Lister Block

Heritage Ministry Should Designate Lister Now

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 26, 2008

To: The Honourable Aileen Carroll, Ontario Minister of Heritage
Re: Lister Block

Dear Minister Carroll,

As you probably know, negotiations between the City of Hamilton and Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) over a new deal to restore the Lister Building have broken down over the stipulations of a condition bond to guarantee a second phase of development.

In accordance with the recommendations of the Ontario Heritage Trust report on the Lister Block, and given the danger that LIUNA may decide to demolish the Lister building, it is incumbent on the Ontario Government to designate the Lister Building as a provincial heritage site to prevent further neglect and/or demolition.

Designation will accomplish several constructive goals:

  1. It will formally assert the building's established heritage value;

  2. It will clarify the rules under which the owner of the building must operate;

  3. It will give the province powers under the Heritage Act to enforce property standards and prevent demolition; and

  4. It will eliminate the threat of demolition as a bargaining tactic.

LIUNA Vice President Joe Mancinelli suggested on a recent radio interview with 900 CHML's Bill Kelly that LIUNA may proceed with redeveloping the Lister without municipal or provincial involvement.

In this case, it is imperative that LIUNA understand they are dealing with a heritage building and may not demolish it.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus and HuffPost. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 11:51:20

this building is coming down. I'll be shocked if it doesn't.

For the umpteenth time the city voted to go along with LIUNA's latest proposal only to have them change their minds yet again. They were never interested in getting a deal done to save it. If council had lowered the bar once again last night, LIUNA would have changed their minds again this morning.

there's a reason a demolition company had scaffolding already set up before this past weeks council meetings. The city did their darned best, and should be applauded by everyone for for being, well, 'business friendly'. There's no chance of making a deal when the business your dealing with doesn't return the courtesy and good faith.

Fire up the 'Vanished Hamilton' printers!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 12:09:54

I love the irony here. LIUNA represents the "righteous worker", and yet they are acting in the same selfish manner they criticize business for. I guess being virtuous only applies to successful businesses.

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By frank (registered) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 13:06:37

Ryan in the interest of pure fairness, when a contract is proposed, there's generaly something in the order of a 10% bid bond or something of that sort. 1 mil is nothing!

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 13:28:49

Ryan...if you read the transcripts from their meeting 2.5 months ago, Mancinelli stated that they would have no problem with the $1million guaruntee and promised adjacent construction.
What the city voted on this week (unless I've completely misread something) is 100% what LIUNA presented to them a mere 2 months ago.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 13:29:52

I think what Ryan's getting at is that City Council asked LIUNA to put their money where their mouth was and they didn't want to...

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By A-Lister (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 14:19:52

Well stated letter to the minister. Carroll has been totally MIA throughout this ordeal, at least Di Cocco set some things in motion (the OHT report and Alan Wells' working group). Carroll can't keep hiding forever, the province needs to take a stand before it's too late.

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 16:46:53

Again, you miss the point. If you read Dreschel's column on Monday, he points out that Mancinelli had agreed to the $1M. It was the condition of size, which would trigger the penalty, he objected to. I believe the city wanted a footprint large enough to generate $600T in annual asssessment. Mancinelli proposed a footprint that would bring in $185T.
How silly for the city to say no. The money for the building didn't change, what changed was the speed of the payback: $185T Vs. $600T. With the lower number we would have had a restored Lister and money coming in. Now? Nothing! Fred was right on this one.

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By Mary Louise (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 17:50:10

I have to agree with Sage on this one. As much as it would have killed me to reward people who've shown nothing but bad faith since they purchased the Lister, saving the Lister is more important. Let's pray the province steps in now.

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By Baystreeter (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 23:16:12

Asking the Minister to designate the building now without a plan to do anything with the building is silly. It will enshrine the wreck in perpetuity.

I am so discouraged. We needed a win here for the downtown and all we got was fuzzy thinking, weak leadership and stagnation. I feel for all those businesses who have waited, hoped and believed. They too must be discouraged.

Go ahead Minister, designate a ruin. That will really help Hamilton!

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 27, 2008 at 09:06:52

baystreeter - "we needed a win downtown". We did??

I mean, sure new development is great, but we don't 'need' Lister to be fixed up now the way we thought we did 10 years ago.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been/are being invested downtown over the past 5 years. It is clearly enjoying a turnaround, even with Lister sitting there. Sure, I'd like to see it restored. Hopefully now it will be, once LIUNA sells and gets the heck out of here.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2008 at 13:52:55

You use some interesting logic Ryan. You believe that when the province forces LIUNA to do what it wants, only then will the free market will be able restore the Lister.

How about letting the free market decide what happens to it right now. You are not in favour of this because you do not really believe in the free market. At your core, you like the idea of a chosen few being able to dictate how the majority should live their lives.

