Parks Canada buildings in worse shape than claimed: Internal report
Parks Canada’s crumbling forts, historical houses and other heritage structures are in much poorer shape than the agency estimates.
That’s the finding of an independent consultant asked to review a comprehensive inventory created by Parks Canada to determine how much repair work is needed for its varied infrastructure across the country.
The agency’s 2012 inventory found that 47 per cent of all its assets — from dams, bridges and roads, to old stone forts — are in poor or very poor condition.
But Opus International Consultants Ltd. said its own sampling of hundreds of assets pushed that overall level to 53 per cent. And so-called cultural assets — the historical houses, fortifications, locks and other heritage gems from Canada’s past — are in even worse shape.
Opus estimates 61 per cent of these 2,000 structures are in poor or very poor shape, compared with Parks Canada’s more rosy assessment of just 33 per cent.
“Results indicate that at the portfolio level the value of (Parks Canada) assets in poor condition has increased from condition reported in the 2012 National Asset Review,” says the Opus report, which cost taxpayers $316,000.
A copy of the Dec. 16, 2013, document was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
Parks Canada has come under fire in recent years for weak management of its real-estate portfolio, which includes historic canals and archeological sites, in addition to campgrounds, access roads and visitor centres. (Source: CBC News)
Flaherty picks middle of Olympics for date of federal budget
The Conservative government will deliver an earlier-than-normal February budget in an effort to recapture the policy agenda and set the stage for a good-news pre-election budget in 2015.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced Monday afternoon that he will deliver his 2014 budget on Tuesday, Feb. 11, as he continued to play down expectations that it will include major new spending or tax cuts. The timing means the budget will be tabled during the Sochi Olympic Games, leading to opposition criticism that the Conservatives are trying to hide a “do-nothing” budget.
Conservatives stress that a low-key budget this year helps the government move toward its primary political goal, which is to announce a surplus for 2015 that is big enough to accommodate new spending and tax cuts ahead of the next election.
“There will be room for more money in the Government of Canada in the next several years because we’ve been careful,” Mr. Flaherty told reporters earlier in the day Monday. “We’ll have room to move on various issues.”
The Finance Minister repeated his claim that there is “no doubt” the budget will return to balance in the 2015-16 fiscal year and declined to answer when asked whether a surplus might appear one year early. Some private-sector economists have said that a balanced budget in 2014-15 is possible, depending on how the economy performs.
Over the past year, the Conservative government has made several attempts to reset its agenda and move attention away from the continuing Senate scandal. Moves such as a cabinet shuffle last July, a Throne Speech in October and a major trade deal with the European Union all failed to divert the public’s attention. (Source: Globe & Mail)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Canada Pension Plan reform stalls without Ottawa’s support
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty insists economy too fragile for premium increases
Ontario is ready to go ahead with pension reform on its own after Ottawa blocked a consensus on Canada Pension Plan reform.
At a news conference following a meeting with his provincial counterparts in Meech Lake, Que., federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said now is not the time to move on the pension issue . Flaherty said there was a “frank discussion” about CPP changes, but he believes the economy is too fragile.
“We believe that CPP payroll taxes can hurt the economy and distract from what truly matters for all Canadians — keeping our economy strong and our finances in a strong fiscal footing is the plan of this government,” Flaherty said.
“Now is the time for fiscal discipline. And that is why all governments must focus on encouraging job growth and getting their fiscal houses in order. Now is not a time for CPP payroll tax increases,” Flaherty said.
Two hours later, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa issued a press release saying the province would implement a made-in-Ontario solution to the pension conundrum.
“Given today’s unfortunate stall tactic by the federal government, we will move forward to implement a made-in-Ontario alternative to protect Ontario workers in their retirement,” Sousa said.
He laid blame for the lack of consensus squarely at Flaherty’s door, saying the federal minister was stalling what could have been an agreement among the provinces.
“Doing nothing is not a solution to this problem and will not give Ontarians the security they need to retire. We have to act and that’s what Ontario will do,” Sousa said. (Source: CBC News)
Rob Ford’s comments ‘disappointing’ to Toronto Argonauts
The ongoing saga involving Toronto Mayor Rob Ford spilled over its political banks into the sports world on Thursday.
After his contentious showdown with council on Wednesday, Ford chose to switch up his workday wardrobe Thursday and wore his Toronto Argonauts sweater, complete with “Mayor Ford” on the nameplate and the No. 12, the year the Argos hosted and won the Grey Cup.
But while wearing the sweater to promote this weekend’s CFL East final against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ford made comments on media reports coming from the second round of revelations coming from Toronto Police’s Information To Obtain document. More portions of the document, which were filed as part of the case against Ford’s friend and driver Alexander Lisi, were released by the courts on Wednesday night. Ford’s comments included a profane response to allegations he made sexually explicit comments to a former female staffer, for which he later apologized.
With the Argos preparing on the field Thursday afternoon, preparing for the East Division final — a game against their historic rivals, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats — the team’s media relations officials were pacing the sidelines, tied to their mobile telephones. Questions flooded in from all manners of outlets, but not many relating to football.
The team released a statement expressing their displeasure at being dragged into the the Mayor’s theatre of the absurd.
At the end of Ford’s comments, in which he said he would take legal action against former staffers for their statements made to police, Ford dropped in an Argos game promotion before returning to his dismissal of the information in the ITO.
“And the next thing, I wanna call Mayor [Bob] Bratina in Hamilton and tell him we’re going to spank their little Tiger-Cats.” (Source: National Post)
Both versions of this cartoon attracted quite a few likes, shares and comments on Facebook here, and here. It was also mentioned in a piece written in The Toronto Star, Friday, November 15, 2013 by Tech Reporter Raju Mudhar