Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Putting The Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces Together

I should try to put together jigsaw puzzles for relaxation in my spare time. Except I have very little of it these days with all of the interesting events that are taking place in this City. I do like to follow the news closely and to try to understand what everything means.

Mind you, when I look at what I do, I think that I am putting pieces of the puzzle together when I write my BLOGs. The problem is I have no idea what the puzzle looks like in the first place so I have no idea if the pieces are fitting together properly.

Let me give an example of what I mean. There have been a number of very interesting news stories over the past few weeks that may explain much of what is taking place. Taken individually they do not mean a whole lot but if you put them together, they are very significant. The problem is, and this is a terrible play on words, I do not have a roadmap to help guide me. See if you draw the same conclusions that I do after reading excerpts from these stories from different news sources in different parts of the Province:


  •  “in a bid to streamline regulations around development of renewable energy the province has promised to establish standardized setbacks and shorten environmental assessment times that would favour developers and speed up the approval process while reducing local control.”
  •  “the Federal Government announced changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to exempt various projects funded under the Building Canada Plan from federal environmental assessment ("EA") requirements. Such projects include…highways and bridges.
  •  “Ontario’s environmental assessment process does not apply to private sector projects, only to public sector projects. Even public sector projects such as nuclear power plants are so frequently exempted from environmental assessment that Ontario’s law has long been referred to as the Environmental Exemption Act

Tiresome local politicians

  •  Ontario’s plan to consolidate Metrolinx and GO Transit in order to expand regional transit infrastructure quickly includes removing political turf wars from the mix.

    The new Metrolinx will be created under the yet to be passed the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area Transit Implementation Act 2009. The Ontario government will appoint up to 15 members to the provincial transit planning agency’s new board. The new members will include planning, finance and development experts but politicians have been left out of the mix.

    Some municipal councillors have voiced opposition to the move but Dalton McGuinty, Ontario’s premier, says the time has come for such an evolution in the region’s transit planning.
  •  In response to local concerns, many municipal governments have tried to enact regulations that find a balance in local communities.

    Recently, Premier Dalton McGuinty has dismissed those concerned about the impact of large-scale, megaproject wind production, or taking up large amounts of valuable farm land for solar farms as simply ‘Nimbyism” (or not in my backyard)…

    To address local concerns, the McGuinty government is simply going to legislate that municipalities have no power to create local rules for local communities. It will be mandated that projects be given their permits within six months of applying. For those who cheer these rules they need to step back and consider the very dangerous precedent this will set.

    It is not a stretch to think that this might mean many projects given fast-tracking without local control. Today it is green energy projects. Tomorrow it will be something else that you will want to question and you won’t be able to because we have now set this precedent.”

Do it or else

  •  Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan warned Friday that Windsor could lose the proposed jail to another community if it does not approve rezoning of the province's preferred site near Highway 401.

    "If the city doesn't want it, we're not going to drag this out," Duncan told reporters following a speech to the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. "Other communities want it, other communities nearby."

    City council could ignore the committee's recommendation and approve changing the land's zoning from agricultural to major institutional. If council doesn't approve the change, the province won't bother appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board, Duncan said.

    He said the province will just move on to another site.

Finally getting the message

  •  There's time to find a better solution, and GreenLink provides the blueprint.
  •  Francis, taking the high road, argues that the massive Toronto investment is good news for Windsor because it sets an infrastructure standard that will surely, out of fairness, be followed here.

    "I welcome this. It sets a precedent they have to apply down here. I view this as a positive, a great opportunity for Dwight, Sandra and Bruce Crozier.

    They can be heroes and deliver a wonderful legacy for the next 100 years."

Toronto is being Delrayed too for the next election

  •  Coming just a week after the provincial budget Mr. McGuinty said the transit investments [in Toronto] are part of his economic stimulus package to create jobs and investment, while leaving an infrastructure legacy for cities.

    But ground is not expected to be broken on any of the projects until next year. ‘‘If we could start them any earlier I’d love to,” the Premier said.
  •  Despite Premier Dalton McGuinty's decision to fund a $7.2-billion chunk of Mayor David Miller's light-rail vision, the ambitious plan still faces questions about how the lines will be built and how much they will cost…

    Toronto Transit Commission staff have been hard at work on the details, but some questions remain, including the final alignment of the lines, traffic problems, concerns from some along the routes about construction and the final costs…

    The approximately 30-kilometre Eglinton line, for example, was originally projected to cost $2.2-billion when first proposed in 2007. Now, its estimated cost - which includes a 10-kilometre tunnel - has risen to $4.6-billion. The new figure is based on estimates from Metrolinx, the province's regional transportation agency.

