Victoriaville: The Future

The City of Thunder Bay is looking for input into what the citizens would like to see happen to this space. Since its inception it has polarized the citizens and for many is the reason that the Fort William side of town has gone into a decline. Much has changed since the days of old and the city itself has changed. The question still remains as to what do we do with the Victoriaville Mall and how do we move forward?

I think we need to take a step back and come to an agreement that no matter what decision we make whether to tear it down or to keep it up; the area will not boom like people seem to predict. Thunder Bay is a much different place then when the mall was created and we as a society have changed as well. This idea that if we tear it down everyone will come rushing back into the area is a fallacy and it just wont happen. Fort William downtown still struggles with a bad reputation, high crime rates and lack of a real draw. I know personally that if they tear down the Victoriaville Mall; I will still have no draw to go there.

The decision on what to do with this half filled building that has struggled to bring in business and customers is an extremely challenging one. On one hand if we keep the building as such then we run deficits and spend millions for repairs to a facility we may not need. Yet, if we tear it down the question becomes the next steps for the space, the people who lose their businesses and employment. The larger picture must also be considered in this decision. The decision to invest millions in the waterfront redevelopment was not done on its own; it was done with the implications it would help the surrounding area and the investment would incite other investment.

The City of Thunder Bay needs to look to a much larger plan then simply the space that Victoriaville occupies and create a plan to bring life into this area again. This means dealing with issues such as public intoxication, businesses supporting potentially illegal or antisocial actions and beautifying the area. We have a gentlemen in Mr. Habib who has taken the time to present his vision for the area in order to bring life back to this part of town. It is going to take a vision on a grander scale to address the issues facing this part of town and it is a multifaceted one. Looking to modern urban design principles, the realities of the city and its population along with a multitude of potential tax policies will be important.

The City of Thunder Bay cannot take this on their own and they need to introduce private partners to the plan. Residential development or having people live in the area is an important part of improving the area and bringing in other investments. Council can work with developers to create multi use facilities that build on each others success. There are a number of buildings that can be torn down to introduce these new spaces for developers to establish themselves. Toronto is one community that succeeds because they build on each other. Bottoms floors are rented out to things that the community would need like grocery stores, gyms and cafe’s while upstairs are residential areas, the people who work and use these areas. Thunder Bay needs to look to this vision beyond just the Fort William area but specifically for the plan of the Victoriaville Mall how to best create mutli-use facilities.

To the idea of what to do with the Victoriaville mall; I really hope that while the city gets input from the citizens as a whole it places more emphasis on those who work, live, and play in these areas. As someone who hardly uses this area my opinion should have less value then someone who would lose a business, employment or a recreation space due to this decision. I hope that the city looks to a pedestrian facility where people can come, sit and relax while taking in the area. A space for vendors to provide food, meals and allow for a community connection. I hope that the city takes into account aboriginal features as this area does have a larger Aboriginal population.

I guess my thoughts on this topic are that we cannot expect a miracle to happen either way. We need too look beyond this area and make the effective investments that improve life and the users of the space should have more say then those from Neebing, McIntrye or even the north core who haven’t used the space in 30 years.

Mr. Habib vision: http://visitfortwilliam.ca/NeighbourhoodNews/Avisionfordowntown.aspx

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Thunder Bay in 40 years

Its hard to truly say what Thunder Bay will look like in 40 years and what we can expect of not only our city but our leadership. It’s likely that city council be more gender equal and we will see more representation of minority groups like First Nations; both of which would be positive advances from where we are today. Yet, there are also concerning factors for Thunder Bay that cannot be ignored and today’s leaders need to start laying the groundwork for. It’s often tough to look beyond that 4 year stretch and make decisions that will have little to no impact on your term in council today but these decisions need to be made none the less. Thunder Bay is continually faced with tough decisions when it comes to budget seasons and the future holds no different. Infrastructure deficits, pressures on emergency services and more all play a big factor in how Thunder Bay functions as a city and how it operates. For Northwestern Ontario and Thunder Bay they face the additional challenge of out migration and economic issues associated with the geography of the territory. As city council struggles today to make ends meet I believe its time that we start to look at what exactly are our core responsibilities as a municipality, how we can improve our city through urban design and how we can address the future challenges.

