Alan Tonks may have been tired and emotional

In a heated session on June 2, Parliament debated the costs of the G8 and G20 summit being held in Toronto. Alan Tonks asked a rather strange question of the PC defenseman Phil McColeman.

McColeman had given his justification of the costs of the summits. He said, in short, that the costs were the price of being on the world stage and within the realm of reason.

After a preamble, Tonks asked the following:

I know it is difficult to ask a question based on intelligence, but could the member share any intelligence that would be of the proportion that he has described with respect to nuclear threats, and so on, such that Canadians could say, God bless the government, that it is taking the appropriate initiative in keeping with that degree of possibility?

It is not at all clear what Tonks meant.

Tonks may have been asking whether the G8 and G20 summits are threatened by nuclear attack, and whether the $1B expense is to protect us against rogue nukes. At no point in the debate, though, had anyone else mentioned such a horrible possibility.

McColeman had said that the G8 would discussing how to reduce the chance of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons. Sensibly, he did not mention the possibility that the G8 would be the target for such an attack—doing so would inspire panic. Perhaps, then, Tonks meant to ask: Is Canada ensuring that terrorists don’t ever get nuclear weapons? That would match McColeman’s passing remark but not the rest of the discussion (why the G8 is costing so much). Interpreted thus, Tonks would be would be both wildly off topic and asking odd, slow-pitch questions. Would McColeman really answer “Nope. We’re not worried at all about nuclear-armed terrorists!”?

It is hard to see what Tonks could have been getting at. If he wanted to know whether the $1B was being spent on preventing nuclear attacks at the G8, he could have asked directly—if irresponsibly. The answer, however, is obvious: of course (some of ) it is. If he was interested in knowing whether the government worries about nuclear attacks on Canada, he should seen that such a question hardly suits his role in the official opposition. The question implies that Liberals are either unconcerned about nuclear annihilation or hopelessly naive about the duties of government.

McColeman had no idea what Tonks was talking about either. In what seems like a pointed rejoinder, he said:

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member’s question is what are the comparable costs. The one example that I would point out to the hon. member is, in Japan, when it hosted the G8, the costs were $1.7 billion just to hold the G8 in Japan.

Normally, avoiding the question is unbecoming. In this case, it was quite decent of McColeman to leave Tonks’ dignity intact.

Manhunt for Weston murderer

Police are trying to find Patrick Kirk Barrett, who is wanted for the murder of Lucita Charles. He is believed to have fled to Montreal.

Charles lived just outside Weston and was stabbed to death Monday night. She had a 7-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. Her son is in the custody of Children’s Services.

Patrick Kirk Barrett
Patrick Kirk Barrett

A murder on the edge of Weston

A young woman was murdered yesterday at 15 Harding Ave, just south of Jane and Lawrence.

The woman, who has not yet been publicly identified, was in her 20s or 30s, and CBC Radio reports that she was the mother of a 6-year-old autistic boy. She may not have been a documented immigrant.

The victim was found stabbed yesterday and died at the scene. The Star reports that a suspect is sought.


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Alan Tonks’ Salary

There is an uproar on Parliament Hill about transparency. It’s not the Afghan detainee scandal: it’s a screaming match about MP’s expenses.

Almost no MPs want their expenses to be transparent, but all parties want to appear transparent. The Conservatives are calling for more debate about MP’s expenditures, but won’t release the actual data. The Liberals this week released their member’s expenses to show the Conservatives up—never mind that the data are exactly the same as were released in the annual House of Commons report—and exactly as paltry.

Alan Tonks

According to the report, Alan Tonks’ office costs taxpayers about $575,000 a year. His office expenditures are $423,035, and the base salary for an MP is $155,400.

Tonks’ expenses do not compare favourably with his colleagues. The Prime Minister’s expenses are only 60% of Tonks’. Stephane Dion’s expenses are 20% less.

Tonks’ leader, Michael Ignatieff, spends only 13% more than Tonks does, as does Gilles Duceppe, the BQ leader. Jack Layton spends 30% more.

