Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Daily Caller's Faux Health Reform Scandal

Sarah Palin calls it "unflippingbelievable." Tim Pawlenty declares that it's "crony politics." And Newt Gingrich claims that it "presents an enormous danger for corruption."

These and other top Republicans have been piling on the Obama administration lately for what has snowballed into a major scandal on the right—what GOPers charge is evidence of cronyism and dirty dealing involving Obama's signature health care reform law.

The controversy boils down to this: As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has gone into effect, the Obama administration has exempted certain businesses, states, and insurance companies from complying with the law, often temporarily. Republicans view these waivers as proof that Democrats are granting favors to political allies, pointing, among other things, to a disproportionate number of exemptions granted to businesses in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's district.
The GOP's latest round of political attacks has emerged from a series of articles published by Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller last month. But on closer examination, the web site's allegations of favoritism don't hold up.

One the Caller's articles, titled "AARP to Receive ObamaCare Break," reported in late May that the Obama administration had exempted a special insurance policy sold by the American Association of Retired Persons, the senior citizens' advocacy group, from strict new insurance regulations. The AARP—an Obama ally and fierce defender of the ACA—is among the groups that sell supplemental insurance policies to Medicare participants, known as "Medigap policies."

Full Article
Source: Mother Jones 

Note to Planned Parenthood Foes: They Also Help Women Have Healthy Babies

Remember how Congressional Republicans tried to defund Planned Parenthood at the federal level, making a big deal about how they didn't want tax-payer dollars subsidizing abortions and whatnot? And how Indiana passed a bill cutting all funds for the organization, before the feds stepped in to block them, saying that the measure was discriminatory and illegal. Anyway, with all the Planned Parenthood bashing going on, it's worth noting that the organization also does a lot of work to help women have babies.

Of course, they're most well known for services like providing contraception, education, and yes, abortions, to help women (and men!) avoid unwanted pregnancies. But Planned Parenthood's critics never seem to mention everything that the organization does to help women have healthy babies, like a new program near Salinas, Calif. where PP's staff is helping farmworkers who want to have children protect themselves from exposure to harmful pesticides.

Full Article
Source: Mother Jones 

Robert Dutil, Public Safety Minister, Defends Cops After Montreal Police Shooting

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- MONTREAL - Montreal police are not gun-happy, says the Quebec government.

The province's public safety minister is coming to the defence of the police force -- which is now under heavy scrutiny.

The force has been involved in several shooting incidents this year.

In the latest, yesterday, officers opened fire and killed a homeless man who was wielding a knife in downtown Montreal.

They also struck -- and killed -- an innocent bystander. He was a 36-year-old hospital employee on his way to work.

Full Article
Source: Huffington 

China Overtakes U.S. As Top Energy Consumer

LONDON -- A new report says that China has overtaken the United States as the world's biggest consumer of energy.

Oil company BP said Wednesday that China moved to the top in 2010 with 20.3 percent of global demand, ahead of the United States at 19 percent.

The report says China's consumption rose by 11.2 percent last year compared with 3.7 percent in the United States. China's surge led a 5.6 percent increase in global energy demand, the biggest one-year jump since 1973.

China was by far the world's largest consumer of coal, taking 48 percent. The United States remained the largest consumer of oil with 21 percent of global demand, double China's consumption.

Source: Huffington 

China's First Aircraft Carrier Nearly Ready For Launch

A top Chinese military official has confirmed that Beijing is building its first aircraft carrier, described as a "symbol of a great nation" which could reportedly set sail within weeks.

As the Guardian is reporting, the vessel is actually a formerly defunct Soviet-era carrier formerly named the Varyag that was purchased in 1998 from Ukraine by a Hong Kong company. Though it was originally proposed as a floating casino to be docked off the shores of Macau, the ship has reportedly been upgraded at China's Dalian naval shipyard with combat sensors and defensive weapons and painted in the colors of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The 990-foot carrier, which the BBC calls "an unmistakeable sign of China's expanding military and its desire to project Chinese power further beyond its borders than ever before," was originally constructed in the 1980s for the Soviet navy but was never completed and sat rusting in dockyards in Ukraine. Qi Jianguo, assistant to the chief of the PLA's general staff, is quoted by the AFP as saying the ship would not enter other nations' territories, in accordance with Beijing's defensive military strategy. "All of the great nations in the world own aircraft carriers -- they are symbols of a great nation," he said. Later, he added, "It would have been better for us if we acted sooner in understanding the oceans and mapping out our blue-water capabilities earlier."

