Sullivan: Harper government ignoring Weston flood damage.

York South-Weston MP Mike Sullivan spoke in Parliament today about the flooding in York South-Weston and revealed that despite the damage caused on July 8th, the Federal government has failed to offer any meaningful assistance.

Mr. Speaker, this past summer, the City of Toronto suffered what is described as a once-in-a-hundred-years storm. Thousands of homes were flooded, families lost cherished possessions and spent millions rebuilding. Neighbourhoods in my riding of York South—Weston were among the hardest hit.

I visited the flooded streets to offer comfort and assistance. I saw tremendous resilience from the very young to the very old. I also saw the aftermath of the current Conservative government’s neglect of our city and its critical infrastructure needs, such as improved sewer systems, some of which are over 100 years old.

With climate change, severe storms like the one that hit Toronto on July 8 will become more frequent. The Conservative government needs to get off the sidelines and start investing to prevent widespread flooding from happening with each big storm.

I have written on these matters to the Minister of the Environment and Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs, but the response did not offer any assistance.

This is a prime example of the climate change adaptation the government talks about. The time to help is now. My constituents not only expect it, they demand it.

Sullivan is organizing a petition to the Federal government requesting infrastructure funding for our inadequate and outdated sewer systems. Once printed off and signed, petitions can be folded, stapled closed and mailed for free to:

Mike Sullivan MP
House of Commons
Ottawa
ON
K1A 0A6

The medium is the message.

The flood information meeting held on Wednesday July 31st at Archbishop Romero High School was a follow-up to the one held on July 19th at York Council Chambers. Again, almost 200 residents filled the gym. It was immediately apparent that steps had been taken to control their response. For whatever reason, a uniformed police officer was posted at the back of the room. If Ms. Nunziata felt threatened by this crowd of grandparents, parents, and children, she must lead a very sheltered life.

The meeting format was organized by Ward 11 resident, Sean McConnell. He began the proceedings by restricting questions to ‘only those who live in the area and whose homes have been flooded’.

Organizer Sean McConnell sets the ground rules.

Organizer Sean McConnell sets the ground rules.

Once the introductions were over, the meeting began with a series of anonymous softball questions allegedly emailed from residents. Whether the authors of these questions were in the audience or not seemed irrelevant. A phalanx of City of Toronto and TRCA officials was on hand to provide responses. After these had been answered, Councillor Nunziata talked about what the city was doing  to address residents’ concerns. Residents were then permitted to come to the microphone to seek answers.

Representatives from the city, TRCA and Granite Claims listen to residents.

Representatives from the city, TRCA and Granite Claims listen to residents.

Some interesting points were raised during the audience questions.

One resident’s basement flooded on the 7th July, the day before the storm and he was told by a city representative that the sewer was blocked. The resident showed proof that a city employee had reported the matter in spite of statements to the contrary from the official at the meeting.

A resident shows proof that sewers were blocked the day before the flood.

A resident shows proof that sewers were blocked the day before the flood.

City Council has passed a motion to ‘look at opportunities to advance’ a ‘sewer overflow control’ public meeting scheduled for the fall of 2013.

Until the assessment is done it will take 3-5 years to get a solution implemented.

Quick fixes such as a berm along Black Creek might provide a temporary solution.

The city has ended its special garbage collection ( information to the contrary was given during the meeting).

Some residents reported that Backflow prevention valves had failed. Apparently they require a homeowner inspection every three months and flushing out twice annually otherwise they are liable to fail.  There is a proposal to increase funding to allow a greater subsidy but the process is complicated, expensive and probably beyond the reach of many. As one resident pointed out, the unpleasant task of inspection and flushing will likely be neglected too.

Another council motion has requested consideration of an increase in backflow valve subsidies.

If your backflow valve failed, the city says your contractor is responsible, not the city.

If residents think that city negligence caused damage to their properties, they should make a claim.

Backflow valves and a sump pump on display.

Backflow valves and a sump pump on display.

The bridge on Humber Boulevard that crosses the Black Creek concrete trench is irreparably damaged and will be replaced.

The City had an opportunity to apply to the province for state of emergency funding but unlike neighbouring Mississauga, failed to do so before the deadline.

Here is a list of basement flooding protection projects taking place in Toronto from 2013-2016. Nothing is planned for Ward 11.

Laura Albanese confirms that unlike Mississauga, Toronto failed to act before the deadline.

MPP Laura Albanese confirms that unlike Mississauga, Toronto failed to act before the deadline.

Towards the end of the meeting I was challenged by Sean, one of MPP Laura Albanese’s staffers, stating that I would need signed releases for the photographs I was taking. Luckily, not having been born recently (or even yesterday) I was able to help the young man with this particular gap in his education.

Albanese staffer Sean possibly obtaining legal advice on photography.

