Branch, Alan Matthews, chairperson of the board of Hockey Canada, and Bob Nicholson, president of Hockey Canada.

Nicholson, by the way, was inducted into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame about a week ago.

While those heading the London bid were stunned they didn't win, one can't imagine what Ottawa must feel like. This is its third bid. It has more than 10,000 seats in the Ottawa Civic Centre and 18,000 in the Corel Centre.

It has been a longtime member of the Ontario Hockey League and averages between 8,000 and 9,000 fans a game. Like London and Kitchener, it is a true junior hockey community. Ottawa pre-sold almost 18,000 tickets and still . . . no tournament.

It lost to a city that has had a junior hockey team for exactly three years and did not pre-sell a ticket. The "best" bid had to drop Victoria, which was going to hold games along with Kelowna, Kamloops and two venues in Vancouver, because the bid guidelines say only four venues can be used.

If London is thinking of bidding when the tournament comes back to Canada, probably sometime around 2010, it hasn't a hope in hell.

Hockey Canada will tell everyone it isn't about money.

So repeat after me: It's not about money. Disregard the following paragraph in Hockey Canada's bid guidelines.

"First and foremost, the degree to which the Host Organizing Committee can maximize the financial return for the participating hockey organizations continues to be the primary consideration in the site selection process."

London/Kitchener guaranteed a $4.6-million profit and it was not the top bid.

Vancouver piggybacked on the 2010 Winter Olympics even though the junior tournament would be held more than four years before the first ski pole hits Whistler. Nicholson indicated it had a great effect on the selection.

The Vancouver bid committee got a big fat $5.2-million cheque from the British Columbia government for a profit guarantee as well as other "intangibles." So if you don't happen to have a Winter Olympics up your sleeve and a generous government, it might be hard to cop the tournament.

A news conference was held at Tourism London. It was a time for answering questions and to acknowledge, rightly, the quality of the bid and the enormous amount of work done by Winston and his staff, bid committee chairperson Gord MacKenzie, other members of the committee and the support of the community.

As expected, the bid committee was gracious in defeat. Publicly, it exhibited no rancour.

"Congratulations to Vancouver . . . If our bid lost, their bid must have been unbelievable . . . We learned a great deal from the process."

They were somewhat at a loss about what else they could have done to make their bid better. They talked about how during their in-person presentation more than a week ago, Hockey Canada hardly touched on the money issue and talked more about the community and hockey tradition. What was there to discuss about money? The guarantee of cold hard cash was right there in front of them.

It is inevitable that when a city loses this type of bid, any type of criticism is construed as sour grapes.

So be it then. At this level, whether a guarantee is for $4 million, $4.5 million, $5 million or $6 million doesn't really matter. It's sad that this tournament, more than any other hockey event, has changed from a celebration of the game's joy, emotions and grassroots to revelling in the bottom line.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Public Employees love slavery

A tipoff from Colby Cosh: one more example of why government employees mustn't ever be allowed to unionize. You guys, I don't want to burst your bubble, but you deliver the mail. Who needs you? Chimpanzees could do that job, and they'd probably do it better and cheaper if you didn't have a monopoly preventing it. I delivered the paper when I was 10, and I didn't put any Kim Il-sung or Ayatollah posters in my room or anything.


HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Fidel Castro vowed on Friday to die fighting "with a gun in my hand" if the United States invaded Cuba to overthrow his communist government. "I don't care how I die, but for sure, if they invade us, I will die fighting," the 77-year-old leader said at a meeting of anti-free trade activists from across the hemisphere...

Some of the organizations that make up the Canadian contingent include: Alternatives, Regroupement Autonome des jeunes de l'Estrie, ATTAC, Confédération des Syndicates Nationaux (CSN), Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ), Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Worker to Worker program, Council of Canadians, Communist Youth Union of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) and Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). Youth and workers comprise the majority of the Canadian delegation.

Cheers of "Cuba! Cuba! Fidel! Fidel!" and a standing ovation greeted Cuban President Fidel Castro when he joined the opening session and entered the hall of the Congress Centre with other members of the conference coordinating committee.

Castro and his goons should have been killed by somebody many decades ago.

And let's hope the Internet allows some outdated CUPW tyrant-sac-lickers the opportunity to enjoy poverty in "solidarity" with the Cuban people.

Here is the full list of Canadian degenerates lining up to applaud a regime that jails librarians and poets and shoots people trying to escape.

Yeah, but that's nothing compared to Bush and Ashcroft and the fuckin' Patriot Act, is it? I'd call them airheaded hypocrites, but given the roster, that's like calling snow cold.

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Limo firm's hearing delayed

Sultan Sultan is appealing a city staff bid to revoke his licence in a dispute over rates charged.
TEVIAH MORO, Special to The Free Press 2004-01-29 03:37:57

The operator of a controversial limousine service on the brink of losing its licence was granted a reprieve by board of control yesterday. At least 12 drivers for Allaround Limousines watched as controllers heard evidence in owner Sultan Sultan's appeal of a city staff recommendation to revoke his limo broker's licence.

"The future of my kids and family, and all these guys with me, is just relying on this outcome," a tearful Sultan, president of Allaround Limousines, said while waiting for a board decision.

The upstart minivan service has irked competing cab and limousine companies since April 2003 by charging lower rates than stipulated in a city bylaw for limo-vans.

The bylaw states limo-vans must charge a rate of $30 for the first hour or part of an hour, which is less than that of executive limousines such as Checker.

The city has laid 12 charges against Allaround Limousine drivers for not charging the proper rate.

Sultan told controllers he didn't know his company was breaking the bylaw even after months of operation.

He said when he received his licence in April 2003, he told the clerk's office his drivers would be charging zone rates.

The zone rate, used by executive limousines, is $6 for the first zone and $3 for each additional zone.

But city officials testified at the hearing Sultan received a letter sent to all limo drivers explaining the bylaw as it applied to limousine services.

The clerk's office didn't approve of his rates either, said Michelle Smibert, manager of licensing and elections for the city clerk's office.

"At no time did our office make any approval of the rates," Smibert said.

Ed Corrigan, Sultan's lawyer, said the misunderstanding was a product of errors made at the city clerk's office and not his client's fault.

Officials indicated they approved Allaround's rate structure by granting the company several licences, Corrigan said.

"The rate structure was attached to the licence, it was accepted by the city. They issued not one but at least 20 licences based on this fee schedule."

The company's minivans, which carry fewer passengers than regular vans, don't fall under any of the bylaw's categories, Corrigan added.

"It's clear that this bylaw has to be updated to accommodate minivans."

Allaround Limousine driver Kamal Abdelmagie, 36, said in an interview he's not sure what he'll do if the company loses its licence.

"I need $2,000 to feed my kids. I work for 15 hours, six days a week," Abdelmagie said.

Board of control will meet again in two weeks for further clarification of the issues, Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said.

"That will give us the ability to move forward with an appeal or not,"DeCicco said.

With the future of his company in limbo, Sultan said he won't accept a revocation.

"If they do revoke my licence, there's going to be a big lawsuit," he said.





Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Thursday, January 29, 2004

City to fight provincial tax regulation

MARY-JANE EGAN, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-01-29 03:37:55

London will vigorously lobby the province to reverse a regulation that threatens to add a nearly three-per-cent hike to residential property taxes, board of control vowed yesterday. "I would be in shock if the province didn't fix this problem," Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said in an interview. "It's not fair. We can't afford it and that's as simple as it is."

