ActiveTO Quiet Streets launch dead on arrival.

Toronto the Careful™ has struck again.

Call me jaded but the plan to open up Toronto’s streets to pedestrians and cyclists seems to be (like most council actions in our fair city) massively underwhelming and certainly in Ward 5 the selection of streets doesn’t seem to address the spirit of the initiative. The idea was to ensure that, “people have space to get around on sidewalks while respecting physical distancing“. 

57 km or a minuscule 1.7% of Toronto’s 3,322 km of neighbourhood streets (excludes expressways, arterial and collector roads) will be temporarily signed and barricaded off to all but local traffic. York South-Weston is giving this treatment to 3.7 kilometres of its streets. Sadly none are in Weston or Mount Dennis.

The Ward 5 closed off streets will be:

StreetFromToLength
Bicknell AveRogers RdEglinton Ave 0.9 km
Silverthorn AveSt. Clair Ave WDonald Ave 

Total of 2.8 km

Donald AveSilverthorn AveHaverson Blvd
Haverson BlvdDonald AveCameron Ave
Blackthorn AveCameron AveEglinton Ave W

Source: Councillor Nunziata’s May 13 COVID Update.

Council felt the need to do something, and something, albeit timid and careful has been done. At least they restrained themselves from calling it a pilot. Additional streets will be considered ‘thereafter’.

The affected streets are shown with red dotted lines. Click to enlarge. Adapted from Google Maps.

According to Councillor Nunziata’s update, the criteria for selection of these streets was, “…several factors including, but not limited to, population density, equity, access to greenspace, car ownership rates, and traffic volumes.“. The councillor’s selection appears to be entirely inside her newly acquired constituency – Frank DiGiorgio’s  former Ward 12 so perhaps this is a little nod to them.

Incidentally, all but one of the selected streets have sidewalks on both sides so it’s hard to imagine crowds of people jostling for space.

Looking south from where Blackthorn Ave and Haverson Blvd meet at Cameron Ave. From Google Maps.

Readers are invited to suggest locations in Weston and Mount Dennis that might be more suitable. We will forward them to the councillor for future consideration.

Update: The city has published their list of ‘Quiet Streets’ and the Ward 5 selections are nowhere to be seen.

More thoughts from the lockdown.

It’s hard to get our heads around this pandemic. Let’s start with the important stuff instead of (note to self) watching the gong of doom all day.

How to avoid catching Covid-19.
Knowledge is power. For starters read this excellent blog post from an epidemiologist, it’s well worth the investment of your time as well as this article by Jonathan Kay that inspired it.

Bottom line: “Any environment that is enclosed, with poor air circulation and high density of people, spells trouble.”

Wrong advice:
We were first told that face-masks were ineffective. Canadian medical officers of health are still tepid as to their protection value. Despite that, it appears that masks are very effective in containing the spread of Covid. Look at this comparison of jurisdictions and their use of masks along with testing and contact tracing.

from #Masks4all. Click to enlarge.
From #Masks4all.com
Frequent wearing of masks and better masks drives virus transmission towards zero (blue zone). From Researchgate.net.

Despite the evidence, health experts continue to twist themselves into pretzels and argue that their conflicting advice was correct each time.

Long term care homes:
The infection and death rate in profit-making homes is significantly higher than in non-profits  and it’s even lower in civic-run homes.  Legislation from an earlier P.C. government and low funding from Liberals along with decreased inspections has cost lives. Legislated staffing ratios and more frequent inspections are needed for all facilities. This is something that the Ford government doesn’t seem interested in. All Personal Support Workers – even those from agencies – should be paid well with benefits and restricted to one location only. Do we want anything less for the most vulnerable members of our society? (ambiguity intentional)

Paradox:
Isn’t it odd that many of our (now) most important workers were stiffed by Premier Ford when he blocked a minimum wage rise back in 2018. Now he’s offering some of them a temporary (4 month) $4 an hour raise, no doubt until it’s safe to ignore these essential workers once more.

