Tuesday, June 29, 2004

London wastes more taxpayer money

City pays legal bill

JOE BELANGER, Free Press Reporter   2004-06-29 03:21:31  

London taxpayers will foot the bill for two members of council who signed affidavits backing a city lawyer's bid to have a bylaw quashed. Last night, council approved paying about $19,000 in legal fees for Controller Bud Polhill and Coun. Roger Caranci.

The two signed affidavits saying council voted in private on a contentious bylaw put in place to temporarily freeze development along a portion of Richmond Street.

The city lost a court battle and appeal to have the affidavits, supporting lawyer Allan Patton's motion to quash the bylaw, thrown out.

"I'm glad council saw fit to indemnify us," Caranci said. "We were clearly vindicated by the courts in every way."

That motion is still before the courts.

Council argued the actions of the two members dramatically affects council's rules and regulations and how it conducts its meetings, particularly behind closed doors.

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell supported the payment and also offered an apology.

But others, including Coun. Susan Eagle, argued against indemnification. Eagle questioned whether the two acted in the "best interests of taxpayers" and said council should first see details of the bill.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Gosnell Worried about his business interests

Keep London open, Gosnell warns
City council approves proposed higher water rates for business and development fees.
JOE BELANGER, Free Press Reporter   2004-06-29 03:21:34  

Higher water rates and development charges could send industry scrambling for pastures greener than London, Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell warns. He issued the warning last night after city council approved proposed new water rates that shift some of the burden from homeowners to business.

Council also approved new development fees that could be adjusted later this year to include industrial development.

"Council better be careful they don't send the message out we're not open for business anymore," Gosnell said.

The proposed new water rates -- which call for an eight-per-cent reduction for homeowners and double-digit hikes for business -- will be presented at public meetings between now and September.

A final rate structure will be presented to council in the fall.

Staff propose to reduce the average homeowner's sewer and water bills by eight per cent to $624 a year from $679. That includes a hike for water meters to $9.25 a month from the current 40 cents to recover full costs, including meter replacement, administration and billing.

The average commercial user would see a hike of 29 per cent, the average tab rising to $699 a year from $541 at present.

The industrial rate would climb between zero and 16 per cent, depending on volume, for an annual average cost of between $107,000 and $124,700.

The new rates are designed to make the system fairer for homeowners, who traditionally pay a larger portion of the costs to help maintain the city's competitiveness for economic development.

Meanwhile, the new development charges bylaw will see developers pay a bigger share of the cost of services to pay for city growth.

Though the new bylaw includes discounts and exemptions for new commercial and industrial developments, some members of council are pushing for change.

"We're the only city among others our size where there's zero charge for industrial and we're asking taxpayers to subsidize industry," Coun. Joni Baechler said.

"When we're projecting tax hikes of 9.7 per cent next year and more the following years, taxpayers can't afford this. In fact, this will drive some businesses out of the city."

Baechler and the Urban League of London have led much of the push for higher development charges.

Despite a city policy that "growth must pay for growth," Baechler said discounts and exemptions have cost taxpayers $33 million over the last five years.

Development charges are assessed to help pay for roads, sewers, emergency services and libraries -- service costs that grow as a city expands.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Red Scare in London Ontario

DeCicco shows her true colours

Reproduced in today's edition of the London Free Press is a photograph of a smiling Major Anne Marie DeCicco congratulating London West Liberal Candidate Sue Barnes on her winning victory last night in the Federal Election.

A few days prior to the election, as reported by the London Free Press, our 'worship' insisted that city council was not endorsing any political party nor attempting to influence London voters.

This comment was made in connection with a 'poll', submitted to London candidates, by City Council, regarding how much cash municipalities could expect from the federal government. Of course, the candidates who were reported as most likely to give cash strapped and greedy London more money were the Liberals, the Greens and the NDP.

Read about it Here

Overtaxed Londoners are not likely to be influenced by Council or the London Free Press now are they?............. They just want to have their JLC and eat it too.

Sceptic - London Fog Editor
© 2004 The London Fog

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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Councillors will continue to eat at taxpayer expense

City cafeteria won't compete with eateries

Controllers approve a plan to promote the restaurant mainly within City Hall.
JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-06-24 01:58:03

London's city hall cafeteria will not be competing with downtown eateries, city staff say. Board of control, which approved the plan, was told yesterday the cafeteria won't be promoting its fare to the general public in a bid to break even.

"That is not our intent," said Jim Hignett, director of long-term care at Dearness Home, who also oversees the 12th-floor cafeteria that loses about $57,000 annually.

"We're not going to be in competition with the private sector."

Instead, Hignett said the plan is to promote the cafeteria to staff, visitors and people doing business at city hall.

The only outside promotion, Hignett said, would be to a nearby seniors complex whose residents regularly visit.

"If that's the case, then I don't have a strong problem with this," said Controller Bud Polhill.

The proposal goes to full council for approval Monday.

Hignett said the plan is two-pronged: an increase of three to five per cent in prices, to a level more in line with the private sector, and promotion to increase the number of customers. The menu will be revamped and takeout offered.

Promotion? Sounds a bit like competition with the private sector....Hmmmm.

It's hoped the initiatives will reduce this year's loss to $32,800 from $57,700. Next year, the loss is estimated to fall to $11,600.

Close it!!!

Downtown restaurant owners reacted angrily to the proposal Tuesday.

Bryan Lavery, head of the London Downtown Restaurant Association and owner of Murano, still isn't convinced.

He said the $57,700 deficit will be difficult to overcome without cutting into the business of private restaurants.

"I certainly don't see walk-in traffic and visitors to the City Hall as the answer," Lavery said. "It seems outrageous that they will invariably risk hurting the many small eateries in the surrounding area."

Controller Gord Hume said it's clear the cafeteria won't be promoted as a "destination."

But Controller Russ Monteith still opposes the plan.

"It just seems to me this is going beyond what a city hall cafeteria should be doing," Monteith said.

"To go beyond that, you're getting into what we have merchants doing in the private sector."

The cafeteria occupies city hall's entire top floor, offering dinner selections from glazed duck to beef tenderloin.

Burlington-based Sodexho holds the $431,000 contract with the city to operate the cafeteria as part of the Dearness Home food-services contract.

The contract expires in October 2005, but the city recently decided to extend it month-to-month until the cafeteria is financially viable.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Another make work project for the city! A task force? Just get rid of the anti-smoking bylaw!!

Task force proposed to help city bingo halls

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-06-24 01:58:08

A task force is being proposed to examine how to help London's beleaguered bingo halls survive. The board of control recommendation came after representatives of the local bingo industry said yesterday they can't afford to absorb higher licence fees being sought by the city.

"Of the five bingo halls I represent, none of us are operating a profit anymore," said Jack Halip, owner of London Bingo Palace and Castle on Adelaide Street.

"The impact (of raising the licensing fee) will be significant . . . . And when a bingo hall closes, it means a loss to its charities of hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Halip made the appeal as the board considered a staff recommendation to increase the licensing fee to three per cent of the prize board, usually estimated at $4,700, from 1.6 per cent. City council reduced the fee more than a year ago to offset anticipated losses to bingo halls caused by a new no-smoking bylaw.

The temporary decrease cost the city $13,650 last year and is expected to cost $78,906 in lost revenues this year, according to city staff.

In the report, the city noted the number of bingo players dropped about 45,000 last year to 347,789 from 392,956 in 2002.

But the staff noted that revenue to charities rose by $319 to $1,749,790 last year from $1,749,471 in 2002.

Halip argued that if the city takes the three-per-cent licensing fee, it will be taking about $80,000 out of the profits of charities.

He told the board the industry has been stung in recent years by declining revenues caused by fewer players.

Halip attributed the decline, at least in part, to the city's smoking bylaw, Western Fair's slot machine operations and casinos across the province.

But he said there is also widespread concern competing bingo halls in St. Thomas and one planned for Elgin south of the city, where smoking is permitted, will cut even deeper. That could mean more bingo hall closures, he said.

"If we're talking about shutting down the industry, I'm not comfortable doing it," Controller Gord Hume said about the fee increase and in supporting a task force.

The task force, if approved, would be headed by former city councillor Gary Williams and would expected to report back within 60 days.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Schools offered milk machines

MARISSA NELSON, Free Press Reporter 2004-06-24 01:58:15

The London area's public school board has signed a five-year vending deal with Pepsi and two other companies, deals that will net schools $4 million and put milk machines into schools that want them. "There was a push for us in this process to try and increase the range of healthy choices," superintendent Brian Greene of the Thames Valley District school board said yesterday of the new milk machines.

"I think parents will be pleased to see there's milk as opposed to one of the other beverages.

"It makes it easier than trying to pack milk. I think the fact our snack machines will offer a balanced choice, and offer that alternative."

The exclusive contracts are with Pepsi for drinks, Dairyland Fluid for milk machines and Chartwells for snacks.

Ontario's new Liberal government has decided to ban junk food in elementary schools.

Even though it was already decided pop wouldn't be sold in area elementary schools, the board consulted the Middlesex-London health unit before signing the new deals.

As a result, Chartwells will make sure principals -- who decide what goes into the machines -- have plenty of healthy snacks to put in the machines.

But Lisa Widdifield, a spokesperson for the London-based Public Education Rights Coalition, said the contracts are just a way for big companies to start cultivating brand loyalty in public schools.

