Delaying Waterfront LRT would cost billions in lost tax revenue, productivity: BIA report


Call it Toronto’s forgotten transit line.

While council has officially endorsed the Waterfront LRT as one of its priority transit projects, talk of the proposed light-rail line along the city’s lakefront has consistently been drowned out by debates about more high-profile schemes such as the relief line or Scarborough subway extension.

Tim Kocur, head of the Waterfront BIA, is trying to rally support for an LRT on Queens Quay E.
Tim Kocur, head of the Waterfront BIA, is trying to rally support for an LRT on Queens Quay E.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

The Waterfront Business Improvement Area is hoping to change that. On Wednesday, the group is releasing an economic analysis it says shows the urgent need to move ahead with the line in the next few years.

“This is a huge opportunity to build transit first for a neighbourhood that is already growing but has even more growth potential. It’s truly staggering,” said Tim Kocur, executive director of the Waterfront BIA, which covers the lakeshore area bounded by Stadium Rd. and Yonge St.

The report was prepared for the BIA by Hatch, an engineering consultancy firm. It contemplates a seven-kilometre version of the Waterfront East LRT that would run between Union Station and Coxwell Ave., connecting downtown to the Port Lands and the Beach. Designs drafted by the city have the line running in a dedicated right-of-way along Queens Quay East from Bay St. to Parliament St.

The Waterfront East line would cost upwards of $1 billion, and is part of a larger $2-billion light-rail network that would stretch as far as Long Branch in the west. Some parts of the network are still in early design phases and, according to timelines presented to council, wouldn’t be complete until sometime after 2028. City staff are expected to provide an update on the project in the second quarter of this year.

The BIA report contends the Waterfront East LRT could be built as early as 2025, and compares that accelerated timeline to a worst-case scenario in which the project would be delayed until 2045.

It concludes that not building the route until then would cost $1.8 billion in lost productivity between 2025 and 2045. The delay would also cost more than $20 billion in foregone tax revenue to the city, provincial and federal governments.

The figures are based on projected waterfront development the report says would take place sooner if the line were built over the next six years.

Queens Quay East is already seeing significant construction, and the long-planned redevelopment of the Port Lands is expected to create a new commercial and residential hub almost equivalent in size of the existing downtown.

Sidewalk Labs, which is planning to build a high-tech test community on Quayside, has described the LRT as “critical to the future and success” of the project.

The BIA report claims moving forward the in-service date for the Waterfront East LRT would accelerate the creation of 19 million square feet of office space, 25,000 new housing units, and 1.3 million square feet of retail along the waterfront, which could support more than 135,000 new jobs and 67,000 residents.

Kocur conceded that much of the development would likely happen regardless of whether the LRT is built, but said without the transit line it wouldn’t happen as fast. He argued that by pairing new builds with new transit, the city has the opportunity to avoid repeating mistakes made in areas such as Liberty Village, where rampant development hasn’t been matched with new lines.

“This is a chance to build transit first as opposed to trying to catch up after the development has already happened,” he said.

Council voted in 2016 to designate the Waterfront LRT as one of the city’s priority projects eligible for federal funding, along with the relief line, Eglinton East LRT, and Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack plan.

Although the provincial and federal governments last year announced $9 billion in combined funding for Toronto transit projects, there is not yet a formal agreement to fund the Waterfront LRT.

City and provincial leaders have expended much more energy championing other projects council has endorsed, raising the possibility the waterfront project will be pushed to the back of the line.

Councillor Joe Cressy, who represents the ward that would cover much of the Waterfront East LRT route, said nothing should dislodge the relief line’s position as Toronto’s top transit priority.

But the councillor, who sits on the Waterfront BIA’s board, said that with the Port Lands development expected to start coming online over the next decade, the city can’t afford to wait to build transit to that area as well, and the clock is already ticking.

“We are building new commercial and residential neighbourhoods all along the waterfront east,” he said, and “the longer we wait to invest in transit the more productivity we’re losing.”

In the run-up to the June 2018 provincial election, the now-governing Progressive Conservatives were the only party not to make a specific pledge to fund the line.

Mike Winterburn, a spokesperson for Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek, said Tuesday the province is aware the city is working on a final design for waterfront transit, but has not yet “formally requested provincial funding.”

“Should the province receive a funding request, the business case would be considered in the context of other provincial infrastructure and budget priorities.”

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr


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Ford government’s tuition cut to cost universities $360 million and colleges $80 million


Universities and colleges will take an estimated $440 million hit under the Ontario government’s planned 10 per cent tuition decrease — and it remains unclear if the province will make up the difference.

The tuition announcement, expected Thursday from Merrilee Fullerton, minister of training, colleges and universities, will cut and then freeze tuition rates for the next two years, a $360 million loss for universities alone. For colleges, the amount is about $80 million.

Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, speaks at a news conference outlining the province’s plan for social assistance reform on Nov. 22, 2018. Fullerton is set to cut post-secondary tuition by 10 per cent.
Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, speaks at a news conference outlining the province’s plan for social assistance reform on Nov. 22, 2018. Fullerton is set to cut post-secondary tuition by 10 per cent.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

The government is also expected to make changes to the OSAP student aid system, which under the previous Liberal government provided “free tuition” for 230,000 post-secondary students.

“Students will pay for this with larger classes and fewer professors,” said New Democrat MPP Chris Glover, a former Toronto public school board trustee and York University professor, calling it a “smoke and mirrors exercise.”

“Are they going to cut OSAP grants?” added the Spadina-Fort York MPP. “Any benefits students may get from this announcement — students will end up the losers on this.”

According to government documents obtained by the Star, the province will make changes to the Tuition Free Framework, slashing rates by 10 per cent — or about $340 a year for college students, and $660 for those in universities — for this fall, and keep that rate for the 2020-1 school year.

The documents from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities say the changes will “protect students and provide a financially predictable environment” and “keep more money” in students’ pockets.

Current university tuition for undergraduate students is almost $9,000 a year.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he wants to be “optimistic that lower tuition fees will support students, but the jury is still out” and is worried about it being “an excuse for cuts to student aid or college and university budgets.”

He said “until the government announces all of its changes, we won’t know if this is yet another instance of (Premier Doug Ford) offering a shiny penny to distract from deeper cuts.”

Glover said Ontario’s post-secondary system have the lowest funding levels of all provinces and wonders about the impact on low-income students.

In her report last December, Ontario’s auditor general said the cost of the free-tuition plan would soon hit $2 billion a year, or 50 per cent higher than estimated.

Bonnie Lysyk also said there was no follow-up to ensure that the program, which provides non-repayable grants to qualifying students, was actually boosting the number of low-income students in the province’s colleges and universities. She also said there was no way to ensure that mature students receiving the grants were actually needy.

Students leaders and post-secondary institutions were waiting for more details on the Ford government’s plans before commenting.

However Gyllian Phillips, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, called it “quite concerning that an announcement of this magnitude is occurring without the government consulting any stakeholders at Ontario’s universities or colleges.”

She said while “reducing tuition fees is good public policy for increasing access to post-secondary education … any reduction must be matched with an equivalent increase in public funding.”

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy


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Average Canadian house cost $472K in December, down 4.9% in 2018


The average Canadian home sold in December cost $472,000, a figure that declined by almost five per cent in 2018.

The Canadian Real Estate Association also said Tuesday that the number of homes sold was down, too, to the lowest annual pace since 2012.

December is not typically a busy year for home sales, but this year’s look even worse when compared to the same month in 2017, because at the time, new rules for stress testing mortgages were about to be implemented, and buyers were rushing to buy before they came into force in January 2018.

Sales were down by 19 per cent in December compared to the same month a year earlier.

« Trends were pushed higher in December 2017 by homebuyers rushing to purchase before the new federal mortgage stress test took effect at the beginning of 2018, » CREA president  Barb Sukkau said. « Since then, the stress test has weighed on sales to varying degrees in all Canadian housing markets and it will continue to do so this year. »

Toronto-Dominion Bank economist Rishi Sondhi said the numbers show the housing market has clearly « lost some steam » in the second half of last year.

« The broad-based nature of the decline suggests that rising interest rates and a tighter lending environment are impacting markets across the country, » he said. For 2019, he projects « the level of sales will remain relatively low compared to recent years. »

Real estate prices in Toronto and Vancouver are consistently and significantly higher than they are just about anywhere else in Canada, so those two cities skew the national average higher. Stripping the two out of the equation, the average Canadian home was worth just over $375,000 last month.


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City of Toronto staff say $3 million cost overrun for shelter conversion won’t happen again


Toronto learned lessons from mould and other problems that boosted the cost of converting a Kingston Rd. motel into a homeless shelter by $3.2 million, and it won’t happen again, city staff say.

City councillors on the new government services and licensing committee lightly grilled bureaucrats Monday over what inspections were done on a Comfort Inn before the city agreed to pay $7.8 million in 2016 for the property and commit another $8.7 million to covert it to a city shelter.

The city didn’t realize the expensive structural problems, and others related to mould and rodent damage, until crews took down walls, city staff told committee members. The extra costs pushed the total price tag of converting the 30,000-square-foot building near Bellamy Rd. to about $20 million.

Staff said they hired an engineering firm to do a building condition assessment, and another on soil conditions, but the owner would not allow them to do more invasive testing behind walls because it was a functioning motel with guests coming and going.

