Archive for July, 2009
Monday, July 27th, 2009
courtesy of network.nationalpost.com
Why is the deal shrouded in secrecy? The union says the city dropped all 118 pages of concessions. If that’s true then why did we have a strike to begin with and why was what went on called a negotiation? Mayor Miller says that the deals worked out meets the goals he and the city laid out at the start of talks. Why don’t the city councilors know anything about it? Aren’t they “the city”? Did the city and the union agree to the same terms? Both sides can’t be telling the truth, so what was actually agreed to? Why won’t the pickets come down until after the agreement is ratified?
At this point there are only questions and no answers. The deals struck with CUPE Local 79 and Local 416 are still tentative and need to be ratified. What we do know is that after the deals are ratified, if they are, there will be no instant back to business as usual. It will take several days before services and programs are restored – garbage needs to be moved, parks will need a lot of cleaning and maintenance, swimming pools need to be cleaned and refilled, and the Toronto Island ferries need to be serviced. In 2002 it took about 3 days to clean up after the strike, but this strike went on for more than twice as long.
There are a lot of things that Toronto needs at the moment, but most of all it needs strong leadership, which is exactly what we are lacking.
Monday, July 27th, 2009
image from torontorealestatedirect.com
Maclean’s recently had a survey conducted of the best run cities in Canada and Toronto managed to come in 10th. Here are the top 10 cities on the list.
- Saint John
- Quebec City
It was the Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies that conducted the survey. What made this survey different from most others like it was that it didn’t attempt to measure the quality of life, or by a series of preset criteria determine which city is the best place to live. Instead it focused on how local governments contributed to making their cities great by using a set of indicators in 7 categories.
- Governance and Finance
- Safety and Protection
- Environmental Health
- Economic Development
- Recreation and Culture
Based on the fact that the cities were rated based on their individual governments I cannot believe that Toronto ranked 10th as a best run city. Personally I can’t believe that Toronto ranked at all. Do the folks who conducted the survey have any idea what goes on here? At the moment we are in the midst of a garbage strike that has turned Toronto into a giant dumpster. Our mayor, leader of the city’s government, has single handedly killed Toronto tourism. At the best of times we are mired in scandals of government corruption. If Toronto was being rated in any other way but its city government’s contribution I would put Toronto in first place, but according to the existing criteria for the study, Toronto should be in last place or off the scale entirely.
Monday, July 27th, 2009
Official VIA Rail logo
The VIA Rail strike is officially over two days after it began. Via Rail Canada Inc. and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference agreed to binding arbitration instead of negotiation, believing that they were too far apart to come to a deal on their own. What does this mean? Michel Piché, an arbitrator with the Canadian Railway Office of Arbitration & Dispute Resolution (CROA), will hear submissions from both sides on all of the issues. He and he alone, will then decide on what concessions the company will give the union and both sides will have to accept that judgment without recourse.
The union rightly believed that a prolonged strike would cost workers their jobs as was evidenced by the speed at which VIA laid off 2,500 employees almost as soon as the strike was announced. Canadians have no patience for strikes right now and VIA was bombarded with negative publicity as Porter Airlines, Greyhound, Coach Canada, and Air Canada were offering sweet deals in the hopes of luring VIA customers.
Now that the strike is over VIA has recalled the 2,500 employees that it laid off and is offering significant discounts on bookings over the next three
days to try and placate angry customers. Beginning today, Monday, July 27th all customers making reservations for trips that will take place between July 26, 2009 and December 14, 2009 will receive a 60% discount on adult regular fares in Economy Class (all routes) and in Business Class (Windsor-Quebec City corridor). In order to qualify for this discount, tickets must be purchased no later than 11:59 PM (Pacific Time) on Wednesday, July 29, 2009.
For more information or to book tickets, please visit VIA’s website or call 1-888-842-7245 or 1-800-268-9503 if you are hearing impaired.
Monday, July 27th, 2009
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has recently tested a group of 2009 two-door cars in front-end, side, and rear crash tests. The vehicles tested were the Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and
Scion tC in the small car category and the Volvo C30 in the midsize category. They ranged in price from $15,305 for the Honda Civic Coupe to $23,800 for the Volvo C30. All of the vehicles tested were equipped with side air bags. The side test crash was meant to simulate being struck by a pickup truck or an SUV. The rear test crash measured how well vehicle seats and head restraints protect people against neck injury in low speed rear crashes.
These are the results of the crash tests.
- Top scores went to the Ford Focus and Volvo C30 in front-end, side, and rear crash tests.
- Top scores went to the two-door versions of the Chevrolet Cobalt and Honda Civic in front-end tests and the second-highest rating in side tests.
- Top score in the rear test went to the Honda Civic.
- The Chevrolet Cobalt has not been tested in rear crash tests.
