Thursday, April 30, 2009
This comment is not anonymous to me.
From: < .... >
Sent: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 6:37 PM
Subject: An Email from the Website
Evelyn, Who is this Robert the Bruce character , Does he honestly believe that the manufactures and sales outlets will reduce their prices , I cannot believe the naivety of people , where was Robert when Chrétien promise to abolish the Mulroney GST and where was he when that pxc&% conned everyone into thinking the manufactures and home builders and every other Tom Dick and Harry would lower their prices because they were no longer subject to the federal manufacturing taxes , the only tax relief anyone gets is either by cheating on their taxes or working for cash under the table. and this government is doing everything it possibly can to promote this underground trade.
This Out of Harmony tax is nothing but an absolute disgrace and will be the final nail in the Liberals Coffin , they just cannot continue to lie repeatedly to the public , they must go, I wish Robert all the best in his dream world of tax reform, one day he will realize the nightmare that it is. Keep up the good work of telling it like it is !!!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
This new RST/GST tax is not getting any coverage in the news paper/television and I am not sure why. It is going to be the biggest tax increase in history. It's like no one wants to inform us of the facts. I have been investigating and I would like to share my findings.
The new tax will be administered by the Federal Government. It will be based on the GST, that means if the tax is currently collected on the Goods and Service Tax at 5% it is going to be increased to 13%, that sounds fine as Ontario's Provincial Retail Sales Tax is 8%. Add the two together and things seem fine.
One problem, Retail Sales Tax is not collected on everything that Goods and Services Tax is, the key word here is "Services". Retail Sales Tax is not collected on services. What is going to increase?
Here is a small list of services currently only taxed at 5% going up to 13%.
Natural Gas bill
Gas at the pumps- That is like 6 cents per L. (that is a tax on top of a tax)
Anything that requires labour around your house- plumber, electrician, painting, grass cutting ext.
Electricity bill- This is a good one. Look at your electricity bill there is a charge on it for debt retirement charge. That is a charge for the huge debt the OPC ran up. Only in Ontario would we pay tax on a debt, and only in Ontario would we increase this tax.
This is just a small list as there is so much much more.
Let talk about small business for a minute.
Mr. Mcguinty tells us in the budget that this new tax is going to save small businesses 500 million dollars. I do not know how much it costs to fill out a six line tax return monthly, but all small business owners I know do there own. If you are in business you will know about compensation on your Retail Sales Tax return. This is when you get to keep 5% of the tax collected up to $1,500.00 per year to help with your administration costs. That is gone once this tax is combined. Really it only helps large corporations with multiple vendor permit numbers, not small businesses.
Good news, I thought. There were two places where we were going to see an advantage to this tax. First there is no GST on used cars if bought privately and provincial tax on alcohol in between 10% to 12%. That is 2% to 4% higher then our normal Retail Sales Tax. Good old Mcguinty took care of that real quick. He is now saying to make it fair between used car lots, that he will collect the Retail Sales Tax on used cars still. Get ready for this one, he is going to add a levy on alcohol to promote social responsibility. This man is using the words social responsibility at the same time as he is raising our taxes, what he promised not to do.
I never forward chain letters and this is more or less what this is. This one has a reason, it could save you a lot of money over your lifetime. Please forward it to everyone in your contact list and call them and ask them to forward it.
I have added a few links at the bottom if you would like to send an e-mail. The first one is to sign the petition against this tax. The second is to Mcguinty if you would like to talk to him about being socially responsible. There are a few other ones but the bottom one is the best, it is the salary disclosure for 2008. We are paying him $207,000.00 per year to lie to us.
Stand up Ontario and tell him we cannot afford any more Mcguinty politics. No new taxes.
Please sign the petition.
https://www.premier.gov.on.ca/feedback/feedback.asp - Dalton Mcguinty
https://www.ontario.ca/en/contacts/feedback/index.htm -Any questions to the
http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/english/about/contactus/feedback.html Dwight Duncan
http://www.ontarioliberal.ca/contact.aspx The Ontario Liberal Party
http://www.ontariopc.com/home20/contactus/contactus.aspx The PC Party of Ontario
http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/english/publications/salarydisclosure/2009/ministries09.html Salary Disclosure
The happening is on May 7th at the new Seneca Campus in Markham. It would be handy. But wait... It costs $325. a person to participate. Aw heck! I've never seen a conference yet worth that amount of money for a day. There was a time when municipal people invited in to be briefed on something or other , the province paid the freight.
I saw a blurb in the Saturday Star. The Province is contributing $100,000 to facilitate the project.
The idea came from a proposal in a commentary to The Toronto Star last December by Stephen Del Duca, a one-time political operative in former MPP Greg Sorbara's office. Mr. Del Duca is currently Director of Public Affairs for the Carpenters Union.
Two hundred and fifty people are expected to attend the event. At $325. a pop.The Toronto Board of Trade is involved.
It occurred to me, as I was putting two and two together, Board of Trade involvement probably means sponsorships. I called their number for an answer to that question. And learned yes indeed .
It seems everyone connected was involved at a meeting this morning. I finally managed to speak to someone who knew the answer . He thought it would be alright to give names of sponsors but not amounts .
It was not exactly a refusal to reveal. He didn't know the tally. It just seemed to him it would not be public information. He did outline a few of the many expenses for organising an event like this. It 's happening at the new York Region Campus of Seneca College at Highway 404 and 7 on May 7th. That's a Thursday. It's a public institution. What chance fees might be waived, I wonder.
Now....let me be absolutely clear and transparent. I am not telling any reader what to think about the event and the fee to attend. My exercise this morning was to find out what an event like that cost so that I could understand why the fee to participate would be $325.
I hadn't even started to wonder what might be accomplished with all that expensive endeavour.
Holy Smoke !
Saturday, April 25, 2009
On Christmas Eve I found myself in front of the newly renovated Shoppers Drug Mart. It was a beacon of light in a sea of darkness. I sat in front of it for ten minutes enjoying the incredibly cheerful scene.