“There were no outward signs of these issues,” and past renovations might have helped make the significant problems less apparent, councillors were told.

Councillor John Filion said he still has questions about the ballooning cost and wondered if the city could have saved money by subdividing the 65,000-square-foot lot.

“Rebuilding a property at a total cost of more than $20 million, most of which is for construction, at this kind of density on Kingston Rd. doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” he said.

The shelter is being funded as part of a plan to open up beds as the city redevelops George St. downtown, including the razing and replacement of the Seaton House shelter.

The Kingston Rd. shelter is expected to open in early March, hold beds for 95 vulnerable people of all genders and to accommodate pets.

At the same meeting, committee members fast-tracked a licensing staff review of clothing drop-boxes, after one Toronto woman, Crystal Papineau, and multiple people in B.C. have been trapped and killed in the boxes.

The report with recommended changes slated to come in September will instead be ready in May, and look at multiple issues involving the bins where people drop old textiles to be sold offshore for resale and recycling.

“The largest city in Canada, having people sleeping on our streets … you look at the unfortunate circumstances of people going into bins,” to retrieve clothes or even sleep, said committee chair Councillor Paul Ainslie.

“I think we have a long way to go in this city dealing not only with these bins and make them safe but also the social aspect of why we even need these bins in the city in the first place.”

Toronto has issued 460 $100 drop-box permits to six charitable organizations and four for-profit firms, but has a “running battle” with others who illegally drop collection boxes on public and private property, committee members heard.

Councillors expressed other concerns, including garbage dumped around the boxes and even fires lit inside them.

Two representatives of Diabetes Canada told the committee their non-profit relies on more than 4,000 clothing bins across Canada to help fund research, advocacy and camps for diabetic kids.

All the Diabetes Canada bins are being retrofitted by the end of this week to eliminate “pinch points” where intruders can get stuck, they said. They encouraged Toronto to work with non-profits that use the boxes to develop a “textile diversion program,” like those in Markham and Newmarket, to regulate use of the boxes.

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider


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Rejecting cannabis stores would cost Toronto millions, John Tory says


Following Mississauga’s lead by banning cannabis shops would cost Toronto millions of dollars in provincial funding, Mayor John Tory warned Wednesday.

Tory told reporters he will urge city council at Thursday’s meeting to opt into Premier Doug Ford’s plan for regulated by privately run pot shops, but lobby Ford to give municipalities more control over where those shops will go.

“I think to say no would … do us out of quite a lot of money, millions of dollars,” in provincial funds earmarked for cities and towns who say they are willing to host stores legally selling recreational marijuana, Tory told reporters Wednesday after an unrelated announcement.

Tory said he will vote to opt in to regulated shops rather than see a black market continue, but plans to send a letter to the Progressive Conservative government asking that municipalities be given “some latitude” to prevent clusters of shops together, or shops too close to schools or playgrounds.

A report going to Toronto council from city staff recommends opting in to retail sales. It says Toronto stands to get $3 million as part of a first provincial payment to all municipalities, and then millions more through a per-household formula for cities and town that agree to host shops.

They advocated a wait-and-see approach based on how retail stores affect other municipalities over the next six months to a year.

“I don’t want Mississauga to be a guinea pig,” said Councillor Dipika Damerla. “I think we’re better off taking a prudent approach.”

Markham’s council also voted Wednesday to opt out of hosting retail cannabis stores.

Tory said provincial officials told him on a conference call that municipalities must decide if they will host privately run pot shops by Jan. 22. If they opt out, he said, extra funding to cover the costs of regulating the shops disappears.

“I asked the question on the conference call I had repeatedly — ‘If you opt out and you don’t then get the millions of dollars, can you opt in later and get the money?’ And they said no, once you opt out, you’re out.

“I think we want to have an orderly regulation of cannabis sales in Toronto, and we want to have the financial assistance which I think we rightly deserve for the costs that are being incurred to regulate this. I think the wiser approach is to opt in with conditions, » Tory said, while acknowledging the province has given no indication it would let municipalities supersede provincial rules that, for example, say the buffer between pot shops and schools can be as little as 150 metres.

The federal government legalized recreational cannabis on Oct. 17. Ontario residents can buy it now at the Ontario Cannabis Store website.

The Ford government scrapped a plan by the previous Liberal government that would have seen cannabis sales tightly regulated through LCBO-type stores that would not have been allowed to within 500 metres of schools.

The province plans to let private licensed and approved retailers start selling pot April 1.

But some municipalities are saying the province is moving too quickly and being too inflexible. Tory, for example, is unhappy that, under current guidelines, a municipality would be just another party to a shop licence application, with no right to appeal the provincial regulator’s decision.

