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Revenue Media 2008 article summary

posted on May 18, 2008

Donald Savoie on the crisis of Canadian government

By: Phillip Crawley
Published: MAY 17, 2008

""The chain of accountability, from voters to MP, from MP to prime minister and cabinet ministers, from ministers to the heads of government departments and agencies, and from senior civil servants to front-line managers to their employees, has broken down, University of Moncton professor and Order of Canada officer Donald Savoie wrote in his Saturday Globe essay The broken chain of answerability.

"No officer or officers of Parliament can repair it. They have neither the mandate nor the legitimacy to play more than a supporting role.

"The relationship among Parliament, the prime minister, ministers and public servants is in need of repair, and we are ill served by pretending that all is well."


Toronto Life: Preville on Politics

In Toronto, users pay—but for what?

By: Philip Preville
Published: February 13, 2008 by
Source: Toronto Life

Now that the hysteria over recreation fees has subsided—a 21 per cent increase for city programs reduced to eight per cent, which is still more than quadruple the inflation rate—perhaps we can now have a sanguine discussion about the philosophical ramifications of user fees.

Whether it’s for recreation or trash collection or anything else, the more the city charges for individual services, the more demanding residents will become, and the less sympathetic they will be when the city cries poor, as it so often does these days.

Here’s an example from personal experience. I am part of an adult shinny hockey league, and we pay for a permit to reserve one of the city’s outdoor rinks. Our fees went up by six per cent in 2007 and will rise by another eight per cent in 2008. Currently we pay a little over $100 every week for 90 minutes of ice time, which is eminently reasonable.

The catch is that, in exchange for the fees we pay, we receive…nothing. No guarantee of ice maintenance, no refunds for poorly maintained ice. Zip. Nada. Bupkis.


Globe and Mail: At Mayor Miller’s city hall, everybody gets to play, and no one takes the fall.

By: John Barber Published: February 9, 2008
Source: Globe And Mail

"Mayor David Miller got shirty when reporters finally pinned him down, after days of billowing confusion, to ask whether or not he was backing away from a plan to hike recreation fees. He replied that he objected to the premise underlying such nefarious inquiries.

And went on to explain how cancelling the fee hikes in a blind panic overnight was all part of the plan, which wasn’t; really his in the first place, but was most excellent nonetheless – and still is, despite being different now.

It was not his finest moment. It was not his finest week."


Globe And Mail: Miller seeks alternatives to big fee hikes

Amid outcry, mayor denies keeping plan secret to raise the price for ice time at city arenas

Published: FEBRUARY 7, 2008 AT 4:19 AM EST

"Mayor David Miller tried yesterday to defuse the controversy over proposed fee increases for ice time at city arenas, denying the plan was kept quiet and pledging to produce a more "reasonable" proposal by next week.

"It's not an issue of backing down. The budget committee is going to review this, and that's normal in the budget process," Mr. Miller told reporters yesterday, adding that he has asked city staff to come up with alternatives.

City officials were expected to meet today to map out how to make do with smaller increases than those proposed, which average 21.5 per cent for the fees charged to groups that rent city pools, fields, hockey rinks and other facilities. The options, which could include savings in other departments, will be presented to council's budget committee early next week.

The surprising increases, included in the city's draft budget, came to light only this week. Many councillors, including allies of Mr. Miller, were unaware of the plan until questions were raised on Monday, prompting accusations that the unpopular move was being deliberately kept quiet."


National Post: Fudging rink fees

Published: Thursday, February 07, 2008
Source: National Post

"When Mayor David Miller unveiled Toronto's $8.2-billion, allegedly balanced budget last week, he hid some of the details. One of them was discovered this past week, by city councillors who took the time to hack through the budgetary minutiae: a proposed 21.5% increase in permit fees to rent ice rinks and soccer fields. Apparently, hitting up Torontonians for another $2-million to play hockey and soccer wasn't something the city wanted to publicize.

Facing overwhelming opposition, David Miller said yesterday that such a massive fee increase will not be implemented (though a lesser increase reamins a possibility). But the city's confused, contradictory communications on this issue belie either disingenuousness or overwhelming incompetence.

City councillor Joe Mihevc, chairman of the recreation committee, was working hard to explain why no one thought such fee increases merited mention: "We didn't bury it," he said. "It was not time to speak to [the permit] issue." The reason is wasn't time? In Mr. Mihevc's own words, he didn't want to see "angry parents of hockey children" confusing the debate on city programs."


