Interviews

An Audio Conversation with Harry Stinson

Harry Stinson is an unpretentious visionary, and with his sharpened business sense he finds opportunity where others haven't. He sees an immense amount of unrealized opportunity in Hamilton.

By Trey Shaughnessy
Published January 08, 2009

Interview with Harry Stinson

(Listen to the interview)

On December 17, 2008, I stood on John Street between Main and King, in front of the old Liaison College and Crazy Horse saloon buildings. I was waiting to meet with Harry Stinson, who was about to unveil his plan to convert these buildings into a new boutique condo/hotel called the Hamilton Grand.

Harry, widely known in Toronto as the "Condo King", is famous for his condo developments there and credited with the start of the building-conversion format of turning former warehouses into trendy residential lofts, after the success of the Candy Factory at Queen West and Shaw.

The Candy Factory, a converted six-storey building that originally housed the Ce De Candy Company, helped spur the revitalization of what is now being called "Queen West West".

Harry is also famous for co-building One King West in Toronto, arguably Canada's finest skyscraper, a soaring blade of glass at the corner of Yonge and King Streets rising from a restored 1914 bank building.

One King West in Toronto (RTH file photo)
One King West in Toronto (RTH file photo)

A few minutes after 2:00, waiting outside 27 John Street South, I called Harry Stinson's home and was told, "Harry is usually pretty good with these things." Then I saw someone approach in a fast-paced run-slide on the slushy sidewalks and realized it was Harry Stinson.

"Harry," I called, as he slid to a stop on the slush. He was wearing a windbreaker and wrinkled grey khakis. Fixing his wind-blown hair, he said, "Sorry I'm late, I had a meeting at the waterfront." Harry ran from the waterfront to our meeting!

This is Harry. He doesn't drive, but collects cars. His manor on Bull's Lane overlooks the escarpment, but he wears a ten-dollar windbreaker. He's a big-shot developer, but doesn't have a cell phone.

Harry may be a big-shot developer, but he's not a big-shot. He's an unpretentious visionary, and with his sharpened business sense he finds opportunity where others haven't. He sees an immense amount of unrealized opportunity in Hamilton.

Harry has made a home in Hamilton and after only living here 11 months, he seems like someone whose has lived here all his life - Harry is so Hammer.

Harry Stinson at the site of the proposed Hamilton Grand
Harry Stinson at the site of the proposed Hamilton Grand

The Interview

We talked for over an hour in a conversation that meandered across several different topics, from Stinson's preliminary view of Hamilton ("the view from the Burlingon [Skyway] bridge") to his discovery of the city's hidden potential, including the Lister Block ("I would have loved to have got my hands on it, but what's the point in getting into that donnybrook?") - and, of course, the stalled Royal Connaught, which he tried and failed to convert into a major hotel with an attached thin tower last year.

Asked if he still wants to build a signature tower, Stinson answered, "Absolutely!" though he said his approach has changed as he has learned more about the community.

He says his discovery of Hamilton was "fascinating". "The people are there, the buildings are there, the geography is there, and the desire is there, so that was exciting."

He shared his frustration with "the resistance from the ususal established economic forces, shall we say" and what he calls Hamilton's "civic pessimism" of people who are "resigned to failure" and have an attitude of "yeah, it would be great but it'll never happen," which he warned "becomes self-fulfilling".

He observed that he is part of a quiet movement of people coming into Hamilton and changing the landscape. "People from outside Hamilton are coming in, in larger and larger numbers, and people in Hamilton are going to discover that they've given away the store - it's going to change whether you like it or not."

Hamilton Grand

Talking about the Hamilton Grand, Stinson drew comparisons to the Windsor Arms in Yorkville and the Gladstone on Queen West in the sense that they are both distinctive boutiques. Each has a "dynamic, different ambience: you know you're there." He wants the Grand to fulfil the historical role of the Connaught: a place to see and be seen.

The operation and financial structure would be similar to One King West: an independently operated "personality hotel in the core" where the units are individually owned condos that share in the revenues from the hotel - room rentals, restaurant and bar profits, and so on.

This business model is still new, and the concepts - a condo trying to minimize costs and a hotel trying to maximize service - are somewhat contradictory, so running the Grand will be a balancing act.

Asked about the viability of a new project during a recession, Stinson responded, "This is a great time to be constructing." He pointed out, "A year ago, contractor were all booked solid, but now they're hungry for work and bidding competitively."

He added, "If you look at some of the most interesting buldings throughout the world, they were built in difficult times, often, because you could actually put together these deals and people wanted the work."

What Hamilton Needs

Three things Stinson would change about Hamilton:

  1. Attitude - "I think it would be a good thing for the city if all Hamiltonians could just erase from their behaviour for one year the negativity. Let's have a moratorium on negativity."

  2. Transit - Don't count on Metrolinx to have the money for its planned mass transit projects. "Mass transportation around the world is still Medieval ... do we have anything better than large steel boxes on rails? Even though they are a little 'Buck Rogers' now, [light rail vehicles] are still big steel boxes on rails. That's ridiculous. There's got to be a better way."