B.S. O-Meter:
We’re hearing a lot more from politicians and health officials these days. The B.S. alarms should go off when any public figure says:

  • …thoughts and prayers…
  • You won’t believe…
  • We’ve made historic investments…
  • Each and every…
  • Let me be clear…
  • We’re gonna be laser focussed…
  • We’ll put an iron ring around our seniors…
  • Don’t go to your cottage to check on the plumbing…
  • …my career
  • Sentences using the first person pronoun (I).
  • No-one likes _____ more than I do…

Things that will never be the same again:

Office work:
Many office-based businesses have discovered that work can carry on from home quite efficiently with the added bonus of employees ponying up the accommodation and utility costs. Will we need as much office space in the future? Probably not. It’s not all sunshine and roses. Some friends work from home and hate the lack of social contact with colleagues along with the intrusion of work tasks into all hours of the day and night. If business can solve these issues, there will be a lot fewer commuters and less need to live in the city.

Spitting athletes:
The act of spitting can carry huge virus loads. If basketball, golf and tennis players can go a whole game without spitting or firing snot rockets, hockey and baseball players, cyclists (and everyone else) can and must.

Handshakes and hugs:
The ancient custom of bowing or the namaste hand clasp is looking better and better. “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.” – Dr. Anthony Fauci.

From Osho News

Transportation:
TTC ridership is down 80%. Many people are fearful of travelling on any form of transit. Projections are that when numbers recover after the pandemic subsides, they will climb to less than 50% of pre-pandemic levels. This includes airplane and cruise line traffic.

We need more:

Pedestrian and park space:
We need more and it seems that Toronto is cautiously (what else) moving to improve pedestrian space so that people are able to occupy more of the road space since they are now in the majority in many parts of Toronto. How great would it be if Toronto restaurants could occupy patios outside their establishments with a minimum of red tape? Then again we live in Toronto the Careful™.

Cycling expansion:
When Toronto Council right-winger Denzil Minnan-Wong proposed to “…direct the General Manager, Transportation Services to explore the feasibility of implementing new technology including heated pavement to promote year-round cycling., our own Councillor Nunziata voted to defeat the motion. Doncha know there’s a pandemic on?

Oddly Mr. Minnan-Wong voted against his own motion. Toronto Council never fails to entertain.

Vote (Adopt Item)Apr-30-2020
Result: LostMajority Required – IE12.8 – Infrastructure and Environment Committee Recommendation 9 only
Yes: 8Brad Bradford, Joe Cressy, Paula Fletcher, Mike Layton, Jennifer McKelvie, Gord Perks, Anthony Perruzza, Kristyn Wong-Tam
No: 16Paul Ainslie, Ana Bailão, Mike Colle, Gary Crawford, John Filion, Michael Ford, Mark Grimes, Stephen Holyday, Jim Karygiannis, Cynthia Lai, Josh Matlow, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Frances Nunziata (Chair), James Pasternak, Michael Thompson, John Tory
Absent: 2Shelley Carroll, Jaye Robinson

Bless the Diavolitsis family although it’s sad that we need to raise charitable donations for our hospitals.

Local Weston and Mount Dennis business needs our patronage more than ever.

Canadian inventiveness and ‘Made In Canada’ labels may become a more common sight as we realize the sense of supporting local industry.

Education:
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has got his wish of increased distance learning and almost every student in the province is taking part in a giant online / distant learning experiment. The original goal of the Ford government was to cut education costs by requiring high school students to take four online credits. After an outcry the number was reduced to two credits but the pandemic may make online learning a necessity.

Lastly, universities coining gazillions of dollars from overseas students are learning that their golden goose has been cooked by Covid-19. In early 2020, more than 600,000 foreign students made Canada their learning playground. There’s simply no point in overseas students paying top dollar for courses at U of T or McGill if they can’t have the physical student experience of skipping classes and getting shitfaced, which is after all a major point of the exercise. No doubt accommodation and other repercussions will echo across the land when the students’ $22 billion and 170,000 related jobs disappear.

Crazy idea: chickens!

Brace yourself: I have an idea.

Chicken
From Wikipedia

With the apocalypse around the corner, I think yard owners should be allowed to raise chickens in Weston and Mount Dennis. The city already allows chickens in several other wards, but not here. I think we should change that.

There are many reasons to raise chickens. First, they’re hilariously cute. My mum had some for many years, and they were adorable.

In part they were hilarious because she didn’t raise any old tin-shed chickens; she raised heritage poultry. You can’t buy those eggs from a grocer, either because the egg cartel controls the market. Raising chickens  could help maintain the market for endangered breeds.

