When the Going Gets Tough

September 21st, 2007

The tough get going.

And that’s what Priestly is going to do down at the MT28 demo site.

Priestly’s big machines made it look a piece of cake to knock down the actual structure.

But the toughest part of demolishing MT28 is the removal of the pillars that supported the building. The fact that these pillars are 40 feet below the surface is one thing but since this site is located next to the shoreline makes this job really tough.

Priestly is attempting to leave the job, without removing these pillars. Hence, without fulfilling all the terms of the contract with TEDCO.

Priestly bid this job and knew about the pillars. Perhaps this scam was prearranged so that they had an unfair advantage in bidding. The other contractors factored the high degree of difficulty in removing the pillars and adjusted their quotes accordingly.

So, don’t invite Priestly to your kids’ birthday party. They’ll eat the icing and leave the cake.

MT28, the Inquest and the Enquiry

September 20th, 2007

Looking down at the ruins of Marine Terminal 28 there is something sad about the demolition of this former movie studio; for it produced some of Canada’s best film footage.

The timing and circumstances surrounding TEDCO’s selection of Priestly Demolition as the contractor is atrocious.

For the inquest started this week into the fatal accident that took place a few years ago when Priestly knocked a wall on to a neighboring building filled with students.

So, while one level of government pays to examines what went wrong on that tragic day, TEDCO is paying the very same company to take down another government-owned building, namely, Marine Terminal 28.

What I want to know is: When is someone going to call an inquiry into the business dealings of the Toronto Economic Development Corporation?

The Perfectly Competitive City

September 18th, 2007

Procurement problems plague the City’s ability to pay for goods and services at a competitive rate.

Their bonding policies chase business away. The City makes it so hard to do business. Sure, it is easy to enter the City’s bidders list, but in order to secure any work they expect unreasonably high insurance; thus the supply is reduced.

Economics 101 tells us that when supply is constant and demand is reduced the price per unit increases.

In simple terms, they can have a million dollar contract out for tender and if you’re the winning bid they require a “letter of credit” or bond for the amount of the contract or sometimes even more. This L.C. can be held in escrow for several years after the work is done.

Why would any business person agree to such terms, unless the profit margins are really high?

And indeed, the profit margins are often excessive because of this high barrier to entry.

The City’s procurement policies are in effect the antithesis of a perfectly competitive market place; hence, the city ends up paying a premium for many, many goods and services.

Please sign the petition!

September 17th, 2007

Please take a moment and sign the online petition for the Immediate Investigation of TEDCO and their mismanagement of Toronto’s assets. It’s available in the Information Pages on the right hand side, or by clicking on the link below.

Go to the Petition Now!

Your help is always appreciated.


Blowing Smoke

September 15th, 2007

Do you think Miller has totally lost grasp with reality. Are any of his advisors capable telling him the truth? Weak leaders tend to surround themselves with “yes men” who blow smoke you know where.

It takes a while, and a lot of discipline, to have your people tell you the truth. As a leader it’s something you have to seek constantly. What is your opinion? What are your thoughts? What would you do? These are questions you repeatedly ask your team.

It boggles my mind, why Miller would open up a web site on these new taxes. Did he think he was going to evoke a tax-love fest?

Talk about creating a lightning rod. With all the political public relations fiascos Miller has suffered this year, it’s almost as if his advisors are out for sabotage.

Torontonians are some of the most heavily taxed people on this continent. We want tax cuts. We want you to bring the unions under control. We want you to stop these costly pet projects.

I would really really love to get a copy of the searing responses that people are bombarding at this fairtax.ca web site.

Miller was a no show at the public consultation meetings on these taxes and I doubt if he even has the guts to read these emails.

In all likelihood, he will pay some functionary to write him a sugar-coated report.

Why on God’s green earth would anyone who lives in Toronto support more taxes? Miller must be smoking something.

A Royal Shame

August 28th, 2007

All this time, all that money and only the names have changed in close to 100 years. The nature of “arms-length agencies” that control the Toronto waterfront remains the same.

But the time for change is near. Word has it the Filmport “Freedom of Information”, appeal court proceedings will be heard this November. And at that time, if justice is served, we the public will see another 99 year lease for friends of a CEO of an “arms length agency”.

Three individuals who played key roles directing the future of these agencies in the last 25 years within the Toronto portlands are Crombie, Eisen and Steiner.

David Crombie chaired a Royal Commission regarding the waterfront in the late 80’s. One element of that review was the Toronto Harbor Commission (THC). Crombie’s findings clearly determined the THC lacked transparency and accountability. He also recommended all the non-essential THC port property be transferred to TEDCO.

