Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mayor Doubles Down on LRT

On the heels of what we are sure was a difficult meeting for all involved, including the mayor, Mayor Eisenberger provided the following response to our question re: LRT

Mr. Mayor:

We acknowledge your frustration when councillors by pass the office of the mayor and write directly to other levels of government and note that it has been done by different councillors in the past on different topics. Recently, Clr. Whitehead appeared to frustrate you by writing directly to the provincial government asking if the 1 Billion is unmoveably wired to LRT as we presently know it, or if there is room to repurpose the money for alternative transit strategies in Hamilton- should that be or become the will of the people. You had stated that the Clr. knows the answer to this but simply does not like it.

Putting aside the appropriateness or inappropriateness of councillors writing to other levels of government, and given some of the angst that continues to haunt the LRT file, would you agree that Clr. Whitehead's question, while perhaps mis-channeled, could be a talking point between yourself and the province. Or are you of the view that the issue is carved in stone and there is no room whatsoever for further discussion. If the latter, is there not a risk that we may be becoming tone death to those who still have concerns over LRT?

Mayor Eisenberger's reply:

The one billion dollar investment from the province of Ontario is very clearly directed solely to the LRT project. Specifically, it is to fund the building of the east-west line, plus a north-south spur connecting to the newly opened GO station in James St North. We should now be focused on the specifics of the implementation plan, including Impacts to businesses during construction, connectivity with existing infrastructure and communicating consistently with the citizens of Hamilton on progress reporting.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Picture of the Moment

As seen in Stoney Creek

Sunday, October 23, 2016

From The Green Room

The following is a message and attachment shared with the local media from Ward 3 Councillor Mathew Green:

Please accept this submission (please click here to see what the Clr. is referring to) as correspondence to our LRT GIC regarding the fate that the City of Brampton now faces having their Council reject LRT funding.

I know that there has been some confusion about that time lines and prospects for future funding of alternstives that City of Brampton staff have clearly outlined in terms of process, timing and priority.

I wanted to share it with you all well in advance of our meeting for your reading and consideration as Brampton has already set themselves back about a decade.

Let's not flirt with further purgatory...
Let's stay on track.

Your friend and neighbour,

Matthew Green
Ward 3 Hamilton City Councillor


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Media Release: City of Hamilton Disappointed in Decision on Canada Post Mailbox Installations

City of Hamilton Disappointed in Decision on Canada Post Mailbox Installations

HAMILTON, ON – October 19, 2016 – The City of Hamilton is disappointed with the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal regarding the municipal authority to regulate installations in and on the City’s roads in the public interest. The City was successful on all grounds of appeal considered by the Court of Appeal except for the ground of constitutional paramountcy. The Court of Appeal confirmed the validity of the by-law as protecting against harm to property and persons using municipal roadways. The decision will be reviewed and Council will consider its options moving forward.

At the time this legal proceeding began, Canada Post was replacing door-to-door mail delivery to over 460,000 addresses across Canada with community mailboxes. The City of Hamilton’s objective, shared by many other municipalities, was to have Canada Post meaningfully consult and cooperate with municipalities so that community mailbox locations could meet the needs of their communities, including aligning with existing infrastructure and municipal plans related to traffic, accessibility, snow clearing, proper lighting and the like. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) sought and obtained intervenor status on the matter because of its impact on municipalities across Canada.

Canada Post has since suspended the replacement of door-to-door mail delivery with community mailboxes. The Federal Government is reviewing Canada Post’s business model, with a commitment to address concerns raised by various stakeholders, including municipalities. The City of Hamilton is hopeful that this review will result in recognition of a very important role that municipalities play in reasonably regulating road allowances to the benefit of all users.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Big Question

If Hamilton decides to proceed with holding a referendum on LRT, how do you think the referendum question should read? 

The question must require a Yes or No answer and must be stated using neutral language.

Want to take a crack at the wording? Post your take on it. 

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak -Treading the True Brew Path

Treading the True Brew Path

Craft Beer is exploding in Ontario. New breweries are bubbling up all over. Brew pubs and taverns are thriving, and beer festivals abound. Yes the Craft Beer industry is going gangbusters: according to the factsheet available on the Ontario Craft Brewers website the industry is growing market share and generating so many jobs that it has an annual economic impact of at least $600 million in our province.

In an interview I conducted for Grand Magazine earlier this year with Minto Schneider, the CEO of the Waterloo Region Tourism Marketing Corporation, I asked her how she'd capitalize on the explosion of craft brewing in an area almost defined by its Octoberfest, the largest Bavarian festival in North America.

She indicated “Craft brewing is a tough one. I was at a presentation to an American tour operator: most of the regions of the province were represented and everyone talked about craft beer. So we have to talk about it not as a destination, but as a part of destination.”