"There's an attempt to offer healthier options, but why not remove them completely?" Widdifield said. If it's a matter of the schools -- which get a cut of the profits -- wanting money, then it's an issue of provincial underfunding.

"Why are we selling sugar water to children to pay for programs?"

Greene said Dairyland Fluid has agreed to allow school logos on its machines, but Pepsi has not.

Any schools that have a milk program will be allowed to continue.

"I'm pretty sure schools will want it. It's a great alternative," Greene said of the milk program.

Vending machines have been in schools for years, Greene added, all the board has done is to get a more lucrative, exclusive deal.

"Kids are wearing Nike. These products are everywhere. It's just a fact of life," he said.

Irene BucklandFoster, manager of the health unit's child health program, said that health officials were consulted is a big step forward.

"The milk machines are a positive step because it's a way for children to get milk during the day," she said.

"Even though some of the choices (like chocolate milk) have high sugar, they're still a good source of calcium."

A committee will be set up to make sure principals understand it's important to put healthier products, now available, into the machines.

"Principals are still the gatekeepers," BucklandFoster said. "It encourages principals to walk the talk . . . You can't say one thing in the classroom and do something else outside the classroom."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Just close the cafeteria! Pay for your own food councillors!

City cafeteria plan slammed

MARY-JANE EGAN, Free Press City Hall Reporter   2004-06-23 01:44:23  

A proposal to open and aggressively pitch London city hall's money-losing cafeteria to the public has raised the ire of some downtown eateries. Even the idea of take-out service is on the table, leaving downtown restaurants crying foul over unfair competition.

"I see this as clear competition between the city and private enterprise," Bryan Lavery, head of the London Downtown Restaurant Association and owner of Murano, said yesterday.

"There's a lot of restaurateurs downtown struggling to get a piece of the market share and it would be good to see our politicians supporting these small businesses, not trying to compete."

A proposal is to be debated at board of control today to transform the cafeteria to break-even operation. It now loses about $57,000 a year.

The cafeteria occupies city hall's entire top floor, offering dinner selections from glazed duck to beef tenderloin.

The proposal by food-services company Sodexho hinges on opening the cafeteria up to the public this month and opening a section called "Cafe Fresca" that will offer other choices such as soups, salads, desserts and a sandwich bar.

Flyers would be distributed to area residences to promote the place as a neighbourhood eatery. Take-out meals would also be offered.

The menu will include "healthy choices such as soup and half sandwiches," the proposal states.

Burlington-based Sodexho holds the $431,000 contract with the city to operate the cafeteria as part of the Dearness Home food services contract.

The contract expires in October 2005, but the city recently decided to extend it month-to-month until the cafeteria is financially viable.

Going public was Sodexho's response.

Controller Bud Polhill, who said opening the cafeteria to the public "isn't a bad idea," added he understands the concerns of surrounding eateries.

"It would be like I've got a garage and the city started opening the city works yard and telling people they could bring their cars there and get them fixed."

Polhill said he'll make up his mind after the debate.

"I haven't read all the details. It's just an option offered by the contractor and whether we accept it is another question."

Mike Inwood, owner of Cafe One , directly across Victoria Park from city hall, condemned the move: "I'd be competing against my own tax dollars . . ."

While Lavery said the move won't affect his upscale restaurant, he said eateries like Cafe One could suffer.

"It's laughable they think they would be able to fill enough seats to make the cafeteria profitable without investing considerable money. Or are they thinking of poaching directly from existing businesses?" said Lavery.

Inwood agrees, noting his clientele includes city hall employees.

Allan Shephard, manager of nearby Druxy's, said the sandwich deli could be a concern but city hall generally offers "more fancy dishes than us -- they probably get a lot more suit and ties."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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??

Health boss gets more clout
Ontario will cut political interference in medical matters.
CP
TORONTO -- Ontario's chief medical officer of health will be given more powers and independence as part of an overhaul of the province's public health system, Health Minister George Smitherman announced yesterday. "Political interference is a little bit like conflict of interest," Smitherman said.

"The perception in itself is damaging, and we by the actions we intend to take, will eliminate that perception."

Dr. Sheela Basrur, who was appointed to Ontario's top public health post in February, welcomed the promised legislation that Smitherman said will clearly spell out her responsibilities and duties during a public health crisis.

"There will be increased independence to speak my mind, which I'm in the habit of doing. But it's nice to have that written out."

Basrur told reporters she never witnessed any political interference during last year's SARS crisis, when she was Toronto's medical officer of health and one of the highest-profile officials in the battle against the disease.

"The perception was perhaps much greater than the reality, but perception becomes reality."

Smitherman said legislation will be introduced in the fall to give Basrur the new powers and make it clear what she must do in the event of another crisis in Ontario.

"It's critically important that the person we entrust to advise us also be given an enhanced set of responsibilities to act on the information that they have without any filter."

But the New Democrats aren't convinced that Smitherman's promised changes will eliminate political interference from public health in times of crisis.

"There's always concerns about political interference, even when you have independent officers," said deputy NDP leader Marilyn Churley.

"I think having independence makes having that problem a little bit better, but I think there's always going to be some political interference in these catastrophes like SARS."

Smitherman and Basrur were flanked by lab workers at the city's Central Public Health Lab as he announced a three-year action plan to revamp public health.

"Ontario's public health system has suffered decades of neglect," he said.

Smitherman said the province would add nearly $42 million to the $273 million in the budget for public health, and would establish a new Health Protection and Promotion Agency, which Basrur called "CDC North," Ontario's version of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

The plan will help public health units hire more staff and pay for better methods for tracking diseases and community health concerns, Smitherman said.

It will also expand video-conference links to allow public health units in Ontario to instantly share data.

Smitherman promised the action plan two months ago after a series of reports criticized the province for its inability to properly deal with the SARS outbreak.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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NDP MP Robinson charged with theft - still thinking of voting for the NDP?

Canadian Press

Vancouver — NDP MP Svend Robinson has been charged with theft after he admitted to taking an expensive diamond ring in April.

Mr. Robinson is to appear in provincial court on July 8, said a news release from the criminal justice branch of the Ministry of the Attorney-General.

A spokesman in Mr. Robinson's Burnaby-Douglas riding said no one was available immediately to comment.

Mr. Robinson, a controversial MP who sat in the House of Commons for 25 years and has run for the leadership of the NDP, held a tearful news conference in April to say he “pocketed” the expensive ring while at an auction on April 9.

He turned himself in to police a few days later, he told reporters.

Mr. Robinson said at the time he had been suffering “extreme stress and emotional pain” for some time and blamed it partly on a hiking accident that took place in 1997.

He stepped aside from his duties as an MP and is not running in the current federal election.

He has retained high-profile Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby to represent him.

Mr. Robinson, who has been in seclusion since the news conference, was not immediately available for comment.

The decision to lay the charges was made by Len Doust, who was appointed the special prosecutor in the case.

© 2004 Globe and Mail

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Is it any wonder these guys are against Private Health Care?! Onward comrades!

Doctors required to report gunshot wounds to police
 
Keith Leslie
Canadian Press

TORONTO -- Ontario will become the first province to require hospitals to notify police whenever a patient comes in with a gunshot wound, Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter announced Wednesday.

"The policy on reporting currently varies from hospital to hospital, even doctor to doctor," Kwinter said.

"We're fixing the current imbalance in which hospitals and medical staff are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to report patients treated for gunshot wounds."

Kwinter said legislation "will protect health care facilities so they can give authorized information to the police without worrying about their exposure to liability."

He said the bill will standardize the reporting procedures for hospitals across Ontario, and insisted something left out of the legislation is equally important.

"It would not make it mandatory for family physicians, to name one group, to report gunshot patients to police," he said.

"Keeping intact the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship."

Kwinter said the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the Ontario Association of Police Service Boards and the Toronto Police force all asked the government to force hospitals to report the name of patients that come in with gunshot wounds.

"Just last week, the board of directors of the Ontario Medical Association unanimously passed a resolution supporting mandatory reporting" of gunshots, he added.

"Physicians recognize the special threat that guns pose to public safety," said Dr. John Rapin, president of the Ontario Medical Association.

Dr. Howard Ovens, chief of emergency services at Mount Sinai hospital, said he saw the need for mandatory reporting four years ago after "an incident in which our staff found themselves on opposite sides of the law with police."

"There were no rules. There was a lot of confusion," said Ovens.

"Neither police nor doctors had a common understanding of how they should interact."

If the bill is passed, hospitals and other health care facilities would be required to verbally report the names of people who are treated for gunshot wounds to their local police service as soon as practicable.

Private facilities, such as walk-in clinics and family physicians would be exempt from the proposed legislation.

No other province has legislation specifically requiring the reporting of gunshot wounds, but 45 American states have some form of mandatory reporting law.

NDP house leader Peter Kormos said his party is worried the mandatory reporting of gunshots could stop victims from going to the emergency room.

"The real concern is whether or not that reporting requirement is going to deter victims of gunshot wounds from going to hospitals seeking treatment," said Kormos.

"One understands the interest being served in requiring reporting, but at the same time we need to hear from doctors and other professionals about the onus it puts on them."

The Conservatives said they will support the legislation, but claimed the timing of the announcement was purely political, noting provincial police chiefs will meet in Toronto next week.

"Minister Kwinter hasn't introduced any policy statements, he's done nothing in legislation around law and order," said Tory critic Garfield Dunlop.