Councillor Jim Karygiannis (Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt) says he’ll ask Toronto council to say he can ban cannabis stores in his ward, and other wards can opt out, too. But an Ontario government official told the Star there is no provision allowing specific parts of a municipality to opt out.

Tory said he doubted the argument would work, calling it a “difficult proposition.”

Meanwhile Councillor Paula Fletcher, who had seen a proliferation of pot shops in Ward 14 Toronto-Danforth, says some of the dispensaries are now closed but display a phone number for people to call and get cannabis delivered to them.

“Under the Ford model it’s still the wild west because you’re going to have a proliferation of home delivery” by unauthorized sellers operating among private providers licensed by the province, said Fletcher, who wants a return to the plan for LCBO-type cannabis stores.

“You can’t put a sign up on your door and say if you want booze, phone such and such a number, but now we have this new delivery model emerging and we need the government to have control,” she said.

With files from Francine Kopun and Ali Raza, Mississauga News

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider


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2021 Francophone Games could cost taxpayers seven times more than expected


The Francophone Games could cost taxpayers seven times more than expected.

The Moncton-Dieppe bid was selected to host the 2021 Games — considered the biggest sporting and cultural event in the French-speaking world — based on a $17-million budget submitted back in 2015.

But Radio-Canada has learned the request for funding by the Games’ organizing committee, first submitted to government back in April, is for $130 million, raising questions about whether hosting the games in New Brunswick is still a viable option.

The municipalities of Moncton and Dieppe were supposed to contribute $750,000 each, with the rest of the money split evenly between the federal and provincial governments.

But various levels of government are now saying they might not be able to afford the difference.

New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative government said it was shocked to find out the price tag when it took office.

« To our surprise, there were no funds approved in the budget for the Games, » said Louis Léger, Premier Blaine Higgs’s chief of staff.

« We were incredibly surprised.

Louis Léger, chief of staff to Premier Blaine Higgs, said the province is concerned about the inflated price tag. (CBC)

Léger said he is not ready to say the Games are in jeopardy, but he is unsure where the funds will come from.

« We have to recognize New Brunswick is a small province, » he said, leaving the ball in the court of the federal government.

But Ottawa said it will not contribute more than 50 per cent of the cost of running the Games.

« We’re obviously worried by the potential cost, » said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

« It’s important now for New Brunswick to assume its responsibility, and we’ll be an important partner in the Games. »

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said he can’t imagine Moncton-Dieppe won’t host the 2021 Francophonie Games. (CBC)

LeBlanc said the federal government could pay 50 per cent of the new costs but, according to federal policy on funding for international sporting events, it would not go beyond more than half the overall price tag.

The minister said he is looking forward to continuing discussions with the province.

« I can’t imagine the provincial government would give up on the Games, » he said.

« I can’t imagine the Francophonie Games wouldn’t take place in New Brunswick in 2021. »

No false pretences

The $17-million bid was based on a suggested financial framework in the International Organization of the Francophone Games guide, explained Eric Larocque, executive director of the 2021 Games organizing committee.

The $130-million price tag, he explained, is the full business plan, which the committee wasn’t required to submit as part of its bid.

In contrast, the City of Sherbrooke, Que., who also made a bid to host the games and lost, had a $50-million business plan as part of its application.

Larocque rejected the idea the committee won its bid under false pretences but agreed it would have been « the right thing to do » to submit the business plan from the get-go.

Eric Larocque, executive director of the 2021 Games organizing committee, said the committee wasn’t acting under false pretences when it submitted its $17-million bid. (CBC)

« Of course, yes, » said Larocque. « But it was not asked from us, so we didn’t.

« There were some volunteers, and there were some public servants. I’m not here to pinpoint or to blame somebody. It was a group decision, and that’s it. »

Larocque said he could not provide details about what items were part of the business plan, short of confirming a request for infrastructure was made.

When Moncton won the bid, the city said « the beauty » of its bid was that it already had all the infrastructure required — referring to the stadium at the University of Moncton and the new Avenir Centre — and there wouldn’t be any costs associated with that.

Officials from the International Committee of Games of La Francophonie met with Moncton-Dieppe officials and organizations to talk about bid for 2021 games in the 2015 file photo. (Jennifer Choi/CBC)

Larocque said governments could decide to provide only a portion of the money requested by the organizing committee.

« I don’t think we’re going to lose the Games. They need to talk and to find a solution, » he said.

« We’re going to do the best with the money we’re going to get. »

He said the funds would have to be approved by January for the committee to be on schedule.

The City of Moncton said it approved a financial contribution of $750,000 toward the Games, as part of its 2017 budget deliberations, and that no further request for funding has been made to the city by the local organizing committee.

The province meanwhile remains concerned.

