Friday, July 29, 2011

National Holocaust monument praised at North York event

Monument to situated in Ottawa

National Holocaust monument praised at North York event. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, right, and Minister of State for Democratic Reform Tim Uppal attend a media conference at the Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center in North York to participate in discussions on the proposed National Holocaust Memorial to be erected in Ottawa. Staff photo/LISA QUEEN
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Canada is the only Allied country without a national Holocaust monument, the MP who spearheaded legislation to create a memorial in Ottawa told a packed room at North York's Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center last week. 
"Like many, I was surprised to learn that Canada remains the only Allied nation (countries that fought the Nazis during the Second World War) without a Holocaust monument in its national capital," said MP Tim Uppal, minister of state for democratic reform.
"As is the case in these other countries, with the passage of time, there are fewer and fewer survivors who can bear personal witness to the Holocaust here in Canada."
After a university student asked him about the absence of a national Holocaust memorial, Uppal introduced a private member's bill to create the monument.
The legislation was in danger of dying when the government fell in May but a last-minute public campaign guaranteed its passage with support of all parties.
"With the passage of this act, such a monument is now possible. It is an important endeavor in order to remember what happens when humanity and fundamental basic human rights are discarded," Uppal said.
While a specific location in Ottawa and a budget have yet to be determined, he said the monument is necessary to ensure Canadians remember Holocaust victims and survivors and ensure it never happens again, Uppal said.
"As time passes and the ranks of those who are able to tell those stories, dwindle, there comes a danger that this unparalleled crime will become just a part of history, something which may exist in a textbook bit whose real significance is lost," he said.
"The dangers we as a country now face are complacency and fatigue, to allow things like the Holocaust to rest in the pages of history. To do so invites a return to the terror of those dark years and losing those very things which we hold most dear."
Uppal also expressed appreciation for members of Canada's armed forced who continue to battle extremism and uphold values of freedom and justice.
Avi Benlolo, president of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, said the memorial is long overdue.
"This monument will help our nation live up to the post-Holocaust vow to never forget. It will ensure that those whose lives were so brutally destroyed by one of the most racist ideologies ever conceived will be honoured and remembered," he said.
"It will be a sign of respect for those who survived the horrors of the Nazi campaign and, most significantly, it will serve as a reminder that we must be vigilant in standing guard against hate and in promoting tolerance and human rights for all Canadians."
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said it was fitting to discuss the monument at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, whose mission is to promote awareness of the Holocaust and advocate tolerance and social justice.
Rabbi Yoseph Zaltzman, of the Jewish Russian Community Centre of Ontario, said the significance of the monument will reach beyond the Jewish community.
"I would say not so much the Jewish community because the Jewish community, I hope, knows and feels and remembers and lives the horror of the Holocaust," he said.
"I think this monument is for the world."
The Holocaust happened even though Germany was the most advanced nation in the world before the Second World War, Zaltzman said.
People must realize there is a higher being watching over our actions, he said.
"Every human being has to know there is an eye above who sees, an ear that hears" he said.

