About michaelsuddard

A Canadian trying to make it in this world.

Fire Trucks & Fridge Magnets

The Toronto Star reported the results of their investigation this morning in the paper.  The investigation took a look at the high response times of Toronto firefighters to fires within the city of Toronto.  Of course the City of Toronto officials weren’t that helpful in the investigation.   Toronto Fire chief, Bill Stewart, did provide some documentation and some statistical analysis.  But when the Star reporter asked a few more questions (i.e. the call time starts in the reports when the dispatcher first saved the call to the computer system, but what is the actual time when the call came in?) Stewart’s reply was “You as a reporter should not be looking at this information.”  That obviously smells that something is being covered up for either a purposeful reason (i.e. Toronto Fire has something to hide) or to avoid possible legal issues.  The only people to know this reside within the Toronto Fire department.   But this isn’t the only worrisome issue.

Further along in the same article the process of dispatching trucks is mentioned.  The average response time in North American standards is six minutes from when the call first comes in.  The standard breaks down that the 911 dispatcher takes and dispatches the call (1 minute), the firefighters get to their truck and onto the street (1 minute) and the time the truck has to get to the fire or emergency scene (4 minutes).   In terms of Toronto’s most recent largest fire, the fire at Sunrise Propane, Toronto fire took way longer than 6 minutes to arrive at the explosive fire scene. 

The breakdown of the sequence of events at Toronto Fire during the Sunrise Propane fire scene just boggles the mind.  The times provided by the City of Toronto and reported by the The Toronto Star makes a Toronto resident’s heart skip a beat.   The first dispatch time recorded by the Toronto Fire dispatcher’s computer is 3:49 A.M.  “It took close to two minutes for dispatch to notify and contact fire crews in several stations, all about 2.5 kilometres away.” (Toronto Star Article).  At the fire hall it took the crew of Pumper 145 two and half minutes to get onto the road to the fire.  Pumper 145 was the first on the scene 10 minutes after the first original call was recorded.  Let’s also keep in mind the travel time in Toronto of Pumper 145 wasn’t hampered by traffic on the way to the fire as fire occurred overnight on a Saturday to Sunday when traffic is virtually non-existant.   Which the Star reported: ” none of the these vehicles were more than a few minutes’ drive away.”

Perhaps one of the largest issues the Star found is the antiquated dispatch system Toronto Fire uses to dispatch their equipment to emergencies.  The equipment is tracked using magnets on a magnetic map of Toronto.  Each fire is recorded on the map and then the magnet of a dispatched piece of equipment is moved to it.  Apparently this is the system that has been in use since the amalgamation of Toronto in 1998.  So basically, Toronto Fire dispatchers keep track of location of their equipment with fridge magnets at all times.   Meanwhile over at the the city’s public transit department (TTC) each surface vehicle (e.g. streetcar, bus, etc.) is tracked by GPS units so that transit control knows exactly where each unit is.   Surely th Toronto Fire Department can create a dispatch system that uses this already in use GPS technology to track its vehicles, location of fire halls and situations on the go.  But there is no promise from the Toronto Star investigation that this is the case.

The City of Toronto needs to wake up and improved it’s dispatching system.  The evidence the Toronto Star uncovered may only be the the tip of the iceberg of issues at the fire department.  A complete review of the dispatch system first needs to be undertaken.  First an audit of the existing system needs to be completed to find  the deficiencies.  Second a review of other municipal fire systems in North American cities and suburbs should be looked at for best practices that could be included in a new Toronto Fire dispatch system.  Finally a plan needs to be put together for a new Toronto dispatch system from when the 911 call comes in to when the first fire truck is on the scene.    

But Fire Chief Bill Stewart needs to be told empatically by the Mayor and the citizens of Toronto that this statement will not suffice in terms of this new system (as the Toronto Star reported): “[Bill Stewart] As president of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, he is backing a move to change the standard to allow firefighters longer to get out the door to a blaze [by 20 seconds].”   This is unacceptable as the current standard is one minute for the firefighters to get to their trucks and out the door.  When, as has been espoused to youngsters across Canada over and over by firefighters, ‘in a fire every second counts’ a request of just give them an extra twenty seconds is strictly unacceptable.   But then again, if the city of Toronto continues to a five year old’s fridge magnets to track their million dollar pieces of equipment then perhaps it will take firefighters that much longer to get to a fire.   What a sad state of affairs it is at Toronto fire when the City’s own transit system has a better dispatch and location program in place than the Toronto fire department does.

