Jagmeet Singh promises flood relief

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visited York South-Weston today and heard from local residents about flooding issues in the riding. Accompanying Mr. Singh were many well known NDP faces in the area including MPP, Faisal Hassan, upcoming federal election candidate Yafet Tewelde and local organizer Chiara Padovani who conducted the tour. Mr Singh, an affable and attentive man spent a couple of hours in the area.

The leader walked from Rockcliffe Court to Hilldale Road to hear some of the issues that have not been dealt with despite years of local flooding. The recent sale of 8 acres of city owned flood plain land at 200 Rockcliffe Court exposed some of the less savoury aspects of decision making in our fair city.

The contentious land at 200 Rockcliffe.

The land was sold off to a meat packing plant in spite of residents’ objections. This is an area that routinely floods after a storm and where nearby, in a recent event, two men almost drowned in an elevator as water flooded the building they were in. Read more in this excellent article here.

Chiara Padovani talks about the controversial city decision to sell flood plain land to a meat packer.
Faisal Hassan, Jagmeet Singh and Yafet Tewelde listen to the 200 Rockcliffe story.
Jagmeet Singh and Yafet Tewelde greet Hilldale Road residents.

At Hilldale Road, local resident Franco Ruffolo opened his home to show the extent of flooding he and his neighbours have faced in the past few years. Franco showed some video of the water levels and damage that his property sustained and outlined the inadequate settlements from insurance companies. Residents in the area worry that insurance companies will no longer issue policies on their homes.

Franco Ruffolo shows Jagmeet Singh video of his home flooding.

Jagmeet Sing is proposing that instead of matching funds with the city and province, an NDP government would pay the whole cost of flood remediation work so that homeowners in flood prone areas are better protected and don’t need to wait for all three levels of government to agree. He is promising $2.5 billion to respond to disasters and support communities like York South – Weston to adapt their infrastructure to withstand floods and other extreme weather events.

The tour went off well and made some strong points. Mr. Singh delivered some concluding remarks at the end of his visit and then spoke live to the media.

Local candidate Yafet Tewelde added some remarks.

Metrolinx Woes

Where to start?

Presto – Because of the ‘exclusive’ deal signed with Galen Weston’s Loblaw Inc., Metrolinx will be firing the three dozen small retailers who currently sell TTC tokens and passes in our neighbourhood.  Only the two Shoppers Drug Marts will sell TTC fares (Presto tickets and cards).  It’s a huge reduction in accessibility for our part of the city.  There’s lots else wrong with Presto, and TTC is not happy about it.

UP Express and GO fares – The previous government promised to lower GO fares to $3 within the city.  The new government told Metrolinx to lower them to $3.70.  Metrolinx left UP express fares at the old higher level, and removed the $1.60 discount for transferring to TTC, for those using UP from Weston (or Bloor).  The province gave Metrolinx money to provide the discount for both UP and GO.  I wondered if Metrolinx had returned any of the money, but the folks at the Ministry of Transportation could not answer that question.  I’ve asked Metrolinx but I’m not holding my breath.

Tier 4 Trains – The Minister ordered GO to use Tier 4 diesel trains on our line (now called Kitchener line) once they had bought some.  Tier 4 are about 8 times cleaner than the locomotives now in use.  They now have 8 locomotives.  But they initially advised they would not be using them on Kitchener.  When challenged, they said they’d check again.  Still waiting.

Noise Walls – The original Environmental Assessment demanded walls along the curve at the end of Holley where it meets Parke.  None were installed.  Metrolinx claimed it was too difficult given the size of retaining wall they built.  But their own consultant on the EA warned them to make sure they built walls strong enough to hold the noise walls.  If they didn’t that’s on them, and we deserve something.  In addition, the EA demanded a wall between the tracks and Rosemount south of John.  Nothing installed there.  No excuse given.  And they promised walls behind Brownville and Arthur streets.  Still nothing, though they claim it is due to property negotiations with landowners on those streets.

Government Regulators – It took some doing but I found persons at both the Provincial and Federal Ministries of the Environment who could speak about the now ten year old Environmental Assessment.  Provincially they didn’t think there was anything they could do to force Metrolinx to live up to the promises in the EA.  Federally they were quite shocked, as Metrolinx had recently sworn out a ‘solemn declaration’ claiming they had lived up to all the EA commitments, in order to get the final payments from the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

In addition, the Province relieved Metrolinx of its responsibility to monitor air quality.  Metrolinx claimed that the implementation of the UP Express had not seriously degraded air quality.  Trouble is, it is GO Transit operations if not Tier 4 (see above) that will adversely affect our air quality.

The federal folks are questioning Metrolinx about the noise walls.  We shall see what happens next.

Who to vote for? I choose Lekan.

If Doug Ford hadn’t screwed everything up, this would be an easy choice. But he did, and now it isn’t.

For the first time I can remember, we are spoiled for choice in York South-Weston. We have four strong contenders, and three of them are worthy choices.

The recent amalgamation of the ward brought Frank Di Giorgio and Frances Nunziata into close combat. Chiara Padovani and Lekan Olawoye are attacking their left flanks.

Me, I’m going to vote for Lekan Olawoye. I won’t pretend I have good reasons for doing so, though.

I came to this conclusion slowly—although I was able to eliminate most of the candidates quickly. I started by zapping the outside-chance contenders; I’m sure most of them are fine people, but their relative absence and small chances in this high-stakes race make them non-starters for me.

Frank Di Giorgio was next to go. He is too conservative and was too close to Rob Ford. He votes against Toronto’s interests. He attends council meetings infrequently—and opposes bike lanes—and that alone is a deal-breaker for me.

That leaves three: Nunziata, Olawoye, and Padovani.

