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.

 

 

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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.

Waking Up to New Realities

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

 

We’re wondering if a ‘tipping point’ has been reached. Is the era of ‘government/industry gangs doing whatever they please’ coming to an end? Will those who have been spending/wasting OUR money finally be forced to consider OUR views and priorities?

There are some hopeful signs.

Take for example the noises being made in opposition to the poorly-thought-out wind farms debacle. Our Ontario government has piled onto a ‘green’ bandwagon, apparently without sober consideration, and signed long term contracts that will mean excessive expenditure of taxpayers’ and hydro customers’ money for many decades into the future. At the same time there will be very little if any benefit to our environment or economy. In fact when all the detrimental effects are considered – to human health, endangered species, and property, to name a few – the negatives far outweigh any alleged positives. It appears that our provincial politicians have signed us up for an experiment that will cost us dearly, with an increasing likelihood that the promise of abundant green energy will prove to be an economic nightmare rather than the anticipated dream-come-true.

A hopeful sign is that a number of municipalities are passing bylaws to try to introduce a measure of prudence and caution to the picture – the ‘measure’ being in many cases a 2km setback from homes, and a number of fees to pay for things like decommissioning and property value losses. Another hopeful sign is a law passed in Denmark where 551 compensation payments have been made to people living next to wind projects with an average amount of 57,000 kroner per household. Real estate agents say the amount is often far below the actual property value loss, while politicians see it as a step in the right direction. The loss-of-value clause was passed by parliament in 2008 at the urging of Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and gave neighbours to wind turbines the opportunity to seek financial compensation for lost property value.

As you can see, internationally, others are way ahead of Ontario. Here, the government set an artificial price on renewable energy, and then slapped a 20-year guarantee on that price. This price-setting structure is called the Feed-In Tariff program (FIT), and the World Trade Organization has struck it down as an illegal subsidy that violates international trade law. Problem is the politicians are playing with OUR money. If their decisions were to turn out correct we will pay MUCH higher prices for energy. If they are incorrect we, and/or our grandchildren still pay, in the form of penalties and lawsuits!

The not-so-hopeful sign is that the affected companies aren’t accepting this situation without a fight. In Ontario we’ve seen threatening letters trying to put a ‘chill’ on local councils. We can be certain that more will follow, and in more industries besides the wind developers.

StMarysMasonryCementbagA recent example of just how successful and profitable this ‘pay us either way’ tactic can be for a developer has occurred in the Aggregate Industry. Not long ago a government Ministerial Zoning Order put a stop to a proposed open-pit quarry application near Carlisle Ontario. The applicant, St. Mary’s Cement, threatened to sue and it cost Ontario taxpayers $15million to settle. So WE paid $15M – a nice profit for St. Mary’s without shipping any stone – and what did we get for our money? Nothing but higher taxes and debts …. and McGuinty avoided facing a subpoena!

So the ‘new reality’ is that people are beginning to wake up and demand that their governments – servants of the people – start to actually serve them! The concept of ‘Full Cost Accounting’ is being actively discussed as a requirement for industrial development proposals, so that only those activities that are environmentally, socially, and economically viable will proceed. To allow continued industrial development to proceed while being heavily subsidized by taxpayers, ratepayers, municipalities and property owners, not to mention the uncalculated costs to environments and species at risk, is just not going to be acceptable any longer.

Politicians who don’t have their head in the sand must recognize these signs and see them as an opportunity to provide leadership in the direction we are already heading.

Help spread the wake up call!

Imagination … Do you have any?

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

imagination

 

Can you ‘imagine’ a ‘nation’

–   where Ontario’s Minister of Health, Hon. Deb Matthews, was actually ‘honourable’ enough to do something to enforce the legislation she is responsible for? Imagine if those thousands of seniors suffering grievous abuse in extended care homes, and their families, could actually be protected and obtain justice when the expected care isn’t provided. See: http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/nursing-home-residents-at-risk-w5-investigation-reveals-startling-national-statistics-1.1149215

–   where the government actually respected the fact the ‘Crown Land’ is owned by the people of Canada, and then realistically consulted the ‘owners’ before selling or leasing the use of Crown Lands to favored private applicants to enable their friends to make many millions in profits? See: http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/2012/12/16/crown-land-up-for-wind-destruction/

–  where our Ministry of Environment (MOE) did more than ‘pass the buck’ when asked by worried residents to investigate and remedy a toxic fuel spill like the one at the Tottenham Pit near Palgrave? See: http://www.caledonenterprise.com/news-story/1373538-silence-follows-contradictions-at-tottenham-pit/

–  where the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) stopped denying and dragging their feet regarding the serious negative impacts on property values near wind farms and open pit aggregate mines? See: http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/2013/02/08/mpac-waiting-on-turbine-study/

–  where the MNR stopped issuing aggregate extraction licenses to operators who are clearly not in compliance with regulations? See: http://www.caledonenterprise.com/opinion-story/1372539-ministry-should-deny-pit-application/

– where an elected representative, such as Chris Bentley, and his political party, would be unable to deny responsibility for egregious abuse of public funds, and then evade legal consequences by proroguing and resigning from the legislature? See: http://www.lfpress.com/2013/02/08/chris-bentley-resigning-as-mpp

–    where an accountable and transparent Ontario Hydro would cease collecting a  ‘Debt Retirement Charge’ after the debt is paid off? See: http://www.thestar.com/business/2011/12/28/hydro_debt_retirement_charge_reporting_proposed_in_ontario.html

–    where there would be the same regulations for both the ‘ruled’ and the ‘rulers’? For example is it OK for a Bald Eagle’s nest to be destroyed by the MNR, while private citizens are fined $10,000 for removing trees ‘near’ a nest? See: http://www.brantfordexpositor.ca/2013/01/09/mpp-wants-answers-on-eagle-eviction

–    where there would be some way for the beleaguered taxpayers of Ontario to recover $millions from the likes of Chris Mazza of ORNGE infamy? See: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/02/09/chris_mazza_of_ornge_got_46_million_in_two_years.html

We could go on.

What do all these anecdotes, and related LINKS, have in common? Can you shout out loud things like: ‘waste’, ‘corruption’, ‘scandal’, ‘cronyism’, ‘incompetence’, and __________, and__________, and _________ , … you fill in the blanks!

Unless we raise our voices and demand ethical governments and bureaucracies, we are sure to see more of the same. Don’t you think it’s time we demanded ‘response-ability’ to go with responsibility?

Or are we imagining things?