DeCicco was referring to a provincial tax regulation that will affect London for the first time this year, prohibiting municipalities from having any flexibility over setting tax ratios.

This is the first year since the ruling came into effect in 1998 that the value of residential properties has risen at rates significantly greater than rates for commercial, industrial and multi-residential properties.

It means London homeowners face an extra 2.88-per-cent property tax hike due to the increased assessment value of homes. Apartments, commercial and industrial properties won't face such an increase.

For London homeowners already facing a potential 10.4-per-cent property tax hike, a 9.4-per-cent sewer rate increase and a three-per-cent jump in water rates, owners of an average home assessed at $138,000 would face a $275.72 increase in their property taxes this year.

Controller Gord Hume said homeowners should understand the extra tax bite is something city council has no control over.

"I'm not sure the full message is out that this is not additional revenue for the city," he said.

Municipalities aren't allowed to collect extra money because property values increase, but the provincial regulation results in shifts in taxation between property classes.

A regulation change by the Finance Ministry doesn't even require a legislative change, DeCicco noted.

"This can be a quick fix and municipalities across the province are lobbying for it," she said.

Controller Russ Monteith said he's optimistic the ruling will be changed prior to the April 30 deadline for setting tax ratios.

"The government has said it's willing to work with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to bring about some changes," said Monteith, who attended a meeting of the Large Urban Mayors' Caucus on the issue last week in Toronto.

Monteith said he's encouraged by the fact the Municipal Affairs minister is a former mayor.

"He understands and is sympathetic to what's gong on so I think there's a very good chance we'll get a deal," he said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Harassment policy hit

New human rights czar Joyce Burpee has walked into a flap over rules.
MARY-JANE EGAN, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-01-29 03:38:07

The city's anti-harassment policy -- barely out of the starting gate -- was already under fire yesterday by a leading advocate for women's rights. Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women's Centre, raised concerns about the city's corporate human rights program and whether the new human rights specialist is willing to work with community agencies.

Also of concern is a clause stipulating a harassment complaint must be made "no later than 30 days after the last incident" and failure to do so may result in the city refusing to deal with the complaint.

"Thirty days is not long enough for an employee to file a complaint because harassment is not usually defined as one isolated act," Walker said yesterday. "It's usually a pattern of behaviour and it takes time for that pattern to become apparent and may be over the course of several months or a year."

Walker said it's "highly unusual" to have such a clause in an anti-harassment policy.

Walker said she is also disappointed the city's new human rights specialist, Joyce Burpee, declined to meet with her to discuss harassment at city hall.

Asked yesterday about Walker's concern, Burpee said she had no comment.

In a brief interview, she also said she didn't know about the 30-day time limit on complaint reports.

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said she'd have to review the city's policy to determine whether the 30-day deadline for complaints is reasonable.

She wouldn't comment on Burpee meeting with community groups.

"Joyce is new on the job and she comes with very high credentials," DeCicco said.

Burpee, who started work at city hall this month, is former national chairperson of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund and a director on the Urban Alliance on Race. She has 15 years of experience working with human rights issues.

Walker said Burpee told her she wasn't interested in meeting with her at this point -- a position Walker said sounds alarms in light of the history of harassment concerns at city hall.

The issue was pushed back into the spotlight last year with the sudden resignation of human rights specialist Catherine Burr. She stepped down after only nine months on the job, citing interference by some senior managers.

Burr was hired after council came under fire in 2002 for failing to hire a human rights specialist -- a key recommendation of an October 2000 action plan the city said would be implemented in the wake of the sexual assault and torture of one city hall employee by another.

Burr worked with community agencies helping city employees deal with harassment concerns, Walker said.

Burpee comes on the job in the midst of controversy over whether a male competitor was passed over because of his gender.

Coun. Fred Tranquilli has accused councillors Susan Eagle, Joni Baechler and Harold Usher of putting pressure on administration to hire a woman for the position -- a charge the three deny.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Ontario plans summit to battle pot grow-ops

Canadian Press

TORONTO — The Ontario government will convene a summit of political and private-sector interests in March to find ways to stop the spread of marijuana grow houses, a government source said Wednesday.

The Green Tide summit will co-ordinate the efforts of police, fire departments, hydro utilities and insurance companies in an effort to uncover and close down marijuana-growing sites, the source said.

Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter was expected to provide details of the summit at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

The gathering is expected to involve municipal and provincial politicians, private companies and others affected by illegal pot operations, not just law enforcement officials.

Ontario's Landord and Tenant Act is also likely to come under review at the summit in an effort to make it easier for police to gain access to suspected marijuana-growing operations, known as grow-ops.

The illegal but profitable operations are often set up in residential neighbourhoods, stealing electricity to power high-intensity lights and fans for grow-op purposes.

Officials say grow-ops are springing up across the province, posing a serious fire risk to people living beside them.

Toronto police found two grow houses in two hours Tuesday night after firefighters discovered the illegal operations. Police in nearby Barrie also recently discovered the largest marijuana grow house in Canadian history inside a former brewery.

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Lugwig Von Mises, on "The Impracticability of Government All-Round Control"
"Bureaucracy", 1944


Socialism, that is, full government control of all economic activities, is impracticable because a socialist community would lack the indispensable intellectual instrument of economic planning and designing: economic calculation. The very idea of central planning by the state is self-contradictory. A socialist central board of production management will be helpless in the face of the problems to be solved. It will never know whether the projects considered are advantageous or whether their performance would bring about a waste of the means available. Socialism must result in complete chaos.

The recognition of this truth has from many years been prevented by the taboos of Marxism. One of Marxism's main contributions to the success of pro-socialist propaganda was to outlaw the study of the economic problems of a socialist commonwealth. Such studies were in the opinion of Karl Marx and his sect the mark of an illusory "utopianism." "Scientific" socialism, as Marx and Engels called their own brand, must not indulge in such useless investigations. The "scientific" socialists have to satisfy themselves with the insight that socialism is bound to come and that it will transform the earth into a paradise. They must not be so preposterous as to ask how the socialist system will work.

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City eyes increase in lobby efforts

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-01-29 03:38:17

With London homeowners facing a possible 10.4 per cent tax hike this year, city politicians are considering spending more money to lobby senior governments. Board of control was told yesterday the city should boost its lobbying efforts -- including the controversial practice of spending tax dollars to attend political fundraisers.

"I think we're in a position now where we're losing opportunities," Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell said yesterday.

The board has asked Grant Hopcroft, the recently appointed director of intergovernmental and community liaison, for a report on how best to lobby upper levels of governments.

And if that includes purchasing tickets for an event that benefits a political party, so be it, Gosnell said.

"We're not talking about a great amount of money, but we are talking about great opportunities to put forward the interests of London," Gosnell said.

"Other municipalities do it and we need to ensure the voice of the corporation is heard. To do otherwise is really closing our eyes to how business is being done. It's in our interest to do it."

The issue of tax dollars being spent for politicians and bureaucrats to attend political fundraisers caused a public outcry in September 2001 when it was learned London taxpayers paid $1,500 to the federal Liberals for city officials and politicians to attend a garden party in June 2000 with then-finance minister Paul Martin.