Toronto Sells out for a Big Mac Meal

The City of Toronto owns a bunch of properties along the north side of Bloor Street near the corner of Avenue Road & Bloor Street. These properties the city has owned since the Bloor-Danforth Subway line was constructed. Following the construction of the subway line the city leased the properties along the north side of Bloor Street out.

The leases which were issued in the late 1970s were farely decent. However, since then this area has exploded with population and have turned into prime real estate. So the leases paid by companies like McDonald’s to the city for their restaurant opposite the Royal Ontario Museum now seem pretty paltry. McDonald’s now has a honey of a deal by paying a mear $15,500 annually ($1291 per month) for decent sized McDonald’s restaurant on prime land across from a major children’s attraction (the Royal Ontario Museum), easy subway access from the Museum Subway station and St. George Subway stations) and just down the street from the tony Yorkville. In fact I doubt that a Yorkville bought Gucci bag would sell for less than McDonald’s is paying for a monthly lease payment.

McDonald’s, eying the contract renewal within it’s 99 year lease with the city, made an offer of $3.38 million to purchase the property from the City of Toronto. The City had some options:

1. Accept the bid from McDonalds.

2. Reject the bid and propose a counteoffer to McDonald’s to purchase the property.

3. Negotiate with McDonald’s for a higher lease payment.

Option one would mean the City of Toronto would be basically giving the property to McDonald’s for peanuts without realizing that much of a return. This is because, as the Toronto Star noted in it’s article: “Some estimates had suggested the site could be worth $7 million to $9 million,…”

Option two would mean the city might be able get more money from McDonald’s for the property. However, the city is constrained by the 99 year lease with McDonald’s, so the city cannot put the property on the open market in order to get the best value. So really McDonald’s holds all the cards in this option.

Option three city staff proposed to raise the lease money to $195,000 per year ($16,250 per month). McDonald’s, however, would obviously want a lower lease payment and negotiations would, thus, drag on a for some time.

The city chose Option one and sold the property to McDonald’s $3.38 million for the property. Now considering all the constraints the original 99 year lease had placed on the city, one would think this deal was fairly good. Well the deal could eventually get much worse and leave the Toronto taxpayers feeling as bad as waking up the next morning after consuming one too many Big Mac’s.

McDonald’s, after closing the deal with the city, could turn around and sell the property for a much higher value to a developer who owns the surrounding properties. The developer could then merge all the properties acquired together and build a significant condo or business development on the prime land with a brand new McDonald’s restaurant on the ground floor. So in the end, McDonald’s would realize from the sale of this property by the city about six million dollars and a brand new modern restaurant facility. The developer, at the end of this deal, would be able to build the twenty something floor condo or business tower as well have a coveted ground floor tenant in McDonald’s who would be counted on for lease payments well into the future.

The City taxpayer, who has been milked for a 3.25% 2008 property tax increase and major user fee and other tax increases, would loose millions of dollars in what the property could have been sold for. City council for years has been begging for dollars from the provincial and federal governments as well as cutting services, letting infrastructure crumble and eying even more service cuts. However actions like selling out to McDonald’s instead of attempting to drive a hard bargain have cost the city millions of dollars. As it has been said by many of the more fiscally conservative councillors on Toronto city council, Toronto has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Except in this case, there does seem to be a revenue problem, the deal failed to get the revenue it should of before selling out to McDonald’s. So instead of city councillors getting the equivalent of steak to eat on this deal, they received a #3 Big Mac Meal with a fries and medium coke, no upsize please!

Karlheinz Schreiber is making Canadian history

Karlheinz Schreiber has made a name for himself in Canadian history in several calculated moves.  Here is just a snippet of history Schreiber has made:

1. Not since the 1910’s has a Speaker’s Warrant been issued by the House of Commons Speaker.   Schreiber was compelled to come to Ottawa in order to appear before the House of Commons’ Ethics Committee. 

2. Caused a possible political scandal to erupt over money.  The last Conservative government to have problems with money was probably Sir John A. Macdonald and the Pacific Scandal.   The Liberals, however, recently had a money scandal with known as the “Sponsorship Scandal” or “Adscam”.   But at least in Canada political money scandals involving Prime Ministers are few and far between.

3. A man facing charges of tax evasion, bribery and other charges in a foreign country (Germany) is at the centre of a Canadian public inquiry and scandal.   I have no recollection in Canadian, or for that matter world history, of a man so deep in financial law trouble holding hostage a major political institution like Schreiber currently has the Canadian Parliamentary and Judicial system. 

