Star does not endorse Nunziata

The Toronto Star has endorsed Dory Chalhoub, not Frances Nunziata—although it is clear they seem him only as the better of two bads:

With almost 30 years in local politics, incumbent Frances Nunziata (open Frances Nunziata’s policard) has lingered far past her sell-by date. Painfully ineffective in recent years, she has been one of council’s most complacent Ford followers. Dory Chalhoub, a young entrepreneur, is energetic to the point of being brash. We disagree with some of his policies, such as his support for a casino, but this ward needs a dose of vitality. Chalhoub gets our nod.

Sullivan votes against raising murder minimums

Conservatives like mandatory minimums—the sentences that lead to life sentences for stealing a pair of socks. These laws take away judge’s discretion to tailor punishments to the crime.

It’s odd for Conservatives to give judges more discretion, but, in a weird way, that’s what they’re doing with bill C-587, which would allow judges to give longer sentences than required by the current law. Murderers who rape or abduct could be sentenced by their judges to up to 40 years without parole, instead of the 25 years—and only 25 years—they get now.

Judges would ask the jury for instruction. The judge could then, if she wished, give a life sentence without parole for a term between 25 and 40 years. Presently, all people serving life sentences are eligible for parole after 25 years.

C-587 is a private member’s bill, and it passed first reading with support from the Liberals. The NDP, including Mike Sullivan, voted against the bill.

York South Weston debate report

I’m amazed it didn’t end with tear gas.

Doug Ford, Olivia Chow, and John Tory fought like cats in a sinking bag at the York South–Weston debate. The audience was worse.

I don’t think anyone who wasn’t a supporter will switch sides, but Ford was very effective at his first debate of the campaign.  He savaged John Tory at one point, asking him who does purchasing at City Hall; Tory had no answer and looked lost and a bit panicked. Ford asked him how many committees there are; Tory floundered and said “I believe there are five?”

But Ford’s weaknesses were apparent too. He was loud. He was simplistic. You could hear the laughs on TV when Ford attacked Tory for being born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Ford wouldn’t say if he would march at Gay Pride, and gave the impression that he’d spent the last Pride parades at nearby bars. He also wanted to talk about only two things: the Ford family record and transit. Every question was answered with a subway.

And then there were his supporters. They were embarrassing, to our community and to him. They booed and jeered in the middle of their opponents’ speeches, even Tory’s final statement. They were the most awful kind of anti-intellectual: afraid to even let contrary views be spoken. The worst moment—and there were lots of bad ones—was when someone heckled Olivia Chow while she was speaking, sensitively and fairly, about Rob Ford’s crack use. The heckler said “Go home Olivia! Back to China!”. She looked genuinely defeated.

And make no mistake: debates are stocked better than trout ponds. Ford wants his opponents shouted down.

Despite the attacks from the audience, John Tory stayed poised, and when he could talk about his SmartTrack program, he came across well. But he spent most of his energy, particularly later in the debate, attacking the Fords’ record. Ford, being Ford, was loud, rude, and interrupted him before much damage was done, except by himself.

Olivia Chow was quiet and careful. A few times she even pointed out, quite decently, that the other candidates were dodging the question. She tried, too, to answer questions that she was asked with facts and reason. But her even temper—and what seemed to be uneven lighting—made her seem like the third candidate. She neither gave nor received any devastating attacks, and instead talked about policy: the three different kinds of bike lanes, community benefit agreements, youth cabinets and such. She came across as knowledgeable, fair, and a little boring.

Uneven lighting? It looked just as bad from the other side.

The candidates spent very little time talking about Ward 11 issues, with one exception. Olivia Chow’s best (and, really, only) attacks were when she went after Tory’s SmartTrack plan, which will require tunnelling in Mount Dennis. If Chow gets her way, tunnelling looks likely to be an election issue and proof that Tory doesn’t have enough experience to be Mayor.

But as Andrew Coyne pointed out on Twitter, “This ’90 degree turn’ line of attack by Chow seems well-crafted to win votes within 50 feet of the corner of Weston & Eglinton.” So Chow is unlikely to get her way.


A candidate in, a candidate out

Rob and Doug Ford made most of the news yesterday, but the candidate list for Ward 11, which includes Weston, also changed at the last minute.

Daniel Winer, a young man who had thrown his hat in the ring for Ward 11, dropped out. Jose Garcia jumped in. Dory Chalhoub and the incumbent Frances Nunziata stayed in the race.

Nunziata will be hosting a kickoff barbecue today at her campaign office, at 2051 Weston Road, from 1 to 3 in the afternoon. All are welcome.

In related news, John Nunziata, Frances Nunziata’s brother, and a former MP for Weston, entered the race for the other York South—Weston riding, Ward 12, just over Jane. John Nunziata served as MP from 1984 to 2000 as a Liberal and an Independent. He was later charged with assault and fined $10,000 for lying under oath.