"He's got to have something to announce when he's down there at the Chiefs of Police conference next week."

© Canadian Press 2004

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And now let us sue the farmers who grew food to feed the Nazis

Gypsies sue IBM over Nazi death camps
June 23, 2004
A Swiss court has cleared the way for Gypsies to sue IBM over published allegations that the computer company's punch-card machines helped the Nazis commit mass murder more efficiently, the plaintiffs' lawyer said.

The Geneva appeals court disagreed with a lower court that refused to hear the case last year on grounds it lacked jurisdiction, the Gypsies' lawyer, Henri-Philippe Sambuc, said yesterday.

A Gypsy group filed the lawsuit in Geneva because IBM's wartime European headquarters was in the city. They claim the office was IBM's hub for trade with the Nazis.

"IBM's complicity through material or intellectual assistance to the criminal acts of the Nazis during World War II via its Geneva office cannot be ruled out," said the appeals court ruling. It cited "a significant body of evidence indicating that the Geneva office could have been aware that it was assisting these acts."

In its June 2003 ruling, the lower court said IBM only had an "antenna" in the Swiss city. City archives, however, show that in 1936 IBM opened an office under the name "International Business Machines Corporation New York, European Headquarters."

No immediate reaction to the ruling was available from IBM's Geneva lawyers, who have previously referred requests for comment to the company's headquarters in Armonk, New York. Company officials there did not immediately return calls.

IBM has consistently denied it was in any way responsible for the way its machines were used in the Holocaust.

The company has said its German subsidiary, Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen GmbH, or Dehomag, was taken over by the Nazis before World War II, and it had no control over operations there or how Nazis used IBM machines.

Sambuc maintains that the company's Geneva office continued to coordinate Europe-wide trade with the Nazis, acting on clear instructions from world headquarters in New York.

The group represented by Sambuc - Gypsy International Recognition and Compensation Action - sued IBM for ``moral reparation'' and $US20,000 ($A29,000) each in damages on behalf of four Gypsies from Germany and France and one Polish-born Swedish Gypsy. All five plaintiffs were orphaned in the Holocaust.

The campaigners began planning the lawsuit after US author Edwin Black wrote in a 2001 book, IBM and the Holocaust, that IBM punch-card machines enabled the Nazis to make their killing operations more efficient.

Black said the punch-card machines were used to codify information about people sent to concentration camps. The number 12 represented a Gypsy inmate, while Jews were recorded with the number 8. The code D4 meant a prisoner had been killed.

In addition to six million Jews, the Nazis are believed to have killed around 600,000 Gypsies, although Gypsy groups say the number could have been as high as 1.5 million.

"It does not appear inconsistent to conclude that the respondent (IBM) facilitated the task of the Nazis in their committing of crimes against humanity - acts which were counted and codified by IBM machines," the ruling said.

IBM's German division has paid into Germany's government-industry initiative to compensate people forced to work for the Nazis during the war.

In April 2001, a class action lawsuit against IBM in New York was dropped after lawyers said they feared it would slow down payments from the German Holocaust fund. German companies had sought freedom from legal actions before committing to the fund.

The Geneva case is the first Holocaust-related action against IBM in Europe, Sambuc said. A city court will likely hear the lawsuit in the autumn, unless IBM lodges an appeal at the Federal Tribunal, Switzerland's supreme court.

- AP

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Monday, June 21, 2004

Thanks to Billy Beck for posting this article to his blog.

"Here's a thought. The next time somebody tells you the US should be more like European social democracies, ask them how many square feet their household occupies." -
Stephen Bainbridge

Read the whole article Here

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London City Council on vacation for over a month

Council to meet on election night

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter   2004-06-21 02:30:32  

Don't expect London city councillors to be glued to their TVs for federal election-night returns. The June 28 vote is shaping up as the closest political showdown in years on the national stage, but it's unlikely London's gang of 19 politicians will watch.

Instead, they'll be doing what they do every Monday, meeting at city hall.

"I can't stop the business of the city because of the federal election," Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said yesterday.

"Elections are always on Mondays, so it's not unusual. And it's never created a conflict or problem before. And, with any luck, we'll run a very efficient meeting and get out early."

Considering the number of marathon council meetings that continue until midnight or later, chances of an early adjournment appear slim.

DeCicco said she's reluctant to reschedule the meeting because the date was set months ago. As well, it's an important meeting because it's the last before the summer break. Council doesn't meet again until Aug. 3.

While the conflict is unlikely to disappoint many Londoners, some regular council-watchers in the public gallery at city hall are not too thrilled.

"I wish they'd have it another night, because I won't be able to be there," said Susan Smith, a candidate for board of control in last November's election who rarely misses a council session.

Smith is working as a deputy returning officer on election night.

"I can't be in two places at the same time, but if it's possible, I'll try to get (to council) later," she said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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London's continuing attempt to become a ghost town

Developers face hikes in charges for growth

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter   2004-06-21 02:30:38  

Already facing hefty hikes in the fees they pay for urban growth, London developers could be hit with even higher charges before the dust settles on a new bylaw for the fees. Home builders, for example, are already on the hook for a temporary 25-per-cent boost in development charges as the city reviews its bylaw governing what developers must pay.

Development charges are assessed to help pay for roads, sewers, emergency services and libraries -- service costs that grow as a city expands.

The temporary hikes -- until city hall figures out a long-term bylaw -- come as city council's board of control gets set to review its existing development charges bylaw at a public meeting Wednesday.

The ultimate increases could set the stage for a major battle between developers, city hall and city taxpayers.

"There are going to be a number of battles," Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell predicted.

"This is a very complicated issue that affects the city's ability to grow. But it's a debate that has to take place."

At stake are tens of millions of dollars needed to pay for new or expanded city services.

The development charges bylaw basically determines the share of growth costs developers must pay.

According to a city hall background study, the fee charged for industrial development should be an estimated $154 a square metre and the fee for commercial development, now $68.88, should be an estimated $146.

But because London also uses development fees as an economic tool, no fees are now charged for industrial development and commercial development fees are discounted.

That leaves taxpayers to shoulder more of the costs of growth, about $33 million over the last five years, with the expectation growth will bring in extra jobs and tax revenue.

Wednesday, board of control will discuss the background study and a proposed new development charges bylaw.

The bylaw proposes:

- Raising the fee for a new, single-family house to $11,887 from $9,536 now.

- Upping the commercial and institutional fee to $75 a square metre from $68.88.

- Continuing exemptions for industrial and downtown residential developments.

The proposed fees were developed with help from the London Development Institute and Urban League of London, which represents taxpayers.

But what the fees will be remains up in the air, because key reports haven't been factored in.

Reports council still must approve include master plans for sewer, water and transportation services.

Whether the fees rise or fall depends on the cost of adopting plans approved by council.

Steve Janes, president of the London Development Institute, said the industry expected fees for new homes to rise and the cost will be tacked on to home prices.

"It is a hefty increase," he said. "But I don't think they are unreasonable . . . And I don't think it's going to stop the market."

Still, Janes cautioned there's "a long way to go" before the fees are finally nailed down because of "very important decisions and critical studies to be made yet."

One key issue is whether development charges should include a fee for water supply, estimated at $1,000 a home.

Janes said most municipalities include the cost of water supply in the water rate paid by consumers. But city staff say a supply fee could be added to development charges.

But the biggest battles ahead are expected over existing development charge exemptions and discounts.

"The bottom line is taxpayers have paid $33 million over the last five years for growth," said Coun. Joni Baechler, chairperson of council's planning committee.

"Can the taxpayer -- the individual and the small business owner -- carry the burden of all these exemptions? I say no, they can't."

But other politicians, such as Gosnell, say tinkering with fees could halt growth.

"It's bordering on suicidal, removing the exemption on the development charge for industry," Gosnell said. "And if there is to be one, it should be small, or none at all."

He said removing the exemption would reduce London's competitiveness.

"That would be a tremendous disadvantage to us in attracting industry to London, or encouraging the industry we have to expand."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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The Farce Continues

Tax watchdog slams Election Act 'welfare'

KATHLEEN HARRIS, Free Press Parliamentary Bureau 2004-06-21 02:30:40

OTTAWA -- Canadian politics has become akin to a costly "welfare program," says a federal taxpayers' watchdog group. Releasing a summary of payouts to political parties and candidates since 1988, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said changes to the Election Act will leave the public with a hefty $57.6-million tab for this election.

That's more than double the $23.9-million tally for the 2000 campaign.

"Even before these changes were made, candidates and political parties already had a sweetheart deal where many of their expenditures were reimbursed," said federation director John Williamson.

"The idea that taxpayers should support political views they don't agree with runs counter to what most people believe a democracy is about," Williamson said.

Before the changes to election financing rules, candidates scoring at least 15 per cent of the vote received a 50-per-cent rebate on election expenses, while parties took back 25 per cent of expenses. New rules slash the threshold to 10 per cent of eligible votes and give parties an annual subsidy of $1.75 a vote.

"This does nothing to level the playing field," Williamson said. "It helps the big parties, the institutional parties, and it cuts off one more link between the parties and the grassroots by not requiring them to go out and raise money."

But Stephen Clarkson, a University of Toronto political economist, sees it as the price of more public participation and less business influence in the democratic process.

The cost to taxpayers is "small potatoes" compared to the $100 million lost through the sponsorship scandal, he suggested. "If we want a less corrupt politics, we have to be willing to pay for something that's more equitable, more open and more above-board."

Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch believes the per-vote subsidy is too high and the $5,000 cap on individual donations to parties should be reduced to $1,000.

"The party should get a base support of public funding, but beyond that, the system should be set up to reward the party that can convince individuals that their platform is worth supporting with donations."

WHERE THE FEDERAL PARTY LEADERS ARE TODAY

- Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois: Events in Saguenay and Chibougamamau, Que.

- Jim Harris, Green: Events in London, Windsor and Toronto.

- Jack Layton, NDP: Events all day in Toronto.

- Stephen Harper, Conservatives: No events scheduled.

- Paul Martin, Liberals: Events in Bracebridge, Huntsville, North Bay and Thunder Bay.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Sunday, June 20, 2004

More Tax Woes In Blackened London

Downtown taxes blasted
Owners say taxes out of line with property values threaten the core's recovery.
NORMAN DE BONO, Free Press Business Reporter   2004-06-19 02:41:06  

The value of downtown London property has plummeted in recent years, but property taxes have not kept pace with the drop, say business owners in the core. The troubled city centre may be improving with more traffic, thanks to renewed development, but high tax rates for retailers threaten to kill a recovery, they say.

"The taxes for businesses on Dundas Street are absurdly high compared to outside the core," said John Nash, owner of Nash Jewellers. "We're paying much higher values than the market. Our street is basically deserted and taxes are a huge factor."

In 1989, his Dundas Street properties were assessed at $1.1 million. Today, he would feel fortunate to get $200,000 if they went up for sale, but taxes are paid on a higher value, he believes. Nash pays $17,263 a year for taxes on his approximately 3,000-square-foot Dundas Street store. By comparison, European Goldsmith on Wortley Road pays $7,071 and Gerard's Jewellers at 663 Dundas St. pays $2,678.

Nash's second store, on Richmond Street at Masonville Place, shares a large stand-alone building with Hakim Optical and they share property taxes of $22,978 a year.

The former Swiss Chalet restaurant on Dundas Street sold recently and its new owner, David Bird, will pay $28,134 a year in taxes for the 8,300-square-foot space. The new Swiss Chalet store at 735 Wonderland Rd. is located on 1.25 acres of land and pays $46,564.

Bernies Bar and Grill on Adelaide Street, at 25,000 square feet, is three times the size of Bird's new property and pays $19,639, while Archie's Restaurant on Wharncliffe Road South is 18,731 square feet and pays $18,565.

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell agreed taxes in the core are a concern and it may be time the city petitions the province to review commercial property assessments citywide.

"We should look at the inequity of that with the province, so we can build in some fairness," he said, adding he would encourage MainStreet and Nash to bring the matter to the city.

A review may see suburban commercial taxes rise if downtown commercial taxes drop, so the city does not suffer a drop in revenue it cannot afford, he added.

Realtor George Kerhoulas, who owns property on Dundas Street downtown, agrees assessments are high in the core, but believes the real issue is parking. Taxes are about $4 a square foot, comparable to the suburbs, but suburban business owners get free parking.

"We pay the same taxes, but they get free parking. If they gave us that, our taxes would go way up," he said.

As for the former Swiss Chalet restaurant, it has a 60-foot frontage and that's why its taxes are high. Nash's store also has a commercial space on its second floor, boosting the rate. Second- and third-floor apartments, however, don't impact the assessment significantly, he added.

"Don't get me wrong. Assessments are high. But it is hard to measure until you take a same property in the suburbs and you can't do that easily. Assessments are very complex. Should we also pay downtown for having the John Labatt Centre, market and library? Sure we should," said Kerhoulas.

Taxes also have dropped dramatically in the last 10 years on core-area properties, he adds, but could come down further to reflect current value.

Janette MacDonald, manager of MainStreet London, believes that is just the problem -- the assessed value of the property has remained high even though value has dropped. Since the mill rate has gone up, owners pay higher property taxes. The solution would be for the assessment office to re-evaluate properties, she says.

"I am concerned. We need to get these buildings filled and taxes are an issue we need to deal with," she said. "The downtown carries the rest of the city in terms of property taxes and I don't think we should do that any more. Just give us an even playing field."

The city has waived development fees and offered a multi-year sliding property tax break for developers building residences in the core, and Nash and MacDonald would like to see tax relief for merchants.

Susan Saunders, a real estate agent with Sutton Group Preferred, has seen potential buyers walk away from buying downtown property because of taxes.

"The taxes are outrageous. $2,000 a month for a Dundas Street storefront is crazy," she said. "I have shown property and they just won't buy it when they see the taxes. The property is reasonable, taxes are not."

Nash recently tried to launch an appeal of tax rates for businesses on his block, but few would take on the expense of lodging an appeal, he said. His block of downtown property -- he is at 180-182 Dundas St. -- is largely vacant, one of the worst areas of the core, and few could afford a legal tax battle.

Property in London was last reassessed in 2003 and the reassessment this year was cancelled by the province.

Businesses can apply for a reassessment by the provincial Municipal Property Assessment Corp., and the deadline for that is year end. If they're still unsatisfied, they can appeal their assessment, but must wait till next March.

"This issue comes up in every core area," said Carlos Resendes, manager of assessment with the city.

"The city has not studied this, we are just the tax collectors."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Saturday, June 19, 2004

London spends $135 500 on grass

Saga of house ends in rubble

KELLY PEDRO, Free Press Reporter   2004-06-19 02:41:21  

A tiny bungalow on a busy city thoroughfare that marked an elderly woman's successful fight with city hall is gone. Mary Arnezeder captured headlines in 1982 after a David-versus-Goliath match with city hall, which wanted to expropriate her land at 32 Riverside Dr. as part of a $4-million beautification project at the Forks of the Thames.

Arnezeder stood firm and refused to leave, saying she wanted to live out her days in the modest home.

She eventually won the right to live in the house across from Labatt Park until she died.

Arnezeder, the daughter of a large Saskatchewan farming family, bought the house in the 1940s.

She became known around city hall as the "iron lady," but newspaper articles at the time show she was just fighting for what she believed was hers.

The feisty woman lived in the house until Nov. 26, when she died peacefully at Parkwood Hospital after a battle with cancer. She was in her late 80s.

The city bought the 8.5- by 42.5-metre lot at the northeast corner of Riverside Drive near Walnut Street March 25 for $135,500, said Ron Sanderson, manager of realty services for the city.

The plan is to grow grass on the land as part of a parklike setting that has surrounded it since 1982.

The property has been the missing piece in the city's bid to complete a greenbelt bordering the core and the Thames River.

A permit to raze the house was issued May 26, said Rocky Cerminara, director of building controls.

Yesterday, the house was nothing more than a pile of rubble, surrounded by lush grass and trees.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Michael Moore Now Seeks to influence the Federal Election - Moore sucks Canadian Dick

Moore warns of swing to the right
Harper would `like this to be 51st State'
Filmmaker hopes his movie sways vote

PETER HOWELL
MOVIE CRITIC
Firebrand filmmaker Michael Moore hopes his controversial new work Fahrenheit 9/11 will help stop Conservative Leader Stephen Harper from becoming Prime Minister, along with throwing U.S. President George W. Bush out of office.


Moore came to Toronto last night for the Canadian premiere of his Palme d'Or-winning film, which opens in theatres June 25 and which scorches the Bush administration for its handling of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed them.

And he brought with him a warning that if Canadians swing to the right by electing Harper on June 28, as polls suggest might happen, then dire consequences will follow.

"I can't believe that you guys would think about going in that direction, when we're trying to get out of that direction," Moore told the Star, shortly before heading to the Varsity Cinemas to make a red-carpet arrival at the screening.

"I hope this doesn't happen. Bush is going to throw a party (after the Canadian election). He's going to be a happy man. (Harper) has a big pair of scissors in his hand. He wants to snip away at your social safety net. He'd like this to be the 51st State."

Moore doesn't let the Liberals off the hook, blaming them for creating the mood in Canada where a Conservative government seems plausible.

"They moved to the right (under Martin), which then validated the right."

Moore, 50, has always loved Canada and followed politics here avidly even before his first film, Roger & Me, made him the star of the 1989 Toronto International Film Festival.


He praised former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for refusing last year to join Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He regrets not giving Chrétien credit for his bravery in Fahrenheit 9/11, much of which takes a critical look at the Iraq invasion and the Bush family's ties to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

And perhaps he should have included some 'commentary' (or do I mean satire??) on the Liberal sponsorship scandal, which peeked during Chretien's reign.

Moore has become much more serious about his political views, so much so that Disney attempted to stop its subsidiary Miramax Films from releasing Fahrenheit 9/11, for fear of upsetting Bush supporters.


The surprise Palme d'Or win last month in Cannes helped Moore find other distributors, including Canadian firms Alliance Atlantis and Lions Gate.

Fahrenheit 9/11 has become one of the year's hottest properties. There have been reports Stateside of right-wing attempts to block or limit distribution of the film, and at least one death threat has been reported against an exhibitor.


Despite all that, Fahrenheit 9/11 is still expected to roll out on hundreds of screens in North America on June 25. That includes 55 in Canada, but the Canadian tally will rise to 140 within two weeks.


Moore said the distributors here originally thought of delaying the release of Fahrenheit 9/11 until after the Canadian federal election, to avoid influencing the outcome — even though the film makes almost no mention of Canada.