« We inherited this situation, » said Léger. This worries us to the highest degree. To see that such an important event had not been as well planned as it should have…

« It’s a 664 per cent increase. It’s not just forgetting a small element of the project. »

Since they were created in 1989, the Games have been held in Morocco, France, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, Madagascar and Niger.

Canada last hosted the event in 2001 when it was held in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que..

The Games are expected to draw 4,000 visitors to the Moncton area in 2021.


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‘Inaction is not an option’: Cost to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes triples


Fortifying an Illinois waterway to prevent invasive carp from using it as a path to Lake Michigan could cost nearly three times as much as federal planners previously thought, according to an updated report.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week released a final strategy plan for upgrading the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Ill., which experts consider a good location to block upstream movement of Asian carp that have infested the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

Scientists warn that if the voracious carp become established in the Great Lakes, they could out-compete native species and harm the region’s $7-billion fishing industry.

The new plan by the corps is similar to a draft from August 2017, but the estimated price tag has jumped from $275 million to nearly $778 million

« Basically during the past year, some additional engineering and design work changed the scope to bring it up to that current cost, » Allen Marshall, spokesperson for the district office of the corps in Rock Island, Ill., said Wednesday.

The biggest increase is for building an « engineered channel » at Brandon Road. The lock-and-dam complex is on the Des Plaines River, which forms part of the waterway link between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, a tributary of the Mississippi.

Asian carp first started showing up in North America in the 1970s, when they were brought in for the aquaculture industry in the U.S. and for the live food fish industry in Canada. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources)

Under the plan, the channel would contain devices, including an electric barrier, noisemakers and an air bubble curtain to deter fish from swimming upstream and remove those that don’t turn back. The adjacent lock would be retooled to flush away unwanted species floating on the water.

The draft had proposed using water jets to dislodge fish that might be stunned or caught in gaps between barges. But the new version says a better method would be generating a continuous, dense curtain of air bubbles in the channel.

The army corps is accepting public comments through Dec. 24 and expects to submit the plan to Congress in February. Its timetable envisions congressional authorization and initial funding next year and the signing of building contracts by July 2020, with work completed by March 2027.

Several states that border the lakes, including Michigan and Illinois, agreed previously to discuss sharing the costs. The escalating price could complicate those negotiations.

Carp have infested much of the Mississippi River basin and are threatening to gain a foothold in the Great Lakes through rivers and canals. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

« Now that the cost has nearly tripled to $778 million, we need to have a better understanding of how this project, with all the proposed components, actually reduces the risk of Asian carp and other invasive species getting into our Great Lakes in a fiscally responsible manner, » said Ed Cross, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Tammy Newcomb, water policy adviser for the Michigan DNR, acknowledged feeling « sticker shock, » but said it shouldn’t derail the project.

« Given the costs of Asian carp invading our Great Lakes, inaction is not an option, » said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat and co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force.

Carp are filter feeders, which means they eat the base of the aquatic food chain. This starves out native fish species. (CBC)

Illinois officials and business groups have questioned the need to drastically re-engineer the lock and dam, particularly if it would slow barge traffic on the busy commercial waterway.

Lynn Muench, a senior vice-president of the American Waterways Operators, which represents barge companies, said the army corps report sidesteps whether Asian carp are likely to reach Lake Michigan in sufficient numbers to thrive. It also has no cost-benefit analysis of the proposed deterrents, she said.

Meanwhile, environmentalists were concerned that the army corps budget for next year includes no money for pre-construction engineering and design work to get things moving.

« How serious is the Trump administration about getting this project constructed if they haven’t put the necessary funding in to keep it moving on schedule? » said Molly Flanagan, a vice-president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.


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Alberta man living with cancer says cannabis-based treatment cost him a job


Clayton Hannah is a 34-year-old who lives with follicular lymphoma. It’s a non-aggressive form of blood cancer that he first noticed due to a tumour on his arm.

The disease is incurable, but slow-moving — so with treatment, Hannah is able to live a completely normal life. That includes operating in his profession as a millwright in Alberta.

Hannah was headhunted for a job at a High Prairie mill with company Tolko Industries a few weeks ago. The job was to begin on Oct. 9.

Powerful cannabis oils don’t involve smoking, but are ‘much trickier’ to get right

He says it was after he disclosed that he’d been using cannabis oil to treat his cancer that the offer was rescinded. When he spoke with the company on the phone, he says they told him there would be no way to know if he’d been using marijuana while on the job. That’s when he says he knew something wasn’t right.

“I emailed them for clarification afterward,” he said on 630CHED’s Ryan Jespersen Show.

“They didn’t respond for three days, and three days later, they said my job offer was on hold pending third-cannabis review. I asked for the policy or procedure for this review and they refused to give it to me numerous times.”

