Politicians, What Have You Done For Weston Lately?

Weston has had a raw deal in the past few decades. Our ‘village’ has lost nearly all of its industry, historic properties have been demolished to make way for unattractive developments, and the area has become depressed. The once attractive main street has been infiltrated by payday loan/cheque cashing companies, dollar stores, and other detritus of hard times.

Weston gets no respect. The airport link as originally proposed was never intended to stop in Weston. When the TTC wants to save money, Weston services are cut. When Metrolinx needed to expropriate properties as part of the airport link, the way they dealt with homeowners was reprehensible and high handed. Drug related gangs of criminals seem to operate freely without much fear of capture. There is apprehension on the part of many people about being a victim of crime. While there are many beautiful homes in Weston, there is a large amount of ugly low-income housing both public and private.

Throughout all of this process, federal, provincial and municipal politicians have collected their generous salaries and tut-tutted about the sad state of affairs: “What a shame and we’re doing all we can; by the way, don’t forget to re-elect me as I’m really concerned about unemployment—mine.”

With one election under our belts and two more on the way, perhaps it’s time that the citizens of Weston asked our politicians: what have you done for Weston lately? Sitting on committees and attending conferences in glamorous places doesn’t count. What really counts are results bringing prosperity and hope back to Weston and eliminating the conditions that encourage crime, namely unemployment and lack of opportunity.

Here are some of the things that Weston could benefit from:

  • Improved education and workforce training
  • Decent housing
  • Help for struggling retailers and small businesses
  • Doing something about empty commercial properties
  • Police on the ground, not in cars
  • Politicians actively working on our behalf.
  • Encouragement and support for local initiatives such as the Farmers’ Market
  • Community facilities such as an indoor pool
  • Better communication by politicians about what they are doing for the community

There is no desire to malign individual politicians by lumping them together as a group. Perhaps everyone is doing the best they can. It would certainly be appreciated if our individual representatives would take the time to outline plans for Weston to their employers, the people.

You may wish to contact them individually, here are their contact details:

Federal MP Alan Tonks,
2534 Keele St
Toronto ON  M6L 2N8
Phone: (416) 656-2526
Fax: (416) 656-9908
Email: [email protected]

Provincial MPP Laura Albanese
Unit 102
2301 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M6M 3Z9
Tel: (416) 243-7984
Fax: (416) 243-0327
Email: [email protected]

Councillor Frances Nunziata
Toronto City Hall
100 Queen Street West, Suite C49
Toronto, ON  M5H 2N2
Phone: (416) 392-4091
Fax: (416) 392-4118
Email: [email protected]

Weston streets to get a little tidier

Weston Road can sometimes be a little slummy… and I mean that in a nice way! Slums are the airport terminals of neighbourhoods: they’re where people start new lives and leave behind old ones. They’re full of promise and drama. And like airport terminals, slums are awful places to live.

So while Weston is no slum, Weston Road can be a little slummy. There are a lot of stores selling second-hand goods and doing ‘informal banking’. There are a lot of discount stores and a lot of services and shops catering to the renters who are new to town or to Canada. And many villagers find Weston Rd unattractive in part because the retail norms are quite different. The storefronts are ugly, the merchandise sometimes unappealing (I ate camel meat for the first time in Weston), and some of the stores spill out onto the street.

But that’s likely to change. At the Community Council meeting last week, Frances Nunziata asked (and got) city planners and licencing officers to investigate how the outdoor display of merchandise can be regulated and limited. The proposal, she says, comes from complaints from “residents, business owners, and visitors”.

One store, which all residents will know even if they’ve never set foot in it, is flagrant. There are clothes and sundries hanging from the sign, walls, and even, I believe, the tree beside on occasion. The trouble is, Nunziata says, the store is in a commercial zone, where, oddly, this is allowed.

So while the property is following the letter of the law, Nunziata and the Community Council have asked city staff to come up with ways to get the unsightly storefronts more inline with community norms.

Photo from Nunziata's application to EYCC

Your humble correspondent confesses to feeling a little conflicted, as he did when council undertook a similar program against the cheque cashing establishments in town last year. The businesses in question are not breaking any laws; they’re just distasteful to some members of the community (your correspondent among them).

Bringing the weight of city staff down on legal and unthreatening (if unpopular) establishments seems a little meddlesome.

City staff recommend demolition of Ward Broome Bldg

The Ward Broome building at 2431 Weston Rd, just south of Oak St, will likely be demolished.

Dave Tomei applied to Etobicoke York Community Council for permission to demolish the former industrial paint and coating building. City staff have given their go-ahead, subject to conditions, and the matter will go one more time before the community council before going up to the city level for approval.

The existing private trees must be preserved, and Tomei will have to negotiate a beautification agreement with city staff.

Farmers’ market finishes

Weston’s fabulous farmers’ market has finished another season.

The season started slowly, with cold, wet days and unusually small crowds. It ended well, though; all the vendors I spoke to planned to come back next year.

The corn guy said that he wasn’t taking a break. As soon as he gets home, he’s tilling the land and bringing in 75 dump trucks of compost. Next year he’ll be back, with plans for a petting zoo and community trips to his farm.

The Pie Man from Pie Land (which, as far as I can tell, is actually run by two women) will be moving to the Downsview Market. (And, if you haven’t been, you must. It’s a cornucopia of cool crap and full of fantastic food.)

The sausage lady, though, said with relief that she’d just be taking a break and sleeping in.

Masum Hossain, the chair of the Weston BIA, and Frances Nunziata took a few moments to thank customers and talk about plans for the future. Nunziata commented on the cold weather and said that she is trying to have the market moved inside some time in future.

Peter Anan restaurant closes

The dining scene is dismal in Weston. There are few restaurants, and fewer good ones. And now an old standby, Peter Anan Thai Restaurant, has closed.

Peter Anan’s was a strange place. It forewent the bamboo and Buddhas for the style of a 1960s cafe. The food was merely decent, but the prices were fair, the service was excellent, and the owner and staff were kind.

Now the windows are papered over, and Anan has put a sign on the door: “Dear customer, THANK YOU for all the past business.”

Farmers’ Market on the rebound

Business is improving at the Weston Farmers’ Market. The season had started slowly, but there were crowds today.

Betsy Liscio from Grandpa Ken’s sandwiches said that the numbers are still down from last year, but “Today is a good day… and there are lots of days left. Sometimes it just takes time to get people out.”

There were two big pushes to get people out this week. The market advertised in the Guardian newspaper and distributed flyers to residents. For a promotion, the market was offering  free samples of fresh-cooked Ontario corn.

The promotion certainly worked. The largest crowd was around the corn guy. He said “It was a so-so start [this year], but now it’s blooming. Now everyone’s coming out.”

Microloan program at UrbanArts

UrbanArts has started a new microloan program for youths. It plans to give $5000 loans to arts entrepreneurs from 18–24 to help them start their own businesses.

Microloans are the newest trend in economic development. The idea is to give loans to people who would not normally be eligible, in amounts that would not normally be profitable for lenders. The theory is that small entrepreneurs can put their knowledge of a community to use where outsiders couldn’t.

Lennox Cadore, the Arts Program Manager at UrbanArts, says that they are “creating opportunities for young people who want to start their own businesses. Artists really are entrepreneurs.”

There are 15 positions available in the business program. Upon graduation, the students will be eligible for the $5000 loans. The money comes from Alterna Savings and the City of Toronto.

According to the Toronto Star, the loans will be at prime plus 6%. If the loans are repaid on time, the 6% will be refunded. The loans must be repaid in three years.

Cadore says that he has already received some applications, and he expects many more.