Marathon City Hall meeting wraps

See you in September.
Mayor Rob Ford, the executive committee and hundreds of Toronto residents spent the night at Toronto City Hall.
The executive committee wrapped up the marathon meeting — the longest in the history of Toronto — just before 8 a.m. on Friday, 22.5 hours after the meeting started on Thursday.
Executive committee councillors voted unanimously to send all the cost-saving cuts listed in a consultants' report to their executive committee meeting on Sept. 19. They also voted to have the city manager consider all the suggestions in the report related to the city's agencies "and incorporate as appropriate in the 2012 and 2013 budget process."
Some of the cuts on the table include reducing TTC late-night service, closing library branches, ending the Toronto Police school guard crossing program and selling off the Toronto Zoo.
The meeting wasn't without theatrics.
Some speakers delivered their pleas for councillors not to make suggested cuts through songs, poetry and even a puppet show.
Desmond Cole and his puppet Roy pleaded to councillors not to give into "cynicism and defeat."
"After all, we didn't vote for any puppets," he concludes.
Maureen O'Reilly, president of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union Local 4948, marched in boxes with 30,000 signed petitions and letters against library cuts.
That stunt brought the crowd watching the meeting in the packed committee room to their feet chanting "Save our libraries!"
Anika Tabovaradan, 14, welled up with tears as she told the committee about her fear the library she uses in Scarborough would be cut.
Tabovaradan said she uses the computers in her library.
Marilyn Wilcoxen hand delivered a $50 cheque and a $5 bill to the committee — she said the amount should cover her family's share of a property tax hike and a month's worth of paying the car tax.
"The $5, in terms of what it would cost me for the car registration tax, that's a latte and that would save all of the programs that are being discussed today," she said.
At least one member of the executive committee wasn't amused with people's behaviour during the marathon meeting.
"This is the worst, most disrespectful crowd that's turning this process at City Hall into a circus," Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti said around 5 a.m. "I am disgusted that there are individuals in this city that don't take the $774 million deficit serious and they've turned this into a complete nightmare over the last 24 hours or so and it starts with some of my own colleagues who encourage them to disrespect the process."
But other councillors were impressed by the tenure of the meeting.
Councillor Gord Perks called it "the most important night in the history of the new city."
"This was the very first time that Toronto came out and spoke with a unified voice over a 24-hour meeting about what kind of city we want to have," Perks said. "Every single person with three exceptions, out of 200, said they want to maintain and preserve the important city services that make Toronto worth living in."
Councillor Janet Davis thanked the speakers and the audience for sticking it out.
"You were wonderful, so keep engaged," Davis told a crowd after the meeting ended.
Councillor Adam Vaughan called Ford a "do nothing mayor" and said he ended up doing "nothing" at the end of the meeting.
"Twenty-four hours of Torontonians talking to him and he does nothing, he walks away, he'll disappear again for another month," Vaughan said. "It's very disappointing."