The THC was established in 1911 to bring some semblance of order to the growing business activity within the Toronto port. Over the years, their involvement evolved.

In reclaiming thousands of acres of land this “arm’s-length agency” helped develop and/or manage almost everything south of Front Sreet: the Toronto Islands, the Island airport, Ontario Place, the old Sunnyside Amusement Park. The list goes on. Many condos and businesses have now operated for years on this property. The Toronto Star, the Harbor Castle Hotel, the Exhibition and the land where home plate sits at the Skydome/Rogers Centre are a result of the THC. For a period of time, in the 50’s, the THC even had control over the Malton Airport, which we now refer to as “Pearson International”.

Clearly, there was a great deal accomplished. But over the years there were repeated claims of patronage and dirty deals.

Fred Eisen eventually took the helm and was appointed the CEO. His blatant disregard for the best interest of the THC was demonstrated by the many bad deals that transpired under his tutelage. From handing out 99-year leases of prime waterfront land to the outright sales of some of the most prized waterfront properties – his infamous legacy in the port is still felt today.

Recently, TWRC tried in vain to reacquire the last property Eisen sold. This same small 10-acre parcel, at the foot of Yonge St., would serve as the fatal blow that sunk the THC.

Eisen’s last deal, in fact, altered the city’s political landscape and led to years of government infighting and millions of dollars in legal fees paid by you and me, the taxpayers. The settlement was an agreement for a fixed-link bridge to the Island Airport.

By the way, this is the same Eisen that would later become the CEO of TEDCO, as a favour from Lastman, and give Steve Stavro a questionable long term lease. The public and political outcry from this deal led to a police investigation. Dale Lastman still sits on the MLG board.

The Royal Commission eventually thrust TEDCO to become the predominant body to manage the portlands.

Erkki Pukonen was the last CEO of TEDCO to disclose his salary. Since then there have been 3 or 4 CEO’s. None have disclosed their salaries, contrary to the “Ontario Financial Disclosure” laws.

For the last 5 or 6 years TEDCO has been run by Jeffrey Steiner.

Like Eisen, Steiner has little regard for transparency. Like Eisen, Steiner makes deals where friends get an unfair advantage over the competition. And like Eisen, Steiner is backed by the political powers of the day.

Miller openly admitted that, “arms-length agencies don’t always do the right thing”.

The MFP legal proceedings cost millions. Bellamy’s chief recommendations were for the City of Toronto to govern with transparency, openness and to establish a lobby registry. Nothing’s changed. Will we ever have another “tiny perfect Mayor”?

The only real difference is the THC made deals that were in the tens of millions; today, the TEDCO deals are in the hundreds of millions.

As was the lack of transparency with the Toronto Harbour Commission; so exists the same lack of openness today with Toronto Economic Development Corporation.

“Freedom of Information” is paramount to democracy.

And if nothing changes…… then nothing changes…

It’s a shame. We deserve better.

Bradlee Bravery the Pride of the Southern Post

August 27th, 2007

The Washington Post’s famous editor Ben Bradlee is a legend among those defenders of the American constitutional right for, “Freedom of the Press”.

In the early 70’s he backed his two young reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, and their dogged investigative work on the Watergate break-in. Few other papers had the courage to take on the story.

There is a classic scene in “All the President’s Men” when Bradlee under siege from the powers to be, writes on his note pad that “we stand by our story”.

Such was not the case last week at Canada’s National Post.

The Post should be ashamed with regards to last week’s correction. Corcoran, I am sure, had no choice in the matter and I suspect neither did his editor,

Speculating, I suggest that this correction was ordered by Asper at the request of Riseman or Bronfman. Or, Steiner may have sent a letter to the editorial board that is so factually misleading that the Post is not totally at fault. Nevertheless, the Post should have checked the sources prior to the correction.

Imperial Oil, in fact, both owned and leased property in the portlands. They wanted out of the downtown and were looking to relocate their oil tank farm to a more logistically efficient location north of the city.

The Harbour Commission actually held the Imperial lease for decades. Imperial, had agreed to pay a hefty sum to walk away from the said properties due to this liability. On the eve of completion, the city via TEDCO scooped the Toronto Harbour Commission on this deal and ended up keeping all of the money which was more than the stated $10 million. Imperial had been prepared to pay far more with the Harbour Commission.

Back then the environmental restrictions on contaminated property was far more stringent. TEDCO and Imperial Oil drilled hundreds of bore holes testing the soil. Consultants for both sides determined the payment according to the difference between the fair market value and the cost of the environmental liability.

Imperial wanted a solid indemnification in exchange for the monetary settlement. They would not accept one from the newly formed TEDCO, and when the city solicitor refused to endorse the deal the province was induced to eventually sign.

