New Year Predictions

As the new year progresses, it’s probably a good time to make some local and not so local predictions for 2019 and beyond.

Where we are right now.

During the regimes of the late Rob Ford and current mayor John Tory, Toronto has suffered almost a decade of austerity. Now that we have a premier who operates on the same policies, it looks as if Toronto’s public realm will shrink at a more rapid pace. While John Tory looks and sounds like a moderate politician, he’s as radically right-wing as either of the Ford brothers.
Austerity at the provincial level will add to Toronto’s woes, particularly here in Weston / Mount Dennis, especially after Ford gerrymandered Toronto Council by halving the number of councillors and basing council seats on outdated demographics. The current council will have enough support for John Tory to continue the decline of our city. The only differences between Mayor Tory and Premier Ford involve jurisdiction and style rather than political leanings.

A feature of the Rob Ford and John Tory mayoralties has been ignoring the planners and making awful decisions based on dogma and pandering rather than actual need. (Scarborough Subway, Gardiner rebuilding, dangerous streets and the failure of Vision Zero, lousy transit planning, an ineffective and demoralized police force, uncontrolled development…). Added to that, the refusal to charge an appropriate level of property tax has resulted in a lack of funds for city initiatives along with a dilapidated and inadequate public housing inventory. The late British actor Peter Ustinov once called Toronto, “New York run by the Swiss.“. I wonder how he would have described the 2019 version of our city.

Prediction 1: Poverty is about to get real in Weston / Mount Dennis.

Ford has frozen the (already inadequate) minimum wage at $14.00 an hour. It was due to rise to $15 this January 1. This roughly translates to a $2000 annual loss for minimum wage earners, only slightly offset by a tax cut. Basically, general taxes subsidize the wages of minimum wage earners while companies keep the savings and remove them from the community. Other austerity measures include removal of funding for repairs to Toronto schools and public housing (the money would have come from Cap and Trade). Less money and fewer job opportunities will mean more poverty and crime.

What can we do to fight this? Patronize only those businesses that pay workers $15 or more hourly. Call out companies that don’t. Support organizations that fight poverty.

Prediction 2: Massive decisions based on hunches and rewarding friends.

Arbitrary decision making and cronyism has only just begun. When you have lots of friends and lots of jobs to fill, there’s no end to the possibilities. Ford is a big proponent of subways regardless of need, cost and location. He famously suggested building a casino at Exhibition Place and and a ferris wheel on the Port Lands. Now that he’s in charge, the sky will be the limit. The TTC’s subway system will soon be handed over to the hopelessly inept Metrolinx. These are the people who are bungling the Presto Card implementation  The subway takeover plan will involve selling building rights on top of subway stations. The TTC will become a bus service. Incidentally, Metrolinx seems to taking measures designed to suck up to Ford – things like removing electric vehicle charging outlets from GO stations.

Prediction 3: A fire sale of provincial assets.

In order to balance the books and pay for Ford’s re-shaping of Ontario, the private sector will be called on to provide financing. Obtaining private money will involve selling precious public assets such as the LCBO and Ontario Place.

Prediction 4: A two-tier health care system.

Our health care system eats up $53.3 billion or about 39% of the Ontario budget. Ford would dearly love to find ‘efficiencies’ here. He may want private companies and hospitals to set up shop in Ontario. He may also entertain the possibility of people jumping the queue for a fee. A big obstacle is the Canada Health Act and that is why Ford is openly campaigning against Justin Trudeau in the hopes that a Conservative federal government will repeal or amend the act to insert some private health care. The new system might look like the  U.K.’s National Health Service which runs alongside a private system. When the rich (and politicians) are able to jump the queue, you can guarantee that health care for regular folks will suffer.

Prediction 5: Less information and more secrecy.

Many decisions made by the Ford government are made to reward his cronies or appease his fringe supporters and don’t hold up well under scrutiny (1998 Health Curriculum, Ron Taverner…).  Look for Ford and his government to distance themselves even further from accountability and awkward questions from the press. They spread the word through Ontario’s taxpayer funded version of Pravda.

Prediction 6: Local lefty initiatives to end.

