A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘ontario

[URBAN NOTE] “Wake up, Toronto, to your housing crisis”

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Gary Mason wrote Thursday from Victoria for The Globe and Mail about the Toronto affordable housing crisis, contrasting the belated responses of Toronto and Ontario unfavourably to those of his province of residence.

Of all the political U-turns B.C. Premier Christy Clark has undertaken in power, perhaps none was as jarring and unexpected as the one she performed on housing.

For most of 2015, and at least half of the following year, the Premier refused to do anything about rapidly escalating house prices in Metro Vancouver. She maintained that bringing in measures to cool the market might hurt the equity in people’s homes. She denied foreign investors had much to do with the fierce escalation in costs, relying on the faulty, self-serving data from a real-estate industry that wanted the sticker-shock insanity to continue.

And there was also the not-insignificant fact that the B.C. treasury was getting fattened on the provincial tax that exists on home sales – easy money that can become like crack to a government.

But then Ms. Clark and her cabinet came to an uncomfortable realization: The growing public outrage over the fact that the middle-class dreams of owning a home were evaporating by the day for many and might cost the government re-election. So the Premier did what she vowed she wouldn’t and brought in a 15-per-cent foreign buyer’s tax that did precisely what it was intended to – put the brakes on the absurd, and immoral, goings-on in the real estate industry.

Unfortunately, by the time she did, it was too late for thousands.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 24, 2017 at 9:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “TTC votes to find out how much money it’s lost from faulty Presto card readers”

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CBC News reports on the latest issue with Presto card readers in Toronto. This is ridiculous.

The TTC wants to recover money lost to faulty Presto machines — it just doesn’t know how much it’s missing.

The transit agency voted Tuesday to launch a new study to find out how much the lost fares have cost them; when the results come back, the bill may just end up with Metrolinx.

“Presto’s a lemon that we were forced to buy from the province,” Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong said after Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s been a horrible experience. It doesn’t work, it’s broken down.”

Coun. Joe Mihevc called for the study into Presto’s failure rate and how much Metrolinx, which runs the Presto system, should pay to make up for that lost revenue.

At any given time, the TTC figures that eight to 10 per cent of its Presto readers aren’t working.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 22, 2017 at 4:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Ontario’s lack of foreign-buyer data sparks concern about a Toronto housing crisis”

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The Globe and Mail‘s Mike Hager notes how the lack of official statistics on foreign buyers of real estate in Toronto means, among other things, that less reliable data metrics like search engine hits need to be used. This just proves how modern societies need good data to address real problems.

‘Up! Up! Up!”

That’s where Toronto’s real estate market is heading, according to a Chinese-language promotional article posted last month on Fang.com, a Beijing-based web portal that lists thousands of homes for sale in countries around the world.

“You will really cry if you still don’t buy,” the same posting blares.

Toronto has become the “dark horse” of the Canadian real estate market, asserts Haifangbest.com, another site jammed with Canadian home listings. It contrasts Vancouver’s continuing drop in prices with a prediction that Toronto-area homes will rise 8 per cent in value this year.

In the months since British Columbia began taxing international buyers 15-per-cent extra on homes in and around Vancouver, those marketing Canadian real estate overseas have shifted their focus to Toronto. Last year, Toronto overtook Vancouver to become the most sought-after Canadian city for Chinese home buyers searching the property listing service Juwai.com, peaking in August just after British Columbia announced the tax aimed at curbing the public outrage over skyrocketing prices. Searches for properties in Toronto proper now surpass the total inquiries for Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa combined.

Richard Silver, a Sotheby’s realtor and past president of the Toronto Real Estate Board, estimates close to 20 per cent of his clients are international buyers – from China, India and the Middle East – interested in the luxury condos and houses he sells in and around the downtown core.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 21, 2017 at 9:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Honouring Hurricane Hazel as a work of art”

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The Toronto Star carries May Warren’s article for Metro noting an upcoming gallery showing in Mississauga celebrating the life of that city’s long-time mayor Hazel McCallion. I may well go to Mississauga for this!

She has inspired paintings, crayon drawings, even a Mississauga version of the Mona Lisa.

Now former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion is getting her very own art exhibit to show off these tributes.

Stuart Keeler, curator and manager of museums for Mississauga, said the city is looking for submissions from the public and doesn’t think they will be hard to find.