Two storeys of light illuminated store shelves, Christmas trees and wreaths, people on stairs with the elevator sliding up and down behind them. It was a delight. Something I had never seen before in Aurora. The downtown block is always cheerful of course but not like this.
While being built, there was no indication it would look like this. It had been a small Canadian Tire warehouse structure.
On completion, an application was made for a sign plan and a sign variance. Staff processed it and recommended approval.
Council said no.
To say I was aghast is putting it mildly.
A couple of weeks ago I saw e-mails between Councillor Wilson and the Mayor. Shoppers had obtained a temporary banner sign permit for across the back of the building. It was to expire on March 31st and staff were on alert to make sure it came down by the final date on the permit.
Shoppers have three stores in Aurora. All of them beautiful . I asked for financial particulars of this latest project.
Construction was worth two million dollars.Interior renovations almost half a million . The permit fee was $16k for inside and out.
Town's development charge was $44,473.09. Region's $70,909. Education's$1,652. and appraisal fee was $2,467.
When all of that money had been expended and the building completed, the application was made for signs. The plan was for five including directional. Sign Value $60,000.,construction $12,000. and permit $375.
A variance application was made at the same time at a cost of $450. An additional sign at $12K., and permit at $175. It was refused.
The building currently has a dinky little sign on the front corner...the same on the great long on the south side and none at all on the long dark back wall, facing oncoming traffic on Edward Street. Canadian Tire Gas Bar obscures the building from oncoming traffic from the south. Signage is needed for the carriage trade to know they are there.
A failed store means a substantial loss of revenue to the town.
After all that private money was invested in the town, our assessment improved by two and a half million dollars . D.C. levies were collected in an amount of almost $120K, a sign variance application was made at a cost of $450, processed, recommended by staff and turned down by council.
A fee paid, work completed, nothing accomplished. .
The final irony was the Mayor's proclamation 2009 would be the Year of Aurora's Business Initiative. There was also the Mayor's constant reminder during budget discussions of how council and staff had to be mindful of hard times being experienced by local business.
Look no further
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
In the course of other comments at the meeting, Mr.Fitkin mentioned he had had a meeting with the Mayor. I asked when and for what purpose. He answered. I expressed concern about a meeting which had not been authorised by council. The Mayor declared she would speak to whomever she pleased and needed no authority from anyone.
Mr. Fitkin expressed himself more than willing and offered to do so by telephone as early as today.
Councillor Wilson however expressed opposition. My questions should be asked in public he said so that everyone could hear the answers. He was right, of course. But there would be no opportunity between now and Council approving the recommendations.
Mayor Morris, as she is wont to do, directed the question to the Town Solicitor for his advice.
Mr. Christopher Cooper responded it would not be acceptable. His reason was unclear.
And thereby hangs a tale. Which is the correct answer? Alright for the Mayor to have a private meeting with Mr.Fitkin? Not alright for anyone else?
If there was ethical reason against the conversation, why would Ethics Commissioner Fitkin not be the first to say so?
I could have engaged Mr. Cooper in discussion and requested a reason for his negative response. Except that it's against the Rules of Order.
No self-respecting politician drags a staff person into the middle of a debate. Political battles are meant to be fought fair and square between politicians.
Ethics dictate staff should never be compromised.
That's the point where a Chief Administrative Officer must intervene, although it's admittedly difficult and should never be necessary to do so.
He did it later in the meeting, when it appeared the York Regional Police officer was being criticised by Councillor Wilson.
For now, let me tell you what they did to Alison last night. It was much the same as they did to Former Councillor Grace Marsh, only this time it was more carefully orchestrated and graphically apparent..
In the 2007 budget Grace ,whose expertise is municipal finance, successfully persuaded council to accept the treasurer's advice and make a sufficient contribution to reserves. As the weeks went by though, we saw steady hacking away at it by the MorMac twins. Eventually it was cut. The slick and sly and singularly focused determination contributed to Grace's despair about the possibility of being allowed to contribute and at least partly led to her resignation.
Part of Alison's election platform was a commitment to work for a solution for the growing problem of graffiti vandalism. She was successful in obtaining council permission for an ad hoc committee and worked for months with fellow citizens and the Regional Police. The work culminated in successful promotion of Graffiti Clean Up day.
It didn't mean graffiti was saved for a year to be cleaned up. Nor that the problem disappeared.
What it did was increase public awareness and involve the community in helping to solve the problem. Materials were donated, people turned out to participate in the scrub-down.. With the objective successfully realised , the Committee was dissolved.
Last night, on invitation from the mayor a representative from the Police Department appeared as a delegate and expressed appreciation for town support, reported on successful apprehension of numerous miscreants and announced May 29th as Graffiti Clean up date for 2009
First commendations to the police were repeated around the table. Then the systematic attack began. One after another made a contribution to denigrating the merits of the program.
What did it cost? How many man hours were involved.? Aren't staff cleaning up graffiti on an on-going basis ? Exactly what was the bill? Why did this happen and that not?
At that point Mr. Garbe , Chief Administrative Officer intervened to defend the police and assign responsibility for a particular failure to a junior staff member.
Each one of the cast had lines to read. The play ended with a comment from the Mayor denigrating the efforts of a particular individual who was not named although when challenged , reference to Councillor Collins-Mrakas was denied.
The final scene had the Mayor leaving the table to escort the police officer from the Town Hall, no doubt reassuring him all the way of council support for police efforts.
I fervently wished Mr.Fitkin, the Ethics Commissioner could have stayed for the performance. He had made an observation during the workshop on ethics indicating presumption of collegiality in the working relationship of a council.
Huh ! In a pig's ear.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Join the club. I'm a councillor and I'm not privy to the rhyme or reason .
The meeting is at six. It was to have been held in the Holland Room. Now it is in the council chamber. Food is being served for councillors at 5.30p.m.in the Holland Room . I'm not eating this time. I find it uncomfortable to be eating while receiving a presentation .Sort of like...bad manners. Isn't that an old-fashioned expression! It's mainly for councillors who won't have time to go home to eat.