  3. New Economy - "Hamilton needs to prepare for life after manufacturing and steel mills." The city should start by mandating no pollution in city businesses to improve the city's image and attract high-value workers and employers in clean industries.

Over the course of the interview, we discussed the business of being a property developer ("development is about having a vision for a piece of land and keeping at that vision for the many, many years it takes to see it executed"); the importance of design and architecture in a building ("people gravitate toward interesting buildings"); and even the auto industry bailout ("if these guys couldn't hack it before, why are we giving them hundreds of billions of dollars so they can continue to futz around?").

Harry concluded that artists, creative people and early adopters looking for "ambiance" are being squeezed out of Toronto and are looking for the next big thing. He thinks they might find it in Hamilton.

Listen to the Interview

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Trey lives in Williamsville NY via Hamilton. He is a Marketing Manager for Tourism and Destination Marketing in the Buffalo-Niagara Metro.

His essays have appeared in The Energy Bulletin, Post Carbon Institute, Peak Oil Survival, and Tree Hugger.

And can't wait for the day he stops hearing "on facebook".

49 Comments

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By Balance (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2009 at 15:07:49

Seems great, the only dark cloud is the Larry Dianni partnership.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted January 09, 2009 at 23:51:59

By Balance: Not just Mr DiAnni what Ms Marsales????? deer caught in the headlghts, especially about those who struggle.

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By Scammed (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2009 at 09:01:48

Hey Grassroots, if you think Mr. DiAnni is bad, you don't know Harry Stinson..........

Mr. Stinson works with "other peoples' money" and is looking for his next retirement scheme. He left many creditors high and dry and investors broke. One King West didn't quite work out for him, he got booted out, but he had a great life for 10 years. It is his little school boy demeanor and soft spoken enthusiasm that lures people into his schemes.

Mr. Bateman will show you numbers that will make your head spin.......?? Well, beware. Any predictions as to possible income from your suite is violation of the SEC. The income will never cover the expenses, only for the owners who bought in early at One King West at $99,000. Those who bought in for $200,000 and up cannot get more than $170,000 for their suites now, and even that is sinking fast. Your taxes will also be commercial, if you pool your suite incomes. It all sounds good, it just does not work in practice. Beware, beware......
do your homework and listen to your accountant.........if he isn't Bateman.

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By Balance (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2009 at 09:19:16

Scammed, I'm sorry, I don't know what SEC is. I'd like to learn. Thanks

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By listen to the audio (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2009 at 10:42:25

Harry talks about Hamilton Grand for less then 10 minutes on the total one hour interview.
For 50 minutes he talks about Hamilton issues.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted January 10, 2009 at 13:03:32

By Scammed: Thanks for the info. My background is in accounting, so the additional information is good to know. While I would not know everything about this market, my background would give me the ability to ask pertinent questions. With alagamtion and the downloading of social services, it played havoc on commercial taxes and with the bottoming out of the market, is it a good time to invest in real estate endeavors like this?

Not that I have money to invest, I am just another person that struggles. It is very sad that those the skilled trades and others got duped. People work hard for their money and such losses can be detrimental.

Last year, he was promoting a giant glass pyramid, one just knew that would never get off the ground. Hamilton is and was an industrial city, the working man city. The city iself has done a poor job of getting people to invest, to work toward sustainable jobs for the people who no longer have those good paying industrial jobs.

Maybe more emphasis should be put on cleaning up the brownfields and getting green technology into the city, retraining workers, those that struggle are thwarted by the system to get entry into skilled trade programs. People cannot survive on $8 to $9 an hour jobs, but that is what we are seeing. The Living Wage and Fair Employment Coalition deemed a living wage in Hamilton in 2006 to be around $12.96 per hour. Why does the city, the agencies keep pushing these call center jobs that deny people a living wage, they have no benefits, forget pensions, many of these jobs are through the temp agencies which further denies workers to stat holdiay pay and even possibly overtime. Just how is this helping the people of this city???????

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By Scammed (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2009 at 13:11:40

Hey Grassroots, if you think Mr. DiAnni is bad, you don't know Harry Stinson..........

Mr. Stinson works with "other peoples' money" and is looking for his next retirement scheme. He left many creditors high and dry and investors broke. One King West didn't quite work out for him, he got booted out, but he had a great life for 10 years. It is his little school boy demeanor and soft spoken enthusiasm that lures people into his schemes.

Mr. Bateman will show you numbers that will make your head spin.......?? Well, beware. Any predictions as to possible income from your suite is violation of the SEC. The income will never cover the expenses, only for the owners who bought in early at One King West at $99,000. Those who bought in for $200,000 and up cannot get more than $170,000 for their suites now, and even that is sinking fast. Your taxes will also be commercial, if you pool your suite incomes. It all sounds good, it just does not work in practice. Beware, beware......
do your homework and listen to your accountant.........if he isn't Bateman.