You may think of yourself as enlightened, and self righteous, striving to save the earth from the evils of big business, but the tools you employ are coercion and force. Without the guns that government officials carry with them, you could not dictate to LIUNA how they should manage their property.

By supporting government intervention into the realm of private property, you are displaying your affinity for threat and intimidation. You are nothing more than a bully, without the muscles to back it up.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 27, 2008 at 17:12:56

you're right A Smith. I'm going to let me weeds grow to 10 feet tall on my property and open a crack house. Maybe then I'll purchase the Cathedral of Christ the King and knock it down for a Walmart. Finally, I think we need more parking downtown. I'd like to knock down the Pigott Building and create a little parking lot. After all, what right does the government have to protect our heritage buildings and why is the city allowed to interfere with property standards. Once I'm done here, I'll head over to Rome and get to work. I hear they have a lot of useless old buildings just waiting to be flattened.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2008 at 20:57:18

Jason, if you want to destroy the value of your property that is your prerogative. However, the vast majority of people want to increase the value of their investments if possible, and this entails keeping them in good repair.

In some cases, it also means demolishing existing structures, and replacing them with more valuable buildings. All of these decisions, however, are the domain of the landowner, since they are the rightful owners, and have the most to lose if things don't work out.

As to your comment about government protecting "our" heritage buildings, I was unaware that you were a part owner in these so called heritage buildings. Perhaps I misunderstood you, and by "our" you mean that ALL properties are communal, and that nobody truly owns anything except the government. In that case, I need to park my car on your lawn for a couple of months, I hope you don't mind.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 28, 2008 at 11:54:38

well, we certainly don't see eye to eye on this, but yes I do view heritage buildings as 'ours'. Just like all Romans view the Colesseum as 'theirs' and all Parisians view the Eiffel Tower as 'theirs'. Despite the notion in our 'modern' society that there is in fact no society anymore, I don't believe it or live it. Some choose to live in isolation in front of TV's and drive-thrus but the fact is, we all live in a society and our history and heritage should be treasured by all of us. I'm thankful for past generations who protected Dundurn Castle, the Pigott Building and plethora of beautiful old churches downtown. They understood society, history and what makes a community great. Heritage designations and enforcement is necessary when rogue, selfish individuals attempt to wipe out valuable pieces of history. If I purchase a heritage building I know exactly what I can and can't do. I don't have the benefit of the city's daily paper acting as my PR firm on the front pages day after day if I attempt to break the law. If LIUNA doesn't like dealing with a heritage property they need to sell it, just like you or I would have to.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2008 at 19:12:53

Ryan, my point about your affinity for threat and intimidation is NOT a straw man, it is a logical conclusion to your own statements. You believe that government's role is to dictate how people manage their affairs. However, the only way to enforce this is to use the threat of fines or jail. Therefore, you condone the use of force in order to achieve your goals.

You have strong opinions about what types of buildings are needed in Hamilton, and also what types of homes people should live in. I am of the opinion that people should be free to choose where they live, as long as they can pay their way. I believe that individuals are unique, and so are their likes and dislikes. You believe that your way is the best way, and that if people don't follow your way of thinking, government should force them to.

As far as government health care goes, if you believe in sharing your income to help others, nobody is stopping you. If there are enough people that are like minded, then there will be plenty of money to help everyone. The fact that you believe taxes are required to fund health care, means that you don't believe people are genuinely good. You are trying to enforce morality, but you are using theft in order to do it. In this case, two wrongs do not make a right.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2008 at 19:25:51

Jason, what if the government were to claim ownership of your physical body, using the same line of thinking. If someone needed a kidney, they could take one of yours. You could argue against it, but your claim would be subject to the collective will of the government.

Assuming that you find this proposition abhorrent, why is it hard to appreciate that property paid for by hours of hard work needs also to be protected. If government can claim ownership over the fruits of our labours, then we are all slaves. If you don't have a problem with that, then more power to you.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 28, 2008 at 22:47:03

I realize you're simply playing devils advocate, so I probably don't need to say this, but obviously there's a difference between buildings and history and someone's physical body. I'm free to do what I please with my body within the context of the laws of the land. Same goes for my property. To use your logic, I can repeat my sarcastic post from earlier suggesting I'd turn my home into a crack house. I have no problem with the fact that we disagree on this issue but let's at least try to keep the discussion someone realistic.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 29, 2008 at 00:16:01

Jason, I believe that every thing balances out, so go ahead and protect all the buildings you want. However, do not be surprised when things don't turn out the way you had hoped for. In my experience, the best way to help yourself, is to help others first. It seems counterintuitive, but it works like a charm.