Full Article
Source: Huffington  

Dawn Whitwell, Gay Comedian, Dropped By Toronto Catholic School Board From Homophobia Event

A Toronto comedian claims she was booked by a local Catholic high school to perform at a homophobia awareness event, only to be dropped from the bill after the school board learned of her gay marriage.

Dawn Whitwell said she was removed from the list of performers for the June 6 event at Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School after a member of the Toronto Catholic District School Board searched her name online and discovered she was married to a woman.

Full Article
Source: Huffington 

Hedge funds 'grabbing land' in Africa

Hedge funds are behind "land grabs" in Africa to boost their profits in the food and biofuel sectors, a US think-tank says.

In a report, the Oakland Institute said hedge funds and other foreign firms had acquired large swathes of African land, often without proper contracts.

It said the acquisitions had displaced millions of small farmers.

Foreign firms farm the land to consolidate their hold over global food markets, the report said.

They also use land to "make room" for export commodities such as biofuels and cut flowers.

"This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat than terrorism," the report said.

The Oakland Institute said it released its findings after studying land deals in Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Mali and Mozambique.

Full Article
Source: BBC 

The Bush Tax Cuts: Ten Years Later

You probably didn't realize it, but June 7, 2011, is a momentous day in US history. It marks the 10-year anniversary of the signing into law of the Bush tax cuts, a day when President George W. Bush helped replace an unprecedented federal budget surplus with a mountain of debt in order to slash taxes for rich people (including dead ones). The anniversary of the cuts comes at a particularly fortuitous moment, with the political classes deep in debate over the increase in the federal deficit. Now is a good time to take a look back to see just how well those tax cuts have worked out for the country. Some highlights, with data from the Economic Policy Institute:
Big debt: Between 2001 and 2010, the Bush tax cuts added $2.6 trillion to the public debt, 50 percent of the total debt accrued during that time. Over the past 10 years, the country has spent more than $400 billion just servicing the debt created by the cuts.

Supply-side failure: Far from paying for themselves with increased economic activity as promised, the tax cuts have depleted the public treasury. Tax collections have plunged to their lowest share of the economy in 60 years.

No jobs: Between 2002 and 2007, employment increased by less than 1 percent when the economy was supposed to be expanding. Employment growth barely kept pace with population growth. Between the end of 2001, when the country was in a recession, and the peak of the real estate bubble, er, economic expansion in 2007, the US economy performed worse than at any time since the end of World War II.

Rich people benefit: The best-known result of the Bush tax cuts is that virtually all the benefits were conferred upon people who didn't need them at all and who didn't use the money to, say, create more jobs or pay their workers better. Median weekly earnings fell more than 2 percent between 2001 and 2007. Meanwhile, people making over $3 million a year, who account for just 0.1 percent of taxpayers, got an average tax cut of $520,000, more than 450 times what the average middle-income family received.

Entitlements for trust-fund slackers: For a party that likes to talk about the virtues of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, personal responsibility and entrepreneurship, the Bush tax cuts were like an entitlement program for the already entitled. You'd be hard pressed to find a better way to create a lazy leisure class than by eliminating the estate tax. But that's what Republicans did when they reduced and then phased out the estate tax, ensuring that the country would be plagued by people like this guy for decades to come.

For a graphic view of the dramatic change in wealth inequality fueled in part by the Bush tax cuts, check out these amazing charts created by Mother Jones editor Dave Gilson.

Meanwhile, a few liberal groups are going to commemorate the tax-cut anniversary by holding protests around the country highlighting the sorts of things that didn't get funded while Republicans were slashing taxes for rich people. Activists in Fredericksburg, Virginia, will have a mock toilet on hand that partipants can flush money down, symbolizing money that went to rich people rather than to schools or other critical services.

The Every Child Matters Education fund, which is urging people to participate in the rallies, points out that in 2001, before the tax cuts went into effect, the federal government invested $8,634 in inflation-adjusted dollars for every four-year-old in Head Start, the Great Society-era early childhood program designed to help prepare poor kids to do well in school. In 2011, that investment declined to $7,824 per child. Funding for the Social Services Block Grant, which funds programs that combat child abuse and neglect, among other things, has dropped more than 20 percent in real dollars. In the long run, it's clear that the legacy of the Bush tax cuts will be a huge debt that this generation of children will be largely unprepared to do much about.

