Letter of the Week

Letter of the Week

This letter of the Week comes from: Five things that need to change in Weston / Mount Dennis. Part 5.

Anonymous wrote:

Mr. Murray, out of the goodness of your heart, do you voluntarily make extra property tax payments? I would hope so.

 

This letter came in reaction to an opinion in the article that the poor are suffering thanks to the needless austerity imposed by our low Toronto property taxes; the lowest in the GTA.

The whole point of taxation, especially progressive taxation is to make a collective effort to look after the needs of all citizens. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said that, “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”

Here in Toronto, a voluntary tax payment scheme was set up in 2011 at the height of the Ford mayoralty. No doubt the idea was to deflect pressure for higher taxes by saying, ‘If you’re so keen on higher taxes, pay more yourself’.

Do we really wish to go back to the days of voluntary contributions to pay for services? The days of unpaved streets, private education, private health care and  fire companies who only fight their subscribers’ fires?

We’re all better off when we work as a cohesive society. If I believe that employers should pay a higher minimum wage, as an individual I can’t top up every wage packet but I can cheerfully pay any increased costs.

So, the answer is no, I don’t make voluntary contributions because they would be a drop in the bucket. The whole idea of taxation is that millions have agreed through the democratic process to pay a progressive and reasonable amount to provide services and infrastructure. If we are at the stage of relying on donations from property owners, then the tax structure isn’t working and should be changed so that they pay more.

The measure of a good society is how it treats its poorest citizens. Samuel Johnson put it well when he said,

“Where a great proportion of the people are suffered to languish in helpless misery, that country must be ill policed, and wretchedly governed: a decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.”

Along the same lines, here’s a quote from Mayor Tory during a recent Inside Toronto interview with David Nickle. The Mayor in spite of regularly punishing the poor and homeless with austerity during his term, now astonishingly claims to be their saviour.

“What you come to realize is that really what you’re here to do … the people who are comfortable don’t need too much help from me,” he said. “It’s the people who are struggling who are most in need of better transit so they can get to a job situation that’s better for them, good housing so they’re not in substandard housing or living in a shelter. That’s when you realize that’s got to be your priority.” Mayor John Tory

Lord knows when this lightning bolt hit Mayor Tory but he seems blind to the fact that he helps the comfortable every day by ensuring that they pay the lowest property taxes in the GTA. He claims that the poor are his priority but his actions and voting record tell another story.

In fact, Canada has some way to go when it comes to public social spending.

From Twitter; @artsifton

Lastly and food for thought; one more quote from Johnson via his biographer:

What signifies, says some one, giving halfpence to beggars? they only lay it out in gin or tobacco. “And why should they be denied such sweeteners of their existence (says Johnson)? it is surely very savage to refuse them every possible avenue to pleasure, reckoned too coarse for our own acceptance. Life is a pill which none of us can bear to swallow without gilding; yet for the poor we delight in stripping it still barer, and are not ashamed to shew even visible displeasure, if ever the bitter taste is taken from their mouths.”

Pearen Park rink needs your help

The good people at Pearen Park are looking for volunteers to help with building and maintaining the excellent, community-run outdoor rink. If you’d like to participate, they’d be glad for the help.

Rink workers
Photo from the MDCA

Vote for $20,000 for Frontlines

Frontlines hopes you’ll vote for them to receive a $20,000 grant for their Frontburners youth kitchen.

Youth at Frontlines; picture from @FrontlinesTO
Youth at Frontlines; picture from @FrontlinesTO

Frontburners helps young people from 18-29 learn with “hands-on training in the kitchen, in-class instruction and food handling training and assist them with finding employment”. Participants also cook for the kids from 6-12 in the after-school programs, and “facilitate workshops to teach them about meal preparation and healthy eating”.

The grant is from Epicure.com’s charitable arm, and the competition is pretty stiff: 15 charitable food organizations across the country are competing—so don’t delay.

Frontlines has really been knocking it out of the park with their culinary skills programs. This week, they catered the local politician’s Holiday Open House (and they would be delighted to cater for your holiday event, too).

Mount Dennis a hub for community groups

The Globe and Mail had an excellent article last week on the unlikeliest of locations: Industry Street, in Mount Dennis.

At the heart of the faded manufacturing belt in the old city of York, Industry Street winds it way past low slung warehouses and vacant lots, where used pallets are stacked high and weeds grow wild through chain-link fences.

But don’t let the name fool you. Industry Street near Weston Road and Eglinton Avenue West is home to an increasing number of not-for-profits and small businesses fostering an urbanity that looks nothing like Queen West or the Annex – but is just as lively.

Update on community crime meeting

Westonian Lindsay Cahill has a report from the community crime meeting held this past Wednesday. Thank you, Lindsay!


The gymnasium at Weston Memorial PS was standing-room only Wednesday evening for the community meeting organized by City Councillor Nunziata. Councillor Nunziata started the meeting on a positive note, discussing possible commercial developments in Weston village including interest from Loblaws at 1966 Weston Road (the current home of Greenland Farm Supermarket) and a community rec centre in the old Scotiabank building.

With the help of officers from the Toronto Police Service (TPS) 12 Division, the meeting quickly turned to safety concerns in Weston. Staff Sgt. Lesley Hildred provided statistics of the types of crimes reported in Weston since January and information about some of the arrests. Much of the crime in the area was termed “nuisance crime” (i.e. cars being broken into, vandalism). Some details were provided about the recent armed robbery at Olympic Variety on King St and the fatal stabbing in front of the Shoppers Drug Mart. At this point, residents began to share their specific concerns about the safety of the area. In response, it was made clear that the TPS is understaffed due to budgetary constraints: residents were very surprised to hear that 12 Division has only seven officers and two traffic officers on duty during one shift. The officers at the meeting emphasized that it is important to call in all crimes to either 911 or 416-808-2222 (the non-emergency line) so that the statistics will show Weston requires additional officers. In addition, Councillor Nunziata pledged to take this issue to City Council and the Mayor and requested our support by attending Council budget meetings (see her website for future information).

There was a continued call from the crowd for a strategy and suggestions for crime prevention.  Some of the options discussed included CCTV (provided by residents or subsidized by the government), a committee of Weston residents who liaise with the TPS and Councillor Nunziata, a possible role for auxiliary police, use of off-duty police officers, and how we as a community can try to decrease crime (i.e. collecting mail and garbage from neighbour’s homes if they are away).

In the final minutes, a petition was collected by Councillor Nunziata’s team for increased police presence in the area. Unfortunately, the meeting came to an abrupt end due to time constraints, with many questions unanswered.

Nunziata votes for bike lanes

Frances Nunziata seems to have had a change of heart about bikes. She joined the overwhelming majority of councillors and last week voted in favour of keeping the Bloor Street bike lanes.

Bike Lanes on Bloor
Photo by Eric Robinson (CC licensed)

In the past, Nunziata has not been resolutely probike. Notably, she voted to remove bike lanes on Jarvis, and wanted to license bikes (can we not re-litigate this? It’s a terrible idea.)

In Nunziata’s own ward, bike lanes remain few and far between, though that will slowly start improving with input from the newly-struck citizen committee on pedestrian safety and cycling.

 

Victory Credit Union in purchase process

Weston’s 70 year-old Victory Credit Union has been purchased by another credit union (subject to regulatory approval). The merger will give Victory members access to another branch in downtown that will be capable of providing more banking services than those currently enjoyed.

Read all about it here.