The Star: 21% rink fee hike rejected

By: Donovan Vincent, city hall bureau
Published: February 07, 2008
Source: The Star\\ To read the article in The Star

A controversial proposal that called for raising permit fees for city ice rinks, sports fields and pools by an average 21.5 per cent is off the table, with Toronto Mayor David Miller saying he doesn't support it.

"It's not my perspective, I don't think fees for the rinks should go up 21 per cent, and I'm sure the budget committee will address that,'' Miller told reporters yesterday.

"We were briefed about this issue shortly before the budget launch. I don't agree with this direction. I don't think members of the budget committee agree, and I think they are going to come in with some recommendations for some more moderate fee increases,'' the mayor said, declining to elaborate on how big the increase might be.

Miller was busy yesterday defending charges that he wasn't completely upfront on Jan. 28, when the city's 2008 operating budget was introduced. Last week, Miller hailed it as a balanced budget, making no mention of permit fee hikes.

The Star editorial: Mayor avoids 'details'

Published: February 07, 2008
Source: The Star To read the article in The Star

Mayor David Miller insists nothing was hidden from the public when he introduced Toronto's budget last week without mentioning an average 21.5 per cent jump in fees to use city ice rinks, sports fields and pools. He knew about those increases, but preferred to concentrate on "the big picture," Miller told reporters yesterday.

The proper forum for "details" – like recommended fee hikes hitting thousands of families across the city – lies elsewhere, he said. "The details of the budget are presented in budget committee. I think that's appropriate. That's the way it works."

In fact, that is not the way it works. When the city's $8.2 billion budget was formally presented by Miller on Jan. 28, the official news release contained plenty of details, including plans to install a stingray touch tank at the zoo and to mark the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

Globe And Mail: Toronto backpedals on fee hikes at city rinks, rec centres

Published: FEBRUARY 6, 2008 AT 2:42 AM EST

"politicians were in full retreat Tuesday amid vows to squelch dramatic recreation fee hikes proposed as part of this year's budget.

The backpedalling was sparked by a dawning realization that city staff had recommended jumps in permit fees for use of hockey rinks, pools and other facilities – on average 21.5 per cent – to staunch a chronic deficit in the cash-strapped recreation department.

At issue is $5.7-million in proposed new revenue, with $3.7-million from higher user fees on recreation programs (such as camps and swimming lessons) and $2-million from higher permit fees to rent ice rinks and soccer fields.

Proposed recreation program fee hikes were already under attack, but sharply higher permit fees were buried in background documents released last week when Mayor David Miller proudly unveiled the $8.2-billion operating budget – without the usual shortfall."


The Star: Fee hike threatens hockey group

By: Lois Kalchman
Published: February 06, 2008
Source: The Star

To read the article in the Star

The Scarborough Hockey Association will be "out of business" and the city will have to take over caring for 2,900 players if Toronto's proposed increases in ice rental costs go through, says its president John Kelloway.

The city revealed a budget on Monday that would see the cost of renting rinks rise 15 per cent to 34 per cent.

"The increase would put us out of business," Kelloway said yesterday, explaining it would add an additional $134,000 to the cost of running the 44-year-old association.

"Within 48 hours after they make it official, I will be calling a meeting of our seven organizations. If I read my presidents right from our meeting (Monday) night, we will be handing over the responsibility of our 2,100 house league and 800 competitive players to the city. The City of Toronto will be in the hockey business with all its expenses and paper work."

The Scarborough association and other regional groups like it are affiliates of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, a nearly 100-year-old organization that oversees local minor hockey. They are independently managed bodies with separate budgets and boards.

The Star: City hall misstep on sports fees

Published: February 06, 2008
Source: The Star
To read the article in The Star

Toronto's municipal leaders were busy distancing themselves yesterday from a staff recommendation urging an average 21.5 per cent hike in fees to use city rinks, fields, pools and recreation programs. And no wonder. Thousands of families risk being hit by this cash grab.

What remains unclear is why these startling increases received no mention when the budget was introduced last week.

It's not as if the public weren't interested. The impact of proposed permit fee increases would be felt from baseball diamonds to soccer fields, and by participants in children's swimming classes and adult fitness programs. A double-digit jump in the already high cost of ice time was especially troubling for hockey players and parents.

David Miller was unavailable yesterday, but spokesperson Stuart Green described the mayor as being "uncomfortable with some of the numbers." Changes are expected. "There will be some room to manoeuvre," Green said. "Frankly, there has to be on this one."

Providing recreational opportunities to young and old is a fundamental function of a progressive city. Such programs aren't luxuries; they are important to our well-being, especially with obesity approaching epidemic proportions in Canada.