Then deputy mayor Anne Marie DeCicco and two top city employees attended the $500-a-ticket event.

While supporters said it was a good way to gain the ear of Martin, critics blasted it as an inappropriate use of tax dollars that should be unnecessary to get access to politicians or bureaucrats.

Council responded by banning the use of tax dollars to support political parties.

Now, board of control is reconsidering the issue and has asked Hopcroft to submit a report on how the city should lobby other levels of government, the cost and types of expenditures.

DeCicco said there is sufficient funding in the proposed budget to support lobby efforts.

Further, she said it's clear other large municipalities are increasing their lobby efforts, which include attending political fundraisers and hosting events.

"The amount of time being spent on direct lobbying by large municipalities is very significant," DeCicco said.

"And it's going to be that much more important in the coming years that we are there all the time."

Controller Bud Polhill said he's willing to consider more lobbying, including attending political fundraisers, "if we're up front and tell people what we're doing and report what the benefits are."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Ontario to unveil gambling help line

The pilot project will be tested on 200 problem gamblers. It could expand to help up to 10,000 a year.
SUE BAILEY, CP 2004-01-29 03:38:44

OTTAWA -- Help will be just one call away for those hooked up to Canada's first government-backed phone counselling program for problem gamblers. Ontario is set to announce plans today for a pilot project that could help up to 10,000 people a year in the province when fully operational.

It will offer six free phone sessions with an accredited counsellor for gamblers who fear public exposure or who live in rural areas.

Statistics Canada reported last month that 1.2 million adults are at risk or have already developed betting troubles.

More than 340,000 live in Ontario, but only about 1,000 show up each year for treatment, says the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

"It will open up treatment resources to people who normally wouldn't consider it," said Tony Toneatto, a research scientist with the centre who will oversee the phone project.

He has treated gambling addicts ranging from powerful executives to welfare moms hoping for the big win.

But there's a huge gap between those who need counselling and those who seek it, he said.

"A lot of people suffer in shame because they're just not able to take that step. There's the public humiliation if you're someone who's well- known in the community.

"And there are those who simply don't have the money to park."

The Ontario government, through the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre, will spend $250,000 to develop the phone counselling program and test it on 200 clients.

Sessions will last about an hour. Homework will include one to three hours of assignments each week from a handbook that explores why people bet more than they can afford.

The province devotes two per cent of revenues from slot machines at racetracks and four charitable casinos to pay for problem gambling research and treatment.

For 2001-2002, that amount was about $22 million.

Followup for six months on participants will help determine if the phone counselling project will be expanded.

Rob Simpson, chief executive officer of the research centre, said up to 10,000 gambling addicts a year could be treated at a cost of $600 each.

Governments that enjoy huge profits from state-sanctioned casinos, slot machine parlours and video lottery terminals are obliged to act, he said.

Betting addiction -- a medically recognized mental health disorder -- is "the undesirable product" of Canada's gambling craze, he said.

"It's really hard for the rest of us to understand that these people are unable to make sensible decisions about their gambling. Their ability to control their impulses is impaired."

Statistics Canada says men, aboriginal people, those with less education, VLT players and those who bet frequently are most likely to get in over their heads.

An estimated 19 million Canadian adults wagered $11.3 billion in 2002 on everything from video lottery terminals (VLTs) to ordinary lottery tickets, bingos and casino games.

That's a four-fold jump from the $2.7 billion spent 10 years ago when government coffers relied much less on gambling.

Details on the phone counselling project are available at 1-877-238-5377.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Leah Cassleman - a champion of her own mixed up morality

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Union boss urges McGunity to raise taxes

CHIP MARTIN, Free Press Politics Reporter 2004-01-29 03:38:46

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is being urged to break his promise not to raise taxes as his government ponders a provincial budget under the cloud of a $5.6-billion deficit. The push came yesterday in London from organized labour, which says Ontario's public service is in crisis and must be rebuilt.

"Ontario desperately needs to rebuild public services," said Leah Casselman, president of the 100,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union. She pointed to courts, water and meat inspection, long-term care facilities, ambulance dispatch and jail guards as places where jobs must be created and working conditions and pay improved.

She told a legislative committee conducting a pre-budget hearing in London as part of a cross-province tour that further cuts to spending are not the answer.

"Ontario does not have a spending problem," she told the all-party standing committee on finance and economic affairs. "Ontario has a revenue problem."

(Ontario wouldn't have a 'revenue' problem if it didn't spend so much taxpayer money. Robbing everyone for the sake of the few is hardly humanitian and non-discriminatory. Only $130 this year, without taking into consideration increased prices on essential goods, and only $275 next year, and only your whole income after that. Of course we Canadian sheep are too depraved and innocent to decide how to spend the fruits of our labours. Of course, in Canada, your neighbour always knows what it is your best interest better than you do yourself.)

She suggested increasing taxes to raise $1.4 billion, a move that would nick the average taxpayer in Ontario $130 a year. It would begin to restore some of the $13 billion in tax cuts made by the previous government.

"Really, no one would notice it," Casselman insisted. "Not many people would notice twice that amount, or even five times that amount. Remember, the Tories cut taxes by 30 per cent in their first term and 20 per cent in their second term. Many Ontarians did not even notice these tax cuts. If they didn't notice the cuts, they certainly won't notice an increase that is much, much smaller."

She was reminded McGuinty and his government have promised not to raise taxes, first to the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation and more recently as he talks about the challenge his government faces.

"They should break that promise, Casselman said. "I'm urging them to get back in the saddle and start riding."

Casselman's pitch echoed one earlier from the London and District Labour Council, which also urged the committee to invest in public services.

"We know that the government cannot deliver on the public services renewal we so badly need without increasing revenue," said Jim Reid, second vice-president of the labour council, which speaks for 30,000 union members.

He noted Ontario's wealthiest benefited most from tax cuts, but services for everyone are suffering today.

"While we can appreciate the tough choices the government has to make, it is time to address the needs of all Ontarians and not just the wealthy and privileged," Reid told the committee.

As could be expected at such a session, virtually all of the nearly 20 groups appearing before the committee urged the government to spend more money.

They ranged from London optometrist John Astles, who hasn't seen an increase in government health fees since 1989 while the cost-of-living has jumped 36.6 per cent, to social groups urging further increases in the minimum wage and in disability payments.

- Doug Reycraft, chair of the Middlesex-London board of health sought more funding for health emergencies such as SARS and influenza. He said health unit staff are becoming exhausted dealing with things such as mass immunizations. Communicable disease programs should be completely funded by the province, instead of the current 50-50 split with municipalities.

- Chatham-Kent Mayor Diane Gagner headed a delegation asking to be repaid the $5.5 million in annual costs and $3.5 million in one-time costs incurred when the province downloaded unwanted responsibilities on her municipality. Chatham-Kent also wants all future downloaded costs repaid, a fair allocation of gasoline revenues, new revenue sources, and improved collection of court fines.

- The Thames Valley District School Board sought money to keep small schools open, help to offset transportation costs, funding for online learning and benchmarking of salaries to help it with teacher negotiations.

