Weston featured in CCTV video surveillance article

Saturday’s article in the National Post didn’t do Weston any favours. As a result of crimes such as repeated muggings in prominent locations, long promised security cameras have yet to be installed along Lawrence at Weston, Pine and Jane. In the story which dealt with the growing number of such cameras around the city, our councillor cheerfully painted a grim picture (contrary to the reality of falling crime levels) of how crime-ridden we are in Weston. Do we really need to give people the impression that we live in a lawless area with bullets flying?

Much of the criminal activity occurring was phone theft. While serious and traumatic for victims, these are not major crimes. When allowed to continue however, they represent a failure of policing in that they were happening regularly in the same locations and little was done to address the problem. Petty thieves became emboldened and escalated their activities. Instead of staking out these known locations or setting up foot patrols where officers walk the beat and get to know a community, TPS uses a system in which police spend much of their shift waiting for calls. Hence the common appearance of several cruisers at a crime scene. We did have a group of provincially funded TAVIS officers in the summer of 2011 but one-off solutions are ineffective. The TAVIS team rarely ventured out in groups of less than five or six and rather than being ambassadors for the police, they seemed quite intimidating on occasions.

Once criminals know about cameras in a particular location, they will simply move to another spot in which to commit their crimes. The answer to crime prevention is not simply cameras and cell-phone legislation – we can’t have cameras in every public place surely?  Then what? Does crime prevention become a matter of employing teams of people who spend all day watching monitors? Perhaps send a drone over to check things out? Four million such cameras are currently in use in the U.K. They seem to do little to prevent criminal activity.

The answer is getting officers out of cars and walking the beat while getting to know a neighbourhood; especially in times and places when and where crimes are most likely to occur. The benefits will be immediate – healthier officers, better relations with the community, lower pollution levels and less crime.

In the meantime, don’t hold your breath for the cameras to appear anytime soon. In spite of a 2011 recommendation that they be installed, Toronto Police still have to ask permission from Toronto Hydro to use their poles.

The Toronto Casino

While waiting in line at the supermarket a thought occurred to me. I had plenty of time for the thought as the lady at the head of the ‘1-8 items’ line was buying a huge number of lottery tickets. She didn’t appear to be rich or poor, just another Saturday evening hopeful. The grim expression on her face told me that there would be no hurrying this transaction and so I cut my losses and trundled over to another line.

The thought was this; why is there such an outcry against a casino in Toronto when there are so many ways already available for people to gamble? In addition to lottery tickets there are charity bingo games, scratch cards, online terminal poker, online casinos (not yet legal in Canada), Pro Line (betting on sports results), track races e.g. Woodbine, hockey pools and existing casinos such as Casino Rama, Niagara and so on.

Just a few weeks ago, I was a strong and vocal opponent of any casino in Toronto. My reasoning; that gambling is a tax on the poor, people with addictive personalities and those who don’t understand probability. Also, while some jobs would be created, the likely return to the city would be small.

I guess I was OK with saying no to a Toronto casino until the MGM proposal came along. After all, it’s easy to say no to a change from the status quo. MGM wishes to build an extensive installation on the current CNE grounds. Displaced parts of the CNE (not the midway) would move across Lakeshore Boulevard and the casino itself would be part of an entertainment complex that would include a hotel, public plaza, restaurants and theatres. Historical buildings such as the Stanley Barracks would remain in place. In addition to the jobs generated by building the complex, the grossly under-utilized CNE grounds would have a function for the 49 weeks when the CNE isn’t running. Let’s face it, CNE jobs are for three weeks and don’t pay that well. Most weeks of the year, you could fire a proverbial cannon through the Princes’ Gates and not hit anyone. A casino complex would create a huge number of jobs, not all of them well paid but there would be many terrific opportunities for people such as George Brown College grads who would probably prefer a chance to work in Toronto. The casino would attract visitors from outside of the region and their money spent on other Toronto businesses as people looked at what else the city has to offer. All of these people and companies would be subject to property, HST and other taxes.

According to an excellent CBC article, if you buy 50 tickets a week, you can expect to win a lottery jackpot once every 5000 years. Lotteries typically return around 45% back to players in the form of jackpots and other prizes. There are no rules about how much money is returned to bingo players but it’s probably not much over 50%.

What about casinos? In Ontario, payouts are regulated by the province. By far the most popular gambling form in casinos is the slot machine. Legally these can return no less than 85% but typically are set to 91-93% on average. Roulette (double zero) returns about 94% while card players can see better odds. A skilled blackjack player can achieve a 99% return.