Constituents and taxpayers should be concerned with the expenses of a back-bench MP who spends like a leader. Unfortunately, until MPs reveal more detail, we won’t know whether Tonks’ expenditures were justified. His secrecy does not lend confidence.

Other Liberal MPs have released their expenses. Tonks should do the same. He has little to lose and much to gain.

My data, in OpenOffice format: Tonks’ expenses

Loan-shop crackdown starting

The Etobicoke-York Community Council voted this week to inspect many (but not all) of the payday loan shops in Weston.

Payday loan shops are very common in Weston, but their social value is dubious. Stores such as Money Mart and Cash Money offer small loans at high interest rates for short durations, among other services. Perhaps because of the low average income in Weston, payday loan storefronts are very common.

Council has made several recommendations to put pressure on the loan shops, though direct curbs seem out of reach. The city will ask the province to investigate what can be done to reduce “problems” such stores cause. Council will also investigate whether they can be licenced by the city.

City staff will be asked to bear down on the operations. They are being directed to address “the issues arising from this type of business”.

Finally, licencing staff will also investigate payday loan shops along Weston Road and Jane Street. It is not clear what, if anything, staff will be able to do against the loan shops—or, in fact, if anything should be done until the “problems” and “issues” are more clearly defined.

Nunziata makes a controversial choice

This is slightly old news.

Frances Nunziata, city councillor for Weston,  has endorsed Rob Ford for mayor. She said at his campaign launch, “I know that Rob will make a great mayor. Council is out of control — spend, spend, spend”.

Rob Ford
Rob Ford

Ford is, to say the least, a controversial candidate. He is well known for two things: blustering and being ready to help his constituents. Despite his reputation, he is doing very well in the polls. He is now in 2nd place, after Smitherman.

Ford has been a rash on City Hall’s bum for many years and is greatly disliked by many councillors for his right-wing views and outspoken criticism of city spending. Generally speaking, Ford is extremely (if incoherently) socially and fiscally conservative. His platform includes reducing spending at City Hall by reducing the size and spending of council; improving “customer service”; eliminating the car and land transfer tax: and making the TTC an essential service.

Councillor Ford has said many preposterous things in the past that may yet come back to haunt him, and he has reserved unusual criticism for bicyclists, the homeless, and minorities.

I can’t support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.”

At Maple Leafs game in 2006: “Are you some kind of right-wing commie bastard? Do you want your little wife to go over to Iran and get raped and shot?”

Those Oriental people work like dogs. They work their hearts out … that’s why they’re successful in life. … I’m telling you, Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over, because there’s no excuses for them. They’re hard, hard workers.”

To homeless people: “Do you have a job, sir? I’ll give you a newspaper to find a job, like everyone else has to do between 9 and 5.” In 2005, Ford told a homeless protestor, “I’m working. Why don’t you get a job?”

Junior Kindergarten information night at Weston PS

Weston Public opened its doors to its youngest class yesterday. The school hosted an information night for its incoming class of junior kindergarten students—and their parents.

Next year’s kindergarten class is an important one: it is the first year that Ontario will have full-day kindergarten. Both local elementary schools, Weston Public and HJ Alexander, will be part of the pilot project.

The information night started with an open house, and students and parents were allowed to tour the building. At 7:30, the principal and some faculty spoke to the assembly.

Weston Public is, according to Principal Baglione, “the best little school in the city”. Ms Di Vincenzo emphasized the educational philosophy of the school, and how the kindergarten class will be play-based and fun. “Kindergarten children learn through play”.

While the mood was upbeat, there were two portions of the assembly that were disappointing to parents. Baglione said that the before- and after-care, which was supposed to be affordable, would cost between $25 and $35 a day. He said that interest in the program had diminished considerably once the price had been announced. Baglione also said that classes would have a cap of 26 students—6 more than the cap in grades 1 through 5. The kindergarten classrooms, though, will have two faculty: one teacher and one early-childhood educator. “Your little ones will be well taken care of”, he said.