I should point to this interview local blogger Steve Berman conducted with me on the weekend. I only hope it gives folks a better understanding of the job I do…
One of Steve’s questions tweaked my memory; council deferred discussion on an integrity commissioner for four weeks in order to have staff report back on, among other things, “potential appointment sharing opportunities with the County of other municipalities.” Back on April 8. I guess I’ll have to wait until Thursday to see if it’s on next Monday’s agenda. Seven weeks later…
I’ve been watching this Duffy/Wallin imbroglio with interest the last few days. Of course — a scandal in the senate, and the two individuals at the heart of it, with what appears to be their noses in the trough, are former journalists. Figures…
With the shake-up at OLG, it just casts further doubt on the town’s plans to pursue an ‘integrated resort development’ (aka, a ‘fancy-fied slot barn’). It may be time to withdraw that particular motion…
For those of you familiar with the local blogosphere, you’ve probably read Don Gallinger’s letter with regard to Pretty River Academy’s sports dome, and whether an Ontario Municipal Board decision in favour of Upper Canada College sets a precedent.
Now, I haven’t been able to find the decision Don refers to; the only Ontario Municipal Board decision with regard to facilities at Upper Canada College (an arena facility) was made in 2008. You can read the full decision here (in PDF format).
As I understand the situation, UCC was built an arena (not an air-supported structure, though the school has a couple from what I understand, erected in 2010), and the City of Toronto attempted to levy about $400,000 in development charges on the private school; at the same time, the city had a similar situation with another private school, which is why there are two case numbers on that OMB decision I’ve linked to.
My uneducated reading and re-reading of it (given that I am not a planner, nor a lawyer) is UCC’s argument was private educational facilities were not included in the list of retail services defined by the city as part of its development charges bylaw; the city’s argument was the list of retail services was a quantum — that is, the bylaw identified retail as the sale of a service, and as a private school is essentially the sale of a service (i.e. education) therefore the bylaw applied to private schools, even though private schools were not explicitly defined in the list of retail services.
The board determined there was an ‘ambiguity’ there, and that private education would fall under the definition of a non-residential use to which development charges didn’t apply.
As far as I can tell, the Town of Collingwood’s development charges bylaw makes no distinction in defining non-residential uses (that is, commercial and industrial). And — as it was emphasized in that OMB decision referred to above — the exemption for educational facilities does not apply to private schools, only publicly-funded institutions.
However, I have a solution which just struck me as I re-read the town’s DC bylaw. Section 10 (1):
“Council may authorize an owner, through an agreement under Section 38 of the Act, to substitute such part of the development charge applicable to the owner’s development as may be specified in the agreement, by the provision at the sole expense of the owner, of services in lieu. Such agreement shall further specify that where the owner provides services in lieu in accordance with the agreement, council shall give to the owner a credit against the development charge in accordance with… blah, blah, blah…”
The town is owed $182,000 out of the $283,000; is there a ‘service in lieu’ to which the school can provide the town for 10 years, valued at $18,200 a year, that would utilize the dome? Smarter minds than mine should be able to think of something…
Having said that, that option might have been explored and dismissed by both sides as either not workable or applicable. I thought it was worth a shot…
Anyhoo, a story will be posted at some point this morning on the E-B site, once I just check on a couple of things…
In the middle of a story about Pretty River Academy’s dome, and got an interesting call…
It seems development charges may not apply to a private school — and it has precedence at the OMB. Just trying to find the case…
But it certainly changes everything…
I was hoping this was online, but I can’t seem to locate it — so I’ll post the story here.
Some context: after Duffy’s appearance at the Legion in early 2011 to stump for local Conservative nomination candidate Paul Throop, several of us sat around one of the tables at the Legion for a couple of beers while the Duffster regaled us with tales of the old days — completely off-the-record, of course…
This morning, in light of this, I’m trying to remember who the heck paid the tab…
Anyway, here’s the story I wrote at the time (in the Feb. 2, 2011 edition of the E-B), including one of those quotes that always comes back to haunt the individuals who say them…
Senator stumps Simcoe-Grey for Con nominee
COLLINGWOOD — Senator Mike Duffy has just come from having a haircut at Frank’s Barbershop, just up the street from the Enterprise-Bulleitn.