"And I said, no, no, no. Even if it's just four days before the election, you've got to get something out there to inspire people to do the right thing here.

"This movie should say to Canadians, you want to join the Coalition of the Willing? Get ready to send your kids over to die for nothing, so that Bush's buddies can line their pockets."


Fahrenheit 9/11 is unrelenting in its criticism of Bush, beginning with his controversial victory over Democratic challenger Al Gore in the 2000 election, a vote that was finally decided by the Republican-dominated Supreme Court.


The film makes powerful connections between the Bush family and with Saudi Arabian oil interests, including the family of Sept. 11 terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Fahrenheit 9/11 is also unstinting in its depiction of the brutality of war, showing grisly scenes of the Iraqi conflict not widely seen on U.S. TV, including the recent desecration of American bodies in Falluja.


"I can't take it any more," Moore said. "That's really the bottom line. I can't stand what Bush has done from the get-go."

But Moore insists that Fahrenheit 9/11 and his vigorous promotional campaigns are meant simply to goad people into getting involved in politics and taking a stand on important issues. They're not a personal vendetta against George W. Bush.


"No, not at all. In fact, if anything, I am grateful to the Bush family. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be a filmmaker. Bush's first cousin, Kevin Rafferty, taught me how to make movies. He was a documentary filmmaker who made The Atomic Café. He shot most of Roger & Me for me ... So if it weren't for a member of the Bush family, I wouldn't have maybe gotten into this.


"I feel badly for George W. I don't think he ever wanted to be president.... He's a frat boy, ne'er-do-well living off daddy's largesse. I want to help him back to that life so he's happier."

© 2004 The Toronto Star

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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Rights of councillors to determine in private our best interests supercedes individual rights

City agrees to list legal costs

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-06-17 01:56:50

Fed up with London city hall's frequent use of outside lawyers, one London councillor is demanding -- and will get -- a full accounting of the city's legal tab since 2000. Coun. Bernie MacDonald, denied by staff on his initial request for the cost of hiring outside lawyers, was given the council green light Monday.

Council voted to direct staff to do the costing for outside lawyers hired during several controversies dating back to the departure of former city manager Jeff Malpass in 2002.

"There comes a time when we have to stand back and take a look at what we're doing," MacDonald said yesterday.

"Somehow, the brakes have to go on. Is this necessary? Everybody is jumping on lawyers and I'm getting frustrated. There's a lawyer with a lawyer with a lawyer. Can't things be settled without going this route?"

MacDonald's request calls for legal costs for lawyers hired to handle issues such as:

- The workplace prank played by senior city hall managers that resulted in the departure of community services manager Glenn Howlett.

- The city's court challenge and appeal of a judge's ruling on the signing of affidavits by Coun. Roger Caranci and Controller Bud Polhill in support of development lawyer Alan Patton's challenge of a temporary zoning bylaw.

- The departure of human rights specialist Catherine Burr, which led to the hiring of human rights lawyers, followed by a recent controversy involving a complaint by her replacement, Joyce Burpee, against city hall cafeteria chef Adam Kopala over the removal of anti-racism posters.

MacDonald said the cost of hiring lawyers is reminiscent of days when the city came under fire for hiring too many consultants.

"It used to be, 'Hire a consultant . . . hire a consultant' and now it's 'Hire a lawyer . . . hire a lawyer.' What's the next big squeeze for the taxpayer?" he asked.

MacDonald said it's frustrating when council comes under fire for attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference, at a cost of less than $20,000.

"People are complaining about that and here we are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers and nobody's questioning that spending. It doesn't make any sense," he said.

Coun. Joni Baechler shared MacDonald's concern about legal costs, such as the $100,000-plus already spent on the Polhill-Caranci court case.

Baechler said when concerns were raised at council about the cost of that case, city-hired lawyer Jim Caskey said there would not have been any extra cost to the city to defend its control bylaw "if those two council members didn't sign those affidavits.

"I think all of us on council are concerned about it and we'd like not to be paying anything," Baechler said.

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell, council's budget chief, said he's concerned about the cost of hiring outside lawyers, but said the money is well-spent.

"The bottom line is we don't spend money unless we have to, especially if we don't see a measurable return," he said.

Gosnell said the city has no option but to appeal the court ruling in the Polhill-Caranci case to protect the city's ability to conduct business behind closed doors when necessary.

"We're better off spending thousands of dollars now defending that right to make sure we don't have to spend millions later in lawsuits," he said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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No interest aroused
Federal Liberals found to be indistinguishable from local city counsellors

Liberal candidates on city hall steps warn against Tories
Temperatures rising
CHIP MARTIN, Free Press Politics Reporter   2004-06-17 01:57:46  

Londoners were warned from the steps of city hall yesterday that sending anything but Liberals to Ottawa could be bad for the city. The warning came from three Liberal candidates who said Ottawa has pumped $50 million into capital projects in London in the past decade and will soon be providing $27 million more each year.

Their message was quickly challenged by a local Conservative who called a news conference to stress Steven Harper cares about cities and will deliver on his promises to support them. And Mike Menear, Conservative candidate in London West, said he was offended the "desperate" trio used the city hall backdrop to suggest they have some sort of endorsement from the city.

The war of words erupted in two hastily called rival news conferences, suggesting the local campaign for voter support is heating up.

Liberals Joe Fontana of London-North-Centre, Pat O'Brien of London-Fanshawe and Sue Barnes of London West said they were responding to concerns from city council about their commitment to cities.

Fontana said a full rebate on the goods and services tax will produce an extra $7 million annually and the Liberals plan to provide five cents of the federal gasoline tax for another $20 million annually. Under questioning, however, he conceded the Liberal plan will start with two cents of the tax (which would produce $8 million for London), rising to five cents after five years.

Fontana said at five cents of the tax, the new money would provide a cushion of seven or eight per cent on local property taxes.

O'Brien said only the Liberal party has shown commitment to municipalities through its infrastructure funding arrangements. The previous Conservative government, he said, provided no such support.

"We owe it to voters to explain our commitment," O'Brien declared, saying council will receive a written reply shortly.

Barnes said infrastructure, social housing and "green" projects would be threatened by Conservatives, who should be confronted about it.

Fontana said Harper would funnel money for municipalities through the provinces, who are to pass it along. "Good luck," Fontana said.

The threesome rejected a suggestion the short-notice news conference was a sign of desperation to get re-elected.

Later in south London, Menear dismissed the Liberal trio's effort as "another desperate move. The political landscape is shifting."

Menear said Harper and the Conservatives "care about cities. We are committed to ensuring their viability." Menear said he doubts London's infrastructure projects are at risk, adding, however, "I need to see the list."

He noted Harper has promised three cents of the gas tax immediately. "We are going to deliver. We are going to do better."

Menear said Harper plans to run the country and is not interested in micromanaging local projects, because provinces are responsible for municipalities.

"Do you want a prime minister (acting as) mayor for every municipality in the country," he asked.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The penalties of proportional representation

ColbyCosh discredits the cringing appeals of little socialist parties in Canada to have their miniscule support translate into hard policy making and breaking. I shudder to think that this seems like such a reasonable idea to so many.

...The Green voters are young, passionate and have new ideas, and while I figure that's three strikes against them, there are those who imagine that Green inclusion in a fragmented PR Parliament might "reawaken" youth interest in politics. Which is supposed to have died out, sometime, and is supposed to be desirable, somehow...
Read on...

And there's more...
...Functional PR, in the real world, is compatible only with party-picked national slates of candidates--and such slates are themselves incompatible with basic features of our democracy. I consider local accountability for every elected parliamentarian to be such a feature, at any rate. It is wise to require that every MP should command the certifiable support of some specific geographical community...
...Whatever "limited democracy" might mean, it seems as though that is exactly the sort of democracy we live in, and I thank heaven for it. I know of no unlimited one--no perfect, crystalline method of translating collective will to action; if there were one, I think we should rue the results soon enough. Democracy is not a primary principle of our constitutional monarchy. If it were, we should have, at the least, separate elections for each federal ministry; or no Parliament at all, with federal referenda on every federal bill. We should have no fixed constitution, written or otherwise, and perhaps no judiciary (let us vote on whether to set the cute murderer free!)...

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Wouldn't it be cheaper to buy a rifle and scrap the gun registry?

Program aims to make centres safer from bears

CP 2004-06-15 02:40:30

NORTH BAY -- The Ontario government will spend $900,000 to help keep people safe from bears. Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay said yesterday in North Bay the Bear Wise program will support community-based bear prevention, awareness and public education programs.

"We will work with communities to identify trouble spots for conflicts between humans and bears and implement prevention measures to reduce those conflicts," Ramsay said.

"We are providing $900,000 to support initiatives that will help make communities in bear country safer, such as bear-resistant garbage containers or landfill fencing," he added.

Communities that undergo an approved bear hazard assessment and develop an action plan are eligible to receive the funds.

Interested communities must apply by July 16, 2004, for funding for this year.

North Bay Mayor Victor Fedeli said he is pleased the ministry is providing funding for community-based prevention efforts.

"This will help communities like ours manage, or better yet, prevent bear problems, and that's good for all of us living here."

Ramsay also announced that the North Bay Police Service will become the second force to sign on to the Bear Wise program.

North Bay police will respond to emergency bear calls and will call the Ministry of Natural Resources for assistance if necessary.