I doubt if there are many of us who have resisted the urge to gamble at one time or another. Gambling exploits the clash between chance, greed and common sense. In addition, there seems to be a component that ties into a primitive part of the brain concerned with reward. There’s no doubt that some people cannot control the urge to gamble and casinos enable these people to lose money at an alarming rate, perhaps ensuring ruin for their family. How can we allow this to happen? Well, how can we allow people to drink, smoke, overeat and whatever. We allow them because they’ll do it anyway. They can go to an Ontario casino or elsewhere such as Las Vegas. Instead of driving gamblers to illegal online or casinos outside of Ontario, wouldn’t it be better to control and tax it here? We’re probably home to a large number of problem gamblers anyway, why not allow them to gamble here and offer help if they ask for it? Let’s face it, there is only one place where a large casino complex can bring the numbers to the table and that is Toronto. What about the reports from places like Windsor which have found that the casino generates very little revenue for other businesses? Wouldn’t that happen here in Toronto? I can answer that with another question; have you been to Windsor lately? There’s not much there to keep anyone entertained. Toronto is a major tourist attraction. The casino would be just one part of a visit to the city.

Lastly, all of the casino proposals are selling a dream. The dream of happy gamblers, floods of visitors and money for the city. Companies like MGM are merely bidding to manage the implementation of the dream for a fee. The overheads and the profits will be the responsibility of the taxpayer through the OLG. Based on the number of lobbyists pushing casinos, there is much money to be made. Because of so many gambling outlets available, it will be a mistake to say no to a casino in Toronto. However, let’s make sure that Toronto City Council hires a decent negotiator and gets the very best deal for the taxpayer so that in addition to the high paying jobs, there will be a meaningful revenue stream for the city along with a boost to tourism that will float everybody’s boat.

Restaurant Review: The Jolly

DSC01292JollyTucked away at the end of Crossroads Plaza, the Jolly is an Italian restaurant that has been around for more than twenty years. Specializing in (naturally) Italian food they do a ‘tavola calda‘ or buffet style option at lunchtime for those who need a fixed price meal that they can get without delay. Table service is available for those not in too great a hurry and we opted to go this route for our lunchtime meal. Not having eaten at The Jolly for a few years, my dining companion and I were somewhat trepidatious, wondering how things had changed.

The interior is divided into a buffet seating area laid out in rows and an à la carte section with booths. Having some time to enjoy the meal we opted for a booth and ordered drinks from the helpful and friendly waitress. The owners have painted over the old Italian-themed murals and in spite of this (or even because of it) the place looks a little tired and could do with some freshening up. The patio has been expanded and partially covered.

I ordered pasta primavera with tomato sauce and my wife had cozze alla marinara (two dozen steamed mussels in wine and garlic sauce). We waited a reasonable 15 minutes for them to be cooked to order and both were excellent; my wife knows mussels and she rated these and the sauce they came in very highly. The pasta was delicious with the right combination of pasta and vegetables. Our meal with an imported beer and water came to around $33 before tip which isn’t too bad. The tavola calda option would have been cheaper.

Overall impression; the food was excellent and the service very good, the decor needs help but the Jolly has the big things right and is well worth a visit.

Address:2625 Weston Road .Toronto ON, M9N 3V9
Hours of Operation
Monday – Wednesday7:30 am – 10:30 pm
Thursday – Saturday7:30 am – 11:30 pm
Sunday8:00 am – 9:00 pm
Payments MethodsVisa, MasterCard, American Express,
Debit, Gift Certificate
Free ParkingYes
Wheelchair AccessYes
Liquor LicenseYes
Bring Your Own WineYes

Proposed Condos on Wilby a vote of confidence in Weston.

The sales office at 10 Wilby.
The sales office at 10 Wilby.

There was a packed house on Sunday 17th March for the first sales presentation by Neighbourhood Concepts Non Profit Corporation (NCNPC). There is a sales office in the current building at 10 Wilby which will be demolished in August and a ten-storey, 131 unit condominium is planned to open at the end of 2014. The building pays homage to the famous Frank Lloyd Wright ‘Fallingwater‘ house in Western Pennsylvania. Homage is also paid to Humber River stone in the name Riverstone and parts of the building will actually be faced in stone. To keep costs down, amenities such as swimming pools and saunas are not part of the design while geothermal heating will save on energy. There will be a yoga/exercise room on the top floor and a sky terrace with barbecue facilities for residents.

NCNCP President Nancy Hawley maintains that the site choice is a vote of confidence in the many area amenities that Weston has to offer, not least the proximity to the Weston stores, GO station and recreational facilities offered by the Humber trail, parks and the sports complex in Lions Park. NCNCP can offer purchasers a better deal because they are a non-profit corporation and spend little on advertising, preferring flyers and word of mouth. They can also arrange an interest-free loan (up to $48,000)  for qualified purchasers to be paid off when the unit is sold.