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By Scammed (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2009 at 13:23:31

Sorry, I meant OSC, Ontario Securities Commission. Not allowed to sell real estate condo's on projected income, especially when the projections are bogus. People can spin all the numbers they want, it's not reality. Reality is start up takes years of loosing money. You will end up putting money into it every month for years before ever even breaking even. Suites at One King West is still struggling, will probably never break even. When you think one problem is solved, they hammer you with another one. The management gets paid, the housekeeping, the utilities, the employees........the only one not getting paid are the investors who put their suites into the "pool". They are locked into an unworkable contract. They pay all the condo fees, utilities, and mortgage payments, and they get whatever pittance is left at the end of each month, after everyone else is paid first. The hotel is doing well, the rooms are renting, just the owners aren't seeing fair returns. If it was 100% occupancy every month at the going rate, it still would put you in the hole every month, and the room rates can only go so high. Do not be duped.

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By Bittertaste (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2009 at 13:56:16

Having been scammed by Stinson in the past, I can tell you that this is the same scam as One King west, just in a different wrapper. Pooling suites as posted makes the owner liable for commercial tax rate around 4.5% or 10-15k a year. That is what we are paying at 1 King West. Also someone posted SEC violation in the marketing. I think they meant OSC (ontario securities commission)STinson has been fined in the past by the OSC and he should know better. Listen carefully everbody...Nobody ever made money at 1 King west. Most have lost their shirt and property valuations are down 30-40%. I can wtite a book about the Stinson Condo Con.

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted January 10, 2009 at 21:49:12

Scammed says of One King West: "The management gets paid, the housekeeping, the utilities, the employees...."

I don't see a problem with that. That's great news!

Scammed then says: "...the only one not getting paid are the investors who put their suites into the "pool". They are locked into an unworkable contract. They pay all the condo fees, utilities, and mortgage payments, and they get whatever pittance is left at the end of each month, after everyone else is paid first."

Yeah, so what? If you live in a condo you pay fees, utilities and make mortgage payments. What's the problem? Only the greedy would find disappointment while earning enough of a living to afford the luxurious accommodations of such a stunning edifice, even with just a glimmer of profit potential.

Scammed continues to whine: "The hotel is doing well, the rooms are renting, just the owners aren't seeing fair returns."

Horse Hockey on the fair returns! Few who pay a mortgage or own anything, are seeing fair returns today. It's okay to peek through the shutters once in awhile to see what's going on outside the business modeled box. For the bitterly scammed their house is merely a suite, the humble make their houses into home sweet homes. Try not to be such an ungrateful wussy in MMIX. Be thankful you have a roof over your head, Russia doesn't supply your gas and you don't live in the Gaza strip.

In Harry's second point he states: "Mass transportation around the world is still Medieval ... do we have anything better than large steel boxes on rails? Even though they are a little 'Buck Rogers' now, [light rail vehicles] are still big steel boxes on rails. That's ridiculous. There's got to be a better way."

All I can say is be careful of the derogatory "steel" talk Mr. Stinson. If anyone is being "Buck Rogery" IT is you. This is Steeltown, the mighty men and women who built this city wield iron tools and without them you won't even erect a news stand or push a wiener wagon around Jackson Square.

In Trey's own words: "Asked if he still wants to build a signature [Buck Rogers] tower, Stinson answered, 'Absolutely!' though he said his approach [fast-paced run-slide] has changed as he has learned more about the community [slushy sidewalks]."

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By OccasionalCommentor (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2009 at 21:50:01

We always hear all kinds of terrible things about Stinson. To be honest with you, I have no idea. It seems like he wants to built great things and he wants people to think of Hamilton positively. When someone discusses the idea of being positive about Hamilton it gives that persons statements some bounty, in my opinion.

For a politician/business owner to put their patriotism to the test in Hamilton is a tough bag. There is more than one Hamilton, but the Hamilton everyone seems to want to see is North of Barton. People who live in Hamilton WANT to hate Hamilton. It's like a twisted negative impulse for some. It seems passionate at times. As if the city itself had personally attacked them on the street.

The problem with Hamilton is only that. I'm not suggesting blind love, either. But take into consideration the other sides of Hamilton like you would any other city. If we looked at Toronto or Mississauga with the same seething eye we look at Hamilton with, I'd bet we'd find things aren't much different there either.

Each has its own problems. I've lived all over Ontario and each place had its own problems of no greater or lesser importance than the issues here.

If Hamilton's residents attitudes changed, it wouldn't matter if Stinson was a crook or not. In the end, we'd all win.

Nick

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By Beenthere (anonymous) | Posted January 11, 2009 at 09:12:09

This is too funny. Here is Harry Stinson basically run out of Toronto for his scam that left many people loosing their life savings, some declaring bankruptcy for unpaid work, and others left holding an unsaleable investment that they loose money on monthly........for years. (Whiners!) WRCU2 basically tells Scammed to "suck it up and quit whining". Well, I challenge WRCU2 to invest in Harry's recycled Hamilton scheme, and get back to us in 5 years!! We know who'll be whining then!