Source: Mother Jones 

Bill Moyers on His Legendary Journalism Career: "Democracy Should Be a Brake on Unbridled Greed and Power"

In a Democracy Now! special broadcast, we are joined by legendary journalist Bill Moyers, a founding organizer of the Peace Corps, press secretary for President Lyndon Johnson, a publisher of Newsday, and senior correspondent for CBS News. Public television is where he has made his home, producing many groundbreaking shows and winning more than 30 Emmy Awards. Moyers has just published a new book, "Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues," a collection of interviews from his popular PBS show that aired from 2007 to 2010. "The greatest thing in politics in my time is the transformation of democracy from a citizens society—all that moral agency of all those people in the civil rights movement who stood up against the weight or authority and acted as agents of change—to a consumer society, where most of us are caught up on that treadmill, trying to get more," Moyers says. In a wide-ranging interview, he also discusses the state of the public media infrastructure he helped to establish as part of the Johnson administration. "Public broadcasting, which is a place that treats you a s a citizen instead of a consumer is threatened. We must defend it, we must call it back to its heights. Otherwise we are totally at the mercy of corporate power."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Whither the wheat board?

In 2008, the Australian Wheat Board, still staggering from a scandal over kickbacks to Saddam Hussein, was stripped of its powers as the sole lawful bulk exporter of that country’s wheat. This left Canada as the lone developed nation with a legally protected “single desk” export buyer-seller—the Canadian Wheat Board. With a minority government in Ottawa, the board’s grip on Prairie wheat was unshakeable. But now Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have a majority, with the corresponding freedom to rewrite statutes. And they intend to take Canadian wheat growers down the same path as Australia.

The AWB’s monopoly was killed off with the support of the two biggest political parties in Australia’s proportional, bargaining-driven legislative system. The board—with the monopoly still intact—was taken private in 1999. But when the Iraq controversy exploded in 2005, the AWB was banned from dealing to a major customer as criminal and administrative inquiries ground on. Poor financial results turned ugly, and the crisis demonstrated that while a single desk may give growers leverage, it also crowds all the proverbial eggs into one basket.

That is precisely the source of contention in Canada, where board reform has been urged for decades by an enterprising minority of growers eager for marketing choice. Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz wants to introduce legislation to eliminate the CWB monopoly this autumn and hopes to have a free-trade regime in place by August 2012. He faces tricky choices about how much vestigial regulation to impose on the Canadian wheat market (which exports 16 to 20 million tonnes in a typical year) and the transport system it depends on. He will also have to look at other functions of the wheat board, such as research, standardization and forecasting, and decide whether to leave them with the CWB, parcel them out to independent agencies, or let the market sort them out. The Australian Agriculture Department now funds these peripheral mandates by taxing wheat exports at 23 Canadian cents a tonne.

Full Article
Source: Macleans 

The right to remain silent

Richard Foo Ma was sitting behind the wheel of his Mercedes, the clock on the dashboard approaching 1:20 a.m., when a black Lexus pulled up beside him in the parking lot of a popular Edmonton nightclub. Even if he had spotted the ambush, there was no time to react. A flurry of bullets shattered Ma’s windshield and left him for dead, blood leaking from his brain.
Amazingly, the 22-year-old survived the gangland-style shooting. (“A miraculous recovery,” as one detective later wrote.) But when he was finally well enough to speak to police—to help investigators figure out who may have tried to assassinate him on that Wednesday morning in October 2009—Ma shooed them away from the hospital. He told the cops “not to bother him anymore” because “he just wanted to live his life,” and that he had no intention of ever testifying in court.

Ma did end up in a courtroom, but not to face the gunman (who, to this day, remains at large). Instead, he is fighting for financial compensation from an Alberta fund that, like many across the country, provides lump sum payments to victims of crime. At the heart of his case is a controversial question: should a victim who refuses to co-operate with police still be entitled to a cheque?

“Are there things about this man’s past that maybe I wouldn’t agree with? That is certainly possible,” says Steve Sullivan, the former federal ombudsman for victims of crime. “But he was shot in the head—a pretty serious crime—and is suffering the consequences of that. So we have to ask ourselves: what is the fundamental purpose of these programs? Are they to get victims to co-operate with police, or to provide assistance to people who have been victimized by crime?”