Frank “wouldn’t let me pay,” he says with mock indignation, before launching into a tale of one of the successes he’s had in his short time in politics — multi-million-dollar infrastructure funding for a college in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, his home province.
Public service, he says, has been an eyeopener for a guy who spent about 40 years in journalism.
“It was only after (his appointment, in December, 2008), that I realized the good feeling one gets from so-called public service,” he said. “It’s the little things… that you use to help people.
“For all that I do for P.E.I, I get a great sense of satisfaction. I didn’t really think about it (before his appointment), that I would get that kind of gratification.”
While Duffy is normally criss-crossing the country, speaking at Conservative fundraisers, this time he’s in Simcoe-Grey for a special reason. He’s here stumping for Paul Throop, one of the three candidates for the Conservative nomination in Simcoe-Grey.
He’s known ‘Boomer’ — Throop’s nickname from his downhill ski racing days — for about 30 years, “and he’s the kind of person (the riding) needs right now.”
Duffy made an appearance at the Nottawasaga Inn for lunch ( “It was a really huge crowd,” he said), and was making a second appearance at the Royal Canadian Legion in Collingwood in the evening.
Duffy was last in the area about this time last year, for a fundraiser for Simcoe-Grey Conservatives. Back then, of course, the Conservative Member of Parliament was Helena Guergis.
“What happened to Helena was unfortunate,” he muses.
He laughs when NDP leader Jack Layton’s suggestion is brought up about banning senators from fundraising for their parties. “There’s something called the Charter of Rights,” says Duffy. “Plus, we have a pretty onerous code of ethics.”
He says for all the negative comments about Conservatives, it’s still the party that gave women the right to vote, created the public broadcaster, and introduced simultaneous English-French translation in the House of Commons.
But he always brings the topic of the conversation back to Throop.
“Paul knows all the stuff (in Ottawa), because he’s been around forever,” says Duffy, referring to Throop’s six years as part of Peter MacKay’s political staff, and lengthy service with the party.
“When he gets there, and I hope he does, we will be the person to get results,” he says. “He knows how the system works.”
When the matter of how hotly contested this race is, between Sick Kids surgeon Kellie Leitch, and former Collingwood mayor Chris Carrier, Duffy dances around the subject for a bit.
However, he acknowledges, the issue of local politicians — and letters of endorsement — are not playing well. “People are quite appalled because the area is getting a bad rap,” he said.
The line-up of current municipal politicians who have publicly backed other candidates — mostly Leitch — is “shortsighted.
“In politics, there is a hierarchical arrangement of municipal, provincial and federal government… and it would not be a wise person who takes sides in this thing.”
Duffy notes the reason the campaign has reached the fervour it has is the “Toronto approach.
“You’ve got the people who got the money and think they’ve got the expertise… and my fear is the people will not be well-served.
“This (being a public servant) is a tough job, and if you’re not in it for the right reasons, then you could end up in a situation where other things take importance,” he said. “You have to respect the sensibilities and sensitivities of this region.”
Which, again, brings the conversation back to Throop.
“You have to have someone who understands (Ottawa) already, and they’re prepare to listen (to constituents),” said Duffy. “You see a number of people come into politics who think everybody should be grateful they’re there.
“People are not well served when there’s that disconnect… and what you need in difficult times is someone with empathy.
And with that, Throop stands, anxious to get Duffy to the legion — they’re going to be late — but it’s clear the senator is now in his element, and he can’t help but swap journalism stories.
I delved into the Wayback Archive for the Underground tonight for a larf, and dug out this amusing quote. Telling me who said it could win you the $5 Tim Horton’s card I have on my desk (which may or my not have money on it still – who know’s, that’s part of the surprise!):
“We planned as we were doing it, and that’s where we failed. We didn’t include the sprinkler system, we didn’t include the waterline, and it just kept coming back to council, and yes, council did support each and every one of the increases. We need better planning in the future so these kinds of things don’t happen.”
For context, the speaker was commenting about what happened with Fisher Field…
As Councillor Ian Chadwick noted this week, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s response to the Town of Collingwood was of no surprise.
