Monthly Archives: March 2019

Boston Pizza Restaurant Burned To the Ground – Lethbridge

Flames poured out of the Boston Pizza along Mayor Magrath Drive.

Fire crews arrived on scene JUST BEFORE 5 AM to the building completely engulfed in flames

“There was already fire coming through the roof of the building. Our crews decided to go defensive so they didn’t send anybody inside because of the involvement of the inside of the structure; it was too dangerous so we surrounded the structure with 3 stations, about 15 fire fighters, says Deputy Fire Chief Dana Terry.

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People who witnessed the blaze couldn’t believe how fast it went up in flames.

Staff from neighboring businesses came out to see how bad the damage was.

Molly Lapp works across the street at Gold’s Gym and couldn’t believe what she saw.

“I saw a lot of foam and it looked really smoky, it didn’t notice it much at first but then as I pulled in over here a little more I saw a lot of foam, fire trucks and people standing around watching.”

The Boston Pizza was built back in 2002 and the owners say they employed about 50 people. Luckily there was no one inside when the fire broke out.

“No injuries reported no, the building is obviously destroyed, there was nothing we could do with it,” says Terry.

Crews are working to recover a few items from inside the burned restaurant, and are pulling down walls to make it safe for fire investigators.

It’s still not known where the fire originated inside the restaurant.

“No idea what the cause is at this time. We are going to see if we can get our investigators once the fire is out and it’s safe to go inside. We will see if we can find something to give us some indication as to what started the fire,” says Terry.

Now all that’s left of the family restaurant is charred remains and patrons say they hope the owners can rebuild as soon as possible.

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City council approves $1 million in EPS funding for prisoner transfer – Edmonton

EDMONTON- City council has voted to increase the Edmonton Police Service’s (EPS) budget by $1 million this year, to cover the cost of transferring prisoners to the new Edmonton Remand Centre.

“Given that the new Remand Centre, which many of you may have had a tour of, is substantially further out, we have to transfer our prisoners… from our facility downtown, to take them out to the Remand Centre, and that’s going to cause us to have more cost to do that particular transfer,” Mayor Stephen Mandel said Wednesday.

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EPS was initially denied the funding in this year’s budget, because at the time Mandel said he believed inmate transportation was a provincial or federal responsibility.

“I misunderstood that it was transferring prisoners… from the courthouse up to the Remand Centre,” Mandel said.

However, Mandel said after further discussion, he realized the funding was being requested for the transfer of prisoners from EPS headquarters to the Remand Centre.

“We have a legal responsibility to transfer our prisoners to the Remand Centre,” Mandel added.

The money will come out of the city’s Financial Stabilization Reserve (FSR).

The EPS says if Sheriffs are hired to perform prisoner tranfers, it will cost about $800,000.

“If it’s the EPS officers who are performing this duty, the cost goes up to about $1 million,” added EPS Spokesperson Patrycia Thenu.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Police Chief Rod Knecht said EPS has “created a temporary contingency of nine fully-trained police officers to employ these duties.”

“Our mid to long-term strategy is to contract these duties to a third party, as soon as possible, which will be a less costly option,” Knecht said.

Knecht says the money will go towards purchasing specialty vans and other equipment needed to perform the prisoner tranfers, as well as pay for wages.

Mandel says the funding will be a short-term need, and EPS will have an easier time funding prisoner transfers in the future.

“It’s one of those things that’s going to stop when we build our police station on the north end of the city, because that will be the main transfer position then, and they’ll be right across the street. So, it’s a short-term need.”

The new $580-million facility, located on 127th Street just north of Anthony Henday Drive, opens next month.

Transferring prisoners who are in the current Remand Centre is the responsibility of the Solicitor General’s Office.

With files from Shane Jones. 

Follow @CaleyRamsay

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Ontario’s all-day kindergarten posing problems for some parents – Toronto

TORONTO – Class sizes and school board boundary changes due to the province’s implementation of all-day kindergarten has some north Toronto parents gearing up for a fight by launching a lawn sign campaign.

“Our kids would be separated from their friends,” said parent Frank Vecchiarelli.