The presentation is the same as the one already given in private. Six of us have to sit through it a second time because three didn't the first time. The six were not consulted whether that was acceptable . If we did what Councillor MacEachern did and declared we would not attend, there would be no quorum and no meeting..
It's not clear how it will proceed. Mr. Fitkin is an educator. It's what he did in the first meeting. The room was prepared like a classroom and the session was essentially a participatory lecture.
This time the Mayor is presiding. I'm not sure how that's intended to work. I am sure there's a plan. It's just not obvious at this time.
Somewhere lurking at the back of my mind, there's an impression A Code of Ethics requires unanimous support. I heard a hint of that in Mr. Fitkin's comments last time we met.It makes sense. How else would it stick?
The councils (Toronto and Vaughan) with a Code formed a steering committee and designed their own standards . They did not agree to have rules imposed upon them. Why would they? Who would have that authority ?
Why would people elected to exercise judgement to the best of their ability on behalf of the community, submit to control from an outside source, about whose judgement we know nothing.
Tonight,I will be like everybody else in town... waiting to see what's going to happen next.
Monday, April 20, 2009
What isn't, is for a dog-owner, in the face of that particular circumstance, to have the hubris to fight for the right for a dog to be there.
That is nonsense.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
The new Master Plan "draft" was presented to the LSAC. The LSAC committee decided not to refer it to Council because it was viewed as being deficient and in some regards not appropriate for Aurora. Instead they are going to have a sub committee review the recommendations and then send it to Council.
Since the document has not been recommended to Council can Council members use it? I would think not. But am I wrong in that assumption?
It has been referred to during Council meetings and even in the Banner and the Auroran.
In the minutes from the April 7 minutes "comments from the Master Plan" are requested to be included in information from Mr Garbe LS09-012. That then should be referred to the only Master Plan that has been approved which is 2003 and not the current "draft" version. But it is clear to me that the minutes actually refer to the unapproved document.
This is clearly an attempt to use information that is not to the AMBA's favour because while the previous document states a current need (now overdue) for the diamond, the "draft" incorrectly suggests we won't need it until 2013. What would Council's reason for this be, other than finding an excuse for not building the facility? I have trouble understanding why they would want to do that.
My question for you is... Can you refer to a document that is not approved by either the committee or Council?
I asked the same question of Chief Administrative Officer Neil Garbe during last week's council meeting and prior to receiving the e-mail. I knew the answer but needed it confirmed.
A Master Recreation Plan which has not been adopted by council cannot be referenced in a current decision.
Of course, if the decision can be deferred often enough then a different outcome can be obtained.
Councillor Evalina MacEachern chairs the Leisure Services Advisory Committee.
Clearly Council is not perceived as competent to make a judgement of whether the Draft Master Recreation Plan is acceptable and a sub-committee of an advisory committee needs to vet and obtain different findings before presentation to elected representatives. All of which takes time of course. Delay one decision long enough and it can be overtaken by another.The strategy is not subtle.
It's kind of like the letter we got from a lawyer last year on the issue of byelection versus appointment . The one page letter of advice wasn't acceptable so we sent it back and required something different. We got it. The result was appointment versus by-election. There wasn't much subtlety there either.
All that's needed is to thoroughly confuse the public with bafflegab and we're off to the races.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
"I'm looking for Evelyn Buck" she called.
"Aye, well you found her" says I.
"Oh" she said, obviously surprised .
She had been told she would not be able to talk to a councillor because they are all part-time. and difficult to reach.
Well, I thought...there's another one for the book.Why would anyone at the town hall convey such a message.
Even more strange; the story Lucy was following was not much of an issue .
An employee at the Leisure Complex had been bitten by a dog. A bylaw is being contemplated to prohibit dogs from town buildings.
A dog-owner finds the idea of a bylaw outrageous.
I thought that's not much of an issue for the CBC .
But it's odd a town employee would tell someone looking for me that I can't be contacted.I gave no such instructions.
Mind you, I'd noticed a drop in phone calls. It never occurred to me , the town hall might be steering people away.
Of course it's true.
Paranoia is rampant.
There is probably only one connection to the Town Hall that isn't currently under the maniacal control of the Mayor; Buck's Blog.
In the first battle for control the Dreaded Duo. MorMac had with our former Chief Administrative Officer was over the Communications division . The annual report was being submitted and the terrible twins had trouble accepting it. Mr. Rogers explained the function of the division is CORPORATE not political.
When a decision has been made by council , it becomes Corporate and therefore under the authority of the administration. Media releases are from the Corporation ...not the Mayor or Council.
Well now that did not sit well. There was hissing , clawing of the air and huffing and puffing.
Ever since, no media release appears without a sentence somewhere, relevant or not, from the Mayor, bearing full name and title. Mr. Rogers is no longer Chief Administrative Officer.
I seldom check releases. But last week Councillor MacEachern's name also appeared. Input is sought by Councillor MacEachern to a town initiative. Residents are invited to send comments to the attention of Councillor MacEachern.
So now we have a councillor as well as the Mayor improperly exploiting an administrative function and instrument for political advantage. No holds are barred
Normal process for dealing with flagrant abuse of municipal resources, would be to bring the matter to the attention of the administration or council. We have seen what happened to one administration. Signs and portents for the second are not positive.
As for council...there isn't one.. it's an amorphous blob .
The Commissioner of Ethics is attending Council on Tuesday. In public.His advice was to meet in private. The presentation is a repeat of the private workshop. It's a duplication of what went before, except the Mayor is in the chair and in control of the discussion with Councillor MacEachern at her elbow lending support , providing direction and running interference no doubt.
One hour is scheduled.
Food is provided.
We'll be eating while we're talking.
I would have thought a person bitten by a dog might have had more immediate recourse than to wait for a town bylaw to be passed.
Friday, April 17, 2009
They are not written in a manual. Nor are they a matter of record. They are an on-going factor in the process of decision-making. They are handed down from experienced members or municipal staff. Failing either, they come from judgement of what is fair, just, equitable and consistent. . They are not principles of law or morality.
Openness and transparency is a critical and meaningful concept. Some decisions however must be made in private.
Example is the best illustration.
