You Never Know What You'll Find
An interesting story in the Globe and Mail about election financing in Quebec. It looks like Public Works Minister Senator Michael Fortier and Transport Canada Minister Lawrence Cannon, both of whom are involved in our border crossing, are doing quite well in gaining contributions.
Of course those jealous Oppostion MPs just have to take shots at them. C'est la vie:
- Public Works Minister awash in flood of donations
DANIEL LEBLANC, June 18, 2008
OTTAWA -- Senator Michael Fortier hauled in almost $430,000 in donations last year in preparation for the next federal election, prompting opposition accusations that he is trading on his position as Minister of Public Works in a bid to win a seat in the House of Commons.
Newly disclosed records show Mr. Fortier amassed more money in 2007 than the combined total of the eight Conservative MPs in Quebec who have filed their financial statements.
The spending limit in the next election in Vaudreuil-Soulanges, the Quebec riding Mr. Fortier plans to contest, will be around $85,000. However, Mr. Fortier is using a portion of his funds for pre-electoral work, spending $195,000 last year for three employees and two offices, and another $18,000 in advertising.
The Bloc Québécois currently holds Vaudreuil-Soulanges and is raising questions about the Harper government's efforts to remove the influence of money in politics.
"There is a link that we'd like to clear up between Mr. Fortier's responsibility as Minister of Public Works, which hands out $20-billion a year in contracts, and almost half a million dollars in donations that he obtained," Bloc MP Réal Ménard said.
Mr. Fortier said in an interview that the funds he received came from a "rainbow coalition" of Montrealers who want an MP from the city in the next government.
"It's not disproportionate for someone who wants to do the job correctly," said Mr. Fortier, who is also the Conservative minister with political responsibility for Montreal...
According to the records made public on the Elections Canada website last weekend, the Mount Royal riding association transferred in 2007 a total of $193,000 to the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Conservative riding association.
In addition, Mr. Fortier last year obtained a total of $233,000 in donations from 385 donors who all respected the maximum legal donation of $1,100, including a who's who of the business sector...
Michael Fortier, Public Works, $428,654.92
Lawrence Cannon, Transportation, $121,000.79
EAST END ARENA
I thought there was a potential problem with liability if the arena opened early. I thought that there was to be an extra cost of $500,000 in overtime if the Arena is to be finished by September rather than January.
Well those problems magically disappeared
- "The three community rinks inside the new Windsor Family Credit Union Centre will open early this fall."
As I wrote before, the rinks had to be opened or else the Arena might have been empty for a good part of the year costing the City a ton of money because the various users had to book their rinks well in advance:
- "This would coincide with the ice users' schedules, so we are working towards having them open."
ARENA: ON BUDGET AND ON TIME
Well maybe, if you pay a half million in overtime.
Well maybe, after I read this in the Arena Steering Committee Minutes, there is a neat way that they're playing with numbers so that there will not be any cost overruns.
MORE FINANCIAL LEGERDEMAIN
In case you do not understand what the pay-as-you-go philosophy means, here it is spelled out in black and white with respect to the 400 building:
In effect, you and I, dear reader/taxpayer, are the City's bank and we don't charge any interest to the City. You see, we don't loan the City any money, they just take it from us in taxes so that the City can be fiscally responsible while we taxpayers go down the tubes.
Aren't you thrilled that the City has saved $16 million in interest but that you are having trouble paying for the 86% increase in WUC charges. The life of the building is considerable and normally would have been paid off over 20 years. Instead it is paid for almost immediately out of our pockets.
We pay, they go on spending is what the philosophy really means.
But here's the neat trick that is used to keep the cost of the building "ON BUDGET." There is a half million dollars in post-construction interest charges. Instead of charging it to the Project, it is buried in City operating expenses. Just like at the arena.
In case you're wondering also how a "Debt Reduction Plan" could fund this project when there is no debt for the building let me explain. You see the money that is being taken from you as a taxpayer to be used you thought to reduce City debt actually can't be used to reduce City debt. Interest charges on debt outstanding are like your mortgage: they are payable at certain predetermined times according to the terms of the financing and cannot be prepaid.
So some genius decided that we would take money from taxpayers supposedly to reduce debt but actually we're not reducing debt. In the terms of City Hall we are: avoiding debt. Your money is not being paid to reduce debt; it is being paid into a Debt Avoidance Fund so we won't have City debt in the first place.
Now just because YOU have to incur debt so that the City does not have to incur debt, is not too encouraging is it. That does not concern City Hall. After all, they have Standard and Poor's to impress, not you.
Almost 18 months ago, in February 2007, the City's Audit Committee said that the Arena Project should have a Charter that identifies goals and budget resource allocations.
As was stated
What that means I guess is that they make it up as they go along.
The interesting question is where was the Audit Committee to ensure that the Charter was created a long time ago. Frankly, what does the Audit Committee do? They were invisible in the WUC matter, allowed lengthy delays on the fleet audit and now on the 400 building.
THE CASE FOR HIGHER BORDER TOLLS
I'll let Sam Schwartz make the argument to justify why private enterprise tolls may seem higher at first blush but may be a bargain in the end:
- "Panelist Sam Schwartz, principal of Sam Schwartz Engineering and leader of a forensics team studying the Minneapolis disaster, recalled that as New York City’s traffic commissioner in the 1980s, he nearly had to permanently close the Williamsburg and 59th Street bridges. Upkeep on both heavily traveled spans had been neglected for years, Schwartz said.
"By being penny-wise, we’re saddling future generations with enormous costs," Schwartz said, adding that committing funds to maintaining a state of good repair could reduce the need for expensive remedial action. "If you invest in children early, you don’t have to invest in jails later."