Mulcair lends an ear.

Mike Sullivan, Asha Ahmed, Tom Mulcair.

M.P. Mike Sullivan, Wiff owner Asha Ahmed, Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair.

MP Mike Sullivan and Federal Opposition Leader, Tom Mulcair hosted a small business round table on Wednesday, February 11th, inside Wiff Restaurant, a Somali fusion eatery on Weston Road.

According to Mulcair, small and medium sized businesses are responsible for 80% of new jobs in Canada, hence his election year push into Weston to gauge the mood of Weston’s entrepreneurial community. He acknowledged that these are very tight times for small businesses in the GTA.

Mulcair is promising to lower the small and medium business tax rate from 11% to 9%, along with an accelerated capital cost allowance. He claimed that the Conservatives have reduced the tax burden for large businesses to the tune of $15 billion. ‘The rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer’, he declared.

A wide variety of enterprises were represented included brewing, urban farming, book selling, money transfer, dry cleaners, chartered accountancy and store-front businesses. The common thread of comments seemed to be how hard it is to operate a business here in York South-Weston, especially when such difficulties are compounded by rampant obstructionism from all three levels of government. There seems to be a perception of super efficiency when it comes to enforcement of rules and assessment of taxes combined with a reluctance to provide any service in return. Another business owner bristled against what seems to be a fixed Federal Government procuring process. Mention was made of store owners unable to afford fuel so they operate in cold buildings.

Mulcair promised to look into the big banks’ refusal to work with companies that send remittance monies overseas. Only one bank deals with remittance companies but apparently charges outrageous rates.

Many business owners expressed the concern that until they make a profit, they won’t be paying any business income tax. I heard afterwards that one city inspector is presently making things difficult for at least two Weston businesses while others endure irritants such as excessive development charges and bloody-minded nit-picking. The entrepreneurs seemed to agree that more is needed to help businesses thrive along with less red tape and a reduction in municipal and provincial taxation.

Federal business tax reductions won’t help struggling businesses. Nine percent of zero is still zero.

Oh yes, citizens of Weston we can help: if you want a vibrant walkable shopping district, support local businesses. Buy Local.

P&M: Ready for the Move.

Frank Kalamaris and his family run a well known and very successful restaurant right in the heart of Weston. P&M has been serving Westonians since Frank’s father George opened for business on April 15, 1975.

Every day is busy but empty seats are especially hard to find during the lunch rush with only 24 chairs crammed into the tiny dining room.

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Up to four people jockey for position behind the 18 foot kitchen / serving area. Instructions are passed back and forth in English with the occasional few words of Greek mixed in. From this tiny work area, customers are served generous portions of delicious food. Wider at the front, narrowing to barely 7 feet wide at the back where the dishes are washed, the atmosphere is one of respectful friendship and regular customers are known by name.

Frank recalls arriving in Weston when it was at the height of its popularity with people flocking to its shopping district from miles around. ‘In 1975 There was a Canadian Tire across the street, a Kresge’s department store, a Loblaws supermarket, jewellers, shoe stores, gentleman’s and ladies’ clothing stores.’

Nowadays Weston is a lot different but Frank is so sure that things are turning around, he has invested $1.2M in a new location just a few yards south at 1946 Weston Road. Until recently, this was the home of the Central Bar and Grill which had in its latter years fallen into disrepair and had a dubious clientele. Frank has done a total inside and out renovation of the building and it is now unrecognizable.

The key to Frank’s success is quite simple, ‘You have to respect the customer’ he says in his trademarked gravelly voice. ‘They don’t want to be a number, like in the franchised restaurants, they want recognition and respect and to do that we treat them like friends and family’ To Frank, it’s not about the money. ‘Lots of business people come to Weston to take money out; they invest nothing and end up lowering the quality and driving away business. Success means doing what you have to do to get customers to return regularly’, and in that Frank has succeeded wildly. With plans to continue serving top quality food cooked to order; (things like fresh cut French fries, Black Angus triple A beef), he’s now planning to make the numbers of his extended family of customers bigger; a lot bigger. With the extra room and a gigantic open-concept kitchen he can seat more friends and serve a bigger variety of dishes.

Frank plans to supplement the regular fare with more international dishes and weekly specials. For those with a sweet tooth, there will be a dessert station with a full dessert menu. The new restaurant will be licensed (currently under application); a service bar will be there for staff.

Frank gave WestonWeb an exclusive preview of the renovated premises and even in an unfinished state, the new P&M’s is very impressive. Attention to detail and top of the line decor, furnishings and equipment will set this restaurant apart in Weston.

Frank stands behind the new bar.

Frank stands behind his new bar.

