Ballard: ‘Something special’ going on in Mount Dennis

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Chris Ballard, takes questions from the audience.

Chris Ballard’s father worked at the Kodak plant during the heyday of Mount Dennis and it was fitting that his son would return as Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to lend support to the area’s revival in the post-industrial future. Now living in Aurora, the Minister recognized that there is ‘something special’ going on in Mount Dennis. The size and enthusiasm of the crowd and organizers attested to that fact.

He was speaking in the Mount Dennis Legion to upwards of 80 people who braved last night’s cold to attend the Mount Dennis Community Association‘s AGM. Applauding the MDCA’s Net Zero initiative under way, he commented that their strong organization and forward thinking should be emulated by all communities.

After an opening invocation and ceremony from indigenous leaders, the Minister outlined Ontario Government initiatives designed to reduce energy consumption and promote conservation. He encouraged residents to visit the website greenon.ca to see the financial incentives designed to help people conserve energy. The money for such grants comes exclusively from the cap and trade system recently set up in Ontario.

MPP Laura Albanese and MP Ahmed Hussen (by recorded message from Ottawa) greeted the crowd and Councillor Frances Nunziata announced that the Pinetree Daycare Centre will become a net zero facility and will increase its capacity to 98 spaces, making it the largest daycare in the area. In addition, the Cycling Committee under her leadership will be making a number of recommendations to the community soon.

Opening ceremony led by Anishinaabe Grandmother Vivian Recollet and Mitchell George.
Mike Mattos, Mount Dennis Community Association Chair calls the meeting to order.

All in all, a very impressive showing for the dynamic Mount Dennis Community Association as their initiatives continue to gain momentum on a variety of fronts.

Vacant storefront rebate program finally ends in June.

A vacant Weston Road store in 2013. (file)

At Weston Web, we occasionally run across things that were once a good idea but now no longer work. One of them was a generous property tax rebate given to landlords of empty stores. We wrote about it back in 2013 and were pleasantly surprised when about a year ago, Mayor John Tory pledged that he would eliminate the break that had ended up doing more harm than good.

The 30% tax discount began during an economic downturn in 1998 when the Province thought it would help Ontario landlords struggling with vacant storefronts. Although times changed, Toronto continued to reward owners after a qualifying 90 day vacancy. The generous plan backfired somewhat as it reduced property tax revenues by about $22 million annually and encouraged longer store vacancies since owners are rewarded only when they hit the 90-day qualifying mark. This lower pressure to find a tenant also encouraged landlords to hold out for higher rents.

In a corner of the city struggling to keep a viable retail sector, ending the rebates may help reduce the number of empty storefronts that plague Weston and Mount Dennis. Property owners have been given notice that as of June 2018, the rebates will end after a phase-out period that began last January. The Province passed the necessary legislation on May 17, allowing the city to come up with the timeline. Well done Mayor Tory and the Provincial Government.

Incidentally, this year, claiming a shortage of money, the city kept Toronto Public Library’s budget increase to a mere 0.9% and Ontario then piled on by reducing the TPL allocation by $700,000 for the next two years.

Let’s hope that with the additional revenue, the library’s budget can now be brought up to where it should be.

Parking at 4 Rosemount could become TPA lot

The Toronto Parking Authority is asking permission to make the parking lot at 4 Rosemount a city pay-and-display lot for the next year, with  fees of $1 an hour or $5 for 12 hours. Revenue will be split between the city and the lot’s owners.

 Anecdotally, your correspondent has found that lot to be quite busy, though whether that is from traffic to the local businesses or from overflow parking for the train station, I couldn’t say.

Making the lot paid-for may have the undesirable effect of spilling parked cars out onto nearby streets. The TPA says that “certain on-street parking restrictions [should] also be implemented.”

The city is asking for a pilot, which, if successful after 12 months, could be extended.

 

WTFuel cell technology?

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announcing interest in fuel cell technology in June 2017.
From urbantoronto.ca

The Kitchener GO Line that runs through Weston / Mount Dennis will eventually be electrified. The Ontario Government recently announced through Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca that it would be spending ‘up to $200,000’ to study  alternatives to GO train electrification. A Mississauga company, Hydrogenics has managed to persuade the Minister that fuel cells may be the way to go instead of using overhead wires and electric trains.

How would it work? Hydrogen gas (yes, the gas used in the Hindenburg airship) would be produced by applying an electric current to water in a process known as electrolysis. The process is touted as green but unfortunately, electrolysis is notoriously inefficient so hydrogen produced for large projects such as a fleet of trains is manufactured from fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas – releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and therefore not green at all.

Once hydrogen is made, problems continue. Storing it is hard. It must be compressed, cooled to a liquid or stored chemically – all of which are costly in terms of energy. Once stored, it must be transported to the trains.

