Tag Archives: Canada

Weppner Disrespects Canada’s Fallen

23 Oct

Just a few weeks ago, tea party stereotype Kathy “Infected Poors” Weppner tried to raise funds off the severed head of an American journalist brutally slaughtered by the ISIS death cult

Yesterday, a terror attack was carried out in Ottawa, Canada and details are still rolling in. It’s likely to have been perpetrated by some homegrown death cult wannabes. But not one to let a good tragedy go to waste, Weppner wanted to score political points off the deaths of a Canadian serviceman.  

I don’t even know what that means. That Canadians don’t want to “protect themselves”? That their sane and rational gun control laws render them unprepared to handle some random homicidal lunatic? 

Also, “Canadiens” is a team, “Canadians” describes the residents of the country of Canada in English. 

 

But despite a uniformly negative reaction to Weppner’s poorly considered and misspelled Tweet, she doubled down, as she does.  

Most savvy politicians or compassionate, human people would express sympathy and outrage at the murder of a Canadian serviceman, shot dead while ceremoniously guarding the nation’s Cenotaph.  Not our Kathy, though.  She sees this as part of the gun-hugging cause. 

Incidentally, the closest thing we have in the US to the Cenotaph is the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetary. 

The tomb guards in Virginia, USA carry M14 rifles with ceremonial stocks.  The weapons are kept unloaded. Here’s a message to Kathy Weppner and tragedy trolls like her: 

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Kathy Weppner is morally depraved, and it’s shocking that she’s endorsed by anyone, except people like Carl Paladino. 

Trucks to Lewiston? Good Idea!

27 Jan

The Sunday Buffalo News published a story about a ultra-top-secret plan to divert all truck traffic away from the Peace  Bridge and onto the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge. A lot of customs brokerage jobs would have to be moved from Buffalo and Fort Erie to Lewiston and Queenston, but neighborhood concerns over diesel particulate would be assuaged. 

Funny, because here’s what I wrote in February 2008 – six years ago:

The Peace Bridge Expansion is Dead. That’s my prediction. It is never, ever going to happen. Not in my lifetime, not in yours. Frankly, I think that increased traffic capacity isn’t needed in Buffalo anyway. Why shove it down Buffalo’s throat if it so clearly doesn’t want it?

The Ambassador Bridge to Black Rock? Not going to happen. No one’s going to build a plaza and new interchange on the US side with the Scajaquada and 190 right there, particularly given the fact that the push now is to downgrade the Scajaquada to a boulevard of some sort.

While an ideal crossing would be across the river just south of Grand Island, so that it would connect up with the I-290 and I-190, that disturbs residential neighborhoods in Canada.

Instead, we should completely jettison the Peace Bridge expansion altogether and instead increase capacity at Queenston-Lewiston. That single span gets a tremendous amount of truck and vehicular traffic, and recently received an upgrade to five lanes. The Q-L bridge provides direct access on both sides of the span to a major highway; the 405 to the QEW on the Canadian side, and the I-190 on the US side.

If there was any semblance of forward-thinking on the part of the CVB, it would already have been in talks to develop and construct a gorgeous visitor’s center that is run locally – not from Albany. Lease some Thruway property from the Authority and give border crossers a reason to come to a whole host of attractions in Western New York. The fact that there is no “Welcome to New York” or “Welcome to WNY” center on this side of the border underscores just how backwards and simple our supposed tourism promoters are. They’re at Thruway rest areas, but not at the border. How patently stupid; you have to wait until you get to Pembroke or Angola – well on your way out of the metro area.

There comes a time when you just say “enough”. The Peace Bridge project has spent ten years in environmental review, design review, and negotiations over the now-dead shared border management. We can sit and wait another few years for a new administration to change its mind, but it’s been almost ten years now that nothing tangible has happened. The preservation community has drawn a line in the sand as far as the neighborhood that would be adversely affected by a new plaza on the Buffalo side, and we all know about Al Coppola’s threat to move his Pan Am house. What else could be more persuasive?

So screw it. Enough. Everybody wins.

