Hussen meets with Erdoğan, Turkey’s repugnant autocrat

Ahmed Hussen, our MP, met with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on April 2. Hussen said on Twitter:

“Great mtg w Turkey’s President Erdoğan. Excellent discussion on ways to strengthen Canada-Turkey relationship.  I also lauded his amazing work in rebuilding Somalia.

2Erdoğan is a corrupt autocrat, who

These facts are well established—The Economist had a special issue on Turkey in February, calling it a “sultanate”. Erdoğan’s takeover of Turkey’s biggest newspaper happened in March and drew international condemnation.

I asked Hussen whether he discussed press freedom and human rights with Erdoğan. Hussen did not respond.

Transportation Meeting Report

Over 100 people attended the meeting which was an add-on by Councillors Nunziata and DiGiorgio to the relatively small number of information meetings held throughout the City. In addition to the councillors, MPP Laura Albanese and MP Ahmed Hussen were there.

MP Hussen stated that the Liberals plan to quadruple infrastructure spending and will respect local initiatives and not micromanage. He has put forward a Private Member’s bill to ensure that hiring needs are met so that local communities benefit through jobs and contracts when infrastructure money is spent.

Speaker 1 was James Perttula: Program Manager, Transportation Planning at City of Toronto. Speaker 2 was Jamie Robinson from Metrolinx.

Rather than bore you, dear readers, with the contents of their monologues, the information they presented is largely available through the links below.

The rest of this article will attempt to focus on significant questions posed by residents – these are more relevant to the Weston and Mount Dennis communities. Where answers were given, these have been noted.

Questions / Concerns:

Employment opportunities – Metrolinx has requested a community liaison plan from their contractor Crosslinx Transit Solutions that will be finalized soon. MP Hussen requested some hard figures regarding employment levels.

Is SmartTrack Planning route through Weston to Rexdale. Metrolinx is looking at a number of additional stations so it’s possible that a Woodbine station could be built.

Back-up power station. MP Hussen expressed concern to Jamie Robinson about emission levels. The station is designed to run on natural gas not diesel and so will not be so dirty. Modern non-polluting battery technology has not been considered. Jamie says he is totally open to alternatives. With that in mind, I have sent Mr Robinson this link. Other residents asked about a green energy supply instead. Mr Robinson countered solar would be totally inadequate to supply enough energy.

Parking at the new Mount Dennis Station. No plans at the moment for a parking lot – residents expressed concern about outsiders parking in the area and causing obstructions. The plan is that people will access the Crosstown by bus.

Another resident likes the Crosstown but thinks the number of stops should be reduced. Did not like the Scarborough subway, should be LRT instead.

This is a demographically poor area – will there be a zone system for fares on the new line? How far will money go in the new system? Answer the Crosstown will be integrated with the rest of the TTC system.

Another resident wondered about the jobs that 960 will be lost in the TTC due to Presto automation. Councillor DiGiorgio surmised that ticket collector jobs may disappear but employees would probably be retained and assigned elsewhere.

Concern about the timeline and completion date and related construction. The answer is that work will continue until the planned opening in September 2021. Councillor Nunziata pointed out that if the original subway plan had been implemented in 1995 we wouldn’t be having a problem with traffic today.

TTC is too slow and expensive. 20 km is considered local – why can’t people take the bus to the library without being charged the same as someone who travels 20km?

The LRT is going to cross Eglinton – why won’t the LRT move north through the spectacular station at Weston and service people along a loop to Rexdale. Answer: Additional stations are foreseen on the existing lines so that the enhancements that GO Transit is making will provide additional service to residents. This will likely not be at subway frequencies.

Are you going to build out the fourth track as part of SmartTrack? A: Trying to determine what infrastructure is required.

Is the problem that you can’t build the fourth track north of the 401 because of limited space – I thought that there would be room for four tracks but only three have been built. Is it that simple or would an expansion be impossible because the 401 is in the way?

Concerns that there will be express trains and local trains that would need an extra line.

An extra CP track has been negotiated. Is this true? You talk about the need for consultation but in practice you don’t – the generator and now the transformer have been sprung on the community without notice. A: We are committed to consulting with the community. The transformer will be located next to the generating facility.  The generator idea came from Crosslinx Transit Solutions – we had originally planned to have two separate connections to the electrical grid – it’s not carved in stone. “If the community doesn’t want it it won’t be built.”

Future of Eglinton Flats – what will happen there – how will transit impact the flats? A: Not answered.

Concern about Bombardier’s inability to supply trains on time as with the TTC streetcars. A: We’re confident that all issues will have been sorted out by the time the trains are needed.

We need to know what emissions will be given off from the generator? A: Agree that it’s very important – the Ministry of the Environment will decide whether emissions are appropriate for the area.

What about parking? – we need parking lots. A: (from Councillor Nunziata) when the development starts, then the city will come forward with the planning department and set up parking.

Q: What about continuing along Eglinton and turning up Highway 27? A: The Airport Authority is thinking of creating a transit hub at the Airport.

Q: Would love to take the UP Express to the subway with an integrated fare – it’s still expensive. Would like to see connections to mid-town rather than to downtown. A: We’re working on fare integration between TTC and GO. We’re also looking at fare integration across the GTHA but we recognize that the differences in fares are a disincentive to using transit.

Nobody wants the above ground section of the Crosstown, why not build it all underground?

We need to have commitments for frequency of use, hours of operation etc. We need to have a broader governing commission for all transit. What about green stations that provide their own electricity through solar?

How will light rail work along Eglinton past Scarlett – will  there be room to put it there? A: We have sufficient space along the corridor already to put the LRT tracks plus cycle path / trail. It would be similar to St. Clair except there will be two traffic lanes in either direction.
What are implications of putting the LRT tracks down one side rather than in the middle. A: Current plan is to run it down the centre. Also looking at looking at ways to mitigate traffic impacts.