Adrienne Carter, Cultural & Partnership Manager, for the Hamilton, Halton, Brant Regional Tourism Association (aka the “Heart of Ontario”) is doing just that with a new promotion called the True Brew Path. (Full disclosure, Carter is my sister-in-law and I wrote previously about her in a piece related to the War e 1812 and a dinner she helped put together with General Isaac Brock.)

Carter says she’s implementing the brainchild of her Executive Director, Maria Fortunato, who saw craft breweries were a growing trend and wanted to offer something in the region on that theme. Carter worked to find “market ready” breweries, those open to the public for sales, with regular hours, tastings and tours, to include in the “Path”.

The six featured breweries are Cameron’s Brewing of Oakville (a long-time partner in the Taste of Burlington), Milton’s Orange Snail Brewers, Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton, Nickel Brook Brewing Company in Burlington, the Bell City Brewing Company in Brantford and a new entry on the scene, the Shawn and Ed Brewing Company headquartered in the old curling and skating rink building in Dundas. (For a quick overview of all six breweries click here.)

Visit all of them, getting the back of your True Brew guidebook stamped, and you’ll receive the handsome limited edition glass featured in the cover photo of this column as a souvenir. Judging by reaction on social media the promotion is already a hit, with one dedicated enthusiast, @DrunkPolkaroo completing his mission just days after its launch.

Better yet, aficionados over 19 years of age can enter an online contest to win a $1,650 chauffeured tour for four to three of the breweries as well as accommodation and meals. But get your entries in by October 31st when the contest closes.

The True Brew booklet contains information on area restaurants, hiking, shopping, live music and other attractions. In tourism jargon the True Brew promotion is a trip motivator, designed to get people to come to the region, one whose growing culinary scene is attracting national attention, including from outgoing Globe and Mail restaurant critic Chris Nuttall Smith. Smith wrote in his final column “I’d wager that the restaurant scenes in more affordable places such as Burlington and Hamilton, Dundas, Vaughan, Ajax and Pickering will grow and improve in coming years, largely at Toronto’s expense.”

“We’re really trying to build a brand and a destination. The breweries are the catalyst for the trip” said Carter. Acknowledging that there is no particular differentiation from breweries in other areas she says the difference in what Heart of Ontario is doing is “putting them together in an easy consumable way for people to go and see the breweries in this area.”

Great as this promotion is, there seems to be some disconnect among the various institutional players involved. For instance, NOSH, Hamilton’s Culinary Week, beginning on the 17th of October does not even mention the True Brew Path. That disconnect is a legacy of the somewhat laissez-faire way the Province let the Regional Tourism Organizations (RTOs) develop their mandates when they were created in 2009.

During the interview mentioned at the outset of this piece, Minto Schneider – who heads a Destination Marketing Organization - told me “The Province gave very little direction as far as their responsibilities and objectives were (and) each RTO went their own way and created their own by-laws, brand and objectives. That was a challenging time for a lot of DMOs like us in the (Waterloo) Region that were working under the RTOs. The Province essentially brought the RTOs in so that they could gather the DMOs within regions under the RTO and have a better communication from the provincial marketing organisation through the RTOs to the DMOs.”

That’s clearly still a work in progress, one that needs close collaboration if all in the Region – however it is defined - want to tread the same path and truly capitalize on the burgeoning foodie scene. 

To see all past columns please see (and “like”) the Food for Thought Archives
Alex (Alex can be reached on twitter @AlexBielak)

A special shout out to Alex, congratulating him on this, his 100th Food for Thought article! We are very fortunate to have such a talented writer and expert chef and"foodie". 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Speaking Truth to Power - with Tom Adams

Tom Adams
Tom Adams is an independent energy consultant who was recently featured on the Bill Kelly show at our friends at CHML. We touched base with Tom to help us better understand what is driving up hydro costs so dramatically and what can be done about it. Enjoy our chat with Tom. 

1. In a recent interview with our friends at CHML, and on the Bill Kelly show in particular, you stated that Hydro One has hired a new VP of customer service to deal with the fall out of high hydro bills. Part of what is planned is a redesign of the hydro bill, presumably to better explain it. However, you also stated that a significant part of the high hydro costs that we are seeing, and that will again increase in November, is due to the high labour costs associated with distribution and the associated output. The sense being, that we are not necessarily getting good value for our dollar in terms of its relationship to the money spent on labour. If that is true, does it not follow that Hydro One might be better served hiring someone who can performance manage the labour effort, consistent with comparative benchmarks as to what the value for the labour dollar ought to be? If so, why do you think this does not seem to be the emphasis.

The increase coming in November will be on the commodity portion of all household bills across the province, whether you are served by Hydro One or another distribution utility (like Horizon). Hydro One's first priority should be cost control. Bill presentation ought to be a minor concern.

