Wiff Restaurant gets a nod.

Somehow in the New Year’s celebrations I missed an article in Toronto.com about Weston’s Wiff Restaurant at 1804 Weston Road which serves a Somali-Italian fusion menu. Readers may have sampled their samosas at the Weston Farmers Market.

Read the article here.

Read Melissa’s Weston Web article from 2012 here.

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especially after Ford gerrymandered Toronto Council by halving the number of councillors and basing council seats on outdated demographics.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.

Weston’s TD closures–all a misunderstanding! (Or explained.)

TD Bank has realized the error of its ways, they swear. No longer will the bank  be closing branches, like they did in Weston (twice). No, TD told the Globe and Mail last weekend, now they’re all about the customer. And this time they mean it.

(And I’m giving up beer. Tomorrow.)

TD has noticed, somewhat belatedly, that “human beings are social animals, and for some crucial interactions, nothing beats face-to-face meetings.”

“For customers, it’s not branches or digital,” says Teri Currie, TD’s head of Canadian retail banking. “It’s both.”

According to the press release Globe and Mail, TD was closing branches because they were investing in ‘fintech’. Now, though, “TD is emphasizing a reinvestment in its branches, one that is multifaceted. For one, the physical formats are changing – fewer tellers, more wealth advisers; less total square footage, but larger meeting rooms.”

And there’s the rub. These aren’t branches like we used to have–places where you might quickly cash a cheque or have your kids turn in the rolled-up coins they collected for the cadets.  There’s no profit in that, so you’ll have to wait in line.

These are branches where the leather-soled won’t have to share their green Naugahyde lounger with the steel-toed. And that explains why TD moved to Weston and Oak: the distance and architecture of the bank will discourage actual banking but encourage high-margin loans and investment. They didn’t move there and make banking hard in Weston. They moved there to make banking hard in Weston.

Banking can be this uncomfortable.

 

Weston Santa Claus Parade a huge success

The Santa Claus Parade was a blast this year. The weather was great, and the floats and entertainers were really terrific. My favourite was probably the Burlington Teen Tour Band. Boy, does that bring back memories.

The Weston food bank was raising money and accepting donations, which they certainly need. Toronto.com says they serve about 750 people a month.

If seeing the big-hearted big man has put you in the spirit, you can donate online.

 

BMO closing

The Bank of Montreal in Weston will be closing in early 2019, and ‘merging’ with the BMO at the Sheridan Mall near Jane and Wilson.

This is at least the fifth bank closure in Weston. We have already lost the RBC and TD on Jane, and the TD and Scotia on Weston Road. We now have only one of the big banks left in Weston: the RBC at Weston and Lawrence.

We do, however, have at least 11 payday loan and cheque-cashing shops.

This is infuriating.

The banking oligopoly has a government-guaranteed business: they will never, ever, go bankrupt. If their masters in Ottawa had spines, they would be held to the other side of that social contract: providing a social good, which might—heavens!—entail providing service where it isn’t always profitable.

But the payday loan shops show it can profitable to operate in Weston. Clearly, even with stiff competition and regulation, they are able to make money.

And it matters. The middle class, the documented and the accredited can bank for cheap on phones or computers. We can drive—or, hell, Uber—to Wilson and Jane. Me, I can get my mortgage broker on the phone on a weekend. You probably can too.

But pity the poor sucker—likely older and poorer—who gets paid with paper. For them, it’s two fares and 52 minutes on the bus or 70 minutes of walking in the snow. And that’s how Usury-4-U stays afloat: $21 to cash a cheque is outrageous—but it’s a bargain for the bricklayer getting home at 7, faced with $6.50 in fares and another hour on the bus.

Even if you don’t care about the less lucky, you should care about bank closures. Walkability pays. Walkable neighbourhoods are livable neighbourhoods, and people want to buy and rent in them.

There’s nothing inevitable about this. Banks have regulators, regulators have ministers, and ministers have electors. Ahmed Hussen’s phone number is (416) 656-2526.


Thanks to P for the tip and the photo.

 

 

 

Artisans wanted for pop-up shop

The Mount Dennis BIA is looking for some local artisans to take part in a pop-up shop at 1016 Weston Road.

The shop will run for the four weekends before Christmas, “including the night of our 3rd Winter Solstice Celebration on December 21st.”

If you’re interested, you can email [email protected]

Get on a float

Here’s an offer your kids won’t be able to resist: the chance to ride with Santa on one of the floats in the Weston Santa Claus Parade.

The BIA says that they have space for 20 children in the parade on Sunday, November 25. If you’re interested, email [email protected]