Small beige wave’s a comin’

From surfysurfy.net

With great uncertainty and mixed polls, the October 21 general election is anyone’s to win or lose. After nearly four years of a Trudeau Liberal government, local MP, Ahmed Hussen is hoping for a second term. During the last election, a dump Harper movement coincided with a charismatic photogenic new Liberal leader. If that wasn’t enough, the NDP leader talked more like a Red Tory than the rabid socialist his opponents would have preferred. People had their doubts about Trudeau but gave him a chance and he won a majority government.

As the next election looms, the NDP and Tories have new, young leaders – Trudeau at 47 is the old man to Singh’s and Scheer’s 40 – even though Andrew Scheer is looking more and more like a young version of one of his Tory predecessors – John Diefenbaker.

A return to the good old days of Dief the Chief?

Sadly, this time around, there is no clear and compelling reason to vote for any of the three main leaders (realistically, neither the Green Party’s Elizabeth May nor the People’s Party’s Maxime Bernier will form a government). During the last election campaign, Trudeau made and later ignored important promises. His promise of electoral reform was broken when the party realized that it meant fewer elected Liberals. On the Aboriginal file, he’s been less than stellar but in fairness the job is monumental and will take a lot more effort, time and money to deliver. Other negatives are his virtue signalling prissy mode, the firing of two cabinet ministers and his cringe-worthy trip to India. Justin’s costume changes are gifts that will keep on giving during the campaign. On the plus side, he’s almost universally hated in the prairie provinces.

Trudeau’s major achievements are that he legalized cannabis, instituted a carbon tax and didn’t give away the (non-dairy) farm during NAFTA negotiations.

Under-dressed Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan meets er, the Prime Minister of Canada.

In the meantime, Andrew Scheer promises to be the reddest Tory ever and wants us to believe he would fail to pick out Doug Ford in a police line-up.

Leading the NDP is Jagmeet Singh, a dynamic and charming man who, judging by recent polls, is failing to connect with the people of Canada. Fundraising is also becoming an issue for the NDP and a lack of money will hurt them in the final stretch of the campaign.

York South-Weston has been a Liberal riding since its formation in 1979 with two brief exceptions. Liberal John Nunziata (and brother of Councillor Frances Nunziata) was kicked out of the party and sat as an independent from 1996 – 2000 and more recently, Mike Sullivan unseated multi-term Alan Tonks in the Jack Layton propelled orange wave of 2011.

To win in York South-Weston therefore, it takes a compelling candidate plus a small red wave, large orange wave or a never before seen blue tsunami. Interestingly, for the 2019 election, it looks like a small beige wave is on the way. This should favour the incumbent.

The major candidates:

Incumbent Liberal Ahmed Hussen is currently making up for lost time in the riding and has increased his local presence considerably in the past few weeks.  He has adopted the ‘meet, greet and feed’ style of Doug Ford in his latest encounters with constituents.


Mr Hussen has the power of incumbency. As Immigration Minister (and first ever Somali-Canadian in Cabinet), he has travelled extensively and rubbed shoulders with international leaders (not all of them savoury). His background is compelling having arrived in Canada as a refugee. Being a rookie MP and a cabinet minister is not for the faint of heart and Mr. Hussen seems to have coped well with the huge learning curve presented to him. I get the feeling his ambitions go beyond a cabinet appointment. On the negative side, Minister Hussen seems to run a pretty aloof and unresponsive operation and doesn’t live in the riding.

Yafet Tewelde is Ahmed Hussen’s main challenger. He has a solid organization and strong connections to YSW, not just as a resident. He’s been politically active in the community for a while. Mr. Tewelde is well educated and immigrated to Canada from Eritrea. Style wise, he’s as charming and talkative as Ahmed Hussen is quiet and reserved.

Tory nominee Dr. Jasveen Rattan is a successful and well-educated candidate with a compelling story having come to Canada as an infant. Her PhD is in recreation and leisure studies and she has been active as an organizer in provincial and civic politics.

Mr. Tewelde will need to run an exceptional campaign and Jagmeet Singh will need to connect with voters Jack Layton style in order to return York South-Weston into the NDP fold. Without that, it looks as if Ahmed Hussen will win another four year mandate.

As for Dr. Rattan, based on past results and barring a miracle, York South-Weston’s seat will have to be be a long term goal for her. The Harper years failed to register in YSW. She will need to make herself known during this campaign and stick around if she hopes to capture the seat in 2023 0r 2027.

