Wednesday, April 30, 2014

TTC Chief Andy Byford On Scarborough LRT Vs. Subway

...or, at least, an LRT running underground:
So when John Tory claims the current councils decision re a Scarborugh subway line cannot be reversed, TTC's CEO says he's wrong.

Some Good News For OLP

You won't find a better person to carry the flag.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

MPAC Turbines And Property Values Study Update

I almost wasn't going to write about Wind Concerns Ontario's "refutation" of MPAC's study re the effects of wind turbines on property values.  However, the most interesting bit of it got rehashed in John Speer's story on the study this morning:

[Jane Wilson, of Wind Concerns Ontario]... pointed to an appendix in the MPAC report containing bar charts showing the relationship between property values and proximity to wind turbines.  She said the charts show that properties five kilometres or more from wind turbines generally have higher sale prices and assessments than those within five kilometres of turbines.

Here's the chart in question:

Now, this doesn't tell us very There maybe a zillion possible reasons, geographic or otherwise, besides the presence of wind turbines (IWTs in the parlance of the study) that may be causing sale prices in areas 5 km or up from those turbines to be higher than those properties located within 1 km.  One thing to consider: the vast majority of properties used MPAC employed in its studies were in fact located more than 5 km from an IWT.  Look at this table from the study:
About 90% of the sample of properties were located further than 5 KM from one of the IWTs at issue. Now take a look a this map of the study area (red are sales within 1 KM; green beyond 5 KM):
And compare that with a map of the same part of Ontario:

I would submit that greater than 5 km from a IWT is likely to mean closer to an urban area of one size or another, and that much of the difference in median value could be due to this fact alone.   (In other words, properties closer to an IWT--which are usually set up, according to MPAC, on farms or vacant lots--are typically further out of town than properties further away from the IWT).

Or at least: I would suggest my explanation is as likely as the one given by WCO.

Friday, April 25, 2014

How Ezra Levant Wrecked The Harper Government's Energy Strategy

From Bloomberg:

Still, the prime minister was unhappy that depictions of Canada as a “dirty oil” nation were not being adequately confronted by the industry or his ministers. He had become enamored with an argument put forth by conservative commentator Ezra Levant in a book called “Ethical Oil.” It posited that many petro-nations used their oil riches to finance nefarious activities and subjugate their own citizens.


Canada, in the view of Levant, stood practically alone as an ethical producer. In a “mandate letter” setting forth his priorities, Harper instructed Oliver, his new Natural Resources Minister, to become a take-no-prisoners salesman for Canada’s greatest resource.

Wow, was that ever dumb.  You take a fellow who, insofar as he is known at all in Canada, is known as one of the nation's most hated men, as your exemplar of rational argument.  And you send your Natural Resources Minister to act like him: to yell at any BCer with reservations re your pipelines, to call them dirty hippies and allies of Al Qaeda, and etc.  And you expect that to work.

People often complain that progressives are out of touch with the concerns of "everyday people". But the Harper Gov. thought threats and belligerance would carry the day in B.C.  That's displays an incredible lack of understanding of the local zeitgeist. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Even Newer Ontario Poll: Does The NDP Have The GUTZZ?

If a provincial election were held tomorrow, the Progressive Conservatives under Tim Hudak would receive 37% support among decided voters (up 3 points), while Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals would receive 32% of the vote (up 1 point). Andrea Horwath and her NDP are very much in the hunt at 27% support (down 4 points), while some other party (including the Green Party) would receive 5% of the vote (up 1 point). Two in ten (20%) Ontarians remain undecided, which is a very high percentage.