Now that Councillor Frances Nunziata has been re-elected, look for her pre-election moderate stance to be dropped. Lefty frivolities such as bike paths and pedestrian safety measures will be quietly shelved. Ms Nunziata will continue to be the councillor most likely to vote with Mayor Tory.

Glimmers of hope for Weston /Mount Dennis:

The Weston Hub will open in February along with many new residents in the 360+ rental units. A small colony of artists will occupy the live / work spaces. Construction on the site will end allowing the area to flourish.
The Weston Farmers Market will have an attractive new home in the centre of Weston that will attract people from outside the area. Two cultural organizations, Shakespeare in Action and UrbanArts hold anchor positions in the new Hub and will also attract visitors to our community.

More businesses are opening up as the UP Express provides a rapid and regular link to downtown.

On Weston Road, retail stores are being renovated and a payday loan company has closed.

A small number of affordable units at 22 John Street will be made available through a lottery held between eligible applicants. Use this link to apply (the link becomes live on Monday January 14; the application process will close January 28).

Interesting Possibilities:

Prime Minister Trudeau will perform a minor cabinet shuffle on Monday and unpopular York South-Weston MP, Ahmed Hussen may be moved laterally or demoted. A lateral move might be part of an effort to distance Mr. Hussen from the burdensome immigration file and boost his chances in October’s general election.

UrbanArts wins $10,000!

UrbanArts won a $10,000 grant from the TD Community Arts Award program

The price “celebrates an arts organization that has made a significant contribution in Toronto by working with, in and for communities, while creating access and inclusion to arts and culture.”

UrbanArts is one of York South–Weston’s gems. They provide year-round arts programming and summer camps for young people in the neighbourhood.

Marlene McKintosh, executive director.

The other finalists were Art Starts and Jumblies Theatre.

A walker’s guide to Weston

An artist’s concept of the Weston Hub showing the outdoor program space.
Beginning early next year, hundreds of people will be moving to Weston as part of the new Weston Hub. A few dozen will move into the 26 artist live / work residences while the vast majority, will rent in the 30 storey, 370 unit tower and podium currently being built by Rockport Group. At the moment, rental prices are unknown but they should be a lot cheaper than renting a condo. Here is a guide for those considering a move to our community and a possible reminder to those already here. Your new address at 22 John Street has a walk score of 90 which, according to the experts qualifies as “a walker’s paradise; daily errands do not require a car”. Walking is a great exercise and has dramatic effects on longevity. Here are a few of the places that are within a short stroll of your new address.

Cultural Hangouts:

The Artscape Weston Hub: as mentioned, 26 artists will be living and working in your immediate neighbourhood along with 8200 square feet of indoor program space, 12,400 feet of outdoor program space; UrbanArts and Shakespeare in Action will provide programs for young and old.  Read all about it here.
Weston’s beautiful Art Nouveau library built in 1913.
Housed in a beautiful century building, Weston’s public library was built in 1913 and is one of the libraries originally funded by the Carnegie foundation. This branch has a good variety of activities and opportunities to become involved with the community.
Weston’s outdoor theatre.
A few steps from Weston Road towards the river, there is an outdoor theatre in a beautiful setting on Little Avenue that may see more use now that Shakespeare In Action are relocating here. Weston Historical Society is active, holds regular historical walks and talks and has a base of operations at 1901 Weston Road. Weston has its own Santa Claus Parade. and Buskerfest organized by the BIA.

Restaurants:

Restaurants abound in Weston: a highly recommended burger joint, fish and chips, pizza, Chinese, Jamaican, Phillipine and Somali food, a chicken chain, family and a breakfast specialty chain. There are several independent coffee shops and even a Timmies. A superb Mexican restaurant is within a fifteen-minute walk but don’t tell anyone; it’s a secret. Weston Farmers Market, will be outside your front door every Saturday from May to October.

Retail:

We have few major chains in the heart of Weston; Shoppers Drug Mart being a notable exception, but there are lots of small family owned stores selling a variety of items. Squibbs Stationers has been in Weston since 1927 and is a great place to get school supplies and textbooks. Incidentally, Weston Village has one the the oldest of Toronto’s business improvement areas. There is a large Asian supermarket nearby but it may be closing soon as the site has been purchased by a developer. Shoppers Drug Mart has quite a large grocery section but you’ll need to go elsewhere for produce when the farmers market is not operating.
Greenland Farms produce section.
If you’d like a haircut / style / manicure, there is plenty of choice, including the ‘world famous’ Peter’s Barber Shop on your doorstep. In spite of recent trends to close branches, we still have banks, BMO and RBC with branches close by and Luminus Financial credit union is a 10 minutes walk.

