Partridge Island breakwater report paints pricey picture

The majestic Partridge Island in Saint John, with it’s signature lighthouse overlooking the harbour, has been off-limits to the public for a number of years, but there seems to be an appetite to see that change.

A study was commissioned to look at the feasibility of putting some major work into the kilometre long breakwater that provides the only land access to the historic island.

The report is in on how to make the breakwater leading to Partridge Island more publicly accessible, and just like many people thought, it’s got a large price tag.

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Estimates range anywhere from $27 to 40 million.

Raising the imposing breakwater to a safer height for pedestrian use is one of the key challenges, according to Dillon Consulting which compiled the report.

“You talk about adding a significant amount of rock,” said Darcy Harris of Dillon Consulting. “We created some features on the sea side of the of the breakwater to limit some of the wave action as it ran up on the breakwater and then on top of that you’re looking at putting a surface that’s durable that’s going to withstand the harsh elements.”

Saint John MP Wayne Long is one of the champions of the restoration of Partridge Island as a tourist attraction.

“The price tag on the causeway, even though its higher than people expected, it’s certainly in my opinion a non-starter,” said Long. “It does not slow this process down one bit.”

In fact, Long feels the island aspect should be played up.

“I think the allure of Partridge Island is the fact that it should be accessible by boat,” he said.

Saint John historian Harold Wright likely knows the island better than anyone. He says he and Long are on the same page.

“You build a wharf,” Wright said. “A wharf that means boaters can go out, fishermen can use it. I believe that someone should be living on the island, provide security.”

Partridge Island is especially significant to people of Irish decent.

It was a landing spot for many Irish immigrants coming to Canada.

“I think the good news is that it does sound like the government has a will.” said Marijke Blok, New Brunswick president of the Irish Canadian Cultural Association. “It’s such an opportunity for any city in the current economic times.”

The will is there as far as Long is concerned.

“I certainly expect to see Partridge Island refurbished within my mandate.”

WATCH: Vancouver City Councillor says pay raise is fair, Canadian Taxpayers Federation disagrees

After Vancouver city councillors voted in favour of giving themselves a raise in a meeting held last month, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is crying foul.

The raise involves a $8,900 per year pay increase for councillors, which bumps their annual salaries up to $80,000 a year.

The current annual salary for a Vancouver city councillor stands at $70,909 a year.

There is also an annual supplement of around $3,000 to make up for the lack of extended health benefits.

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Green City Councillor Adriane Carr who put forward the motion says the raise is fair compared to what councillors in other cities make.

“There has not been a review of the base salaries for park board or council for two decades,” says Carr. “That was one impetus to do a check and see if the remunerations were appropriate.”

They also wanted to look into whether the formula for calculating how the councillors are being renumerated should change, taking into account best practices in other jurisdictions of similar size and complexity, as well as relevant benchmarks for compensation.

WATCH: Adriane Carr puts forward a motion to increase wages of councillors in a meeting held February 24

An independent review was conducted and delivered in December 2015 to provide recommendations that would keep councillors both on par with the average full-time working person in the city of Vancouver and in line with councillors in comparable jurisdictions.

For example, it was discovered that city councillors in the City of Calgary make $115,298 a year, while a councillor in City of Victoria makes $40,365 a year.

“It is quite a wide range, but we are basically at the median,” says Carr. “That, to me, seems like a fair figure.”

There is also a salary increase for the Park Board Commissioners and the Chair. Their salaries will essentially double.

“I am happy about that,” says Carr. “I know that the Park Board Commissioners have taken on a lot more complex issues and have put in a far greater number of hours to deal with those issues.”

But, Jordan Bateman with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the salary raise is not justified.

“Vancouver City Council came like a thief in the night, plundered more money from taxpayers and putting in their own pockets,” says Bateman.

He says the idea of comparing themselves to city councils in other cities does not work, because there is no competitive market for city councillors.

“It’s not like a job in the private sector where another private sector firm may try to poach you. No one is poaching Vancouver city councillors,” says Bateman. “It’s irrelevant what other city councillors get paid. ”

The motion to give Vancouver city councillors a raise was passed on Feb. 24, but was not publicly announced. Carr says she is not sure why the matter was not publicly reported, but in retrospect, she thinks the public should have been alerted.

Bateman says the lack of public consultation or discussion on this issue is concerning to him.

“It just suddenly happened,” he says. “Even some of the councillors are scratching their heads, wondering how this process unfolded.”

Bateman adds if a city council votes for a raise, it should be put in place for the next council that takes over, because existing councillors have already signed a contract outlying salary expectations.

It is expected the next remuneration review will happen in 2019.

Father with albinism and son escorted off Toronto bus by police after suspected abduction

TORONTO —; Jason Thompson took his four-year-old son Xavier to see Zootopia on Tuesday, but when they missed the show —; their day went from bad to worse.

The father and son were at Victoria Park subway station, singing Row, Row, Row, Your Boat while waiting for the #12 bus.

As they boarded, Toronto police said another member of the public reported Thompson to police because he has albinism and does not look like his son.

“Someone potentially believed the child had been abducted,” said Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu.

Jason Thompson believes he was escorted off a Toronto bus because he has albinism and does not have the same skin tone as his son.

Jason Thompson

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That’s when Thompson said the bus suddenly stopped en route and the driver refused to let anyone off.