The ministry will respond to non-emergency bear calls.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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What it's like to elect a Liberal government

Study suggests higher taxes may follow

ALAN FINDLAY, Free Press Queen's Park Bureau 2004-06-15 02:40:35

TORONTO -- Ontario households are paying $760 more in taxes under the new provincial budget and higher taxes are likely on the way, a new Fraser Institute study suggests. Overall spending budgeted by the McGuinty government, adjusted for inflation, has reached an all-time high of $6,400 a person, according to the conservative think-tank's report written by economist Mark Mullins.

"Literally, it's a tax-and-spend approach," Mullins said. "To me, they're just going in the wrong direction completely."

The study argues in favour of the Tories' 1995 approach -- which Mullins endorsed at the time -- of cutting taxes and increasing health spending.

He believes the Liberals are unrealistically low-balling the amount of money they will spend on health as part of their plan to balance the books by 2007. The likely consequence is higher taxes in the future, he cautioned.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Look at me! Look at me!
Council votes to mold the minds of voters

Council backs attempt to make municipal funding a vote issue

JULIE SACCONE, Free Press Reporter 2004-06-15 02:40:45

In a bid to secure increased funding for Canadian municipalities, city council supported a recommendation last night to hold politicians' feet to the fire before the federal election. "We have to strike while the iron's hot," said Coun. Cheryl Miller.

Council passed a recommendation to make the "new deal" for Canadian cities an issue in the campaign.

The recommendation urges London residents and businesses to ask candidates where their party stands on providing more aid to municipalities, including allocating five cents a litre from the federal gas tax.

Municipalities want federal public works funding to help repair aging roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

"What's really really important . . . is to make sure every party that is running in this election understands what the municipal agenda is and ensures that they are very supportive of where we need to go for the future," Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said. "That means we need new money."

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell supported the recommendation, saying the new deal is vital for the survival of cities.

"The survival of urban Canada depends on whether or not the infrastructure program and transfer of revenues are going to happen or not."

Since 1993, when the city became involved in the infrastructure program, as much as $50 million has been transferred to London from Ottawa, said Gosnell.

The Liberals have pledged five cents a litre of the federal gas tax to cities, or about $2 billion a year in five years. The money is to come in increments.

The transfer of five cents a litre of the gas tax would mean a seven-per-cent decrease in taxes for city residents, Gosnell added.

"We have talked for years," said DeCicco. "The time is now for action and we need to ensure that all of the major parties have a voice in the municipalities. "We need to hold all of our local candidates as well as the federal leaders accountable for the municipal agenda and for ensuring they are moving our agenda forward."

DeCicco warned the next two weeks are crucial in pushing the deal ahead.

Council wants a written response from local politicians before the election.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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This white elephant isn't even going to have an aesthetic value

Rail overpass project OK'd
The first phase of the Hale-Trafalgar work is approved in a 9-7 vote at city council.

JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-06-15 02:40:47

London will go ahead with the first phase of the controversial Hale-Trafalgar rail overpass. In a 9-7 vote last night, council approved funding for the first phase of the $11.5-million overpass on the CN Rail line.

But it wasn't without concern and debate about whether federal funding will ever surface.

"Certainly, there's no certainty whatsoever as far as a partnership with the federal government," said Coun. David Winninger.

"Unless the last piece of the puzzle is in place I can't see why we can't wait.

"We need to keep our spending in line. We can't afford . . . to go on blind trust."

Council voted in March to go ahead with the first phase of the project, aimed at reducing traffic congestion in the area caused by the rail crossing, improving safety and making it easier for CN to shunt its trains.

But last night's vote was necessary to approve spending the provincial government's share of $2 million from the SuperBuild program.

It gave opponents of the overpass another chance to object and try to convince the rest of council to wait for federal funding.

Coun. Rob Alder urged council to move ahead with Hale and Trafalgar.

"A few days ago there was another collision," Alder said. "We should be pursuing the removal of level crossings without delay. . .

"We need to get on with this and then we can start to move on looking at Adelaide and Richmond."

Two major concerns have been raised about the project over the last few years: funding and priorities.

Council has passed a previous motion that the city fund the overpass on an equal share basis with CN and the federal and provincial governments.

To date, the province has chipped in $2 million, CN $1.4 million and the city $1.25 million -- all toward the first phase of property acquisition, utility upgrades and designs.

Several members of council have expressed concern the city will end up paying the federal government's share, or more, if solid commitments aren't made before construction begins.

If federal funding is obtained, it will be used for the second phase of construction, along with additional money from the province and CN yet to be negotiated.

The issue of priorities resurfaced last week after a car-train collision on the CP line closed off much of the downtown during rush hour.

Experts and council have been split over whether the Hale-Trafalgar project should be built before the overpasses on Richmond or Adelaide streets.

Councillors Susan Eagle and Joni Baechler reminded council it had agreed not to proceed until each partner committed funding.

"Now is the time for those who agreed we won't proceed without equal partners to make good on that commitment," Eagle said.

"It's becoming abundantly clear the federal money may not be forthcoming. With the election unfolding (as it is) I'm concerned more than ever we're going to end up with a white elephant that can't go ahead . . . without costing the city a lot of money."

Other projects approved for funding approved last night include the widening of Springbank Drive from Horton Street to Wonderland Road, Airport Road widening from Highway 401 to Dundas Street and Oxford Street widening from Wonderland Road to Hyde Park Road.

HOW THEY VOTED:

In favour: Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco, controllers Bud Polhill and Gord Hume, councillors Sandy White, Bernie MacDonald, Bill Armstrong, Cheryl Miller, Rob Alder and Roger Caranci.

Against: Controllers Tom Gosnell and Russ Monteith, councillors David Winninger, Judy Bryant, Joni Baechler, Susan Eagle and Paul Van Meerbergen.

Absent: Ab Chahbar, Fred Tranquilli and Harold Usher

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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How I would like to live in a city where we do not need to celebrate the occasional triumph of sensibility over the petty busybodying of city council

Please note the names of the city councillors who voted against on the issue of allowing additional commercial space to be developed at Hyde Park and Fanshawe Park roads. And if you live in London, please never vote for these people again!

Big box expansion OK'd


City council rejects a staff recommendation to limit Hyde Park retail development.
JOE BELANGER, Free Press City Hall Reporter 2004-06-15 02:41:34

Developers have won the battle over the future of London's retail industry, at least in the city's north end. Last night, city council rejected staff recommendations to curtail and block proposed commercial developments in the Hyde Park and Fanshawe Park roads area.

Instead, by a narrow margin, council approved proposals for additional commercial space, including a Home Depot store on land designated for residential development.

"I'm not opposed to developers wanting to locate where the shopping market is," Coun. Roger Caranci said.

Key developers at Hyde Park and Fanshawe are First London North (Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Canadian Tire) and Stanton Brothers (Home Depot).

First London North won approval for 605,000 square feet of commercial retail space and 75,000 square feet of commercial office space on the southeast corner and about 323,000 square feet on the northwest corner, where Sam's Club was built.

Stanton was given approval to develop a property next door to Sam's Club into about 260,000 square feet of commercial space.

When the approved projects are added to the existing stores, the total commercial space at the corner will be 1.2 million square feet, slightly more than the entire four corners of Richmond Street and Fanshawe Park Road, the site of Masonville Place.

In recommending a rejection of the Stanton Brothers application and reducing First London North's request, city staff argued the city already has adequate commercial space available, including 15 million square feet already developed, five million square feet designated across the city and another one million square feet that is vacant.

Staff said the additional commercial space will hurt retailers across the city, such as malls already struggling to find tenants.

Opponents of the developments also say unfettered growth will hurt downtown and kill plans to make Hyde Park a hamlet of small businesses and homes like Wortley Village.

As well, they say the development will be paid for largely by taxpayers because development fees cover less than half the cost of providing services to the land.

"It is a fundamental planning principle that if you put commercial development at the periphery of the city, you draw everything out to it . . . and then we have urban blight," said Coun. Joni Baechler, who supported staff's recommendations.

"There's only so much disposable income in the community . . . it's simply shifting the pieces of the pie to a location that's more costly to taxpayers. It doesn't make sense."

City staff warn the new developments strain finances for capital projects, such as wider roads.

The city tentatively planned to expand Fanshawe Park Road in 2009. However, First London North has offered to pay for the services up front and collect from the city in 2009, a practice staff say ties the city's hands on capital spending.

Staff said recently the new commercial space won't affect the downtown, which has carved its own niche by providing entertainment, restaurants, office space and specialized retail shops.

But Ward 1 Coun. Judy Bryant said businesspeople in the Hyde Park area and across the city are raising concerns about the added big- box stores.

"These are people who have been in London for years," Bryant said. "These are London companies and their profits stay in the city. I ask council to decide who is in control here."

Controller Bud Polhill said more than 30 per cent of the shoppers to the new area will come from outside the city.

HOW THEY VOTED

How council members voted on the issue of allowing additional commercial space to be developed at Hyde Park and Fanshawe Park roads:

In favour

Controllers Russ Monteith, Bud Polhill and Gord Hume; Councillors Bernie MacDonald, Cheryl Miller, Paul Van Meerbergen, Rob Alder, Fred Tranquilli and Roger Caranci.

Opposed

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco; Councillors Sandy White, Bill Armstrong, David Winninger, Judy Bryant, Joni Baechler and Susan Eagle.