Now how can TEDCO possibly claim that this money, collected more then a decade ago is being used for the Filmport? Furthermore, the subsidies that the Filmport is receiving are in the hundreds of millions. A far cry from the $10 million reported in the Post.

Also, a percentage of the Filmport land is not even being built on the former Imperial Oil land.

The Post is either weak-kneed, incompetent, or alternatively, the cover-up of the Filmport development has spread from a political and judicial front, to now include the media.

Follow the money.

They’re at the Post

August 22nd, 2007

A Post veteran, namely Terrence Corcoran, wrote a great piece on the 14th of this month.

Unfortunately, today, there was a correction notice retracting Corcoran’s assertion that the city is subsidizing the Filmport development.

The National Post had been covering the corruption regarding TEDCO, Filmport, Toronto Film Studio, the proposed Wal-Mart at 629 Eastern as well as a host of other players involved in this crooked saga of corporate greed.

Yes, there had been a number of the Post’s more junior reporters on this beat. And yes, several months ago the Post’s coverage was producing some hard hitting investigative work.

But, looking back over the last 60 days the Post’s coverage on TEDCO has done an about-face.

Who got to who? Why the change from truthful reporting to controlled media propaganda?

Without a doubt in my mind, Corcoran is correct in writing that the Filmport is being subsidized. You ask how I am so certain?

Well as I reported earlier, Jeffrey Steiner refused to disclose the lease. When the adjudicator for the Freedom of Information Office ordered the lease to be produced, Miller ordered a judicial review.

What’s the big secret? And when I say big, I mean this cover-up goes all the way to the Mayor’s office.

To add fuel to the fire, the City openly acknowledged that Corus will receive a huge tax incentive to move into TEDCO’s “Project Symphony”. So obviously, the Filmport incentive is far greater than that of the Corus deal. If the subsidy was less, then Corus’, logic dictates, that the Filmport lease would be out there for the public to review.

Also the leaked TEDCO documents that I produced earlier showed initial Filmport negotiations referring to various subsidies. And with protracted compromise comes giving a little here and a little there. So as both sides reached a mutual agreement the subsidies increased.

Now, I would like to know, who at the Post has compromised their journalistic integrity and ordered today’s retraction?

Gimme Shelter

August 21st, 2007

Contrary to the hardened heart they are not there because they want to be.

The next time you look at someone on a grate bundled in clothes realize that they are there for a reason. Had they the ability to cope or the intestinal fortitude to carry on, I am sure they would, and often do, dream of a different life.

Many remain outside for fear of violence within the shelter system. As is the case, the weak are preyed on physically, sexually and financially. Some commit petty crimes come winter for the safe haven of a penal institution. Generically known amongst them as “3 hots and a cot”.

Some 30 odd years ago I entered a hostel for the first time. Since then I have had the experience to visit virtually all in the downtown core.

Often the shelter system is the last house on the block. Some residents handle the suffering with grace, others with resentment. At one time alcohol was the predominant vice, but now the devil is crack. One social element that has not changed is mental illness. Some shelters are big and inherently more dangerous. Others can be smaller and spiritually based. In most cases, the staffs are very dedicated and special people.

Learning to sleep with your shoes tied to your bed, in a social and economic jail, I am sure is not what their mother envisioned for them..

And so, the builders, engraved, compelling words in stone. Above the passage entering Toronto’s largest shelter, the Seaton House, reads “Someone’s Father, Someone’s Brother, Someone’s Son”.

Prophetic words that urge us into service and “harden not our hearts”.

The Greatest Gift

August 20th, 2007

Recently, in the press there was a sad incident regarding the loss of a young man’s life, from what many refer to as a “panhandler”.

Harold Drummond wrote a book, called “The Greatest Gift of All” that may help some to understand.

The thesis of this masterpiece emanates from ancient scriptures and is based on “faith hope and charity”. Drummond asserts that charity is that greatest gift.

It has been said, life does turns on a dime.

And such was the case on my way to the Hummingbird Centre, with my family, to see Big Bird and his friends. As I turned the corner, suddenly, a man reached out his cap, and asked, if I could spare some change. My son looked up, as I reached in my pocket. Walking away, hand in hand, I could feel the emotion swell into tears. And even as I write today, I am overcome with a deep sense of gratitude for this moment in time. I was given an opportunity.

All I can be to my children is an example. It is so vitally important that I show them acts of charity. I want so much for them to learn to give back.

Years ago, in university having flown to New York, for $37.00 on People’s Express, I encountered my first person, with a cap in hand. Roll the clock forward and Toronto, now, has many such people. We live in a big city.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have all the questions. But I do know that I am a very blessed person and do feel better when I reach in my pocket.