Schreiber is quite a manipulative gentleman who has managed to stave off extradition to Germany to face the German judicial system since 1999.   He has appealed his way all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada so far in the judicial system.   Realizing he is almost out of options, Schreiber has now turned to the political system.     Hence, he is now trying to work the Canadian political system by placing allegations on one of Canada’s former Prime Ministers.   This has caused the Canadian political system to come to a crawl as all eyes are on shifty felon’s next calculated moves. 

Schreiber knows he is in trouble over the charges in Germany and in Canada.   Schreiber also figures that since he will someday have to face the music in Germany over the allegations over shady financial dealings, he might as well have some fun in the meantime.  What more fun can a guy have than tie up the Canadian judicial system by using one of Canada’s top lawyers, Edward Greenspan (the same lawyer who defended Conrad Black in Chicago) and then compel a public inquiry to be called.  Even more fun is saying that you are willing to talk in order to bring forth the complete story then, when warranted by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken, to appear before the House of Commons Ethics Committee, to clam up and refuse to talk without his papers.    How convenient is Schreiber saying that he is more than willing to talk and then, when allowed to do so before a Parliamentary Committee, he refuses to do saying he has to review some of the over thirty thousand documents he has in his possession.   

So House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken arranges that Schreiber may retreive the documents from Schreiber’s townhouse in order to be read in custody at the Ottawa detention centre.   However, Schreiber’s lawyer Edward Greenspan says this is unacceptable as the documents could be stolen by other inmates while Schreiber is in the detention centre.   Greenspan wants Schreiber under house arrest in order to review the documents.  Mr. Greenspan should be asked how the documents could be stolen if Mr. Schreiber is escorted to and from the detention centre by now less than two police escorts (not to mention a media entourage that any Hollywood star would be proud of) and has his own private jail cell that normally holds two inmantes.

Karlheinz Schreiber will be called before the House of Commons Ethics Committee again this coming Tuesday.   More questions will be asked by MPs from all political parties.   Schreiber will take his sweet time in order to manipulate his way through the committee hearings.  Schreiber will continue to string along the committee by providing juicy details at times and refusing to elaborate at other times in order to keep the MPs hung on his every word.    This will probably frustrate many MPs on the Ethics Committee who wanted Schreiber to talk.   Schreiber, however, wants to string this out as long as possible because he wants to remain in Canada in order to avoid the stress of having to face the German court system.  Besides, what better way to have fun than to bring a major democratic country’s political institution to a halt as well as appear in major newspapers and on television stations accross the country.  Since November 30th to today (December 1st) there have been over two thousand articles and television pieces written on Schreiber according a Google News search.   Hows that for media exposure?

A felon has brought the Canadian political system to a halt and has successfully tied up the Canadian judicial system since 1999.  Who else in Canadian History has done that?   If mobster Al Capone were alive today he surely would be smiling at Karlheinz Schreiber’s judicial and political gamesmanships.  Capone would be impressed that Schreiber has avoided being deported for what will soon be almost ten years when it is all over, been as politically wiley as many great politicians like William Lyon Mackenzie King in dealing with the Canadian Parliament, and all the while making a name for oneself in both the media and the history books.   Schreiber is making history indeed, now the main question is how long will he be able to make history before being deported to Germany?  That is the most interesting question that only time, which will eventually become history, will tell.

Who to Vote for?

With the election coming this Wednesday in Ontario (October 10th) I’m a little confused as to who to vote for. In past elections, both federal and provincial, I usually had my mind made up the week before the election on whose name I would put my “X” next to. As of this morning I’m left in doubt.

The last two federal elections in my riding the factor of Belinda Stronach was there. The first time she ran as a Conservative I supported her and the second time I didn’t vote for her. The second election I felt stabbed in the back that as a constituent she never consulted us about the switch from the Conservatives to the Liberals.

Provincially I thought the province was going downhill by running up deficits and the provincial debt. So I voted according to my beliefs economically that the province needed to right the financial ship in order to avoid bankruptcy.

So this election what have I thought about when deciding on possibilities of where to place my vote?

The possiblities of electing a local candidate in Aurora to a Cabinet seat to seem to be slim to none. In my hometown of Aurora for the past couple of elections seems to have lucked out with electing two cabinet ministers under two different administrations, Al Paladini (Conservative’s Transportation Minister) and Greg Sorbara (Liberal’s Finance Minister). This time will most likely be different as the Conservatives are not likely to win the election due to their faith based school platform fiasco, thus Frank Klees is unlikely to attain Cabinet. The Liberals? Christina Bisanz is not likely to make cabinet as she would be a rookie politician if elected. The NDP? Mike Seaward doesn’t have a hope in winning this riding even on his third attempt especially since in the last election he only garnered little more than 7% of the vote. So there is little hope in electing a cabinet minister in my riding with the way things stand so I cannot stratigically place my vote that way.