A vacancy occurs on a board or committee. Residents are invited to seek appointment. Name,
reasons for interest, and background experience are submitted to the town.
Only one candidate can be selected. Making an application should not mean a rejection in public. A split vote for one or other candidate would be public and a matter of record...a result which would be both undesirable and unjust.
Also unacceptable is for any councillor to be compelled to support a particular candidate where confidence is lacking.
The issue is easily resolved by slecting a candidate who has the support of all members.
The decision is neither moral or legal. It 's ethical.
Recently, there was a need to articulate the principle . A screech of outrage erupted with an ever- ready accusation of bullying to obtain a particular result.
As often happens in Aurora during this term , in the open and behind closed doors, conduct is neither orderly nor ethical.Civility goes by the board.Anarchy rules.
It doesn't mean ethics don't exist in municipal politics. It just means our current council is not an acceptable model. It is not the norm .
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Conventional political wisdom is never to say or do anything that might offend anyone. People are inclined to instinctive reaction. They will overlook almost anything if they have formed a loyalty.They will support and defend a rogue if they like him. They wouldn't vote for a pompous stuck-up arrogant genius, if he was the last person on earth. Mind you, they wouldn't get much chance . The high-and -mighty are inclined to look down their noses at politics and politicians.
The City of North Bay once had a long-time Mayor with a shady reputation. He was regularly a found-in and carted off in the police wagon...for gambling I believe.
I was on the Social Assistance Review Board with a councillor from North Bay. He was a good-looking man and had operated a men's wear shop in the city.
North Bay's main street was a delight. Owners knew their customers .When they went to seasonal trade shows they shopped for their clientelle. Then they phoned customers to let them know, they had something in that would suit them perfectly.
The Councillor was very well turned out. Shirts and ties perfectly complemented jackets and slacks. His hair was always perfectly coiffed and shoes polished to a high shine. Since council meetings had begun to be televised, he was sure he was handling himself better than anyone else on council.
The Mayor's reputation was terrible so the councillor put his name forward for the office.The shady little found-in whose name was known throughout Ontario, because he was a travelling man, beat him hands down. People in North Bay just liked him better. He was real. He was their Mayor.
Shortly after , the defeated one read somewhere how much money could be made from writing television scripts. He decided that couldn't be hard. He embarked on a new career. I never heard his name again after I left the Board. I don't even recall it now.
Jack Reid , Aurora's P.Eng was town engineer for the City of North Bay earlier in his career. He asked the city treasurer once how they could afford to have the Mayor going off to conferences and meetings all over the place. The Treasurer answered "Listen Reid. it saves the town money to have that little B" out of town"
The moral of the story is; practical politics are never as simple as they seem.
It's interesting to read people's ideas about how councillors should conduct themselves. Without experience, it's easy to make assumptions. It's just not realistic.
Sometimes being a politician is like being tossed about in a raging storm and others like a ship becalmed.Many prefer to create and control their own waves.Others just deal with events as they happen.
It's not hard to be loved by everyone. I've watched it done. But I can't do it. I can't resist telling people what I know, and trying to influence their view of things even when they don't want to hear it. And I know they don't want to hear it. It's not the best or easiest way to win friends and influence enemies. It's definitely chancy.But I just can't resist it.
At my grand-daughter's graduation at Queen's University three years ago, Jeffrey Simpson was convocation speaker.. I had seen him participate in an Ethics in Public Service Symposium on television. He has written books on the subject. He is also a columnist in the Globe and Mail.
His message to the graduates was that it's alright to be skeptical of government and question what you hear. It's not alright to be cynical and dismiss everything you hear. Politicians are just like the general population. . No better. No worse. In the democratic process, it's all that can reasonably be expected.
The introduction to Aurora's Code of Ethics states the public have a right to expect a higher standard of conduct from those privileged to have been elected. According to my own observations and Jeffrey Simpson' professional perspective, that's a mistake right there.
We have heard nothing of our Commissioner of Ethics for some weeks now. First, on his advice, we had an educational workshop in closed session. Three people were absent: the Mayor, Councillor MacEachern and Councillor Gallo.Their absence rendered the effort useless and a waste of town resources.
A second workshop was scheduled. Councillor MacEachern declared she would not attend as it was in closed session.
The Mayor claimed intervention. The second workshop was to have proceeded. It didn't.
A further meeting was scheduled to finalise an Agreement of Understanding between Council and the Commissioner. It wasn't clear how that could be accomplished under the circumstances. But no matter, it never happened anyway.
On Tuesday evening, in a closed meeting, on a matter not on the agenda and therefore not made public and agreed to, Councillor MacEachern sought comment from the town solicitor about legal action she intended to pursue because she claimed to have been falsely accused of a Breach of Trust.
The Mayor halted the discussion but only after she had added a few supportive comments of her own .
Ethics it seems, continue to be problematic.
Councillor, Town of Aurora
1 Municipal Drive, Box 1000 Aurora, Ontario L4G 6J1
Dear Councillor Buck,
I am writing regarding some information posted to your blog on April 8, which I read with great concern. The statement was related to donations made to the Canadian Red Cross for tsunami relief and recovery efforts:
“Regional business is sometimes conducted by telephone poll. That's how a million dollar Tsunami donation to the Red Cross was decided. Last I read, it never even got to the victims. I think the Red Cross pocketed the whole shebang.”
I would like to assure you that monies so generously donated by Canadians following this devastating disaster were put to use helping communities with immediate relief, as well as crucial recovery efforts. The Canadian Red Cross honours donor intent in every instance and covers only the expenses incurred to support its fundraising efforts for a specific appeal – these costs include activities associated with collecting donations such as processing and issuing tax receipts. In this case that cost was less than five percent.
You can view our latest tsunami donor report here:
The Canadian Red Cross recently celebrated a significant milestone in South Asia tsunami recovery with the completion of our housing reconstruction project. Thanks to the generosity of Canadians, the Canadian Red Cross, in partnership with Canadian International Development Agency handed over the last of over 5,500 homes built for tsunami survivors in Indonesia. In addition to the construction new homes, the Canadian Red Cross is supporting the development of sustainable communities by providing water and sanitation facilities, livelihoods assistance and implementing disaster preparedness initiatives.