More thoughts on distracted pedestrians

Screengrab from toronto.ctvnews.ca

I’ve often said that the most dangerous thing anyone can do in Weston is walk across the street. It’s true; 40 pedestrians in Toronto were killed last year in the second full year of Zero Vision Vision Zero. Many more suffered life altering injuries. This is the initiative designed to bring Toronto’s annual traffic-related carnage to zero fatalities by 2021.

So far, Vision Zero has been an abject failure – pedestrian fatalities rose from 37 to 40 between 2017 and 2018.

Vision Zero faces an uphill battle in our city with its woefully inadequate public transit and streets designed to favour cars. Many suburban car owners opt to drive downtown rather than suffer a longer and less comfortable time on Toronto’s poorly planned and overcrowded transit system. These drivers want clearer streets, higher speed limits and no pesky buses, cyclists or pedestrians getting in the way.

Many motor-minded folks put the blame for traffic collisions squarely on inattentive pedestrians and cyclists. They also blame them for not wearing appropriately coloured clothing. This is the school of thought that says pedestrians and cyclists should wear glow-in-the-dark fluorescent clothing while cyclists should be licensed and insured, wear bright orange and pay road tax. As Adam says, they blame the victims.

When pedestrians and cyclists are inattentive, they largely put themselves at risk. Inattentive motorists pose a risk to all road users. 1600 kilos of metal travelling at 60 km/h is far more dangerous than 100 kilos of flesh and bone walking at 6 km/h or even 26 km/h on a bike. Mathematically, the onus for care and attention should be at hundreds of times greater on the motorist than the pedestrian but somehow drivers feel the obligation is an equal one. (Mathematical purists – I understand the speed thing makes the multiple even higher but I’m on a roll here. Please feel free to calculate a better answer.)

From Toronto.com

What about pedestrians crossing the road away from a designated crossing? This is perfectly legal 30 metres or more from a crossing or intersection. Motorists should expect to see pedestrians crossing the road between intersections and drive accordingly.

What about the people being killed? The vast majority are in Scarborough where speed limits are generally higher. They are also predominantly older – not nimble enough to make it across in time. As the old saying goes; speed kills. A reduction in the speed of traffic is a big answer to traffic injuries and fatalities.

From Pressreader.com. Click to enlarge.

Finally:

  • This is clearly an equity issue (not just for seniors) and one that should have top priority.
  • Toronto Council has failed for years to build the bike lanes that it has approved. The current pace has averaged a dismal 20 km annually. There’s a fresh set of such promises for 2019 and beyond (they claim this time they mean it).
  • North America’s safest city is Montréal. We should study what they do there. For example, Montréal’s bike network exceeds 350 km compared to Toronto’s pitiful and disjointed <150 km.
  • The disturbing uptick in fatalities may be caused by drivers attending to their phones. There needs to be a solution to this problem. Perhaps technology is the answer.
  • Councillor Nunziata was responsible for establishing a committee which came up with an awesome action plan to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists (in old Ward 11). Many of the recommendations are excellent and hopefully they will be updated to include old Ward 12 and implemented asap. Ms. Nunziata is taking predictable flak for supporting bike lanes on Scarlett Road south of Eglinton. She should be applauded for this initiative.

Derelict houses to (finally) be destroyed

Frances Nunziata’s office says that the derelict houses at 2270 and 2274 Weston road, which have been an eyesore and hazard for more than a decade, will finally be demolished to make way for a  12-storey apartment building.

One of the two derelict houses
One of the two derelict houses

After years and years of waiting, an application has finally been submitted to the City to demolish the two derelict houses located at 2270 and 2274 Weston Road, which have long been an eyesore in the community for many years. I am pleased to update you that a demolition permit has been submitted to tear down these two buildings. In 2015, the owners received approval to construct a 12-storey apartment building. The project is going through the site plan approval process.

 

Nunziata blames distracted pedestrians for getting killed

City Council voted unanimously this week to adopt the Vision Zero 2.0 program, which aims to end pedestrian deaths in Toronto. Version 1.0 was, at best, only partially successful: 47 pedestrians and cyclists were killed in Toronto in 2018, two more than in 2017.

The 2.0 plan will “reduce speed limits on dozens of arterial roads across Toronto, install more sidewalks and implement more pedestrian head-start signals, among other measures”.

Frances Nunziata acknowledged the challenges councillors face: “it’s just constantly people wanting traffic calming, speed humps, they want stop signs, they want lights, because it’s really an issue throughout this city.” And Nunziata has been very good about getting speed humps and slowing traffic. Her office has also been working on a cycling plan for the ward.

However, in discussion, she blamed distracted cyclists and pedestrians for their own deaths.

