Thursday, April 2, 2009

Transit Utopia (sort of), G-20 idiocy (definitely)

Yesterday, the McGuinty government here in Ontario tried to get back "on track" (so to speak) and announced about $9 billion in public transit improvements. Some money being spent, I question -- such as the $3 million to study the "feasibility" of light rail versus bus rapid transit in Hamilton. Tunnelling options for highways considered but then cancelled in the past indicate the escarpment in this part of the world should be solid enough to avoid a cave in for a tunnel which would have to be built to connect St. Joe's Hospital to Mountain Plaza for the "A line." So "feasibility" is really a wash.

The people's choice here is clear, it's light rail. We should be getting the shovels in the ground as soon as possible, and make the Hamilton Street Railway mean what is says again.

The biggest announcement was for upgrades to VIVA, the bus rapid system in York Region, including dedicated rights of way for buses along several busy stretches of Highway 7 and Yonge Street; as well as several new lines in Toronto, the biggest one a light rail line on Eglinton Avenue from the airport to the Kennedy Road station. The trickiest part will be the underground portion from Leslie to Keele Streets. York City (as it used to be called) went through this before, when a hundred million or so was built to dig a hole in the ground only to have it filled up when Mike Harris cancelled a subway line along a small portion of Eglinton.

Hopefully there is enough good will to ensure that this time there is no turning back. People want rapid transit. Whether it's subways, rapid buses or trams, people will use it. Find the most appropriate means in each area, get it done -- and get the seamless fare system in place as soon as possible too.


The G-20 met today and agreed to $1.1 trillion in new stimulus money, including $500 billion in more foreign aid and a huge chunk, $250 billion in "special drawing rights" (a basket that includes the greenback, euro, pound and yen in weighted averages that is the "currency" of the International Monetary Fund) that the IMF's members can use to help out its neighbours as it wishes. At the same time, the European Central Bank cut the overnight rate in Euroland to 1½%, which indicates just how desperate it is getting from France to Slovakia and Italy to Finland. Seems Frankfurt is running out of options when the average rate for depositing money is now just a ¼% -- if any banks will pay that!

There's still a bit of a dispute between the Eurozone and much of the rest of the world over whether there should be even more stimulus or take a wait and see attitude to see if present "stimulus" measures work.

My suggestion to stimulate the economy, something that would really restore the confidence of ordinary people and not the institutional investors that routinely play Russian Roulette with other people's money: Any executive who significantly exposed his or her bank or brokerage to the sub prime market and other risky investments to the point where they had to get stimulus money -- should go to jail. Period.

Put real people in who know how to manage money, in other words Joe or Jane Blow and not Shaughnessy and Anderson Bigshot -- and you will give people faith again to spend their money.

The good news is that the countries have also agreed to go after countries that are tax havens. After a long time Lichtenstein has agreed to cooperate with the EU on tax evaders. The G-20 has specifically singled out four entities for sanctions: Uruguay, Costa Rica, the Philippines, and the Malaysian city of Labuan. (Notice they are all in the developing world?)

But the bad news is that there are other questionable places to hide money and a lot of double standards. There are the obvious ones: Switzerland, Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, and the Cayman Islands. But what about the Crown Dependencies (the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), Luxembourg (an EU member no less!), Heligoland in Germany, and Livigno and Campione in Italy? Don't hear anything about dealing with tax havens in the first world. "The Man" talk about sanctions against them but don't want to do anything to them.

Stupid hypocrites. There should be no place to hide money illegally, especially in times such as these.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

No comments: