Weston Village lights up the darkness.

It’s the Winter Solstice today – the darkest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere). Last night, WestonWeb did some drive-by shooting through Weston Village in the annual hunt for Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanza / New Year / Festivus / Shopping Festival lights. Several of the more charming displays are included for your viewing pleasure along with comments from our expert team of know-it-all adjudicators (my wife and I). If your house is not included, its image has probably been rejected, not on the bounds of good taste but thanks to the abject skills of the photographer.

UP Express fare structure announced.

The long awaited and speculated  pricing structure for the Union Pearson Express has been released to the public and as predicted, the price for a ride from Union Station to Terminal 1 is close to the $30 mark. Those of us travelling from Weston will be able to get there for $16.50 and even cheaper when using a Presto card.

From Metrolinx site.
From Metrolinx site.

The complete pricing grid look like this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 12.58.16 PM

Travelling in the other direction, an adult fare from Weston to downtown and back (2 stops) with Presto would be $30.40 or $44 without. This is cheaper than a taxi and way more comfortable than TTC but at quite a premium.

Airport employees will be able to access a one-way fare of $10 or buy a monthly pass for $300. Read more fine print here.

This of course is all subject to the big rubber stamp to be administered at tomorrow’s Metrolinx Board of Directors’ meeting.

This afternoon, York South-Weston MP Mike Sullivan released the following statement:

 

OTTAWA – “First, I am disappointed that the Ontario Minister of Transportation pre-empted tomorrow’s Metrolinx board meeting with this announcement. This turns tomorrow’s meeting into a rubber-stamping exercise which is most unfortunate.  It makes it abundantly clear though that the decision is not a Metrolinx decision, but a provincial government one, as has been the case at every step of this project.

 

With regards to the fare structure, it makes riding the Union Pearson Express beyond the means of many airport travelers. Fares should be comparable to existing GO Transit and TTC fares from downtown to the airport. The UP Express fares are not.  The project has cost nearly $1.5-billion public dollars.  It should be  transportation for the 99 per cent, not just the 1 per cent.

 

As an example, a family of four in Weston — two adults with two school-aged children — even with a Presto card, would pay more to ride the UP Express than they would by taking an airport limo service. (Note: UP Express $42.20; Airflight Services Limo $32 to $36 http://www.airflightservices.com/doc/toronto_markham_richmond_hill_vaughan.pdf.)

 

While I hope I’m wrong, I see a service that is being deliberately overpriced to keep ordinary working folk from using this form of public transit. Consultants told us that their costs to run the service with the trains one-fifth full will be $4.93 per passenger. Charging reasonable fares will fill the trains and still cover operating costs.  At the end of the day, taxpayers built the UP Express and should be able to use it affordably to take advantage of the $1.5-billion that has already been spent on this project.”

 

Ahmed Hussen wins YSW Liberal nomination.

On Sunday, York South-Weston Federal Liberals held their long anticipated nomination meeting at Weston Collegiate Institute. Readers may remember that WestonWeb introduced three of the candidates earlier this year. The full slate was:

Mubarak Ahmed
Anthony Cesario
Ahmed Hussen
Masum Hossein
Monique Rudder
Bill Saundercook

WestonWeb arrived about half-an-hour into the voting which began at 2:00 and it was clear that this was no ordinary political event. Large numbers of people were packing the hallway, moving slowly towards the voting booths. Rumours were that Ahmed Hussen had signed up about 1800 new party members. Candidate speeches began in the dimly lit auditorium at 3:00 pm sharp but were unheard by those lining up to vote.

Voters line up in the halls.
Voters line up in the halls.

Of note, former Ontario Health Minister and (as he took pains to point out) Weston born George Smitherman was there in support of Ahmed Hussen.

Bill Saundercook.
Bill Saundercook relaxes in the hallway.

Supported by Marion O’Sullivan, Masum Hossein, of Weston’s BIA was also a candidate.

Mason Hossein waits to speak.
Masum Hossein waits to speak.

During the speeches, the long line of voters shuffled slowly and inexorably past and down the hall. Mercifully there was only one round of voting (ending at 5 pm) and voters ranked candidates in order of preference.

When WestonWeb left the meeting at 3:45, people were still arriving and the crush in the hallway seemed unchanged.

Results came via twitter before 7 pm.

Ahmed Hussen waits to deliver his speech.
Ahmed Hussen waits to deliver his speech.

As pointed out earlier in WestonWeb, the Big Red Wave is coming and clearly, local Liberals feel that York South-Weston can be wrested away from incumbent MP Mike Sullivan. While there is an urgency among progressive voters to end the Harper Government’s grip on power, it remains to be seen whether Ahmed Hussen can build support from a wide swath of the electorate. Mike Sullivan will also need to run a good campaign and convince voters he is worthy of a second term as MP.

Dear Readers … I miss you.

Adam announced recently that I work for beer. That’s not strictly true as Adam is a busy man and can’t always meet my dipsomaniacal cravings. Far more important to me is the engagement of readers and their honest and forthright opinions.

Until recently, this was going swimmingly and then a series of unfortunate incidents (which I shall not go into) led WestonWeb to experiment with new methods of commenting, namely Facebook and Discus. Unfortunately, this seems to have spooked the herd and sadly, comments have dwindled to nothing.