Harry can do wonderfull things if people would just give him their money, what's the problem? Poor man has none of his own, so nothing to loose there. Trust him with your life's savings.

Personnally, I think Harry should go to the government for a bailout, tell them he'll create employment and build nice things, clean up Hamilton downtown. He is a poor misunderstood visionary, all the rest of us are just way to short sighted and don't have his imagination and excentricitiy.
Loosen up Hamilton, give him your money. Then we can continue to read all the press about how wonderfull he is and how humble, ...blah blah blah.

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By Puzzled (anonymous) | Posted January 11, 2009 at 16:22:13

If I understand correctly on this and the other related posts, some contributers want Harry to go away, others want him to pay a living wage, others want him excoriated for losing investors money, others are concerned that Judy Marsales, her people and ex-mayor DiAnni may want to make a profit on this venture, while others have been 'scammed' in Toronto and are warning local investors to stay away from this development. Yet others are angry that this development might get media support while the first did not and yet another soul wants Harry to be nice and clean his ice. Have I got it all?

Here is my contribution for what it's worth:

1. Most of you should get a life!
2. All investors need to make investments with their eyes open. That is why we live in a capital based society. You invest and you win or you lose. That's the system.
3. Downtown needs help. You'd have to be blind and deaf not to know that. anyone with ideas, cash, or ability to attract cash should be welcomed, not criticized.
4. Those who want Harry to pay top wages to staff are way ahead of the game here. What's been presented is just an idea at this point. No hiring, to our knowledge is being done yet. When the time comes, competitive wages will have to be paid according to existing laws if you want to attract good people.
5. I don't work in real estate and don't even know Judy Marsales But judging from the signs around town she is pretty successful. Must be a reason for that.
6. WRCU2 makes sense.

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By skeptical (anonymous) | Posted January 12, 2009 at 21:58:32

same M.O for Harry. There's a reason he loves these hotel condos. Guess who is going to be the future manager of this hotel. One Hint: initials are H.S.

Sucks people in based on unreasonable promises of return. Scammed is right on that.

For all future 'investors' of this new scheme, make sure u own the elevators!

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By skeptical (anonymous) | Posted January 12, 2009 at 22:28:23

www.thestar.com/article/244913

More on Harry

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted January 12, 2009 at 23:40:15

I read the article in the star:

And if someone is on Ontario works and gets caught collecting bottles, they face the wrath of the government, they are cut off their $500.00 per month, treated like a criminal, yet here we someone who just walks away, no responsibility.

Simply amazing!!!!!

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By OccasionalCommentor (anonymous) | Posted January 13, 2009 at 14:57:41

Granted. He's had a patterned past.

So, let me understand -- if he's done something wrong in the past, he has no future merit? He did erect a giant condo and is known for that achievement. Financially, he has been a disaster, but his building still stands.

I don't know the details on how this all fell out of place, granted. I won't try to be an expert, but once in a while we must stand back and realise we're fighting ourselves with development opportunities.

All major developers who've come to play in Hamilton have had their ass handed to them on our ever-so-negative "silver platter".

I wonder if we're expressing actual faults here, or if we're expressing the continuation of negativity.

No, that can't be true. Hamiltonians have never shut down or otherwise halted positive progress.

Thanks!
Nick

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By Richard Cordeiro (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2009 at 03:04:26

Harry teaming up with Mayor Di ianni is a good thing. Larry has always been pro-business person and is well connected in town with many respectable business and community leaders in Hamilton.

I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Harry last summer and found him to be very open and friendly. If you spot him around town say hello to him and he will stop to chat with you if you'd like and even then I had the real sense that he was very much committed to staying in Hamilton for the long haul and was proud to now be considered a "Hamiltonian."

I'm glad that he's decided to go with a smaller project for now and do well with that one before trying to make a big "splash" with that 80 storey condo tower. I was also equally glad to hear from the interview supplied to us here that the Connaught Tower idea is still alive and a possibility for sometime down the road.

Cheers!

RC

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By skeptical (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2009 at 13:33:04

"So, let me understand -- if he's done something wrong in the past, he has no future merit? He did erect a giant condo and is known for that achievement. Financially, he has been a disaster, but his building still stands."

how does by virtue of the building still standing be considered an achievement? Some one had to pay for that building. This isnt a charity. Anything can be built if u throw enough money into it. the owners of this building have to deal with crappy workmanship that they now have to pay for to repair out of thier own pockets because the bldg is condo conversion so no new home warranty program to look to.

if my broker lost my money on some scheme, am i going to give him another chance or even refer a friend to him?


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By KFAS (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2009 at 15:31:31

Skeptical, we get it. You dislike Harry.

Please stop digging up 18 month-old articles and pretending like you know the guy.

You talk like Harry bilked investors for millions and ran off to Hamilton. You failed to mention that he was one of the bilked investors.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 14, 2009 at 17:03:24

according to the hamilton grand website, this project is now up to 10 stories and has doubled the units to 160. Anyone know why?? Good sales??