The more Hamilton weakens itself, and allows business to have its way, the stronger the city will get. Ireland has a corporate tax rate of 12.5%, so one would assume they are being taken advantage of by big corporations. The truth is that their per capita income is 50% greater than both the U.S. and Canada's. Their generosity to business has been rewarded with high wage jobs for its citizens.

Hamilton has attacked business for over fifty years now, and the negative effects are obvious. Why don't we do the opposite and start catering to businesses, the effects will be a huge increase in jobs, wages, and quality of life.

It's as easy as following the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

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By Jelly (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2008 at 04:31:26

Coming Soon:

listerblock.ca

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2008 at 23:28:10

Ryan, I called you a bully, and I based this on your affinity for using force rather than cooperation to achieve your stated goals. Whereas I look at force as being a tool for self defense, you see it as a means to push your individual agenda.

Whether it is in protecting buildings you do not own, or limiting individuals choice to purchase the home of their dreams, you believe government's role is to control people's lives.

You frame your love for government with the idea that democracy represents consensus across the citizenry. However, you also believe that government can be co opted by narrow business interests. If this is the case, it can also be hijacked by narrow citizen interests like yourself.

I recognize that government can be manipulated by all these groups, and that is why I believe government power should be limited to protecting basic rights. Self defense is inherently moral, whereas coercion, even if it is exercised by the majority, is immoral.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 01, 2008 at 12:23:22

If by "narrow dogmatism" you mean having a moral compass, then I agree with you. If you want to live in a world where results are all that matter, then you are lost, and I feel bad for you. Don't be surprised when the monster you support comes after you.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 02, 2008 at 13:37:52

Ryan, do you believe there are any principles that supersede majority opinion? If so, what are these principles?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 02, 2008 at 22:31:01

Ryan, I especially like this part...

Equality Rights 15.2

Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race,national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.

...In effect, what this is saying is that there are no fundamental freedoms, since helping poor people trumps all other freedoms. I also find it curious how there is no mention of private property rights in this document.

This same proviso applies to mobility rights, which means that it is possible for the government to ban individuals from moving to another province to find work.

I ask you once again, are there any principles that rise above legislative decree? I will start you off with a few: murder, assault, rape, theft. Do you agree with me on any of these?


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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 13:13:28

Ryan, I stand corrected, you believe in everything but my right to private property. Therefore, as a Canadian, I can vote, speak my mind (assuming a human rights commission approves), hold a rally, but if the government decides to take my home, money, and anything else I own, I am legally bound to give it to them.

The democratic rights that you are enamored with, mean nothing if they do not guarantee sovereignty over the fruits of my labour. The logical extension of this line of thinking is to make me a slave to government.

Furthermore, Section 6 , Subsection (2) does nothing to guarantee property rights. As I mentioned previously, Section 6, Subsection (4) trumps this right, if and when the government decides it needs your wealth to help "disadvantaged" people.

Therefore, unless you want to clarify your position, I will assume you also support the government's ability to seize a person's wealth and property at any time.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 14:16:14

I base my belief in property rights on basic morals. I agree to not take your possessions, and you reciprocate.

The alternative is to grant certain groups, in this the majority, the right to control the individual. If you feel comfortable in allowing the majority, or the well connected, to impose their will on the individual, then it speaks volumes about what type of person you are.

In your world, the majority opinion is correct because democracy equals truth. When you begin with the assumption that democracy equals truth, then whatever the government does has to be right.

What happens if the majority decided it didn't want a certain ethnic group around, would you fall in line because it reflected the common good?

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 15:25:05

Ryan don't waste your time on this troll. He showed he either has no morals or no thinking skills when he wrote "What happens if the majority decided it didn't want a certain ethnic group around, would you fall in line because it reflected the common good?" I guess he missed the part in the charter of rights that says it's ILLEGAL to disciminate on the basis of ethnicity. Smith doesn't want an honest debate, he just wants to bog you down. Interpret his posts as damage and route around them.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 15:58:50

Defining property is clear cut, but how do you define fundamental human rights? Is it the right to have other people go to work so they can pay you to sit at home? Is it the right to petition government to limit other people's plans because you disagree with them? Is it the right to get free health care and education, even though somebody else is forced to subsidize it?

Private property assumes that possessions are earned in a lawful manner, and there has been a voluntary exchange by two or more parties. Your "fundamental human rights" omits the part about voluntary exchange, in fact it uses coercion to force one party to help the other.

That is the big difference between your values and mine. You don't believe that coercion is a bad thing, whereas I do.

As an example, if someone decides to buy gas from the big bad oil company, that is a choice. It may be the best choice among many bad choices, but it is still a choice. In fact, if you don't like having to buy gas, you can start your own company that sells bio diesel, or anything else you can think of.

