Off leash zone update.

Raymore-Proposed-Leash-Free-Zone

An off-leash zone/area for dogs is about to be built in Raymore Park. It will be located by the larger of two baseball diamonds and will have areas for small (< 20 lbs) and large dogs. There will be two gates and two paved pathways from the Pan-Am Trail for access. Unlike many leash-free zones, this one will be about 450m from the parking lot, and even further when Raymore’s parking lot is closed for the winter.

The area may be larger than the outline in the photograph because of the later addition of a separate small-dog section. Workers have already removed the baseball diamond fencing. The surface of the zone will be 4-6″ of pea gravel on top of a mesh filter which will help with drainage. TRCA is anxious that there be no runoff from the zone into the Humber.

Fencing will be post and paddle, 1.5 m tall and made of northern pine. It will be reinforced with wire mesh 4-6″ deep to slow down dogs that dig. Benches will be installed for owners.

Looking north from the proposed leash free zone.
Looking north from the proposed leash free zone.

The zone’s original opening was anticipated to be this spring but there was a delay in the opening of the area because of work on a retaining wall nearer the park entrance. This is taking much longer than the expected March 31st completion date but should be finished by October. There is only one entrance to the park and so the retaining wall and another job – an upgrade to the path will be done first; after that, sewer work will be ongoing. At the last meeting on the topic, council officials thought that the area would take about a month to set up and would be open by ‘Thanksgiving at the latest’.

TRCA has plans to plant trees along the north end of the area and between the zone and the ravine slope. This will provide storm runoff relief and shade for the area (and perhaps some sound mitigation for nearby homes).

A view of the area from the opposite side of the Humber.
A view of the area from the opposite bank of the Humber.

Hours of operation: 7 am – 9 pm but people on foot will be able to access the area at any time. The parking lot will continue to be locked at 9:00pm daily and re-open at 8:00am and will be closed for the Winter between November 1st and April 30.

The area will be self-policing and residents are expected to supervise and pick up after their pets.

Here is Toronto City Council’s off leash code of conduct:

Municipal Code Chapter #608

  1. Comply with all signs and boundaries.
  2. Dog(s) must be on leash at all times except when in the designated off-leash area.
  3. All dog(s) must have a visible municipal license affixed to the dog(s).
  4. Dog(s) must remain in off-leash area so as not to trample or endanger plant material and other park resources.
  5. Dog(s) excluded from off-leash areas include:
    1. Pit Bulls or other dangerous animal
    2. Female dogs in heat
    3. Any dog(s) that has been issued a muzzle order by the Medical Officer of Health.
  6. Dogs shall not chase wildlife.
  7. Pick up after your dog(s) and place waste in receptacle or take home for disposal.
  8. Keep dogs in sight and under control at all times.
  9. Do not leave dog(s) unattended while in off-leash area.
  10. Repair holes dug by the dog(s) under your control.

Violation of Bylaws are punishable by fines.

Spay / neuter clinic coming to Weston / Mount Dennis

DSC05338Toronto Animal Services’ SNYP (spay/neuter your pet) Mobile Clinic will soon be stationed at the No Frills Supermarket at 25 Photography Drive – Black Creek Dr./ Eglinton Ave to provide spay and neuter services for dogs and cats. Residents with an income of less than $50,000 will qualify for subsidized or waived fees.

Dates: May 12, 19, 26

Arrange an appointment by calling 416-338-6281 or by email to [email protected]

Jane’s Walk tours old piggery

On Saturday, May 7, about 50 people took part in a Jane’s Walk to discover some Weston and Mount Dennis history.

The walk led by Mike Mattos featured guest segments from Alistair Jolly, an archaeologist with TRCA, Simon Chamberlain from MDCA and myself.

Alistair Jolly from TRCA with some artifacts discovered in the Toronto region.
Mike Mattos (L) listens to Alistair Jolly from TRCA with some artifacts discovered in the Toronto region.
A sample of the range of artifacts discovered around Toronto.
A sample of the range of artifacts discovered around Toronto.

After viewing some artifacts including clovis arrowheads, stone axes and clay pipes, we ventured under the Eglinton bridge at Scarlett Road.

Simon Chamberlain discusses the history of the area.
Simon Chamberlain discusses the history of the area.
A view of the graffiti adorning the walls of the Eglinton bridge over the Humber.
A view of the graffiti adorning the walls of the Eglinton bridge over the Humber.

Moving up the river from there Mike and Simon led the group to some interesting relics from the early years of West Park Hospital. Established in 1904, for patients suffering from tuberculosis it was then known as the Toronto Free Hospital for Consumptive Poor or the Weston Sanitarium. Since this was in the days before antibiotics, treatment consisted mainly of rest and fresh air. At the time, Toronto’s death toll from TB was considerable; something like 7 people a day. Even then, TB was known to be infectious and city workers fearing contagion refused to collect food waste from the hospital. As a result, the sanatarium set up a piggery and chicken operation on hospital grounds close to the Humber. The farm was self-sustaining and with 1000 hens and 50 pigs, there was no shortage of food. Pigs were slaughtered at the stockyards.