“It’s sickening to me that someone would actually take that step,” said Thompson.

“Just as I’m sitting there looking at my phone two police officers are standing outside.”

Thompson said one of the officers came onto the bus and asked him if Xavier was his son, to which he responded that he was, and the officer then asked him to get off the bus.

He said he then asked why he was being singled out and the police officer allegedly told him, “You don’t want to do this here, let’s just get off the bus.”

Thompson said the officer quickly realized he and Xavier were, in fact, related despite having different skin tones.

“I was so dumbfounded, I probably just stood there with my mouth open,” he said.

“The officer knew I was offended and said, ‘It’s okay, it’s okay.’ They kept on reassuring me and were very sympathetic and understanding.”

Jason Thompson says he was offended after being escorted off a Toronto bus with his son Xavier

Police attempted to follow up with the original caller to get more information, but they did not answer their phone.

“To that person I would say think again. A white guy with a brown kid doesn’t mean that anything is going on. This is Toronto,” said Thompson

“We’re a multi-cultural city, let’s embrace it and relax everyone.”

Thompson said he had to then explain the humiliating situation to his four-year-old.

“I said, ‘Somebody called and said I’m not your daddy and they were worried.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘You are my daddy.’”

Police say they take every call related to children very seriously, and anyone who witnesses anything suspicious should give them a call.

Thankfully a day that began horribly ended a bit better for Thompson and his son.

“My son starts crying and the officer was like, ‘Don’t worry we’ll give you a ride home,’” he said.

“So we get back in the patrol car, we’re heading down the street and my son’s like, ‘This is where the bad guys sit’ and the officer’s like, ‘No, the good guys sit there too.’

“We’re good guys right now.”

Jason and Xavier Thompson were escorted off a Toronto bus after a member of the public thought the child was being abducted.

Jason Thompson

How deep will the federal deficit go: Experts ponder Ottawa’s shortfall

OTTAWA – It’s become the multibillion-dollar question – how big, exactly, will the federal deficit be?

Analysts have made predictions leading up to next Tuesday’s spring budget on the magnitude of Ottawa’s shortfall, which is already poised to reach tens of billions.

READ MORE: Liberals announce $18.4 billion deficit, expect oil to hover around $40

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The Liberal government has acknowledged the deficit could rise above $20 billion as it fulfills election vows and introduces economy-boosting measures, such as infrastructure spending.

The government has kept mum on the final figure, but many experts anticipate Ottawa will be $30 billion in the hole in 2016-17 – at least.

Some have even recommended how large – or small – the government should allow the deficit to grow in its budgetary blueprint.

The C.D. Howe Institute is the latest to weigh in with the release today of its annual “shadow” budget, a document that urges the Liberals to show some spending restraint.

READ MORE: Federal Finance Minister blames projected budget deficit on falling oil prices

The think-tank suggests a fiscal approach that will produce deficits of $15.3 billion and $12.2 billion over the next two fiscal years – levels significantly lower than other observers.

On the other end of the spectrum, a couple of big banks and the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have recommended the government inject even more fiscal stimulus, which will create a deficit as high as $40 billion in 2016-17.

TD Bank, meanwhile, has said the federal government is on track to run $150 billion in budget deficits over the next five years.

The projections come as the government prepares its maiden budget at a time when the economy is struggling with the negative consequences of low commodity prices, particularly oil.

The country’s economic situation darkened in the months that followed the October election, which prompted Finance Minister Bill Morneau to take the rare step last month of releasing a fiscal update only weeks before the budget.

The document revealed the treasury was projected to produce a shortfall of at least $18.4 billion in 2016-17, a projection that didn’t account for roughly $10 billion in Liberal spending commitments.

The updated numbers also predicted a $15.5-billion deficit in 2017-18.

The projections also included an additional $6 billion per year for economic prudence that the government argued was necessary to account for risk.

In November, shortly after they were elected, the Liberals predicted shortfalls of $3.9 billion in 2016-17 and $2.4 billion in 2017-18.

The Liberals made a counter-intuitive promise during the election campaign when they vowed to run deficits over the next three years in order to pay for infrastructure projects to stimulate the weak economy.

They had pledged to cap annual shortfalls at $10 billion over that span, a vow they are now poised to break. The Liberals have also backed away from their campaign promise to balance the books in four years.

READ MORE: Deficits could total $90B over Liberals’ first mandate: bank study

In releasing the grimmer numbers last month, Morneau insisted the government’s starting point was “much further back” than the Liberals thought.

He has come under attack by Conservative opponents for breaking election promises and for planning to drive Canadians deeper into debt.

Morneau, however, has repeatedly maintained that spending is necessary to revive economic growth and create jobs.

The C.D. Howe Institute argues in today’s report that the Liberals can support economic growth and still return to a balanced budget by 2019-20.

“Ottawa must temper the sense created by the election campaign and early post-election announcements that there are no limits to what the federal government can spend and borrow,” reads the document, which includes calculations that cut the government’s annual economic prudence of $6 billion in half.

Last week, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released its “alternative” budget that called for major investments in infrastructure as well as support for social programs and low-income households.

The group propose generating additional government revenues by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy, raising corporate taxes, introducing a national carbon tax and ending subsidies for the energy industry.