Monthly Archives:August 2019

The City of Vancouver’s decision to part ways with their city manager Dr. Penny Ballem is coming at a hefty price — more than $500,000 in severance pay.

Ballem, who has been city manager since Vision Vancouver took power in 2008, was terminated after a vote by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and city council. According to the announcement released today by the mayor’s office, the $556,000 in severance pay is in accordance with Ballem’s contract.

WATCH: At a press conference Tuesday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced the termination of city manager Dr Penny Ballem

“Dr. Penny Ballem has been an exceptional city manager, driving transformative change across the organization over the past seven years and demonstrating outstanding commitment to the City of Vancouver and all of its residents,” said Robertson.

“As we look toward making continued progress on Vancouver’s most significant priorities, Council has decided that our city’s toughest challenges will benefit from a new approach and a fresh perspective.

Ballem helped oversee the 2010 Winter Olympics, the financial turnaround of the Olympic Village and the recent regulation of illegal marijuana dispensaries.

WATCH: Why is Penny Ballem out of a job?

The city said they will conduct an international search for a new city manager as well as ask for a compensation review for the position.

In the interim, Sadhu Johnston will serve as acting city manager. Sadhu has been the deputy city manager for six years.

Robertson said, “with an experienced staff team and new leadership in the City of Vancouver administration, I am very confident that we can expand Vancouver’s success as one of the greenest, most innovative, and most inclusive cities in the world.”

~ with files from Canadian Press

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TORONTO — The Toronto Transit Commission’s budget committee is debating a possible fare hike for transit riders.

The fare increase would be used to make up a $95 million shortfall in the 2016 budget.

“The shortfall – basically put in simple terms – is the difference between what we know the cost would look like going forward as we add more service to accommodate evermore rising customer numbers and the amount of subsidy we think we are going to get,” said TTC CEO Andy Byford.

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“The key point to note is that that gap does not factor in –right now- any subsidy  or any fare increase.”

READ MORE: TTC welcomes its 30 billionth customer at Davisville Station

The report lists various fare scenarios, one of which would see a possible 25-cent increase on cash fares.

“No one wants fare increases. I would love to present a budget that doesn’t require a fare increase,” Byford said.

“But realistically, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Councillor Shelley Carroll says fare hikes should be a multi-year approach, as suggested by commissioners.

“It’s safe to say that we are going to have a fare increase…it should be a minimum amount of an increase but it should happen every year for a few years.”

“People often think that if you add riders to the system that you get more money, but in fact, the city puts in more money into each ride than the rider does, despite what they are putting in the fare box,” she added

The TTC last hiked fares in 2010,  going to from $3 per ride from $2.75.

“We have added the services that the mayor thought it would be important to put back and we now have to pay for them in this year,” Carroll said.

TTC Riders, an advocacy group for Toronto commuters released a statement today saying “riders are sick of paying even more for sardine-level overcrowding, breakdowns, and spotty service.”

“We need fair funding from all levels of government so we can get great service and lower fares,” the statement said.

©2015

TORONTO — City staff have recommended not proceeding with the privatization of garbage collection east of Yonge Street.

Currently, garbage collection is privatized west of Yonge in districts one and two and east of Yonge, waste collection is provided in house by city staff.

The recommendations in the agenda said that “the best value and lowest risk to the City of Toronto at this time is to continue with the current model.”

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READ MORE: Tory won’t commit to contracting out garbage, despite campaign pledge

It also said that providing services as a mix of in-house and private sector services mitigates financial risk and provides flexibility to adapt to changes.

The recommendations will be brought before the Public Works and Infrastructure committee on Sept. 22.

“Privatizing garbage west of Yonge Street has been a huge success to the tune of $11 million a year in savings for tax payers,” said Ward 25 Councillor Jaye Robinson.

“It’s something I would definitely like to see east of Yonge Street and as the chair of Public Works I have a lot of questions for this report.”

Robinson said she will be “drilling down” into the report ahead of next week’s meeting, but added that she’s “not really comfortable with the numbers I am seeing.”

“I’m not comfortable with the recommendations I’m seeing. For me, we need to outsource east of Yonge to maximize – not only customer service – but also maximize cost savings,” she said.

“That’s going to be my goal to look at how we can deliver this service for the least cost  The mayor did talk about –throughout the whole election period – garbage was topical in many of the debates and he did make that  part of his key plank of his platform that he would pursue outsourcing.”

Ward 3 Councillor Stephen Holyday said that as the city gets closer to the end of the year contract negotiations cost becomes another major issue.

“We don’t know what wages would be. I’m starting to wonder if it’s time to send this report to the penalty box for a few months and … get some questions asked before we revisit a decision,” he said.

“The average person doesn’t worry about who collects their garbage. They want to come home and find their bin empty However it effects the city’s operations tremendously, it effects how we plan our workforce and it effects the bottom line.”

In the 2014 municipal election, Mayor John Tory touted privatizing garbage collection but now said he is assessing the report.

“The Mayor remains committed to providing Toronto residents the best service at the lowest cost,” said spokeswoman Amanda Galbraith.

“There are a number of unanswered questions in the report including private sector bid costs, which have been assumed and are not tested, and the impact, if any, [of] new collective bargaining agreements could have on the city’s cost figures. He looks forward to seeing the report considered at Committee.”