I am happy to announce that sad and hysterical entreaties to Adam have led to WestonWeb returning to the old way of commenting so readers, please feel free to vent (within reason) and express your opinions. It means a lot to me.

A contrast in Nomination Meetings this weekend

Political junkies will be in their element this weekend which will see York South-Weston Liberals and N.D.P. nominate candidates for the upcoming federal election.

Federal NDP:

On Friday, local New Democrats will gather to officially acclaim incumbent Mike Sullivan as their candidate for the election scheduled to take place next October. The meeting takes place at the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Toronto headquarters, located at 47 Densley Avenue, in the Keele/Lawrence area. The start-time is 7:30 p.m. Halifax MP and NDP Deputy Leader Megan Leslie, will be the guest speaker.

Only current NDP members who live in York South-Weston are eligible to vote at the meeting, but members of the public are welcome.
For more information, call the York South–Weston NDP hotline at 416-244-3349.

Federal Liberals:

On Sunday, at Weston Collegiate Institute, 100 Pine Street, these six candidates will compete for the nomination to replace former MP Alan Tonks who was defeated by Mike Sullivan in 2011:

Mubarak Ahmed
Anthony Cesario
Ahmed Hussen
Masum Hossein
Monique Rudder
Bill Saundercook

Candidate speeches begin at 3pm and rounds of voting will begin at 2pm and take place until the winner receives more than 50% of the vote. Liberal Party members resident in York South-Weston are eligible to vote.

Federal Conservatives:

Once WestonWeb receives news of the Conservative nomination meeting, we’ll amend this article and post the date and time.

Nunziata retains Speaker job.

Brand new mayor John Tory released his ‘cabinet’ list yesterday and some of the councillors on the list have people scratching their heads. As expected, there are many right of centre appointments.

The good news: Giorgio Mammoliti was not mentioned. While there are others in Tory’s new inner circle for whom the term ‘clown’ might be a bit harsh, there is no denying that people like Denzil Minnan-Wong, Cesar Palacio and Vince Crisanti seem more interested in self-promotion than improving the fortunes of their constituents.

Our own councillor Frances Nunziata has been removed from the Toronto Police Services Board but retains the post of Speaker. Perhaps with one fewer Ford in the chamber, the circus atmosphere that prevailed for much of the past four years may be replaced with one more collegial.

Maybe we shouldn’t be too harsh when judging Mr. Tory’s selection. after all, he never hid his political views and he is entitled to appoint whomever he wishes. Perhaps his selections are being guided by the philosophy of U.S President Lyndon Johnson when referring to J. Edgar Hoover:

it’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.

See the full team list here.

Nunziata to Tory: Pick me.

York South-Weston councillor Frances Nunziata has let it be known that she would like to be appointed to the role of Council Speaker for the new term. She has dropped large hints that if given the nod by Mayor-elect John Tory, she would be happy to serve again.

To put it kindly, Ms. Nunziata was not an unmitigated success in her four years as referee and minder of 44 councillors and a mayor. It was her job to ensure that civility was the order of the day and to see that politicians respected her decisions and indeed the office itself. What we got was a seeming inability to control the more outspoken members of council leading to some shenanigans that were a boon to American talk shows. According to Desmond Cole in a December 12, 2012 article in the Torontoist,

Nunziata’s indifference to rules and inability to maintain order carried serious consequences this year. During a wild debate on the civic appointments process, the speaker asked Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) to retract potentially intimidating and impugning statements towards city ombudsman Fiona Crean. When Mammoliti refused, Nunziata suggested that he leave the chamber, as council rules require, but didn’t actually enforce her decision. Mammoliti’s ability to remain despite his behaviour was a message that Nunziata either didn’t know how to enforce the rules, or didn’t care to do so. (He later chose to leave of his own accord.)

In June 2013, another blogger, known as cityslikr wrote about Ms Nunziata:

Aside from the mayor and his brother, no one exemplifies the aggressively partisan and divisive nature of city council more than the speaker. Dumping her and elevating Deputy Speaker Parker to the position would set a much more civil, productive tone than we’ve been witness to for the past two and a half years.

In December 2013, after she abruptly ended a particularly raucous council meeting, The Globe and Mail reported,

… Mr. Minnan-Wong responded: “I think if she wants the rest of council to act with a certain level of decorum, leadership starts from the speaker’s chair.”

But on Monday, Ms. Nunziata denied that she was to blame for council’s behaviour, and that she allowed the mayor and Councillor Ford to get away with bad behaviour because of her relationship with the Ford family.

“I called the mayor and Councillor Ford numerous times. I asked Councillor Ford to apologize and the mayor to apologize. Both of them,” she said. “I think I’m being very fair to all members of council.”

Now it’s not as if York South-Weston is humming along as a bastion of prosperity. There are parts of Ward 11 that are as deprived and needy as any in Toronto. The ward needs a full time councillor who will spend every moment dedicated to making things better. The role of council speaker is an onerous burden. It might be a good idea to allow someone else to take on the role and for the councillor to devote more time to lobbying for the people of York South-Weston.