Ford unswayed by 22 hours of talk, teen’s tears

At exactly 3 a.m., a sock puppet named Roy started speaking eloquently against cuts to community grants, and this was not normal, no, but it was far more normal this morning than it would’ve been at any other Toronto council meeting in recent memory.
Roy, a friend of former council candidate Desmond Cole, made his gravelly voiced case at an executive committee meeting that soon became the longest continuous council meeting in the history of the amalgamated city. The meeting was also unusually festive — partly on account of copious caffeine consumption and sleep-deprived giddiness, but largely on account of the progressive passions awakened by the program-cutting suggestions made by KPMG consultants as part of the city’s core service review.
Some 169 people took Mayor Rob Ford up on his invitation to tell him what they think of the suggestions. It was the kind of meeting where, at 2 a.m. in a glowing city hall surrounded by hushed dark streets, a 14-year-old girl sobbed as she told the mayor how much she loves her local library.
Only three speakers endorsed any kind of cuts. The rest alternately criticized, mocked, pleaded with and reasoned with a placid Ford, who acknowledged the comments of only a few before the meeting finally ended at 8:55 a.m. Friday — 22 hours and 25 minutes after it began.
The anticlimactic committee vote pushed all of KPMG’s suggested cuts to executive committee’s next meeting, on Sept. 19, leaving everything on the table. Before that meeting, the politicians will get the results of separate reviews of efficiency and user fees. After it, the budget process will grind on until a final council vote in January.
Ford thanked the deputants in the still-crowded committee room, saying: “Regardless if you agree or disagree with what we’re going or saying, you’re here and you truly believe in why you’re here.”
The mayor thanked each of his executive committee members by name, including his “idol” Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, and also the visiting councillors fiercely fighting his drive to slash the city budget.
“I respect you for your integrity and for fighting for what you believe in,” he said.
Ford wrapped up the marathon session saying: “You pat yourselves on the back because I think we all did a great job and we are going to get this city straightened out.”
The gallery, primarily packed with opponents, rewarded him with applause.
But earlier many were calling the night a watershed in Toronto politics, an awakening of a new civic activism and organized opposition to Ford’s efforts to shrink the size and cost of city government.
“You have galvanized a giant machine,” Jason Adam Robins told the 13-member committee. Robins, who made one of the day’s fieriest speeches, warned committee members that they would be voted out of office if they endorsed KPMG’s suggestions.
Even he, however, said he believed the meeting was an “exercise in futility.” Though Ford repeatedly invited Torontonians to speak to the committee, he has given no indication that their views might change his mind.
In fact, despite the gracious words in his final speech, Ford seemed to dismiss the deputants in an interview with TSN Radio host James Cybulski recorded Thursday morning or early afternoon.
Before Ford made his CFL picks for the week, he said of the deputants: “I haven’t heard any good suggestions on saving money. I’ve just heard ‘don’t cut this and don’t cut that.’”
Indeed, Ford’s call on CP24 last week for supporters of his agenda to come make deputations fell largely flat.
Lawrence Farbman didn’t express support for Ford directly but drew gasps from the crowd for suggesting that residents in wealthier areas could be made to pay membership fees for their local library.
After left-leaning Councillor Janet Davis told him the province requires library to offer free book lending, Farbman suggested consolidating some of Toronto’s 99 library branches to save money.
Mammoliti thanked him for his “three minutes of suggesting what might be done at city hall to relieve the pressures,” rather than just arguing against cuts.
The all-day-and-overnight spectacle that many in Toronto and beyond followed through Rogers TV, online livestream or Twitter, was primarily an exercise of opposition to Ford that often looked like a party.
Spectators, many of them speakers-to-be waiting their turn, filled the committee room and two overflow rooms. Well-wishers brought them cookies, Timbits and pies; food writer and chefCorey Mintz brought a gallon of leftover chili.
“I really loved seeing the passion and the humanity today,” said Katarina Muir, 18, after she and other members of the Crescent Town Neighbourhood Youth Alliance spoke about the importance of city-supported neighbourhood groups.
Speakers opposed cuts to nearly every program and service singled out by KPMG, including transit, heritage, student nutrition, arts, and school crossing guards.
Mammoliti called the gathering a “socialist party.”
“I am not ‘one of the usual suspects,’ to quote some councillors,” said East York school crossing guard Christopher Salmond, 70, who spoke against suggested cuts to the police service’s crossing guard program.
The spectators clapped and cheered for anti-cuts speeches, loudest for the president of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union, Maureen O’Reilly. After library workers walked in with several large boxes filled with petitions against the closure of branches and the privatization of the system — she said 39,000 people have signed — spectators stood, clapped and chanted “save our libraries” for one minute. Ford stood himself, and he and other committee members briefly joined in the clapping. It was unclear why.
The meeting’s emotional high point also involved libraries. Fourteen-year-old Scarborough student Anika Tabovaradan, who had never before made a political presentation and said she hates public speaking, bawled as she spoke at 2 a.m. about her love for her local branch, Woodside Square.
“I’m no taxpayer,” she said, gasping for air, “but when I get to use the computers in the library and do my homework, I’ll be able to get a good job someday. . . and when the day comes to pay taxes, I’ll be glad that you supported people paying the extra taxes to keep the system going.”
University Settlement House volunteer Marilyn Wilcoxen, 60, dramatically gave $55 to the city after her speech: a $50 cheque, representing one month’s share of a 10 per cent property tax increase on her home, and a $5 bill, representing one month of the $60 vehicle registration tax Ford successfully urged council to scrap.
“That’s what it would cost to save — not just save, but expand — the services that we need,” Wilcoxen said.
Executive member Councillor David Shiner said that he is listening to his Ward 24, Willowdale, residents, “the silent majority” that doesn’t make speeches at City Hall.
Ford occasionally betrayed a hint of irritation at barbs aimed at him, but was generally genial. When artist Jennifer Wigmore cheekily told him that she sometimes rides a bicycle to gay weddings, he smiled and gave her a two-thumbs-up gesture.
Before midnight, Ford drank one of the Red Bull energy beverages handed to him and other councillors by Mammoliti. He took two breaks of more than an hour apiece, prompting occasional cries of “where’s the mayor?”
Several speakers complained in interviews that the committee had decided to hold the meeting through the night rather than breaking late Thursday and beginning again on Friday. Prominent activist Dave Meslin said in his deputation that the process appeared to have been intentionally designed to exclude people who had to return home to their families for the night.
Mammoliti later admitted to reporters that going all night with no breaks was “a tactic to get the job done.”
More than 340 people registered to speak. While no-shows are common at such meetings, a dropout rate of more than 50 per cent is high.
Of those that did speak, it was Roy the puppet that particularly rankled Mammoliti, a staunch Ford ally.
“I was disappointed in what I saw” from some of the deputants, he said. “If I wanted to see a puppet, I’d go to a puppet show,” he said, prompting a man in the gallery to yell: “Keeping people around 24 hours is respectful? Give me a break,” before security led away the man, and then others who also started yelling.
Mammoliti continued that he had listened and “absorbed” some of the worthwhile deputations.
“But there were very few in my opinion.”