Expand the Queenston-Lewiston bridge with a second, signature span across the Niagara River, right at the escarpment with a gorgeous view of the meandering river leading to Youngstown, and Lake Ontario beyond.

I think that the current Peace Bridge span should be replaced with a more modern, signature span, and that the current steel span should then be demolished. We should move forward with shared border management, which would allow US-bound traffic be pre-screened in Fort Erie with perhaps only spot-checks on the US side. The problem isn’t just neighborhood anger, the access to the I-190 is very poorly laid out, with the southbound ramp located about 1/4 mile west from the northbound ramp access road.

 

And it’s still a crime that we don’t have a visitor’s center to promote local businesses and attractions to Canadian visitors coming off the bridges, or really any tourism services of any sort, such as currency exchange. Ontario maintains one on the 420 in Niagara Falls, and another on the QEW near Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Let me know if I can help you with any other ideas. 

Peace Bridge: Back to the 90s

7 Jun

STATEMENT FROM THE

WNY LEADERS FOR PEACE BRIDGE PROGRESS

Like most people in Western New York, we have spent the past two decades watching and waiting for a new, more efficient gateway between our community and Southern Ontario. Instead of progress, we have seen debate, delay and dysfunction. This project is too important to allow ego and personal differences to stall this project any longer.

Instead, we will let ego move the process forward!

The “Golden Horseshoe” around the western end of Lake Ontario has a population of 8.76 million people; that is 68% of Ontario residents and 26% of all Canadians. They come to Western New York to take in Sabres and Bills games, enjoy our ski resorts and other recreational opportunities, shop, and most importantly, to conduct business and enrich the economies of both sides.

The American government, addicted to security porn and anti-immigrant animus, has proposed and/or implemented every barrier possible to keep these people on their side of the border. Furthermore, the state of New York and the various and sundry governmental, quasi-governmental, and charitable entities have not yet decided to, e.g., set up a string of information center/rest areas on this side of the Q-L Bridge, Rainbow Bridge, or Peace Bridge to inform and direct Canadian crossers to WNY businesses, attractions, and communities.

For this population, the main crossing into the United States and the City of Buffalo is the Peace Bridge. More than 4.7 million cars and 1.2 million trucks crossed the span last year alone. The sheer volume makes the Peace Bridge one of Western New York’s most important economic engines, and to prevent the progress of improving the American side of the border crossing is to prevent the growth of business, recreation and friendly relations between the United States and our valued neighbor to the North.

Not only that, but if you expand the bridge and plaza capacity, you can minimize idling trucks and cars, the emissions from which are adversely affecting the nearby residents, according to some.

We need to take hold of our own destiny and move proactively toward embracing plans that will allow our great region, on both sides, to grow and prosper. The plan put forth by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State of New York is the best option to accomplish that. The Governor wants progress for Buffalo and Western New York, and as business people, residents and active members of this great community, so do we.

The Governor? Hasn’t Cuomo ham-handedly allowed his local proxies mercilessly to antagonize the Canadians on the Public Bridge Authority in recent weeks?

Governor Cuomo has promised a beautiful, more efficient plaza in which the PBA and our community could take pride, and one that would improve the border crossing process for both sides. Western New York needs to form a unified front behind the efforts of the people we elected to represent us. That is exactly what we are announcing today.

To be honest, I’m not so sure anyone has described a customs and inspection plaza as “beautiful”, or that anyone has been “proud” of such a structure. I mean, the new plazas on the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge and Q-L Bridge are quite nice and efficient, but I think “beautiful” is a stretch. It would, however, be nice if people’s first impression of the United States when crossing from Canada was “hey, these people want me to be here and spend my money”. Instead, they resemble the angry, barely utilitarian, chaotic toll plaza on the Queens end of the Midtown Tunnel.

Western New Yorkers and our guests from Canada should not have to wait for years. They should not have to endure the traffic congestion of maintenance projects only to be followed by years of other projects that don’t actually help move traffic, especially passenger traffic off the plaza more expeditiously. New Yorkers and Canadians alike deserve a better, more functional U.S. Plaza faster.

We’ve gephyrophobically waited for years. I’m not so sure ego will overcome what ego has stalled.