Thunder Bay stands at 108,359 people according to the 2011 census a decrease of 0.7% over the previous census in 2006. It has a population density of 330.1 per square kilometer and has a median age of 43.3 years old. While I have lived in southern Ontario for the last 3 years, I have seen a lot of similarities between Thunder Bay and Barrie but there are distinct differences between the two in the statistics. Barrie has a population of 135,711 per 2011, an increase of 5.7% over 2006, its population density is 5.3 times higher then Thunder Bay at 1,753.10 and its average age is 37 or 6.3 years younger then Thunder Bay. It’s right to wonder what these numbers mean for both communities but the simplest answer is that Barrie will have a much easier time attracting economic development to its community, supporting that development with services like transit and providing quality of life to its residents. Thunder Bay on the other hand due to its sheer size, its aging and declining population will be forced to make significant cuts to services necessary for its citizens.

If we were to look at the data for population for the City of Thunder Bay it has decreased at a range of roughly 4% between 1996 and 2011. This mean at a population base of 109,000 people the City of Thunder Bay would lose 4,360 people every census. Given that 40 year span and 8 censuses between now and then if the city continued to lose at that rate it would lose 34,880 people or in 2056 be a population center for just under 73,500 people. Factors such as increasing median average age will also play a factor in decreasing populations and the large size of older individuals (65+) in the City of Thunder Bay will also affect the numbers in a negative way. Items such as Aboriginal influx into Thunder Bay will have a positive correlation on this total population as Aboriginal people are one of the fastest growing and youngest demographics in Canada.

For the city to potentially lose 34,000 people would be devastating to the city’s tax base and to the services that rely on them. Many services would either be diminished or drastically cut that they would be a shell of their original self. In a 60 year period Detroit lost 64% of its population and it is suffering from poverty, addictions, crime and corruption and its services have been slashed and burned. To lose almost 30% of your population would be just as drastic and have huge implications to the city and its residents. So the time to act is now to prepare ourselves for the future and make sure our feet are firmly planted going forward. We continue to feel the effects of the Orval Santa’s regime where their 0% tax increases were loved by the populous but are being felt on the roads, parks and under our feet in the sewers. Thunder Bay needs to look for new ways to address these issues and make some tough decisions.

I truly believe that if we want to support the programs we have today that we are going to have to let things go.

Councilor Ch’ng has been an effective fighter for more infrastructure money and we need to see others get on board with this. We cannot let our infrastructure get further behind because every day we do we fight the interest clock and changing values/ideals. Infrastructure investments are beneficial to those surrounding them and they provide an economic boost to the city. Infrastructure like parks, roads, disaster prevention all play an important role in improving the life that citizens of Thunder Bay have come to enjoy. Making smart investments with our infrastructure resources is also an important factor which means reducing the sprawl of Thunder Bay and investing in the cores/established areas. Thunder Bay needs to continue to infill its established lands and build up; it cannot let residence slow down or fight density. Making sure we are investing the proper amount into this field will held to address unknowns like the gas tax refund cities get. What does transit and infrastructure funding look like if the gas tax is gone or severely reduced? If we find a way to pay for these items now we can provide the flexibility for a lot of other items going forward.

That being said there are operations within the city that need to be done by the private industry to get these costs lowered or eliminated from the city’s books. We need to look at centralizing city operations and the number of individuals that we employ with the corporation. Its much tougher given that Thunder Bay is very reliant on the 3 levels of government for a vast majority of its larger employment centers but if the statistics are right we need to make these changes now. If we can find ways to reduce the organization in scope and size starting at the top we can avoid the issues now. We can avoid the nightmare scenario of Detroit where someone comes in and makes the decisions to cut or we have to do it whether we like it or not. Thunder Bay needs to have administration in my eyes sit down and really plan out the future beyond its long term projections and we need to make these decisions matter to the future. Using the seventh generation principle of the Iroquois “applied to relationships – every decision should result in sustainable relationships seven generations in the future.” The decisions council and people make today affect tomorrow and well down the line.