Medical:

There are several family doctors, walk in clinics, testing facilities, opticians and pharmacies, all within easy reach.

Sports and Nature:

Family and friends watch as children from across the GTA take part in a soccer tournament on Weston’s artificial turf soccer pitch.
Dog owners, fisher folk and photographers will be in their element in Weston as the Humber runs to the west.
The Humber river is a few minutes’ walk away.
A cycle / walking trail along the Humber leads through Cruickshank and Lions parks, the latter having lots of sporting facilities – an open air pool in summer, baseball diamonds, a FIFA standard artificial turf soccer pitch, tennis courts, a skateboard park and one of Toronto’s oldest hockey arenas with outstanding french fries.
Weston’s outdoor pool.

Commuting:

The UP Express and GO stations are 5 minutes away and will whisk you downtown in 14 minutes while airport workers will get to Terminal 1 even quicker. Weston is the city’s second biggest bus hub so there are many routes to pick from. So there it is; you truly will be living in a walkers’ paradise. Readers, did I miss anything? Please comment in the section below.

Survey on Lawrence underpass art

The city would like your input into the art that should be painted on the Lawrence Avenue underpass. Clearly, however, you should vote for Alexander Lazich, whose bird-themed mural is really something.

Alexander Lazich

I say that in jest, of course. Most of proposed murals, which will be painted in 2019, are really something.

I’m not partial to Christiano De Araujo’s proposal this time, though I do quite like “The Windows of Time” on Perfect Blend.

Christiano De Araujo

A Shop’s work will have local themes emerging from the bold geometric background.

A Shop

Regular readers will know that I love to bike, and I should love Charlie Johnston’s series. But I have a pet peeve: I hate it when artists don’t know bikes. Johnston’s mural has the gears (bottom) all wrong. The front cog is on backwards–the large chainring should be most visible not least visible.

Charlie Johnston

Jill Stanton’s art is, I think, the most interesting. Rather than a collage, she proposes a comic strip. I love it.

Jill Stanton

 

Weston’s Second Annual Buskerfest – A review

The Weston Village BIA certainly outdid themselves by putting together an incredible Buskerfest 2018.  The event was slated to be a one-time event to celebrate Canada 150, but since it was so well received it is now likely to become an annual event.

Attendees to this years’ event were amazed by a bevy of incredibly talented performers.   As the decadent sounds of pan drums danced through the air, performers captivated onlookers.  Amongst them was a world-renowned fire performer, a Mime and of course Silver Elvis  (photo posted by Roy).

The event was well organized and lots of fun!  It took place Weston Road north and south of Lawrence Avenue from 2 PM – 6 PM on Saturday.

If you missed this year’s event, not to worry, we are hopeful that the Weston Village BIA will host another one next summer.

Nyctophilia artists strike again.

Another community has been left scratching their collective heads after artistic duo, Christian Giroux and Daniel Young have installed another of their creations near St Clair and Bathurst. No doubt there will be some who like it but more likely, most won’t and members of the public who object will be made to feel as if they have no artistic soul (sound familiar?). How this thing ever got approved is beyond me but then, nobody asked me; nor should they. Unfortunately, few in the community where it has been unceremoniously plonked (Ward 21) are likely to have been asked either.

‘Three Points Where Two Lines Meet’. From the Toronto Star.

The above photo is deceptive as the scale of the thing isn’t apparent until you notice the relative size of the stop signs. A better impression of its true size can be gleaned from the artists’ site here.

Unlike Nyctophilia, the money for this didn’t come from Section 37 funds. The source for Three Points is the City’s Public Art Program (nice acronym!). Read more in the Star.

A few spaces available at UrbanArts

Let’s face it: you blew it if you left your summer camp search til now. Still, UrbanArts has your back.  UrbanArts has your back, and there are a few spots available for their SummerArts camp.

I also happen to know, ahem, that they’re not the least bit judgy about being late to apply.