Most jurisdictions, except the Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador, provide some form of financial aid to casualties of crime. Typically a few thousand dollars, the payments are meant to cover everything from “pain and suffering” to counselling bills to lost wages. But in order to qualify, a victim must be willing to assist police in their search for the culprit. In Alberta, where Ma was targeted, the law specifically states that an applicant must “fully co-operate with any investigation into the events that resulted in the injury.”

Ma filed his forms on Jan. 10, 2010, three months after his attempted murder. “Victim is unable to move his right side of body efficiently,” the application states. “He is unable to care for himself such as going to the washroom/shower (needs support).” The bureaucrat assigned to his file had doubts about Ma’s claim, and after reading the police report asked for additional details from an Edmonton officer probing the shooting.

“Ma was very uncooperative and refused to provide any information as to who would have shot him,” the detective responded in an email. “He stated that he did not want the help of police in finding out who shot him and said it did not matter to him that he almost died that night.”

Ma’s application was denied a few days later; when he appealed to the chair of the province’s Criminal Injuries Review Board, the result was the same. So in April, Ma took his case to court, insisting that he told investigators everything he knows about the shooting: i.e., nothing. “I believe I have co-operated to the best of my ability with the police officers,” he wrote. “My injuries are pretty severe (bullet shot in the head—brain injury) and [I] do not recall in detail what may have happened that night of the incident.”

Full Article
Source: Macleans 

What did the government cut?

On Monday morning I wrote to three federal departments asking them about cuts listed, but nowhere explained, in the March version of the 2011 budget. I was certain the cuts would reappear without amendment in the June version of the 2011 budget. Here’s what I wrote to the media people at the department of Public Works and Government Services Canada:

Good morning,
The 2011 budget identifies nearly $173 million in cumulative strategic review savings for PWGSC through 2013-2014. These are identified but not explained in Table A1.12 of the budget document.
Please give me full explanations for how these savings will be realized.
I can be reached by email or at 613-xxx-xxxx.
Thank you,
Paul Wells
Senior Columnist
Maclean’s magazine

Near-identical emails went to two other departments. There followed a bit of email and phone traffic as civil servants inquired about my deadlines. I also wrote to the PMO to let them know I was making these inquiries.

Frequent readers of this infrequent blog will be familiar with the subject of my curiosity. Here is Annex 1 of the 2011 federal budget – the link takes you to Monday’s “updated” version, which for this annex is identical in every way to the same section of the March budget. Here’s what Annex 1 is about:

“In 2010… 12 organizations undertook strategic reviews of their programs and spending. In addition, the Department of National Defence used the strategic review process to [slow its rate of spending growth]. This… has yielded savings of close to $1.6 billion in 2013–14, amounting to 4.9 per cent of the review base on an ongoing basis. As a result of these reviews, departments are streamlining operations, realigning their activities and transforming their organizations to deliver better programs and better results to Canadians.”

What’s important to understand here is that this section describes decisions on spending cuts that were taken in the past. The feds are also promising to come up with further cuts in the future, thanks to a new “Strategic and Operating Review” that will start in a few weeks or months. None of my questions are about those future cuts. I want to know what the government has already decided to stop spending money on.

I honestly thought a government dedicated to spending restraint would be eager to share the fruits of its careful scrutiny of the books. Wrong. At the March budget lockup civil servants told me they had no details of the Annex 1 cuts at all. During the campaign, when I asked finance minister Jim Flaherty, his answers were not great. When I asked John Baird, his answers were also not great.

Fine. I get it. There’s politics here. Some of these cuts may not be perfectly painless, so during a campaign the Conservatives would be skittish about getting into detail. Since no other reporter found these questions as interesting as I did, I didn’t bother to get into a campaign-long crusade on the matter.

Full Article
Source: Macleans  

Let customs officials seize counterfeit goods, Ottawa told

The Harper government is facing high-level coaxing to grant border services officers the power to target and seize counterfeit or pirated goods entering Canada – contraband that ranges from fake Louis Vuitton bags to knockoff auto parts.

The largest business lobby groups in both Canada and the United States are requesting this enhanced power for Canadian customs be put on the agenda of perimeter-security talks between Washington and Ottawa – negotiations aimed at deeper co-operation with between the two countries on border matters.

Full Article
Source: Globe & Mail 

Catholic school board bars lesbian comedian from performing in Toronto

A Toronto-based comedian says she was blocked from performing at a Catholic school after board officials learned she was married to a woman.

