Monday, December 17, 2007

Liberal MPP Jim Bradley doesn't answer letters

Here’s an early example of  Jim Bradley idolatry, as written by a fawning Bill Walker, in “Jim Bradley, environmentalists' saint”, (Toronto Star, Jan.12, 1986):
"Most days, Jim Bradley forgets the lesson learned when he lay motionless in a hospital bed for 19 days, blinded by heavy bandages due to a serious eye injury suffered in a shinny hockey game.
"It was quite an experience. But I learned afterward that the world went on, that St. Catharines went on and survived without me. I guess I should remember that once in a while."
Most of the time, he doesn't.
And so, at one o'clock in the morning on many weeknights, Bradley can be found padding down the carpeted hallway of his office in stocking feet, shirttails hanging out, tie wrenched loose, to reach the photocopy machine for the simple task most cabinet ministers would leave to others.
To call him a workaholic is an oversimplification. Ontario's environment minister is keen about his job. No detail is too small to merit his attention, no group's opinion not worth listening to, no letter not worth answering.
And in a department that has seen 11 ministers in the past 10 years, Bradley hopes the revolving door will be removed from his office. "I want to stay in this job for the rest of my political life," he says enthusiastically. "I love it."
The eye injury in 1980, when he was the Liberal Opposition member for St. Catharines, slowed him down. But little else does. This fall, Bradley faced one of the most expensive and sophisticated business lobbies ever mounted but ignored the threats and bullied his way straight ahead.
The powerful lobby tried to stop the Liberals' proclamation of the spills bill, which saddled owners of dangerous substances with absolute liability for damages caused by spills in Ontario.
Lined up against the new Liberal government was the Canadian Manufacturers Association, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, huge chemical companies Polysar Ltd., Dow Chemical Canada Inc., and many others.
"A lot of misinformation was spread, a lot of worst-case scenarios were spread. They used a lot of scare tactics," Bradley says.
But after a month of public hearings, the bill became law on Nov. 29.
One pro-environment lobby group, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, gave Bradley its first "Hanging Tough Award" because of the spills bill. It's a poster-sized tribute filled with newspaper clippings of the fight and it's been hung proudly on his office wall.
"The premier did not back down, and I will say this on so many occasions, the reason there is any success in this ministry, is that we've been able to be innovative and somewhat aggressive on environmental issues because of the support of Premier (David) Peterson," says Bradley.
"Without that support, we would not be able to be either innovative or aggressive on environmental matters."
Bradley has been greeted almost as a saint by environmentalists because of the spills bill, his tough policy on acid rain emissions controls, the St. Clair River cleanup and action on other issues.
But his gung-ho attitude has met with some opposition in the Liberal cabinet, where every minister must jockey for position and push for the programs ministry staff have developed.
Many felt Bradley was going too far, too fast. Some cabinet ministers were swayed by the lobby groups denouncing Bradley - each minister was contacted in the exhaustive effort to stop him - and disagreements erupted, particularly on the acid rain question.
"The acid rain program was a challenging one," Bradley told The Star in an interview in his office, while an aide sat by and made a subtle slashing motion across his throat as if to say to the boss: "Keep quiet on this one."
"In this case there were questions asked and concerns expressed," Bradley says.
"I pointed out the consequences of this program, the potential for adverse effects and positive effects. Cabinet made a decision on that basis and I was extremely pleased."
The decision had been delayed after a stormy cabinet meeting when Bradley had first hoped for approval for the acid rain plan. A week later at the Dec. 11 cabinet meeting a beaming Bradley emerged, intoxicated by victory.
He triumphantly announced the new acid rain plan in a press conference that was beamed live via satellite to Washington, to be watched by Canada's acid rain adversaries.
Acid rain and the spills bill have been giant victories for the 40-year-old bachelor from the Garden City.
A former school teacher, he was raised in Sudbury, but at age 11 his father, a machinist, was laid off. The family of seven moved to St. Catharines because southern Ontario offered more jobs.
His working class family does not have any political background. "We were not a wealthy family, but some people don't know when they're poor."
He grew up beside the ravages of pollution a few kilometres from the smelters in Sudbury, where vegetation did not grow and the rocky landscape looked like the moon. Broken men were often forced out of their smelter jobs by painful asthma from breathing sulphur dioxide emissions.
"The big event was watching the slag dump at night. That was really something then," he recalls. "We had some good rock fights too and I miss that . . . except in the Legislature, I should say."
He was bitten by the political bug in Grade 5, when elected president of the Junior Red Cross at King George School, now a Sudbury radio station. By age 21, he had won the provincial Liberal nomination in St. Catharines, but he lost the 1967 election.