Perhaps I should investigate the party platforms in Ontario. Should I vote Liberal to elect Christina Bisanz in order to at least have an MPP on the government side of the benches? Not likely since Dalton McGuinty has lost a lot of my trust with such issues as raising taxes after he promised not to in the last election; handing out taxpayers money to groups that have some links to the Liberal party and without very little paperwork to explain why the money was handed out; the problems with Bob Edmonds and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and the fact the provincial Minister responsible for this organization refused to ask any questions of what was going on; Liberal Cabininet Minister Harinder Takhar being the first politician admonished by the provincial Integrity Commissioner; and on and on it goes. So this election I definately won’t vote Liberal.

The Conservatives I had potentially thought of voting because I didn’t like the Liberals recent political history in Ontario. However, the whole flip-flop on faith based schools by Conservative Leader John Tory. Tory calls it real leadership by allowing a free vote in the Ontario Legislature. I beg to differ as he came out originally that all faith based schools should receive funding. I believe only true public schools should receive funding. The Catholic school system? A Constitutional Amendment for Ontario should be undertaken to remove the right to fund the Catholic school system. The main basis for my argument is that the Catholic school system in Ontario discriminates. One example is even I’m a certified teacher in Ontario, under the Ontario College of Teachers, I’m not allowed to teach in a Catholic school because I’m not a follower of the Catholic faith. As a publicly funded system receiving provincial tax dollars via the educational funding formula does that seem right to you? And John Tory makes no mention that if, under his faith based schools plan, whether or not these old private schools/new publicly funded schools will be able to exclude people based on gender, race, religion, etc. This would seem to contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the Canadian Constitution. This is only just one issue that I totally dissagree with.

The NDP are way to left leaning for my vote. The NDP in the early 1990s almost bankrupted this province under Premier Bob Rae’s leadership. Howard Hampton, the current Ontario NDP leader was Bob Rae’s Finance Minister. So would Howie bankrupt the province again with all his funding promises? Probably. Howard has also wanted to bring in more taxes against the rich and corporations that provide jobs in this province which would probably further drive job creating corporations out of the province. With large corporations like General Motors already starting close down and leave the province, whill a union backed NDP government help anything? Probably not, just look at the mess the city of Toronto is in financially with NDP card carrier Mayor David Miller at the helm. Toronto refuses to contract out work and insists, when it does contract out, that union level wages be paid by the contractors. This causes problems because these wages are ten to twenty percent more than what it would be for wages to be done right next door in the city of Mississauga. So under a provincial government lead by Howard Hampton and the NDP, provincial wages are more likely to up meaning more taxes would have to be paid by taxpayers or more debt in order to fund these wage hikes. My vote will definately not go to the NDP.

The Green Party? I only know of the Green Party by the name of “Frank De Jong”. I have barely heard of their platform even though I read the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun on a daily basis. My local candidate for the Green Party? I have no clue who he or she is. If your not going to make yourself known when trying to get elected with either pamphlets, signs or media appearances then why would I bother voting for you. I know there will be some who say the media seem to shut out the Greens, but really in this day and age, where are the Greens with their pamphlets and signs made of recycled paper or plastic then to make their platform known?

So I cannot base my vote on the party platforms as I have severe disagreements with most of them.

Who to vote for in Ontario? I’m not really sure, I may have to go down to Wal-Mart to pick-up a dart board in order to figure out who to vote for. Or even better why not try at least one of these methods in Aurora that the Toronto Star did in Toronto: visit here, here, here and here. Ah that’s the ticket on who to vote for! Problem solved!

Toronto Star : "National gallery . . . in a garage"

TheStar.com – entertainment – National gallery . . . in a garage

The Toronto Star is notoriously a Liberal paper in its reporting and editorializing. So it is not surprising to find the Star’s Peter Goddard lambasting the federal Conservatives over the National Portrait Gallery not being funded for completion in his column in today’s paper.

In the column, Goddard tells the tail of woe of the National Portrait Gallery having to be hosted in a garage located off a back alley in downtown Toronto. Goddard, in the column calls this fact the gallery is hosted in such awful conditions a travesty which is true.

Goddard only mentions, in passing, the idea of former Liberal Heritage Minister Sheila Copps idea of a opening the portrait gallery in the old US Embassy building being launched in 2001. Then, for some reason, he lays the entire issue at the feet of today’s Conservative government. Goddard is right to blame the Stephen Harper government for cutting the $44 million in order to launch the national portrait gallery. But he believes this to be “more Tory political payback”. But really, is it all Conservative party problem?