Robinson said she believes Tory is still committed to pursuing the idea and that councillors will spend the next week examining the issues surrounding cost.

“If there is a way to save money and deliver the service as effectively  from the public sector as the private, we need to pursue that,” she said.

“It’s been a huge success west of Yonge. Let’s do it across the city.”

©2015

HALIFAX – A local organization with players in the tourism and hospitality industries says a developer is ready to buy and fix Exhibition Park.

“I can tell you that this is a very reputable company of proven performance,” said Jim Gourlay, executive director of the Exposition Managers Society of Nova Scotia.

The identity of the developer, a local company, isn’t being revealed yet.

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The property, which requires millions of dollars of repairs and upgrades, is set to close in November. Subsequently, at least ten major events will not be held next year, including the Halifax International Boat Show, and Halifax RV Show.

“To make a major decision like this without understanding the economic ramifications is very concerning,” said Darleen Grant Fiander, Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia and member of the group, of the closure.

If Exhibition Park doesn’t reopen, it would lead to a local economic net loss of $12 million, according to the group.

The mystery developer, said to be able to get the repairs and upgrades completed cheaper than the government would be able to, has offered a bid at market value for a contract lasting at least eight years. Two letters about the plan have been sent to the provincial government.

“We are currently considering proposals for the property, and evaluation of those proposals is underway,” said Toby Koffman, Media Relations Advisor for Department of Business, adding that two proposals have been submitted so far.

There is no firm date set for when the decision will be made.

“We encourage all interested parties to get involved in the discussion, and a decision will be made in the best interest of Nova Scotians,” said Koffman.

The group would help the developer with administration and marketing, with the hope of doubling the number of events that can be held at the property.

“We’re not saying we’re going to do anything miraculous – simply put Halifax where it should be,” said Gourlay, who is also the president of Saltscapes Publishing Limited.

The group said it wants the government to make a decision within a week, and that if there is any hope for exhibition park to open by next spring, repairs need to be done before winter.

MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said Tuesday that embassy personnel in Egypt have identified six more bodies as those of Mexican citizens killed in air attack by Egyptian police and military forces.

The deaths of two Mexicans had earlier been confirmed, bringing the total number of Mexicans killed to eight.

Six other Mexicans were wounded in the attack. The department said Tuesday their condition is stable. There were 14 or 15 Mexicans who were travelling on a desert oasis tour at the time.

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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi on Tuesday called Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to offer his condolences and reiterate that Egypt will provide all necessary medical assistance for the injured, presidency spokesman Alaa Youssef said in a statement in Cairo.

READ MORE: Egyptian forces mistakenly fire on desert safari, killing 12

Egyptian forces hunting militants in the country’s western desert mistakenly opened fire on several vehicles used by Mexican tourists, killing 12 people on Sunday.

The other dead are believed to be Egyptians.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said Tuesday evening the government is investigating “the precise details of this tragedy,” adding that “the chain of events is still confusing and unclear.”

“We still do not know if the convoy was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if some error was involved,” Shukri said.

Egyptian officials initially said on Monday the tourists did not have permission to be in the area.

He didn’t mention any new information on the death toll or casualties from the incident.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu called the aerial attack “an unjustified aggression.”

The sister of one of the Mexican tourists killed said her brother, Luis Barajas Fernandez, 49, had been visiting Egypt for the first time.

“He had never gone to Egypt before,” said Ana Barajas, who lives in the northern Mexico state of Tamaulipas. “It was for pleasure,” she said of the trip.

The married 49-year-old had worked as a salesman in hospital and medical supplies.

“It is an unparalleled hurt,” she said of his death, adding the Mexican government was going to take care of the response to her brother’s death, and the repatriation of his remains.

Two other Mexican dead have been identified by name as Maria de Lourdes Fernandez Rubio and Rafael Bejarano.

The incident, among the deadliest involving tourists in Egypt, comes as the country is trying to revive its vital tourism industry after the turmoil following the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt has mainly been battling insurgents in the northern Sinai Peninsula, on the other side of the country, where Islamic militants stepped up attacks on security forces after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 amid massive protests against his rule.

But in recent months, militants loyal to the Islamic State group have carried out a series of attacks in more central parts of the country, including the bombing of the Italian Consulate in Cairo and the kidnapping and beheading of a Croatian oil surveyor who was working in the capital.

Egyptian officials initially claimed the safari convoy had wandered into a restricted area. The tour company involved “did not have permits and did not inform authorities,” Rasha Azazi, a spokeswoman for the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, earlier told The Associated Press, adding that any trips to that area must be cleared by officials. “They were not supposed to be there,” she said, without providing further information about the incident.

Egypt’s western desert has long been a popular safari destination, with tourists flocking to its verdant oases, unique rock formations and white sand dunes.

In recent years, however, it has been the subject of security concerns because of the long, porous border with Libya. Egypt has been flooded with weapons, mostly from Libya, since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and plunged that country into turmoil.

Egyptian security forces frequently target smugglers in the western desert, and in July 2014, gunmen armed with rocket-propelled grenades attacked a border guard post, killing 21 troops.

©2015