I like Frances Nunziata, as a rule. She is an excellent retail politician. If you call her, she calls you back. She fixes problems, and she’s given her riding endless hours of underpaid service. Finally, she is an excellent tactician.

But I can’t shake the feeling that Weston has fallen on harder times under her leadership. Certainly, most of these problems are not of her making—she’s subject to decisions made above her pay grade, just like the rest of us. I think, however, that with different leadership, things might have been better. That’s because she is not an excellent strategist.

Take payday loan shops, just as an index of what I’m talking about. We have too many, and they have dubious social value. I think the job they do would be better done by our oligopoly of banks, which enjoy one side of a social contract but are allowed to ignore the other: they get a government guarantee but shirk the social responsibility. Banks are allowed to close, leaving low-income and low-mobility clients (often one and the same) in the hands of high-interest lenders.

I know Frances can’t do much about closing banks. That’s for our provincial and federal masters to tackle. But she could have made Weston, bit by bit, an environment that banks don’t want to leave, with improved streetscapes, better local businesses, and improved transit. She’s been working on these, lately, but too lately for me.

Of course, it’s not about payday loans; it’s about all the things like them—the small, strategic failures that have let Weston down. What happened the long-promised college campus? The Humber River Trail link? St John the Evangelist? Buses on Jane? All are long-term projects; none have happened. Strategy.

That leaves Padovani and Olawoye.

Lekan and Chiara are too close ideologically to fit a card between. I went so far as to create a spreadsheet, and if I recall correctly, Padovani doesn’t have a parks plan but she does want the city to tackle climate change, while Olawoye has a parks plan but says nothing about climate change. Or vice versa.

It really doesn’t matter, because I can’t imagine Lekan (or Chiara) being against the climate or parks.

So, with two equally good candidates, I would normally back the one most likely to win. It seemed, for a moment, that Chiara was in that position. Then it emerged that Lekan had been left off the poll. And Lekan had a handy lead last time… and the polls have been showing wild swings anyway, which is understandable given how small the sample is. Finally, neither Olawoye nor Padovani is likely to defeat Nunziata. So who knows?

That leaves, as far as I can tell, character. Argh. What, really, do I know about character? Nothing.

My interactions with Lekan and Chiara have been vanishingly brief, and both left me with the impression that they were excellent, principled, hard-working and ambitious people. We are lucky to have them volunteering for such a lousy job.

So I’m left peering at the sediments, trying to divine some worthy grounds on which to make a decision.

Here’s what it comes down to: I like Lekan a little more. He seems more grounded, more open, and less partisan. He seems a  little less certain, and I like that. He’s been in the community, working hard, for longer, and he’s had tough positions at MaRS downtown. I like that too.

With so little to distinguish excellent candidates, that’s all I have to work with. We can blame Doug Ford for that—it was not supposed to be like this.

Possible flooding solution rejected in 2017.

A man walks under Weston’s Lawrence Avenue bridge the day after the floods of July 2013 (file).

One of the problems of living in a big city is that much of the surface is paved over. When it rains, water drains quickly and can raise river and stream levels as well as create flooding in low lying areas. The solution is well known. Plant trees, build green roofs and where possible create temporary holding tanks for sudden water flows. To pay for this, staff last year proposed charging homeowners for the amount of non-absorbing roof and parking surface on their property. These are the people creating the problem so it’s fair that they should help pay for the solution. When Toronto’s Executive Committee considered the matter, following the Mayor’s direction, they recommended voting against the charges.

Councillor Nunziata voted with the mayor when the matter came to a full meeting of council but today has issued a helpful email itemizing what to do if your basement floods. That will be of small comfort to the many people whose lives have been disrupted yet again.

Running a big city costs money. Without a mayor and council with the courage to do the right thing, ordinary people are left to suffer the consequences. Charging people for the runoff they create would encourage a reduction in stormwater runoff and help pay for larger-scale flood prevention measures.

Instead of following staff recommendations, Mayor Tory and Councillors Mammoliti, Nunziata and others seemed place their trust in the short memory of voters, believing their re-election chances are more important than flooded basements. Kindred spirit Giorgio Mammoliti framed the charge as a ‘roof tax’ that would not play well in the suburbs.

Are voters really that stupid?

City opposes rental building at 2346 and 2352 Weston Road

City Council voted to oppose a proposed affordable-rental building at 2346-2352 Weston Road until the builders and staff negotiate some compromises.

The proposed building would be 15 storeys tall and have 157 units, primarily one-bedrooms or smaller. As proposed, it violates a number of regulations “with respect to built form, density, height, massing, site layout, shadow impact, proximity to the Humber River valley, access, parking and loading.”

Council voted to

  • Continue negotiating with the developer
  • Oppose the developer at any tribunals
  • Schedule a public meeting

    A typical floor layout proposed for 2346 Weston Road.

Today in Weston; June 11, 2018.

 

A beautiful ‘spring’ day along the Pan Am Path that runs below and to the West of Weston Road. There’s a whole different world by the river in Cruickshank Park. This evening, a cyclist travels north towards where the trail ends at a set of steps (St Phillips and Weston Road). This part of the trail was built in 2013 and hopes were high that it would continue north. Instead, cyclists must haul their bikes up the steps and continue along Weston Road to Fairglen (where the trail continues) with fading sharrows their only protection from busy traffic. If the stair climb doesn’t get you, a driver on Instagram will.

The end of the trail.

Councillor Nunziata assures us that negotiations are allegedly ongoing with the landowners whose properties lie between one part of the trail and another. WestonWeb has long campaigned for a better network of bike paths and trails. Alas, five years later, we’re still waiting.

Update: for reference, here’s a picture of the stairs from the trail end to street level at Weston and St. Phillips. Climbing this is no mean feat.