Who are the private partners? Will there be an intensification and if so, why aren’t builders not paying more of the costs to provide transit? After all, they get money in their pockets. Also building parking lots simply encourages to bring cars into the area and park throughout the neighbourhood. A: (councillor Nunziata) Developers pay charges when they put up buildings.

Adjournment.

Metrolinx to VIA: No dice.

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Oh the possibilities! VIA Rail’s route (in blue) from Union to London.

VIA Rail trains pass (without stopping) through Weston twice a day in each direction on their way from London to Toronto’s Union Station. Some passengers from London, Kitchener, Guelph, Stratford and other stations along the route are headed to Pearson and it seemed like a no-brainer for those passengers to simply exit at Weston and hop aboard the airport train thus saving themselves time and money. Another plus, Westonians would have another way to travel westwards along that route and even catch a ride to Union in the other direction twice daily.

Enter Metrolinx. Metrolinx has said no. Apparently the arrangement is too hard to accomplish because of tight scheduling, passengers would only have 60 seconds to get off the train. Compared to regular UPX stops of 30 seconds, this seems like quite a generous allocation; especially since few will likely be getting off.

Why the foot dragging from Metrolinx? Well for starters, that’s a precious revenue loss if passengers can get a cheaper fare to the airport from Weston. Second, it’s an inconvenience to have a tight schedule to worry about. Third, why bother; it’s only Weston.

Bottom line: Laura Albanese, Ahmed Hussen and Frances Nunziata should be screaming from the rooftops for Metrolinx to add this (however small) amenity to Weston. Larger scheduling problems have been solved in the past. According to an article in the Star, this decision is not carved in stone. Let’s hope that our representatives can bring some pressure to bear; soon.

Sullivan: I’m (probably) back.

Now that the dust has settled after October’s Federal Election, I was curious as to how former York South-Weston Member of Parliament, Mike Sullivan was adjusting to the new reality of being a regular citizen once more. He agreed to an in-depth interview and we sat down last Friday over coffees in a busy Perfect Blend Bakery. We touched on four main topics that we will roll out over the next four days;

1. Fallout from the election

2. The Weston Cultural Hub

3. Metrolinx

4. The Church Street, former Humber River Regional Hospital Site.

Mike Sullivan in April 2013 as an MP campaigning for protection of the Humber.
Mike Sullivan in April 2013 as an MP campaigning for protection of the Humber.

1. Fallout from the election

We started with his experiences during the last election. Sullivan claims that he would not have done anything differently during the campaign that was the longest in modern history. He believes that the shifting of votes away from the New Democratic Party happened very suddenly during the last weekend of the campaign.

“People in the riding weren’t paying attention to the local situation They were also voting against Harper and choosing Liberals to be the ones to beat him. None of the Toronto area NDP MPs were re-elected as the Liberals captured all 25 Toronto seats. I lost a lot of friends in other ridings (who were also Toronto area MPs). It’s politics though and if you can’t take that, don’t run. You can kick yourself afterwards over things we should and shouldn’t have done but I don’t think we did anything wrong locally.”

It’s not all bad though; Sullivan is now able to see a lot more of his five beloved grandchildren, three of whom live in Mississauga and the other two in Edmonton. Last year, Sullivan and his wife spent Christmas in Edmonton and this year there will be celebrations in his home in Toronto and in Mississauga. The Sullivan family’s holiday fare is traditional and includes lots of turkey and ham.

I asked if he was thinking about staying in politics and setting himself up as the opposition to the new MP. He pondered that for a minute, smiled and said,

“Probably. Time will tell how long it will last. It’s (the next election) four years away and I’m not necessarily setting myself up in opposition to the local MP but when I see something that is unfair or not helpful then I’ll be unafraid of saying it.”

Remembering that Sullivan had a constituency office on South Station Road, and not being able to find much information about Mr. Hussen’s constituency office, I asked Sullivan if he knew where it was. Sullivan replied that it is not set up yet but that it will be in the same vicinity as MPP Laura Albanese’s. He suggested that having an office in an industrial area is, “Not helpful”.

The complex where MPP Laura Albanese has her constituency office.
The complex where MPP Laura Albanese has her constituency office.

On Monday, I checked the address, 85 Ingram Drive from where Mr Hussen will be operating. There was nothing to indicate that he has a presence in that building although a sign on a sports equipment store in the same building seemed to indicate that a number of people have been trying to contact the new MP.

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MPP Laura Albanese and Councillor Frank DiGiorgio already have offices in that same complex. The location may not be handy for constituents who walk but perhaps communications between those particular politicians will be made somewhat easier.

To ensure that he stays in the public consciousness, Sullivan has begun writing about issues of concern to York South-Weston residents once more. His first since the election deals with the Liberal tax cut plans.

Postscript: I had a call this afternoon from Christine Whitten who will be working in Ahmed Hussen’s constituency office. She explained the delay in setting up new parliamentary offices because, for example incoming MPs inherit their furniture from the previous incumbent. In addition, the furniture, previously used in Mike Sullivan’s Constituency Office could not move directly but had to be delivered to a storage location before being forwarded to the new MP. Things like internet and phone lines likewise cannot be arranged directly but have to be ordered through the House of Commons. Christine says that as soon as the office opens (hopefully early in the New Year), Mr. Hussen will be holding an open house so that constituents can drop by and meet their new M.P. In the meantime, York South-Weston residents are invited to contact Ms. Whitten at 416-432-2974 should they require further information or assistance.

Tomorrow: Sullivan’s thoughts on the Weston Cultural Hub.