Conflict

Controller Tom Gosnell (consultant to First London North)

Absent

Councillors Ab Chahbar and Harold Usher

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Monday, June 14, 2004

Thanks to the Canadian Broadcasting System for reporting on this little piece of propaganda

Young smokers say they're poor students
Last Updated Mon, 14 Jun 2004 21:28:24

OTTAWA - Elementary school students who smoke are more likely to report doing poorly in school, but the number of young people using cigarettes is dropping quickly, Statistics Canada reported Monday.

The Youth Smoking Survey looked at the results of interviews conducted with students from Grade 5 to Grade 9 in 2002.

It found that only 12 per cent of current smokers rated themselves as doing better than average in school, compared with 40 per cent of students who never tried smoking.

On the other hand, 28 per cent of current smokers considered themselves to be below-average students. Only six per cent of those who never smoked saw themselves as performing below average.

Smokers don't read for fun

Fewer young smokers reported reading for fun.

About 40 per cent of current smokers said they almost never read for fun, compared with 13 per cent of children who never tried cigarettes.

The study also compared results of the 2002 survey with those of a survey in 1994.

It found that the rate of smoking among Canadian youths in Grade 5 to Grade 9 fell by more than half.

The survey found that in 2002, slightly less than three per cent of students in Grade 5 to Grade 9 – about 54,000 young people – reported they were current smokers.

That compares to seven per cent in the same grade levels in 1994.

A current smoker was defined as someone who smoked cigarettes in the previous 30 days, or smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.

The biggest smokers were in Quebec.

In 2002, about 55 per cent of all young Canadians who smoked lived in Quebec.

Across the country, almost two-thirds of young people reported that peer pressure was one of the main reasons for taking up smoking. And more than two-thirds of current smokers reported that their father or mother smoked.

Statistics Canada conducted the first Youth Smoking Survey in 1994 and repeated it in the fall of 2002.

In both cases, they interviewed about 19,000 children in 995 classes across all 10 provinces.

Written by CBC News Online staff

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More Strange chemicals located in London soil

Big chemical container unearthed in garden

Free Press Staff   2004-06-14 03:36:00

The discovery of a liquid-filled container underground prompted fire officials to evacuate part of a south-end neighbourhood yesterday afternoon. But the 545-litre plastic container -- which Helena Avenue resident Gary Teale uncovered while gardening in his backyard -- likely posed no threat to the public, London fire Capt. Keith Thomson said after hazardous materials specialists inspected the container.

"I don't think there's going to be any big problem," said Thomson, adding the liquid was likely a product sprayed on crops to improve pesticide use.

There were no puncture marks on the tank, said Thomson, one of about a half-dozen firefighters on the scene.

Teale, who has lived in the home for about a year, has no idea how the container got there but noted the area used to be a garbage dump.

Along with Teale, neighbour Deb Harrison was stopped from going into her home yesterday afternoon.

During her seven years in the neighbourhood, she said she's seen nothing strange with the soil.

"I've never seen anything wrong with the grass," she said. "Any vegetables I've had have always been fine."

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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London Cartel News

Gosnell's lobbying queried
He set up meetings for councillors with his business client, which gave to campaigns.
JONATHAN SHER, Free Press Reporter   2004-06-14 03:36:51  

London deputy mayor Tom Gosnell arranged meetings between fellow councillors and his client, who's asking council to approve a disputed big-box development. Gosnell confirmed yesterday he phoned about six council members and asked them to meet with First London North Development, which wants to build enough retail space in Hyde Park to host the equivalent of four big box stores.

The London Free Press also has learned seven councillors received $7,500 of campaign contributions from the developer's parent company and the owners of the property at Hyde Park and Fanshawe Park roads.

Gosnell's actions, which came less than two months after he was criticized for lobbying city staff on behalf of developers, crossed the line, charged Gloria McGinn-McTeer of the Urban League of London.

"That is entirely inappropriate," she said. "The very fact he is phoning peers to meet with his client, that's a big concern. It's just not right."

Gosnell defended himself.

"(Officials) were coming to town, I wanted to let council members know. I don't know if it's a big deal."

But McGinn-McTeer said First Development should phone councillors directly, a belief shared by one councillor phoned by Gosnell.

"I asked that in the future to call me directly," Coun. Judy Bryant said.

Gosnell made it clear when he phoned her June 3 he wouldn't talk about the proposed development, she said.

But Bryant said she wouldn't have phoned colleagues if she were in Gosnell's place.

Gosnell's role wasn't the only issue to arise on the eve of a vote today that will shape development in the city.

Campaign records last year show seven council members received donations from First Professional Management Inc., landowners Laurie and Sandra Stanton, or both: Controller Bud Polhill $2,250; Controller Gord Hume $1,500 and Gosnell and councillors Bernie MacDonald, Fred Tranquilli, Cheryl Miller and Ab Chahbar $750 each.

Chahbar defended himself and his colleagues, saying, "I take offence at any individual who suggests any member of council will be swayed because of a contribution."

Still, Chahbar said developers who give to campaigns, like other donors, do so to elect like-minded politicians.

"They want to influence the makeup of council," he said.

Asked if developers wield influence because of their wealth, Chahbar said, "It's a fair question, but it's the only system we have."

Some Londoners will be suspicious, Coun. Sandy White said.

"I don't accept contributions from developers because I don't want to be put in the position that people will say it influenced my vote."

Laurie Stanton's name has come up before in questions about donations.

In 2001, Polhill, Hume, Tranquilli and MacDonald were given $500 tickets originally held by Stanton to attend a fundraiser for then Finance Minister Paul Martin.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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COUNCIL'S SEVEN YEAR PLAN

Big split develops on big box
A major Hyde Park retail development could reshape the city.
JONATHAN SHER, Free Press Reporter   2004-06-14 03:36:53  

London taxpayers who paid millions to rebuild downtown will see that go to naught if city council today approves a mega-development in Hyde Park that will suck shoppers from the core, critics say. "This will draw people away from downtown," the Urban League's Gloria McGinn-McTeer said yesterday.

"It would create a doughnut," Coun. Sandy White said.

To make matters worse, the cost to provide services to the big-box development will be borne largely by taxpayers, Coun. David Winninger said.

"I think it represents the worst element of urban sprawl. . . . They're like pox marks on the landscape," he said.

Winninger's sharp words may be a preview for a divisive debate today as council decides whether to heed the request of developers, who want enough retail space to house four big box stores, or to follow the advice of city planners, who want it scaled back by more than 20 per cent.

A survey of council members over the weekend suggests the outcome could be decided by a vote or two and could turn on the potential absence of up to two councillors who support city staff.

More is at stake than the future of land at the intersection of Hyde Park and Fanshawe Park roads, say those on both sides of the debate.

Those who support developer First London North say it should decide what is economically viable and the rejection of its request will discourage others developers from investing in the city.

They say the development will help Hyde Park and the city, the latter because First North will pay development fees and property taxes.

Coun. Roger Caranci backs the developer's plans.

"I have a fundamental problem with us trying to locate development in certain parts," Caranci said.

Coun. Rob Alder agreed, saying he had more confidence in the judgment of the developer than of staff.

"The best judge of demand are those that are in the business," Alder said.

But those who support staff say unfettered growth will hurt downtown and kill plans to make Hyde Park a hamlet of small businesses and homes like Wortley Village.

The development will be paid for largely by taxpayers because development fees cover less than half the cost of providing services to the land.

City staff say London has one million square feet of commercial vacancy and believe excess growth in Hyde Park will cause other commercial centres to close down.

Taxpayers will be losers in that shell game, say councillors who support staff, pointing to a preliminary study by staff that suggests developers pay less than half the costs of services such as roads, sewers and police.

And that doesn't even address the cost of maintaining services, development critics add.

If councillors move ahead now with the developer's request instead of waiting until they set higher fees, the city will forego about $1 million in revenue, a Free Press analysis suggests.

"I rather see council look at the big picture instead of the big box," McGinn-McTeer said.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Sunday, June 13, 2004

Why do we even pay these people?

Council members miss session on budgets

JONATHAN SHER, Free Press Reporter 2004-06-13 02:04:17

London flew a dozen council members to a municipal conference last month, but not one attended a session to learn how a similar city used innovative ways to tame budget woes. That has a city councillor vowing to change things.

With Londoners paying an eight-per-cent tax hike and bracing for another tough budget, one would think the city's contingent would find a way to attend the budget session, Coun. Judy Bryant said yesterday.

"No one got to it. I'm really disappointed. We are in the middle of doing a strategic budget and it would have been very valuable," Bryant said.

Just as bad, she said, was the response she got when she asked London's board of control last week to find ways to co-ordinate attendance at future conferences so key sessions aren't missed.

"No action be taken" -- that was the recommendation controllers made to council.

"I think that's pretty disappointing. I'll bring it up again at council," Bryant said yesterday.

Council will meet tomorrow.

London sent 12 of its 19 elected officials to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Convention in Edmonton last month, at a cost of $17,000 to $20,000.

It was the second largest contingent of municipal politicians at the convention.

The size and expense of the contingent has angered some business and taxpayer groups.

Councillors should meet at the start of each conference to make sure no key sessions are missed, Bryant said.

But Cont. Russ Monteith disagreed, defending board of control's decision last week to do nothing with Bryant's suggestion.