Well, first thing to note is the NDP's marked lack of momentum.  Or more precisely, its surfeit of negative momentum.  It reminds me of this:

The second thing is that, should an election call come in the next month or so, the OLP is in way better position than in 2011.  Especially when you consider all the polls in their entirety.  Note that this Meta approach reveals the most evident trend even more clearly.  Andrea Horwath's NDP are currently sucking monkeys.  Discretion is the better part of valor, Andrea.  Think of that.  There's a time for retreat, and then there's a time to bust a shit-flyin'-out-yer-pantleg-running-away-like-crazy move.  Maybe now is that time, hmm?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You Can't Call It Momentum: Ontario Poll, Not Widely Circulated Yet

Their March poll had the OLP 3 up.  All margin of error stuff.  But note the NDP has lost a couple of points. Can't call that momentum.

Story here.

Oil By Rail Just Got More Expensive

An account of the feds new rail safety improvements can be found here.  From it:

The federal government wants a three-year phase-out or retrofit of older tank cars that are used to transport crude oil by rail, but will not implement a key TSB recommendation that rail companies conduct route planning when transporting dangerous goods.

As well, certain tankers that Raitt said have "no continuous reinforcement of their bottom shells" will be removed within 30 days, by ministerial order. There are 5,000 of these cars in North America, she said, but could not give a figure of how many are used in Canada.

Raitt was speaking at a press conference in Ottawa Wednesday to announce the changes.

There are 65,000 of the more robust Dot-111 cars in North America that must be phased out or retrofitted within three years if used in Canada, Raitt said, adding, "Officials have advised us three years is doable."  She said she couldn't calculate the cost of the retrofits, but told reporters, "industry will be footing the bill."

Some rough cost estimates:

Retrofitting older cars can cost more than $70,000 each, while new tank cars cost well over $100,000.

If industry is indeed footing the bill, and if we assume about 1/10th of the total number of cars are operating in Canada, then we're talking billions in expenses over the next couple of years.  Which is to say that a standard argument for Keystone XL (and other pipelines)--block them and the product will just get to its destination by other means--is not necessarily true. Drive up the cost of hauling Alberta bitumen by rail, and you can probably drive down the total amount that gets out of the tar sands by that route. It becomes less economical, that is,  to get oil to market on trains if you're not allowed to immolate small towns along the route.

Jonathon Chait On Keystone XL

I've said it before, environmentalists aren't focused on Obama regulations re existing power plants because their role in that fight is largely over.  They did their bit. They won.  Chait acknowledges  this vaguely.  He writes:

I’ve argued that the EPA regulations on existing power plants due to come out this summer are Obama’s chance to fulfill his original climate goals that seemed to slip away when the cap-and-trade bill died in Congress during his first term. That doesn’t mean Obama is destined to succeed. Several things have to go right. First, the regulations have to be good — 200 to 500 metric tons per year is obviously a huge range. Then they have to survive a legal challenge from conservatives.

Yeah but this part of the process is not particularly amenable to mass action of the kind Bill McKibbon and specialize in.  Its a job for regulators and lawyers, the last of which have already done a bang-up job defending the EPA's right to treat C02 as a pollutant from any number of conservative interest groups.  So why not focus attention on new victories--ie shutting down Keystone XL?  And should said regulations come out on the weak side, well I'm sure the environmental movement can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Anti-Wind Forces Vandalizing Property?

The OPP seems to think so.

And its worth noting this statement from Ontario Wind Resistance:

[Editors note: Before everyone jumps to the conclusion that it MUST have been an anti- wind protestor who did this, take a moment to remember other 'incidents' that may or may not have happened: fire in Haldimand, gun in Grey, threatening letters about stakes and farm machinery - all of these looked terrible in the media, pointed the finger squarely at us, and yet nobody was charged...? Really? It could very well be the PRO-wind who did this to make our resistance look bad in the media. Pardon my skepticism, but I'm tired of SLAPP suits and crap like this that are facades that the media falls for every time, to distract from the real destruction happening in our communities by the wind companies.]

So there you have it.  It would nice to get a straight up renunciation of violence from The Resistance, rather than a conspiracy theory. We shall see if they are willing to offer one.

PS.  I wrote about the incident in Gray here.

