Thursday, March 21st Commentary
What do you do when your revenues are falling; the deficit is growing; the economy is slowing; roads and bridges are crumbling, highways are clogged; Canadians still can't find jobs in many parts of the country and employers have been screaming for years that they can't find skilled workers to fill the jobs that are vacant.
It's an ominious task for Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and we'll find out his new Economic Renewal Plan, what used to be called a budget, just after 4 this afternoon.
From your perspective, no income tax increases. You'll probably find imported hockey equipment for your kids cheaper. Flaherty wants to lower the tariffs on the equipment in a pilot project. If you spend more on the hockey gear and he can gain as much sales tax revenue as he loses on the tariffs, he might expand the program.
We know there is a plan in the hopper to improve the job skills training for Canadians, but it sounds like Flaherty will essentially tell the provinces that the billions we give your for jobs training is being wasted so we're going to reign it in and control it from Ottawa. Do you care who's running the show as long as job skills training improves and is more readily available?
There will be an infrastructure extension, $4.5-billion a year, but not on the same scale as the last budget. Flaherty will tweek the manufacturing sector which will bodes well for Ontario, but this will likely be an extension of the tax break to convince manufacturers to buy new machinery and equipment. The problem is: with the economy slowing, what company wants to take the chance.
We'll have all the budget details starting on the Live Drive with John Tory and up on out website.
Another rags-to-riches-to-rags story to tell you about.
And it comes from the Hamilton Spectator about Hamilton local Sharon Tirabassi.
9-years ago she hit it big on Lotto Super 7 - $10.5-million dolllars. At the time she lived in an apartment with her three kids, working part time as a personal care worker fresh off welfare.
Cash in hand from the Lotto office, Tirabassi went on a buying spree: first a new house in upscale Ancaster, 4 new vehicles including a Hummer and a Cadillac Escalade, decked out with turntables and sound mixers. She gave away a few millions to family bought several houses to rent out at a affordable rates.
These days Sharon Tirabassi has to run for the bus each morning to work as a personal support worker. She has six kids now and lives in a rented house in downtown Hamilton. She, like many, now lives paycheque to paycheque, but says she is used to living like this, it's the way it was before the jackpot.
Closing arguments begin today in the Richard Kaskhar murder trial, the guy who killed Toronto Police Sergeant Ryan Russell two years ago. Will you ever forget that huge funeral for Russell?
The people of Guelph will probably saying the same thing later today. This is the day Constable Jennifer Kovach will be buried, a 26-year old who was full of life, always had a smile. A week ago as she rushed in her cruiser to help another officer, the vehicle crossed the middle line and hit a bus.
Police officers from across the country, across the continent really will be there in Guelph this morning.
It was last summer, I think when I predicted that the elephants at the Toronto Zoo would end up spending another winter here, winters which, the experts say, are shortening the lives of the pachaderms.
And so it has come to pass, another winter gone. Elephants are still there and a new controversey is taking shape. How to get them to California to live out their days at the PAWS sanctuary.
A lot of doom and gloom reporting that the casino idea for downtown Toronto is dead because Premier Kathleen Wynne has insisted that Toronto get no special deal from Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. The so-called special deal was supposed to bring in anywhere from $50-million to $100-million dollars in hosting fees to City Hall.
Reporters and commentators seem to be leaping to conclusions fueled by naysayer city councillors such as Adam Vaughan.
I have known the chair of OLG, Paul Godfrey, professionally for 38 years. He is a master politician publicly and behind the scenes. He's been a political puppet master to many and he's had a strong run in the private sector so I wouldn't throw in the towel just yet.
All that Premier Kathleen Wynne has done is say that Toronto can't look like it has a special deal, which would leave Orillia, Niagara, and Windsor and the others sucking fumes. If I were Paul Godfrey I'd get my staff to devise a hosting fee formula which would apply to all. The bigger you are, the more dollars you'll get but on a percentage basis all the casinos are equal. That becomes politically saleable to Wynne in her desperate run to keep the Liberals in power.
Having said all that, even if the dollars look great, I don't think there are enough city councillors willing to bite, Rob Ford may have stars in his eyes at $100-million dollars, but a casino brings in more than money and it seems a lot city residents just don't want the hassle.