More on the Mount Dennis Generator

From: insidetoronto.com
Image from: insidetoronto.com

Steve Munro is a tireless blogger who is an authoritative voice on transit and politics in the GTA. He recently posted an article about the proposed Mount Dennis generator and some interesting points have emerged in his article and also in the comments section. As an aside, comments sections are IMHO as interesting and sometimes as informative as the articles to which they are attached.

Readers are no doubt aware that late last year, Metrolinx and its partner Crosslinx Transit Solutions proposed that an 18MW gas-powered generator be built to supply electricity in the extremely rare event of a Toronto Hydro outage. Later proposals designed to soften the blow claimed that heat could be recovered from the generator and used for heating purposes.

Steve maintains that the heat recovery idea could only be useful if the generator was operating regularly rather than the claimed (by Metrolinx) use as a standby. Also, according to Metrolinx, only one of the 6 generators would be used for heat recovery while the other 5 would be untouched.

He received information from Metrolinx stating that:

An alternative (to the gas powered generator) would have to provide the same basic functional requirements as the proposed natural gas powered facility.

The gas-powered facility was proposed in order to provide the ability to maintain service when the power goes out and improve transit resilience, lower the cost of power by eliminating any contribution to peak power demand from the new system, and ensuring it does not contribute to the need for more transmission or generation infrastructure.

Steve notes that there are several electric train systems coming on line and Metrolinx stated that there is already an ample electrical supply for these trains. He concludes that the main goal of the generator is to reduce electricity costs rather than provide an emergency backup.

In the comments, one reader suggests that in a true emergency, gas supply is only guaranteed for 3 hours. Another points out that the natural gas supply relies on line pumps which need electricity from the grid. Yet another states that running the whole line from one generator is impractical because of the voltage drop that would occur over the 19km length of the Crosstown Line.

Apparently the generating system at Pearson Airport sells power to the grid at peak times and this income pays for its operating and maintenance costs. The generator is fired up every week to ensure that it is reliable (i.e. at least 52 days a year) and supplies the airport with power on those days. Because the airport covers a relatively small area, transmission losses are minimal (unlike along a 19km transit line).

Incidentally, the last time power was knocked out to Terminals One and Three back in February, the emergency system failed to operate, leaving much of Pearson in the dark.

Read Steve Munro’s article here.

Weston Station Restaurant up for sale

From Realtor.ca
From Realtor.ca

Being of a cautious nature with a strong preservation instinct I have always resisted the temptation to wander into the Weston Station Restaurant for a meal or even a story. The building, at 1935 Weston Road in downtown Weston has had a checkered history but is now for sale and with that, the prospect of new ownership. Apparently there is 6600 square feet of floor space with 14 tenants upstairs (who knew?) and a restaurant and licensed bar downstairs.

The listing is on Realtor.ca and can be yours for a dollar shy of $2 million.

My Cup Runneth Over

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This disgusting sight seems to be a permanent fixture on Bellevue just behind some stores on Weston Road. The trash appears to be an accumulation of food waste and it routinely spills out and spreads over the surrounding area. Perhaps those responsible should pay a bit more and rent a larger dumpster. Either way, this is a health hazard as it encourages vermin such as rats. It also detracts from the neighbourhood being just steps from the large apartment building at number 5, the Farmers Market and the GO Train / UP Express.

Where’s the Stairs?

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The construction site on September 15.

The Lions Park steps that were to have been constructed by September 2015 seem to have been delayed once more. This has meant either a tough climb or a long diversion for the many people who rely on this important pathway. The unsecured site has sat idle for weeks and it appears that the job has been abandoned. People have lost patience and the fitter ones simply walk through the site ignoring the fencing.

This is an important right of way that needs to be completed a.s.a.p. before the weather deteriorates.

Mount Dennis Library opens Sundays

As part of Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, Mount Dennis Library along with these others, has been granted additional funding to allow it to be open between 1 and 5 p.m. from now until June. The idea is to be open on Sundays during the school year to support students who may otherwise have nowhere to study or access a computer.

