Hussen profile in Macleans

Macleans has a very flattering profile of our MP, Ahmed Hussen.

From Macleans

It’s virtually impossible to imagine a way in which the 40-year-old could be better suited to the cabinet job he now holds. He came to Canada fleeing the Somali civil war, and subsequently lived in Regent Park, a once-troubled and isolated downtown Toronto public housing project he would help rejuvenate and repatriate to the residents when redevelopment came calling. Later, he opened a law practice focusing on immigration law and criminal cases, particularly for young offenders.

Frances Nunziata’s rightward tilt

How conservative is Frances Nunziata? She was besties with Rob Ford , who drove a mammoth Cadillac Escalade. She, however, drove a Prius. Fire-breather or tree-hugger? Morebucks or Warbucks? The answer has eluded me.

Here, then, for your edification are Frances Nunziata’s votes from the last city budget. Right-wing votes to cut spending are, naturally, Conservative blue. Left-wing votes to increase funding are NDP orange.

 

I only counted votes about actual money; a lot of City Council votes are asking a staffer to write a report about whether to spend money later. I ignored them.

My unscientific impression of the results: Nunziata isn’t as left-wing as  would like, but she’s more middle of the road than I had assumed.

Nunziata’s lottery motion gets the nod

Frances Nunziata’s half-baked plan to have a Toronto lottery took its first step toward the windmill this week when City Council voted 28: 16 in favour of asking city staff to pretend like they don’t already know what the answer is going to be.

Council asked staff to prepare a report on “the revenue potential of a City of Toronto lottery and the legislative changes that would be required”.

Hussen is not answering questions

Ahmed Hussen; our MP and the Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees; is facing tough questions in the press and in Parliament—and he’s avoiding them with repetitive answers of Liberal talking points.

On February 9, Hélène Laverdière, NDP, asked Hussen about refugees entering Canada from the USA. Hussen responded with an irrelevant response about Canadian refugee statistics.

this year alone, we will welcome 40,000 refugees in Canada. That includes 25,000 resettled refugees, which is double the number that the previous government welcomed.

Laverdière, unimpressed, said “Mr. Speaker, that was not really what I asked, but whatever.”

A day later, Michelle Rempel, CPC, asked Hussen about the terminated Iranian LGBT refugee program. Hussen’s response was almost exactly the same as the day before—even though the question could not have been more different.

this year we welcomed 40,000 refugees. That includes 25,000 resettled refugees, which is double what the previous government brought….and that obviously includes members of the LGBTQ2 community.

Rempel wasn’t pleased either: “The minister did not answer the question.” She is right: the question was one sentence and perfectly clear: “why has the government ended the practice of prioritizing persecuted Iranian LGBT as refugees to Canada?”

It’s an important question, too.

But it gets weirder.

When, both times, he was called out on his non-answers, he responded:

We will take no lessons from those parties on our record.

We will take no lessons from the previous government

I have no idea what is going on here. Hussen is new to the portfolio—but the portfolio has rarely been so important. Repeating Liberal talking points does no one favours, least of all the refugees in peril. An honest answer—even if it’s uncertain—is better than a non-answer.

It’s not that Liberals are being forbidden to respond; after Hussen floundered, Ralph Goodale provided a succinct answer to another of Laverdière’s questions; he said the MP in the riding has been in touch with the complainant, and he would follow up.

Steve Munro debunks Mayor’s transit claims

From the TTC Page.

Steve Munro is an influential blogger who knows more about the TTC than anyone on council (not a large achievement) or at the TTC for that matter. Mayor Tory has listed a set of claims about the TTC and under his leadership, the alleged ‘new’ spending on transit in the 2017 budget. The mayor’s claims are systematically picked apart by Mr. Munro in his latest opinion piece. Read all about it here.

BTW, under the mayor’s watch, the 89 Weston bus now operates at 111% capacity in the afternoon and evening peaks.

8 Oak Street gets the chop.

The 8 Oak building is in the centre of the photo. The townhomes in the foreground were made possible by a 2004 OMB ruling. From Google Maps.

First the owners of Satin Finish proposed building 99 townhomes on their property at 8 Oak Street that runs along Knob Hill Drive. Then they ran into some opposition, had a re-think and came back with plans to build 509 units. An effort was made to save the original brick building that fronts the site on Oak but that has come to nothing. Council recently voted to allow demolition of the non-residential brick building, subject to a ‘beautification agreement’. Nobody yet knows what this means as it is subject to negotiations between the owners and council. It’s part of the Section 37 nonsense Ontario requires the city to use instead of council being able to direct developers in what they can and should do. Contrary to the site’s current industrial use zoning, the owners want the site to become an apartment and townhome development. Across the street is a set of townhomes that went through a similar process back in 2004. The OMB ruled in favour of the developer and the zoning was changed to residential.

Detailed plans for the 8 Oak Street Development. The newer proposal has a park in the centre. Click to enlarge.
Weston’s Carnegie Library – saved from demolition in 1975.

John Tory and his council allies have a huge revenue shortfall. Instead of raising the lowest property taxes in all of Ontario, they are hoping to find efficiencies (a.k.a. gravy) elsewhere.

Apparently one tactic is keeping staff low at city hall. If heritage buildings can’t be designated thanks to staff shortages, developers can take advantage of the delay and demolish priceless properties. “We’re understaffed”, is the plea from the Planning Department. Unscrupulous developers don’t like to preserve heritage buildings. Therefore one can only assume that the Planning Department is woefully short of staff by design. Consider this recent Tweet to Councillor Joe Cressy from Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat:

As the Toronto Star points out, it’s harder to chop down a tree than demolish a 110 year-old Beaux Arts heritage building.

Maybe this particular building wasn’t worthy of protection but now we’ll never know.

Incidentally, Josh Matlow is a city councillor who proactively seeks out heritage buildings in his corner of Toronto. He has listed and mapped significant properties in Ward 22. Perhaps his example should be emulated by all councillors and maybe the city should make the process less cumbersome if we are to retain any of our rapidly disappearing heritage.

Work on Kodak lands continues this year.

An interesting article in railwayage.com summarizes the progress expected this year on the Eglinton Crosstown line. Apparently the first track to be installed will go on the Kodak lands later this year as part of the rail yard that will be built there. The line is scheduled to be in service by 2021.

The total cost of the 19 km, 25 station partially (10 km) underground line is estimated to be $6.6B and is a relative steal compared to the $3.2B estimated cost of the one-station Scarborough Subway extension.

Incidentally, our mayor and councillor seem bound and determined to push forward with the Scarborough folly and have rejected a fully-funded seven station LRT. These are the people who successfully voted against basing transit decisions on data.  They didn’t want ranked balloting either. I wonder why.