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By OccasionalCommentor (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2009 at 15:29:25

"if my broker lost my money on some scheme, am i going to give him another chance or even refer a friend to him? "

skeptical - I am not suggesting that he doesn't have to prove himself to the community or to investors. I am talking from a base-reasoning of humanity -- that if we were all meant to be perfect at executing all of our endeavors, we'd all likely be unemployed.

The human experience means mistakes - and Mr. Stinson has admitted to imperfect execution. So what are we expecting here? A press conference where he declares himself a born-again Christian with a better sense of business?

Success comes with some trial and error. Not everyone does it right the first time like you skeptical.

Nick

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By Jon Clark (anonymous) | Posted January 20, 2009 at 14:43:25

It is curious that Di Ianni would care about downtown now after ignoring it for the entirety of his term in office.

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By Casper (anonymous) | Posted January 20, 2009 at 20:04:00

As a developer and builder, whether good or bad, Hamilton would be a great place to build. Lately, Hamilton has had tons of media coverage as being a haven for developers and builders that can build any thing, as they don't need permits issued, no inspections, don't have to warranty and there is no one to stop them. If the investors have an extra tens of thousands of dollars in the event the build is improper, then great. Lets get some more action in Hamilton.
If you have not seen the media coverage,then check out the hamilton spec
( nightmare homes and several other articles associated),the toronto star, Bob Aaron, CBC Marketplace:(New Home Nightmares),all of these organizations have web sites ( and the list goes on, who have web sites that are covering this Hamilton situation ).

Hamilton desperately needs new developement, job creation, without having a reputation recently covered by National Media.

Instead of $2 million dollar glass add on to city hall, use the money where it is most needed, councillors and mayor, get the house in order

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted January 20, 2009 at 20:38:02

Casper: Yes there have been reports of things being built without the proper permits, I wonder why that is? How can that be? Can you explain it?

Yes the city does need job creation, jobs that pay more then just service sector, minimum wage jobs, with no benefits.

Cause really when you think of it, what's the sense of building homes when the people cannot afford them???????

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By unrealistic (anonymous) | Posted February 02, 2009 at 23:42:34

ok so i think hamilton does have potential, being a hamiltonian myslef, but this guy expects results right away, it wont happen like that, we need to do it over time. he may be scamming hamiltonians, but we need this. our steel is going down slowly, so we need to prepare, and find something new to build our economy around. we have potential for touristy things, but we need to clean up the city first, and this takes everyone's involvement! not just his. so he needs us to help fund, not put all our money in but some of it. we need to give some to get some.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 03, 2009 at 17:00:02

Unrealistic, the only people stopping Hamilton from being a great city are the politicians and people like Ryan who think the best way to attract business, is to increase government control of the economy. In fact, given the history of this city, you would think more people would embrace the power of the private sector .

>> but we need to clean up the city first, and this takes everyone's involvement!

This is more communal, commie nonsense. The only thing Hamilton needs is an environment where investors can make money. Drop commercial taxes to 1% and watch Hamilton become interesting not just for Harry Stinson, but for leading companies all over the world.

Greed was the unstated principle this city was founded upon and it will also be the way back, as soon as we get rid of voices like Ryan and the rest of the central planners.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 03, 2009 at 19:27:59

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. If we "get rid" of Ryan's voice, there'll be no more RTH, and then where would you spew your nonsense?

Time to start your own blog.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 03, 2009 at 20:19:02

Highwater, if Ryan shut this site down tomorrow, that would be a net benefit to the city. Please, go ahead, shut it down.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 03, 2009 at 20:58:02

Ah. So the mask falls and we see the little fascist that lurks inside every faux libertarian. Thanks for showing your true colours.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 03, 2009 at 21:46:45

Highwater, fascist: 1. a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

2: a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control.

My views... small government, individual liberty, less regulation, private property rights, labour freedom, free market.

Ryan et al views... big government, extensive regulations on business and individuals, top down management on large sectors of the economy, including education and health, outright denial of vital medical services to those who aren't willing to play by the "system", extensive controls on labour, capital flow and trade, majority rule.

Which viewpoint most closely matches the definition of a fascist?

Furthermore, my quote... "Greed was the unstated principle this city was founded upon and it will also be the way back, as soon as we get rid of voices like Ryan and the rest of the central planners." simply states the truth. There is no reference to force, or to government assistance to shut someone up, only a hope that views held by Ryan and yourselves will be driven from public discourse. I am sure you feel the same way about my views, which is what a free society is all about. If it hurts your feelings that I think your views are misguided and destructive, that's okay, but to call me a fascist, only makes you look more extreme than you already do.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 03, 2009 at 22:22:43

The sad, thing, A Smith, is that you sometimes do make valid points - sometimes regulation that is onerous or inappropriate or too heavy really does stifle innovation and growth - but then you grossly oversell your thesis to the point that it becomes an absurd, ahistorical caricature ('all regulation is bad, all the time').