The comedian, Dawn Whitwell, said that in late May she was invited by at teacher to be part of an anti-homophobia event taking place Tuesday at Bishop Marrocco-Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School. She said late last week the teacher told her not to come.

Full Article
Source: Globe & Mail 

Conservative convention to reconsider 'one member, one vote' leadership selection process

A trio of Conservative elder statesmen is speaking out against a controversial proposal to change the federal party's constitution that threatens to overshadow this week's national convention.

They're arguing the future strength of the party depends on leaving a key element of its constitution intact.

Former Ontario Premier Bill Davis, former federal finance minister Don Mazankowski, and Senator Gerry St. Germain have put their names to a letter sent Monday urging party members to uphold a rule that treats all riding associations equally in a leadership contest.

Davis and Mazankowski were emissaries for the Progressive Conservative party when it was in talks to merge with the Canadian Alliance in 2003. St. Germain, a former Progressive Conservative MP, was an Alliance member in the merger talks.

Ensuring that all riding associations were treated equally regardless of their size was the key condition of the Progressive Conservatives in the deal.

"We expressed clearly, and heard back just as clearly from our fellow negotiators, that this principle of equality of riding associations was not just a sine qua non of the union of our two legacy parties but also an important building block for the future success of our Conservative party," reads the letter.

Full Article

Hospital worker ID'd as bystander killed by police

A 36-year-old hospital worker was on his way to work — possibly on his bicycle — when he was fatally shot by Montreal police who opened fire on a homeless man they were pursuing in the downtown core, according to details released Wednesday.

Patrick Limoges was on his way to work at St. Luc Hospital on Tuesday morning when he was killed by a stray bullet, after police fired on the homeless man, Mario Hamel, who they had been pursuing near the corner of St-Denis and Ste-Catherine streets. Hamel also died.

Full Article
Source: CBC News 

‘Rainbow’ ruckus hits Catholic high school

Is it the end of the rainbow in Catholic schools?

Rainbows — both in images and words — are being discouraged in some Catholic schools because they are seen as too politically charged for the anti-homophobia clubs that want to use them.

One Mississauga school told students not to put up a rainbow flag at a recent anti-homophobia event, so the students at St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School baked rainbows into their cupcakes instead.

“I thought it was unfair,” said student organizer Leanne Iskander of not being allowed to display the rainbow flag or other such signs.

“Rainbows can represent anything — you can't just ban rainbows.”

Rainbows — first billed as an Old Testament sign of God’s promise to Noah, then a tag for a 1980s American political coalition and also used by Nelson Mandela to describe the South African nation — are now used often to signify a gay-friendly stance.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic board says the rainbow flag wasn’t banned outright, but that a bookmark designed in the school was preferred, with coloured stripes that referred to events for the entire social justice week, not just the Friday anti-homophobia day.

The rainbow ruckus is the latest example of the tension facing Catholic schools directed by Queen’s Park to help schools fight homophobia while seeking to uphold the Vatican’s stand against gay sex.

Iskander helped found a gay-straight alliance at St. Joseph’s before being told such a group wasn’t allowed, even though they are common in the province’s public high schools.

Initially, Ontario’s Catholic bishops and school trustees banned the alliances and called instead for broader “equity” clubs. While alliances are still not allowed, student lobbying prompted the go-ahead for clubs that focus solely on homophobia.

At St. Joseph’s, the club is called “Open Arms,” which board spokesperson Bruce Campbell said is encouraged.

“(The) rainbow is associated with the (gay) pride movement, and we certainly are looking for something as inclusionary as possible,” he said. “Open Arms, that type of reference is more preferable in our board.”

Iskander said her club was instructed not to donate the $200 raised from the cupcakes to a gay-related charity.

Full Article
Source: Toronto Star 

Don’t kill land transfer tax, budget chair advises

Toronto can’t afford to scrap the land transfer tax, says Councillor Mike Del Grande, the budget chair.

While Mayor Rob Ford promised to get rid of the tax on real estate sales — targeting its removal by the end of 2011 — that timetable is not realistic, Del Grande said Tuesday.

The tax, which brought in $274 million in 2010, is needed to fill the initial $774 million hole in next year’s operating budget, he said, stressing the city needs every dollar it can find.

“I personally don’t think it’s practical (to scrap the tax) this year,” Del Grande said. “That’s my best recommendation to the administration.”

The budget chair was responding to claims by Councillor Gord Perks, a stalwart in the former David Miller administration, that Ford is exaggerating the city’s financial problems.