The WNY Leaders for Peace Bridge Progress is a group of community leaders who have joined together to show their support for Governor Cuomo’s efforts to expedite the development of the Peace Bridge US Plaza in a way that maximizes the economic benefit to the WNY economy by reducing congestion and making the plaza more efficient and at the same time improving the quality of life in the immediate neighborhood. The committee is co-chaired by Leonard DePrima, formerly of LiRo Engineers and former Chief Engineer and Deputy Executive Director of the NYS Thruway Authority, Laura Zaepfel, Vice President at Uniland Development and Paul Brown, President of the WNY Building Trades Association.

Sounds like this was pulled together in response to this and this.

The WNY Leaders for Peace Bridge Progress

Co-Chairs: Leonard DePrima, Laura Zaepfel, Paul Brown

Cliff Benson Robert Gioia John Koelmel Jonathan Dandes Anthony Conte Rocco Termini

Mark Croce Doug May Alan Pero Paul Ciminelli Victor Martucci Sam Savarino

Robbie Ann McPherson Matt Connors Colleen DiPirro David Rivera Geno Russi

Joel Giambra Kelly Thompson Robert Kresse James Newman Rev. Michael Chapman

Isn’t that an interesting collection of political, development, charitable, and union leaders? It’s as if someone went around and wanted to ensure that this humble group of leaders had enough juice to offer credibility and a second look at the chronic Peace Bridge stasis.

As far as I can tell, however, the most palpable public health problem affecting the community-at-large is a dire case of Peace Bridge Fatigue. Any excitement or public desire for a signature bridge or a crossing that looks world-class rather than second-rate has been beaten into apathy by lawsuits, arguments, the Common Tern, and general political dysfunction. As I suggested last year, it may instead be time to simply demolish the Peace Bridge altogether.

This all seems so 1999. Thanks for trying, though.

Stompin’ Tom Connors 1936 – 2013

7 Mar

Yesterday, I learned that Canadian folk singer Stompin’ Tom Connors passed away. You’ve likely heard his “Hockey Song”, which has become that sport’s de facto anthem, but he leaves behind 50 years’ worth of uniquely Canadian music. Connors was 77. 

I first became aware of Stompin’ Tom while listening to the Dr. Demento show in LA back in the late 80s. Dr. Demento was known for playing wacky, obscure songs and I heard “Bud the Spud” – a Connors song about a happy truck driver transporting potatoes from the “bright red mud” of Prince Edward Island to market in “T’ronno”. It’s catchy and funny, and it was something of an earbug for years until 1996 when we took a road trip up through the Canadian Maritimes. Somehow, I remembered “Bud the Spud” and bought a Stompin’ Tom best of cassette, which we listened to non-stop for months. 

When I say the songs are uniquely Canadian – there’s one about the back-breaking tobacco picking near Tillsonburg, there’s one about the Leamington tomatoes, there’s the song about an obscure small plane crash in the Arctic where an “Eskimo boy” sacrificed his life to try and save the pilot, whose legs were both broken. His music wasn’t as dark as Johnny Cash’s, but Connors was as central to Canadian country-folk music as Cash was to Americans. 

He was so nationalistic – uncharacteristically so for Canadians at the time – that he halted his career in the late 70s to protest the lack of radio support for Canadian artists. He returned to the stage in the late 80s and performed right into this year.  His website released this statement yesterday:

We must regretfully announce today the passing of the Great and Patriotic Stompin’ Tom Connors. He died this March 6th 2013 with his Family seeing him off. His family have given us a message from Tom that he wanted passed along to all of you upon his death:

“Hello friends, I want all my fans, past, present, or future, to know that without you, there would have not been any Stompin’ Tom.”

“It was a long hard bumpy road, but this great country kept me inspired with it’s beauty, character, and spirit, driving me to keep marching on and devoted to sing about its people and places that make Canada the greatest country in the world.”

“I must now pass the torch, to all of you, to help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, and be the Patriot Canada needs now and in the future.”

“I humbly thank you all, one last time, for allowing me in your homes, I hope I continue to bring a little bit of cheer into your lives from the work I have done.”