Two years later, he ran successfully for St. Catharines city council. He served there during heated debates over development in the city before running provincially again in 1971. Again he lost.
He finally came to Queen's Park in 1977. By the time his party was preparing for last May's fateful election, Bradley had been a frontbencher in the Opposition, a deputy House Leader, and held critic roles in correctional services, consumer and commercial relations and education.
"There were some bleak days in Opposition," he recalls. "But there was always a hope that I felt people would want change. That hope was there."
As soon as it became apparent the Liberals would form a government after almost 42 years of Progressive Conservative rule, Bradley immediately knew he wanted to be environment minister. He had hoped for a cabinet post because of his work in eight years in opposition and would have accepted anything, but the environment job was his true desire.
Now he has a chauffer-driven limousine and a posh office overlooking the Toronto skyline from the penthouse 15th floor of a building at St. Clair and Avenue Rd. The office has a personal bathroom and shower so Bradley's marathon work sessions can end with a refresher.
His goals in the ministry were simple: to make it a proactive and not reactive ministry which didn't wait for events to occur but acted to prevent them altogether.
"We had a lot of catching up to do," he says.
He began last summer by scheduling a series of theme weeks, where he met with interest groups on all sides of issues. He has surrounded himself with good people, including former environmental activists Mark Rudolph and Gary Gallon, his executive assistant and senior policy adviser respectively.
In the environmental community, Bradley has drawn widespread praise.
As for Tory environment critic Susan Fish, who is paid to make Bradley look bad, when asked about Bradley's performance by The Star she said: "I'd really not care to comment."
New Democratic Party environment critic Ruth Grier, whose party wrote some of Bradley's policy moves in an agreement to support the Liberals as government, gave him a qualified endorsement.
"I certainly think he has displayed good intentions," Grier said, "but I'm not sure I'm ready to give him an A all the way through."
Both Grier and Canadian Environmental Law Association spokesman Toby Vigod say Bradley's policy decision on soft drink dispensers, mainly pop cans, was disappointing.
Vigod wanted deposits so cans would be returned and not thrown away as litter, but the government nixed the idea, instead calling for a certain number of cans to be recyclable.
"A simpler solution could have been put in place but the soft drink lobby didn't want it," Vigod says.
Grier feels Bradley tried to get the optimum solution environmentally, but lost his battle in cabinet. "There was evidence that stronger people in cabinet than he prevailed," she says.
The harshest Bradley critics, those in industry who will bear the brunt of his new policies, shied away from rating him in print. Robert J. Redhead of the chemical company Tricil (Sarnia) Ltd., told The Star that since his company will have future dealings with the ministry, it had chosen not to comment.
Harry Pelissero, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, said his organization will issue a policy paper when the next election is called asking its members in the farming community not to vote Liberal unless the absolute liability clause in the spills bill is changed to limited liability on owners of spilled substances.
Pelissero said the public hearings were somewhat of a charade. "The government made its intentions known about what it was going to do with the spills bill," he said. "We made our views known and right now, we're still opposed."
"We'll make some enemies in the short term," Bradley says, "but I don't see the dire political consequences in that. I think we've shown our fairness and now at least, they know where the government stands."
Vigod said that although Bradley marks a night-and-day difference from past Tory environment ministers in terms of accessibility and action, he has fallen short on several issues including pop cans, the Keswick marsh and hazardous waste disposal.
For Adele Hurley of the Canadian Coaltion on Acid Rain, Bradley "is the first environment minister in this province who has deserved the title.
"He's doing a great job. He's quickly learning how to manage his own portfolio and how to move in the circles which are bilateral and national in scope.
"On the other hand, you're quite permitted to argue with him or to debate. He has a humility about him that makes that possible. He's very unassuming."
When he's not tallying his political friends and foes, Bradley likes to retreat to St. Catharines on the weekend, take in a Friday night junior hockey game and have a few beers with his local friends, some of whom are newspaper reporters in the area.
And on Sundays, he loves to spread out his ministry homework on a table in front of the television set and alternate between career duties and National Football League coverage.
But most of the time, including many weekends, he's tackling his work as minister. And he is humble enough to realize that his progress in a short time as minister is partly due to public attitudes toward the environment.
Recently, political pollsters have been telling parties the public has a high level of concern for environmental issues and is supportive of money spent in the area. They have even suggested that such action could translate into votes at election time."

