Corriere Canadese

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Some Oxygen for the Italian Language in Catholic Schools

TORONTO - The YCDSB seems to have struck a truce on the issue of International language studies – the “Extended Day” language program.

Twenty-three schools that offered Italian language classes to 8,500 children in elementary schools were in danger of losing this service. The Staff and [some] Trustees threatened to cut the Extended Day Program as part of its effort to reduce the Board fiscal deficit.

The Board’s total budget approved this year was $660.9 million. The ED Program, already financed in part by Centro Scuola (a surrogate for the Italian government on language instruction in Canada) costs the Board approximately $295,000 per year. It also receives a subsidy from the Provincial government.

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In May - June, of this year, the Board, perhaps emboldened by the apparent fervour of Trustee Ferlisi to eliminate the program, issued an ultimatum.

If the community wants, they can pay for it, they seemed to say. They passed a motion that in effect outlined a deadline for the community to provide $1,000,000 in guarantees for the next four year of the program would end.

A Banker/parent, a political aspirant and Diplomats from Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal seemed to “rally” to satisfy the “pay or else” demands of the Board and Trustees Ferlisi and Ciaravella in particular.

Centro Scuola presented a “comfort letter” - a “guarantee” - to this effect. It offered up to $500,000 per year to cover the costs of the program.

The letter (reprinted on this page) was presented as an Agenda item, along with a Report by the Director on the issue, and accepted by the Board.

In the interim, the government of Ontario had been asked to consider including International Languages Study as part of the Curriculum. That consideration may now be “off the table”.

The Consul General when contacted on the matter by email offered the following: Centro Scuola receives $200,000 from Italian authorities for transfer to YCDSB; the director will in all likelihood taken out a line of credit to cover the difference until the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can allocate the balance.

YCDSB and Centro Scuola's Director Domenico Servello, contacted by Corriere Canadese, confirmed that the Program will continue thanks to additional funds provided by Centro Scuola.

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(Friday 30 September 2016)

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09tafelmusikProdigious Elisa Citterio at Tafelmusik

by Sebastiano Bazzichetto

TORONTO - It was the 17th of July 1717 - a kabbalistic date, some astronomers said - when Händel’s “Water Music” was premiered on the River Thames to satisfy the request (and obey the order) of King George I, to please his majesty and a handful of aristocrats sailing to Chelsea.

Last performed as part of the ensemble’s debut at Carnegie Hall in 2009, Tafelmusik kicked off its season with Händel’s masterpiece last Thursday. For our Italian pride, outstanding violinist Elisa Citterio, who returned following her stunning Tafelmusik debut last November (also in conversation with us on these pages last year), was guest directing the entire concert.

Thanks to her brio and unmistakable musical attitude, the audience enjoyed a night of great music with firework-like (another Händel’s masterpiece) notes. Citterio will be back in Toronto at the beginning of May 2017 to co-direct Mozart’s “Mass in C minor”. Some of Tafelmusik’s new season highlights feature a series of unmissable concerts.

In December, “A Grand Tour of Italy” will take us back to the days of Corelli, Uccellini and Vivaldi, whereas in the spring we’ll be able to enjoy some concerts by the Bach family thanks to Italian oboist Alfredo Bernardini and his daughter, Cecilia, a renowned violinist.

At the end of March, “The Baroque Diva” will thrill our ears with the enthralling arias composed for 17th century virtuosos, before yielding to Mozart and his genius, grand Mass.

(For more information, tafelmusik.org)

(Thursday 29 September 2016)

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02dubbisullatassaQuestionable value of surtax on foreign home buyers

by The Honourable Joe Volpe, Publisher

TORONTO - On hopes that this public discussion, as it were, regarding the “cooling” of the white-hot real estate market gets better airing than what is currently offered. So far, the critical mass of “opinion” and analysis is not very encouraging.

Premier Wynne has just surrounded herself with an election-oriented team. Professionalism and competence aside, such teams invariable assess the political advantage to decisions about consumer, make that, public, policy.

This is especially so when a government finds itself at the bottom of a very steep disapproval rating. Sometimes, what appears obvious is anything but.

