Clean Train Coalition Protest

Tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. Toronto’s Clean Train Coalition is organizing a protest outside the Central YMCA (20 Grosvenor St. 2 blocks north of College). This is to express opposition to the likelihood of 140 diesel trains running through Weston every day once the Airport Link is built. Currently the line is used only 4 hours daily.

For cynical people such as myself, it seems as if Metrolinx is playing this game both ways and their logic is faulty. On the one hand it has recommended electrification of the route. On the other, it has already purchased the diesel locomotives for the route and so electrification is planned for sometime in the future. According to Metrolinx, electrification takes a long time, is very expensive and besides, they want the line to be ready for the 2015 PanAm games in spite of the fact that athletes and officials will travel by bus on dedicated lanes. Weston Community Coalition has more details in their latest update.

An MRI Machine For HRRH Church Street Site

Humber River Regional Hospital‘s Church Street site will be getting a new MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine later this year. The machine will operate for 40 hours a week and presumably will operate for longer hours if the need increases. The existing machine operates 24/7 and performs 7900 scans annually at the Finch site while the new machine will perform about 3100 and save Weston residents from travelling to the Finch site. It is assumed that the machine will move to the new 1.6 million square foot site at Keele and the 401 in 2015.

This being a provincial election year, no doubt there will be similar announcements coming from other provincial ministries. The press release for this announcement helpfully contains boilerplate quotes from prominent area Liberal MPPs, the Minister of Health and health care executives.

Governor General Comes To Weston

Friday January 14.

This afternoon, Canada’s Governor General, David Johnston flew in from Ottawa to lend support to the Habitat for Humanity project at 1500 Weston Road. The complex of 20 energy efficient townhouses will provide safe, decent and affordable homes for 96 people currently living in sub-standard housing in Toronto.

Governor General David Johnston chats to a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.

The Governor General’s support came in the form of adding his presence to the Habitat For Humanity project thus providing moral support but he is no slouch when it comes to hammering a nail and laying down flooring. He worked on the second floor of a home that will be completed this spring.

His Excellency nails down a floor to the delight of assorted photographers.

The townhome complex is being built almost entirely by volunteers from the community as well as the eventual homeowners.

Governor General David Johnston talking with volunteers.

After putting in his work shift, his excellency moved to a marquee where he chatted informally with volunteers and community partners.  Later, he spoke about the contribution that Habitat For Humanity has made in many countries around the world and the dedication of volunteers who lend their muscle and expertise. Habitat For Humanity is an international non-profit organization dedicated to providing safe and decent housing at a reasonable cost.

His Excellency speaks to volunteers and Habitat staff.

The first residents will be moving in on Saturday and others will be moving in as the units are completed. A resident who will be among  the first to move in described her excitement and feeling of accomplishment and thankfulness at being able to move into a home of her own. The head of Habitat in Canada, Stewart Hardacre said that in his experience children raised in Habitat homes consistently graduate from university.

Weston Treasures: Weston Public Library


The original library entrance; not enhanced by Toronto Hydro, Bell and Rogers!

Just a little to the north of Shoppers Drug Mart at Weston and King is a gem of a building that sits quietly in its own regal splendour. This Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau style building is almost 100 years old.

In 1911, the Weston Library Board applied to the Carnegie Foundation in New York for a $10,000 grant for construction costs. The Board had changed from a subscription library to a public one in preparation for the grant. The Foundation approved the board’s plans and the village of Weston purchased a 140 x 60 foot site for $1950, agreeing to pay for books and library staff from tax revenues to the tune of $1000 annually (quite a burden for taxpayers). The librarian’s annual salary was $300 while the custodian was paid $60.

Original hours of operation: Daily 3 – 5 pm, evenings 7 – 9 pm except Wednesdays.

The Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau style was popular at the time and Toronto architects, Lindsay and Brydon were selected to design the building. Their previous collaboration in designing small churches seems to have carried over to the library design as it has a chapel-like appearance with stained glass windows. The design was approved by the community and, common to all Ontario Carnegie libraries, incorporates mosaic lettering over the doorway.

Detail of the original entrance showing the porch archway and mosaic.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish-American steel baron who became a philanthropist in his later years (think rich like Bill Gates). His story is a true rags to riches one and he credited some of his success to the availability of a library when he was a young man working twelve-hour days, six days a week as a telegraph clerk. He donated money through one of his foundations for 125 libraries in Canada, and about 2400 in the U.S. the U.K. and other English-speaking countries. The Weston Library is testament to his belief that libraries are a benefit to all of society and are a great tool to help people better themselves. He is famous for stating that the first third of a person’s life should be spent acquiring an education, the next third acquiring wealth and the last third giving away that wealth.