It must be tough being a wealthy saint for the environmentalists - with the limos and posh offices - as well as being an unassuming politico, pretending that no letter isn't worth answering . Jim Bradley didn't answer a number of letters which I sent to him. How many other letters, messages, or emails, does Jim Bradley pick and choose NOT to reply to?

Did Bradley read this letter to the editor from St. Catharines Dr. George Fitzpatrick?
(St.Catharines Standard, Mar.7, 2005):

"I noticed your series of articles on health care and this government's treatment of Ontario doctors in the health system. As a delegate to the section of family practice of the Ontario Medical Association, I would like to share some of my frustrations with the members of the public.
- The Ontario government is making it harder for physicians and their patients.It refuses to negotiate a fair deal with doctors. Despite the fact that one million patients in Ontario are without family doctors, the government refuses to address the concerns raised by Ontario physicians. Picking fights with our doctors, and remunerating them less than those doctors in six other provinces is not the way to recruit physicians to Ontario. Why doesn't the province stop playing politics with patients and their health?
- One in three specialists will be older than 55 in the next five years.- Waiting times for referrals, operations and diagnostic tests, such as MRIs and CAT scans can take up to six months in this community.
- Doctors who are working harder and harder cannot solve these problems.Only a reasonable government that co-operates with health professionals can.
- A government that tries to dictate "take-it-or-leave-it" deals will not solve the problem of wait times and shortages.- We want to work constructively with the government, patients and other health professionals to solve these problems.
- Our health system is under-funded. In 1992, Ontario had the highest per-capita spending on health care in the country. Now we rank seventh.
I ask St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley to intervene on behalf of families in the St. Catharines riding to tell Dalton McGuinty and George Smitherman to co-operate with the professionals who make our health system work."

Did Jim Bradley ever bother to respond to the above letter?

This is a letter I wrote to Jim Bradley, Mar.30, 2006:
On Mar.13, 2006 the Standard’s Marlene Bergsma reported on city/provincial cost-sharing for the planned QEW widening. Millions will be spent to overhaul or to completely replace six QEW overpasses in St. Catharines.

On Mar. 29, 2006 in your Niagara News column you wrote: “One of the major (budget) announcements was the unveiling of Move-Ontario, a major new province-wide investment in transit, roads, and bridges.”

I ask that you consider that now is an opportune time to ensure that funding is available so that the proposed QEW bridges are designed with safety barriers to discourage vandalism and suicides.

Looking at the Burgoyne bridge over the 406, you’ll see that someone, sometime ago in the city thought it prudent to install at least a partial section of safety barrier – yet it wasn’t it finished. The Standard reported that a suicide occurred there on Mar. 2, 2006

Over the years there have been several local reports - from Grimsby to Niagara Falls - of persons throwing objects, or themselves, onto the roads below. The Standard reported Jan.21, 2002 of a truck on the QEW skidding out of control after being hit by an object thrown from the Niagara St. overpass. On Mar.15, 1999 Marlene Bergsma reported vandals at the Lake St. overpass hit a car below with ice. Niagara Regional Police Sgt. Terry Reese commented that the passengers “were lucky they weren’t killed.” On Feb. 22, 2006 at the Lake St. bridge, a teenager threw herself onto the QEW lanes below.