Time for a convenience tax

Convenience is like a drug; once we have access to it then its simply not manageable to return to the ways of old. While not all convenience is bad; when we put consumerism with it then we create a system of purchase and dump which is having truly negative effects on our planet. As I picked up garbage that people had so easily discarded along public areas it prompted me to think of how we as a society have become so careless about the items we purchase and how we discard things. We have promoted the mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle but focused mainly on recycling and limited the reduce and reuse portion of the three. Thousands of everyday consumer items from disposable razors, coffee cups, plastic bottles, plastic bags etc are purchased in bulk only to be shortly thrown away. While we have gotten better in recycling some of these items many end up in landfills or in our parks, oceans and ecosystems. We need to find ways to reduce the amount of disposable items that people purchase and find ways to pushing people to reusable items. We cannot afford to continue to purchase and dispose of these items so willingly and without disregard. Education on the effects of disposables are one important means of reducing the use of the these items going forward but education can only go so far. How many people purchase items like a coffee from your local establishment without ever thinking of using a reusable cup. I am not going to play innocent in these games I have as well been a part of the issue when it comes to purchase disposable items and simply tossing them or recycling them without thoughts for what happens after. So that leaves us in the conundrum of how do we change the habits of people to reduce the use of disposable items in a more meaningful and direct way.

In my mind the only true way is to hit people in the pocket book. When oil prices skyrocketed the number of smaller CUV’s, small cars, electric cars increased to almost a 25% of the total vehicle purchases for that quarter. When there was a decrease in the price of oil the demand for these vehicles declined (Fuels Institute) but we see that the cost of an item creates a change in the way that people react and act. We have to think that this principle can be applied to these items that we use on a daily basis that are thrown away and pollute our environment. If we can create a decline in the amount of disposable items in our consumer chain then we can have drastic effects on the environment and our own personal health.

In Ontario, we pay for the price of the item and then the HST. For certain items like electronics there are added charges for the future recycling of that item based on their size and scale. This helps to promote the end game recycling but doesn’t cool the initial demand. In order for us to reduce the amount of disposable items in our society we need to look at reducing the demand which means a cost up front and an end game cost.

For example:

Razor: $12.40 (initial cost) with heads that last roughly a month. Replacement heads are $2.00 + HST
Disposable Razor: $2.50 (initial cost) last 2-3 uses. Pack of 6-10 in a package.

Most individuals from a cost perspective would likely choose the disposable because there is a much larger cost associated with the reusable razor compared to the disposable. If we introduce a per unit tax or a convenience tax into the mix then it could increase the cost and level the playing field. A tax of 5% per unit or in the case of a 10 unit razor 0.0125 per unit means that the cost jumps from $2.50 to $2.625. This initial tax which would be used to reduce the cost associated with the purchase of the item would be tailored to help reduce the number of units in the public hands and create additional cost which could deter individuals from make these short term purchases. Like the electronics tax there would need to be additional funds needed to help municipalities clean their facilities from these items, properly and effectively recycle these items and dispose of them. We need funds to make this happen so another 5% per unit for a total of 10% per unit could be added to the price of purchase to help deter individuals. Meaning that initial cost of $2.50 at the end of the purchase is now $2.75 which could be changed and upgraded to determine the rate and pace of change within the population the government was trying to enforce. That $0.25 on “EPA estimates of 2 billion razors are thrown away each year” (Groundswell) (US figures) or roughly about $250 Million in new tax revenue and $250 million to cities and states for recycling, cleaning and waste reduction from disposable razors alone.

But disposable razors aren’t the only one we need to look at. There are thousands of items which a tax could apply to that helps to reduce the waste of disposable items. One of these most common items is a coffee cup and while the cup itself is recyclable the lid isn’t. Thousands of these cups end up tossed on the side of the road, in garbage cans and everywhere but where they should be. For most people their morning starts with a Tim Horton’s Coffee or Tea (Now I don’t associate blame with Tim Horton’s for their cups being on the ground that’s the responsibility of the individual) its on average $2.00 and it comes in that well known container. Inside are multiple different options for your morning coffee which are reusable, effective and have a long life. On top of that Tim Horton’s gives you 10 cents off to use one of their reusable cups to purchase your coffee. I myself purchase a large which comes to $1.90 and typically don’t ask for the 0.10 cents back with a reuseable cup that means I could be reducing my own cost. If I give away that 0.20 cents every time I make a purchase it means every 10 days I could be getting a free coffee.