“Sometimes monthly, we get phone calls of, ‘I have a painting of Hazel,’ ” he said. “This is a common occurrence.”

They’ve already received 25 works of art for the spring show and there’s no cap on how many they’ll take.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 21, 2017 at 9:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “The Metrolinx Fetish For Fare By Distance”

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Steve Munro quite dislikes Metrolinx’s willingness to consider the idea of a fare-by-distance toll system.

On Friday, February 17, the Metrolinx Board will consider yet another update in the long-running saga of its attempt to develop an integrated regional fare policy.

It is no secret that for a very long time, Metrolinx staff have preferred a fare-by-distance system in which riders pay based on the distance travelled, possibly at different rates depending on the class of service with fast GO trains at the top of the pile. The latest update tells us almost nothing about the progress their studies, but does reveal that a fourth option has been added to the mix.

Option 1, modifying the existing structure, simply adds discounts to smooth the rough edges off of the existing zones between service providers. This has already been implemented for GO Transit “co-fares” with systems in the 905, but it is notably absent for trips to and from the TTC. Riders face a full new fare to transfer between a TTC route and GO or any of the local 905 services.

Option 2, a more finely grained zone structure than exists today, would provide a rough version of fare-by-distance, but would still have step increments in fares at boundaries. Note that this scheme also contemplates a different tariff for “rapid transit”.

Option 3 is a “Hybrid” mix of flat fares for local services and fare-by-distance for “rapid transit” and “regional” services for trips beyond a certain length. The intent is to charge a premium for faster and longer trips on services that are considered “premium”.

Option 4 is new, and it eliminates the “flat” section of the Hybrid scheme so that the charge for a trip begins to rise from its origin and there is no such thing as a “short” trip at a flat rate. The rate of increase would vary depending on the class of service.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 19, 2017 at 7:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “The House that Riesling Built”

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Torontoist’s Andre Proulx looks at how Ontario’s wine industry is continuing to develop.

Cave Spring Cellars made their first vintage in 1986. It was a small 500-case batch of wine. This date is a reminder of how early we are in the history of wine in this province. It was one of the first eight wineries in the province and second on the Beamsville Bench.

I recently had a chance to speak with Len Pennachetti, the president and founder of Cave Spring Cellars (and brother of Toronto’s former city manager). He got his start in the wine industry when he was tasked with working vineyards that were purchased by his father.

Not all grapes are created equal; neither are Canadian wines. Prior to the founding of Inniskillin in 1974, Ontario wines were made using labrusca grapes—those Concord grapes found in farmers’ markets at the twilight of summer.

Today, the European grape, vinifera, is used to make most fine wines. Even by 1986, 10 years after Inniskillin had been founded, there were still only a handful of farmers who had made the switch. The challenge with growing vinifera in Ontario isn’t so much the summer but the punishing winters. When the temperature starts to dip below -15, frigid temperatures begin to cause damage or even kill vines.

As one of the founding members of VQA, Pennachetti had a hand in crafting the rules that determine the quality of Ontario wines. The VQA ensures not only that the grapes are 100 per cent Ontario grown, but also that the grapes are vinifera.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 19, 2017 at 5:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Metrolinx to Bombardier: ‘stop blaming others’ for your mistakes”

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The Toronto Star‘s Ben Spurr reports on the depths to which the Metrolinx-Bombardier relationship has descended. Is there anything at all salvageable from this ghastly mess?

Metrolinx executives ripped into rail manufacturer Bombardier at a meeting of the transit agency’s board on Friday, depicting the company as an organization in disarray and accusing it of spreading false information.

Reading from prepared remarks, board chair Rob Prichard criticized the company for taking Metrolinx to court in a dispute over a $770-million light rail vehicle order that has been bogged down by delays.

“Bombardier’s behaviour in going to court is not that of a trusted partner,” Prichard said. He slammed allegations the company made last week in a press release blaming Metrolinx for the delays as “false.”

Over the course of the contract Bombardier has cycled through at least two presidents, three vice presidents and five project managers, and Prichard said that had undermined the company’s ability to deliver vehicles on time.

“Bombardier needs to stabilize its business and the leadership of its business, focus on meeting its commitments and schedules, stop blaming others for its own shortcomings, and to start delivering its overdue vehicles,” Prichard said.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 18, 2017 at 8:30 pm