3799831614_bbb3a28659By Peter McSherry.

Someone with apparent City Hall experience and competence once told me this about our City Councillors: “Some of them have their hands out (for money) and some of them don’t. Most are in the middle. They all have at least one or two issues they really care about. But all of them really do care about one thing: their own political futures.” The Grand Finale of many years of City of Toronto use and abuse of its taxi industry was meant to happen when, on February 19 last, Ward 32 Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon rose in the Council Chamber and, after a few vacuous sentences about dealing with this taxi matter being “the right thing to do,” she proposed the passage of a set of taxi recommendations that she may or may not understand are meant to first bankrupt most of the industry so that the City can take back the equity taxi plates – which are legal assets that the City itself once induced mere taxi drivers to structure many years of their working lives around earning. McMahon’s motion passed by a margin of 31-12.

In the news reports of her action, she was self-congratulating quoted as having extensively “schmoozed” and lobbied other members of Council to support her motion. Ms. McMahon is a member of City Council’s Licensing and Standards (L&S) Committee and she sits on Council as an advocate of Green Party principles. I’d guess, too, she knows the front of a cab from the back and that the real purpose of these taxi changes is lots more money for the City in an incipient taxi industry new order. After that, she probably knew that passing the recommendations would end the long line of begging taxi people who were taking up her valuable green time over something she doesn’t understand anyway. So what if taxi people lose the fruits of their life’s work! So what if thousands of taxi drivers have to work for nothing over a period of years! So what if the City of Toronto welshes on its word! Green is green! Because that’s the way it is: most, not all, of the Councillors don’t understand, or care to understand, the taxi industry.

They just want the cabs to do the job for as little money as possible and, as part of that, they want as much money for the City out of the industry as can be gotten. And, too, the industry must be overused as a convenient form of welfare. The truth is, too, that the City’s system of industry governance is back before the Revolution of 1837: we are taxed to death under the guise of licensing fees and we have no effective say in how the industry is run. And that’s all just peachy as far as most Toronto City Councillors are concerned. Last month, in Part One of this series, I began the tale of how and why the City of Toronto has long since turned its taxi industry into a money-making, money-saving device for itself. During my 42 years as a driver, a taxi industry that once provided an arguably reasonable means of earning a hard dollar has been changed by the City’s political-bureaucratic system into an outright cash cow for the City itself – and this, at great cost to the industry’s property holders and its working drivers.

The reader will understand that all City taxi drivers – no matter their arrangement in the business – must operate as businessmen. Costs rarely, if ever, go down. Thus the dollar value of each of the three massive cuts in incoming revenues that I described in Part I of this series – the City’s non-reaction to the Airport Exemption of 1978, its issuance of 500 additional plates added to a pre-existing 2,480 taxis in 1982, and the issuance of yet another 500 plates in 1987 – came right out of every driver’s daily profits. All of these cuts are still with us – the exemption and the oversupply of cabs hugely stunting every driver’s incoming revenues every shift they work. Times were good in the 1980s such that the effects on driver income of these large share-outs of the daily fare pool were less apparent than they might otherwise have been, though the 1987 issuance of 500 plates, even in good economic circumstances, was clearly a serious overload of the system. But then came the fall of 1989, when interest rates suddenly rose again to 12 1/2 percent and taxi fares soon disappeared like the buffalo of the Western plains.

The bad years of 1990 to 1994 – the leanest ever – followed. At the lowest ebb, three nights out of seven, it was impossible for a driver to make costs. The rest of the week it was a crap shoot. After expenses, a cabbie might go home with $25 or $60 or $130 – usually for 12 hours hard slogging. There were few “good nights” for four or five years. And there were all the attendant problems. Because the driver was taking in very little, vehicle upkeep suffered and it became difficult, then impossible, to replace worn-out cabs. Drivers couldn’t support their families on taxi earnings. Many got into rackets, selling bootleg cigarettes, bootleg liquor, dope and perhaps even women. Many cabbies of long experience forced themselves to look for other work, to be replaced in the taxi business by even larger numbers of new immigrants, some of whom brought ways of doing things into the business that won’t work here but that they would not easily let go of.

The worst shift I remember was a Thursday night two weeks before Christmas in 1991 when, amidst hundreds of angry cabbies, I covered the downtown streets for 12 hours and all I could take in was $59, while my costs were over $100. Two months after that I was gone from Toronto and the taxi business until November 1995.

When I came back, the industry was changed. Gone were most of the old-time drivers I had known. They had been replaced by even more Third World immigrants who, being more used to deprivation, were at least initially somewhat more easy for the City to exploit. But, too, a lot of these soon joined a union and wanted change. And there was a “union friendly” City Councillor who was more then ready to help them out. Howard Moscoe’s father and uncle had both been career taxi drivers. And, as they say, In the Land of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King.

Next Month – Part Three: All About Howie and His Big Idea!

