Week in Review: April 30, 2017

1. Toronto has a new Fire Chief. After scouring the planet to find a replacement for former Chief Jim Sales, they eventually settled on the guy they had acting in the job all along: Matthew Pegg. Pegg has served in Toronto’s Fire Department for over 25 years, so he’s been completely and entirely shaped and conditioned by its way of doing things over the ages. His number one priority? Changing the way Toronto’s Fire Service does things. He’s supposed to deliver on the Toronto Fire Services Transformation Plan. Important to remember? The last Chief was run out of town for trying to transform Toronto’s anachronistic fire service. Good luck with that, Chief. Expect more unnecessary fire stations, more unnecessary firemen and much higher Fire Service budgets for taxpayers to deal with.

2. If you think the United Nations is a bit of a joke, here’s some news that will absolutely not change your mind. Last week, the UN General Assembly elected Saudi Arabia to the UN Commission on the Status of Women – a body whose mandate is to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. In case there are two Saudi Arabias, I’ll be clear: the Saudi Arabia I’m talking about, is the one that forbids women and girls from traveling, conducting official business, opening a bank account, getting married, taking a job, or undergoing many medical procedures without permission from their male guardian. The one that bans women outright from driving. That’s the Saudi Arabia that is now deciding how to best empower women worldwide.

3. The Ontario government last week quietly approved hefty pay hikes for senior executives at government-owned agencies including OPG and Metrolinx. The new interim CEO at Metrolinx now makes $450,000 a year – up from the $367,000 his permanent predecessor made after years in the role. The CEO of OPG now has his salary capped at a middling $3.8 million. Why are these increased necessary? According to Minister Steven Del Duca, the province may lose talented leaders if they don’t pay enough. How many have you lost so far, Minister?

4. The Toronto Star this week had a beautiful artist’s vision of what Woodbine will look like after a billion-dollar casino pumps cash into a fantastic new development there. Except, none of that will happen. First off, Kathleen Wynne hates casinos so she’s not doing them any favours. Secondly, her government is so desperate for cash, they’ve been exceptionally greedy in writing the terms of reference for a casino deal there. The result? There’s simply no way any casino at Woodbine could make enough money to justify a billion-dollar investment. What we’re going to see there is a big box full of slot machines and a few card tables. Pretty much what’s already there. And there will be no money for anything else. Certainly not for Toronto.

5. Everybody – including Toronto Mayor John Tory – is upset the province didn’t budget any money for social housing in Toronto. Everywhere you turn, you’ll hear people talking about the 181,000 people on a waiting list to get into Toronto Community Housing. A word to the wise, however: that number (181,000) is completely bogus. It’s fictional. It’s made up. It’s not real. It’s fake. And, it always has been. I’ve heard it directly from people in charge at TCHC. You’ve heard it, indirectly, through the news: Remember last month when the mayor was upset about 1,600 vacant TCHC units? Remember how TCHC said it was having a hard time filling those units? Remember how they said they’d approached 19,000 people at the top of the waiting list – and how they couldn’t reach more than 14,000 of them? That’s because they don’t exist. The list is B.S. Everybody who’s ever asked about housing is on that list. Their names are added every time they ask. The same person could be on the list 20 times. Even if he’s been dead for 20 years. The truth is, no one knows how many people really are waiting for housing. Somebody should, maybe, find out. Just a thought.

6. When the federal government legalized medically-assisted suicide last year, it specifically exempted people under 18 or people of any age with mental health conditions, and people requesting it in advance – for example people with Alzheimer’s who don’t want to die now, but want to make the request now – while they can still think for themselves – to take effect when they’re no longer mentally able. The Supreme Court has already ruled that these people also have a right to assisted death and the government promised to figure out how to do that within 18 months. Well, the Trudeau government has just appointed a Toronto doctor named Harvey Schipper to chair a working group of experts to recommend a solution. Curiously, Schipper is a well-known, highly vocal opponent of assisted suicide. In fact, he wrote in the Globe and Mail that assisted suicide was akin to the holocaust. He says the arguments in favor or assisted death are the same ones the Nazi’s used to justify genocide. I’m sure he’ll deliver a fair and reasonable recommendation.

HERO OF THE WEEK

Toronto Transit Commission employee J.P. Attard was at work in the Dundas St. subway station last Wednesday when a man hopped down off the platform and onto the tracks. Attard was notified and he ran to the scene where he took control of the situation, spoke with the man and sat down on the edge of the platform, legs hanging over the tracks. He spoke calmly with the distressed man, telling him to “take a deep breath, I’m here with you. We’re going to get through this.” He told the man to look him in the eyes and hold onto him, to say “I am strong.” When the man repeated the words, Attard asked everyone on the platform to repeat the phrase together with them: “I am strong.” They all did.

Both Attard, and the subway passengers on the platform that day renew our faith in the humanity of our neighbours. They saw a man in trouble and acted, together, to help him. They’re truly heroes.

STUPID OF THE WEEK

Canada’s Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan visited India last week and gave a speech to a gathering of security industry professionals in New Delhi, in which he took credit as the mastermind of one of the Afghan war’s biggest military campaigns. behind in which he called himself the “architect” of the biggest battle of the 12 year campaign there.

According to the National Post, Sajjan told the audience “on my first deployment to Kandahar in 2006, I was the architect of Operation Medusa where we removed 1,500 Taliban fighters off the battlefield… and I was proudly on the main assault.”

In a word: Bullshit. So says numerous military officers who were there. It’s inconceivable that Sajjan, a reservist officer employed as a liaison officer would develop any operational plans, nor be involved in an “assault.”

Sajjan has since apologized, part of which reads ”

“I made a mistake in describing my role. I wish to retract that description and apologize for it. I am truly sorry.”

Sorry, Minister. You didn’t “make a mistake.” You lied. A bald-face lie intended to brush your own ego, burnish your own reputation in the land of your ancestors. That you would utter such an atrocious lie is an insult to all who serve in uniform. That you would think your words in India wouldn’t be heard back in Canada, was utterly stupid.

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