Arrest made in Ford death threat

A Toronto man is facing charges for making a death threat against Mayor Rob Ford.
Toronto Police arrested the man earlier this month for the alleged death threat.
Police were called in by the city after a man allegedly called 311 and talked about shooting the mayor.
Ford revealed the alleged threat — and an ongoing police investigation — during a press conference about Thursday’s executive committee meeting on possible budget cuts.
“I’ve had a threat,” Ford told reporters when asked about increased security at City Hall during the committee meeting. “I don’t want to (go into further detail) because it is still under police investigation but I don’t take it that seriously.”
But he added “you never know what people are going to do.”
Toronto Police Const. Tony Vella said the threat came via a phone call to 311, the city’s information line around 6 a.m. on July 14.
Anthony Vella, 56, of Toronto was arrested and has been charged with one count of threatening death. He appeared in court July 15.
Although they have the same last name, Const. Vella said he is “in no way related” to the man who was charged.

Hockey fight breaks out in grocery store

TORONTO - It may look like the gloves have been dropped over a hockey rink in a renovated Maple Leaf Gardens. And there’s nothing like a fight over Toronto’s Holy Grail to get people on their feet waiting for some teeth to go flying.
Of course the focus was on a civil action filed by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment against Loblaw Properties Ltd. and Ryerson University over the development of an up to 3,000-seat arena above a new grocery store and part of the university’s new recreation centre.
It was pitted as big and mean corporate monster MLSE trying to block the kids at Ryerson from having their new sports facility.
But the truth is there is no real battle between a Goliath in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and David in Ryerson as has been presented.
In fact this time Goliath in my view is not the bad guy. In fact, if there is a penalty handed out, I would have Loblaws sitting in the box for five.
It all comes down to this: Section 1.3 of the sale of Maple Leaf Gardens to Loblaws in 2004.
In the “restrictive covenant regarding use of property” that expires in 2050 it clearly states in section (a) “Loblaw acknowledges, covenants and agrees with MLSE, its successors and assigns, that the purchaser will not use or permit ... the use of the property for any of the following businesses or activities: (i) any adult entertainment parlour, body rub parlour, strip tease club. (ii) A stadium, arena, sports facility and/or entertainment facility containing uses similar to those conducted on the date hereof within the Air Canada Centre.”
MLSE president and CEO Richard Peddie told me that he and Ken Dryden chose Loblaws because of the “excellent work” they did in renovating iconic buildings. But now, he admits, MLSE is “very upset with Loblaws for ignoring our restrictive covenant.”
In fact “we didn’t know until the night before the announcement that Ryerson was going to be part of the Loblaws and that there would be an arena but since it seemed to be an enhancement of the use of the building we were supportive.”
The problem was as the project developed “we were hearing stories” of the seating increasing from 2,000 seats to 3,000 and they were also seeing their Maple Leaf brand being used on websites and in promotional material. But the hiring of well-regarded entertainment facility management group Global Spectrum to run the new facility had the hair on the back of MLSE’s collective necks standing up.
“This group runs NHL arenas and London’s John Labatt Centre. You don’t hire Global Spectrum to operate a university athletic centre,” said MLSE general counsel Robin Brudner, who said the fear is sporting empire would then have to compete for smaller shows and other professional leagues even though they had a non-compete agreement.
“The thing is the Maple Leafs, Raptors and concerts take up 150 nights of the year and the smaller, less known shows make up a lot of our business,” said Brudner. “And as for using the name it has to be remembered it’s our multi-million-dollar brand. It would be the same as if someone wanted to use Coke or Nike.”
There was “hesitation” over the lawsuit but Brudner said, “we were just not getting Loblaws attention.”
Loblaw spokesman Julija Hunter stated in an e-mail, “the Loblaw grocery store at the Gardens remains on track to open in fall 2011 and we look forward to serving customers and the community at this exciting new location. Suggest that you follow up with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment for information on their filing and with Ryerson for their position concerning their part of the project. We will respond accordingly to the injunction request if it goes before the court.”
If this arena issue is not worked out soon that is where it will be going.
But Ryerson’s acting president Julia Hanigsberg assured me last night that their intention is to operate university athletics and that “we will sit down and work something out”
And Peddie was optimistic, too: “For legal reasons I must say ‘without prejudice’ but I have to say I like what Ryerson is doing there as long as it does not use our brand without permission and the restrictive covenant agreed upon is not breached.”
Is this is little dust up or is it about to become a bench clearing brawl?
Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sarcasm the big winner in marathon budget session