The left-half of the restaurant.

The left-half of the restaurant with the dessert station at the back.

Butcher block tables and ceramic decor.

Butcher block tables and ceramic decor.

The dessert station.

The dessert station.

Top of the line equipment in the new kitchen.

Top of the line equipment is being installed in the new kitchen.

Food preparation and storage area in the basement.

A huge food preparation and storage area is being set up in the basement.

The new premises under wraps.

The new premises at 1946 Weston Road still under wraps.

Frank doesn’t  know exactly when the new P&M Restaurant will open as there are a few finishing touches to be made and inspections to be completed. The Fire Department will need to calculate his seating capacity, but no doubt when the date is announced, many will flock to the new location. ‘I may need to have several opening days’, joked Frank, ‘But I would like to have Councillor Nunziata there; she has been very helpful in dealing with the City’.

Big Red Wave’s a Coming – Part Deux

Just in case MP Mike Sullivan thinks his re-election will be a walk in the park, a disquieting item came courtesy of a group that makes election predictions by aggregating poll results. According to ThreeHundredEight.com‘s latest nation-wide predictions, Liberal candidate Ahmed Hussen would have an 86% chance of winning York South-Weston if an election were held today.

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ThreeHundredEight.com:Con.       Lib.       NDP.

Mr Hussen’s ability to win the Liberal nomination, despite stiff opposition should let Mr Sullivan know that he is not up against an amateur. Mr Hussen is backed by powerful interests including Weston-born George Smitherman.

Obviously, an election will not be held today, next week or even next month. However, Stephen Harper is making rent-a-crowd announcements almost daily and could legally call an election at any time. Many pundits think that he’ll abandon the scheduled October date and hold a Spring election before the more negative effects of low oil prices, foreign troop involvement and a vanishing surplus can be felt. If that is the case, Mr Sullivan and his staff need to get their skates on. While the Tories aren’t likely to be a factor in the riding, YSW is traditionally a federal Liberal seat and the Jack Layton effect is sadly no more.

Trains make first run through tunnel

The first trains went through the Weston tunnel today. Metrolinx said in its press release that “with the trains running in the new tunnel, the major work for the Weston Tunnel project is now complete…. This is a major achievement for the $1.2 billion GTS Project whose objective is to increase rail transit capacity by widening the rail corridor for additional tracks.”

Right now, only GO trains are using the tracks. UP Express trains will start running in the spring, and CN trains will continue to use the level tracks outside the tunnel. Transitdrum118 captured the historic first run.

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.

Nunziata: Rosemont Social Club operators cleared.

email from Councillor Nunziata

email from Councillor Nunziata – click to expand.

On Thursday, Councillor Nunziata issued a letter to constituents that reads a bit like an obituary. It concerns the social club that readers may remember was the subject of intense scrutiny along with a community meeting last September. Residents had expressed concern at the increased levels of parking (near the businesses at the Lawrence end of Rosemount Avenue) along with groups of older Somali men standing outside and (horror of horrors) socializing. At the meeting, the councillor made a commitment to put pressure on the club by attempting to link their activities to the restaurant operating a couple of doors up the street. In addition, parking control was instructed to step up surveillance to catch and tag vehicles parked illegally.

In her letter, Ms. Nunziata mourns the fact that in spite of her best efforts, the city has not only failed to find evidence of ‘operating a social club against the zoning bylaws’ but the club has actually been issued an ‘eating establishment licence’. Residents are asked to be vigilant and contact the councillor if any ‘problematic activities’ are observed.

WestonWeb would never accuse the councillor or her constituents of opposing the establishment of a business because of the skin colour of club members. This after all is 2014 and that could never happen here in Weston surely? It might be a good idea, now that strong-arm tactics have failed, to work with the owners of the establishments involved and find accommodation rather than confrontation. Perhaps it’s time to call a truce.
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In Touch seniors’ home operating illegally

The Toronto Star says that the In Touch retirement home is operating illegally, and the owner, Elaine Lindo, faces a $25,000 fine and a year in jail.

In Touch, now called “Rosemount Place and The Brick House” is at the corner of Rosemount and King, and was first in the news in 2010 for failing to care for its clients. Dale Brazao, a Star reporter, went undercover and found “profound neglect”: residents left in diapers for hours, feces-stained towels, puddles of urine. There were also previous allegations of assault.

Following the story, the Ontario government regulated nursing homes. Lindo is now facing charges that she is operating without a license.

As the reporter was leaving, Lindo handed her a pamphlet touting the “exceptional service” offered at Rosemount Place, including three delicious and nutritious hot meals per day, healthy snacks and full housekeeping services.