Sheila Copps launched the idea for a National Portrait gallery in 2001 and nothing happened except the old US flag came down and a new Canadian flag went up. Since then nothing much has happened to the building. So why didn’t the Liberals get the museum up and running? Was it because of lack of money? Not likely since Paul Martin stressed it was the Liberals who slayed the deficit and now were running significant surpluses. Surely some of the money from the surpluses could have been invested in the museum to get it up and running. But perhaps with the problems the health care system was seeing, funding a new museum was not politically palatable at the time. So hence the Liberals kept putting it off and putting it off.

Fast forward to today, and it seems, according to Goddard, the Conservatives are to blame for not funding this new museum. Goddard unfairly believes the entire problem is with the Conservatives. But why shouldn’t the Liberals, who were in power the majority of the time between 2001 and today (2007) also share the blame?

Goddard also mentions a further tidbit of information, $44 million. It takes forty four million dollars to get this museum up and running? Lets figure out what the forty-four million might be used for:

1. Purchasing land and a building? Nope, the Canadian government already became owner of the former US embassy in 2001.

2. Renovations of the building? I would suggest the building already meets fire code for an office building. Perhaps only some minor renovations would be required for space and accessibility purposes but that should cost more than two million dollars tops. Two million is also probably on the very high side.

3. Purchasing portraits and art work? The Montrose Portrait Gallery of Canada, on their website, notes “The National Portrait Gallery of Canada has thousands of lovely portraits and millions of lovely photos” already. So why spend more money to acquire even more portraits if thousands of portraits and millions of these photos are currently collecting dust?

4. All portraits need picture frame hooks. So perhaps a good portion of the forty-four million dollars is to go towards the picture frame hooks and the hammers needed to mount them on the wall. No doubt there will be highly paid union jobs needed to put these portraits up on the wall. The portraits placings, of course being a government operation, would require hours of special committee meetings and bureaucrats to fuss over. This doesn’t even include the time to discuss what paint colours to use for the walls itself!

So in order to save everyone time and money, I hereby volunteer to do my part for the National Portrait Gallery of Canadaand volunteer my time and my hammer in order to get these portraits on the wall of the old US Embassy. I figure a team of 5 to 10 of us could each take a room and hang the probably already framed portraits on the walls of the old embassy building.

But of course the Portrait Gallery of Canada being a Liberal idea and a government operation, my suggestion will never see the light of day. But of course the spending of forty four million dollars down the toilet will never be the fault of the Liberals. The Liberals will only blame the Conservatives of course, once the Conservatives come to power that is. Otherwise, just like Goddard and the Toronto Star, while the Liberals form government, its all HUSH! HUSH!

Airing out the Laundry

This is a cross posted from my own blog:

The clothesline, a simple line of either rope, wire or something similar that is string like. The clotheslines can either be the traditional wire and pulley or in the ‘tree format.’

When I was younger, I always loved seeing our families sheets being hung from the back yard’s tree clothesline. I used to run through the sheets feeling the cotton run past my skin. I was careful, after the first few mishaps, to avoid the middle supporting pole (‘the trunk’) of the tree clothesline. But running into that pole was the least of my worries, my mother’s wrath of after I messed up the clean sheets she had worked so hard to launder, was much worse.

Seeing the neighbours string their laundry out on the pulley stile of clothesline was fascinating. The screech of the pulley would signify the laundry was about to be strung out. I used to watch for the clothes and sheets to move out into view. First there was the screech, then a pause, then another screech, then a pause, then screech and there it was the first sheets came into view! For some reason watching the neighbour’s laundry moving across their backyard on the line was mesmerizing.

But apparently not everyone finds clotheslines to be that exciting. In today’s Toronto Star Ideas section, a story on the debate raging over clotheslines today in the town of Aurora and the province of Ontario brings this response from one lady:

“I don’t want to see people’s dirty laundry,” says the woman, who didn’t want to be identified. “We can’t be told what to do.”

The article further mentions that this lady believes clothe lines look junky and thus bring down property values.

However, others point that stringing your clothes out to dry in your backyard helps to reduce power consumption by not having to run your clothes dryer as much. Reducing power consumption is considered to be good for the environment because it means coal fired power plants and other fossil fueled electrical generating stations do not to need to run as much. The government of Ontario seems to support reducing consumption of power considering their funding to the “Flick Off” campaign aimed at reducing power consumed by lighting. In most neighbourhoods, like my parent’s neighbourhood, putting your clothes out to dry in the backyard breezes is not a problem.