I forwarded my suggestion regarding installation of overpass barriers to the city, which at its regular Mar. 20, 2006 meeting “directed that no further action be taken.”

Why? Millions were already allocated on QEW bridge reconstruction prior to your third budget announcement – now with Move-Ontario, there are apparently millions more for Niagara infrastructure.

Why not insist that barriers become an inherent bridge design element? Is it that barriers ‘don’t look nice’? Well, neither does a blood-splattered road.

Is the cost itself the barrier? What is the incremental cost today to prevent tomorrow’s tragedies, injuries, possible deaths and subsequent negligence lawsuits? It’s not as if the City or the Province are unaware of the dangers – but what have they done to mitigate them? Is public safety this low of a concern? I look forward to your response.

Here’s a letter I wrote, published in the St. Catharines Standard, Apr.5, 2006, “Highway overpasses should have barriers for public safety”:

“Re: City plans 50% hike in works spending, The Standard, March 13.
Millions will be spent to overhaul or to completely replace six QEW overpasses in St. Catharines.
Now is an opportune time for the city to insist that these new bridges are designed with safety barriers to discourage vandalism and suicides.
Looking at the Burgoyne Bridge over Highway 406, you'll see that someone, some time ago, thought it would be prudent to install at least a partial section of a barrier.
The Standard reported that a suicide occurred there on March 2 of this year.
There have been several local reports over the years of persons throwing objects, or themselves, onto the roads below.
The Standard reported on Jan. 21, 2002, about a truck on the QEW skidding out of control after being hit by an object thrown from the Niagara Street overpass.
On March 15, 1999, it was reported vandals at the Lake Street overpass hit a car below with ice. Niagara Regional Police Sergeant Terry Reese commented that the passengers were lucky they weren't killed.
On Feb. 22 of this year, a teenager threw herself onto the QEW lanes below the Lake Street overpass as well.
I forwarded my suggestion regarding installation of barriers on city overpasses to the city, which at its meeting on March 20 directed that no further action be taken.
Millions are being proposed on bridge reconstruction -- why not insist that barriers become an inherent part of their design?
Is cost itself the barrier?
What is the incremental cost today to prevent tomorrow's tragedies, injuries, possible deaths and subsequent negligence lawsuits?
It's not as if the city or the province are unaware of the dangers, but what have they done to mitigate them?
Is public safety this low of a concern?”

No answers from Jim Bradley!!!

I sent another letter to these people, Apr.21, 2006: (only answer came from a spokesman for Takhar. Nothing from Bradley, Rigby, Partington)

Mr. Tim Rigby, Mayor of City of St. Catharines
Mr. Peter Partington, Chair, Region of Niagara
Mr. Harinder Takhar, Minister of Transportation
Mr. Jim Bradley, Minister of Tourism

Dear Sirs,

Re: the Apr. 11, 2006 traffic fatality of Emily Phillips at the Niagara St. QEW on-ramp, St. Catharines, Ont.

In the Apr. 13, 2006 St. Catharines Standard story, “Changes urged at deadly on-ramp” the Mayor of St. Catharines was quoted saying that both the city and Niagara Region “have been asking MTO to make changes to that ramp. It certainly has been suggested it not remain open.”

Can Mr. Rigby produce any specific past documents which clearly verify that the City of St. Catharines or Niagara Region did suggest, or request, or recommend to the MTO that the Niagara St. on-ramp be closed? And if so, what was the MTO’s response to the city, or to the Region?