- London and Oxford Health Coalitions sought massive reinvestment in health care. "A renewed commitment to universal, publicly funded services must be made," the group urged. "A refusal to reinvest in health care through a progressive tax system is a false economy."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Board faces $10.4M in payouts

PATRICK MALONEY, Free Press Reporter 2004-01-29 03:38:48

Retiring teachers who will cash in $10.4-million worth of unused sick days have saddled the Thames Valley District school board with a $5-million deficit. The one-time cost for covering future "retirement gratuity" payments -- payouts to retiring teachers who have accumulated unused sick days over the years -- will eventually cost the board $10.4 million, paring down a nearly $5.2-million operating surplus to a deficit of just under $5.3 million.

The deficit, which will be factored into upcoming 2004-05 budget talks, should pose a major challenge to the board, trustee Graham Hart said yesterday.

"It starts the budget process off with one foot in the hole," Hart said.

The main challenge, he adds, is finding the money needed to get the board out of the red without cutting any programs.

"The problem is we have to find the money this year to pass a balanced budget," Hart said. "We could be in a difficult situation depending on the coming year's grants, but it's difficult to know that until we deal with the next year's budget (this) spring."

Although the board is mindful of such costs associated with annual retirements, Hart said there was no way to know the amount would be so high. He attributes the deficit to that unexpectedly steep payout.

"There's no way of knowing how many people are going to retire or how much they're owed," he said.

Hart wasn't sure of details, but noted a new system is now in place to avoid the compound costs of retirements. Some retiring teachers, he said, have in the past been paid up to $30,000 in lieu of unused sick days.

School board officials planned to discuss the issue at length this week until weather forced their meeting to be cancelled. Thames Valley treasurer Brian Greene declined comment until trustees meet again next Tuesday.

"(That's) an agenda that hasn't been received by the trustees at this point," board official Chris Dennett said. "We don't want to discuss it until we've discussed it with the trustees. It'll be next Tuesday now before it comes up."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Bikers plan police showdown

JOHN HERBERT, Free Press Reporter 2004-01-29 03:38:50

A member of the Hells Angels will hold a high-noon showdown Saturday with London police at their Dundas Street headquarters. Larry Pooler, also organizer of the London Motorcycle Show, said yesterday police pressured property managers and owners of the former No Frills grocery store near the corner of Wonderland and Southdale roads, to not allow this weekend's bike show in their building.

So Pooler is calling on motorcycle enthusiasts and vendors -- as well as Hells Angels members -- who would have attended this weekend's show to join him at a protest to denounce the police actions.

He said he expects at least 100 supporters.

But Det. Supt. Rick Gillespie said the property manager, Olympia & York Properties Corp., and the building owner, Loblaw's, were surprised to learn from police a bike show was to take place in their building.

The building is leased to Brian Finch Pontiac Buick GMC Ltd., which subleased to Pooler.

"We were very surprised the property owner did not know a motorcycle show was going to be there,'' Gillespie said.

"Still, we did not tell them they should not hold the show . . . It became evident speaking to the owner and property manager they were not comfortable having members of an outlaw organized crime group operating a show out of their building.''

A spokesperson with Olympia & York declined comment and car dealer Ryan Finch could not be reached last night.

"The London police stance is, and always has been, that motorcycle shows are a great thing for the community,'' Gillespie said. "What has always concerned us is some potentially violent events, which have occurred at the show. These have come about because of the tendency of outlaw motorcycle gang members to attend and choose to have confrontations in these public places that concern us.''

There were tense moments at the show three years ago at Western Fair when Hells Angels and rival club Bandidos verbally confronted each other.

After that, Western Fair didn't renew a deal with Pooler for future shows.

Pooler tried to hold last year's show at the former Ex-Cello plant on Weston Street, but moved it to Woodstock at the last moment after the city told him the site wasn't zoned for such shows.

Gillespie said police would be at Saturday's protest at noon.

The last time the bike show was held in London, Pooler said, about 15,000 attended. Last year, about 9,000 attended in Woodstock.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Londoner instigated Conan visit

As Conan O'Brien brings his late-night antics to Toronto this week, few are laughing harder than former Londoner Peter Soumalias. The longtime London businessperson and co-founder of Canada's Walk of Fame is the driving force -- at least on this side of the border -- behind bringing Late Night with Conan O'Brien to Toronto from Feb. 10 to 13.

And with the comic in Canada this week taping skits, Soumalias says the fun has already started.

"I'm just on my way to pick up Conan right now," Soumalias said yesterday as O'Brien taped skits with the Toronto Maple Leafs after a day spent cracking up commuters at the Queenston border crossing.

"The guy was absolutely incredible," Soumalias said. "Drivers were coming from New York with snow on their cars and he was saying, 'You can't import snow to Canada.' He's having so much fun."

Soumalias, who owned the London Soap Co. for more than 20 years, originally thought last summer of getting Late Night to relocate to Toronto for a week.

While discussing the toll SARS took on Toronto with two famous native sons, Saturday Night Live and Late Night producer Lorne Michaels and movie star Mike Myers, Soumalias suggested bringing O'Brien to Canada's largest city to raise the city's positive profile.

To Michaels, the suggestion was no laughing matter.

"Lorne said, 'Do you want to be part of this?' Somebody's got to run it and I said, 'Are you kidding me?' I'm having a riot."

While he isn't expecting Conan's show to turn the city's fortunes around -- "There isn't going to be one mega-concert or TV show that will cure that" -- Soumalias, whose three children still attend school in London, sees it as a great opportunity for Toronto and the whole country.

"His show is seen around the world and it will just show people that in the middle of winter we can have a lot of fun in this country," he said.

"I've had the opportunity to meet dozens of celebrities but he is one of a kind. I'm like a little kid having a riot with this."

On a personal level, O'Brien, who usually tapes in New York City, has taken a liking to Soumalias.

"A creepy guy, but I love you," O'Brien told the former Londoner at a news conference this week.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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"God made the 20th Century to teach us that the notion that things work better when experts plan them is a fallacy. It's a pity that a hundred-million or so had to die to illustrate the lesson. But now we got it. Right?"

John Weidner

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Flu victims have a civic duty to wear masks, wash hands: Montreal officials

ROSS MAROWITS
Canadian Press

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

MONTREAL (CP) - Quebecers have a civic duty to prevent the spread of viruses like the flu by wearing masks and washing their hands if they are sick, the city's public health department said Tuesday.

The department called on the public and doctors in private practices to take basic precautions to limit the spread of the flu, which is expected to peak in the coming weeks. "We don't want all Quebecers to wear masks tomorrow morning," Dr. Richard Lessard, director of Montreal's public health department, said at a news conference.

"We hope that people with the flu will realize that their infection could be transmitted to others and that it is their responsibility as citizens to reduce the likelihood of contaminating others."

While the flu can be merely annoying to some, it can be extremely dangerous for others.

An estimated 15,000 Quebecers are hospitalized annually, and between 1,000 and 1,500 die because of the virus, the department said.

The lack of an epidemic has prevented officials from making the precautions mandatory. But they hope that people will begin to change how they confront this virus and thereby enhance the first line of defence against other infections. Officials also said that sick people should stay home.

"What we're proposing is kind of out of the ordinary but it's not that complex or complicated and it's fairly cheap and it's much more a change of attitudes that we're going for than anything else," Lessard told reporters.

Masks cost less than 20 cents and soap is about 25 cents per person.

"It's not a question of money, it's a question of attitude."

He said the effectiveness of antibiotics has lulled many into becoming lax about addressing some contagious diseases.

Other North American jurisdictions, especially those with high population densities, are also working to minimize the spread of infectious viruses.

Dr. John Carsley, head of the City of Montreal's infectious disease unit, said health officials have been examining measures to protect the public since SARS struck cities like Toronto last year.

"The SARS outbreaks last year gave a great push forward to all the pandemic planning," he said.

There is no evidence that Canadians are at immediate risk from the avian flu that has killed 10 people in Asia. But Carsley said doctors hope it doesn't become a more contagious flu strain that is transmissible between humans.
© Copyright 2004 The Canadian Press

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McGuinty tax hike predicted

CP 2004-01-28 03:32:49

TORONTO -- Ontario residents may pay about $200 each in new provincial taxes and user fees this year, more than $550 per household, says the right-wing Fraser Institute. Despite the increase in taxes, the province will still have a deficit, and balancing the budget will require even larger tax and fee increases next year, says the report to be released today by the think-tank.

A report Monday from the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives also said the government must consider raising Ontarians' taxes by about $200 a year.

The Fraser Institute report, part of a series of updates on government bids to balance Ontario's budget, was released as an analysis of the Liberals' first 100 days in office.

It was written by Mark Mullins, the institute's director of Ontario policy studies, who helped write former premier Mike Harris's cost-cutting agenda in the mid-1990s.

The report says the new Liberal regime under Premier Dalton McGuinty pegged its 2003 deficit at close to $7.9 billion in December: with a basic $5.6 billion, plus $2.2 billion in other potential liabilities.

The institute estimates there will still be a deficit of $4 billion in 2004, plus $1 billion for a budgetary reserve, somewhat higher than the $3.7-billion government estimate.

"The government has been floating trial policy balloons for months," said Mullins. "We examined them all and priced their impact on the deficit.

"The result is a stunning surprise: all of the proposed deficit reduction comes from new revenues . . . and spending is actually set to rise. This is basically pickpocket economics, a tax-and-spend approach that can only diminish Ontario's future prosperity."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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City blocks Old North development

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-01-28 03:33:09

In a "rare" move, London city council has frozen development along a section of Richmond Street to protect its heritage streetscape. And a prominent London development lawyer accused council yesterday of acting in secret to block his client's plan to demolish a house and redevelop the property into a four-plex.

Council met in private Jan. 19 to approve an interim control bylaw that protects Richmond between Huron and Grosvenor streets from over-development.

The move was sparked when developer R.S.J. Holding Inc. applied for a permit to demolish a cottage-style house at 915 Richmond St., considered important to the area's heritage streetscape.

The developer later submitted an application for site plan approval to build a four-plex housing unit with at least 16 bedrooms, an application city staff put on hold.

Alan Patton, lawyer for R.S.J. Holding Inc., is filing an appeal today to the Ontario Municipal Board.

"This is just a shameful, shameful process and it should not be allowed," Patton said yesterday.

"So much for open and transparent government."

Development in the area is frozen until city planning staff review the zoning bylaw and submit a report to council in July.

Ward 2 Coun. Joni Baechler, chairperson of the planning committee, defended the move.

"It's a matter of perspective," Baechler said.

She explained the city's official plan includes a special policy designation for the area that recognizes the importance of its single-family heritage streetscape.

Though the R-3 residential zoning permits four-plexes, Baechler said there's a growing trend to properties being redeveloped to include upward of 30 bedrooms.

Residents have long complained the properties are then rented to students because of proximity to the University of Western Ontario.

"If you're a developer in the area, of course you want to maximize the use of the property," Baechler said.

"But if you live in a community where you have mostly single-family housing . . . that's not just. In my opinion, that's an apartment building or rooming house and that has to go in a different zone."

Residents in the area who attended a planning committee meeting Monday were encouraged by council's action.

"The issue is the neighbourhood," said Rebecca Soltan, spokesperson for the St. George-Grosvenor Neighbourhood Association.

"(915 Richmond) is a heritage house that is part of London's history and it's an important part of the Richmond Street landscape," Soltan said.

"We need to find a way to make it work for everybody and I don't think tearing down heritage houses is the way to do it.

"If you tear down all the old buildings, you don't have that (landscape) anymore."

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell described council's action behind closed doors as "rare," but necessary to prevent a stampede for building permits.

"The city has struggled with development in that corridor for some time," Gosnell said.

"It might be considered to be draconian, and that's not good, but it's the only way you can do it. But I'm also satisfied it will only (freeze development) for a reasonable period."

In recent years, there have been several battles between developers and neighbours near the University of Western Ontario.

Most recently, a developer won approval from the OMB in December 2002 to build four identical three-storey four-plexes that would house 64 students just across from Western's main gate.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Plan in place for influenza pandemic: official

HELEN BRANSWELL, CP 2004-01-28 03:33:23

TORONTO -- In the face of ever-worsening news about avian influenza in Southeast Asia, federal officials moved yesterday to reassure Canadians that plans are in place should the bird flu develop into an influenza pandemic. In interviews, Health Canada's point person for pandemic preparedness revealed hints of what a soon-to-be-released federal plan will contain.

Heavy stress will be placed on Ottawa's multimillion-dollar pandemic vaccine program, the only one of its kind in the world.

But a decision to stockpile anti-viral drugs -- which could help keep essential workers healthy until a vaccine is available -- has not yet been made, said Dr. Arlene King, chairperson of Health Canada's pandemic influenza committee.

"Anti-virals are not a panacea for influenza," said King, director of the division of immunization and respiratory diseases.

"We're looking at all of our options, but right now I wanted to emphasize that (anti-viral stockpiling) is a very small component of our overall response plan, with vaccine really forming the backbone of it."

Nor has Health Canada decided to lay in stocks of antibiotics, which would be needed to fight secondary infections caused by the flu.

Experts have demanded Ottawa begin amassing the drugs now -- especially anti-virals -- warning that once a pandemic starts sweeping the globe, drug pipelines will dry up.

An influenza pandemic, which would be caused by a new flu virus for which no one has immunity, would sweep the globe, making millions sick and killing hundreds of thousands in the developed world alone.

Health Canada estimates that if an effective vaccine cannot be developed, between 9,000 and 51,000 Canadians could die, depending on the severity of the strain.

Many fear that governments may succumb to pressures to nationalize pharmaceutical operations within their borders to protect their own citizens.

"A pandemic is going to require multiple layers of contingency," said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an influenza expert with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, who has been among those calling for the stockpiling of anti-virals.

"We're going to need every defence at our disposal if a pandemic occurs. And we have to accept the fact that we may not have the very best defence -- which is vaccine -- available for some months, which means we're going to need next-best options."

The H5N1 influenza strain responsible for the current widespread outbreak of bird flu in Asia has already been shown to be resistant to one of the anti-viral options, amantadine, which is cheap and easy to store for long periods. Oseltamivir, sold as Tamiflu, is effective against the strain.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

City flubs chance to lobby Grits


CHIP MARTIN, Free Press Politics Reporter 2004-01-28 03:32:57

The Ontario government wants to hear what communities need and London is missing a chance to make itself heard. That strikes a city councillor as passing strange. "I am perplexed and troubled," said Coun. Susan Eagle. She was referring to a pre-budget public consultation session slated for today at the Hilton London. City hall, she noted, is not among those appearing before the Ontario legislature's standing committee on finance and economic affairs to demand more money from provincial coffers.