The Jigsaw puzzle put together

The first thing is very clear is that the Governments have just about had enough of Environmental Assessments. Public input is terrific except when the Government really wants to do something. The EA process in Windsor for example has been a terrific boon for the Governments by having the process stalled for years to allow DRIC to catch up with the Enhancement Project and also for the Governments to buy time in order to find the cash for these projects.

Now while it may seem that the Governments can move forward, the Government can be held hostage by the Mayor of some insignificant, little town in Southwest Ontario and his legal weapon of mass destruction by questioning the entire process by judicial review.

Next, in significant areas, we can see Senior Levels centralizing the process because they of course know better than the local yokels. I must admit that our Mayor must take some credit for this, or is it the blame, because of the actions that he has taken so far with the DRIC process. What the Province has discovered is that by giving in to one small town Mayor they may well have prejudiced themselves in other parts of the Province.

That cannot be allowed to happen again.

Just in case the locals don’t understand this, they have to be hit between the eyes with a sledgehammer. That brings us to the next point.

Can Councillor Valentinis really keep asking the question of why Windsor is ignored after the way that this Mayor and Council have acted. The snubbing alone is disgraceful. Really, when the Mayor has to fly to Europe or has to cancel a meeting because of a readathon it is somewhat disturbing.

There is no doubt that the failure of our Mayor to be grateful for the backup sponsorship money for Red Bull was probably the last straw for the Premier. It was up to $3.2 million after all. There is no doubt that the Minister of Finance is furious as well because it is clear that he thought that he had a deal with our Mayor. The Henderson column where the provincial insider spoke is clear evidence of that. It would appear since the deal has not been announced that someone reneged.

I can just see the pleasure that Spanky is taking by telling the Mayor that in fact he no longer has a “Get out of jail free” Card. Either the Jail will go where the Province wants it or it will go outside of Windsor. It is simple as that. Chances are, the jail will go to another part of Dwight’s riding. Giving it to Mayor McNamara would give both of them great pleasure I am sure.

The final point is that the Mayor must finally understand that he had better shut up or his future is at stake in more ways than one. Why else is Gord doing his dirty work? Why else is the Mayor talking to a group like CIBPA but to ask THEM to put the pressure on the Premier to bow down to his will?

Greenlink is no longer Windsor’s solution; rather it is now a mere blueprint.

Eddie understands that it is highly unlikely that the Province will pull the DRIC Road from Windsor. The Government does have two cabinet ministers that have to be protected after all. But all that they need to do is to mitigate the effects of the roadway. They do not have to build a $1.6 billion road. Even with a cheaper solution, at grade or below grade, there will still be jobs but not as many as would be needed for a DRIC road. However, Eddie could not take the heat if that happened. The finger of blame would be pointed right at him. He could not allow that to happen nor could he take the public pressure.

So if we put all the jigsaw puzzle pieces together, then we can see a very coordinated approach to what is going to happen in Toronto and also in Windsor. The old rules no longer apply and it is wonderful for Governments that they can use an economic decline as justification for what they are doing.

The Senior Governments rule and what they say goes when it is important to them. If a local politician doesn’t get it, then a Cabinet Minister will let them know in the clearest possible terms until he/she signals that he/she does.

Just think about it a little bit. All this excitement about these massive projects in Toronto. All these enormous sums to be spent to help out in these dire economic times. All of the public benefits that Torontonians are to get, especially to protect their health. Please do not tell me that it will not help a Mayor who will be running for reelection in Toronto in 2010 and a Provincial Government who will be running for reelection in the next year.

Of course there are going to be huge problems and threats of lawsuits that may delay the start of construction until....maybe the next Provincial election! Or perhaps the federal election if the Feds have to put in funds. Seriously, what is better than Minister Baird going around the country dropping off millions of dollars in every City in Canada, taking along with him the local Conservative MPs or potential candidates for a photo-op.

This near depression could not have come around at a better time politically. The Senior Level Governments can run up huge deficits that will help them get re-elected and no one will complain because they are saving our economy and saving our jobs.

Why if I did not know any better, I would have thought that what is happening in Windsor respecting the DRIC is the precedent for what the Government is doing in Toronto respecting their huge transit plans. It is working well here so why not have it work well there too.

It is just like a new Broadway show that goes to the boonies first to make sure everything works before it hits the Big Apple stage.

What is truly remarkable if one goes back in history is the Gong Show performance and the Cansfield announcement before the last election that nothing can happen until after 2010. Remarkably, the Premier has said the same thing about the transit projects in Toronto.

I think I did it. I think I put all of the jigsaw puzzle pieces together. It makes a very pretty picture too don’t you think.