Sincerely,

Your Friend always,

Stompin’ Tom Connors

Here’s some of his work: 

Failed City Opposes Bridge to Canada

11 Jan

Remember how Matty Moroun wanted to build a truck-only bridge to Fort Erie up by the rail crossing? Anyone else notice that anti-Peace Bridge expansion is right there on the front page of his Buffalo bridge website? I did. Has Mr. Moroun’s organization been seeding groups in town with money? Good question. Any way to find out? Please; this is Buffalo, not Detroit.  

I wonder why Canadians think it’s important to maintain better road links with the United States? I know there are a lot of very vocal Buffalonians who agree with the people in this video who think easier travel to Canada is unimportant, and rather than expand the Peace Bridge, argue strenuously for its removal.  Here’s your ghost of bridges future: 

Meanwhile, an Ontario Judge Kicks Rob Ford Out of Office

27 Nov

Although Ontario is right here in our own backyard, we think about it when it comes to sport or culture or shopping, yet most of us are blissfully ignorant of Ontario politics.  Yesterday, Ontario Superior Court Judge Charles Hackland ruled that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford be removed from office for violation of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.  Text of the decision is below. 

Ford wasn’t immediately dismissed; the removal is stayed for 14 days. Ford plans to appeal the ruling

For the uninitiated, Ford is a Tory from Etobicoke, a western suburb that is part of the City of Toronto. His family owns a label company there, and he entered politics as a Toronto city councilman in 2000. He was elected Mayor in 2010 as Torontonians sought to reduce fraud and waste in city government.  He positioned himself as a populist conservative, attacking perks in members’ budgets and calling for removal of long-termers in the council. He became mayor on a platform of “putting people and families first, focusing on the fundamentals, reducing waste, and eliminating unnecessary taxes.”  Think of him as a portlier, blue-collar Chris Collins. 

Like Collins, Ford has a reputation for being arrogant, ignorant, and disrespectful.

Ford’s removal from office had nothing to do with his fiscal conservatism, and everything to do with arrogance and ignorance. In early 2010, then-councilman Ford sent letters on official City of Toronto letterhead identifying him as “Etobicoke North Councillor” soliciting donations for his private “Rob Ford Football Foundation”. He collected just over $3,000 from donors, including several city lobbyists, clients of city lobbyists, and a company that did business with Toronto. His colleagues in the council sanctioned him and ordered him to pay the money back, and a taxpayer lawsuit was filed. 

“In his letter of response to the complaint, Councillor Ford wrote, ‘I do not understand why it would be inappropriate to solicit funds for an arm’s-length charitable cause using my regular employment letterhead,'” Leiper quoted him as saying.
 
Ford had said there was “no basis in policy or law” to stop him from fundraising this way. However, Leiper said she had advised him in December 2009 and in February 2010 that he shouldn’t fundraise in this way.

After the decision yesterday, the plaintiff’s counsel indicated that it didn’t have to be this way

“It is tragic that the elected mayor of a great city should bring himself to this,” Ruby said. “Rob Ford did this to Rob Ford. It could have so easily been avoided. It could have been avoided if Rob Ford had used a bit of common sense and he had played by the rules.” 

As Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee explains

What they missed was a dangerous strain of arrogance. This was the mayor who called senior civil servants to his office to demand paving and other repairs outside his family business in Etobicoke. This is the mayor who used publicly paid workers in his office to help coach his high-school football team. This is the mayor who called the head of the Toronto Transit Commission to complain about a late bus that had been pulled out of service to pick up his football players. And this is the mayor who wanted the city’s accountability officers reformed out of existence when some of them questioned his conduct and policies.

Here was a guy who ran as a man of the people but acted as if he were above the limits that apply to ordinary mortals. For Rob Ford, the rules were always for somebody else. Nowhere was that clearer than in the case that led to Monday’s damning court judgment. While he was still a lowly member of city council, a position he held for a full decade, the city’s Integrity Commissioner found that he had used his status as councillor to solicit funds for his private football charity. Among the donors he approached were lobbyists and a company that does business with the city. The commissioner found that seven lobbyists or clients of lobbyists who had donated to the football charity had either lobbied Mr. Ford or registered an intent to lobby him.