Laura Albanese staffer Sean possibly listening to legal advice on photography in public meetings.

No doubt Ms. Nunziata considers the meeting a success. Nobody shouted at her and her message was heard clearly. The message was, ‘we’re doing all we can to help’. If only that was true.

The fact is that residents have been let down by a lack of action. The flooding of basements in certain areas of the city has been public knowledge for years – for example this map from 2005 clearly shows chronic flooding areas (Ward 11, areas 6 and 4) in Weston and around Cordella Avenue. If planning had started in 2005, the problem would have been solved by now.

Politicians have focussed on more glamorous projects and on keeping property taxes low. If anyone needs evidence of the neglect of sewers, all they have to do is walk through Lions Park where a large sewer runs alongside the Humber. On most days the park smells like, …well, a flooded basement.

UrbanArts is moving.

Acclaimed young people’s arts provider, UrbanArts, has outgrown its storefront premises at 19 John Street so they are moving in early July to a new location on Bartonville (off Weston, east of Jane). This is a move of more than 2km. Marlene McKintosh told WestonWeb that she has no idea who will move into the space as, “it’s up to the landlord”.

Unfortunately this will add to the ample supply of empty storefronts in Weston.

 

Urban Park Rangers – coming to a park near you.

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 2.02.33 PM

After much study and consultation, Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation has produced a five-year parks plan to be implemented, beginning this year (subject to City Council approval).

Extensive consultation of citizens, staff and industry experts determined four basic functions of parks management:

1. Communicate and connect with users
2. Preserve and promote nature
3. Maintain quality parks
4. Improve system planning

One of the more interesting proposals under Item 1 is the introduction of an Urban Park Ranger who would be a more visible presence in parks and would be a

‘primary point of contact for individuals and groups wanting to engage with the parks system and build relationships with community stakeholders’

Combing through the corporate jargon of relationships and stakeholders (are community stakeholders the people using the park barbecues? Ed.), it appears that park rangers will be the human face of the park system and will be tasked with ensuring that City and park by-laws are more more rigorously enforced. A commitment to providing or improving park amenities such as washrooms, signage, shade areas and benches is also proposed. Another interesting idea is the establishment of a centralized parks volunteer and donations system. Businesses and people might like to donate money, land or time to the parks system but at the moment there is no formal system in place.

This will be a timely intervention for our local parks that can sometimes look a bit neglected when compared to the elaborate facilities and displays found in more upscale areas of Toronto.

The plan is a long read but well worth the effort. Comments on the proposal can be directed here.

Nunziata still votes like Weston is Rosedale

Blogger Matt Elliott’s column in Metro regularly posts a report card on the voting behaviour of Toronto city councillors. In his latest column, Elliott writes that while Councillor Nunziata’s ‘Ford Nation’ voting record has recently dropped, she is still one of the most loyal followers of a very right-wing agenda. Consider that this month Ms Nunziata:

  • voted YES to a motion to reject Provincial funding for 264 new daycare spaces – luckily the majority of councillors voted the other way (fail)
  • voted YES to continue to charge admission for youth to indoor pools (pass)
  • voted YES to reduce funding for AIDS initiatives by $104,000 (pass)
  • voted YES to not consider allocating $6.8 million from the surplus going to the Social Housing Reserve (fail)
  • voted YES to withhold $75,000 from the Tenant Defence Fund (pass)
  • voted YES to block $894,000 going to community partnership programs (fail)

The one thing she did get right was to vote NO in a motion to not use $1.163 million in investment earnings to support student nutrition (fail).

In Ward 11, the majority rent their homes and half earn household incomes of less than $45,000. They struggle to make ends meet and could do with more support from their councillor. They are clearly not getting it. How the councillor can justify voting against daycare spaces that would have come at no cost to the city is a mystery. To vote to withhold money from the Tenant Defence Fund is particularly egregious when there have been many incidents involving notoriously bad landlords in Weston.

Councillor Nunziata, you appear to work hard and care for your constituents but your voting behaviour is a mystery. Is being a member of ‘Ford Nation’ more important than helping the less fortunate members of your Ward? Perhaps it’s time to choose where your loyalties lie.

CHMC document features Weston Road

Humberview Housing Co-op; 2100 Weston Road

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has released a comprehensive listing of affordable housing along the length of Weston Road. Many of the landmark high-rise buildings in Weston are included along with their history, focus and occupancy numbers. Among the interesting facts contained in the document are:

  • the privately owned buildings at 1765-75 Weston Road have received $1.8 million in ‘interest free forgivable loans’ (essentially a gift) in order to fix up the place.
  • a 10-storey apartment building is planned for Wilby Crescent (on the site of the old Vehicle Licence Office).
  • Metrolinx has contributed $1.1 million towards developing a creative/cultural hub on the site of the former GO Station parking lot.

