Irony at Town Hall

There was a small amount of irony in Milton Town Hall on Monday night. During the debate on Councillor Best’s motion to allow ground floor office zoning in the downtown core Ron Flanagan suggested that the rules had been changed after the game started! When he built his property on Charles Street zoning permitted ground floor offices and the rules (by laws) were subsequently changed to exclude this use. Council voted unanimously to have this situation reversed.


The irony came when the Committee then debated the motion on the CN intermodal proposal. Councillor Hamid in a passionate speech then urged citizens and Council to advocate for a change in Federal legislation to block CN’s proposal i.e. to change the rules after the game had started! (CN acquired this land almost 2 decades ago). Before the “Milton says No” campaign gets me in their sights let me re-emphasise I am not in favour of this project! I do believe however if both sides sit down and negotiate a better result for both can be achieved.


Going back to Councillor Best’s motion and Ron Flanagan’s plight and that of other downtown landlords one might ask why it takes Staff two months to put together a “Request for Proposal” to hire consultants to review the matter before any action can be taken. It was stated that a significant number of other similar Municipalities to ours do not have such a restriction on their downtown core areas! We apparently need to hire consultants to tell us how we can do what Council wants to do even though precedents exist. Meanwhile Ron Flanagan and other Landlords continue to have empty premises! Is it any wonder that taxpayers lose faith in local government?


Martin Capper.

April 1, 2015

CN's Intermodal Facility proposal for Milton

There are many unanswered questions about the CN proposal to develop an intermodal facility on the 1,000-acre property in the SW portion of Milton. Until those questions are answered I am prepared to put my initial disapproval of this project on hold.


I have read all of the documentation made available by CN, by Halton Region and by the Town as well as watching and listening to both Councillor Duvall and Mayor Krantz in the media, I have to say I can see significant weaknesses in the arguments put forward thus far.


Let’s look at it from the CN side first. I presume CN does not invest in land for general property development returns. Given that they first raised a proposal to build an intermodal facility here at the turn of the century I presume that was their intention when they first acquired the land. I believe they withdrew their original proposal but am unclear as to why they did so at that time.


It has been sometime since I looked at the asking price for unserviced industrial land in Milton but I do recall a few years ago it was in the order of $300,000 per acre so the CN investment must be worth some where in the order of magnitude of $300 million. Currently the only investment yield on that appears to be the rent of the tenant farmers who currently farm it! Small wonder then that after withdrawing their earlier proposal that CN sought to have the lands available for development as soon as possible.


Thus far the questions to CN have appeared to be around the logistics and operation of the facility and its impact on Milton but I wonder if a more fundamental question needs to be asked as to the economic reasons behind the decision! Is this as a result of the usual corporate need to generate an adequate return on investment or is it truly the only or optimal place that a required facility can be built? Once the Town understands that then counter proposals can be prepared! If the question has been asked and I have missed it perhaps it needs to be given wider publicity but I haven’t seen it in any writings by the Region, the Town or its elected Councillors.


If we look at the Town side there are also several questions that need to be asked. Starting with when Town Officials, both elected and staff, first became aware of this proposal. I would have thought that the Economic Development side of the Planning Department would have cultivated an open relationship with such a major landowner particularly after the acrimony that was generated during the 2001 proposal!


We should also bear in mind that phase 1 of the industrial expansion of Milton involved primarily warehousing and logistics facilities, such as the Target warehouse, along the 401/Steeles corridor not just by Milton but also by Halton Hills. Have we not to some degree help build the justification for the new proposal?


Listening to the Mayor on Newstalk 1010 (Jerry Agar show) he expressed concern about lost revenue from Property Taxes. However under the Towns official plan that land is not scheduled to be developed for several years so if CN proceed with their proposal then property taxes would begin to flow earlier – do we have a discounted cash flow to show the results of that, bearing in mind that for the last 2 elections the commencement of developments in Derry Green has been a talking point and as yet nothing has started!