Our CEO and Secretary General Conrad Sauvé was on hand to mark the occasion in Indonesia in March. You can find this story and many others at
I do hope this has clarified any misinformation you have seen related to Red Cross efforts in South Asia. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Monday, April 13, 2009
First the diamond is 600K now it's 1.7M. Then apparently we need to buy property for the diamond except we already own land for it. Then we promise to start building it and then it gets deferred. Now we're not sure if we want to build it at all because it's so expensive but we can't spend the money on other town needs because we have to retun it.Geesh! Why didn't council start with something a little easier like solving world hunger before moving straight into baseball fields?
Development charge levies changed substantially over the years. There were none when Regency Acres and Aurora Heights were built.
Other town requirements were also different. Front yards only were sodded. Driveways were gravel. Culverts and ditches provide storm drainage. Electricity was supplied by overhead wires and the road was a ribbon of asphalt, two lanes wide. Sidewalks were not provided though school sites and parkland were taken.
The town did have an engineer on the payroll. I heard he was a chemical engineer. His name was Stan Murray. I mention it because I remember it. I came to Aurora when Regency Acres was built. Annual taxes on my house were $260. They were higher than houses on the gracious tree-lined streets in Old Aurora.
There were at least seven models in our subdivision.Two-storey semis and the Princess Margaret model cost less than $11,000. The down payment was about $500. Apartment rents in the city were about $125 a month. Consumers Gas would provide a second mortgage, if a buyer opted for gas heating
The federal government used housing as an economic stimulant in those days. New home-owners bought new furniture.... planted gardens.... bought reliable cars to commute...decorated homes at Christmas. Regency was built in two phases. Before the second, the government reduced mortgage interest and in turn the Developer dropped prices by $1,000. No more semis were purchased and built.
Town water was from an aquifer. The sewage treatment plant was a tertiary system built in the mid-fifties in partnership with Collis Leather. Ontario Water Resources Commission had authority then. The tanning process was dumping toxins into the creek and that had to stop.
Capital projects were paid by debenture and Collis was still making payments when I was elected and reading my first budget.
By the time Wimpey built Orchard Heights, the town was demanding more. . We didn't have planning staff but we had Jack Reid and Associates, P.Eng. examining plans and advising. Roads had to be built to Department of Highway standards. Storm and Sanitary sewers were both underground, sidewalks on one side of a street and twenty-four month performance bonds provided. Boulevards for snow storage had to be provided. We went to underground wiring.
Yards had to be sodded back and front , driveways paved and lot levies steadily climbed. Jack Reid scratched his head once and wondered who would be able to afford to buy these houses. Lot levies would not be paid from developer profits.We all understood that.
Years went by. Demands grew. It was like found money. It could not be used for anything but the specified needs created by growth. But it meant facilities were provided that politicians could never in their wildest dreams have heretofore proposed to be paid for by debenture debt.
Developers paid willingly. Charges grew to thousands of dollars. Provincial sales tax and federal goods and service tax entered the picture. A tally about twenty years ago came up with a figure of over thirty-thousand dollars in taxes ,including development charges, hidden in the price of every new home built.
Market-value assessment came into being. Assessment is based on sale price. It means new owners pay property taxes on hidden taxes for ever after.
I have long had misgivings about development charges. Not shared by anyone else. Developers paid because time is money and in any case the charge becomes part of the overhead. Fellow politicians thought I was demented. Why spoil a good thing. New home owners had no idea of the unfairness and furthermore didn't want to know. They need to believe their decision to buy a new home is the right one. What could they do about it after the fact anyway?
But levies kept rising. As land prices increased, building houses at competitive prices became progressively more difficult . The levy and the price serviced of land, eats up more and more of the cost of a home. Lots became smaller, houses rose higher and rooms became smaller. Prices zoomed upward and product shrunk.
Developers took their problem to the province. The building industry represents a significant share of jobs and economy of the province. The province had to listen.
New regulations were created to control lot levies. Towns have to prepare a five year forecast to establish level of service and the need for new facilities to maintain the level. Vehicles and equipment and everything else extra to serve increased population from new homes must be specified.
The levy must be calculated on the basis on ninety-per-cent of the estimated cost of a facility. Existing residents are expected to share the facility therefore they must pay ten per cent of the cost.
Our last forecast and master recreation plan identified the need for more than one baseball diamond. Successive capital budgets have concurrently identified the needs. The figure for the baseball diamond never changed in the five years of forecast.
The cost of building a diamond is one thing. Building a community park sufficient to accommodate a baseball diamond is separate and in addition. That's what changed the estimated price. The land chosen by council, adjacent to the Stronach recreation facility has surplus material stored there which needed to be moved. Electricity, drainage and water supply are a necessity. Driveway access to the diamond must be provided. All of these amenities must be added to the cost.
We are currently at the end of a five year forecast period. We are preparing a new forecast to justify new levy calculations. We have not yet provided the diamond identified as a need five years ago.
Our new calculations must be submitted soon for approval by the province.
If we don't build what we said we needed and took money for, the chances of having it approved in the next round are zero to nil.
The need has never been challenged. We obtained the means to pay for it. It is approved in the budget. But if the Chief Administrative Officer gets the subliminal message from council and provides a different recommendation to the one already provided by Leisure Services Director, we might be pitched head first deep into doo-doo.
In a recent appeal, developers succeeded in taking funds back from York Region on the basis an actual cost for a project was not what had been forecast in the calculation of development charges. If it happened at the Region, it can happen to us.
Our new round of calculations of D.C. levies may be less than they should be if we are unable by failing to provide the baseball facility we fail to establish a level of service to support them.
None of this stuff is easy to understand. In fact, it's bloody complicated. It's why we have professionals to provide advice and guidance to council. We pay a high cost for necessary expertise. If we can't acknowledge we need it, let alone heed it, our community will not be well- served.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
In the last two posts I set down what happened at the end of Tuesday's Committee Meeting Councillor MacEachern tore apart documentation submitted by Leisure Services Director to support her intention to refer the matter elsewhere.
The material was in support of a recommendation to prepare specifications and call tenders for servicing a community park and construction of a baseball diamond as promised at the time of the last budget.
When the Councillor finished her diatribe,the Mayor picked up the theme and the issue was referred to the attention of the Chief Administrative Officer
A year ago, the night of the 2008 budget, the Baseball Association came to Council to plead for desperately needed facilities to be included in the budget. The Mayor directed Leisure Services Director to proceed with designs the very next day. There was joy and laughter and applause from the audience. They left the council chamber believing their worries were over and the Mayor was their champion.
Under the direction of Councillor Mac Eachern, the project had been eliminated from the previous budget.
The Director has done nothing but follow direction since.
But neither he nor I have understood the subliminal message. Not until I read the last Blog. Current direction is for the Chief Administrative Officer to report on the issue. On the basis of what ?
Well... of course... I have seen the light... on the basis that this council does not intend to run the gauntlet of hostile public opinion by going forward with the project after they deliberately created the false impression it was an outrageous price and would be a horrendous burden on the taxpayer.
They want a report from staff to give them an out from making a decision that might cost them support in the next election. If the Mayor can flim-flam the Baseball Association once, she can do it again.
Council must maintain their image as diligent keepers of the public purse.
In fact, the opposite is true.
If we do not spend the money .... taken from developers for the purpose ... there's a good chance, it will have to be given back. York Region has had to do that because of a miscalculation of need.
Add to that, our current round of calculations for development charges cannot be supported by the same level of service as the last. Because we failed to fulfill a need we forecast in 2003. We cannot claim a level of service that is not our level of service.
Talk about shooting ourselves in both feet.
Friday, April 10, 2009
The public portion of the meeting was largely without accomplishment.
At yet another invitation from the Mayor, we heard from a regional delegation at the start of the meeting. The presentation with a myriad of questions about a facility twenty miles distant, in the Town of Vaughan ,continued for more than an hour.
We heard from residents who were still concerned after a decision in their favour from the Committee of Adjustment. They worried a development would be permitted without sufficient parking at the corner of Yonge Street which would exacerbate serious problems on their short neck of Tyler Street.
A planning report indicated agreement with the proposal if the Ontario Municipal Board ruled in favour of an appeal by the developer against the Committee of Adjustment's decision.
We heard from an architect arguing in favour of the development. He was then questioned at length by councillors.He indicated the developer wanted to avoid an O.M.B. hearing.
We heard again from residents of Tyler Street who answered more questions . They told us dates for an O.M.B. hearing had been deferred by the applicant several times.
We heard from Planning Director Marco Ramunno who explained legal time for a decision was running out on the application. And we heard from Town Solicitor Chris Cooper.
Eventually, Council understood the Committee of Adjustment decision could only be altered by the Ontario Municipal Board. Since the Committee's decision was based on the town's own zoning requirements , the town has no role to play in an O.M.B. hearing on the matter.
The planning recommendation was not accepted but making a decision on the development application within the legal time limit is still outstanding.
By the time I left, the town's business in large part remained unfinished. The hour of adjournment had been extended from 10.30 until eleven p.m.The extra time was taken up by Councillor MacEachern and the Mayor shredding the Report of the Director of Leisure Services No decision was made there either. The matter was referred to the Chief Administrative Officer to provide a recommendation. Clearly the Mayor and Councillor MacEachern are determined that staff will get the message and make a different recommendation than the one they asked for received and rejected on Tuesday evening.
Apparently another extension of time was voted and at eleven-twenty p.m. council convened in closed session to deal with one item on the closed session list.
A full complement of department directors were chained to their chairs throughout the tortuous and unproductive meeting. The Director of Corporate Services, Chief Administrative Officer and Town Solicitor likely continued in attendance at the closed session.
The witching hour would be upon them by the time they wound their weary way home.
The list of officials is as follows. Directors of ...Public Works... Leisure Services.... Planning and Chief Building Official.
On the other side of the podium ... committee secretary ... Director of Corporate Services... Chief Administrative Officer... Town Solicitor and Chief Financial Officer.
On Tuesday, Paul Dilman Deputy-Treasurer was present and the new Interim Treasurer.
Man hours are not generally measured in parts. Five hours of professional time multipled by that number of staff represents a substantial uptake of town financial resources.
Even without regard for expense, people who work for the municipality, have homes and families and a right to reasonable expectation of demands made upon their time.
Staff have the right to quit. Yes indeed. A number have. . No doubt others will do so, when opportunity presents itself.
Analysis has shown, it takes a year's salary to compensate for change in a staff position. And how pray, is that conducive to the efficient business management of the Corporation of the Town of Aurora ?
Thursday, April 9, 2009
The project is included in the capital budget. The funds are derived from development charge levies. They are not part of the tax levy. They cannot be used for any other purpose. If not used for the purpose taken, they may very well have to be returned from whence they came. To the developers.
The diamond has been in the Needs Forecast for five years.That's how it came to be included in the development charge levy. It is desperately needed. Two years ago, the Director recommended a purchase of a suitable site. Funds to pay for it were available in the Cash in Lieu of Parks Reserve Account. The account currently has a balance in excess of ten million dollars.
Council rejected the recommendation. Councillor MacEachern argued; "why should we buy land when we have land adjacent to the new rec centre"
Much of the estimate cost of building a diamond on that site is directly attributable to the nature of the land and servicing the site for multiple uses. Only the tender process will determine a precise cost for the project.
The rational for using development charge funds and the consequences of not using them for the purpose they were taken has been repeated to Council by staff many times. To no avail. Refusal to accept the professional advice is beyond comprehension.
Councillor MacEachern stated at Tuesday's meeting she had been reading the background documentation accompanying the director's report until 3a.m. Tuesday morning. She proceeded to critique the language of the documents and itemise her perception of errors ommissions and contradictions at length.
After twenty minutes of angry page flipping, no end of the harangue in sight, less sign of town business being accomplished and twenty minutes after the hour of adjournment, I took my leave.