Unfortunately, Weston’s beautiful Art Nouveau, Carnegie-built library will remain firmly shuttered on Sundays. At one time it was common for all library branches to be open on Sundays. The rot started with former Mayor, David Miller in 2007 when he needed to find some money in a budget crunch. Libraries have suffered ever since and workers treated more and more shabbily as the video below explains:

Readers may remember with a nostalgic fondness the random brain farts of former Councillor Doug Ford who once falsely alleged that there were more library branches in his ward (2) than Tim Hortons Coffee shops. Apparently that would have been a bad thing.

But meanwhile (emphasis on mean), Mayor John Tory still wants Toronto Public Libraries to cough up a 2.6% reduction in spending. Like the Ford boys, Tory believes the right-wing mantra that there is lots of waste in the system and that hard working taxpayers must be protected from increases. Instead, despite his protestations that services to the poor will be untouched, Tory will be passing the buck to the poor through increased fees, reduced service levels and a weaker library system. It’s not as if Toronto residents pay high taxes in comparison to their neighbouring citizens.

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Click to enlarge. From: www1.toronto.ca

Toronto’s property taxes are considerably lower than those of other municipalities. The result is great for the wealthy but because of a services squeeze, not so much for people trying to escape poverty.

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Click to enlarge. From: www1.toronto.ca

Toronto’s biggest expense is the Police Service and Board whose spending has steadfastly resisted all efforts to be reined in. The Toronto Public Library system is well down on the list.

A piece of history is going

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The building was a backdrop to the Farmers Market opening day ceremonies in 2013.

The tiny building that was home to the Weston Farmers Market is to be demolished. The building stored essentials, housed a washroom and provided power and water to the old Farmers Market.

The application to demolish is from Kathryn Randle of 22 John Street Developments. Oddly, the building (and presumably the land where the Weston Hub will be built) still belongs to the Toronto Parking Authority. According to Council briefing notes, “transfer of the ownership is still outstanding at this time”.

Image from Artscape https://artscapeweston.ca/2016/07/07/official-groundbreaking/
Image from Artscape
https://artscapeweston.ca/2016/07/07/official-groundbreaking/

Why the transfer delay? It could be a formality or perhaps a more serious problem but does explain why the site is so quiet in spite of a cast of thousands shovelling mightily at the June 2016 groundbreaking ceremony.

Ontario Government lets payday lenders off the hook

From Richmond Times Dispatch.
From Richmond Times Dispatch.

After dragging its heels for months, the Ontario Government has finally acted on a promise to do something about the huge rates charged by the payday loan industry in this province. As readers in Weston / Mount Dennis are painfully aware, these stores have proliferated in our communities and prey mainly on the poor, charging as much as 21% for a two-week loan; an eye-watering annual rate of 14,299%.

All of this was made possible in 2006 by the lovely Vic Toews, then Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the late lamented Conservative government. His bill made it legal for companies to charge more than (the then) usurious rate of 60% annually by giving provinces the power to regulate their own loan rates. Ontario opened the flood gates in 2008 and the payday loan industry hasn’t looked back.

The provincial Liberal government, instead of taking leadership, has listened to the Payday Loan lobby and rather than lowering rates drastically, they have decided to take the line of least resistance. They are quietly proposing that as of January 2017, rates for a two-week loan drop to 18% and then in January 2018, rates will become 15%, matching those of Alberta. While this is a good start, there is nothing in the legislation that addresses the dire plight of people forced to borrow at such appalling rates. 15% may sound better, but it is still 3,724% compounded annually.

Here is John Oliver’s take on Payday Loans.

Does Ontario have to go this route? Quite simply, no.

Quebec has taken the lead and they cap annual loan rates at 35%. As a result, there are no payday loan companies in that province.

That is the example that Ontario needs to follow and would help poor in our province dig their way out of poverty. In addition, some pressure on our hugely profitable banks and credit unions to provide loans to the poor would not go amiss.

If readers would like to comment on the proposed changes to the act, the Ontario Government isn’t making things easy. The contact page is here and a written submission may be sent via email or snail mail.

MPP Laura Albanese’s contact information is here and her constituency phone number is 416-243-7984.