After three hours of unfriendly deputations, the eyes of those on the executive committee were starting to flutter with fatigue.
Small children had begged for their libraries to stay open. Arts community leaders made economic arguments for investing in culture. A blind woman pleaded not to close bus routes.
Fifteen down, 329 to go. Mayor Rob Ford had announced they would sit all night if needed.
Next up: Mary Trapani Hynes, a 67-year-old from North York.
“I’m a senior living in North York and I have some modest proposals,” she hollered into the microphone. Hundreds who had been quietly chattering shushed themselves silent.
“First, the library. You’ve made a good start with closing the Metro branch. Don’t stop there. You should get rid of the entire public library system —”
Spectators exchanged confused glances.
“— As you can see from the thousands of petitions and emails complaining about proposed service cuts, far too many people use the library to improve literacy and to learn about government and politics. You would save millions.”
The room exploded in giggles. Echoes of cheering could be heard from the neighbouring committee room, which was handling the overflow. Many on the mayor’s executive committee couldn’t help but chuckle.
“While you’re at it,” Hynes continued. “Get rid of the city’s website information on how Toronto city government works and on how to access the city. You would save millions.”
Privatize the TCHC, she continued. If people can’t afford to live here, move out! Streetcars and buses have to go too. Make room for the cars. Don’t drive? Can’t handle the increased pollution? Then leave!
“Those residents that remain in Toronto will be those able to look after their own needs and there will be less need for government services. More money saved. And — win, win — your government can give them a rebate on their property taxes from their savings.”
The applause went on for 10 full seconds. Several leapt to their feet. Opposition councillors bent over with laughter.
Councillor Adam Vaughan raised his hand with a question.
“That was very creative writing. Are you Margaret Atwood?” Vaughan asked, a dig at Doug Ford, who earlier in the week remarked he wouldn’t recognize the Canadian literary icon.
This one-minute speech had perfectly captured the mood at city hall Thursday. People were upbeat. They crowded by the hundreds around screens broadcasting the executive meeting, chatting with strangers about the things they love about Toronto.
Deputants from every background and socio-economic status, from a neurosurgeon mother to a man living in social housing, came for their chance to speak directly with the mayor.
Many at city hall just came to watch, as was the case with 64-year-old Jim Innes.
“(Hynes) hit the nail on the head as far as what a lot of people see happening in this city,” he said. Innes took half a day off work to come watch the deputations. He doesn’t even live in Toronto. He’s from Mississauga.
“But we’re all connected. Toronto is part of the economic engine that runs this area.”
The overwhelming majority of deputants spoke passionately against cutting services. Many said they were happy to pay taxes to keep libraries, Riverdale Farm and community grants programs, among many other services.
Outside the committee room after her rousing speech, Hynes said she was aware her deputation probably wasn’t going to change any of the councillors’ minds.
“Giorgio Mammoliti already said he’s only listening to us because he has to,” she said. “I’ve been watching, especially the mayor, and they’re not listening to us. But I wanted to have my say. And I did.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