Peter McSherry is the author of three published books, one of which is Mean Streets: Confessions of a Nighttime Taxi Driver. “To all my readers – I wish to thank Leroy St. Germaine and Your Ward News for their interest in publishing a story with a message that seemingly no other publication in Toronto, except for Taxinews, would publish.” -P. McSherry.

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By Investigative Journalist

Michelle L. Erstikaitis

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Ever since my incarceration on marijuana charges on November 6th 2013, I have been the target of relentless harassment and abuse by Correctional Officers everywhere, from prisons in Alberta, to Grandvalley Institution, to Vanier Detention Correctional Centre in Milton, Ontario, where a female Correctional Officer deliberately ran her fingers through my hair as I stood stark naked during a strip search on February 19, 2014.

On May 26, 2014, Ombudsman Ontario representatives spoke to Vanier Superintendent Anna Gulbinski about my complaint of being physically touched during a strip search, which has NEVER happened to me in my entire nineteen year history with Corrections Canada. On July 17th, 2014, Fran Cappe with Ombudsman Ontario wrote me a letter in which she states:

Subsequently, the Superintendent confirmed that a Correctional Officer did not follow the relevant policy and it was not appropriate for her to have run her fingers through your hair while conducting a strip search.

On July 16th 2014, coincidentally, I had signed a request form asking that Halton Regional Police be contacted as I wish to press criminal charges against the female officer who touched me during the strip search. As of today’s date, September 3rd, 2014, I have not met with police, nor received a single word from Vanier Superintendent Anna Gulbinski or Vamoer Security Intelligence Officer Bruce Mcnall regarding the sexual assault by the Correctional Officer.

I have already written an article for this newspaper titled, ‘Sexual Humiliation Tactics Being Used To Keep Female Inmates In Line’, in which I detail SIX other examples of sexual abuse that has been perpetrated against me by Corrections Canada Officers in the past two years.

Now, it has recently come to my attention that there are incidents of sexual abuse against OTHER female offenders in Canada, and that oddly, these examples of sexual abuse only seem to be occurring to female offenders who have a history of self harm or acting out.

Now, the abuse I have personally endured is NOT just sexually related. At Grandvalley Institution on the evening of December 9th 2014, I was on a suicide watch, and I was psychologically tormented by a Correctional Officer Heather Sutton, who was assigned as my one-to-one officer outside of my cell. I was on a suicide watch, and Heather Sutton called me ‘Smelly Vagina’ and told me that I was a ‘circus sideshow’ and also taunted me about being a celebrity.

Why would Correctional Officers DELIBERATELY abuse a potentially suicidal or self-harming inmate? Then, on the early afternoon hours of January 11th, 2014, Grandvalley Correctional Officers Matt Mclaren, Chris Burnette and Michell Lalonde came on to the Segregation unit, where I was the only inmate being housed there at that time, and they harassed and taunted me with horrible things that are unmentionable. These officers knew fully well that I was psychologically fragile, and they BELIEVED that I was potentially suicidal.

Because of my friend Ashley Smith, I decided to cause a scene, and make as much of a fuss as I possibly could in order to call attention to the harassment of a potentially suicidal inmate by Correctional Officers.

I tied a ligature around my neck, and yelled at the officers, “Is this what you want to see?” Over and over again. I also hollered, “What more can you do to me?” as a tribute to Ashley Smith, because that was Ashley’s favourite defiant taunt to sadistic Correctional Officers.

So, what more did Grandvalley Officers do to me? Well, they tied me up to a bed for twenty-two hours, which is illegal, because an inmate tied up in four-point Pinel restraints is never supposed to be tied up longer than ten hours at the very most. Even Ashley Smith was never tied up longer than ten hours. The Grandvalley nurse signed the paperwork to have me Pinelled is a woman named Kayla Brenneman, and as I was being tied up that day, nurse Brenneman had a sadistic gleam of satisfaction in her eyes. Five days later, she would once again sign papers to have me tied up on January 16th 2014 for eighteen hours.

I have battled with Corrections Canada to get my hands on the paperwork related to these incidents, including the Observation reports from the 22 hours tied up and the 18 hours tied up.

On July 9th 2014, Nicole Lewandowski from The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, typed up document which is file number PA-035036, in which it was declared that Corrections Canada had erred by not providing me with the files within the legislated time frame for thirty days.

Because CSC did not hand over the documents for 193 days, my complaint to the Privacy Commissioner was declared to be well-founded.

While I was battling to get my hands on these documents, my privileged mail to and from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and The Ontario Correctional Investigator was being routinely opened illegally by the Vanier Detention Centre, and I complained to the Correctional Investigator AND the Ombudsman, but even now, the letters that I receive from those agencies investigating Corrections Canada are still being opened and read by Vanier Detention Centre personnel before being given to me.

