541,691 Clams?

clams

Once used as currency in ancient times!

Now …. we ask, what would 541, 691 “clams” buy you these days?

You know, clams, shekels, greenbacks, aces, cucumbers, bucks or let’s get back to the modern equivalent … dollars!

Well historically I’m sure we can all remember when “Two could dine for $1.99” at McDonald’s.

That would would mean you could have bought 270,845 happy meals!

That, my friends, is bang for your buck!!

But now-a-days, up north of our Toronto, what with inflation and all, it seems that all you can get with that type of investment is 8+ years of effort by the Caledon Town Council, and perhaps the Ministry of Natural Resources!

Kind of a sorry state of affairs.

In the minutes and proceedings of a recent Council meeting we learned of some disturbing things.

What we’re talking about here appears to be an unrelenting, irrational and possibly illegal drive by the staff and Council at the Town of Caledon to work with a gravel pit developer to open a so-called ‘wayside pit’, that would allow the operator to access millions of dollars of gravel they could not get to otherwise without applying for a proper license.

Now you may ask, “Stone, how can you make a statement like that without any proof?

And we would answer, “Good question.”

We became aware of the situation a few weeks back and have had time to review the documentation.

Let’s look at the FACTS as they appear.

For more than 8 years the Town of Caledon and their collaborators:

  • Pushed for the development of a dubious ‘wayside pit’ for the multi million dollar benefit of an aggregate company.

  • Were looking for “wiggle room” to avoid rules and regulations that would stop the project.

  • Have cost the Caledon Taxpayers, from the numbers that have been ascertained, a loss of $541,691.00

  • And have stonewalled their citizens from getting pertinent information regarding these dealings, including financial accountability.

You can review some of the questions that, according to material submitted by a concerned taxpayer, were asked at the July 10 Caledon Council meeting, here …

Questions1

So, getting back to our original question……

If the choice is, the Caledon Town Council doing favours for their friends at taxpayers expense, or happy meals for 270,845 hungry citizens ($561,691.00) which would you prefer?

We’d like ours with ketchup and mustard and extra pickles on the side please!

Advertisements

The ‘CLOSE TO MARKET’ Mantra

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

We’re calling b*!!$@!t.

A recent news release from the Aikensville pit applicant, Capital Paving Inc. stated:

With already constrained government budgets and the continued loss of good quality, close to market aggregate reserves, it will be extremely difficult and costly to Ontario taxpayers to repair the province’s aging infrastructure if aggregate is required to be sourced from farther away”

 According to the State of the Aggregate Resources of Ontario Study (SAROS):

Historically, the most common reason for incorporating “close to market” policies has been to ensure aggregate materials were available to the areas of need as economically as possible.”

 The “close to market” mantra also appears in the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) and Green Belt Act.

 But what exactly are the implications? …and…Does it really matter?

 In a conversation with a person in the Ministry of Transport a few years back a curious citizen asked a question. They wanted to know what the Ministry, or should we say the taxpayers, were paying for gravel for our road construction projects.

The response was that the questioner didn’t know what he was talking about.

The Ministry rep proceeded to explain that they do not get a breakdown of costs for a job, but just a quote to complete the entire project.

 The lowest price usually wins the bid.

 So, the Ministry gives no consideration as to where the aggregate comes from, whether sourced near or far!

 When bidding on a project, a Contractor considers many other variables that can produce a higher, or conversely, a lower quote.

 Variables such as:

Are the workers unionized?

What type of equipment is required?

Does the proposed project fit with other jobs underway?

What profit margin is the operator willing to work with?

Whether the contractor owns his own pit to pull resources from?

And so on….

 So, in essence, we could have aggregate material for a ministry job traveling past competing pits that are closer to the project, because the supplying pit operator has decided to provide a better price, and accept lower profits than a “close to market” operator.

 The aggregate industry pushes the “close to market” agenda.

But do they have any evidence that it actually benefits the taxpayer who pays?

Does it really save money … or just pad profits?

Does it reduce air pollution?

