Tag Archives: Ontario

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

What Could Have Been

19 Sep

Click to enlarge

So many words have been written about where WNY went wrong, mistakes we’ve made, how we’ve been a field town and not a HQ for much of the last century, and how we’ve ceded businesses, people, industry, and ideas to other parts of the country.

We’re trying to reverse that decline now through the growth and promotion of a knowledge-based economy.  Big, subsidized projects like the medical corridor and UB expansion on the one hand, and small business incubators and venture capital networks on the other, are slowly making a very real impact, helping to lurch this region out of a longstanding economic, social, and (hopefully, eventually) political morass.

But rewind some 60 years, and there was a plan in place that, had it been implemented, would have guaranteed that Southern Ontario and Western New York would have been an economic powerhouse.

Navy Island is an uninhabited green blip on the map, sitting in the Niagara River between Grand Island and the Ontario shore.  After World War II, as the United Nations was being formulated and ideas for its headquarters were being considered, Navy Island was a top contender.  Because of its location between – and easy access from – two friendly nations, Navy Island would have been a better symbolic choice for the UN than the East Side of Manhattan, and a less expensive, less congested one, as well.  Turning a small island over to a peacekeeping organization with deep pockets, turning it into an international zone employing and attracting tens of thousands of diplomatic, secretarial, and administrative staff to southern Ontario and western New York would have had a billion-dollar impact today.

The ancillary economic impact from all those well-remunerated people engaging in the local economy is unfathomable today, and would have attracted businesses, schools, investors, people, and money.

Instead, the UN is on the East River, on land bought with a donation from the Rockefellers.  Had the UN been located in WNY, I wonder how much different this region would be, how it would look, how it would have evolved.

Image courtesy of Niagara Falls, ON Library.

Do You Remember Tor-Buff-Chester?

16 Nov

This piece, written by UB student Brendan Ryan appeared in yesterday’s Buffalo News, and it’s absolutely correct.  For some reason, we exclude southern Ontario and Toronto from discussions about our regional future, much to everyone’s mutual detriment.

…why is it that we often fail to even consider our nearness to Toronto among that list? Toronto and Southern Ontario are bursting at the seams and the Buffalo Niagara region is choosing to not take part in this growth.

Where is the political will to harness it and usher it over the border and why is this seemingly not a priority? What are our elected officials doing to foster relationships with leadership on the other side of the border? In an economic environment in which regions compete for the firms and industries that will help them to grow and become more vibrant, it is imperative to capitalize on assets that make a region unique and that can provide an advantage to businesses considering locating there.

Western New York’s direct line to Canada’s financial capital is an asset that no other region in the country can claim, yet it is almost completely ignored. We need to begin by exploring and discussing what we can gain from Southern Ontario and what we have to offer them. Southern Ontario has a diverse economy with industry clusters in aerospace, financial services, information technology, life sciences, tourism, fashion, design and a wealth of other areas. With a little imagination one can envision our region as a center for logistics between Southern Ontario, the Midwest and the East Coast.

This is absolutely obtainable and only one of the possible methods for evolving a symbiotic, cross-border, regional economy.

Part of this is due to cross-border travel hassles and the various rules and regulations surrounding residency and doing business in each respective country.  I’ve written before about the real need for a Schengen-type agreement between the US and Canada, whereby immigration rules were harmonized and there was true freedom of movement of people, goods, and jobs between our two countries.  Unfortunately, we didn’t even have the political will to cobble together a shared border management agreement for the Peace Bridge, so the likelihood of a North American Schengen is nil.

But the silence from our local political and business communities about better integrating our economy with that of Ontario is unfortunately deafening.

Random Toronto Stuff I Like

19 Oct

We take occasional weekend breaks up to T.O., but they’ve become less frequent and more…difficult since Mia was born. There are, however, some recent additions to the routine:

1. OKOK is someplace I’ve been meaning to check out since I first read this review. I had the eggs bearnaise, which is an eggs benedict with peameal bacon, drenched in homemade, lemony bearnaise sauce. All very excellent indeed, but what makes this special is the substitution of a hash brown in place of the English muffin. Yeah, it was awesome.

2. Red Rocket, further east on Queen, features a great breakfast and a drink it calls the “London Fog” – steamed milk with foam in which a bag of earl grey steeps. Topped off with vanilla syrup, it’s like eating a cupcake or something. Starbucks makes something similar – ask for a tea misto no water with vanilla syrup.

3. It has happened that I have made a special trip just to grab dinner at Terroni, which makes some of the freshest and most authentic Italian food within 100 miles of here. The pizzas themselves are to die for. The Queen West location is small and funky, the Balmoral & Yonge location north of Eglington is more yuppified and has more elbow room, while the East Adelaide location – in a former courthouse – is one of the most beautifully designed restaurants I’ve ever seen.

4. North Toronto – Yonge Street: the longest street in North America – particularly between Eglington and the 401 – has thousands of great shops and restaurants. Park the car at just about any random place, and just walk around a bit. Try Shatzy’s and the neighborhood around it. Cupcake Shoppe is pretty great, too.

5. Queen West: Just about anything between University Ave out to, say, Niagara Street is worth a walk on a nice day. I like to check out the Crumpler Store and see what’s new at the Australian Boot Company. There’s a Lush near Spadina, where the kids like to see hunks of soap, and Dufflet Pastries.