I think it’s important that pedestrians are educated as well, when they’re crossing the street and cyclists as well. You see so many pedestrians crossing the street at an intersection, texting on their phone, talking on their phone, with their earphones, and they’re walking across the street, red light, or they’re not even crossing at an intersection, and that’s very dangerous  as well. And you know, continues to happen, and you know, I know a few years ago, I put a motion through that they should be fined. The province did not support that at that time, but if you… a lot more of them are not paying attention to the roads, the pedestrians, and I think there’s a lot of fatalities as well because there’s no education and they’re not paying attention and the cyclists as well, when they’ve got the earphones, and they’re not hearing, and  they’re not paying attention the road safety. So I think it’s not just for the motorists, it’s for the pedestrians, the cyclists, all of us have to share in making our streets safer.


In 2016, Nunziata asked the province to ticket distracted pedestrians, an idea that was quickly shot down.  She has also called for cyclists to be licensed, an idea proven to be terrible.

A failure of politics in Ward 5.

Just 8 days after NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visited residents of Rockcliffe-Smythe, another heavy rainfall inundated the area and a nasty sewage mix flooded many homes. It must be the last straw for families who were flooded as recently as last year. Last week, resident Franco Ruffolo despaired that his house is uninsurable and unsellable because of the regular flooding. Franco, and many others in Toronto and particularly in Ward 5, York South-Weston, constantly dread that heavy rain will lead to the inundation of their homes.

The problem stems from  the fact that as more of the city becomes paved over, runoff from roofs, driveways and streets is dumped directly into channels, rivers and storm sewers which in many parts of the city are combined with the sanitary sewers. This means that rainfall overloads the combined sewers leading to raw sewage being dumped into rivers and eventually into homes – City News.

From Bergen Counties Utility Authority.

In the Rockcliffe-Smythe area, the creek that used to flow naturally through the area (Black Creek) was channelled into a concrete straight jacket. Thanks to heavier rains and more buildings, the channel overflows occasionally with horrible yet predictable results. In other areas, the extra pressure on a combined sewer forces sewage up into homes through basement drains.

What can be done? We need to plant more trees, put up green roofs, divert downspouts so that runoff from roofs drains onto ground where it will be absorbed rather than piped directly into sewers. We also need to separate storm and sanitary sewers so that raw sewage stays out of people’s homes and our rivers and creeks. A few years ago, Toronto instituted a mandatory program to disconnect downspouts where possible. Most of all, we need politicians and agencies to actually do their job and work for the people.

Councillor Nunziata in the City News clip blames the TRCA for dragging its feet. The horrible flooding of six years ago should have propelled all actors in this tragedy to get their act together and do something. Sadly, the councillor even voted against an innovative hard surface charge that would have made homeowners pay for the hard surfaces covering their property. This revenue would have been directed towards flood relief but Giorgio Mammoliti framed it as a roof tax and Council (including Mayor Tory and Ms Nunziata) voted against it.

Perhaps it’s time for politicians and agencies to stop the blame game and actually do something. We can start by accelerating the separation of storm and sanitary sewers in priority areas. Holding tanks can reduce the flow in the meantime and planting trees would help. We also need Council to take this issue seriously.

That’s without even considering the bizarre and troubling sale of 8 acres of Rockcliffe-Smythe flood plain land to St Helen’s Meat Packers Limited for less than $4 million – with the support of Councillor Nunziata.

Incidentally, St Helen’s President Robert Bielak donated (the maximum allowed) $1200 to Ms Nunziata’s 2018 campaign.

As Brian Mulroney used to say, “You dance with those who brung you”.

Weston GO and UP Express numbers may drop

The UP Express at Weston Station. (file)

Back in 2011, Weston Web reported that the old Weston Station on John Street used to see about 450 trips daily (weekdays only). That would translate into about 225 people using the station.

Metrolinx published Weston’s passenger numbers for UP Ex and GO last April and they were up sharply thanks to a $1.50 subsidy for people making one journey using both the GO and TTC (courtesy of the Kathleen Wynne government). This was possible only for passengers using the much loved Presto Card.

The latest figures from April show that between April 2018 and January 2019, GO passenger numbers increased by 21% while UP Ex numbers were up 15.8%. Weston station sees about 1100 GO trips daily while UP Ex has about 940. That’s about 1000 people daily going through Weston Station which is a huge increase from the 225 in 2011.

With the recent announcement that the Ford government will drop the subsidy, there is concern that people will get back in their cars and drive.

Metrolinx claims it is willing to throw in 75¢ of the rebate if the city of Toronto will throw in the other half of the rebate but as usual, Toronto, in its 227th year of austerity, is pleading poverty.

Over to you Councillors Nunziata and Holyday.

 

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.