With the average price of detached homes in Toronto exceeding the one million range, and condominium costs (before maintenance fees) as high as $2,000 per square – and beyond depending on accessories and location – it is not hard to see how out-of-reach home ownership can be for the average income earner or for younger people.

Putting a tax on foreign investors who are speculating on the future price of the residential market in Toronto will not result in making those homes more affordable.

Some buyers will leave the market. But so will builders/developers whose own finance considerations will demand a commensurate removal of supply in order to sustain prices.

Even if, as some argue this will only affect 10% of the market, how many construction jobs will disappear as a result? Yesterday, Corriere Canadese, relying on Ontario ministry of Finance data, pointed out that 437,000 jobs are directly involved in the Construction sector in Ontario. At least half of them in Toronto.

Even if Premier Wynne’s government were to implement the foreign investors tax and the impact would be a loss of 10% of those jobs (because of decreased demand for product), the number of full time, well paying jobs is significant. Is one of those 40,000 jobs yours?

Responding in part to the high average costs of homeownership in 1989 ($272,000 for a detached home in Toronto), the Conservative government of the day played with interest rates to cool off the market. It took three years and a general election to correct the distortion in the marketplace dynamics. Unemployment skyrocketed to the low double digits. It surpassed 15% among those 15-24 years of age. Interest rates hovered around the 10% range.

Today, 5- year fixed rate mortgages can be had for 2.24%. borrowing is relatively cheap. If you are a foreign buyer, you will also be attracted by the relatively low value of the Canadian dollar, by the undervaluation of Toronto housing relative to other global centres. The 15% tax on your net profit upon resale is unlikely to make a big dent in you bottom line expectations.

The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan and Omers, with a combined fund value of approximately $225 Billion, may have to invest somewhere else as large scale projects diminish. They might not have so sanguine an approach to a cavalier treatment of their potential returns.

Their members, teachers and other employees in the “public sector” are all Ontario residents. So are the many individual homeowners, asset rich and cash poor who would suddenly see their equity evaporate because public policy makers may move against the “evil foreigners” who are taking advantage of the free market system.

(Thursday 29 September 2016)

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TrudeauTORONTO - Ahhhh, that “intangible”… that “Je ne sais quoi”… “can’t quite put my finger on it” mystique that makes one a “star”, or a successful political leader. It is an undefi le quality that differentiates one from the rest; that makes one “first” and, consequently, “everyone else last”. Deep down, intuitively, we all know what it is: that elusive expectation that this time, this special individual, will come closer to satisfying everyone’s hopes that “things will be different”, maybe even better.

02materachiaveMatera-Toronto: gesture of appreciation and good faith

by The Hon. Joe Volpe, Publisher

TORONTO - The Lucania community and the Basilicata Cultural Society are continuing their lobbying for a twinning of Matera and Toronto. Following a decidedly encouraging meeting on Wednesday, September 21, 2016, a delegation of Basilicata nel mondo (Diaspora) will meet with His Worship John Tory Mayor of Toronto.

This time, they will be accompanied by former Councillor and current MP, the hon. Judy Sgro. They will present a key to the city of Matera to the Mayor of Toronto.

The key is in effect a hand sculpted wooden key made specifically for the occasion. It was commissioned by the mayor of Matera, Raffaello Giulio De Ruggieri, for this purpose.

In August, when the Toronto delegation, in that instance accompanied by MP Francesco Sorbara, the host community expressed a desire to demonstrate its willingness to “Twin with Toronto” by sending this token of esteem to Toronto’s first citizen.

The sculpted key harkens to the long standing practice in Matera by artisans to “brand” every artisanal product with the family or company stamp. Its origins are traced to centuries gone by when bakers “branded” their loaves of bread with their own emblem.

The practice spread to other artisanal products and generated a separate industry of woodworkers whose craft, talent and ingenuity became prized throughout Southern Italy and beyond. It is a minute representation of the cultural aspect of a city the Europeans have decide will be the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2019.

To re-emphasize the potential for Toronto’s Cultural and Business Community, the delegation accompanying the hon. Judy Sgro (Frank Miele, Pat Tremamunno, Dan Montesano and Sam Primucci) will be making the presentation on behalf of their counterparts in Basilicata.

(Friday 23 September 2016)

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