This is not always the case. Aurora Mayor, Phyllis Morris, has taken on the task of advocating for those in subdivisions who are not allowed to string their clothes out to dry. Apparently there are subdivision agreements that the developer has the new homeowner signs. Part of the subdivision agreement between the developer and the new homeowner in some subdivisions prevents the erection and use of clotheslines.

Seventy year old Robert Cook of Aurora brought this problem to the attention of Aurora council recently figuring only a local bylaw would solve the problem of not being able to use clotheslines in some subdivisions. Apparently it is not up to the municipality, but up to the province. So Aurora Mayor Morris took up the fight with the provincial government of Ontario which included a petition being submitted to the Ontario legislature. As well the Town of Aurora’s Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the right for people to use clotheslines. The Mayor of Aurora wants the province to make the use of clotheslines legal no matter what subdivision agreements say.

The Aurora Mayor’s fight with the province of this issue has brought national attention. Ms. Morris pointed out, in last week’s Toronto Star article, that she has been hearing from across the country:

“I’m hearing from New Brunswick, from Calgary, from Vancouver. People feel that if you need legislation in order to hang a string and two hooks in your backyard, something is wrong.”

A national interest in this issue over clotheslines, added with an impending Ontario provincial election in October of this year, would make one think this issue would be quickly dealt with a convenient photo op by the current Liberal Premier and Environment Minister. That is not the case.

To make matters worse for the Ontario Liberal government, the biggest current international environmental crusader of today has taken interest in this issue. Former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore was in Toronto recently at a dinner. Gore spotted a T-Shirt Ms. Morris was holding up and inquired with the Aurora Mayor about it according to a recent Era-Banner story. Mr. Gore was shocked and requested his own t-shirt. So if you see Mr. Gore wearing a t-shirt with the words “Right-to-Dry” on it, blame us Canadians for it.

So what is the response of the Liberal government in Ontario? The Toronto Star reports that:

For now, Queen’s Park is hoping the cities will make the first move.

“The government’s preferred approach is to work co-operatively with municipalities on this issue,” Energy Ministry spokesperson Sylvia Kovesfalvi says.

Typical government inaction seems to be at its best. On one hand the government is encouraging residents to reduce power consumption by turning off lights whenever possible and is now encouraging municipalities to reduce their energy consumption through a new infrastructure program. On the other hand, a simple law change seems to have been buried in other feel good environmental announcements.

Some might scoff and say the provincial government has to study the issue. But Aurora Mayor Phyllis Morris would point out that nearly a year ago her pettition on this issue was submitted to the Ontario government. Since last August the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has had time to study the issue. What has resulted from this simple request to look into the issue by a single municipality with a good idea? Nothing so far. Has the Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty come up with anything concrete on this issue in terms of announcing new legislation? Not so far. Has Greg Sorbara, the Liberal’s own head election organizer and Aurora’s current MPP, formulated this issue into a plank of the party’s election platform? Not so far. The Ontario Liberals seem to be dragging their feet on this issue by being absolutely silent despite this being a provincial responsibility.

The upcoming provincial election is the time for Aurora and other municipalities to press this issue. Local candidates and party leaders should be questioned on their views on this subject. The Ontario Liberals already have a poor record on this issue by doing nothing. But what do the Ontario Conservatives and NDP view this issue? The Ontario election campaign is the best time to find this out.

Residents should be encouraged to uses their clothes dryers less and their clotheslines more. Clotheslines reduce the amount of electricity consumed and, thus, greenhouse gases and other pollutants emanating from fossil fueled generating stations. Besides the most obvious positives for the environment, will the governments think of the children? All children should enjoy being a little mischievous by being able to run threw the drying laundry on the line. About the only downside of this issue is the mother’s blood pressure when they see some muddy hand prints in the freshly laundered bed sheets. But a little high blood pressure is so little a sacrifice in comparison to saving the environment.

Ipperwash Inquiry: A Journalistic Inquiry

On Thursday the findings of the Government of Ontario‘s official Inquiry into the events of the native occupation at Ipperwash Provincial Park during 1995 were released.