Is there any independent study showing the savings from using “close to market” materials?
Is there an Industry study showing that “close to market” is being utilized advantageously?

Would a contractor supply close to market materials if they were more expensive than materials he could purchase cheaper at a pit further away?

 Unless the Ministry of Transportation actually enforces “close to market” usage, the entire concept becomes a joke!

 

trucktraffic

 

So, should the Ministry mandate and legally enforce “close to market” usage?

 That would create quite a conundrum!

 By legally mandating “close to market” usage, the Ministry would be reducing competition by forcing the purchase of aggregate product from a smaller number of producers. There may even be a situation where only one operator in an area produces the required product; but being “close to market” they would be the only viable source.

Which places that operator in a monopoly situation, driving the cost of product up, not down!

 The “close to market mantra” does nothing but provide a reason for Pits and Quarries to open their operations ever closer to rural residential areas of Ontario.

 Who benefits the most?

The pit and quarry operators who can push the concept that we require the product from the backyards of Ontarians with rural residences.

 Who loses?

Any homeowner who is close enough to the pit or quarry to have their health and value of their home jeopardized.

 The “close to market” mantra may sound good, but what we really need are politicians and bureaucrats who make decisions that are sound, based on studies, evidence and fact.

 Not B#$$&%$t.

 

 

What, Me Worry?

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.
Do you know “MAD Magazine” with their fearless poster child Alfred E. Neuman and his motto, “What, Me Worry?”

Every month, MAD Magazine has featured Alfred’s fiery red hair, car door ears and goofy smile on the cover of their magazine, and it is something to look forward to.

Alfred-E-Neuman
Little did we know that some of our aggregate operators would pick up his “What, Me worry?” motto as a way of doing business!

You want proof?

Just consider the “Aggregate Vehicle Survey Analysis” performed on behalf of the Ontario government in 2012.

38.3% to 47.7% of the 434 aggregate trucks inspected “exceeded their allowable gross weight”, while another 33.7% exceeded the enforcement tolerance!

That’s more than half of the aggregate trucks on the road running with disregard for the safety of others! You know … “What, Me Worry?”

It’s nice to see the Ontario government actually doing something constructive about aggregate trucks. Now they have the information…..what are they going to do about it?

But a more important question is…Why did this not come up sooner? Maybe in the yearly “Self Monitoring Checklist” or possibly on the “Truck Weight Numbers” collected by each individual operator.

What is a driver to do when he gets on the weight scale situated at each pit or quarry operation and he finds he is overloaded? It seems that too often he carries on with business as normal. “What … Me Worry?”

Do the operators actually report that the truck left loaded with extra tonnes of product? Do they record the maximum allowable weight on their reports?

“If” reports are falsified it would be paramount to tax evasion or fraud, as they would not be paying the people of Ontario sufficient levies for their haulage.

If the driver leaves the pit or quarry knowing he is overloaded, and he has an accident causing death … would he and the owner be charged with manslaughter? Or is it just “What … Me Worry?” again?

So…why would an operator allow overloaded trucks on the road?  … Is it MONEY?

Well, duh.

More weight per truck means less truck travel to get the product to market, saving fuel and wages. HUGE MONEY! The technology to accurately weigh each load is widespretruck2ad. There are no excuses!

And, as with other broken rules and regulations at the MNR, we suspect the profits from cheating far outweigh the penalties. Could it be the MNR barely have a “bark” and definitely have no “bite” when it comes to enforcement of their rules and regulations?

So what’s the attitude of the aggregate operators when it comes to:
The safety of our children?
The safety of the rest of the road users of Ontario?
The damage to the roads that our tax dollars must constantly repair?

We would guess it would be “What, me worry?”

Alfred E. Neuman would be proud!

NOTE:
Many reports and documents come across our desk. We appreciate the information we get, so please feel free to send us more!

Money Squandering or Money Laundering?