Update: Tom Adams, a generally speaking honorable man, comes through:

Target Excels... their profferance of electric scooters for disabled customers.  My wife, she of the broken ankle, who I call Gimpy, has been testing these scooters at various department/grocery stores.  The one from Target was promptly delivered, easy to control, and fast.  The one from Luongo's was slow to come and difficult to maneuver.  Luckily, they did not charge for the flowers my wife knocked over.  We have yet to sample the Walmart offering, but my wife suspects that, the aisles being so narrow there, it will be difficult to get her scooter up to full speed.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Keystone Delayed!!!

...until after the November U.S. mid-terms.  So probably into 2015!  Although I don't see this as much of a Cdn election issue.  It doesn't really matter what your position is on a decision that's up to the yanks to make.  Which is why I am willing to cut Justin Trudeau some slack on this issue.  What's far more important is where he ends up on the Trans Mountain line.

MPAC Report: Wind Turbines Have NO Negative Effect On Home Values

MPAC is the Municpal Property Assessment Corporation.  They determine what each piece of property in Ontario is worth so that the various local governments can hit you up for taxes.  Several years ago they were asked to do a study to determine what if any effect the placement of wind turbines had on the value of neighboring properties.  They released their report yesterday.  From its executive summary:

I'll give the thing a good read, and may write more on it later.  But this result should be unsurprising.  In almost every case where MPAC has been taken to the Assessment Review Board on this issue, the same determination has been made.  Wind turbines do not bring down the value of adjacent properties.  This one can serve as an example.  What the MPAC study shows is that, overall, their assessors know their job. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

ROFO Campaign Kick-Off Wee Bit Of A Clinker

Let the Globe's Ivor Tossell tell it:

There.  That's a lot easier than actually writing something.

Mark Your Calenders

Summertime and an election is in the air...engineered, perhaps, by an intransigent Andrea Horwath. Victory or Valhalla!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Ontario Poll

From Innovative Research.  Looks like the gas plant fiasco has run out of steam.  And its hard to suggest with numbers like these that Andrea Horwath's NDP has any kind of "momentum". Therefore: a budget deal in the works?  A Spring election averted?  That's how I'm starting to lean.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Because There's A Difference...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tom Adams, Jack Mintz, and Me On The Price Of Wind In Ontario

Tom Adams gets a lot of play as an expert on Ontario's energy system.  The fact that he is or was once associated with Lawrence Solomon's  group Energy Probe does not seem to put as many people off as I think it should.  For example, the well-known economist Dr. Jack Mintz has a number of ideas that he thinks would put Ontario back on track fiscally.  Cancelling the Feed In Tariffs (FIT) for wind and solar is one of them.  When I asked him why he favored this particular policy, he deferred to Tom Adams:
Now, I've been engaged in an extended argument with Tom about whether subsidies to wind/solar projects in Ontario have indeed "created high energy prices".  I've argued previously that his own statements cast doubt on this contention and, earlier in the week, perhaps in response to my persistent nagging, he restated his position:

 ....While it is true that direct wind and solar costs are today small relative to the amount of the total bill, the energy contribution of wind and solar together is much smaller still. In addition, wind and solar will rapidly grow in the near term, thereby directly driving rates.... 

 Based on data from the IESO on energy production in 2013 and from the OPA on costs contained here (at slide 48), in 2013 wind and solar generation provided 4.15% of Ontario’s total power generation but accounted for 10.65% of total generation cost (not including non-energy charges such as distribution and transmission) or about 6.7% of the total bill. The implications for consumers of this unfavourable ratio are exacerbated by the problem that almost none of the output from wind and solar is delivered during periods of peak usage. In the years 2014 and 2015, the OPA forecasts that wind and solar costs will increase by 130% to constitute 14% of the bill. No other bill component is rising so fast. 

