City Council will consider ‘Community Hub’ in Weston next week

City Council will vote on funding the cultural hub in Weston next week.

The development will have

  • An 18-storey tower with 350 rental units
  • An 800-square meter (8600 square foot) community/cultural hub
  • 26 rental artist live/work units
  • An 1,150 square meter (12000 square foot) open-space area for the  Weston Farmers’ Market
  • A 75-spot parking lot

The apartment building, townhouses, and live-work spaces will be built on the John Street parking lot and in the vacant spaces under 33-35 King.

City Council will be voting next week to “expedite the planning review process once the Rockport Group has made the necessary planning applications”, among other motions.

The proposal to Council says:

The proposed multi-million dollar investment in the Development will create some 940 new jobs, which, together with the local expansion of public transit byMetrolinx and GO Transit will contribute to an area-wide social and economic revitalization…. The cost to build the Community/Cultural Hub, Live/Work Units and Open Space Area is projected to be $13.3 million, including an operating reserve.

 

Construction is expected to begin in 2016.

 

Mount Dennis rink-masters get a shout-out in the House

Simon Chamberlain and Guy Ruggieri, the coolest guys in Mount Dennis (they’re ice cold), got a nice mention in the House of Commons this week. Mike Sullivan said:

In York South—Weston, this cold, harsh season was made warmer and brighter by a dedicated group of volunteers who for the third year ran the Mount Dennis outdoor community skating rink in Pearen Park.

I was delighted to host a Family Day skating party there. Over four hundred individuals learned to skate at the rink this past season. Nearly nine hundred used the free skate loan program. The rink continued its fine tradition of making a positive difference in the community — one smile and one skating lesson at a time!

With a tip of my toque, I’d like to congratulate rink coordinator Simon Chamberlain, who received a Volunteer Toronto Award for his outstanding efforts, and ice master Guy Ruggieri and his over 40 volunteers who gave generously of their time to make this grassroots initiative a smashing success.

 

Nunziata’s expenses released

City councillors’ expenses were released last week. Generally one of the more tight-fisted councillors, in 2014 Nunziata came in 19th of 52, but spent $15,892 (in an election year), ever-so-slightly more than average. (The average is $15,778, and staff salaries are not included.)

Her expenses were up from 2013, in which she spent $3658. The great bulk was for flyers and postage. Last year she spent $12,287 on them; in 2013, she spent $2126.

Among the more interesting expenses—and there’s not much to talk about, I have to say—$11 at Dollarama for Christmas decorations, $15 for scroll frames, and $31 for the Christmas Parade giveaways.

Deep inside the files is, however, a dark secret: not all of Santa Claus’ staff are elves. He has a local (human!) representative in Weston who takes his bookings and files his expenses. Even reindeer, it seems, have to eat.

Sullivan hosts tax clinic for people with disabilities

Disabled people may be eligible for a handsome tax return. Mike Sullivan is offering to help them get it.

Sullivan will be having a workshop on the Disability Tax Credit this Friday.

The tax credit provides up to $1,165 a year in benefits to Canadians with physical or mental disabilities. It can be claimed retroactively for up to 10 years. If the person who qualifies for the credit can’t apply it against income tax paid, it can be transferred to a family member to claim.

The event starts at 6:30 and will be held at the York West Active Living Centre, 1901 Weston. For more information, contact Sullivan’s office at (416) 656-2526.

Business as usual at City Hall

In spite of the nice shine that Mayor John Tory is putting on the work of running Toronto, for lobbyists and the councillors who meet with them and accept their money, it’s business as usual.

A typical example is the sad story of how eight massive highway billboards were imposed on the people of this city by councillors acting against the public good. Sadly, our own councillor, Frances Nunziata appears to be part of the problem. According to influential blogger and Toronto activist, Dave Meslin, Nunziata, met with billboard lobbyists Paul Sutherland (twice) and David Bordonali (three times), accepting campaign contributions from them both. By mere coincidence, Ms Nunziata then thought she knew better than City Staffers and the citizen Sign Advisory Committee (both of whom rejected the signs) and voted to impose these eyesore traffic distractions onto our landscape.