Water troughs for the pigs still remain.
Water troughs for the pigs still remain.

Antibiotics revolutionized treatment of TB and in 1954, the animals were swept away during Hurricane Hazel but evidence remains of the extensive farming operation that was operated by staff and patients.

By the river, there is a small informal pet cemetery that apparently has been used by local residents for years.

Those animals were loved.
An informal cat grave.

The last segment of the walk ended by the weir in Raymore Park and there was discussion of the effects of Hurricane Hazel on the area which led to the forerunner of today’s TRCA, the creation of many of Toronto’s parks and the preservation of this city’s famous ravines.

Another great walk; luckily we had no rain and as a bonus – mosquitoes haven’t emerged – yet!

Weston has a Zipcar!

Did you know that Weston has its own (yes, just one) Zipcar. The company has an interesting business model; you can rent a Zipcar for terms as short as an hour or as long as several days. Another difference from a standard car rental is that the company pays for the gas; if the fuel gauge slips below ¼ full, customers are required to fill up the car using a pre-paid card in the vehicle. As you might expect, most of the company’s vehicles are concentrated in the downtown core and Weston’s is one of the most northerly.

To use one of the company’s fleet, there is a one-time application charge of $30 and an annual fee of $35 but if you only need a car occasionally it’s cheaper than paying registration and insurance on a car that is parked for most of the day.

What kind of car do you get for around ten bucks an hour? Well, Weston’s car is a Hyundai Elantra. Where you may ask is Weston’s Zipcar? Its outside the UP Express station (unless someone is using it) in its own permanent parking spot.

Weston's Zipcar parked in the UP Express lot.
Weston’s Zipcar parked in the UP Express lot.
To get inside the Zipcar you hold your member card to the windshield here.
To get inside the Zipcar you hold your member card to the windshield here.

Would you use a Zipcar? Have you used one? Let us know.

By the way, I photographed the Zipcar at around 5pm. on Friday. The UP Express from downtown was just pulling in. A lot of people were getting off; dozens actually and the train was still quite crowded as it left for the Airport. Obviously many people are now finding the train to be cost (and time) effective.

Weston home prices leap 27%

Townhouse under construction on the old Beer Store site on Weston Road.
Townhomes under construction on the old Beer Store site on Weston Road. Units were priced from $399,900 and are all sold out.

According to an article in the Globe and Mail, between the December quarters of 2014 and 2015, Toronto home prices increased by 9.04%. During that same period, the price of homes sold in the Weston M9N postal code jumped from an average of $367,045 in the quarter ending December 2014 to $464,958, a startling increase of 26.7%. The M6M code to the west which includes part of Mount Dennis has done even better with an average increase of 33.2%.

What does this mean? Weston and Mount Dennis are among the last few relatively affordable areas left in Toronto. Compared to the rest of the city, prices are low and people are desperate to get into the housing market. Homes are being snapped up before they become out of reach.

Toronto Star looks at corporate donations across the city.

The Toronto Star has published an in-depth look at corporate election influence across the city. The article has details on every ward in the city.

Some of the ‘notable’ contributors in Ward 11 donate liberally to other councillors’ campaigns and have (as in the case of Robert Deluce of Porter Airlines and Tridel’s Stephen Upton) actually exceeded the legal donation limits. Surprisingly, there are no consequences for wealthy business owners who do this.

The Star agrees that donation limits should be lowered.

Read all about it here.

Election Reform In Toronto

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For a while, there has been a movement to question the way politics is done in Canada – from the federal government to city councils. A major concern is that money from corporations, unions and the rich can move politicians to vote against the interest of ordinary people. It can be expensive to run an election campaign and commonly, federal and provincial parties have charged $5,000 or $10,000, for admission to an intimate soiree with a cabinet minister. It’s hard to justify such access for the rich, even if politicians claim it makes no difference. It looks as if the Wynne Liberals are seeing the light and may ban the practice.

At the Toronto City Council level, lobbying is another contentious matter. Currently all lobbyists must be registered and a list is kept of meetings between lobbyists and councillors. Some lobbyists have now taken to hiring other companies to lobby on their behalf to conceal their activities. It’s a constant cat and mouse game that council needs to address soon.

Donations to candidates’ election campaigns

Cash donations are allowed only from individuals, (and the candidate and their spouse) and may not exceed $750 per person. If a person wishes to donate to several candidates, for the same council, the total they can donate is $5000. The spending limit for a campaign on things like signs, office supplies and paid staff is calculated by the number of eligible voters. In York South-Weston’s ward 11, this was about $36,000 for the 2014 election. Surprisingly, contributions are not limited to Toronto but may come from anywhere in the province.

