Friday, August 30, 2013

Why we need the Ontario Municipal Board

Lately there has been talk about reforming or even getting rid of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
The contention is that municipalities know best how to plan for their communities.  So, who needs the OMB?

That’s a crock.
When it gets down to decision making in municipalities local politicians have the final say.  They aren’t planners.  In fact, in a lot of cases the extent of their planning experience is the scheduling of a day to declare when they are running for re—election.

Take as Exhibit A the recent OMB hearing brought about when the City of Hamilton blocked an attempt by a non-profit agency to consolidate its programs under one roof.
I’ve written about this before.  Last September’s piece talked a bit about the ideas of distance separation by-laws. (   That is the tool that Hamilton used at first to block Lynwood Charlton’s Centre’s (LCC) move.

Then the City changed their “planning” argument   claiming that the LCC program represented an “institutional” use.  I wrote about it again
At the end of the day OMB member Makuch basically ruled the City had no good planning case.   The Board was satisfied that the proposed development was “consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement 2005 and conforms to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe as well as the City’s Official plan.”  (You can find the August 23rd decision at

 Lynwood Charlton Centre suggested Council’s refusal of the application “was based on the negative reaction from the community.”   The Board, however, heard “no evidence to support any of the concerns expressed to City Council.”
With the traditional planning issues being resolved, there was no need to carry on to human rights matters.  The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) had standing at the hearing.  If given the chance, they would have said that Hamilton’s refusal of the application is considered discrimination under the Human Rights Code.

That position had been forwarded to Hamilton Council some time ago.  Most Councillors apparently believe that the fact that they were popularly elected gives them license to override human rights concerns.
Sure, the OMB needs to be reformed.  But cases like this one demonstrate why we need a body like Ontario Municipal Board as a safeguard to local idiocy.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gender Gap not Closing

(An earlier version of this piece appeared at
In the nineties, I was one of the Mayor’s representatives on a municipal committee that looked at the issue of violence against women.  The Committee looked at some of the broader social conditions affecting women in our community.  A report with recommendations was produced.

That was when I was a Councillor (actually, and perhaps ironically, I was an Alderman) in the City of Burlington.  When following the work of the Committee we tried to change our job title to Councillor it failed fifteen 15 votes to two, as I recall.

It goes without saying that this was a long time ago.  So when some publications on the Gender Gap from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives came out last month I was interested. Has the Gender Gap closed?

Apparently not, based on the research of two writers.     

The Gap in the Gender Gap: Violence Against Women in Canada was released July 11th. (See

The authors argue that “progress on ending violence against women in Canada is stalled by the absence of a coherent national policy and consistent information about the levels of that violence.”

Kate McInturff‘s In Closing Canada’s Gender Gap Year 2240 Here We Come! came out in April. The author looks at data from the World Economic Forum. That data measures the progress of the world’s nations in closing the gap between the participation of men and women in four areas: education, health, the economy, and politics. We do well in education and health; not so economic participation and opportunity.

The author argues that “the biggest drag on Canada’s score in this arena is its poor performance in increasing the percentage of women who make up our country’s legislators, sen­ior officials,
and managers."

I've take some facts from these two from these and put them in a chart which follows.
100,000         On average each year the number of Canadians who reported experiencing sexual violence to
                     the police. (a)
70 %              of incidents of spousal violence never reported. (b)

83 %              of victims of spousal violence who are female. ©

334               Combined cost in dollars per person per year of adult sexual assault and intimate   
                    partner violence is in Canada. (d)
262               Estimated cost in dollars of the use of illegal drugs per person per year. (d)

541               Estimated cost of smoking per person per year. (d)

2.77             Dollars per person in federal public spending to address violence against women in 2011-12 (d)

228              At the current rate of progress years that will be required to close Canada’s
                   gender gap i.e., inequality between men and women. (e)

25 %            of federal Parliament constituencies represented by women. (f)

17 %            of government caucus who are women. (f)

14.5 %         of seats on corporate boards occupied by women in Canada. (g)


(a) Sinha, Maire (2013). Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends. Statistics Canada.

(b) Sinha, Maire (2012). Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, 2010. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

(c) Sinha, Maire ed. (2013). Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends. Statistics Canada.