- Toyota’s Scion tC received the second highest score in both the front-end and side tests, but received the second-lowest rating in the rear crash test.
As a result the Ford Focus and Volvo C30 were the best of the five cars tested in this group qualifying the Ford Focus as a 2009 Top Safety Pick among small cars and the Volvo C30 a 2009 Top Safety Pick among midsize cars.
Sunday, July 26th, 2009
Maclean’s Magazine recently ran this cover and it pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? I wish that Toronto would get the amount of international press for being a world class city as it’s getting for the garbage strike. As the CNN commercial says, it is “the most trusted name in news”. When Mayor Miller went on CNN recently and created a public relations disaster, it set off a tempest in a teapot. The reality is the Americans had no idea that we were in the midst of a garbage strike, until Mayor Miller went on CNN and told the world. It was accompanied by photos showing overflowing trash bins and fenced-off temporary dump sites populated by thousands of garbage bags. If that didn’t give tourists a reason to stay away… Thank you Mayor Miller. In the World Travel Watch section of the San Francisco Chronicle, Canada heads the watch list that includes other world powers like Honduras, Mexico, North Africa and Thailand. Many travel agents across the U.S. have issued travel advisories, warning tourists about travel to Toronto.
Couldn’t we have left well enough alone? No, we decided to really see if we could kill tourism entirely when the federal government went ahead and imposed a visa requirement on Czech and Mexican visitors to Canada. What are our politicians thinking? In 2008 Canada welcomed 266,000 Mexican visitors. One of the reasons that so many Mexicans visited Canada is that the Americans imposed a visa requirement on them. So what do we do? Instead of enjoying the increase in tourism, which at the moment we badly need, we go ahead and discourage the Mexicans from coming to Canada. Why did we do this? Apparently there has been an increase in unfounded applications for refugee status. Maybe we should impose an intelligence requirement for all government officials.
Friday, July 24th, 2009
As of noon today, Friday, July 24th, VIA Rail has ground to a halt. The only trains still operating are the ones on the Sudbury-White River and Victoria-Courtenay routes which are operated by third parties on VIA Rail’s behalf. Yet another strike, this time Canada-wide, threatens an already crippled tourism industry, particularly in Toronto which has become extremely adversely effected by the civic workers’ strike. Each day it is estimated that 12,000 passengers use VIA Rail across Canada, which operates 503 intercity, transcontinental, and regional trains each week along its 12,500 km long route network.
This time it is 340 locomotive engineers that are on strike. The issues are wages, benefits, and scheduling changes. The strike, clearly meant to be as disruptive as possible, has come at one of the busiest travel times of the year. The last thing that the public wants is another strike. When people are losing their jobs in a challenging economy, the prospect of a strike for wages, benefits, and scheduling is not going to garner any sympathy. When are the unions going to wake up and join reality?
In anticipation of the strike VIA Rail started canceling long distance passenger routes earlier in the week so that passengers wouldn’t have the misfortune of being stranded. Unfortunately no alternative transportation will be provided during the strike. However, Greyhound has offered to add buses to its scheduled if needed. Passengers can get a refund for any unused VIA Rail tickets.
For the latest information check the VIA Rail website, or call 888 VIA-RAIL (888- 842-7245) or 800- 268-9503 if you are hearing impaired.
Sunday, July 19th, 2009
In an effort to entice car buyers into going green the Ontario government is going to be offering rebates of up to $10,000 for people who buy plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles. The size of the rebate will depend on the vehicle’s battery capacity. There is as yet no word on how long the rebate program will last. The goal of the McGuinty government is to have one out of every 20 vehicles driven in Ontario electrically powered by 2020.
There has been a lot of controversy about this move to encourage people to buy green cars, but is the rebate program really altruistic? Toyota claims that they weren’t made aware of the rebate program. The provincial government didn’t even attempt to retain an air of neutrality by making the announcement at a Chevrolet dealership. Could this have been an accidental oversight? Considering that our provincial and federal governments now own 12% of General Motors as a result of bail-outs, what do you think? Is the provincial government just subsidizing itself with the rebate program? Go ahead and call me cynical, but making the announcement at a Chevrolet dealership sealed the deal for me.
The other interesting fact is that we do not currently have any electric cars ready for market except for the Canadian made, Toronto-based Zenn Motor Co., which builds electric vehicles for use in low-speed areas, but was excluded from Ontario’s rebate program because its cars are too slow for highway use. These are the vehicles that you can expect to see on the road in 2 – 3 years time.
- Chevrolet’s Volt is scheduled for sale in the second quarter of 2011 and expected to cost roughly $40,000 US.
- Toyota is working on a plug-in version of the Prius.
- Mini has an electric version capable of approximately 200 kilometres between charges, but it is not yet available to the general public.
- Mitsubishi is working on a small electric car called the i-MiEV with a 130 km/h top speed that can travel 120 km on a single charge and is expected to cost close to $50,000.