"It's (each council member's) decision what to attend . . . If the most interesting event attracts everybody, that's not necessarily a bad thing," Monteith said.

But Coun. David Winninger said he too would ask council to take action.

"I echo (Bryant's) wish that we co-ordinate our efforts," he said.

London allows council members to decide which conferences they attend, giving each a $4,000 annual budget.

The FCM gathering is Canada's largest civic convention. But even Canada's mega-cities -- Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver -- sent fewer politicians than London did.

The large attendance is good, said Bryant, but councillors should spend tax dollars wisely by co-ordinating efforts.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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Saturday, June 12, 2004

What did you do for your spring vacation?

What did you LEARN at the conference?

City council has come under fire for sending the second highest number of politicians in Canada - 12 - to last month's Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) convention in Edmonton, at an estimated cost of at least $20,000. Only the District of Central Kootenay in B.C. sent more - 16. Some suggest that, in a tough budget year, only one or two councillors should attend such meetings and should then share their knowledge with fellow councillors. Among other cities in the London region, only Woodstock - with two - sent delegates to the conference. The Free Press put the above question to the 12 members of London council who attended.
The London Free Press 2004-06-12 01:51:34

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco, reached in Montreal at the three-day National Forum on the Economic Growth of Big Cities in Canada: "Oh (laughter), well, my role is always a little bit different because I spend most of my time doing big city mayors' stuff. You might remember I go out a day earlier than everyone so the first day we had a big city mayors' caucus starting at eight in the morning and all afternoon and all night. Sorry, not all night, till about four o'clock, and what we spent most of our time on was the strategy of the new deal. How we were going to make that strategy into an election issue over the federal election candidates and how we were going to try to get the community more involved."

Controller Gord Hume

"Oh, lots of things. There were some really good plenary sessions. Obviously, the prime minister's confirmation of the funding to municipalities is of paramount importance. That has been an issue for me for a number of years. I went to two or three very interesting sessions on culture in cities and the development of urban downtowns and urban districts and so on, as far as how you can promote culture and trade and people and companies to develop and enhance your downtown and create an energy in the city. And there were some interesting panel sessions from people from the arts and cultural sectors that's an interest of mine."

Controller Bud Polhill

"What did I learn? Just off the top of my head? Well, we have an issue about fair labour practices at the Dearness Home. We had a problem and I spoke to some people from Burnaby, B.C., about their policy. They had the same problem we had and they came up with a policy so I talked to their councillors and staff so we don't have to try to reinvent the wheel on that particular issue. What else? That's a loaded question. I'm in the middle of trying to put a fan belt on a car and I'm not focused on what you're asking me. What else? Oh, we learned there are some options for Toronto garbage. We talked to some people from outside Edmonton about that."

Controller Russ Monteith

"OK, well, probably the most interesting speaker was a chap, Robert Palmer, (who) was talking about cities and the world and he is presently in Europe but he's been in England and I think he's originally Canadian, so he gave us a really interesting international viewpoint on cities in Canada and the United States but also on Europe. So that was useful. I attended another one that dealt with the value of arts and culture to a community . . . that says you have to have a very diversified community to attract creative minds."

Coun. Fred Tranquilli

"Well, I tend to be, um, drawn to the sustainability workshops and in particular . . . community, economic development and the type of thing that happens on a small scale in most communities. I also enjoy going to hear from -- usually there's a few presentations from councillors in other communities on projects that were initiated and how they were successful or how they were not successful. Ah, what they might have done differently, what they would suggest others do who are interested in, you know, that kind of stuff. So I try to learn a little bit about the best practices angle . . . or experiences in other communities so we don't make the same mistakes."

Coun. Roger Caranci

"There were many things. I think the thing that I focused on, personally, was the fact of the new deal. I wanted to know what the implementation is . . . I wanted to know what other municipalities were hoping to happen on that. (We were able to) hook up a city councillor from Toronto with Beaver County in Alberta who would gladly take Toronto's garbage on rail rather than trucking it down the 401."

Coun. David Winninger

"Well, I got some good insights into how the U.S. cities are dealing with some issues: transportation, infrastructure, economic development, for one, and how they share some of the same pressures we're feeling here with what's called the gap -- the gap in funding, the reason we are asking for a new deal (with the federal and provincial governments). That's one area . . . another area was finding out how they handle cultural development in Europe, right now . . . And then there's a whole bunch of workshops I went to on other issues, like affordable housing, transportation, infrastructure. You can read Jane Jacobs (a noted author who advocates dense and diverse cities), I guess, but it doesn't create the same impact as seeing presentations by the planners who have actually done these things."

Coun. Harold Usher

"A lot of things. But I could never go through that with you in two minutes. Look, let me ask you a question. Why is it that you're dragging this on? I went to a conference to learn something. I contributed, I learned something and I came back. And I'm going to be, over a period of time, I am going to be able to utilize what I learn. You know, I'm not going to sit down and try to explain to anybody every single thing that I learned at that conference. There's a whole lot of things that we learned at that conference and I didn't go to school, I went to a conference. We've got to understand that."

Coun. Ab Chahbar

Pause. Laughter. "What did I learn at the conference in Edmonton? (Pause) I'll give you a report on what I learned at the conference in, uh, in Edmonton. Actually, I'm quite, I'm quite ill actually . . . I can send you a report to what I learned."

Coun. Bernie MacDonald

"You guys are making too much of this. I have no comment. Goodbye."

Coun. Sandy White

"OK, um, someone already called and asked me all these questions. Not that I don't mind answering them again. I had begun to work with another woman who was in women's leadership in our community, or in our country, to look at a framework to encourage women to get involved in politics, to learn more about politics and hopefully even to run. And I learned that there's a women's committee and that they've already started to put a tool book, toolkit, together, so I joined that committee . . . we're going to try to do more to enhance women's involvement in politics and have a program in London, hopefully by next spring if all goes well. And to work, you know, with the women's committee to really enhance women's involvement across Canada. And I would be the London contact. I was quite impressed with that. I didn't know that they had already made . . . those sort of gains for women."

Coun. Judy Bryant

Couldn't be reached.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003


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Crash of speeding drunk driver inspires $10 million overpass debate

Train crash sparks debate


KELLY PEDRO, Free Press Reporter 2004-06-12 01:51:56

Rush-hour traffic chaos caused by a woman's split-second decision to try to beat a freight train shows the need for more overpasses, city politicians said yesterday. "The simple fact is we need a better transportation system in London," said Controller Gord Hume.

"We need overpasses or something, in my view, at both Adelaide and Richmond in the next several years. The problem is they're about $10 million."

The woman was driving south on St. George Street near Piccadilly Street when she tried to cross the tracks at 3:26 p.m.

The westbound train clipped the rear left end of the car, propelling it into a tow truck waiting at the other side of the tracks. Nobody was hurt.

The 53-year-old London woman was charged with impaired driving and failing to comply with the conditions of a judicial release.

The train, about two kilometres long, blocked traffic for 45 minutes at crossings from St. George to Adelaide streets as the evening rush hour began.

Drivers trying to avoid the traffic tie-ups spilled onto Talbot and Quebec streets, creating further gridlock.

"London felt like a Toronto rush hour (Thursday) afternoon," said Jamie Donnelly, director of operations for Aboutown Transportation.

Aboutown, which operates taxi cabs, couriers and paratransit services in the city, was forced to send its vehicles out of the core to get from one end of the city to the other.

They also severed the city in half, keeping vehicles north of the tracks on the north side and vehicles south of the tracks on the south side.

"And of course, it's right on top of rush hour, which is always problematic in that area anyway," Donnelly said.

London Transit buses were also delayed and didn't get back on schedule until about 6 p.m., said general manager Larry Ducharme.

In an ideal world, train tracks would run along the city's exterior and not down the middle, he said. But because of the city's design, train delays are going to happen, Ducharme added.

"I don't think there's an easy fix. Situations such as Thursday seem to compound it and there's nothing we're able to do," he said.

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell said the city has thought of re-routing train traffic around London, but that solution is decades away and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

"There isn't anybody running to give London that money," he said.

The best the city can hope for is to place strategic overpasses at some crossings, said Coun. Roger Caranci, chairperson of the environment and transportation committee.

City staff are prioritizing which level crossings should get overpasses, he said.

Donnelly said he'd like to see a few more on arterial roads, such as Richmond and Adelaide streets.

Hume agreed Richmond and Adelaide are prime locations for overpasses, but the city shouldn't have to bear the cost, an estimated $10 million each, alone.

City staff, he said, are in discussions with Canadian Pacific Railway about whether they'd help pay for an overpass, such as CN Rail did at Hale and Trafalgar.

CN committed $1.25 million for the project's first phase.

CHRONOLOGY

A chronology of Thursday's car-train crash:

3:26 p.m.: A collision between a vehicle and train at St. George and Piccadilly streets is reported to London police.

3:33 p.m.: London police arrive on scene. The train, almost two kilometres long, stops on the tracks while police investigate. Traffic tie-ups begin on Richmond, Colborne, Waterloo, Pall Mall, Maitland, William and Adelaide streets. Drivers start using Talbot and Quebec streets only to find themselves in further gridlock.

3:53 p.m.: London police arrest the driver, whose vehicle collided with the train. She is later charged with impaired driving.

4:15 p.m.: The 1,740-metre train resumes its run to Windsor and on to the United States.

6:47 p.m.: London police wrap up their investigation.


Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003




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