The trains then would generate electricity from the hydrogen through the use of an on-board fuel cell of the type made by Hydrogenics. That means they would have a fuel cell electricity generator and a propulsion unit. Electric trains draw their current from overhead wires and only need a propulsion unit.

Surprisingly, adding to the negatives, a litre of gasoline contains about 64% more hydrogen than pure liquid hydrogen itself – yes, the hydrogen that was probably extracted at great cost from gasoline or diesel fuel.

Anyone who has been to Europe or ridden on Amtrak would know that electric trains there use overhead wires (called catenaries – in use since 1889) to supply power. The Eglinton Crosstown line opening in 2021 will use catenaries. It’s the current state of the art.

For some reason, either Mr. Del Duca wants to throw a $200,000 present to a company in the Liberal riding of Mississauga – Brampton South or he’s been completely misled about basic physics. Either scenario makes one wonder about the minister’s competence.

This video from Elon Musk sums up the inefficiencies and difficulties involved in getting hydrogen fuel cell technology to work. Yes, Mr. Musk has an axe to grind (battery technology) but his points are valid.

On the Ministry of Transportation’s GO Transit site, fuel cell technology is touted as electrification since the fuel cells generate electricity that drives the trains. If that’s the case, diesel trains can also be called electric since diesel engines generate electricity that drives the trains. Furthermore, since fuel cells are likely to need fossil fuels to provide the hydrogen, maybe we should call a conversion to fuel cell technology, fossilization.

Upcoming events in Mount Dennis

There’s much to do in Mount Dennis this month:


MDCA’s Annual General Meeting, Thursday Dec 14th, starting at 6:20.

To be a livable, net-zero energy neighbourhood and inspire others to do the
same

We invite you to attend the Mount Dennis Community Association annual general meeting and to engage with our community in the Mount Dennis Eco-Neighbourhood Initiative. Give your input on actions on energy, water, food, transportation, materials use, and work, and learn indigenous historical perspectives and approaches for for contributing to current and future community life.

Following an indigenous opening, the evening will feature Hon. Chris Ballard, Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Attendees will also have a chance to hear from our MP, MPP, and City Councillor, and to ask questions of both Laura Albanese and Frances Nunziata. Food and refreshments will be served, prepared by local provisioners.

There will be a business portion where new members can join MDCA’s Board. MDCA will also elect its four officers (President, Vice President, Secretary & Treasurer). This is a great chance to get to know people from other parts of Mount Dennis, and to help bring about positive change in your community.


Food for Thought Saturday Dec 16th 11AM – 2PM
MDNC, 1269 Weston Road

Councillor Nunziata’s Skating Party Saturday,December 16th, 2017 from 3PM to 5PM at George Bell Arena.

Join Ward 11 Councillor Frances Nunziata for her annual community skating party,  MDCA will be providing skate and helmet loans at no charge.

We always welcome donations to offset the costs of sharpening skates and maintaining the Mount Dennis Community Rink’s Learn-to-Skate program.


Mount Dennis BIA Winter Solstice Event
Thursday Dec 21st 6 – 8PM

Our Business Improvement Area is organizing a bigger and better 2nd annual Winter Solstice event on Thursday December 21st from 6 – 8 pm under the lights of Nyctophilia  (Weston Rd at Dennis Ave. Free pics with Santa, free face painting, free hot chocolate and entertainment. Please bring a non-perishable food item as a donation to WAES (Weston Area Emergency Services aka the Food Bank), if you are able.

Transit madness

If there’s one thing worse than Metrolinx planning transit, it’s politicians planning transit. This week’s City Council meeting saw two bonkers decisions.

First, Frances Nunziata and a majority of City Council voted against a value-for-money study of the nutso one-stop Scarborough subway, which will cost at least $3,350,000,000 and be a worse solution in every way that a multi-stop LRT. The study would, of course, have told them that it was a terrible idea.

Discontent with one gigantic mistake, council voted to look at building another  underground transit line, again against the recommendations of staff, but on the other side of town–this time in Mount Dennis.

City staff have already recommended a predominantly above-ground LRT to run from Mount Dennis to the airport region. They considered connections; cost; and impacts on the community, traffic, and the environment.

But, crucially, staff didn’t recommend digging a big hole into which money could be poured, so council told them to sit on the stairs and think it through again–and this time to “investigate further grade separation and or tunnelling options“.

An inconsistency then? In one case, council directed city staff to not study; in the other, they asked them to study harder.

No, there’s no contradiction. Our councillors quite consistently  expect the facts to fit the policy, and never the other way around.

It isn’t the city staff who need a time-out on the steps. It’s city council that needs to go and think about their decisions.