Mr. Rigby said that the city can’t close the ramp because the province has jurisdiction over the roads that lead to it. Did the City of St. Catharines, or Niagara Region, ever contact local MPP Jim Bradley (who presumably has jurisdiction over provincial roads) with a specific request to close the Niagara St. on-ramp? On Apr. 19, 2006, Bradley suddenly urged the MTO to close the ramp. But prior to that, did Bradley ever directly respond to any city or regional request regarding closing that ramp?

Did Jim Bradley ever receive any requests from the city or Niagara Region regarding closure of that ramp? Did he ever receive any request from the public, or from his constituents, about the safety of this ramp or its possible closure? After almost three decades as the local MPP, did Bradley just now discover the dangerous, now deadly, nature of this ramp?

I raise these concerns because MTO spokesman Will MacKenzie was quoted saying that the MTO has never had a request to close the ramp and has no intention of doing so.

There seems to be a glaring discrepancy here. Whose version of events are citizens to believe? Either the City did contact the MTO, or they didn’t. But even if the City or Region didn’t (and we should then ask why), are we to believe that the MTO was therefore unaware of this ramp’s danger?

There certainly seems to be a level of complicity and a degree of negligence to be attributed to the levels of government which have knowingly tolerated this inadequate ramp and done nothing to mitigate its danger to motorists. The police have laid no charges in this fatality, so who is culpable here?

It’s truly unacceptable that after this fatality, the MTO spokesman still declares the MTO has no intention to close the ramp. How many more car crashes, personal injuries, or deaths, is Transportation minister Harinder Takhar willing to tolerate? As Tourism minister, what has Jim Bradley done to warn or protect unsuspecting tourists - let alone his own constituents - of this deadly QEW merge?

I am adding my voice to the list who are calling for this ramp’s immediate closure and re-engineering. Can’t Move Ontario funding be utilized here?

I look forward to your individual response to any of the questions raised in this letter. Thank you
Cc: Greg Washuta, Councillor, St. Catharines


I wrote in Pulse Niagara, Apr.20, 2006:

"The notorious Toronto–bound QEW on–ramp at Niagara St. was the scene of a fatality on Apr. 11, 2006. Most Niagarans know the white–knuckle feeling you get when you’re squeezed on that ramp. Pray for the motorists visiting our city who are unfamiliar with it.

People have said that ramp should have been closed years ago. St. Catharines mayor Tim Rigby said that the city and the regional government “have been asking MTO to make changes to that ramp. It certainly has been suggested it not remain open.”

MTO spokesman Will MacKenzie responded that the MTO has never had a request to close that ramp and has no intention of doing so. (St. Catharines Standard, Apr. 13, 2006)

Who’s version of the truth are citizens supposed to believe here? Can the City of St. Catharines or Niagara Region produce documentation to rebuke MacKenzie’s claim; to show that in fact, the MTO had been previously notified to consider closing/improving this ramp? If so, that would indicate that the MTO has been taking calculated risks with public safety at that ramp, which have not only resulted in previous injuries, but now in death.

The one influential politician most conspicuous by his silence on this issue is MPP Jim Bradley, who’s supposed to represent the citizens of St. Catharines at Queen’s Park. During the almost 30 years in which Bradley has sat in office, what has he done about this killer ramp? Did he not know how dangerous it was?

Prior to approaching the Niagara St. on–ramp, motorists on the QEW are faced with a huge blue advertising sign. But the sole warning for the upcoming merge is a small yellow sign. Considering the known inadequacy of the upcoming ramp, is this little sign the best they could do? That this situation has been tolerated for so long by finger–pointing politicians and bureaucrats is unacceptable."


Then there was a hit and run on Apr.26, 2007 on the Niagara St. bridge over the QEW, where pedestrian Jessica Cormier was killed by a dangerous driver whose car mounted the sidewalk, hitting her and throwing her over the railing onto the road below. Would not a barrier have mitigated the injuries in this circumstance?

Did Jim Bradley respond to these letters:

Suzie Sheehan wrote in “Speak up to avoid another tragic accident”, St. Catharines Standard, May 28, 2007:

"Re: Address the Glendale/406 interchange before someone is hurt, The Standard, May 14.