You're like an obsessive dieter who has veered into anorexia. When the doctors try to tell you that your starvation is making you sick, you insist against all evidence that if only you could cut out the rest of the fat, all would be well and your body would work properly.

True to your obsession, you hijack every comment thread, no matter its putative topic, and transform it into a screed on your toxic ideology. Your opinions are immune to argument, and debates with you inevitably spiral into an infinite regress of fractal wrongness.

On the rare occasions when you actually do acknowledge, however reluctantly, any evidence that undermines your beliefs, you simply ignore it on the next article and start back at square one.

Finally, you deal with anyone who disagrees with you by distoring their arguments and attacking their integrity. It's hard to argue with someone who believes regulations should be simple, clear, performance-based and democratically accountable; but it's easy to argue with a "central planner". Such straw man attacks save you the burden of having to subject your own opinions to scrutiny.

RTH has a policy of not banning unpopular opinions, but that doesn't stop me from stating personally that I think your commentary is ultimately poisonous to the goal of constructive discourse - not because it's contrarian but because it's intellectually dishonest.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted February 04, 2009 at 00:27:59

Fascism or is it corporatism.

A Smith: I watched an interesting video, Freedom to Fascism, have you heard about this or watched this? You have good points about the size of government and liberty and private property but

after listening to a story on the CBC about the tailing ponds in the Tennesee Valley of coal ash that have broken down, I have to wonder about the fact of the corporations that have lobbied to have the lack of regulations in regard to the protection of the environment and the people. Do you think it is appropriate for the Business voices to direct policy that is detrimental to the people? Do you think it is right that the people in this particular area have to drink water that is now laced with heavy metals?

or how about the on going global, economic issues that are directly related to "greed", lack of regulation, lack of accountability.

If you ask me, there has to balance, the people have lost their voice because of the voices of those that are the rich and powerful, the many multinational corporations that continuely ask for more de-regulation, less accountablity and so on.

Some time ago, I received an email about a concern in the US, where those voices from the HMO's were lobbying for the following: Women who go to the hospital to have a masectomy, were to be released from the hospital as soon as they woke up from the aethensetic(sp??). The doctors were saying that these women needed at least two to three days in the hospital, not only because of the physical issues but also of the emotional issues. Do you think that this approach is correct because I don't. I find it quite atrocious that a "business body" has more say then the doctors themselves over the care of their patients. Do you not think this is callous? It is a slippery slope when we have number crunchers dictating concerns over and above the human element.

I like the fact that this medium exists, as it does bring other voices into the mix, it gives the opportunity for people to mix it up and out of that mixture, hopefully change will come.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 04, 2009 at 09:33:29

Ryan, why is it that Ireland, with its 12.5% corporate tax on profits, much richer than France and Germany? Or for that matter, why is Dubai experiencing the biggest construction boom in modern history? I would argue it is because of greed and self interest.

Therefore, if Hamilton wants more investment, it needs to sweeten the pot for investors. Is that reasonable to assume? In recent years, the corporate tax rate on commercial properties has fallen from over 7% to 4.47%. In that time period, the city has seen a number of new commercial developments take shape, including the hated big box stores. Nevertheless, investors have taken a closer look at the city.

However, for some reason, politicians have once again begun increasing tax rates on commercial properties. Commercial tax rates are now 4.57%. Therefore, if you built a million dollar property in 2006, you now face an increased cost of a thousand dollars a year, even though nothing has changed. If the goal is to increase investment, how does this help?

Why not keep lowering the commercial rate, until it is on par with residential taxes? If Hamilton wants to prove that it truly is open for business, why not prove it? Cut out renovations at city hall and give investors a reason to invest. This will create jobs, increase property values for all residents and fill up the dead zones we all hate.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 04, 2009 at 12:59:45

That cheap corporate tax rate comes coupled with an industrial strategy featuring tax incentives for research and development, subsidies and grants for companies that locate high value employment in export-related industries, special financial regulations and so on.

Also, Ireland has universal comprehensive public education (one of the best sysems in Europe), free university (with very high enrollment), and public health care. Further, Ireland invested heavily in modernizing its public infrastructure over the 1990s - roads, highways, and transit including modern light rail and suburban commuter rail.

On the other hand, a series of financial scandals in 2005 led to calls for stricter financial regulation, but the government failed to act. Today, a hot debate rages in Ireland now that GDP is plummeting about whether the lax regulations left Ireland especially vulnerable to the international financial crisis.

Also, Ireland has among the worst income inequality in the industrialized world - second only to the USA.

As always, the true picture is complex, but you cherry-pick indicators to support your emphasis on the role of low tax and deregulation, while ignoring other contributing factors as well as negative consequences.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 04, 2009 at 14:12:08

Ryan, >> That cheap corporate tax rate comes coupled with an industrial strategy featuring tax incentives for research and development, subsidies and grants for companies that locate high value employment in export-related industries, special financial regulations and so on.

All of this sounds good to me.

>> Also, Ireland has universal comprehensive public education (one of the best systems in Europe), free university (with very high enrollment), and public health care.