6. The shopping in and around Yorkville: W. Bloor between Yonge and Avenue Rd.: Montreal Bread Company is behind where Roots is, and features great sandwiches in spite of the obnoxiousness of the website’s music. This part of the city is closest to, say, 5th Avenue shopping as it gets, so you can obviously check out jewelery at Tiffany’s or Cartier, couture up and down the street (including men’s suits at Harry Rosen), but I usually check out the aforementioned Roots, and a pen shop tucked away behind Rosen’s.

7. Mt Pleasant: Jewelry and Gelato – My wife loves the handmade jewelry designed & made by Linda Penwarden. Il Gelatiere Artigianale is up the next block, and amazing.

8. The Malls: Yorkdale has H&M, a Pickle Barrel, and the first Crate & Barrel in Canada. It’s accessible off the 401 and by subway. Bayview is very upscale (read: expensive), but there’s a great Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill with great food and service. The Pacific Mall in Markham is f*cked up beyond belief. It has everything, right down to $5.00 bootleg DVDs.

9. Stuff for the Kids: The ROM, the AGO, the Ontario Science Centre, and the Toronto Zoo are all big hits, and the museums are architecturally significant, to say the least. The ROM’s new wing is designed by Daniel Libeskind, and the Frank Gehry-designed AGO is scheduled to re-open in mid-November. If you’re a Buffalo Zoo member, your entry ticket is 1/2 price in Toronto.

10. St. Lawrence Market – especially Kozlik’s mustard and Mustachio’s veal sandwich. ‘Nuff said.

Tor-Buff-Chester

16 Jun

As Richard Florida argues, it’s an idea whose time has come.

…mega-regions have replaced the nation-state as the economic drivers of the global economy. These are places like Bos-Wash (the Boston-New York-Washington corridor), Chi-Pitts (running from Chicago through Detroit and Cleveland and over to Pittsburgh), Nor-Cal (around San Francisco and the Silicon Valley), Cascadia (which stretches from Portland through Seattle and Vancouver), Europe’s Am-Burs-Twerp (from Amsterdam to Brussels and Antwerp), Lon-Leed-Chester (around London) and Asia’s greater Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai.

Clunky sounding or not, the 10 largest mega-regions account for 43 percent of the planet’s economic activity and more than half of its patented innovations and star scientists. They generate all those pioneering breakthroughs while housing only 6.5 percent of the planet’s population. And to take an even broader overhead view, the top 40 mega-regions produce 66 percent of the world’s economic activity and more than 80 percent of its patented innovations and most-cited scientists, still while being home to just 18 percent of the world’s population.

Tor-Buff-Chester is one of the world’s very biggest mega-regions, bigger than the San Francisco-Silicon Valley megaregion, Greater Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and more than twice the size of Cascadia in the Pacific Northwest. Its economic might is equivalent to more than half of all of Canada’s. If it were its own country, it would number among the 16 biggest in the world, with economic output bigger than that of Sweden, the Netherlands or Australia.

Being able to run a great think tank — the Martin Rotman Prosperity Institute — in this great mega-region is what moved me back to it. I know both Buffalo and Toronto pretty well. During my time in Buffalo, I endured some large snowstorms, lived in the terrific Elmwood neighborhood, ate my share of real chicken wings and beef on weck and took in as many Bills and Sabres games as I could.

At that time, Buffalonians always would remind me of how, during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, it was Buffalo with its manufacturing muscle and exciting downtown that was the more energetic, stronger city while Toronto rolled up the sidewalks at 10 p. m.

Times change, and these days Toronto has become the engine of the mega-region. Greater Toronto is growing at a fantastic clip, adding thousands of immigrants and 115,000 people a year. But it’s also clear that Buffalo’s economic hemorrhaging has stabilized. Despite shedding 17 percent of its manufacturing jobs between 2001 and 2005, the region’s manufacturing sector actually expanded its output by 3.5 percent, according to a study by UB’s Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth. The same report shows an increase in creative-class jobs in information technology, financial and business services, which I define as ones where people use their minds to create economic value.

Not only is Toronto growing, it isn’t resting on its laurels. One can whine all day about Canada’s socialism, cleanliness, friendliness, and aggressive drivers, but does Buffalo have an agenda for prosperity? Does Rochester? Or are we on the US side of this mega-region satisified instead to harken back to the good ol’ days of Xerox and Kodak; of GM and Bethlehem Steel?

Compare Toronto’s “doing business” section on its website to Buffalo’s, which recently got a re-vamp that actually added a “businesses” section.

The second section of Toronto’s site is its “agenda for prosperity.” In Buffalo, it’s “incentives“.

They plan for growth. We beg for stasis.

In any event, setting aside the completely different mindsets when it comes to growth and prosperity, Buffalo needs to re-focus its gaze in many ways. We need to stop wringing our hands over past mistakes and instead develop a plan to learn from them and avoid making similar ones in the future. We need to – and I admit I’m the biggest culprit of this – stop whining about Albany this and Albany that, and start looking beyond Albany – start looking beyond downstate’s comparative prosperity and figure out a roadmap to Western New York’s return to prosperity.

Look forwards, not backwards.

We need to look to Toronto, look to Rochester, look to the Southern Tier, look to Erie, and realize that the megaregion has much to offer. The border is an impediment to this, but it is not insurmountable. There are small, symbolic ways to begin the mental integration of this mega-region right now. It’s things like when Skybus was going to call the Niagara Falls International Airport “Toronto/Niagara” on its website. It’s things like the Bills playing a few games in Toronto or the Sabres playing a few games in Rochester. There is so much potential within a 100 mile radius of the city of Buffalo, as the epicenter of the mega-region Florida talks about.

We just need to start tapping it, and develop a plan to integrate the region.