Ipperwash Provincial Park is located in southwestern Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron just south of the community of Grand Bend, Ontario. Back in the summer of 1995 tensions were brewing between the Stoney Point Natives and the federal government over a military base. The federal government had been promising to return the military base to native control once the Second World War had ended. However, around fifty years later the Stoney Point Natives were getting antsy. A group of the natives moved into the military base and occupied it. The military, sensing tensions were growing, had smartly moved out of the base smartly beforehand. However, the natives grew even more restless and began eying the next door Ipperwash Provincial Park. Labour Day weekend saw the natives move into and occupy the provincial park claiming there were native buriel grounds.
Friday morning the Toronto media published both the usual stories reporting on the inquiry’s findings as well as presenting analysis by their columnists. The Toronto Star‘s Queen’s Park Columnist, Ian Urquhart, blames the Ipperwash Affair almost entirely on then Ontario Premier Mike Harris. Urquhart’s main thesis that: “…[the] pressure from Harris to resolve the matter quickly contributed to the eventual outcome” of the Ipperwash clash. Urquhart goes onto point at that the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), because of Harris’ pressure to resolve the native occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park quickly, were thus forced to storm the park and remove the occupying group of natives. This prevented the police from negotiating with the native occupiers like the current provincial Liberal government is doing with the native occupation of Caledonia Ontario.
Ian Urquhart even points out that the Ipperwash Inquiry’s main stinging criticism of Mike Harris by writing: “For good measure, Linden also chooses not to believe Harris’s denial that he ever said, “I want the f—ing Indians out of the park.” Good Measure? Seems Urquhart only adds this little tidbit of information just to throw in some more anti-Mike Harris rhetoric to his column. Basically Urquhart uses this column to rail against the Conservative “law and order approach
On Friday the Toronto Star‘s Friday Editorial is not as scathing as their own columnist Ian Urquhart. The Star’s editorial attempts to answer the question of ‘what went wrong at Ipperwash? The editorial points to the three things as being the reason the whole Ipperwash Provincial Park occupation ended up in a very negative affair:
“…the impatience of former Ontario premier Mike Harris, cultural insensitivity in the Ontario Provincial Police and federal foot-dragging on aboriginal land issues.”
The editorial goes onto outline how each played its part and how the inquiry’s findings can lead to better actions by government in response to similar occupations like the Ipperwash affair. Why is the Star editorial correct?Usually in explosive situations like the native occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park there are several factors that lead to confrontation and not just one, as the Editorial outlines.

The first factor was that the newly elected Conservative government of Mike Harris wanted to solve the situation quickly. So the OPP felt the pressure from the provincial government to solve problem.
However, the pressure posed another problem, the commanders at the Ontario Provincial Police didn’t have experience or knowledge of the history and cultural background of the native protestors. This pressure meant the police were being called upon to act quickly and, thus, were unable to bring in native historians and other experts to do some background research in order to establish how to best handle the situation. The OPP forced by haste were unable to even negotiate with the native occupiers of the provincial park and really had no other option but to storm the park. Add into the mix rumours of possible firearm possession by the native occupiers, a perfect storm had begun to brew.
But how did the whole situation become so bad? As the the Toronto Star notes the slowness of the federal government in resolving native land claims is the main problem. Had the federal government set up a process of negotiating the land claims of this particular area of the province, perhaps the natives would have seen some form of progress and an occupation would have been unneccessary. Had the federal government kept their word and vacated the military base voluntarily, perhaps the provincial park may never have been occupied. However, because the federal government failed to both set up land claim negotiations and failed to vacate the military base in a timely fasion, the natives of this area of the province became wrestless.
Over at the Toronto Sun, Queen’s Park Columnist Christina Blizzard believes the OPP are more to blame. Right off the top of her column she points out the Ipperwash Inquiry dismisses any involvement of the Mike Harris government in ending the dispute. Blizzard believes the lack of communication by the OPP and the cultural insenstivity of the whole Ontario Provincial Police were the main reasons for the Ipperwash occupation ending the way it did.
Is Blizzard right? Perhaps there was no pressure from the Harris government felt by those within the OPP who were in charge of the situation at Ipperwash. Perhaps the Commissioner of the OPP felt the pressure and didn’t let the political pressure filter down to those in charge of policing the occupation at Ipperwash Provincial Park. On this basis the real factor in the Ipperwash situation were the officers in charge of the policing situation rushed to solve the problem at Ipperwash. The rush to solve the problem meant they decided to solve the problem instead of taking their time to investigate options into how best solve the situation. This ultimately meant the idea of negotiation was never considered.
The hypothesis that the Conservative government didn’t interfere in the Ipperwash fiasco is the basis of the Toronto Sun’s Friday Editorial/Point of View. The editorial tries to ensure the all reasons the Ipperwash Inquiry found for the provincial Conservative government under Mike Harris was not blame are laid out. The attempt to show Mike Harris was not pressuring the OPP in the Ipperswash situation by the editorial is in quite the contrast to the Toronto Star’s Ian Urquhart column mentioned above. Urquhart basically only quotes a very minute section of the report on the involvement of Mike Harris. This is in contrast to the Toronto Sun Editorial that provides a whole paragraph excerpt from the inquiry’s report:
“Although Premier Harris was critical of the police, I do not find he interfered with or gave inappropriate directions to the police at Ipperwash … the premier did not inappropriately direct the OPP on its operations … or enter the law enforcement domain of the police. Although one may disagree with his view, it was legitimate for the Premier to take the position that the First Nations people were illegally occupying the park, and that he wanted them out of Ipperwash as soon as possible. He did not give direction on the manner in which the OPP should enforce the law; how, when and what arrests should be made; tactical decisions; or other actions the police should take to end the occupation … it was not inappropriate for the Premier to direct the Ontario government to seek an injunction (against the occupation) as soon as possible.”