LCBO could teach Capone a few tricks

TORONTO - If only Al Capone could have got some advice on how to run his bootlegging racket from the LCBO.
On a 750 ml bottle of rye, rum, gin, scotch or vodka the markup is obscene. A chart from distillers, secured by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, reveals a $25 bottle known as a 26er without all of the middlemen and taxation starts out costing the LCBO $5.52.
And that includes the distillers’ production, delivery costs and their profit, too.
Ontario’s alcohol markup numbers are so staggering no wonder the Ontario government will never give it up.
But how does it get to $25?
The first ding on that bottle is $3.51 for federal excise. Then the LCBO marks it up $12.72 and there is a 29-cent bottle levy and a nine-cent environmental levy. Now the price of a bottle is $22.12.
Next comes the 13% HST — $1.11 for the GST part, then another $1.77 for the PST.
It’s almost 400% more than its original cost.
Capone would blush in his grave. He never made those kind of numbers and he had more competition and risk, too.
“A crook is a crook, and there’s something healthy about his frankness in the matter,” the gangster once said. “But any guy who pretends he is enforcing the law and steals on his authority is a swell snake.”
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest from the attorney general in taking a look at this price fixing.
Meanwhile the publicly owned LCBO, the largest purchaser and retailer of alcohol in the world, is overloaded with freeloaders, many of whom with familiar names are connected to power players in government.
Just look at this year’s $100,000 a year sunshine list club and you will find 256 LCBO executives on it — topped off by president and CEO Bob Peter’s $431,402.58 to go with $16,263.46 in bonuses.
But even some of the cash or stock people at the stores are earning with benefits, night and Sunday premiums and overtime close to the same money as some cops and teachers.
This is a tough time for most in retail. Not for the LCBO. In the 2010/11 fiscal year the LCBO celebrated on the backs of its sucker and unfairly gouged customers a record profit with revenues of $4.55 billion which after taking out its fat costs turned over $1.55 billion to the incompetent government led by orange-juice drinking Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Now these would be impressive performance numbers if it wasn’t a monopoly which punishes Ontario wineries in favour of foreign products where they can get higher yield.
It means these LCBO fatcats regularly travel and get literally wined and dined by the vineyard, spirit and beer companies and yet in communist style won’t stock popular Ontario and Newfoundland product Crystal Head vodka because it’s in a skull bottle.
“These guys do all right everywhere, I can guarantee you,” said one Toronto LCBO store manager who said most stores brings in profit margins of 40 cents on every dollar.
“The government’s taxation is drinking us under the table,” said Canadian Taxpayers Federation national research director Derek Fildebrandt. “It’s nothing but a heist.”
CTF federal and Ontario director Gregory Thomas pointed out that “Ontario drinkers pay a lot more for liquor than New Yorkers” and what he’d like is transparency where “all the taxes are itemized on every receipt, including the markup charged by the LCBO.”
Capone at least eventually did some prison time. So what is going to be done about this?
Nothing. If McGuinty wins the fall election it will remain as is and it likely will if Tory Leader Tim Hudak becomes premier. He had plenty of opportunity to comment on a poll that shows Ontarians want beer and wine in corner stores but stayed away from it.
Hudak should win the election because of how rotten a premier we have in McGuinty but afraid of making a John Tory mess-up is playing it safe.
Whether it be through privatization or allowing more competition, what he should be saying is he would give back the excess hundred of millions stolen from LCBO consumers.
Even Capone didn’t ding his customers this abusively.