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

What would you call it if I offered you a handsome sum of money, like $billion$, to set up your business in Ontario? Perhaps you and I could call it ‘job creation’ to make it sound nicey-nice. Then what if I sweetened the deal by guaranteeing to buy ALL of your company’s production for the next 20 years? This is getting even better for you. But that’s not the end of it. What if I offered to pay you MORE than the normal market price for your product, AND guarantee to buy ALL your product whether I could use it or not? And to top it all off what if I offered to pay you for producing the product, even if you don’t produce it?

Well most folks, including Samsung apparently, would call that a heck of a ‘sweetheart deal’.

Except the taxpayers and the electricity customers.
windfarmONTARIO
But you haven’t heard the best part of the deal. The real kicker is that in order to make this all work, the businesses that get this sweetheart deal will be ‘tempted’ to accept the politician’s invitation to dinner. The dinner is hosted by the Liberal Party of Ontario.

So what, you ask? Well you can be sure that this is a wonderful dinner … and the tickets cost $5000.00 each!
moneyenvelope2Who else would be at a high priced table such as this?

What do you want to bet that other ‘guests’ at these dinners include pals from ORNGE, E-Health, Ontario Power Authority, OLG, Education Unions, and of course our friends in the Aggregate industry?

Don’t you think that for the sake of transparency, all dinner ticket purchasers should be listed on a web site for the tax payers of Ontario to see who is benefiting from your taxes, and in turn purchasing influence in our Province?

All that money goes to finance election campaigns. And as long as the money keeps flowing in the circular route described above, and these sorts of politicians keep getting elected, everyone in the ‘laundry’ is happy.

… Unless you are ‘just’ a hard working taxpayer.

Need … or Greed?

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

One of the more questionable aspects of Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is the clause that prohibits anyone from asking if there truly is a NEED for more open pit aggregate mines – both pits and quarries. The PPS reads in Clause 2.5.2.1:  “Demonstration of need for mineral aggregate resources, including any type of supply/demand analysis, shall not be required …”
Since one of the main arguments repeatedly made by pit and quarry applicants is the alleged ‘NEED’ for more supply, it strikes us as bizarre that decision makers should be prohibited from responding with: “Oh really? We NEED more supply? Show us the evidence!” What kind of Alice in Wonderland world do we inhabit here? One side can talk incessantly about need but the other side “shall not”?

So we are asking “What is really going on here?”

Consider a few facts:

…    According to expert analyst Dr. L. Jensen, Phd. Geoscience: “… it will take … 208 years at present rates of consumption, to consume all the sand and gravel reserves under license in 2010. No doubt this 208 year supply has considerably increased with the additional 200 licenses and permits added to the inventory during the past 2 years.”… from a submission made to the ARA Review Committee, May 2012
…   The gravel industry, with help from their lobbyists at the OSSGA, has made a mass appeal of their property tax assessments, apparently successfully. The result will be that municipalities must REFUND and forego hundreds of thousands of dollars to wealthy pit and quarry owners. The tax burden presently shifted onto residential property owners from groups like this who receive favoured treatment amounts to $20 million annually in Wellington County alone, or $731 per property owner.
…  Despite dire predictions of ever-increasing need that accompany applications, Ontario aggregate production, which was 171 million tonnes in 2000, fell to 159 million tonnes in 2011. (from TOARC statistics)
…  Due to a failed quarry application near Carlisle Ontario, the applicant St. Mary’s Cement threatened to sue the province for costs incurred and loss of future revenues. The province has settled, costing Ontario taxpayers $15million! What a sweet deal! You apply for a pit and if you win you get to make $millions supplying aggregate to the province (taxpayers). If you lose, you get $millions for the loss of potential revenue (from the gravel you don’t have to supply). Yikes! Is this nuts, or are we nuts for putting up with it?
…  When an ordinary property owner seeks compensation from their ‘new neighbour’ – an open pit mine – for a drastic drop in the value of their property, the applicants, operators, and elected representatives all run and hide. Is there no ‘NEED’ for wealthy pit operators to pay compensation for what are often devastating losses due to their ‘needed’ operations?
greed3
So again we ask is it NEED or GREED at work here? And why should we be prevented from asking what the needs of the various parties actually are?