To be a silent witness is to be a participant.To raise a point of order in this council is to be held responsible for the resulting mayhem.
I understand the Mayor took over when the Councillor left off . Much of the criticism was repeated a second time and a final decision was made to refer the matter to the Chief Administrative Officer for a further report.
Councillor Granger sublimely presided over the shameful display without intervention.
I don't know Barry except he has chosen to engage in the discussion and I'm glad. His is a larger vision of forming a single city from the north end of the region. Ron Wallace would tell me to wash my mouth with soap for even raising the issue but I think it never hurts to think about worst case scenarios. How else can we avoid them?
There is co-operation between the "Northern Six"municipalities. We have a joint contract for the Green Bin program with Turtle Island. We share an internal auditing service. We buy salt sand and gasoline and something else through the Regional Co-op . There is probably room for more joint purchasing. Paper would be a good start. Though we should first get control of the amount we use.
With the myriad of advisory committees, production and circulation of thousands of pages serving no useful purpose, man hours and machines it takes to produce, collate and distribute, it doesn't bear thinking about how many thousands of dollars of labour and material end up in a shredder and then proceed to a re-cycling depot which cost us $8.5 million to build.
If we can't get control at our level how much less possible would it be in a city structure?
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
"Give us the facts Ma'am. What are the arguments against
amalgamation with Newmarket. Sentiment doesn't cut it and fear doesn't enter the picture. "
The first thing to think about is political representation. The council would likely be the same size; eight members and a Mayor. Newmarket is half as big again as Aurora and assessment is higher. They would have a larger share of representation. They have a population of seventy-five thousand and a ward system.
Aurora would comprise two wards at most. That might give us four councillors.
Candidates don't have to live in a particular ward. They can run anywhere. If the Province contemplated amalgamation, they would likely consider extending boundaries north and east at the same time.
In Markham, Ward Councillors share an office and an administrative assistant. Salaries are three times as high as an Aurora Councillor. There wouldn't be much savings there.
Richmond Hill recently underwent re-organisation and created an extra layer of top bureaucrats. They have Commissioners responsible for each department. They do have a significantly larger population and geographic area. than Aurora and Newmarket combined. But with two towns reduced to one and boundaries extended, it would come sooner rather than later.
Last night, at council-in-committee, we had two regional officials inform us about a new regional re-cycling yard in Vaughan
They showed us pictures and talked about aesthetics, architectural design, landscaping and making it a happy place to encourage people dropping off their trash to come again. The project cost $5 million for the land and $3.5 million for the structure.
That's kind of thing that happens regularly at the Region. The higher you take government away from the people, the more sense and sensibility gets lost in the rarefied atmosphere.
A new town might have three representatives at the region . Would it make a difference? I'm not sure a regional Councillors represents a ward . Or do they sit on the municipal council as well as the region and collect two salaries?
I read in the Toronto Star, York Region has given themselves a 3% salary increase. I would never have known that if I hadn't been reading a Toronto newspaper.
Regional business is sometimes conducted by telephone poll. That's how a million dollar Tsunami donation to the Red Cross was decided. Last I read, it never even got to the victims. I think the Red Cross pocketed the whole shebang.
People would never have known if I hadn't raised merry hell. Not that it made any difference. The cheque was signed by the Chairman and in the mail before the public knew what was in the wind.
Toronto is an amalgamated city. I think they have about forty-five councillors and a population of millions. The Mayor has an executive committee that outnumbers the rest of council. If a committee member breaks rank, he/she is immediately dumped and replaced. The Mayor has the power. The Province gave it to him. David Miller doesn't strike me as possessed of Solomonlike wisdom.There aren't many about.
I'm not even sure about Solomon There was probably a spin-master in the mix somewhere.
It's not the only reason I favour smaller units of government. I think it's better to be able to look a politician in the eye and have a chance at knowing whether or not they are straight up. I think we need to value what we have and make it work for us.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Forty years ago the plans for York Region involved a reduction in the number of lower tier municipalities. An initial proposal was from fourteen to five. Aurora and Newmarket were shown on the map as a single urban node.Five miles separated us.
Valid arguments prevailed against the notion. I was Aurora's last Reeve.The Office had existed since Aurora was a village named Machell's Corners. I was a member of the last York County Council and the Ad Hoc committee planning the new Region with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
Arguments were : We had Volunteer Fire Brigades. If we lost our Volunteers, the alternative would cost millions. With amalgamation, we would certainly lose the Volunteers.
Parents managed sports programs. Potters spun wheels , artists painted and thespians strode the boards, wherever space could be found. Aurora Drama Group built sets in pieces in separate basements and put them together on a stage the night before the play went on.
The Director of Recreation, a man named of Ernie Batson was manager of the community centre. We had a Recreation Commission and he was the staff resource person. He found space for programs,advised about grants from senior levels of government and how to organise new ventures. Service Clubs were involved in supporting programmes.The town had one recreation facility.
We had our own transit. Our own wells . Our own treatment plants.
Our population was about eighty-five hundred. It grew a couple of thousand with the advent of Regional government.
Forty years later, where are we? A population of more than fifty thousand in Aurora. Seventy-five thousand in Newmarket. Nothing separates us. No local treatment plants . The York-Durham trunk system serves both towns. Water distribution is connected. Transit is one. Fire protection is joint.There are no Volunteers.
Recreation is a multi million dollar operation in both towns. People from Newmarket use our facilities and vice versa.Folk cross borders to shop all the time. Educational funding has been absorbed almost completely by the province along with the decision-making authority.
We have proportionately less representation on the Region and Boards of Education than we had forty years ago.
Last time out for a four year term of office, we elected a slate of candidates including a Mayor, who have no concept of principle save the political imperative of being re-elected. They practice determined and shameless pandering to special interest groups. It's a fail- safe strategy. They mow down anyone who gets in their way including staff.
It's not a new concept. It works in the party system at provincial and federal level of government. But unrelieved by an occasional responsible decision, it disregards an important reality of politics at eye level .