However, when people are forced to pay a large percentage of their income to the government, there is zero choice in the matter. If a person refuses to pay the tax, he/she is sent to jail.

I do not define freedom as having property, I define freedom as having the right to earn and keep property. If you are poor, you have as much freedom as a rich person has to earn more wealth/property. The fact that Bill Gates is extremely rich, does not limit my ability to be rich as well. It's not a zero sum game.

Furthermore, it's not up to the rich to decide whether it is alright for the poor to sell themselves into slavery, it is up to the person who is selling themselves. I personally think it's a stupid thing to do, but if someone wants to do it, that is their choice.

I would hope in time that person would come to their senses and break such a contract, and if they did, I would support them. If a rich person held a slave against their wishes, then that would be morally wrong, and force would be justified in ending it.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 16:03:52

nobrainer, your name suits you. Did you ever hear about Japanese internment camps in WWII, or the residential schools fiasco? Government has a long track record of abusing minorities when feel it is appropriate.

Come back when you have a brain.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 17:29:56

Ryan, you use the term "fundamental human rights", because you know it can mean whatever you want it to mean. In that way, whatever you want government to do, you simply have to label it as a "fundamental human right", and there can be no opposition.

That is why you don't like the term "private property", since it implies that there are areas of the public sphere that are off limits to government control.

In your world, government's job is not to protect people's right to freedom, it is to force everyone to be equal. Therefore, if a poor person can't afford to pay for an M.R.I, than rich people shouldn't be allowed to either.

It is a philosophy based on envy, rather than compassion, and it reflects a person who can't, or is unwilling to carry their own weight. It is a philosophy for the weak of spirit.

The sad reality is, beneficiaries of government assistance always end up weaker, and more reliant on the government than if they hadn't drank the cool aid. The proof of this statement can be seen in areas of high welfare rates, places where multiple generations only source of nutrition has come from the nipple of the taxpayer.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 21:14:27

Hey nobrainer! Stop discouraging Ryan, I'm selling popcorn over here! Oh and A Smith, stop equating greed and selfishness with "morals" and "values". You're making everyone too nauseated to buy my popcorn!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 22:28:25

Highwater, I agree with you to a certain extent. I am being selfish, but it is because I want to help poor people. I believe that things have a way of balancing out, therefore if I routinely give money to a poor person, it makes them reliant on me, as if they are small child.

Assuming that people have food to stay alive, and shelter to keep them healthy, every extra government dollar is poison. I believe that charity and food banks could take care of the bare necessities, therefore welfare is unnecessary.

If we really want to help people, let them build up the motivation to help themselves. Government freebies kill the hunger to break from poverty, because the pain they feel isn't strong enough.

I go back to the analogy of the human body, exercise and stress make it stronger, but doing nothing will make it atrophy. Poor people should be asked to work if they want to accept the kindness of strangers. In doing so, they will not only build their bodies, they will build their self worth.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 04, 2008 at 10:06:27

OK highwater, I guess it is pretty entertaining to see Smithy dig himself deeper and deeper.

Ryan wrote, "Too many people despair that life will treat them fairly."

The funny thing is, cognitive research tells us that when people are raised to believe that life is unfair and no one will help them, they see unfairness and just shrug their shoulders and say, 'that's life'. But people who are raised to believe that life is basically fair and people are decent, will see unfairness and want to do something about it. Who knows, maybe Smith wasn't cared and nurtured enough as a child and that's why he doesn't understand why care and nurturing are so important. Tough Guy macho insecurity...

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2008 at 11:21:49

Ryan, you have attacked the idea of private property because it is a "simple" concept to understand. Therefore, the true test of any concept is how complex it is. That would mean simple concepts such as love, charity, hard work, common decency, friendship, dignity, are all without merit as well.

This argument strengthens my view that you are an elitist. You believe that PhD's are required to teach people how to live their lives. The average person is incapable, since he lacks the I.Q., or the formal training required to understand the complex terms, and principles, so vital to the functioning of a free and democratic society.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2008 at 12:34:07

Ryan, don't back down from your own statements. You mocked my fondness for private property on the basis of its simplicity. In your own words "Ah, I get it: you base your political ideology on property because it's *easier*."

You were implying that only complex ideas, such as "fundamental human rights" were worthy of discussion. Now that you recognize the flawed logic behind those statements, you are trying to deny you said them.

Your chameleon like behaviour doesn't surprise me, since most of your ideas are nothing more than reflections on the political correctness of the day.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2008 at 20:59:32

Ryan, my last post was rude, and I apologize for the personal attack. At least we both believe that words are the best way to solve disagreements. I will be challenging you in the future, so until then, keep on frustrating me with your big government viewpoints.

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