A kinder gentler Ford Nation?

Michael Ford.
Michael Ford. Photo from Twitter.

The death of former Toronto Mayor and Ward 2 councillor Rob Ford created a vacancy which was filled last night by his 22 year-old nephew, the former Michael Stirpe. Last year Mr. Ford legally switched to the more recognizable maiden name of his mother Kathy and hasn’t looked back since. He won a trustee seat in the 2014 civic election and now this.

The by-election wasn’t close; Ford was pitted against an assorted collection of mostly fringe candidates and swatted them aside with almost 70% of the vote. By-election voting numbers are usually low and this was no exception. Ten-thousand fewer people bothered to turn up compared to last time and indeed, in 2014, Rob Ford alone garnered more votes than all candidates combined in 2106.

Mr. Ford campaigning yesterday supported by former Tory MPs Julian Faction (R) and Ted Opitz (L foreground)
Mr. Ford (centre) campaigning yesterday aided by former Tory MPs Julian Fantino (R rear) and Ted Opitz (L centre). Photo from Twitter.

What can we expect from young Mr. Ford? Will he join the ranks of the Mammolitis and Di Cianos to be another right-wing vote on Council? The answer is probably yes. Mr. Ford presents as a thoughtful young man who appears to be in favour of social justice; yet, in spite of huge levels of poverty in Ward 2 that approach those of our adjacent Ward 12, Mr. Ford spouts the same idiotic mantra of lower property taxes. This is precisely the misguided policy that leads to cutting services that benefit poor people the most.

Only time will tell if Mr. Ford will learn the reality of Toronto politics and understand the need for local politicians to focus on maintaining services and providing opportunities for people to pull themselves out of poverty. Other desirable traits, sadly lacking in many councillors are to act for the betterment of the whole city, defer to good planning and help the weak.

Will he become yet another friend of the development industry and an enemy of services that help level the playing field for the less fortunate – or will he realize that keeping property taxes low only helps the rich and reduces social mobility?

There may be hope that he’ll be a thoughtful, progressive and hard-working councillor. Let’s focus on that for now.

The Farmers’ Market is wilting

IMG_2790Many vendors at the new location of the Farmers’ Market say that their businesses are suffering. Several people told me that their business is down 1/3 or more, even while the rents have gone up. One vendor said he will be closing; another said he is considering it.

Almost everyone I spoke to was cautious about upsetting the market administrators, so I’m going to quote them all as a group.

  • The market was the heart and soul of Weston. They destroyed it.
  • Sales are down 50%
  • It has slowed down. Sales are down.
  • I’m done.
  • More people gotta come out.
  • This year, they don’t know where we are. [They need] more advertising.
  • It sucks.

Some vendors, however, were more positive.

  • We’ve been doing better here.
  • The area is bigger.
  • It’s better than last year. For the couple of weeks, it’s been good.

Several vendors have come and gone already this year: the hip pie people seem to have left, as did the popcorn company.

There is a lot of blame to go around. Some vendors said it’s too far to walk for those who have limited mobility. Others blamed the administration. And, dear reader, you and I share some responsibility.

Your correspondent, however, believes that the BIA could do more. Certainly, it is hard to see why rents went up; given the disruption, they should have gone down. There should be much more advertising, including along the 401¹. We could have beer tastings², or bring back the live music.

Masum Hossain, the Chair of the BIA, refused to be quoted for this article.

View the responses.

¹ Peter the Barber’s idea.

² Also his idea.

 

York Community Centre delayed again

An artist's concept of the much anticipated Centre.
An artist’s concept of the much anticipated Centre.

The York Community Centre currently under construction at Black Creek and Eglinton is a facility that will contain:

a six lane 25 metre pool with ramp, shallow leisure tot pool with water spray and splash features with ramp and stair access, double sized gymnasium, weight room, indoor running track, fitness studio, universal change rooms, kitchen, and multi-purpose rooms of varying sizes, to provide quality programs for all ages. The building has a green roof and was designed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standing. (From Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation).

The location of the new centre.
The location of the new centre at Eglinton Avenue and Black Creek Drive.

The original opening date was scheduled for winter 2014/15 but was pushed back to this June. Now, according to Councillor Nunziata the opening of the much anticipated community centre has been delayed thanks to ‘supply issues with critical components of the project’. The opening is now slated for some time in the fall. As a result, summer camp programs that were to be based there will be moved to Centennial Recreation Centre West (2694 Eglinton Ave. West). All other YRC summer recreation programs included in the Fun Guide will not be available.