People cannot be collectively flim-flammed for four years without being able to recognise the pattern.
Municipalities have no legal right to exist. We are creatures of the province. We can be wiped off the face of the map and within a generation it would be as if we had never existed. It would be easier now than forty years ago. It could be seen as dealing with a pesky problem
Friday, April 3, 2009
The Professor has published a study of ten GTA municipalities.The Mayor caught wind of it. He concluded from his research that growth and development in the GTA is entirely in the hands of development corporations and construction unions.
Well, Silly Billy, of course it is. Developers finance . Unions construct...not just houses, office buildings, shopping malls and factories
Municipal infrastructure in the GTA (outside Toronto} is financed by developers and constructed by unions. . Ninety per cent of the cost of town edifices are paid for with development charges. Vehicles and equipment, necessary because of growth, are bought with development charge funds. New home-owners have higher assessments because of hidden taxes in the market value of their homes. They pay higher taxes than owners of older properties.
The beautiful new Richmond Hill Arts Centre on Yonge Street was likely financed in good part with development charges and donations from developers. . The Magna Recreation Centre on Wellington Street is financed by debt re-payment from development charge revenue and a two million dollar contribution for naming rights by Frank Stronach, an industrialist and a developer.
The new baseball diamond in this year's budget will be ninety-per-cent funded from development charges
For several years, Joe Lebovic, a developer has contributed $10k each year to the Aurora Arts and Culture Fund. Most other fun events in the community are funded by sponsorships of various business enterprise.Developers provided funds to help pay for the Aurora Senior Centre.
The Mayor's guest professor claims favourable planning decisions in the GTA are directly the result of campaign donations to candidates. He just can't prove it because planning votes are not recorded. Aurora was not one of the municipalities he "studied" but he expressed confidence findings here would be the same.
His hypothesis is only interesting because of the limitations of its scope.
Councils are required by law to make planning decisions. To escape the accusation a
favourable vote has been bought and paid for by a campaign donation, if there has been such a donation, which is not against any law, but must be disclosed.... means a politician would be wise to vote against every application, regardless of whether it conforms to the various planning instruments employed and paid for by the municipality.
Some regularly vote against, regardless of legal cost to the town for defending the indefensible before the Ontario Municipal Board. A councillor or mayor might even be wise to be absent from planning meetings where there's a hint of opposition to a proposal.On the one hand, assure a developer of support over a private lunch and then fail to show when the decison is made and votes are counted.
But the Professor's invitation was not about the merits of his findings. It was about the campaign that never stops in Aurora. It was about gearing up to fight off potential rivals with contrived accusations of malfeasance. Before our very eyes, using a business meeting of the municipality, we have seen the sleight of hand...on camera already.
A naive Professor bringing up statements on his lap-top of election expenses and donations of a variety of campaigns in the GTA , has no idea of the chicanery that goes on in a municipal campaign or how he himself was duped into participating in a particularly odious stunt.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
During a meeting I asked the Director of Public Works about the "windrow clearing" program provided to thirty-one residents. The Mayor stated a notice of motion was required and further, a resolution had to be approved by council to direct the Director to answer the question. Publicity for the program was clearly not welcome.
Consistency is not a priority with the Mayor.Hours of council time are monopolised by particular councillors with questions to staff. One member is admonished for failing to obtain answers prior to the council meeting while others continue ad infinitum with questions that never lead anywhere.
The Mayor will interrupt a councillor and drag staff into the debate to refute a point of argument. While another is encouraged to flagrantly flout the rules to press home a point of questionable logic. The practice directly contravenes the rules but so long as the majority support the Mayor's unique concept of leadership, inconsistency will be rule rather than the exception.
Last term, our former Mayor was regularly flailed with accusations of bias. Ironically if councillors were sufficiently conversant with the rules and observed them, ample time would be available for each to make their arguments with civility and pesky points of order would seldom be heard.
Incidentally, the report promised by staff on the "windrow clearing" project has not yet seen the light of day. At year-end, Public Works was said to have over-spent their budget by almost half a million. No explanation was provided.
The Legal Services Reserve Account was depleted last year as well. So that budget was also overspent. The account was replenished with $200k from 2008 supplementary revenues. Another nice chunk of change which would have helped reduce the tax bite further.
The normal process to fill the post is by public competition. A head-hunter can be contracted. The second method is more expensive and not always satisfactory though either is acceptable to
assure the public things are being done right. It is the only way to ensure a lodge brother , a cousin, niece or nephew, best friend or friend of a friend is not being handed the job, qualified or not, or without satisfactory references.
In politics openness and transparency are touted as virtue.Rightly so. It is not enough for things to be right. They must be seen to be right.
There is a ladder of accountability in municipal business as elsewhere. A Chief Administrative Officer is the management team leader. There are only about a hundred in the province. The post is not mandatory. The responsibility is for smooth and efficient operations. At staff level, he is head honcho.He is only as good as those reporting to him. He is accountable to Council. The line between political and administrative responsibility must be marked and maintained. Crossing it is not a wise move.
Councillors are individually accountable to electors.... who provide the resources to pay for services. They have little to say about how much they will pay or how money will be spent. There should be assurance their hard-earned or fixed income dollars are wisely, honestly and legally managed.
The Treasurer's post is mandatory. Knowledge of regulations on local financial management
is essential. Municipal policies and procedures are equally important. Failure on the part of a statutory officer to uphold provincial law is an offense subject to prosecution. Neither Councillors nor the Mayor or Chief Administrative Officer have authority to direct a statutory officer to act, except within the law.
No competition for the job was posted. No recruitment service was contracted. No recommendation was made to council. Councillors were informed of the decision after the deed was done. We were informed an interim appointment had been made and an individual would assume the post on April 1st.
There is neither rhyme nor reason for an interim appointment to this post. Three months notice was provided by the current Treasurer. It was ample time for the normal process.
In my judgement, the arbitrary decision is invalid. The authority of Council was disregarded and disrespected. Apparently, neither the Mayor nor the Chief Administrative Officer are aware of the division of authority between council and the administration.Either that or they jointly made a conscious choice .