Councillor Duvall in his slot on breakfast TV, as did Mayor Krantz, seemed to indicate that there were other areas in Milton where perhaps the facility could be developed. I asked myself the question if putting it in one area loses tax revenue surely that applies to every area? I also asked myself how that would solve CN’s need for a return on their asset unless they themselves owned the alternate sites? To be fair I realize that in such interview situations the time is brief  - all the more important for the talking points to be right on the money!


As I said at the start based on what I currently know I do not believe that the proposal will be good for Milton but I for one will not be rushing to fund a campaign against the proposal at least until more questions are answered both by CN and by Town Hall. In short you get my no vote but not my money!


Martin Capper

March 30, 2015


Me Marra with the Thieves at Trafalgar Golf & Country Club

Today the golf group to which I belong played our annual “Me Marra” tournament in memory of previous members who are no longer with us. For those who don’t know “Me Marra” is a Geordie phrase meaning “my friend” or “my pal”. As I have only been a member of this particular group for the last two years I did not know the member who constantly used this phrase to describe his fellow “thieves” (the name of the golf group!)


Since inception the players in the tournament and other members of this group have made a donation to the charity “Sleeping Children Around the World” or SCAW and have in that time donated a total of  around $7,000 to this charity. It was the favourite charity of the Geordie “thief” whose passing led to start of the the annual tournament and if you follow the link to the “Sleeping Children Around the World” it is not hard to see why this charity has been the sole beneficiary of the tournament. Not only for the good it does but also for the fact that 100% plus of the donations raised goes to the purchase of “bedkits” for children in 33 different countries.


The volunteers who deliver the bedkits to children in remote poverty stricken areas pay their own expenses to travel to these areas. There is a 3-year waiting list of volunteers willing to do so! This is truly a remarkable charity and what a wonderful way to add to the pleasure of a round of golf with friends!


Martin Capper.


August 16, 2014.


Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous 2014!

Buon Natale e un Felice Anno Nuovo a tutti!

Prettige Kerstdagen en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar aan allen!

Geseënde Kersfees en ‘n voorspoedige Nuwe jaar aan almal!

Frohe Weihnachten und ein gutes neues Jahr an alle!

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd y flwyddyn i bawb!

Nollaig Shona agus Shona Nua na bliana go léir!

Feliz Natal e um ano novo feliz para todos!

Town of Milton Budget Committee meeting 2013

“The Town of Milton must diligently pursue cost efficiencies and maximize

non-tax revenue sources to continue presenting budgets with minimal tax

rate increases as the Town has limited sources of revenue available to pay

for services and a significant portion of the Towns revenues do not increase

with inflation.”

These are not my words but are a direct quote from the Executive Summary of the Town’s 2014 Budget document.

It is unfortunate that the majority of members of the current Council appear not to have read this part of the Executive Summary or if they did read it they paid little or no heed to it! Discussion of the Budget last night followed closely to the script of previous years discussions with the Town Treasurer giving her usual polished presentation of the highlights of both the Operating and Capital Budgets. She compared the Town’s residential tax rate to that of our neighbours and yes we compare very favourably with all of our neighbours. Many Councillors referred to this statistic when expressing support for the budget.

She also indicated that based solely on the current budget proposals and assuming no other changes budget increases for 2015 and 2016 would be significantly higher. No Councillor referred to this statistic when discussing the Budget.

A 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said “ there are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies and statistics.” Nowhere is that more true than in discussions of Public Sector Budgets. This was equally true last night as Councillors supporting the Budget claimed that it represented an increase in tax rates of 1.3% and those opposing it claimed that it represented an increase of 3.8%. Those quoting the 1.3% rate were dollar averaging the Town’s Budget with that of the Region and the School Board upon neither of which has the Town any significant issue!  That’s about as meaningful as averaging the Town Budget with that of the Provincial and Federal Budgets! Naturally if the Region and School Board Budgets had reflected poorly on the Town then the Council would be unanimous in distancing itself from those Budgets! Continue reading Town of Milton Budget Committee meeting 2013