The Star: Ice, pool rental fees to soar

By: Donovan Vincent, Vanessa Lu
City Hall Bureau
Published: February 05, 2008
Source: The Star

To read the article in The Star

Fees to rent city-owned soccer fields, community pools and ice rinks in Toronto would rise as much as 34 per cent under proposed increases to the city's 2008 operating budget.

The changes affect permit fees and would mean that, for instance, the cost to rent a city arena for a child's birthday party for one hour would cost $330.96 – an increase of $83.79. That arena rental is the biggest increase at 34 per cent but competitive youth hockey leagues would see an 18 per cent increase and community youth house hockey leagues a 10 per cent increase for ice time. When the increases would take effect is not yet clear.

It would be an extra cost the city's young hockey players can hardly afford, said Greater Toronto Hockey League president John Gardner. Even now, he said, the league must charge a $5 per person admission rate for competitive hockey games – including players and parents – just to cover ice rates.

Globe And Mail: Councillors blindsided by city's rate hike for rinks

Published: FEBRUARY 5, 2008 AT 3:48 AM EST

"— A plan by city staff to raise recreation fees - including an 18.5-per-cent jump in the cost of ice time for youth and adult hockey - has surprised Toronto councillors and shocked local sports groups.

Yesterday, on the eve of a big public turnout expected today to comment on the $8.2-billion budget, councillors appeared to be caught off guard by a staff move to jack up permit fees to rent city facilities. Some said they grasped the impact of the proposal only by a close reading of background documents on the weekend, after the official budget launch.

The permit fee proposal is for an average increase of 21.5 per cent for city-owned ice rinks, sports fields and other facilities.

"It will be an issue for a broad number of councillors, including myself," said budget chief Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East). "We have some work to do there.""


Inside Toronto: Proposed fee hikes
Hockey executive urges parents to speak out

Published: February 5, 2008 06:06 PM
By: David Nickle
To read the article in the Inside Toronto

Community Development and Recreation Committee Chair Joe Mihevc knew about a recommendation to raise $2 million from a 21.5 per cent hike in permit fees for pools, sports fields and rinks two weeks ago, but chose to keep it quiet to avoid muddying public consultation on a new recreation fee policy.

“We didn’t want, especially as we were going into public consultation with the architecture of the plan, to have that debate confused by the angry parents of hockey children,” said Mihevc. “So that’s why we separated the two issues.”

Mihevc made the comments to reporters on Tuesday, the day after Toronto Councillors discovered the fee increases in one of two binders filled with 2008 budget documents. The budget has been public for about a week, but it wasn’t until councillors sat down for their first public meeting with staff Monday that the plan to increase permit fees came to light. Read More>>

National Post: Councillors hint rec-fee hikes may not go ahead

By: Rob Roberts
Published :February 05, 2008, 5:20 PM
Source: National Post To read the article in the National Post

"Several key city councillors have lined up to kill or roll back a controversial proposal buried in the 2008 budget to hike hourly rental fees for ice rinks, pools and sports fields by an average of 21.5%.

As opposition to the plan mushroomed today, Shelley Carroll, the budget chief, and Joe Mihevc, chairman of the recreation committee, scrambled to explain why the public was not told about the proposed permit increases when the $8.2-billion budget was unfurled last week or when the city unveiled a policy Jan. 7 to increase fees for registered programs like yoga and gymnastics classes."

Now Magazine: City In The Park


Published: DECEMBER 13 - 19, 2007
Source: Now Magazine

I wonder what starts people down the paths of their fascinations – city planners, for instance. Children’s blocks? A romantic encounter in an urban square?

My first exposure to planning came unexpectedly. Maybe I was protesting too soon after September 11. And maybe I was mouthier six years ago. A constable was searching my knapsack. But soon he and I were agreeing that policing couldn't make us safe.

Unless you design neighbourhoods so people can care for each other, he said, the police will be forever doing mop-up. His superior silently poured the juice from my lunch onto the street to illustrate the point.

I never expected to write about that in the context of municipal budgets. But as Toronto becomes more cash-strapped, less planned and more heavily policed, one wonders about connections.

The Budget Committee will seek deputations in January, and the confusion of worthy causes is matched by the lack of budgetary flexibility - at least when it comes to current ways of doing things.

Two key facts: most money goes for staff, and councillors feel bound by the fact that most of it ends up in two services that are hard to trim: police and the TTC. What to do? The solution may not be cutting or spending, but restructuring.


Content last modified on November 08, 2008, at 08:22 PM EST