Carnegie Libraries pioneered the idea of browsing and selection of books directly by patrons rather than by requesting a book from the librarian. Remember when the LCBO was like that?

Weston Public Library is one of seven remaining Carnegie libraries still functioning in Toronto. It was declared a heritage building in 1979 after an attempt to have it replaced in 1975 (sound familiar?) and an addition, which tripled the floor space, was completed in 1982. Incidentally the attempt to demolish the library sparked the founding of the Weston Historical Society.

Other (now in) Toronto Carnegie Libraries:

  • Yorkville – 22 Yorkville Avenue – still in use; opened in 1907
  • Queen and Lisgar – now used by Toronto Public Health opened in 1909
  • Central Library – 214 College – now used by U of T., opened in 1909
  • Riverdale Branch – 370 Broadview; opened in 1910
  • Birge-Carnegie Library 73 Queens Park Crescent East; 1910 – 1961 now used by United Church of Canada
  • Wychwood Branch – 1431 Bathurst Street; opened in1916
  • High Park Branch – 228 Roncesvalles Avenue; opened in1916
  • Beaches Branch – 2161 Queen Street East; opened in1916
  • Mimico Public Library 1915 – 1966 (demolished)

Next time you go to the Weston branch, be sure to check out the original stained glass windows. They are beautiful.

Do you have a suggestion for coverage of another Weston treasure? Let us know through the comments section.

Metrolinx says no to electric trains

My grandfather went to work by electric train beginning in 1904. It was a wonder of the day with far less noise and pollution than steam trains. More than a century later, electric trains are even more efficient and are used in jurisdictions all over the world where clean, fast and quiet transportation is a priority. Quite simply, electric trains are quiet, efficient and far less polluting than any other mode of transportation except the bicycle. They are faster too, and can regenerate power when braking. Diesel is recognized to be noisier and more polluting although electrifying a rail line is an added cost.

More than 100 years later, Metrolinx is in the late stages of negotiations with a California counterpart (Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit) to purchase up to 18 Japanese built diesel powered locomotives for the route from Union Station to Pearson Airport scheduled for opening in 2015. This is in spite of a study forced on Metrolinx by politicians after a public outcry over plans to send dozens of noisy, polluting diesels through the heart of Weston every day. The electrification study report will be released in the middle of this month and Metrolinx will make a decision January 26th, for or against electrification based on the report’s findings.

Cynical souls like myself think that this is a done deal and that Metrolinx will claim that electrification will be too expensive, take too long (the two-week 2015 Pan-American Games again) and that their trains really aren’t that polluting. They might also do the right thing and electrify the airport link as a pilot study for the eventual conversion of the whole GO railway system (also under study). This is without even considering the thousands of jobs that could be created locally by Canadian manufacturing companies. We’ll see. In the meantime, the Clean Train Coalition is hoping that people will let the Premier and other elected representatives know how they feel. They have the support of local MPP Laura Albanese and recently delivered to the Ontario Legislature a petition with over ten-thousand names in support of electrification. The Clean Train Coalition is holding a general meeting this Thursday, January 6, between 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Perth Davenport Neighbourhood Centre; 1900 Davenport Ave (at Symington Ave) and invite all interested people to attend. Refreshments will be served.

Humber River Hospital Death Rate Improving

The Canadian Institute for Health Information measures hospital mortality rates in Canada and according to their latest statistics, Humber River Regional Hospital has steadily improved–to the point where this year, it has a lower than average death rate. The institute uses a benchmark of 100 to rate hospital mortality rates, and this year HRHH scored 96, having scored 106 and 117 in 2009 and 2008  respectively. This statistic is the average of all three locations of the hospital.

Having recently been a patient at the Church Street site I can attest that although the building is overcrowded and out of date, the personnel seem caring and competent. In fact our local version of HRRH is a community gem which provides employment and a valuable service to Weston residents.

Unfortunately, the Church St site will soon be closed. HRRH is amalgamating its three campuses into one facility at Keele and Wilson, at Downsview Park. Construction will probably start in late 2011. Little information is available about what will happen to the Church St site.

Ford Says Eglinton Subway Next Priority after Sheppard

Rob Ford has personally responded to a WestonWeb editorial by saying that Transit City is not dead but is being refocussed underground. According to the Mayor, his first priority is to build a subway on Sheppard Avenue. His second is the Eglinton line, and it will open by 2020.  Ford says that he has asked the TTC to present plans that will achieve these goals.

This appears to be the first time that Mayor Ford has commented on specific Transit City priorities and on the Eglinton line in particular.

Mayor Ford’s correspondence finally brings some good news for Weston residents. We will have to see whether or not the line will reach Weston and where stations will be located, but at least we are included in transportation planning.