With all these conflicting points of view from journalists and editorialists of two Toronto dailies, who is right?

The real answer lies with which source do you believe is correct. Personally, the Ipperwash Incident unravelled in a chronological sequence of events:

1. The federal government, who under the Canadian Constitution, looks after native issues failed in pecefully negotiating a land claim swap with the Stoney Point natives for this area of the province since the early 1900s. Lands seem to change hands between both public and private interests quite a bit in this area without input from the natives of the area

2. The federal government failed to close the Ipperwash Military base and return to the land to the Stoney Point natives following the Second World War. The natives were quite patient for over fifty years. However, near the end of the fifty years the native grew restless and saw no end in sight to the military occupying the military base.

3. The natives moved into occupy the military base. The Canadian military, hearing rumours of a possible confrontation over the military base, smartly moved out of the military base weeks before the occupation.

4. A group of the natives occupying the military base started eying the adjacent Ipperwash Provincial Park as another piece of land ripe for a native occupation. After all the Ipperwash Provincial Park had always been considered a site of a former native burial ground. With the occupation of the military base next door, the natives could occupy both the military base and provincial park all at once.

5. The OPP wanted to ensure the situation was quickly brought under control. When the natives had moved into the military base it was one thing. But now the natives had moved into Ipperwash Provincial Park, the optics of the situation showed that the provincial police had lost control of the situation. So the OPP wanted to swiftly move into and at least remove the natives from the provincial park portion of the occupation and leave the federal government to deal with the occupation of the military base.

6. There was some pressure felt from the provincial Conservative government. However, this pressure only came in the form of, as the Toronto Sun Editorial quoted from the Inquiry’s report,”…it was legitimate for the Premier to take the position that the First Nations people were illegally occupying the park, and that he wanted them out of Ipperwash as soon as possible.” Thus, the OPP knew the provincial government was moving towards having the occupation declared illegal anyway and action would need to be taken sooner rather than later. Was the pressure coming from the Premier’s Office ordering the OPP to move in right away? No, the Premier, as the inquiry and Sun columnist Christina Blizzard point out, no direct order was given. But there appears to be some indirect pressure from the provincial government for the OPP to solve the situation.

7. The OPP moved in quickly to quell the situation at the Ipperwash Provincial Park. Rumours of the native occupiers with guns meant that heavily armed OPP officers were used. As the OPP moved into Ipperwash Provincial Park one night, a firearm was thought to be observed. This led to the killing of Stoney Point native Dudley George.

8. The Conservative government denied any responsibility in the killing of Dudley George.

9. The Liberal government is elected in 2003 and starts an official public inquiry into the shooting of Dudley George and the occupation at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

This chain of events seems to meet both the Toronto Star‘s editorial beliefs of more than one factor leading to the situation blowing up at Ipperwash Provincial Park, Ian Urquhart’s belief that then Premier Mike Harris had some involvement, the Toronto Sun’s Editorial of little involvement of Mike Harris and Christina Blizzard’s belief that the OPP were the main bunglers of the whole situation. I have used the two Toronto dailies’ analysis of the situation to inform my own opinion on what happenned in the fiasco at Ipperwash Provincial Park that ultimately lead to the death of Dudley George.

If one were to only read one publication and not the other, the reader would not see the conflicting analysis of the other publication as to what might have happenned. So, sometimes, it pays to read the analysis of one major daily. This is especially the case on major political issues like the Ipperwash Inquiry where partisan sides tend to come out.

The governments of the future need to learn as much from the situation that erupted at Ipperwash, that future land claim disputes aren’t handled this way. Then possibly the if a situations like the ones that presented themselves at the Ipperwash are not repeated. This would also prevent another report having to be issued that is very similar to the one issued on Thursday.

Footnote: For a complete chronology of the Ipperwash Provincial Park affair visit this Canoe.ca’s coverage here.