OK.  So, without being too smirky about it, I was right.  The costs today are "small relative to the amount of the total bill".  Whatever you may want to say about the future (and I will get to that momentarily) subsidies to wind have not "created high energy prices" in Ontario.  So when Tom says otherwise, he is conflating the present costs of renewables with what he thinks future costs will be.  And, as for Jack Mintz, we can argue about the pros and cons of the FIT program for wind and solar all we want,  but we should be able to agree at this point that the amount of money saved by its elimination today would be tiny in the grand scheme.  So if Mr. Mintz is really concerned about policies which might get Ontario moving again, I would submit that he's fixated on the wrong target.

Now, lets talk about the future.  Its true that costs for wind and solar will more than double over the next couple of years (divide the generation cost for them on slide 48 of this into the total costs line on slide 47 and you get roughly a 130% increase by 2015, as Tom claims).

But how scandalous is this fact?  According to this chart, from slide 43 here, installed capacity for both energy sources will more than double during the same time period.

So that they should become a correspondingly larger proportion of the energy bill seems inevitable.
Once again, I'm not seeing a fiscal disaster of unmitigated proportions brought about by renewables's assuming a greater share of the province's energy mix.  If you buy twice as much as something, the bill should probably be about twice as much.

Indeed, catch Tom on the right day and he will admit this:
So where does that leave us?  Unless Tom wants to argue that the capacity to be made up by renewables over the next couple of years can go unfilled, abandoning them doesn't mean saving that portion of money going to pay for wind and solar, just whatever might be left over when you've filled the space left open by cancelling wind/solar projects with some other energy source with its own set of positive and negative qualities.  Plus whatever legal bills you incur.  Maybe a case can be made for doing that, and maybe not, but it certainly hasn't been made yet.  And, if I am reading slide 10 from here correctly...

...which is accompanied by this table: looks like over the next couple of years cost per unit of power generated for wind is going up a wee bit, cost for solar is going down a bit more quickly, after which time they both start going down at various speeds.

 Nothing here suggests that out-of-control hydro bill increases will be driven by either component.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Another BCLSB Exclusive: Story Refuted! John Tory Did NOT Take Weekend Off To Attend Masters Golf Tourney!

I'd heard old John had skipped out from sources I deemed reliable.  Now I feel cheapened and betrayed.

OLP Should Approve Some Nominations

The lesson from this story also applies here, I think.  The best spin I can put on the party's behavior is that they're dithering because they're not sure yet whether we'll be having a Spring election, and if not, maybe they have more time to find a "star" candidate.  Or, alternatively: maybe they're just grubbing around desperately for a "star" candidate, election timing aside.

Either way, not helpful behavior.  That is all.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Poor Tim Hudak is stinking out the joint!

While the Ontario NDP has picked up three points since July, nudging the Progressive Conservatives ever so gently down to third place, the overall picture remains largely stable. The Liberals are holding steady at 32 points, with the NDP sitting close behind at 29 points. At 27 points, the Progressive Conservative Party remains well within striking distance of the first-place Liberals.

Of course its all within the margin of error.  But that's boring.

The Top 5 Reasons Soccerworld Is Nothing Like Rob Ford

So T.O. mayoral candidate Rob Ford is giving a presser at Soccerworld today.  But somebody there is not a fan:

Now, if you click through the link you will see that Soccerworld has disappeared the original post.

They didn't erease the Google Cache version, however.  It can still be found here.  And, for your reading pleasure, an excerpt:

So, here’s the top 5 reasons Soccerworld is nothing like Rob Ford…

We love exercise:
At Soccerworld, we’re all about getting together with friends and enjoying some exercise. At city hall, Rob Ford is all about getting together with shady individuals to smash crack rocks. To each his own.

We’re reliable:
At Soccerworld, we consistently strive to deliver the best customer experience possible. At City Hall, Rob Ford tramples elderly women while reminding the world that he is extremely satisfied on the home front. Different strokes for different folks.

We like the people in our office:
At Soccerworld, we enjoy having people come to our facility to play and watch soccer games. At City Hall, Rob Ford wants all the major media outlets to jump off a bridge and disappear. If only they knew how to ask the right questions…

We don’t defy science like Rob Ford:
Rob Ford has done a lot of crazy things recently, but there’s one thing that is truly shocking - and it defies the laws of science. Rob Ford is over-weight…and he smokes crack. That doesn’t happen! I defy you to find another human who fits that criteria. As a gesture of goodwill, Rob Ford needs to submit his body to science when he dies. It may or may not contain the answers to all of life’s mysteries.