View link »

Hannah understands the concern of anyone operating in such fields while possibly impaired but he says there’s a difference between cannabis oil used for medicinal purposes and using marijuana recreationally. He says he wouldn’t handle the disclosure differently.

“If something would have happened at work and someone did something stupid and someone got hurt and we all got drug tested, and I had to explain the story, it would look really bad on me,” Hannah said.

“I’m trying to do my due diligence and be candid with everything.”

Hannah has taken his case to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, as he believes to have been discriminated against for his medical condition and treatment.

He says after spending time and money at the request of Tolko only to have the opportunity yanked away, he believes he deserves compensation — and he knows it will likely have a life-long effect on his career.

“I think I committed career suicide right there,” he said. “A millwright taking a mill to the Human Rights Commission over cannabis is the first thing you see when you look up my name now.”

Cannabis IQ: Here are all the legal ways to consume pot in Canada

But he says others in similar situations have reached out and he has received support and gratitude for being the one to be the face of the medicinal cannabis cause.

“Hopefully, it starts a discussion with a lot of stuff — privacy issues, medicinal use. How do you test for it? How do you test for a safety sensitive position? How does marijuana affect your skills over a certain amount of time?”

In an emailed statement to Global News, Tolko said:

“At Tolko, employment decisions are a confidential matter. We respect all candidates’ and employees’ privacy, and we also abide by Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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What it would cost Calgary to bid on and host the 2026 Winter Olympics – Calgary


With the vote on whether Calgary should host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games just days away, Global News took a deep dive into the numbers behind the bid, where the money is coming from, how it will be spent and what this will likely mean for individual Calgarians.

Note: The following amounts are all in 2018 Canadian dollars.

How much will hosting the Olympics cost?

Estimated total: $5.11 billion
Public money: $2.875 billion
Private money: $2.233 billion

Where is the $2.875 billion in public money coming from?

Three levels of government — federal, provincial and municipal — have pledged to contribute to a Calgary bid if it goes forward.

Federal government to commit up to $1.75B to Calgary Olympic bid

Government of Canada: $1.452 billion
Government of Alberta: $700 million
City of Calgary: $390 million*
Calgary and Alberta: $150 million in already planned improvements to Stampede grounds
City of Canmore: $3 million

*Includes $20-million premium on $200-million insurance policy (used for contingencies)

Funds from both the federal and provincial governments are contingent on a “yes” result in the plebiscite vote on Nov. 13.

Government of Alberta to pledge $700M for potential Calgary Olympic Bid

Where is the $2.233 billion in private money coming from?

The International Olympic Committee has committed $1.212 billion — US$925 million — in cash and services. The balance of the private-sector money is expected to be coming from revenues from domestic sponsors, ticketing and merchandise.

IOC commits US$925M for 2026 Olympic host city

Where will the money go?

A report commissioned by the Bidco and completed by the public policy research think tank the Canada West Foundation evaluated the costs, benefits, risks and opportunities of an Olympic bid.

The report focused on two questions: “Is the Calgary 2026 Games bid an economical, cost-effective and responsible approach?” and “Would the Games provide significant benefits for the host region?”

The foundation and the Bidco estimate that operational expenses for the Games will be $2.451 billion, a figure that includes human resources, sustainability projects, accommodations, food, logistics, transportation, operations, finance, legal services and communications.

Be careful comparing 2010 Olympics cost to Calgary 2026: Vancouver CEO

Funding of so-called “legacy investments” tallies to $1.762 billion. Renewal of existing venues like the Olympic Oval and McMahon Stadium amount to $532 million. Construction of new venues is pegged at $427 million.

Building additional housing — which will later be turned into housing for Indigenous peoples, seniors and the affordable housing market — is budgeted at $493 million.

A legacy fund with $180 million is to be used for maintenance of facilities and to fund sport and cultural programs.

The Bidco has more government funds going to security — $495 million, to be exact — including $260 million for “essential services” like spectator transport, weather forecasting and highways management as well as an unrestricted contingency fund of $120 million.

Games Operations: $2.451 billion

People and impact: $403 million
Games operations: $1.147 billion
Finance: $74 million
Marketing and communications: $597 million
Legal services: $8 million
Contingency: $222 million

WATCH: When it comes to Calgary’s bid for the 2026 Olympics, one of the biggest questions is if the benefits are worth the cost. There’s no simple yes or no answer but as Lauren Pullen reports, there are some pretty strong opinions.

Public funding of legacy investments: $1.632 billion

Renewed venues: $532 million
New venues: $427 million
Housing: $493 million
Legacy fund: $180 million

Other government costs: $875 million

Security: $495 million
Additional contingencies: $120 million
Essential services: $260 million

WATCH: Calgary Ward 11 Calgary Councillor Jeromy Farkas and Erin Waite, a member of No Calgary Olympics, discuss why they believe Calgarians should vote against supporting a 2026 Winter Olympics bid.