Mayoral debate announced

Local residents’ associations will be hosting the only local mayoral debate on Tuesday, September 23, at 7:30 pm (glad-handing starts earlier). Olivia Chow, Rob Ford, and John Tory will all be attending—David Soknacki having dropped out of the race today.


No news on fares

Metrolinx declined to release any information on fares for the UP Express at its quarterly meeting on Friday despite media and political pressure over the past few weeks. The CEO was also “noncommittal” about electrifying the line by 2017.

Metrolinx staff, though, will meet with airport workers, according to The Star. Workers are worried that the line will be too expensive to use for regular commuting. One worker told The Star

We’re shareholders (of UP Express). Calling us customers is disrespectful. When it’s a public company, on public lands, using public funds, the public are the shareholders, not the customers. It’s our service and we’re being excluded from it,” he said.

MP Mike Sullivan released a letter last week to Steven Del Duca, the Ontario Minister of Transportation. In it, Sullivan adds his voice to the chorus asking for reasonable fares. He also asks for more stops along the line.

Transit Plans – 1. John Tory

The top four Mayoralty candidates have released their transit plans. This is the first of a four-part series assessing these plans.

In a nutshell, current front-runner John Tory believes that above-ground subway lines are the best way to go. He proposes a line following GO train tracks where possible that will run across the city from east to west, passing through Union Station.

London has many of these – in fact 52% of London’s subway network is above ground. London has been building subways since the early 1860s – nearly a century before Toronto opened its first line.

Unlike London where new above-ground subways have been able to take over existing but unused railway lines, Toronto has no such advantage. New tracks must be added to current ones and, where none exist (along Eglinton for example), carved out of the existing landscape. Think of the disruption we are enduring here in the comparatively simple task of adding GO tracks to the existing line and right-of-way through Weston – imagine what carving out a rail corridor from scratch will involve. Unfortunately, the corridor along the north side of Eglinton (that Mr. Tory appears to think still exists) was sold off as surplus by the city in 2010 and is now a construction site for hundreds of new homes. Where Mr. Tory’s SmartTrack will fit along this route is anyone’s guess. And all of this will allegedly come to pass in 2021.

John Tory's Transit Plan

John Tory’s Transit Plan – click for larger image.

At its western end, Mr Tory’s SmartTrack line begins at the Matheson / Airport Corporate Centre (not the airport) – which connects to Mississauga Transit. It travels along Eglinton – until a few years ago, the planned route of the Richview Expressway. Once it hits Mount Dennis, the SmartTrack joins and heads down the GO / U.P. Express tracks towards Union. No mention is made of the U.P. Express or what his plans are to retain or modify the service.

Mr. Tory claims that the billions needed for SmartTrack will come from tax increment financing. This is the financial wizardry in which extra money is provided in the future by additional tax revenue generated by higher property values and therefore higher tax assessments along the new lines. Tax increment financing is how Rob Ford proposes to pay for his subways subways and more subways. ‘Nuff said.

John Tory's anticipated flow of passengers.

John Tory’s anticipated flow of passengers.

The Tory plan theorizes that passengers will be diverted from the east west and north-south subways and buses and use the SmartTrack trains from the west and east ends of the city to get to Union. This will provide, “congestion relief on the Yonge line for someone who lives in Lawrence Park or Leaside”.

Unfortunately, most commuters don’t want to go to Union Station. Only 260,000 do so daily and that’s using GO Train, GO Bus and subway combined. Bloor-Yonge is already straining with 420,000 daily passenger movements. Mr. Tory’s plan will simply add more pressure on this station from passengers hopping off SmartTrack and onto the Bloor Line in the West or East. Yes, the people of Lawrence Park and Leaside may be more comfortable but SmartTrack will add even more congestion to an already congested area. A downtown relief line is seen by experts as the only answer to this rapidly growing demand and Mr. Tory does not adequately explain how his SmartTrack will be an effective substitute.

It’s one thing to think outside the box and come up with a concept such as an above-ground subway. It’s another to believe that you and a group of your political advisors can ignore expert opinion and sit down with a map of the city and magically determine the fate of transit in this city for decades to come. The experts say that a downtown relief line is needed. SmartTrack is not an effective substitute.

With regard to finances, tax increment financing is fraught with peril. Extra revenue generated by such accounting sleight of hand is not guaranteed. This windfall would normally be taken into account to maintain and upgrade the city’s infrastructure so it’s not just free money.

Mr. Tory should defer to the experts (who spend whole careers immersed in the topic) before launching Toronto in yet another whimsical transportation direction with magical financing. The incumbent Mayor’s floundering has cost us dearly and set transportation in this city back by several years. Let’s not add even more delays and band-aids to an increasingly desperate situation. SmartTrack is the wrong track.