The danger is obvious: if a lobbyist does a favour for a councillor – even if it means donating to a good cause – he might expect something in return. Mr. Ford, who rails about corruption at city hall, should have seen that.

Instead, he brushed off the complaint.

In Toronto, they remove their elected officials for perceived conflict of interest over $3,000 to a personal football charity.  Anyone get the sense that, under those rules, practically every politician in western New York would be removed?  It comes as no surprise that Canada is the 10th least corrupt nation in the world, while the United States can manage 18th

Rob Ford Conflict of Interest Decision

Why We Shouldn’t Privatize All the Things

25 Oct

Here’s why it’s horrible to let private entities privately own necessary infrastructure. The Canadian government is offering to build – at its sole cost – a new bridge crossing between Ontario and Michigan, just South from Detroit. The Maroun family, which owns the private Ambassador Bridge – the only truck crossing in Detroit – has mounted an ad  blitz to oppose the new, free bridge. And it’s working.

 

Why We Shouldn't Privatize All the Things

25 Oct

Here’s why it’s horrible to let private entities privately own necessary infrastructure. The Canadian government is offering to build – at its sole cost – a new bridge crossing between Ontario and Michigan, just South from Detroit. The Maroun family, which owns the private Ambassador Bridge – the only truck crossing in Detroit – has mounted an ad  blitz to oppose the new, free bridge. And it’s working.

 

Beyond the Border

8 Dec

On Wednesday, the United States and Canada signed an agreement that Congressman Brian Higgins’ office describes as, historic…declaring a shared responsibility for enhanced security and efficient access for the legitimate movement of people, goods, and services between the northern border.”

I could go on a tangent about how post-9/11 border security stymies our ability to properly create a Tor-Buff-Chester megaregion / regional economy, but harmonization of customs regulations and easing the flow of commercial and tourist traffic between the US and Canada is a good start.  If we had true high-speed rail in North America, it would be completely possible for someone to live in Buffalo and commute to Rochester or Toronto. And vice-versa.

Under this “Beyond the Border” agreement, we’ll see expansion of NEXUS lanes for trusted travelers (a $50 perk that gives you a dedicated bridge in Niagara Falls and speedy inspection), Customs pre-screens at point of departure, rather than at border crossings, and what amounts to somewhat of a re-think as to how we handle cross-border cargo traffic.

Some Canadians are upset because the agreement will require the CBSA to share information about suspected terrorists with the TSA, and participate in the no-fly list we keep.  Canadian screening of visitors from visa waiver countries will be more closely aligned with that of the US.

Easing the flow of traffic at the border crossings themselves may obviate the need for Peace Bridge expansion and other changes that have been debated to death in our community. It’s too early to tell whether this new agreement might lead to a renewed interest or second look at shared border management, but the Canadian border hasn’t exactly been an Administration priority in the last few years, so it’s heartening to see something change, however small.

Ultimately, though, it would make sense for Canadian and American immigration and Customs schemes to be harmonized and unified, so that entry to one is entry to both, creating a North American Schengen zone.

 

Rewind: Good News for Buffalo (2004)

28 Sep

This is actually very good news for Buffalo. In my opinion, it’s tantamount to placing the cornerstone on the new Peace Bridge.

WASHINGTON – The United States and Canada on Friday announced a pilot project at the Peace Bridge that will shift U.S. Customs and Immigration officers to Fort Erie, Ont., where they will inspect all U.S.-bound cars and trucks.This means that the primary and secondary inspections of vehicles entering the country being done on Buffalo’s West Side will – at a date to be determined – be carried out at the big preclearance yard across the Niagara River in Canada.

Ideally, when the program is implemented, U.S.-bound cars and trucks will be able to roll across the bridge into Buffalo without stopping for tolls or inspections and proceed directly to the Niagara Thruway or into the city.

Besides making Buffalo a more convenient and economical entry point for commerce and tourism, the move will also sharply reduce pollution and noise from idling vehicles.

(Originally published on December 18, 2004).