Eagle is involved in two presentations, one from a United Church group, the other from the Middlesex-London Health Unit, where she is a board member.

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said the city learned too late about today's consultation, but will submit a written report to the committee outlining added financial pressures because of Queen's Park's downloading of responsibilities.

In all, about a dozen presentations will be made to the all-party committee seeking input across Ontario in the next two weeks. A budget is expected to be tabled by the Dalton McGuinty government sometime this spring.

Eagle said she raised the need for the city to present its case at a recent board of control meeting, but by then the deadline for submissions had passed. She said she was "surprised" the city's government liaison office was unaware of the opportunity to make a pitch.

City hall has long argued it receives inadequate funding to meet new responsibilities for ambulances, heightened standards for police and fire departments and for social housing. London, like other cities, is chafing to get a share of gasoline tax revenue.

Eagle said the new Liberal government seems to be taking consultation seriously, unlike its predecessor, the Harris-Eves regime.

At the standing committee's first consultation session Monday in Toronto, Finance Minister Greg Sorbara promised his first budget will be "the cornerstone of a new long-term approach to government.

"We are asking Ontarians to talk to us about what they want to see in the budget and beyond," he said. "We also want them to help us define exactly what success in meeting their priorities will mean four, five or six years from now."

Sorbara will conduct his own public consultation process -- distinct from that of the legislative finance committee -- beginning Feb. 6 in Ottawa. Other dates and locations will be announced later.

McGuinty has promised "town hall" meetings around the province to learn which services are wanted and hinted London may be one of the sites for the get-togethers.





Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Taxpayers deserve stress leave
Ian Gillespie, Free Press Columnist 2004-01-28 03:33:07

The guys who work at Midas Auto Service on Wellington Road follow the news. They have opinions.

They like to express themselves.

And they have a habit of posting their thoughts on the big sign outside the garage.

This is what their latest sign says: "Londoners overtaxed; Residents to go on stress leave."

The message, of course, refers to the city hall shenanigans surrounding senior manager Glenn Howlett. The details of this debacle are being kept largely secret. But here's what we know:

- We have a senior city manager who has been off work for more than two months because of an apparent prank that put him on stress leave. In the meantime, he continues to collect his salary of more than $155,000 a year.

- We have a newly elected group of councillors who, during their campaigns, generally promised to end the fractious and infantile bickering that has hobbled city hall.

- We have a deputy mayor who, just five weeks ago, told a Free Press reporter there's too much debate behind closed doors.

- And as of yesterday, councillors have now held five -- count them, five -- closed-door meetings to discuss the Howlett affair.

Now, let me tell you a story about that sign.

It seems a woman showed up to get her car serviced at Midas. She said she worked at city hall. And she complained to garage manager Tony Dodd about the sign out front.

I'll let Dodd tell the rest of the story.

"She said, 'If you don't take that sign down right now, I'm going to go into work and the first thing I'm going to do is go to my computer and tell 3,000 city employees not to shop at your store again.' "

To which Dodd replied: "Well, that's my point. That's misuse of city resources, again. You're slagging the taxpayer for your own personal gains."

I love that story.

A city hall employee -- a person who works for you and me -- not only wants to stifle legitimate criticism of city hall, but her first impulse is to use city time and resources to quell the questions by cranking out e-mails.

To me, that little tale illustrates the canyon-like chasm between the people who work at city hall and the people who live in this city.

It's also an example of the widening gap between private-sector and public-sector workers.

There's nothing remotely funny about depression, stress or mental-health problems. If somebody needs help, they deserve to get it.

But I think there's a growing perception that public-sector workers somehow hold the quaintly cockamamie notion that work isn't supposed to be hard or taxing, that stress isn't a fact of life and that somehow they're entitled to privileges that nobody in the real world would ever expect.

I urge those workers to talk to somebody who drives a truck or runs a restaurant or works on a factory floor.

Because as far as I can tell, most of those people look at this mess and shake their heads in incredulity.

Yesterday, I talked to just such an average Joe.

He runs his own business.

And I asked if he -- or any of his customers -- sympathized with Howlett.

He just howled.

"No way," he said.

"You know the pressures I have here every day? Every day I have an incident.

"What does that mean? Am I going to have to close my door and say, 'Geez, I'm suffering from depression.'

"We all have issues, every day. But I have to be here, every day, to make money."

That guy said what a lot of folks are thinking.

And that's this:

If Glenn Howlett is really on stress leave because of a single prank, then maybe he shouldn't be in the job in the first place.

If this stress is the result of persistent bullying and harassment, then let's get rid of the bullies.

And if city council can't figure out how to quickly fix this foul-up, then God help us all.





Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003



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Fed-up MDs eye exits: survey

JOHN MINER, Free Press Health Reporter 2004-01-28 03:33:11

Days after London launched a task force to bring new doctors to the city, a provincial survey suggests it could be hard just keeping those already here. One out of six doctors in Ontario is so frustrated he or she is seriously considering moving out of the province, says a survey released yesterday by the Ontario Medical Association.

"It is at the point where doctors can't take it anymore. They are just getting fed up," said OMA president Dr. Larry Erlick.

While Dr. Paul Dickie, past president of the London Academy of Medicine, said he isn't certain one in six London doctors is ready to leave, he added there's a lot of frustration that needs to be addressed.

The December survey of 2,000 Ontario doctors found they were thinking of leaving because of an inability to treat patients in a timely manner, the chronic shortage of physicians and a declining quality of life.

"If you can't provide the care, you look to other places where you can be more satisfied with the job you do," said Erlick, a family physician in Scarborough.

The physician shortage, according to the survey, is the biggest concern of doctors, with 97 per cent identifying it as a priority. In a similar survey in 2000, only 75 per cent of the doctors said increasing the number of physicians in Ontario should be a priority.

Only 20 per cent of physicians reported being very satisfied with their lives as doctors in Ontario.

Jim Rourke, a University of Western Ontario medical professor and family doctor, said he knows from experience the job of a family physician has become harder in the last 25 years because of the lack of resources and support.

"It seems like you are trying to swim through molasses."

Rourke said it has become harder to get tests done and make appointments for patients to see specialists within a reasonable time.

And family doctors are dealing with sicker patients than they used to, because they are discharged from hospital faster, Rourke said.

"The patients we now look after in our office 10 years ago would have been in the hospital," Rourke said.

MDs are exasperated because family medicine is still being treated as if it were the 1970s, Rourke said.

"Family doctors still largely provide their own offices and pay for their own staff out of their own earnings, which is the lowest earnings of all the specialties, and yet they have the highest overhead costs," he said.

New graduates want an office that is supplied to them and comes with well-trained staff and information technology, he said.

"It is a critical time," Rourke said.

"It is not that we need to pay family doctors more, but we need to provide them with the tools and support to make their jobs more effective and more enjoyable."

Last week, Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco announced the establishment of a task force to find 10 more doctors for London.

DeCicco told of crowd of 800 it is unacceptable that 20,000 Londoners don't have a family doctor because of shortages.





Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Property tax jump worsens

Assessment changes mean homeowners face a 2.9% rise on top of the city's proposed hike, a new report says.

MARY-JANE EGAN, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-01-28 03:33:41

The tax bite facing London homeowners has grown by nearly three per cent. A report going to board of control today says homeowners will be nailed with a 2.9-per-cent property tax hike -- on top of the 10.4-per-cent increase called for in the draft budget -- because of changes in assessment.

Homeowners also face a 9.7-per-cent sewer rate increase and a three-per-cent hike in the water rate.

The upshot is that owners of an average home assessed at $138,000 face an additional $51.72 property tax hike for a total increase of $275.72 on their property tax, sewer and water bills.

Unless Ontario's Finance Ministry can be persuaded to change the rules to allow municipalities more flexibility in setting tax ratios, city treasurer Mike St. Amant said homeowners are in for the new and unexpected tax bite of 2.9 per cent.

St. Amant said he expects the added increase will come as news to both controllers and city homeowners today.

For the first time since the former Conservative government introduced tax reforms in 1998, the market value for residential properties in London has risen at rates significantly greater than rates for commercial, industrial and multi-residential properties.

Residential properties in London will see an average 10-per-cent increase in assessment for 2003 compared to 2001, St. Amant said.

He notes municipalities aren't allowed to get extra money because property values increase, but the law in Ontario results in shifts in taxation between property classes.

"This is the first year London homeowners will be hit by this," St. Amant said yesterday.

"We need a regulation change and I anticipate we'll get it, but otherwise, homeowners are going to pay that extra 2.88 per cent and apartment, commercial and industrial properties will get the benefit."

London and other municipalities are lobbying to change the law to allow flexibility to control such tax shifts toward the residential class, caused by reassessment.

Tax ratios have to be set by April 30, so St. Amant said London and other municipalities hope to have the regulations changed soon.

"We're doing our best to have the rules changed because this is a forced reallocation of taxes and one that we wouldn't choose to do," he said.

Meanwhile, there is a small dose of good news on the tax front in today's board of control agenda.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corp. has estimated London's overall assessment growth at 1.45 per cent -- an improvement on the 0.8 per cent on which the draft 2004 city budget was based.

"It's good news because, all other things being equal, growth has come in at a higher rate and we'll see a reduction in the projected budget increase (of 10.4 per cent)," St. Amant said.





Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003



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Don't you all watch TV?

From a piece at Turn Off Your TV, on the BBC television license tax:

For some who don't like television and don't watch television and don't own a television, the TVLA becomes an annual ballet of phone calls, letters and TV licence inspectors. Duncan Bennett has created an entire website devoted to his struggles with the TVLA. "I have not had a television for many years," he states on his website. "One would think that would be an end to it, but it isn't. One cannot simply refuse this entertainment service, without appearing to be dishonest in the eyes of TV Licensing (a.k.a. the Television Licensing Authority or TVLA). The non-viewer does not fit into their framework. To them there are licence-payers and licence-dodgers and the non-viewer (with whom they really have no business) is treated as a suspect licence-dodger."

In an email, Bennett wrote that "living without a television in the UK is not as simple as getting rid of the TV set. In the UK the licensing authority operates under legal statute giving them wide powers. The licensing authority have no real concept of the non-viewer and class them as suspect licence-dodgers. Thus, we are subject threats and other manner of persecution. Considering we are only refusing an entertainment service it is a ridiculous situation."

...The BBC reported that the reduced evasion added up to an additional £4.6 million, which is "the equivalent of three high-quality drama series."

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Coves proposal to get more review

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-01-27 03:50:50

A city council committee says it needs more information before deciding if storm water should be dumped into the Coves. About a dozen people made presentations last night to council's environment and transportation committee on a proposal to route runoff into the Coves ponds instead of the Thames River.

The committee deferred a decision until a special meeting next Monday, allowing more time for a review of the potential impact.

City staff propose that instead of installing a kilometre-long storm sewer from Springbank Drive to the Thames, the city would save up to $900,000 on the $16.5-million Springbank Drive reconstruction project by diverting storm water to the Coves.

Several citizens expressed concern the additional water could cause flooding and impair water quality.

City staff and consultants told the committee the storm water will increase the Coves level by two centimetres.

"It's inconsequential," said Dave Leckie, the city's director of roads and transportation.

Leckie could offer no consolation, however, to residents worried about flooding in the low-lying area, where some live in a mobile home park.

"If you're living in a floodplain, you will continue to be flooded; it's as simple as that," Leckie said.

(If you live in London, expect rations and flooding. Talk to the increased London City Police Force if you have a problem. Flooding? Tough shit - you live in London, Ontario.)

Jim Williamson, owner of Cove Mobile Home Park and Sales Inc., asked the committee to delay approval to allow time to review studies.

The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority also asked for more time.

City staff said discharging storm water from Springbank Drive will provide "environmental enhancement opportunities," such as flushing the system.

Of particular concern, however, is the effect on the Coves of additional sediments, road salt and other substances, such as oils and pesticides.

"There are questions that need to be answered in a definitive way before this is going to get my support," said Coun. David Winninger, a committee member.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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"I have a message for the influence peddlers, for the polluters, the HMOs, the big drug companies that get in the way, the big oil and the special interests -- who now call the White House their home," Kerry said. "We're coming. You're going. And don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Senator John Kerry, after his victory in the New Hampshire Primary.

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AL FRANKEN KNOCKS DOWN DEAN HECKLER
January 27, 2004 -- EXETER, N.H. - Wise-cracking funnyman Al Franken yesterday body-slammed a demonstrator to the ground after the man tried to shout down Gov. Howard Dean. The tussle left Franken's trademark thick-rim glasses broken, but he said he was not injured.

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$A\/E D0\/\/NTO\/\/N EN|_ARGE Y0UR PE|\|I$

Billy Beck:

A great deal of this has to do with the imperatives of democratic politics. People in that business certainly don't have to take a long view, and, in fact, it is almost always a positive liability to do so. Witness the "third rail" aspect of dealing with entitlement spending. The way ahead for professional jobholders is a brisk business in "new" band-aids on festering political traumas.

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Howlett situation pondered in secret


City council met in secret session last night, grappling with the controversial stress leave of key senior manager Glenn Howlett. The public session lasted less than a minute as councillors went behind closed doors at 8:30 p.m.

Last night's meeting marked the fifth closed-door session on the Howlett issue since the general manager of community services left his job on doctor-ordered stress leave with pay in mid-November after an apparent prank by senior managers backfired.

Howlett has retained London lawyer John Judson. He's the same lawyer hired by former acting city manager Jeff Malpass and former human rights specialist Catherine Burr, in both cases to negotiate departure settlements with the city.

London labour lawyer Frank Angeletti, of Philion Wakely Thorup Angeletti, appeared ready to make a presentation to council. Angeletti has been retained by the city as an outside legal adviser.

The only business conducted in public was when Coun. Fred Tranquilli declared a conflict of interest.

Tranquilli's wife is a lawyer employed at Lerners, the same law firm at which Judson works.

With London taxpayers facing a potential 10.4 per cent tax hike and with Howlett still receiving his more than $155,000 annual salary, the public's patience with delays in resolving the issue appears to be wearing thin.