Vecchiarelli is worried that “if” the boundaries change, young children will be forced onto buses to get to schools in other neighbourhoods.

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Many parents say they bought real estate in this community so their children could attend John Wanless Junior Public School.

“Fear and concern,” said Vecchiarelli. “Those are the biggest things, nobody wants to see borders change.”

Another concern is that some all-day kindergarten classes are swelling upwards of 35 students, more than the average of 26 touted by the province.

The Toronto District School Board superintendent for the area declined to comment saying it was too early in the process.

Full day kindergarten is expected to be fully implemented in Ontario by September 2014.

Since 2010, it’s gradually been rolled into schools but boards in urban centres and some argue it’s facing incredible challenges.

“There’s going to be some growing pains and some boards struggle to the final implementation,” said Ontario Public School Boards’ Association spokesperson Michael Barrett.

Barret says some boards will have to come up with creative solutions.

“Whether they consolidate, change some boundaries, change some of the programming but they’re looking at all the options,” said Barrett.

Ontario’s education minister Liz Sandals says she understands parents’ concerns about boundary changes but adjustments takes time to phase in.

“If you’ve got a good community and some of you go here and some of you there then you’ll have two good communities instead of one,” said Sandals.

The answer is little comfort for parents who must wait for the school board’s final vote on the issue.

“I think the fact the community is so strong and people recognizing this community needs to act rather than just sit back is making a difference as well,” said Vecchiarelli
.

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Budget tax perks may be on hold this year

Tax credits, loved by vote-thirsty governments – none more perhaps than the Conservatives – but resented by economists rankled by measures they deem sloppy and ineffective, are again in focus ahead of Thursday’s federal budget announcement.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has wielded tax credits with zeal in recent years to curry favour with voters and stimulate spending among consumers and businesses in successive budgets.

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The swath cut, while targeted, has been wide. Volunteer firefighters, family caregivers and parents with kids in organized sports have all been showered with special exemptions.

But with economic growth slowing and a strict mandate to balance the government’s books by 2015, the generosity taxpayers have enjoyed may be coming to an end, observers and experts say.

“We’re not expecting any credits,” Gregory Thomas, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said.

“What we’re keeping a keen eye on is the business side. They’re talking about closing up [corporate tax] loopholes,” he said by phone from Ottawa this week.

“They don’t have a lot of room. It’s not like they have a lot of revenues available to introduce new programs or expand existing ones,” said Jason Clemens, senior vice-president and tax policy expert at the Fraser Institute, a fiscally right-leaning think tank.

“The reality is, they’ve got one goal in the next year and half and that’s to balance the budget,” he said from Vancouver.

For many economists and policy watchers, it would be welcome relief.

Hundreds of millions worth of credits and special exemptions have been doled out in recent years as part of an “economic action” plan that’s provided tax breaks for targeted groups.

A Children’s Tax Credit for parents who sign their kids up to soccer or hockey or tennis costs $115 million annually in lost revenue.

The Age Credit, an exemption for seniors, has been expanded to include retirees with individual incomes topping $76,500. The annual tally in lost tax revenue: $460 million in 2011.

A third, the Public Transit Tax Credit, introduced by Flaherty in part to spur higher use of public systems in congested cities like Toronto, costs $150 million.

Yet most economists say the measures rarely hit their mark while creating layers of additional costs and complexity in the tax code.

“One of the real problems with these things is that the people who are spending the money anyway get the credit,” Tom Wilson, professor emeritus of economics at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, said. “For those people, the government is simply giving them money.”

“There’s almost no change to behaviour,” the Fraser Institute’s Clemens said. “I didn’t rush out to put my son in hockey or daughter in tennis because I got a $75 tax credit.”

A self-review of the federal government’s public transit credit released last fall by Finance Canada indeed said results were inconclusive about whether the measure actually spurred more use of public transit.

Experts say the real aim of so-called “boutique” tax breaks is to grab headlines and win votes.

Most economists would rather see that money spent on infrastructure or left in taxpayers’ pockets to begin with through lower across-the-board taxes.