Coffee: $1.90
Reuseable Cup: $3.50

After 17 trips to Tim Horton’s I have made up for that cost of owning the reusable mug. I have taken 17 disposable containers out of the system which wont be littered, discarded or end up in a landfill. Plus the mug helps to keep the coffee warmer for longer among many other benefits. But what if we were to add the cost associated with a convenience tax to the purchase of that coffee.

Coffee: $1.90 + 10% = $0.19 or $2.09 a unit. Tim Horton’s pour roughly 2 billion coffee’s annually with a majority of these being in the disposable containers which means that $190 million in new revenue and $190 million to municipalities and cities for recycling programs could be generated annually from these cups alone.

A convenience tax between these 2 items alone would add $880 million into the tax revenues and the funding allocations for cleaning, recycling, landfills of cities across the country.

There are so many more items that we could add to this list that would provide billions of dollars in new revenue for governments, introduce recycling programs for communities who don’t have one and expand others. Our communities would be cleaner and we as a society would be much happier in this cleaner environment. We need to start making changes to the way we live and the way we purchase items in order to protect the communities we have.

References:

http://www.fuelsinstitute.org/researcharticles/fuel-prices-auto-sales.pdf
http://groundswell.org/2-billion-tossed-per-year-whats-the-most-wasteful-bathroom-product/

Top 5 things for going to university

1. Your experience depends on what you put in it.

– If you sit in your room and don’t try to experience different people, cultures and ideas then your going to not have nearly as much fun as someone who does. That being said if you spend all your time partying and drinking your academic career might be short lived.

2. Stay in residence

– The rules suck, the place gets boring after a while but I don’t regret staying in residence at all. I met a lot of my close friends there, had a lot of fun and many people who didn’t go regret not having that experience. If you can afford it (its expensive) I recommend you do so.

3. Time Management

– You are going to want to do 10,000 things at once and it can’t happen. You need to pick and choose what your going to do and how your going to do it. You also need to do this with the academic side of school. Your paper will probably be better if you write it slowly and weeks in advance or you could do an all nighter. Up to you.

4. Know your limits with drugs and alcohol.

– Not recommending you do anything illegal. Your going to drink and some of the people you know will probably delve into other things but you need to know yourself in order to avoid trips to the hospital. Start slow and find your limits.

5. Respect the people around you.

– Try to make the environment around you healthy by surrounding yourself with people you like and who like you. If you got a bad feeling about someone its time to part ways they can be replaced. If someones to intoxicated to stand they’re to intoxicated to agree to anything.

Have fun out there.

Terrorist Attacks in Europe

Again, we have tragic news of the terrorist attacks ongoing in Belgium. Multiple attacks in a coordinated strike that have left roughly 30 dead and hundreds wounded. This comes only months after the Paris attack which killed hundreds and wounded many more. The instinct will be fear and then this will turn to mourning and then for many will turn to anger. This anger will likely and unfortunately be directed at the hundreds of thousands of immigrants coming to Europe fleeing the violence in their home countries. This anger is misdirected and will only turn to create a further sense of disillusionment and anger within these populations. This marginalization will further leading to radicalization and additional attacks if we are not careful.

We need to really look at the reasons why these attacks continue to happen and the reasons for them. Poverty, marginalization, fear, mental health and much more are all playing into the hands of these organizations and members hands in gathering lost individuals for their cause. Like the Japanese, Germans, Spanish and Italians in the middle of the 20th century many people were convinced and had their anger turned into a movement which caused destruction and devastation. We are seeing that now with ISIS and other groups using isolated individuals who may or may not be Muslim to conduct their actions for them. The policies we have as countries are creating a sense of isolation for many and creating a sense of ‘other’ for many.

Looking at the Paris attacks in November we see almost all of the individuals who had conducted the attacks or planned it were from Europe; born and raised. This idea that there is a army of Jihadists coming to Europe in the refugees is wrong and its wrong to place the blame on a large group of people who are attempting to escape the violence. The BBC reported about some of the members “Both Brahim Abdeslam and Abaaoud lived in Molenbeek, a rundown district of Brussels with a substantial Muslim population, which is described by some Belgian officials as a “breeding ground for jihadists”.” Here we see that the desperate of poverty and marginalization is affecting the individuals and their thoughts. The government clearly knows that there are issues of poverty affecting Muslims in particular in these areas but allows it to continue. Thousands of immigrants come and live productive lives even in these areas which are desolate and run down. Clearly the governments of Europe and North America need to do more to reduce the distrust and welcome these people into their societies.