2. What play, if any, does a labour relations environment have on the ability, will, capacity, to address value for money where the cost of labour is concerned?

Hydro One faces a very tough labour relations environment. It has inherited labour agreements that date back to the old Ontario Hydro with massive compensation levels, benefits and post-employment costs. Added to that, the government bought off the unions with H1 shares, which in my view creates a more conflicted situation for labour relations and further locks in existing excessive payroll costs.

3. People continue to make best efforts to conserve and yet we seem to be no further ahead. If we understood you correctly, you stated that there is a sum of money that hydro consumption must necessarily produce- likely in large part attributed to the labour costs discussed in the previous question. If that is true, does it not follow that conserving energy does not have an impact on the costs? We are not suggesting conservation is a bad thing, but can you explain why our conservation efforts are not yielding the reduction in hydro costs that we were led to believe?

The government has been selling a lot of snake oil labelled "conservation". Conservation is saving money, but the savings are almost all being captured by utilities in Michigan and New York. They are the ones taking Ontario's surplus power at a huge discount. The basic arithmetic driving rates is that the total amount of money that must be collected from consumers every year -- called the revenue requirement -- is rising while the amount of power sold is going down. The effect of conservation is to reallocate among different consumers responsibility for an increasing portion of the revenue requirement. The government has a costly program -- the Industrial Electricity Incentive -- whose purpose is to increase usage. Meanwhile, the government also has costly programs to decrease usage. The real purpose of conservation programs is that they are the government's marketing program to sell you higher power rates.

4. Despite the fact that everyone will be impacted by the rising costs of hydro, the less fortunate and the poor will likely be unable to sustain these increases. The cost to businesses may also cause businesses to pass on costs to customers, thus driving up products and services. Why does there seem to be such a disconnect between the reality of these impacts. How can anyone resort to redesigning a bill, when it is the amount of the bill that is the issue?

The government bought into the notion that their green initiatives would pay off with jobs and exports of equipment made by folks who once manufactured stuff like cars. Queen's Park lived in that bubble so long that the government was genuinely surprised to discover that rising rates were causing pain. The recent Throne Speech showed that the only solution the government could come up with was to shift costs between ratepayers and taxpayers. When the government realized that nobody was falling for this ploy, only then did they start addressing the real issues, canceling the ongoing procurement program that would have imposed even more useless wind and solar contracts on us. I think the bill redesign initiative arose from the same thinking behind the Throne Speech commitment to transfer costs to the tax base as a solution to the problem.

5. What advice might you have for the Ontario Government and municipalities in terms of dealing with the high cost of hydro?

- Cancel all the generation wind and solar contracts that we can escape from at low cost.

- Cancel the wasteful conservation programs. Rising rates are forcing consumers to conserve.

- Disclose the amount spent paying generators in Ontario to not generate.

6. What other information do you think the average person needs to know about why this is happening and what can be done about it?

If you feel confused by your power bill and what's behind it, some folks at Queen's Park are happy with that.

Thanks Tom for sharing your expertise and insights with our readers. To find out more about Tom and his services, click here. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On LRT- with Dr. Christopher Higgins

Dr. Higgins
In June of 2016, The Hamiltonian contacted Dr. Christopher Higgins, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics (http://mitl.mcmaster.ca ) and posed several questions to him concerning LRT in Hamilton. At that time Dr. Higgins indicated that he needed additional time as he and his colleagues at MITL were weighing options for consolidating all of their information on the LRT project. Dr. Higgins has made good on his promise to get back to us with answers. The following are the questions we posed. Below these questions is a link to his responses.

1. The Rapid Ready report, amongst other things identified several conditions that have to exist for Hamilton to optimize its potential for a successful implementation of LRT. Can you identify the top areas where Hamilton is in good shape to support a LRT implementation and the top areas which should cause concern? What are we doing well, and what must we absolutely get right in order to succeed with LRT? 

2. What is the relationship between Land Value Uplift (LVU) and LRT. Does LRT bring an immediate benefit in terms of LVU and if so, how can that be quantized/projected? If not, at what stage would LVU materialize and peak, and what indicators would you look for that would set the stage en route on that incline? 

3.Do you think Hamilton’s degree of traffic congestion is sufficiently dire to drive out more transit use? Those who may not have the expertise or understanding of how transit systems work, may be wondering if it would not be less disruptive and more cost efficient and more flexible to work with Bus Rapid Transit rather that LRT. Can you help us understand whether there is any truth to that? 

4.What do you say to those who may argue that LRT is not enough to convince them to leave their vehicles at home. 

5.Is there anything you’d like to add?

To read Dr. Higgins' answers, click here.

Respectful commentary is welcome.