Okay, good points. However, Ireland also allows people to purchase private medical care outside of the public service. I don't have a problem with delivering care for those who can't pay, but I don't like the idea of making everyone use the same one size fits all plan.

>> On the other hand, a series of financial scandals in 2005 led to calls for stricter financial regulation, but the government failed to act. Today, a hot debate rages in Ireland now that GDP is plummeting about whether the lax regulations left Ireland especially vulnerable to the international financial crisis.

Even when the Canadian economy was growing at over 5% a year in the nineties, people were still "debating" whether or not the governments policies were productive or not. Debate is simply the extension of a free society.

>> Also, Ireland has among the worst income inequality in the industrialized world - second only to the USA.

According to the U.N. ("h"ttp://hdrstats.undp.org/indicators/145.html), Ireland has a R/P 10% ratio the same as Canada's (9.4). However, Ireland's GDP(PPP) is 15.4% higher than Canada's, so the poor in Ireland are actually much better off.

The underlying theme of Ireland's successful economy is encouraging investment. They have found and others are copying (most Euro nations, including the U.K., France, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Germany), that treating businesses nicely (lower tax on corporate profits), actually benefits society as a whole. It doesn't mean it will outlaw the business cycle, or solve all the problems of income disparity, but it will guarantee a healthy level of economic growth. This should not be too surprising, because anytime people treat others nicely, there is almost always a reciprocal response. It may sound simplistic, but that should not be a barrier to its use. Sometimes the best theories/plans are the simplest.

If Hamilton started treating businesses "nicely", I know that they would respond by increasing the amount of investment in our city. Hamilton used to offer cheap electricity to businesses and it worked like a charm in attracting huge investments and jobs. Somewhere along the line we got greedy and began taking businesses for granted, in favour of the worker. However, in life you have to give to get, so if we want to help ourselves, we need to help others first. Call it the "golden rule" of economics.

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By PTr (anonymous) | Posted February 06, 2009 at 11:23:42

Microsoft OLE DB Provider for ODBC Drivers error '80004005'

[MySQL][ODBC 3.51 Driver]Too many connections

/framework/webclasses.asp, line 27

:( Close your database connections :(

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 06, 2009 at 13:28:16

PTr, thanks for your feedback. We are closing connections, but we've had some localized traffic spikes lately that are maxing out the available connections in the MySql server.

We're working on a more permanent solution (redesign and migration to another hosting service) that should eliminate both these and the occasional HTTP 500 and "service unavailable" errors that have increasingly plagued our current hosting provider over the past several months.

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted February 07, 2009 at 22:57:45

A Smith said:

"If Hamilton started treating businesses "nicely", I know that they would respond by increasing the amount of investment in our city."

Stinson stated pretty directly the "nice" things he wants from Hamilton: attitude, transit, and new economy. Only one of these relates directly with municipal policy, and that's transit. No mention of current tax rates, which presumably are not a barrier to that type of investment.

"New economy" is shorthand for computer jobs. I'm not sure how wise it is to declare manufacturing dead, but high tech investments seem to flow to cities with "progressive" urban planning and quality of life features. Techies are rational people. They don't want to live/work in a city that's poisoning itself.

But these "nice" things are are limited in Hamilton currently, because the sprawl lobby currently gets all the "nice" subsidies for their activities. In a mid-size, non-metropolitan city like Hamilton, it really is a zero-sum gamme. You can have sprawl or you can have a vibrant inner city, not both.

It's unfortunate, because Hamilton really does have all the ingredients for becoming a functioning dense core. You have a lot of neighbourhoods that are sweet already - Corktown, Durand, Kirkendall, Strathcona, North End. You have density and grid pattern streets to efficiently run transit. You have an engineering-focused university to synergise with tech jobs. You already have arts and music scenes. You have a port and rail infrastructure to capitalize on conservation-induced restructuring that is inevitable. You have regions nearby - Halton and Peel - that are gonna bleed jobs hits because their whole industrial base is leveraged on highway spending.

And it's easy to start the process. The GO service is already there. All you have to do is attract more white collar workers from Toronto with quality of life and a "hip" image.

But those damn sprawl companies and those damn councillors!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2009 at 01:57:21

LL, I would love to see height restrictions abolished. If we would allow developers to build as high as they wanted (thus lowering their land costs), Hamilton would become more densely populated.

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted February 08, 2009 at 12:30:40

I would love to see participatory public meetings - binding ones, not "consultations" - where the people of downtown decide what the planning priorities are going to be.

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted February 08, 2009 at 18:33:06

Smith: I realize that highrise condoville is the way humans would live if they really were the robotic utility-maximizers that Austrian economics assumes them to be. But do you really believe this "vertical suburban sprawl" environment embodies evolutionary progress? Do you really believe it's 400 years more "advanced" than the architecture and civic form of the Gothic or Baroque periods?

I mean, qualitatively?