The policies and the actions that we take today have repercussions down the road. The past policies of European colonial leaders, modern leaders and individuals are all playing their roles in the repercussions that innocent individuals face today. We as citizens and leaders need to make sure that we take a longer look at the actions we take and the repercussions. We need policies that are accepting of individuals and culturally sensitive. We live in a global world and a need to view policies on a larger scale then the countries we inhabit. The European Union needs to get off their political asses and create a viable refugee program that is fully funded. The flow of individuals is not going to stop until there is a sense of stability in the world. For the time being they need to introduce funding to Greece and the border countries to create a fully functional refugee program.

As we look to the casualties we see today we need to remember that the actions were of individuals and not groups. Even if their allegiance is to ISIS they made the decision to conduct themselves in this way. We cannot blame a entire culture, religion, people for this it boils down to the action of individuals. We also need to take a step back and really think about the world we have created and want to create. Our foreign policy is putting us in danger and negatively destabilizing the rest of the world which is leading to these issues. We need to think if there is a place for us to conduct military action and what the plan is for after. We cannot simply remove a government and then leave with out head held high while the state we left behind is in ruins.

I hope the people of Belgium well and hope that they are able to come to justice without the further necessity for violence.

References:
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34832512

Positive Things by Police + Civilians

Another round of positive news coming out from the Law Enforcement Community with the addition of a civilian getting recognition for his actions.

#1: Orillia OPP helping out the elderly

– Orillia OPP Officers helped an elderly lady shovel her driveway after the city snow plow had come through and blocked in her driveway. At 77 she said that the snow was too heavy for her to move and thanked the officers for this assistance. Bravo Zulu

http://www.orilliapacket.com/2016/02/24/helping-the-elderly-dig-out

#2 Civilian helps Edmonton Police Officer during arrest.

– Edmonton Police officer needs assistance during an arrest as a 280 lb man started to wrestle with the officer over a jaywalking infraction. The civilian immediately jumped out of the car and helped arrest the individual possibly saving the young officers life.

file from cbcnews.ca
file from cbcnews.ca

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/good-samaritan-comes-to-aid-of-police-officer-under-attack-1.3463911

#3 Toronto Police Marine Unit rescues a 4 legged friend

– Toronto Police Marune unit put their skills to work not for a person who fell into the lake but a dog. They were able to rescue the dog and get them back to safety.

http://www.680news.com/2016/02/24/police-rescue-pooch-that-falls-into-lake-outside-of-queens-quay-terminal/

Explaining snow days to Thunder Bay students

I remember in first year that the Lakehead University campus had 2 snow days back to back at the beginning of the school year. It was joyful for the Orillia students but seemed to irk the Thunder Bay students that they weren’t getting days off. Students were making comments about the inability of southern Ontario drivers to deal with a Canadian winter. I totally understand where students are coming from and have personally seen both Thunder Bay and Central Ontario drivers not comprehend driving in the snow. There is one major difference though for students at the Thunder Bay campus to know about the campus down here though and why we may get more snow days.

In Thunder Bay the campus and a majority of its students are in Thunder Bay. There isn’t much driving required for Thunder Bay students to get to the campus and those that make the trip from out of town are smaller portion of student. Which means less reason to shut down the school if only 10-20% of class is commuting. Here in Orillia that statistic is much different. A significant majority of the student population commutes from outside of Orillia to the campus. The best example would be taking the Thunder Bay campus and placing it in Murillo or Lappe and expecting students to drive there during dangerous weather conditions. Large portions of students drive in from the surrounding communities and from Barrie which is the hub of Simcoe County. Highway 11 from Barrie to Orillia is 35 km one way and lined with farmland meaning squalls and whiteout conditions are common. Traffic is also much heavier leading less room for mistakes and more accidents to deal with. The geographical location means a significant portion of the class will be unable or unwilling to attend class due to the weather. Central Ontario also deals with snow drifts like I have never seen before, they are much more common than Northwestern Ontario and more severe. Add in a less comprehensive transit system and the location of school being a primarily car oriented design it doesn’t leave much room when the weather is dangerous.

As Lakehead Orillia deals with another snow day sit down and think if the campus was in Lappe would you take the time to drive there in blowing snow and squalls?