Scotiabank gives Weston one last wedgie.

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Right at the corner of Weston and Lawrence sits a unique wedge shaped building that has been there for decades. On July 22nd, the occupant, Scotiabank, will be pulling out of 1885 Weston Road in an attempt (one presumes) to maximize shareholder value. This in spite of earnings up a healthy 6% over the first quarter of last year.

Our local politicians can blather all they want about the evils of payday loan companies in the area but here is a profitable, successful corporation demonstrating that it cares so little about its customers, they can now do their banking at the next closest branches at Weston and Eglinton or Lawrence and Keele – a hefty hike or a $6.00 round trip by TTC. These are the same compassionate folks who recently cut hundreds of jobs in Alberta.

For those of us who don’t use Scotiabank or who do their banking electronically this is probably not a big deal. For low income folks, this is another push towards payday loan companies. Many seniors are not comfortable banking by computer and will be severely inconvenienced by this closure. In addition, as a sign of confidence in Weston’s emergence from decades of neglect, this is a terrible setback. No doubt yet another payday loan company will open in its place.

If I was Councillor Frances Nunziata, MPP Laura Albanese or our non-resident MP Ahmed Hussen, I would be in front of the branch waving placards protesting the closure – in fact I’ll be happy to be part of any such demonstration should any of these representatives wish to show their displeasure and shame Scotiabank for their vote of non-confidence in our community. Embarrassing Scotiabank is probably the only way to get any reconsideration especially if as a result, people decide to move their money to the remaining banks in the area; TD Canada Trust, RBC and BMO.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada is interested in hearing from customers who will be inconvenienced by this move: 1-866-461-3222.

If you would like to express your displeasure to Scotiabank directly, call 1-888-722-3970.

And finally, a quote from the lovely folks at Scotiabank:

Although our reach is global, our energies are focused on individual customers, employees, and shareholders, and on building a strong community presence.

YSW NDP AGM

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 10.12.19 AMNext Monday, March 21 will see the annual general meeting of York South-Weston’s New Democrats. On the agenda will be the task of electing a new executive.

Guest speaker will be Peter Tabuns, NDP parliamentary critic on the environment and education.

  • Date: Monday March 21
  • Time: 6:30 – 9:30 pm
  • Place: York Civic Centre, 2700 Eglinton Avenue West.

For more details read here.

Transit Planning Meeting

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There’s a lot going on in Toronto transit-wise and especially in our neck of the woods. Six meetings are being held across the city to discuss transit – the closest will be at Richview Collegiate this Saturday.

Come and hear the latest transit ideas, updates on transit planning and construction going on throughout the city and contribute opinions on the direction the city, Metrolinx and the TTC should be taking. No doubt there will be considerable interest in the new UP Express fares as well as electrification of GO Trains.

  • Date: Saturday February 20
  • Place: Richview Collegiate, 1739 Islington Avenue
  • Time: 9:30 am to 11:30 am

Update:

Frances Nunziata says “My office has organized one to be held at the York Civic Centre on Feb. 29th at 7 pm.”

Former Humber River hospitals to not house incoming refugees

The previous proposal of accommodating incoming Syrian refugees in the currently unused Humber River hospital, specifically Weston’s Church site, have been denied.

Stated in an e-mail from Michael Chan, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade and member of the Minister’s ad-hoc Committee on Refugees:

It is unclear whether sites such as Humber River Hospital will still be needed to accommodate refugees.  However, the Salvation Army will be providing clothing, toys and furniture to refugees in addition to other communities in need and would no doubt greatly appreciate [any] offer of assistance.

You mad find more information at: http://thriftstore.ca/central-ontario/ways-give.  If you wish to volunteer or get involved in other initiatives, please visit www. ontario.ca/syrianrefugees.

After contacting Laura Albanese about the idea, it has been further clarified that the hospitals will not serve as housing for any refugees entering Ontario

We have been informed that the Humber River Hospital (Church site) will likely not be used to house the refugees.

This website has links on how you can contribute in many ways, such as making a donation, sponsoring a family, and volunteering, including where to send donations: https://www.ontario.ca/syrianrefugees

For your reference, the Government of Canada’s website can be found here: https://www.Canada.ca/Refugees