Urban chickens produce eggs and fertilizer—and though I’m not going to tell you that you’ll save money, they are uniquely well suited to our neighbourhood because our large trees shade other food crops. We’re also quite safe from the scourge of my mum’s roost: foxes (though we do have the occasional coyote).

Of course, there’s a hurdle: we’re not one of  the wards in which chickens are permitted. In the past, Frances Nunziata has been a vocal opponent, saying:

“If you want to have chickens, then buy a farm, go to a farm. You can’t have chickens in your backyard. Do we have to retrain our police officers to catch the chicken thieves that you’re going to have in the middle of the night? … We have enough to worry about.”

The city  allows chickens in neighbouring wards, though, and they have extensive bylaws to ensure the birds aren’t disruptive to neighbours or inhumanely kept.

Masks needed

A York South–Weston organization needs “masks, gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer, wipes and spray”, and Frances Nunziata is marshalling resources.

If you have any, you can contact her at [email protected]

Judicial review to go ahead.

A piece of good news has emerged from the life that was going on before COVID 19 hit.

As a reminder, in 2018, St Helen’s Meat Packers somehow managed to buy an 8-acre parcel of contaminated flood-plain land from the city after the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, normally fiercely protective of flood plain land, gave permission for its sale and use as a meat packing plant.

TRCA says that the land doesn’t help protect adjacent locations from flooding. Community consultation meetings became raucous affairs with St Helen’s employees ‘packing’ the meeting in matching t-shirts.

The cost for 8 acres of land in our fair city? $3.19 million.

Incidentally, Robert Bielak, president of St Helens is a Ford family friend and his wife donated (legally) to Ward 5 Councillor Frances Nunziata’s 2018 election campaign.

The site borders Rockcliffe Boulevard, a street where homes are flooded in severe rain events. The last hope for residents to stop the plant’s construction is a judicial review in which a judge will check to see if all protocols have been followed. Reviews are expensive but the $25,000 cost has been raised through a combination of public fundraising and private donors. Landscape architect Devin Tepleski organized the successful fundraiser. Incidentally, and in keeping with the councillor’s style of appearing to support both sides; one of  the donors to the fundraiser was none other than Frances Nunziata.

Frances Nunziata protesting in an Acorn march in October 2018. From CTV.

Read more here, here and here.

Floodplain fundraiser almost there

Thanks to a private donor, the gofundme fundraiser to launch a judicial review of the floodplain lands purchased by St Helen’s Meatpackers and approved by the TRCA has received a boost thanks to a donation of legal services. St Helens intends to build on the land in the face of common sense and community opposition.

The floodplain land opposite Rockcliffe Court. File.

According to team fundraiser, Devin Tepleski, the fundraising target is less than $2500 and the deadline is March 23.

From the fundraiser webpage:

“Since the TRCA decision, two men nearly drowned footsteps away from the creek, and homes in the area  flooded twice in one year.  How can the TRCA  claim to have a mandate to protect communities from flooding and at the same time allow easement on to city land so it can be sold to a meat packing plant?  This is same land they TRCA recommended be used to mitigate flooding in one of their own Environmental Assessments (2014).”

To donate click here.

Report on Mount Dennis Eco Group meeting.

Megan DeLaire at Toronto.com has written a report on the recent meeting of the Mount Dennis Eco-Neighbourhood group. Mount Dennis through their community association has spearheaded a drive to make Weston’s southern neighbour into a net-zero community.

What is a net-zero community? The term isn’t clearly defined but in general, it’s a place where total carbon emissions are reduced to zero through conservation, by changing energy sources and by generating a surplus of non-carbon based energy that is used to offset carbon emissions. It’s a laudable goal and a determined group at MDCA has been pushing it for several years with considerable success. The gas-powered generating station that was to supply the Eglinton Crosstown with emergency power was nixed in favour of a large battery. This was thanks to concerns expressed by the MDCA and others that not only would the generator pollute the neighbourhood, it would also be used during times of peak demand, adding to local pollution levels..

It’s refreshing that all three local politicians seem to be behind this endeavour, MP Ahmed Hussein sent greetings by video message, MPP Faisal Hassan is strongly supportive and local councillor Frances Nunziata spoke to the audience. Nunziata seems open to supporting net zero in new buildings which is a good thing. This will be more expensive up front but the cost savings and lower pollution levels will last for the lifetime of a building. Check out this building in London Ontario.

From CBC.ca.

Read Megan’s report here.