David Macdonald with the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives isn’t as quick to condemn the idea of credits being used to boost specific spending.

However he echoed others including Clemens at the Fraser Institute in that “tax expenditures” should receive comparable scrutiny to what government spending programs do.

“Tax expenditures in general get very little scrutiny compared to general spending. They could bear a lot more,” he said.

“There’s a lot of money that goes out the door on these things,” Macdonald added.

“Maybe it’s not considered as spending the same way that actual spending is, even though it has the same impact from a fiscal perspective.”

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Interactive map: North York and Etobicoke have Toronto’s highest water main break rates

Thursday morning, a water main break on Gerrard Street in Toronto’s east end created a sinkhole over two metres deep that trapped a taxi cab. This past weekend, another water main break shut down the subway at Union Station.

While most of Toronto’s water main breaks are not this dramatic or destructive, they’re anything but rare.

On an average winter’s day, the city can count on having about seven or eight water main breaks, according to the Manager of Toronto Water, Lou Di Gironimo.

During a particularly cold winter, he said, that number can go up to 15 or 20 breaks per day.

The map below shows the number of water main breaks in Toronto between 2001 and 2011, broken down by ward.

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Global News obtained records of the date and location of every water main break in the City of Toronto from January 1, 1990 to December 31, 2011. The records show that breaks are frequent – 1115 in the year 2011 alone, and that they are concentrated within a few areas of the city.

Ward 2, Etobicoke North, holds the title of Toronto’s wettest ward, with 699 breaks between 1990 and 2011. Water main breaks are most frequent in the Etobicoke and North York areas of the city and relatively infrequent towards the center of the city.

So what does it take to break a water main? A few things. Cold weather helps. After a few weeks of sub-zero temperatures, said Di Gironimo, frost penetrates the ground, making it hard. As trucks and other large vehicles drive overhead, their vibrations are felt deeper in the frozen earth, shaking the pipes.

This helps explain why breaks are most frequent in winter.

Explaining why some neighbourhoods have more blown pipes than others is a little more complex.

The type of pipe matters quite a bit, said Di Gironimo. “Depending on the thickness of the pipe material, the type of metal used, the manufacturing technology used, you may end up with a pipe that’s a little more brittle than other ones.”

Downtown Toronto is filled with hundred-year old cast iron pipes, that as long as they remain undisturbed, are still functional and intact.

But in the 1950s and early 1960s, said Di Gironimo, thin-walled ductile iron pipes were being placed into Toronto’s new suburbs. There, they ran into problems.

“We have clay soils in our suburbs. Clay soils are much more acidic,” he said. “When you have different metals in acidic soils, you get an electrical reaction, kind of like a battery. And you get corrosion.”

So, in the west and north of the city, weak pipes were buried in acidic soil, which causes them to corrode faster than elsewhere – leading to much more frequent water main breaks. Downtown, thicker pipes were put into sandy soil, so they have lasted a century.

Fixing a water main isn’t cheap. An average break on a 6-inch water main on a residential street costs the city between $5000-8000, mostly to repair the roadway that the leak has damaged, said Di Gironimo. Toronto Water’s annual water main emergency repair budget is between $5-6 million per year.

The city is working on preventative maintenance to make existing pipes last longer, and replacing kilometers of pipes that need it.

It seems to be working. Water main breaks have generally been trending downward over the last few years, from a high of 2174 in 1994 to 1115 in 2011.

“Over the past seven years, we’ve raised water rates nine per cent every year, and we plan to do it a couple more years, all of it to generate an annual revenue to do more capital,” said Di Gironimo. Revenue from water rates goes toward repairing and replacing water mains, as well as sewer and water treatment infrastructure.

“In the city, we estimate that we have a backlog of about $1.6 billion in our water-wastewater infrastructure. So we have to catch up on that. Once we do catch up on that, and that’s going to take probably about 8 to 10 years, we then have to invest enough every year to deal with what is the natural aging cycle.”

“This infrastructure has got to last us. As long as we live in this city, we’ve got to keep replacing it.”

Chart: Number of water main breaks in Toronto 1990-2011

Source: Freedom of information request, City of Toronto

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