(d) The Gap in the Gender Gap: Violence Against
Women in Canada

(e) Kate McInturff ‘s In Closing Canada’s Gender Gap Year 2240 Here We Come

(f) In McInturf from Members of Parliament (Current).” Parliament of Canada.

(g) In McInturff 2011 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors. Toronto: Catalyst, 2012.

(h) In McInturff from Mackenzie, Hugh (2012). Canada’s CEO Elite 100. Toronto: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

August 4th in History

I wasn’t really aware of how important a date August 4 is in the history of Toronto and the planet.

Yes, I remember where I was when JFK was shot (Grade 9 English Class, Nelson High School). When Apollo 11 landed on moon I was working at the #2 Rod Mill at Stelco in Hamilton.  And I have a clear memory of September 9, 1956 when a six-year-old surreptitiously crawled down the back hallway, apparently undetected by unsuspecting parents, to watch Elvis gyrating on the Ed Sullivan show.

Now the Toronto Star has reminded me that August 4, 1983 was indeed an historic date that I should add to my list.  (

And, yes, I remember where I was that day.  I was there at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium when Dave Winfield “slew a gull.”  My memory is foggy though.  I guess I should have taken notes.

Along with about 36,000 others I was taking in the game from the cheap, but covered,  seats in left-centre field at what later became known as the Mistake-by-the Lake.   Burlington Post reporter Dennis Smith and I spent four dollars each for our seats (Could they really have been $4.00 dollars then?)  Between innings I had my 7x50 Dienstglas binoculars trained on this bird.  It had pretty much sitting in the same place in right-centre field for several innings.  As I looked at the gull through the binos it was smacked by a baseball. 
Someone sitting near us called out:  Winfield killed that poor pigeon.”

The “pigeon” was indeed dead.  A hapless ball boy was dispatched to cover and remove the dead bird.  While some booing began I, clearly identifying with that ball boy, flashed back to a similar incident in my past.   As a student steelworker I had been ordered by the foreman to “bury that poor effing cat” that had been found dead in Stelco’s #2 Rod Mill.  Poor ball boy, I empathized with him.

As I’ve suggested some of the details of this important day are lost to me.

The Star says the charge against Winfield, later dismissed, was “cruelty to animals.” I can’t say I remembered that specific but for some reason I do recall Winfield’s manager’s response to the charge:   
Said Billy Martin: “Cruelty to animals?  That’s the first time he’s hit the cut-off man all year.”

I remember too that the birding community was irked.  Peter Whalen of the Globe and Mail wrote about it. His column lamented the fact that the deceased bird was continuously referred to by the media and public as a “seagull.”    There is no such species, as any birder worth his feathers would tell you.  It was a ring billed gull or larus delawarensis, if you prefer.

I do have some memory of, then Metro Chairman, Paul Godfrey grovelling to the Americans over the incident. But didn’t that have to do with getting a NFL franchise for Toronto?

All these memories coming back to me……

Oh, and where were you on August 4, 1983?

Where they are now
Dennis Smith, who attended the game with this Blogger, is semi-retired and does some freelance work for the Burlington Post.  When reached today he declined comment on the incident as he was busy doing a story on a book written about another team that played in Toronto in the ‘Year of the Dead Bird.’  That team, the Toronto Argonauts, won the Grey Cup in 1983.

While the Toronto Blue Jays lost to the Yankees that August day they did go on to record their first winning season in 1983 winning 89 times against 73 losses.  This year they are on pace for a record of 74 wins and 88 loses.

The #2 Rod Mill was opened by the Steel Company of Canada (Stelco) in 1966.  Once North America’s largest manufacturer of hot rolled wire rods, it closed for good in 2004.  Stelco was purchased by US Steel in 2007.

In 2008, an alleged NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, began playing four down football in Toronto once a year.  Ticket prices per seat averaged $183 that first year.  

Bob Wood lives in Port Rowan Ontario and last attended a Blue Jays game when his son’s school choir was singing the national anthem at the Sky Dome.  That would be about twenty years ago.  He preferred the Mistake-by–the-Lake as a sporting venue even if they were cruel to animals there.