In anticipation of electric cars, Vancouver is now requiring mandatory chargers for electric vehicles in new residential buildings. Do you think that the general public will embrace electric cars or do you believe that the high price tag will be a deterrent?
Sunday, July 19th, 2009
Opa! It’s almost time for one of Toronto’s favourite summertime food festivals – the Taste of the Danforth. Now in its 16th delicious year, a large part of the Danforth will be closed to traffic from August 7 – August 9 so that we can all be out and about eating, drinking, dancing, and shopping.
Taste of the Danforth days, dates, and hours:
- Friday, August 7th from 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM
- Saturday, August 8th from Noon – 11:00 PM
- Sunday, August 9th from Noon – 8:00 PM
Greektown is the largest Hellenic business community in North America and the third largest in the world after Greece and Melbourne, Australia. The Taste of the Danforth is the largest Greek festival in the world outside of Greece. Over 1 million people – locals, national, and international guests - flock to the Taste of the Danforth. Why? The food of course – mouth watering authentic Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. Over 50 restaurants in the area will be participating. In addition to dining in or on one of the many fantastic patios, there will be food samples sold on the street so that you can walk from restaurant to restaurant sampling their wares. It’s a great opportunity to revisit your old stand-bys or discover a new favourite. In addition to fabulous food there will be live music, lots of great deals from local retailers, and even children’s activities.
With the Danforth closed to cars, please leave yours at home and use the TTC. Take the Bloor-Danforth Subway Line and exit at Chester, Pape, or Donlands.
Sunday, July 19th, 2009
Tim Hortons has launched in New York City. My question is why? New York City is certainly not lacking coffee shops; therefore Tim’s is certainly not filling a void. They may be a Canadian institution, for reasons that I have yet to figure out, but that rarely translates to our friends to the south.
Here are some Tim Hortons facts:
- There are almost 3,500 locations in North America
- There are approximately 500 locations currently operating in the U.S.
- They sell about two billion cups of coffee annually
All of the 13 Tim Hortons locations were originally Dunkin’ Donuts stores that have been converted. Nine of the ten locations in Manhattan are now open and they are in great locations in the heart of the city including Penn Plaza, Broadway, and Madison Square Garden. Two locations will open in Brooklyn. Here is the complete list of Tim Hortons locations in New York City. The company plans to open three other locations in Manhattan next month in existing Cold Stone Creamery outlets as part of a co-branding test of up to 100 U.S. stores.
The unanswered question is how will Tim’s market to New Yorkers and how effective will that marketing be? The one thing that can be guaranteed is that Canadian tourists will undoubtedly flock to Tim Hortons when they see one, but what about New Yorkers? They are a sophisticated bunch with an abundance of coffee shops to choose from. What is so special about Tim Hortons that will make them switch from their regular place? There is no doubt that Tim Horton had a strong connection to the U.S. while he played hockey for the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres. However, he passed away in 1974, so I don’t know if that is going to be much of an enticement to try his coffee. Tim Hortons opened its first U.S. store in Tonawanda, New York in 1984 and the company’s coffee bean roasting plant is based in Rochester, New York, but Tonawanda and Rochester are well beyond the scope of interest of Manhattanites.
It will be interesting to see how they do. Do you think that Tim Hortons will be a New York City success story? If you were in New York would you go into Tim Hortons for a coffee?
Tuesday, July 14th, 2009
During the last garbage strike in New York City, residents got creative. They wrapped up the garbage in gift wrap and left it their cars with the car doors unlocked. Clever thieves quickly stole the gift-wrapped garbage and their problem was solved. I haven’t heard of anyone trying it yet in Toronto.
In interesting times come interesting solutions. There are several enterprising people who have started garbage removal services for Toronto residents who don’t want to haul their garbage to transfer stations and temporary dump locations.
- Just Junk is in the business of removing garbage and you can book regular pick ups.
- Dave Batterson, a roofer, has expanded beyond roofing and is now in the garbage pick up business with his newly opened company aptly named Five Bucks a Bag. Dave is offering garbage pick up for $5 per 20 pound bag.
- Bill Hennessey started Toronto Same Day Garbage Removal. He employs students and independent contractors who will pick up your garbage for $50 per pick up and $10 per bag.
- I Am Junk offers 24/7 same day garbage removal service.
- Ryan Taylor, now known as the Trashman, will have your garbage picked up for $10 a bag, or $50 for six bags, take it to a designated drop site, and donate the money to War Child Canada.
- Rid-Of-It will pick up your garbage and recycling.
- Junk-Two-Go charges a minimum of $95 for a pick up but you can get together with friends and neighbours to share the cost.
Why doesn’t Toronto do what Etobicoke has done and hire a private contractor? Let’s get the City of Toronto out of the stranglehold of unions.