At the meeting, Hawley mentioned that NCNCP got its start a few years ago with two condos in the Distillery District. At the time, people thought they were crazy to build there but original purchasers have seen their units double in value. Since then, successful projects have been build across the city.

You be the judge:

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater designed in 1935.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater designed in 1935.
The Riverstone (artist's concept).
The Riverstone (artist’s concept) designed in 2012.

Construction will begin in August or when the project is 75% sold.

Mike Sullivan hosts March 14th Pearson Airport Meeting

Mike Sullivan with GTAA Staff.

As is common with many community meetings, the organizers and facilitators from the GTAA (Greater Toronto Airports Authority) seemed to outnumber the good citizens of Weston in attendance. A series of information boards lined the walls of the Pelmo Park Community Centre along with airport staff there to elaborate on facts and figures and review the initiatives currently under way at Pearson. The main area of complaints from residents is undoubtedly that of noise and staff were able to explain to those interested the details of various flight patterns. The loudest time for Westonians is whenever there is an east wind and planes are taking off over Weston. This happens 40% of the time; people to the west of the airport have the lion’s share of take-off noise.

Another interesting fact that emerged is that the airport employs nearly 40,000 people of whom about 1000 live in Weston.

I asked about the occasional kerosene smell that seems to drift down from the airport during the winter months. The best thing to do is to phone in a report whenever there is a concern about noise or whatever. Reports are all logged and treated seriously.

A couple of items of news: the airport link which connects Terminals 1, 3 and the Value Parking Lot will be closed from March 19th until October to allow for the construction of the U.P. Express Station that will link the airport with Weston and downtown. Shuttle buses will move people between terminals until  then.

Mike Sullivan was able to chat briefly and mentioned that people shouldn’t get their hopes up about electrification of the U.P.Express trains. While Ontario Minister of Transportation Glen Murray has promised that electrification will begin in 2017, he has never made a commitment as to when it will be completed. You can watch the Minister waffling around in response to a couple of very clear Jonah Schein questions. Sullivan also mentioned that given the total cost to the taxpayer of the U.P. Express, it would have cost the same amount to have put in a subway line since the addition of a fourth track (necessary for all day GO service) will require tunnelling under the 401, one lane at a time at a cost of $400,000,000.

To contact the GTAA about Pearson Airport noise or other concerns, phone (416) 776-5739

or email: [email protected]

Humber Trail extension meeting

City of Toronto representatives were on hand in the Weston Library basement Wednesday night to answer questions about the latest extension to the Humber Trail. After construction, the trail will end at Mallaby Park where the new steps lead to Weston and St. Phillips. Cyclists and pedestrians wishing to continue on the northern section of the trail will have to climb the steps and make their way along Weston Road. Hopefully this will be a temporary link but in the meantime, the steps have a gutter that allows cyclists to wheel rather than carry their bikes up and down.

A plan of the trail extension.
A plan of the trail extension.

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) owns the land and the City of Toronto manages it through their Transportation and Parks departments. To continue past the steps along the Humber (subject to a feasibility study), the TRCA will need to acquire the land up to the existing trail at Fairglen and Cardell.

Adapted from Google Earth.
WestonWeb rampant speculation showing where the trail could continue north and link avoiding Weston Road altogether. Adapted from Google Earth.

If WestonWeb readers have comments on the 600m proposed trail extension, the City of Toronto Transportation Department would like to hear from you. Contact Transportation Planner Jennifer Hyland by email or Phone: 416-392-0193.

The full set of posters will be available here in the next few days.

Sullivan moves to block phone loophole.

According to a Canadian Press article in the Toronto Star, Mike Sullivan has proposed legislation that will make it illegal to tamper with the serial number of a mobile phone. The legislation targets criminals who receive large numbers of stolen phones and alter them (your average petty thief wouldn’t have a clue).

If your phone has been stolen, your provider can de-activate it because they know the serial number. Whether they would or not has been a whole other story. The serial number is written inside the phone’s memory at the factory and it can be changed by thieves with the right software and then presented to a provider as a legitimate phone. Apparently reports are surfacing of duplicate phone numbers courtesy of thieves changing serial numbers and re-selling the equipment. HubPages has a rundown of this and some the other issues involved.

This is a private member’s bill and as such must be supported by MPs from other parties in order to achieve a majority and become law. Quite often the majority party will vote against private member’s bills unless there is widespread public support. Whatever the outcome, it’s nice to see a York South-Weston politician moving forward with legislation that will make our streets safer. Well done Mr. Sullivan!