Corrections Canada is TERRIFIED of something. Why did they illegally hold on to my CSC files for193 days? Why is all of my Private Correspondence relating to the investigation of the actions of Corrections Canada being illegally opened and read without fear of repercussion?

First of all, because I was finally provided with my Corrections Canada files, I can tell you that a pattern of harassment is BLATANTLY obvious in the paperwork. Regarding the observation notes from January 11th 2014, when I was tied to a bed for 22 hours, you can see from the notes taken by Grandvalley Correctional Officers Grace Scott and Kim Swayse that from when I was tied up at 14:30 hrs, all the way until 22:00 hrs, I was mostly laying on the bed and singing and laughing. So, that is EIGHT HOURS tied up with absolutely no suicidal behaviour or acting out. Then, at 19:00 hrs, Grandvalley registered nurse Denise Thompson is called in to the Institution to monitor me, because even though I am doing NOTHING to justify the continued forcible confinement, Correctional Officers have decided that they will keep me tied up all night.

When it was happening, I believed at the time that it was being done to torture me, because Kim Swayze and Grace Scott taunted me and mocked me the entire time I was tied up over night. Grace Scott poked fun at my work in politics and journalism, made up stories about media reports that were written about me on the internet.

Kim Swayze told me that Correctional Officers suspected that I had been raped recently while I was free in the community, and she assured me that Correctional Officers thought it was hilarious. She then went on to say something VERY significant. Now, when Correctional Officers taunt and torment an inmate whom they believe to be suicidal, WHAT DO THE CORRECTIONAL OFFICE STAND TO GAIN?

The answer, my friends, is OVERTIME PAY. Kim Swayze said to me, “Trust me, I do not mind having you tied up. As a matter of fact, I am receiving overtime pay to sit here and watch you.”

So, bearing that in mind, who else stands to benefit from an inmate being hospitalized or tied up in Pinel restraints?

Well, the extra staff that are called in to the Institution, as well as the healthcare personnel who are called in for an unscheduled night shift are ALL gaining extra work shifts and overtime pay. Staff who have to stay late to fill out incidents reports….

Shockingly, it turns out that the sexual humiliation tactics are probably NOT being used to ‘keep federal inmates in line’, but rather, the abuse is intended to cause a psychologically fragile inmate to act out in a manner which will lead to extra staff shifts and overtime.

When I was tied up for 22 hours, Grace Scott lied in her Observation Report by saying that I spent the entire night screaming and yelling from ten o’ clock in the evening, to seven o’ clock in the morning. According to the observation notes, which are filled in every fifteen minutes, from 2:15AM, until 7:00AM, I was laying on the bed and singing. On January 16, 2014, I was tied to a bed at 12:30 in the afternoon and not untied until 10:00AM the next day.

The observation notes taken on those two days show that I spent the ENTIRE TIME sleeping. So, since I was sleeping ALL NIGHT LONG, why was it necessary to have me tied to the bed? Because of the overtime pay that healthcare staff and Correctional Officers were able to justify. Sadly, this horrific abuse of overtime shifts and pay is a scam that is being perpetrated in correctional facilities all over Canada, and it is being done at the expense of psychologically and mentally fragile inmates.

I believe this was what led to Ashley Smith’s death: How much overtime pay was handed out to Corrections Canada staff in Ashley’s case? Taxpayers should email their MP’s and ask: As a taxpayer, do you feel comfortable knowing that your hard earned tax dollars are helping to fund the psychological and physical torture of human beings?

Garry Patrick Henry O’Keefe

September 17, 2014

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It is with great sadness to announce that beloved musician, Garry O’Keefe, passed away on Aug. 26th, 2014, in his 60th year. Cherished son of departed Dalton and Colombe O’Keefe. Garry is survived by his best friend Tracy Nicholson, his brother Dennis (Gail) O’Keefe, his sister Shirley (Paul) Rivard, his nephews Colin Carmichael and Tim O’Keefe, his niece Kathy (Cliff) Weeks and a multitude of friends and fellow musicians. He is missed. Two celebrations of life for Beaches Blues Fest & Danforth Music Festival superstar, Beaches everyman, and good community buddy Garry O’Keefe will be held this month:

1) SUNDAY SEPT 14 – 1 PM to 6 PM. The Emerald Grill Bar & Grill. 1628 Queen Street East at Coxwell Avenue.

2) SUNDAY SEPT 21 – 3 PM to 9 PM. The Mélange Restaurant & Lounge. 172 Main Street at Gerrard Street East.

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CALL : 416-693-6325

With a day of work behind me and before the sunset ends, it’s a quiet and peaceful feelin’ on the trail while headin’ in.

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AUDITOR GENERAL LETTER MASTER 2

By Sherri Lange , CEO NA-PAW (North American Platform Against Wind Power) http://www.na-paw.org
Founding Director Toronto Wind Action / Executive Director Canada, Great Lakes Wind Truth / VP Canada, Save the Eagles International

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