All stories relating to Don Drummond

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Rob Granatstein: Toronto hydro rates are skyrocketing and politics are to blame

Toronto has a dearth of power plants and an aging grid. By the end of 2013, we’ll have the highest hydro rates on the continent. And the reasons are purely political

Power Failure

(Photographs: City of Mississauga, Getstock, Reuters)

Toronto is on the verge of a major energy crisis. With our limited supply and decrepit distribution system, we’re more vulnerable to outages than any other large urban centre in North America—especially during peak summer periods. The problem is most acute in the booming southwest GTA, where electricity demand has doubled in recent years, while the area’s power generation has been cut in half.

Keeping the lights on isn’t the only problem. Ontario’s power plan has been bungled so badly that by the end of next year, we’ll have some of the highest electricity rates on the continent. By 2010, the price of hydro had already doubled under Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals, and it was expected to go up another 46 per cent by 2015, largely thanks to the government’s green energy plan. Given the inextricable link between electricity prices and economic performance, and the fact that the province is already struggling with an enormous debt load, the projected increase is perilous.

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Jan Wong: Why the LCBO—the antiquated, paternalistic monopoly that’s deliberately gouging us—has got to go

Body Politics

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I stopped by the LCBO’s flagship Summerhill store.
A glorious 35,000 square feet of creamy Italian porcelain floors and sparkling lights, the refurbished Canadian Pacific Railway station is adjacent to a cluster of gourmet shops that affluent shoppers call “The Five Thieves.” Here you pay dearly for ready-to-heat osso buco or a square of chocolate cake sprinkled with edible gold leaf. Despite its prime location, this outlet, the LCBO’s largest, is no pricier than any other location in the province. You pay the same fixed $12.60 for a 2009 Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône here as you would at Scarborough’s lowly Cedarbrae Mall.

Nice, huh? But wait—you and I are paying for those pot lights, the Martha Stewart–style test kitchen (used for cooking demos and wine appreciation classes) and the standalone tasting bar, not to mention the lease on this prime piece of real estate. We all pay—whether we’re teetotalers or boozehounds—because higher overhead reduces the annual dividend the LCBO remits to the province. That in turn means less money for everything from social services to infrastructure.

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Politics

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Is Rob Ford a “radical conservative”? The truth: probably not

(Image: Christopher Drost)

This week, left-leaning city councillors have been throwing the term “radical conservative agenda” around like a football at a Ford family barbecue. The phrase is being used to describe Rob Ford’s proposed budget cuts, and while we think it’s probably safe to describe many of the cuts as, say, unnecessary, or even ideologically driven, we have to wonder if this clearly concerted push by council’s left may be slightly off the mark.

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Politics

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Could a penny-pinching Queen’s Park force the Eglinton Crosstown above ground? 

Last week, economist and former federal financial official Don Drummond delivered some unwelcome news for Ontario residents: a balanced budget is an impossibility (at least any time soon) without massive cuts across the province—up to 30 per cent in some government ministries. So with the province intent on reducing spending, what kinds of things might they target? Aside from big tickets like health and education, writes John Lorinc on Spacing Toronto, Toronto’s transit infrastructure might attract some attention. Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine provincial bean counters asking themselves why they should pay a premium to bury the entire Eglinton Crosstown line when there’s ample room to run it above ground without impacting traffic. Oh right, it’s because the mayor says so. We suspect that kind of reasoning is going to get a lot harder to support. Read the entire story [Spacing] »

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The job report: explaining Canada’s post-recession bounce

We keep hearing about the amazing Canadian economic rebound—some 300,000 new jobs in the past year. Is Bay Street paving the way for a new economic world order?

Photo Illustration of job line-ups

(Image: Lindsay Page)

America’s financial sector makes a tasty carcass, and Bay Street is tucking into the feast, gobbling up staff and tearing off divisions from hobbled U.S. counterparts. CIBC recently purchased Citigroup’s Canadian MasterCard division. RBC has been hiring big guns away from New York’s investment banks. And those two banks aren’t even taking the biggest bites.

TD, the second largest bank in Canada, is on a mission to crack the American market. Earlier this year, it swallowed up three troubled Florida banks, then purchased South Carolina’s South Financial Group, adding 176 branches to its network for the bargain price of $191.6 million—just over $1 million per branch. All told, TD, which has introduced a jolly-eyeballed green foam‑rubber mascot specifically for its American operations, now has 1,300 branches in the States, 200 more than it has in Canada.

The country’s entire economy appears to be working its way up the global food chain. Our GDP grew by 6.1 per cent in the first three months of 2010. Among the 31 market-oriented democracies that make up the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only South Korea’s economy grew faster. The United States economy, according to OECD numbers, grew only three per cent, while the median growth within the group stood at approximately two per cent. Canada’s economy has also created 215,000 jobs since the start of the year, 109,000 of them in April alone.

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