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Questions about donors and donations:

Why do people donate to candidates?

Probably because they feel that they will be heard. They may like the voting record of that councillor. Politicians are quick to say that their votes are not influenced by individual donations but then one must ask why don’t more ordinary citizens contribute?

What is a typical donation to a Toronto Council candidate?

It’s quite high. Few donations to Toronto councillors seem to be under the $50 threshold which most people would be comfortable with. The only contribution below $200 in Ms. Nunziata’s campaign was one of $20 and that was from the Councillor herself.

Does a contribution affect the voting record of a politician?

All politicians will tell you that lobbying efforts and campaign donations make no difference. If that were true, lobbying and donations would dry up. Lobbying and donations are legal and effective ways to ‘bend the ear’ and possibly the vote of a politician.

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Do contributors get a rebate?

The city will refund 75% of contributions up to $300 and 50% above that. A donor’s payment of $750 would cost him or her only $300 as the city would rebate $450. This means that donors from inside and outside the city have their payments subsidized by Toronto taxpayers.

What happens to money not spent in a campaign?

Unspent campaign money and money over the campaign limit must be donated to the City to assist with the cost of donor rebates (see below). Signs and office supplies may be retained for the next election but their value will be counted towards the next campaign’s expenses.

Can we find out the names of campaign donors?

The process of donations is on the public record and all candidates’ campaign donations and the names of donors are available online. In the case of Ward 11, which has 34,128 eligible voters,136 individuals, most of whom live outside the ward, donated a total of $47,320.

A breakdown of the donations to Councillor Nunziata’s campaign:

  • Only 136 people donated to Ms. Nunziata’s campaign.
  • No person gave less than $200.
  • 45% of donor money comes from outside the City of Toronto.
  • Less than half of the donors were eligible to vote in Ward 11.

Some notable and large contributors of interest (I have attempted to find the commercial or political connections of the donors) include:

  • Rueben Devlin $200 – President & CEO Humber River Hospital
  • Robert Deluce $300 – President of Porter Airlines
  • Karla Ford $750 – Doug Ford’s Wife
  • Alex , Bela and Jack Matrosov $2000 – Checker Taxi
  • Frances Nunziata $20
  • Matthew Pantalone $750 – Developer
  • David Paiva $750 – Luso Canadian Masonry Ltd.
  • Cormac O’Muiri $500 – from Mississauga
  • Dero Sabatini $400 Mississauga – TD Bank VP (Etobicoke)
  • Marvin Sadowski $500 – Former Developer?
  • Stacey Scher $600  – All Canadian Self Storage
  • Bruno Schickedanz $750 – Developer and Woodbine horse owner
  • Conrad Schickedanz $250 – Developer
  • Tony Scianitti $750 – Developer
  • Darryl Simsovic $400 CEO – Trillium College (Private career college)
  • George Seretis $400 – Easy Plastic Containers Vaughan
  • John Ruddy $750 – Ottawa Developer
  • Alan Tonks $200 – Former YSW MP
  • Chris Tonks $300 – TDSB Trustee
  • Alan Tregebov $200 – Architect
  • Steven Upton $600 – Tridel
  • Susan Vavaroutsos $750 – Old Mill Cadillac (Lou)
  • John Ward $500 – Wards Funeral Home
  • Jack Winberg $200 – Weston Hub Developer
  • Hua Yang $500

It should be pointed out that every one of these donations is perfectly legal. What is up for discussion is whether extra influence is obtained by the few people who make donations and whether people from outside the city should be allowed to contribute or even receive a rebate.

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When a tiny number of individuals provide the campaign money, do they have an undue influence? Should council candidates not seek donation money from the tens of thousands of ordinary people in their wards? Are companies able to exert undue influence when CEO’s donate privately? Should the donation limit be lowered so that councillors are forced to seek more individual donations? Should donations from outside the ward or the city be either banned or ineligible for a rebate?

Bottom Line

Very few ordinary voters can afford $750 for a campaign contribution. For business owners, such a donation may be seen as a good investment regardless of the lack of a guarantee. Since there are so few contributors to most councillors’ campaigns, the $750 donors certainly stand out.

It would probably be a good idea to keep donations to a maximum of $50.00 to force a candidate to gather a large base of support.

Another bone of contention for some is the donations to councillors from non residents.

123toronto.ca
rabit.ca

For a more in-depth look at lobbying at City Hall read this excellent article written last year by Dave Meslin. He is a big proponent of ranked balloting, another movement designed to improve the way elections are run. The Province of Ontario is allowing municipalities to use ranked balloting in their elections from 2018. Unfortunately Council in its wisdom voted to support ranked balloting and then shortly afterwards voted against it.

What do you think? Should the candidate donation limit be lowered from $750?
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