Perks pointed to a staff report presented Tuesday that revealed there’s an extra $88 million left over from last year. He said that money, plus a modest increase in 2012 property taxes, TTC fares and other user fees would cut the hole in half.

“Mayor Ford has been trying to scare people into being willing to cut services they count on,” he said. “We don’t need to throw out any major services.”

“This is the mayor that’s crying wolf and he’s hoping that we’re all terrified sheep. I’m not going to be one of the terrified sheep, and from what I hear from my constituents, they don’t want to be terrified either.”

Del Grande responded to Perks’ comments by noting the city’s net debt is currently $2.5 billion and is projected to grow to $4.3 billion by the end of 2014.

Principal and interest payments on the debt are running at $450 million — making it the third biggest expense for the average taxpayer behind the cost of police and subsidizing transit.

Those payments are expected to rise in the years ahead, finance staff told the budget committee.

Full Article
Source: Toronto Star  

Postal strike moves to Calgary and Edmonton for day six

Canada’s postal workers will stick to their strategy of limited rotating strikes for another day but escalation to a wider pressure tactic has been debated by their leaders.

The union announced late Tuesday that postal workers in Calgary and Edmonton would be off the job on Wednesday, in the sixth day of rotating strikes.

A spokesman for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers says escalation was discussed Tuesday as has been every day, but CUPW will continue the less disruptive localized strikes for now.

“We’re continuing with the rolling 24-hour walkouts at this time and for the next 24 hours,” John Bail, CUPW’s national director for the Pacific region, said Tuesday evening.

“At this point in time we don’t see a need to deprive the public entirely of all their postal service.”

About 1,000 postal workers were on strike Tuesday in Moncton, N.B., and Victoria and earlier strikes were held in Winnipeg, Hamilton and Montreal.

Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton said strikes in Calgary and Edmonton are “completely unnecessary as CUPW has still not responded to our latest offer.”

“The people of Alberta should be asking why the union is stopping their mail service when the company is offering wage increases, job security, a defined benefit pension, seven weeks of vacation and more.”

Bail said Calgary and Edmonton were chosen because they are suffering from a chronic shortage of Canada Post workers.

There is a difference between Canada Post’s wage proposal and the union’s, but it’s not insurmountable, Bail said.

A bigger sticking point is the union’s position that Canada Post should convert more temporary jobs to permanent and more part-time jobs to full-time, Bail said.

Full Article
Source: Toronto Star 

TTC eyes staff cuts before fare hikes

The Toronto Transit Commission will look at staffing cuts and other efficiencies before it contemplates fare hikes and service cuts, says the city councillor who chairs its board.

“We can’t talk about any service adjustments or fare adjustments until we are confident the organization is running as efficiently as it could be,” Karen Stintz said Tuesday.

However, she conceded, “You only can get so much out of that review.”

On Wednesday, city councillors on the transit commission will consider a preliminary budget that provides a first look at TTC’s financial challenges for 2012.

“There’s a sense the TTC is overstaffed. We need to be able to address that issue. There are issues around absenteeism we know about,” Stinz said.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can do everything on our end to create confidence the organization is operating as effectively as it can.”

That “sense” extends to management and unionized TTC employees, she said.

The TTC’s preliminary budget report calls for hiring 128 people next year, positions transit officials say are needed to maintain service for more riders.

Stintz has been called to a meeting in the mayor’s office Thursday to discuss the TTC’s capital plan, which projects a $1.5 billion shortfall in the period of 2012 to 2022.

“I haven’t had discussions with the mayor’s office and the city manager’s office on this issue. This is a chance for me to sit down and talk about what is our strategy, what are we going to do, what are we going to achieve,” she said.

Among the capital expenses expected to arise in the conversation would be the cost of installing Presto electronic fare card readers across the system. That’s expected to cost up to $200 million more than the $140 million that has already been committed by the province, Ottawa and the city.

Queen’s Park has indicated though that it is willing to help cover the cost of implementing the electronic fare system that will allow transit users across the Toronto area ride the TTC and their local bus or GO train on the same card.

The operating shortfall for next year is being predicted at $85 million, based on growing ridership projections, the same $429 million city subsidy level and the this year’s service levels. That includes a $39 million shortfall on operating and the 10 per cent budget reduction that has been demanded of all city departments, equal to about $46 million for the TTC.

Full Article
Source: Toronto Star