Back in March, the town asked OLG — which appears to be making bucketloads for itself and the province, enough that it gave its senior mandarins big raises last year — to foot the bill for a referendum to see if the residents supported the idea of a casino.
The cost of a referendum would be about $60,000; for a fun comparison, OLG’s president and CEO Rod Phillips was listed in the public sector salary disclosure for 2012 as making $188,498 (in 2011).
This year, he was on the list (for 2012) as making $672,989 — including, according to the Globe and Mail earlier this week, $297,989 in bonus pay.
Anyhoo, the letter from OLG sort of went like this — and, I should note, I’ve severely paraphrased:
Dear Town of Collingwood,
Public input is your problem.
Now then, since it’s the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation that’s so hot and heavy to install slot machines hither and thither, while – based on my reading, not only locally, but in other areas facing the same issue — many communities are quite split on the topic, I think it behooves the crown agency, and the provincial government, to survey the Ontario population rather than putting that responsibility onto local municipalities.
In which case, I would say we should send a letter back:
Dear OLG guy
Town of Collingwood
Of course, I’m paraphrasing.
Here’s the thing…
OLG, as noted above, is very keen to expand gambling… er, ‘gaming entertainment opportunities’ in the Province of Ontario. Revenues are down, and OLG is eyeing up the 25-to-44 demographic — a group that’s not gambling enough, at least on the games run by the provincial agency — to take up the slack. We — and I include myself, as I’m on the cusp (though I’m not saying which end) — are not spending enough of our disposable income on slot machines and scratch-and-win cards, nor are we spending in big enough numbers.
OLG is looking at us, rubbing its hands, and muttering, “Our precioussss…”
Problem gambling? Pshaw… that only affects 1.2-to-3.4% of the population (by the way, the closer one is to a casino, the higher the probability of being a problem gambler) — including those who aren’t yet legally old enough to gamble, but are spending their school lunch money on illicit games of chance.
Well, let’s crunch some numbers: our ‘integrated destination resort’ idea would supposedly create about 1,000 jobs. Even pegging the problem gamblers in the resident population at 2.5%, that’s about 1,400 people. So we’d be creating opportunity for 1,000 people, but negatively affecting that many, plus several hundred more.
And… according to a report prepared by the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (never mind the irony of one provincial agency needing to deal with the problems left by a second provincial agency), 6.9% of young adults — 18-to-24 — have “moderate and severe gambling problems.”
None of us really know whether we’d be a problem gambler, until we found ourselves in the middle of the flashing lights and noise, and got a rush from dropping a token into slot machine. By then, it’s too late…
This is the demographic OLG wants to capture. If a group of government bureaucrats sat around a table discussing ways to increase cash flow from the legal ‘vices’, and the suggestion was made that we need to get more young people smoking or drinking, we’d be horrified.
But because it’s gambling, that’s OK.
Also, consider this…
Revenues are also down at most casinos in Ontario. Not only that, but those casino properties have also lost value — which means the host municipalities are not only getting a smaller rake, but they’re also collecting less in taxes.
And, OLG is eyeing online gaming as a means to increase revenue. In which case, I would highly doubt the town would get its cut from me sitting in the comfort of my living room on an OLG site, losing money playing Texas Hold-em on an OLG gambling site.
I don’t buy the argument that an ‘integrated destination resort’ would represent a boon for local businesses by driving tourism. An integrated destination resort is just that — integrated. Which means you never have to leave the comfort of the complex.
Yes, in Vegas, people wander around the Strip, from one casino to another (carrying their drinks, at that). But that’s Vegas, and part of the experience. We are not Vegas.
The only way this thing would benefit the community is if we turned around and converted the Eddie Bush — and then maybe we would have people wandering the downtown to shop.
A better idea might even be that whomever OLG choses as an operator takes over several of the vacant downtown retail properties, and creates a little casino in each one. Then, yes, we’d be a little Las Vegas, sans the Bunny Ranch.
So, we want to roll the dice on something that has a detrimental impact on a segment of the population, predicated on hooking into the next generation, and has been proven over the last couple of years to have diminishing returns for municipalities.
Makes complete sense to me… anyone want to take odds?
… don’t tell anyone, but I might consider blogging again. But I need a really good reason. Or not…
Comments, suggestions and abuse welcome, as per usual…