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By Philip K. Dick (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2009 at 18:37:09

"robotic utility maximizers" LOL

(BRAIN PROGRAM PROTOCOL #1: THE PURPOSE IN LIFE IS TO DIE WITH THE MOST CHIPS. BRAIN PROTOCOL #2: ALL OTHER PROTOCOLS DEFER TO PROTOCOL #1)

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2009 at 19:44:28

LL, >> But do you really believe this "vertical suburban sprawl" environment embodies evolutionary progress? Do you really believe it's 400 years more "advanced" than the architecture and civic form of the Gothic or Baroque periods?

Not really, but it really doesn't matter what I think. I believe that people who pay the bills should get to decide the type of home that is best for them. Not politicians, not urban design experts, but the people who work hard, save their money and by any measure of fairness, should be allowed to live the way they want to.

However, if you believe that people would like to live in the styles of buildings that you reference, why not try building a few and see what the response is? If you can deliver high quality homes at reasonable prices, you will make consumers happy and you will get rich.

Furthermore, I am not saying that one type of home is better than another, but only that consumers should have as much choice as possible. That way, you end up with a mix of buildings, that suit every budget and style preference. No top down planning, only individual freedom.

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted February 08, 2009 at 21:03:14

Smith: first of all, you're contradicting yourself. In many previous posts, you have declared in an objective way that capitalism advances technological evolution. (Architecture is technology by any reasonable definition.) Now you're saying that consumer choice justifies an obvious qualitative degeneration.

Secondly, urban planning in Hamilton IS top-down. DeSantis, Losani, etc. - the development corporations that politically control urban planning in Hamilton - are all organizations with top-down decision making processes.

Civic life in the times of Gothic and Baroque - when the gorgeous (and energy efficient) city centres of Europe were created - was largely controlled by guilds, which were proto-democratic organizations, much less top-down than today's corporations.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 09, 2009 at 00:21:03

LL, >> Now you're saying that consumer choice justifies an obvious qualitative degeneration.

Yes, of course it does. People have limited funds and they all make purchases that maximize the total utility of those funds. Therefore, if some people love living in a high quality building, these people will consume less of other goods, like electronics, cars, etc. However, if other people simply want a clean, functional living space, so they can spend money elsewhere, what is wrong with that?

If you mandate that everyone live in high design buildings, this forces people to spend money where they don't want to and you slow the development of new businesses that will drive progress in other areas of people's lives.

>> Secondly, urban planning in Hamilton IS top-down. DeSantis, Losani, etc. - the development corporations that politically *control* urban planning in Hamilton - are all organizations with top-down decision making processes

Abolish zoning laws, period.

>> Civic life in the times of Gothic and Baroque - when the gorgeous (and energy efficient) city centres of Europe were created - was largely controlled by guilds, which were proto-democratic organizations, much less top-down than today's corporations

The consumer has the money and therefore, in a world without zoning laws, decides which developments are successful and which ones are not. If you believe that Gothic and Baroque styled buildings are what consumers want and you are correct, why not become a developer? I am serious. If you can build high quality homes at a competitive price, then you will win the battle for the consumer.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2009 at 09:50:03

A Smith wrote:

why is Dubai experiencing the biggest construction boom in modern history? I would argue it is because of greed and self interest.

The boom wasn't a boom, it was a speculative bubble.

The NY Times recently published an interesting article about the free-fall in Dubai's economy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/12/world/...

Real estate prices are crashing, construction projects are failing and jobs are disappearing in a self-reinforcing cycle.

Foreigners, who make up the bulk of Dubai's skilled workforce, are abandoning houses and cars, leaving behind maxed out credit cards and fleeing to their countries of origin to escape Dubai's debtors' prison (apparently you go to prison in Dubai for failing to pay your bills).

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2009 at 15:04:08

Ryan, I admit that Dubai has been in a bubble mode for a while, however, this just means that people who bought at the top will lose money and others will be able to pick up real estate on the cheap. Nothing more than a transfer of wealth from bad investors to good ones.

Furthermore, if you can honestly tell me that Hamilton wouldn't have loved to experience even 5% of the growth that Dubai has over the last two decades, then you are smoking some funky stuff.

Take a look at these pictures and then compare them with Hamilton's real estate development. Even a blind man could see the difference.

www.architecturelist.com/2008/03/05/351/
www.flickr.com/photos/danielcheong/sets/72157603917219822/

Most Hamiltonian's would love to have Dubai's problems (not talking about the lack of personal freedoms, just the crash in the real estate market).

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 13:17:35

12 floors is hardly vertical urban sprawl.

Hamilton needs some more vertical density. Calling sprawl is the opposite of what it is. Building up – not out – is the future of cities. The Greenbelt mandates it. Once all the underused land is occupied to a sufficient capacity the next option is up (or down like Montreal).

Some of the best livable cities are ones that were forced dense because of geography, NYC, Hong Kong, Portland OR. And Euro cities were not exactly forced dense bc of geography but because of logistics (before trucking, cars and cheap oil).

The worst sprawl cities (most unlivable) have a very small fraction of residents living in the core. LA for eg, a city of 10 million people has a downtown population of 40,000.

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