Apparently this is quite normal – if you’re ever puzzled by the voting patterns of councillors, and why they seem to vote against the public interest, lobbyists might be the answer to your question.

Read the awful details of this depressing story here.

UPX given bye on environmental assessment

You may be able to see the UP Express train over the next few days. Metrolinx will be conducting “extensive” testing as the train is readied for service in the spring.

Also, the provincial Liberals announced yesterday that they would not require Metrolinx to get environmental assessments for some stages of the electrification construction. This means that electrification may happen faster than it would have otherwise, perhaps starting in 2017.  (The funding, however, has not yet been approved.)

On the one hand, this is a positive development. It was treated as such by Laura Albanese our MPP, who told The Star,

“This is great news for our communities,” said MPP Laura Albanese (York-South Weston). “I will continue to advocate on behalf of all residents in Weston and along the Georgetown South Corridor for electrification to begin as soon as possible.”

By 2017, not starting in 2017 

On the other hand, this is later than had been promised by Glen Murray, the former Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, and the announcement was criticized by MP Mike Sullivan’s office, who said pointed out that electrification was supposed to have been by 2017, not beginning in 2017.

Sullivan’s office also said Metrolinx  had promised that “the [passenger] trains using this corridor would be Tier 4 diesel at service launch in 2015. Now only the UP Express trains are supposed to be; the GO trains will not.”

 

Sullivan calls for rail safety. The Conservatives lie.

Mike Sullivan spoke in the House last week to draw attention the dangerous state of railway operations in Canada even after the Lac Mégantic disaster.

Sullivan said, poignantly, that railways were once the drivers of growth. “That economic driver has long since left my community”, he said “but the railroad tracks remain, and they are perilously close.”

Railways, he says, only began shipping crude oil in 2009, and it  has increased “500 fold” since then. In the space of five years there have been three explosive crashes in North America and 47 people killed. The dangerous DOT-111 railcars involved in that disaster remain in service and unimproved, despite almost 25 years of warnings about their safety. So while much has changed in the business, little has changed in regulation.

That makes me worry.

Do the DOT-111 cars, which are prone to rupture and derailment, carry crude? Dangerous chemicals? Poisons? Nobody’s talking. The Conservatives have protected the rail companies, who release information to the city only every three months. Even then, the city is forbidden to share that information with residents. We simply don’t know–can’t know—how dangerous the railway is.

But since Lac Mégantic disaster, there have been two other explosions and one near-miss. The cars, which have a “high incidence of tank integrity failure” (according to the TSB), remain unimproved because doing so would cost $3000 per car. (CN’s stock price, mind, has quadrupled since the disaster, and their dividend has doubled. Had they waited just three months to double their dividend, they could have paid cash to fix all their railcars.)

The cars are dangerous. The companies won’t fix them. The government is not just asleep at the switch–it’s passed out on CN’s rye.

So yes, we should worry a lot.

But it gets worse.

Sullivan raised a number of reasonable questions about sensible, changeable things. Why won’t Transport Canada answer the questions of parliamentarians? Who screwed that up? Why can’t ordinary people know about the chemicals being pulled through their neighbourhood? These are the sort of questions a populist Conservative government would get behind, from a philosophy that Conservatives love: civil servants must be brought to heel and the little guy knows best.

So Jeff Watson’s answer was particularly disappointing. Of course, he ignored the questions. Politicians do that, and it’s despicable but the custom. But then Watson lied. He said

the cause of the accident in Lac-Mégantic was that an employee did not follow the established rules… with respect to the application of hand brakes.

This vile. This is depraved. This is an insult to the tormented engineer and to the dead. The crash was caused by 18 different things ranging from money-grubbing to government failure. Those causes are only a Wiki away.

Had Watson wikied the answer, he would have seen that much of the blame is on Transport Canada. the same Transport Canada that Watson is now shading from any examiner’s light.

You have to ask why he’s trying to protect the guilty.