"Howlett's time off and expenses should come out of the pockets of the instigators," one reader wrote in a letter to the editor last week.

What is known about Howlett's stress leave is he suffered heart palpitations after receiving a "dummy resolution" Nov. 3 while vacationing with his wife, Maureen, in Banff, Alta., telling him he had only two weeks to pull together a report on the city's controversial corporate renewal plan.

The phoney resolution, which appeared genuine because it was certified by the clerk's office, is said to have ruined Howlett's vacation and affected his staff when he frantically called London instructing them to start working to meet the bogus deadline.

While Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco and council have expressed hope Howlett will regain his health and return to work soon, Judson -- Howlett's designated spokesperson -- has refused to disclose his client's intentions.

Howlett, a nearly 30-year veteran of London city administration, has declined to comment other than to say he has been "deeply moved" by the outpouring of support he has received from the community.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Ontario may axe tax credits

The government will boost revenues as best it can, says Finance Minister Greg Sorbara.


TORONTO -- The Ontario government is contemplating axing tax credits and other grants while increasing fees as it grapples with a projected $5.6-billion deficit and tries to keep its election promise to rebuild social programs. As the Liberals "redesign government," they will look at every avenue to boost revenues and reduce costs, including eliminating certain tax credits, tax exemptions and grants, while possibly raising fees for such items as drivers' licences, Finance Minister Greg Sorbara said.

"We're going to examine government programs against the priorities that we ran on, and that Ontarians voted for," Sorbara told the standing committee on finance and economic affairs on the first day of a set of pre-budget hearings.

"That includes the array of programs that are provided through the tax system."

The government also will decide what programs it should stop, he said.

Asked about getting rid of tax credits, exemptions and grants, Sorbara said after his presentation that, "Indeed, we'll have to look at those."

The government could save between $800 million and $1.2 billion by going that route, he added.

"There are . . . so-called tax expenditures in the system, grants and credits to businesses and individuals that we'll be looking at to see if they still make sense or if they're the most efficient way of achieving the public objective," Sorbara said.

He said he didn't want to give specifics, but agreed the film and TV tax credit and the exemption for the employer health tax were ones that could be examined. "There's a wide variety of them," he added.

The employer health tax exemption for the first $400,000 of payroll, which all businesses are eligible to claim, is vital to the small business community, critics say.

The government also is looking at raising non-tax revenue, Sorbara said. That could include such things as higher fees for drivers' licences or Ontario health insurance premiums.

That kind of talk is reminiscent of the former Conservative government, said NDP Leader Howard Hampton, calling them "unfair tax increases."

Conservative MPP John Baird said these suggestions aren't in keeping with Premier Dalton McGuinty's promises in TV ads last fall that said he wouldn't raise taxes.

Whether it's a tax credit cancelled or a levy added, "these guys are going to take more money out of hard-working taxpayers' pockets and that is 100 per cent opposite to what he said he would do," Baird said.

NDP finance critic Michael Prue said the government's goal to balance the budget, spend more on programs and keep taxes flat "is the impossible dream."

The government will not raise personal income taxes, Sorbara said. And the Liberals plan to present a balanced budget this spring -- but not at any price.

"Have we made a commitment that come hell or high water . . . the budget will be balanced? The answer is no," he told the committee.

Under the Balanced Budget Act, that would mean all ministers would forfeit 25 per cent of their salary. Sorbara said ministers could live with that rather than "decimating programs."

But program spending has to be cut, said John Williamson, with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"I'd like to see the government get on with reducing programs," he said, which is what has to happen to balance the books and keep taxes steady.

He added abolishing tax credits would violate the spirit of the act, which requires the government to seek approval in a referendum before increasing taxes.

Scotiabank chief economist Warren Jestin suggests the Liberals have a three-year plan to balance the books, knowing "no wholesale increase in taxes is warranted . . . and therefore you have to focus on the overall spending side."

The government has to consider the possibility of raising personal income taxes if it plans to reinvest in public services, said Hugh Mackenzie, a research associate for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

A two-per-cent increase in personal tax rates would raise $1.25 billion in 2004-05, he said.

That increase would mean most Ontarians would pay between $50 and $200 a year more in taxes, Mackenzie said.

And closing certain corporate loopholes introduced by the Tories and dropping some exemptions under the employer health tax would give Ontario $2.1 billion in extra revenue.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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City hospitals rated highly

But the marks in a provincial report don't mean all is well with London's health care, officials say.


London hospitals scored high marks in a provincial report released yesterday, but officials warn it doesn't mean all is well with health care in the city. Both London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph's Health Care were given high ratings for patient satisfaction in the report card that compared performance by 120 Ontario hospitals.

"The results were great once again. The ratings were very high," Cliff Nordal, president of St. Joseph's Health Care, said yesterday.

Tony Dagnone, president of London Health Sciences Centre, said the results reaffirm that London Health Sciences Centre continues to provide quality patient care to the community.

A joint project of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ontario Hospital Association, the report card rated virtually every aspect of hospitals, from emergency care to food provided patients.

On a provincial level, the report found 93 per cent of patients said the care they received in hospitals was either good or excellent.

And patients appeared happy with their doctors with 95 per cent rating the skill of their physician as good or excellent.

But many patients were less happy about the time they spent waiting for procedures, room transfers and for nurses to respond to call bells.

Patients also said there was room for improvement in pain management and hospital food.

And there were complaints about poor cleanliness of rooms, surgical wards and the hospitals.

Besides the two London hospitals, the report also covered hospitals in Ingersoll, Chatham, Seaforth, Sarnia, St. Thomas, Strathroy, Tillsonburg and Woodstock.

All of the area hospitals had an overall satisfaction rating that at least matched the provincial average.

Nordal said he was particularly pleased with the satisfaction ratings when the two London hospitals were coping with transferring programs back and forth under the restructuring plan.

It shows that physicians, nurses and support staff stayed focused on taking care of patients, he said.

But Nordal said the report card only shows that people are generally satisfied once they make it inside the hospital door and doesn't look at the problem of long waiting lists for surgeries and other procedures.

All teaching hospitals and 91 per cent of the rest of the hospitals are facing staff shortages, primarily nurses, he said.

"When we have a nursing shortage we tend to close beds and that simply delays procedures," Nordal said yesterday.

One area where the sciences centre received a lower-than-average score was for patient satisfaction with its facility.

Dagnone pointed out that more than half the teaching hospitals also ranked "below average" in this indicator.

He attributed the centre's lower rating on its aging South Street site facility, saying there is no question it is a challenge for patients, physicians and staff.

"However, with the recent opening of the new emergency department at University campus and a new adult emergency department expected to open soon at Victoria campus, those challenges will be a thing of the past," he said.

PATIENT SATISFACTION:

Teaching hospital mean: 90.9

London Health Sciences Centre: 91.0 to 93.3

St. Joseph's Health Care London: 91.0 to 93.3

Small hospital mean: 91.1

Alexandra Hospital in Ingersoll: 93.4 to 99.1

Community hospital mean: 88.3

Chatham-Kent Health Alliance: 86.5 to 88.6

Seaforth: 91.0 to 93.3

Lambton Hospitals Group: 78.8 to 85.1

St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital: 86.5 to 88.6

Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital: 88.7 to 90.9

Tillsonburg: 88.7 to 90.9

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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