Wow! Was I thrilled to read this letter. I, too, was very close to becoming a fatality with my three young children.
I spent the morning at the Pen and was on my way home to make lunch when the lady in front of me was "spooked" by the transport approaching in the right lane.
Instead of entering the highway, she stopped! I was already building speed to follow her onto the highway when I realized she stopped. I made a split second decision to speed up and enter the highway because I would have hit her car - and more than likely killed her.
Needless to say, I closed my eyes, said a prayer and entered the highway - pedal to the metal!
I thought my children and I were dead because I thought we were going to be crushed by the transport truck.
As it turned out, the transport blared his horn and moved into the passing lane. I was a basket case and will never forget this. Maybe if more residents voice their concern, another death will be avoided. Let's not have a repeat of the Niagara Street tragedy.”

Phil Baranoski wrote in “Glendale ramps pose Hwy. 406 safety hazard”, Welland Tribune, May 10, 2006:

"For years I have been complaining to the Ministry of Transport about the unsafe engineering design of the Niagara Street ramp to the Toronto-bound QEW since it was built.
Unfortunately, it has been a year now that a girl's life was taken tragically on this ill-designed ramp.
On Feb. 11, 1994 I contacted the MTO about the dangerous conditions created when the sound-barrier walls were installed on the Glendale Avenue northbound Hwy. 406 on-ramp at the Pen Centre location. To date the problem still exists and is more dangerous with the increase in traffic volume.
The problem is the northbound on-ramp is too short. It doesn't provide motorists space to accelerate and merge safely on to the highway without hitting a sound barrier wall. Also, there is a lack of visibility for the on-ramp motorists viewing the high volume of speeding traffic coming down the hill because of another secondary high sound-barrier wall located on the overpass bridge. It blocks the driver's sight-line vision of the on coming traffic.
This problem is compounded for Hwy. 406 motorists travelling northbound down the escarpment at a high rate speed. There is the force of gravity as they come down and are squeezed from four lanes of traffic down to two, unaware the northbound Glendale Avenue on-ramp traffic is hidden because of the high unnecessary sound-barrier wall that interferes with their sightline.
A lot of Hwy. 406 motorists get a surprise when they suddenly see northbound on-ramp traffic merging into their lane and cannot pull over into the left lane because it is blocked by other traffic.
Because the ramp is too short for merging it gives the Hwy. 406 northbound motorist two choices. The highway driver must brake to let the on-ramp traffic onto the highway with the possibility of being rear-ended or speed up hoping the on-ramp driver slows down and enters from behind.
The on-ramp drivers also face a quick decision, to either speed up to merge and get in front of the hidden motorists coming down the hill on Hwy. 406 just in time, praying not to misjudge and hit the sound-barrier wall or slow down hoping to not get rammed by the driver from behind.
There are solutions.
First, immediately take down the inner northbound sound-barrier wall located on the Glendale Avenue overpass bridge, adjacent to the ramp. It serves no purpose in a commercial area. It is a safety hazard creating blind spots for motorists travelling north on the highway and for the motorists merging onto the Highway 406
Second, the Glendale on-ramp needs to be re-extended like the Niagara Street-QEW ramp to allow enough distance for the northbound motorist to safely merge onto northbound Hwy. 406.
The Ministry of Transport needs to be proactive and act to rectify this traffic hazard as quickly as possible. We do not need a tragic death at this on-ramp location because of poor road design, installation of a useless dangerous sound barrier in a commercial area and the lack of common sense safety engineering.”


Dear Mr. Bradley:

Has the Ministry of Transportation studied installing safety barriers on ministry bridges? In the last 30 years, prior to April 2006, has the Ministry of Transport ever been contacted by the local St. Catharines MPP, Jim Bradley, or by the local city or regional government, to improve or close the Niagara St. on-ramp? Will the Ministry be acting to rectify the Glendale/406 ramp hazard?

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