What new venues will be built?

With 11 of the 13 venues needed for a 2026 Olympics already standing in Calgary, the bid includes the construction of two new sporting venues: a fieldhouse and a community arena.

The 10,000-seat fieldhouse would host figure skating, short-track speed skating and wheelchair curling during the Olympics and Paralympics. It would have a 400-metre track, court and other sports facilities after the Olympics.

The 5,000- to 6,000-seat community arena would be used as a second hockey arena during the Olympics and the main hockey venue during the Paralympics. After the Games, it would serve as a replacement for city rinks like the Calgary Corral or Father David Bauer Arena, both of which are nearing their end of life.

WATCH: Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi and BidCo CEO Mary Moran disscuss why they believe Calgarians should vote for supporting a 2026 Winter Olympics bid.

Housing for athletes, Olympic partners and the Olympic workforce would need to be constructed to supplement Calgary’s available hotel rooms. The Bidco has planned to build 1,800 units spread among various locations in Calgary and Canmore. After the Games, these accommodations would be converted into affordable housing, subsidized senior housing and housing for Indigenous peoples. Student housing was cut as part of a budget decrease on Oct. 31 after the Bidco concluded they wouldn’t need as many units for Olympic staff and workers.

What about the possibility of cost overruns?

The International Olympic Committee claims that the cost to run the Games has never gone over budget. That claim is backed up by a study from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the University of Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne that said the costs of organizing the Olympic Games are “usually covered by revenues.”

The Calgary Bidco has also budgeted more than $1 billion in contingencies, including a Games Contingency Fund of $120 million, a $330-million operations/delivery cost and revenue contingency and an unrestricted capital budget contingency of $295 million.

How will the money for old venues be used?

McMahon Stadium, which would host the opening and closing ceremonies, will get a number of renovations, including a new entry plaza, a new fan zone, a new team zone, a new concourse patio, new and renovated washrooms, new permanent seating, new kitchen and concessions areas and a new operations centre.

Speed skating is due to run at the Olympic Oval, which would see renovations fundamental to that sport, including replacement of all slabs, ice plant and plumbing upgrades, replacement of HVAC, expansion of the access tunnel and renovations to change rooms and washrooms.

BMO Centre and the Big 4 Centre would house the International Broadcasting Centre and main press centre. Those buildings would get upgrades to host the world’s media as well as an allowance to return the buildings to public use after the Games.

Under current plans, the Scotiabank Saddledome would play host to Olympic hockey games. Possible renovations include upgrading accessibility, upgrading power and lighting, re-commissioning the ice plant and surface upgrades on the concourse, club and suite levels.

City looking to restart talks on new Flames’ arena

WinSport Sliding Centre — home to bobsleigh, luge and skeleton — would get new buildings such as storage areas for bobsleds, power upgrades and renovations to existing buildings.

Hosting events like aerials, big air, freestyle, moguls and half pipe, the WinSport ski hill would get terrain grading, a slope-style vertical drop, ski lift relocation, park access road alteration and a day lodge.

Calgary 2026 releases renderings of potential Olympic venues, including new field house

Nakiska ski area — which would host snowboard cross, ski cross, alpine events and an athletes’ village — is planned to have improvements to course access as well as course upgrades, improved safety equipment, safety netting and fencing, a downhill course tunnel and a warming hut.

Biathlon and cross-country skiing would be held at Canmore’s Nordic Centre, which would receive upgrades like expansion of the competition area, transit site preparation, upgrades of utilities and course improvements for the Paralympics.

WATCH: The Town of Canmore has voted to support an Olympic bid, but there is a lot of work to do and money to be spent in the mountain community before it can welcome the world. Jayme Doll reports.

Whistler’s Olympic Park would host ski jumping and nordic skiing combined and would need minor renovations to ski jump facilities, in-run refrigeration upgrades and alignment of the cross-country trails and ski jump stadium.

The Max Bell Centre — scheduled to be used for training sessions for hockey teams — would require minor upgrades.

Calgary city council to look at Green Line LRT funding model

Why no C-train line to the airport or NHL arena?

“We don’t need a new Flames arena and we don’t need a C-train extension to the airport in order to host the Games,” Bidco director of capital infrastructure Fergal Duff told Joe McFarland on Calgary Today.

“There may be future talks amongst our government partners about whether those things are feasible or not, but right now it’s not part of our hosting plan.”

Where do the public funds come from? How much will this cost individual Calgarians?

According to the 2018 budget, the federal government’s total expenditures are projected at $338.5 billion so its contribution of $1.452 billion would represent 0.43 per cent of the federal budget.