You can read the full report here.

Sullivan: Apply pressure or Weston stuck with diesel white elephant.

Mike Sullivan painted a sorry picture of the Canadian political process in his latest Town Hall meeting held in Mount Dennis last night. He outlined the origins of the Airport Rail Link from its conception as a Federal project under David Collenette that was going to be fully paid for by private interests. There was only one bidder for the job (quelle surprise), SNC Lavalin. In 2005, when 2600 people showed up in Weston to protest the noise and pollution, an environmental assessment was promised. Weston was also added as a second stop along the way probably as a result of strong public concern. SNC Lavalin then dropped out and the province was given federal money to finish the project under Metrolinx.

Cost

According to Sullivan, the cost has ballooned from an original estimate of $300m to the current one of $1.2B. In January 2009, Metrolinx announced that it was adding 28km of new track to upgrade GO train service to all-day. As Adam has pointed out, Metrolinx has reversed itself by quietly announcing that all-day service will not happen – according to Mike Sullivan, the government’s rationale is that the tracks are needed for the ARL. So it looks as if the plan all along was to built track for the airport link and use the all day GO service as a cover.

Laura Albanese

In February 2011, our Liberal MPP Laura Albanese co-moved the following motion:

I move that, in the opinion of this House, the province embrace electrification as a strategy for powering commuter rail by:-acknowledging that the Georgetown South corridor be declared a priority corridor for electrification of commuter trains, recognizing its high residential density;-ensuring that the environmental assessment for electrification become consistent with current timelines of the six-month transit environmental assessment;-including human health and property impacts in the environmental assessment for electrification;-completing the electrification of the air-rail link by 2015; and-calling on all levels of government to partner in funding electrification infrastructure improvements.

Private members’ House opinion motions have no force in law. The 33 MPPs present at the time voted unanimously in favour although MPP Frank Klees saw through the motion,

 I don’t want to discourage the member, but I have to be truthful. I believe that this bill before us is simply an opportunity for the member to say to her constituents and other Liberal members, “Look, the government passed a resolution that calls for electrification. The election is eight months from now. For the next eight months, we can use this bill”-which will be passed by this Legislature, no doubt-”as evidence that we’re on your side.”

Ms Albanese may have used this motion to help in her recent election victory but now needs to publicly and forcefully raise the issue with the Premier.

Usability

As Mike Sullivan points out, the Airport link will be used by very few people and will be too expensive for the rest of us (Metrolinx has said that fares will be competitive with the same journey in a taxi or limo). Can you imagine captains of industry schlepping their own bags along miles of platform at either end and onto a train? This train will be a gigantic drag on taxpayers and is being rushed to completion to provide transportation during the 2015 Pan Am Games. According to Mr. Sullivan, the ARL will be ready 90 days before the games. Any hiccups causing delays along the way and the whole fake rationale will be lost.  If implemented properly, the train could be the answer to several problems including shortening travel time to and from Kitchener (currently a tedious 2 hours) as well as being an above-ground subway and a true downtown relief line at a much lower cost.

Jonah Schein

NDP Environment Critic Jonah Schein also spoke at the meeting and emphasized the need for political pressure, ‘Being right doesn’t mean that we will win’. Currently the NDP is the third party with only 17 members in the Legislature. He pointed out that in Toronto, people thought subways were a done deal until political pressure was applied. He is circulating an electrification petition and along with MP Andrew Cash will be co-hosting a Clean Train Festival on April 28 in his Davenport Riding. Jonah feels that it is important for everyone along the line to lend their support. Also present at the meeting was recent provincial NDP candidate Paul Ferreira.

Sullivan stresses the need to contact your elected representatives and let them know that your vote at the next election is contingent on creating meaningful transportation for Weston.

Commentary

For years, the Provincial Liberals have misled the public through their bait and switch tactics surrounding GO service and the ARL. The government clings to the artificial timeline claim that the ARL has to be ready for the 2015 Pan Am Games or else they would have embraced electrification, competitive bidding and other such niceties. We are represented at Queens Park by Laura Albanese, a government member who has been unable to generate any significant movement on this issue. She becomes a fiery orator during election campaigns and then reverts to a Clark Kent persona. Here in Weston, we like our politicians mouthy and opinionated with the ability to generate a headline. Perhaps she can take lessons from the style of Frances Nunziata. We may not agree with Frances’ every move but at least she isn’t afraid of confrontation.

We have an opportunity to shape the future by saying no to dirty air, lower property values and a billion dollar white elephant that the rich won’t use and the rest of us can’t afford. Politicians worry about only one thing; the loss of your vote. We need to make it clear that votes will go to people loudly advocating for an electric rail link that will be an asset to everyone in the community.