You knew it was coming… we don’t smoke crack:
Seriously, we don’t. This isn’t a situation where we’ll deny it repeatedly and then admit to it in five months. Grab a beer? Sure. Glass of wine? Why not. Hit the crack pipe? Too much… way, way too much.

Honestly, we like to party as much as the next guy, but this is ridiculous. The city of Toronto is an eight billion dollar a year company. How can someone run a business of this magnitude while smoking crack? Crack smokers can’t hold onto the most basic of jobs. Why? Because they are too busy eating chocolate and looking for more crack. When you smoke crack, it’s priority A, B, and C (so we’ve heard). Yet somehow Rob Ford has risen to prominence in Canada’s most populated city. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s kind of impressive.

Earlier we mentioned that Rob Ford defies science. We have now come to realize that Rob Ford also defies social science.

Take a bow Mayor Ford, you are truly one of a kind.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Brief Personal Note: Tendinitus Can Be Rather Painful

And therefore energy sapping.  Which is why there hasn't been much activity around here the past couple of days. When I am more mobile and alert, things should get back to normal.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Return Of Todd Standing

Todd Standing is back.   The guy who convinced CPC MP Mike Lake to present his infamous Save Bigfoot Petition! some years back, to much laughter and general merriment, is back in the news.  Its still all bullshit.  Bigfoot does not exist or, at least, if Bigfoot exists, Todd standing has not seen him, or filmed him, or heard his lonely mating cry.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

John Tory's New Policy Initiative: As Mayor, I Will Not Smoke Crack

...and he'll force union/civic action lobbyists to register with the city.  But that's it.   A code of conduct that rules out the mayor engaging in illegal activity. That's today's big policy roll-out.  Oh how low has the bar been set!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

New Ontario Poll

I've never heard of Oracle.  Their website is here.  Nick Kouvalis (John Tory's current and Rob Ford's former black arts guy) says they're legit:
As Mr. Cohn reports, this occured during the "latest unpleasantness", which suggests the news hasn't done much to move the numbers.  Tough on the Ontario NDP.  Toppling the government now would be like starting a baseball game down 10 runs (12 really).  And yet there are voices within the party insisting they come come with their shields, or on them.  Poor Ms. Horwath.  I mean that sincerely.

A 2nd Brief Note On Property Ownership (In Scarborough)

So I find there's a petition being circulated in my Condo building.  People  want to boot out the current property managers and hire somebody new.  This after already forcing the hiring and firing of four supers from the current company during the one year my wife and I have owned a unit here.

And I'm not entirely clear what their specific complaint is, other than that those folks who bought units near the first floor party room have discovered that party rooms are noisy, that people stagger out of them in the wee hours and puke in the hall, and that that's why your place cost a few $ less than a comparable 2-bedroom on seven.

My own biggest issue is trying to remember the name of the new company reps as they are shuffled in and out.  They all sound Sri Lankan.  Not that I am complaining.

In any case, I've been invited to a condo corp "open house" this Friday night, where residents get to confront the current BOC and yell obscenities at them.  My dear wife is staying over at her mom's that night, so I am might get all beer-ed up and attend, maybe join in the spirit of the thing and scream death threats at our new janitor.  There is a retiree who follows the young cleaning girls around all day to see if they're dusting the common areas to his satisfaction. They usually aren't, and apparently need a good spanking, and I'm sure he will give us a progress report on Friday.   A hobby is a hobby, I suppose.

So it's that or watch Pacific Rim for the 28th time.

PS: My first note on Property Ownership In Scarborough can be found here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

It's April 1st

April Fool's day.  Conduct yourself accordingly.  Which is to say, trust nothing that you read.  Even this.

That is all.