In the Province of Alberta’s 2018 budget, the provincial government estimates its expenses at $56.181 billion. Its contribution to the Calgary Games would be 1.25 per cent of the provincial budget.

Two views on the Calgary 2026 debate make their pitch on Global News Morning Calgary

For the City of Calgary, its 2017 financial report had actual expenses at $3.192 billion. The city’s contribution of $390 million represents 12.22 per cent of its 2017 annual expenses.

University of Calgary associate professor of Economics Trevor Tombe told Calgary Today it’s unlikely taxes will be increased by the federal or provincial governments, as those governments already have plans to spend on capital projects like hosting the Olympics.

LISTEN: Economics associate professor Trevor Tombe joins Calgary Today to look at how much hosting the Olympics could cost individual Calgarians

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“That’s not to say there’s not a trade-off because it is using public funds in a particular way that could have been used in other ways — not just funding other capital projects but potentially shrinking the deficits either provincially or federally, or reducing taxes below what they otherwise would have been.”

“But the real impact for Calgarians, I think, is going to be most visible in property tax changes, and that will depend on how things shake out.”

Tombe estimates that property taxes in Calgary could go up by low single-digit percentages.

WATCH: With one week left until Calgary votes on whether to proceed with a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, the city is explaining how the plebiscite process will work. Michael King reports.

“It’s hard to answer with any precision today because it will depend on how future city councils decide how to fund the $390-million contribution that we’re looking at today.”

Tombe uses that number and the assumption the money will come from an increase in city debt to estimate how much Calgary homeowners would pay.

“That would then translate into our property taxes because of the interest costs associated with that debt and repaying the debt over 20 to 25 years. Under that scenario, it would increase property tax levels by one to 1.5 per cent. That’s different for different people, but for the median residential property homeowner that’s about $25 a year, although substantially more for non-residential property owners.”

Everything you need to know to vote in Calgary’s Olympic plebiscite

Tombe echoed the Canada West Foundation report in stating two questions that Calgarians should ask themselves before going to the polls on Nov. 13.

“Can we afford the Games? Is this what we want to spend our money on?”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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B.C. government promises 53 child care locations that cost parents $200 per month or less


The B.C. government is launching 53 prototype projects around British Columbia to provide child care that will cost families a maximum of $200 per month per child. The prototypes are being funded through $60 million from the the Early Learning and Child Care  Agreement with the Government of Canada.

One of the first prototype sites will be the Frog Hollow Daycare in Vancouver. Parent Erin Frizzell relieved that the financial support is on the way.

“My husband and I both work in the arts and culture sector in Vancouver and it is a struggle for us to survive with housing expenses alone, no to mention daycare.This opportunity to pay an actual affordable fee for daycare means the world. It means we can put money into education,” said Frizzell.

Amid criticism, B.C. premier defending roll out of child care plan

“It means moving beyond surviving and into thriving.”

Parents of about 2,500 children will benefit from the prototype projects. The program is part of the overall child care strategy the provincial government launched following taking power in July 2017.

But cost is only one of the barriers for child care considering there are waiting lists that in some cases parents get on even before they are pregnant. When B.C. Premier John Horgan was asked whether these prototypes would actually make the shortage even worse he said that isn’t the intention.

Vancouver promises to have more than 1,000 childcare spaces open by 2021

“I think this is a beacon of hope for families,” said Horgan. “We are very excited about heeding the demand, not denying it. That is why our federal partners are so important.”

The prototype sites will operate until March 31, 2020. Forty-three child care sites in B.C. started operating on Nov. 1, with a further 10 slated to start on Dec. 1. More than 300 B.C. child care operators applied to participate in the universal prototype initiative.

WATCH HERE: Horgan defends child care program

The plan was originally to included just converting infant/toddler spaces. But the province worked with the federal government to expand the selection criteria to include sites representing all age groups and licensed child care types in order to get a sense of where the demand was for expanded child care.

“We are finding new ways to make it easier for families to get by every month and to save for the future,” Horgan said. “Through this kind of action, where we significantly reduce the cost of child care, we can make life more affordable for so many B.C. families.”

It’s not $10-a-day, but NDP says $1B childcare plan will help thousands of families

The prototype sites exist in urban and rural communities around the province and includes a range of operational models, from group child care, to family child care, to private and non-profit organizations.

The way it works is the child care providers at the prototype sites receive government funding to cover operational and administration costs.

“Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House applied to be a prototype site because we know that there are parents at our daycare who struggle to make ends meet, while having to pay expensive child care fees,” said Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House executive director Gary Dobbin. “Also, we wanted to be able to play a leadership role in providing feedback to government about how the initiative is working, what could improve it and the impact it is having on families.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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