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.
Doug Ford is back at it again, leaving arguably the most vulnerable with less. Yesterday morning, Ford announced that there would be several cutbacks to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, as well as cutting tuition by ten percent. It seems as though the Ford government is looking to undo things that were put in place by the Liberal party simply for the sake of that, without evaluating the effects it may have.
OSAP funding will be reverting back to the 2016-2017 funding model, which means that low income students in the $30,000 or less per year income bracket, will not have tuition covered through grants anymore, as well as reducing the amount of grants received by those in higher income brackets. The cap for OSAP will once again be lowered from $170,000 per year to $140,000. This also comes with the elimination of the six month grace period, in which students have six months to pay back their loans, interest free, meaning that students will be charged interest on their loans, from the moment they graduate. Furthermore, students will now have to be out of high school for six years, as opposed to the original four, to be considered independent from their parents, and have their OSAP funding be based on the students income.
As for the ten percent tuition drop, this cost is expected to be absorbed by the universities themselves, through cuts to services available to student. Also, students will now have the opportunity to opt out of extra fees associated with their costs of tuition, like student union fees and others that the government deems non-essential. As students opt out of paying these fees, student governments and unions that are democratically elected to improve student life on campus will be left with little to no funding. This creates difficulty in these groups organising workshops to help students network and get jobs, as well as social events to help with stress and mental health problems, like having therapy dogs come in before the exam period to help everyone de-stress.
Many students in Weston come from low-income households, which makes post-secondary education that much more unattainable. Our MPP, Faisal Hassan, is a member of the New Democrats, who campaigned for free tuition for Ontario students. To express how you feel about these changes, you can call Hassan’s office at 416-243-7984. For more information on this, follow this linkto be taken to the Government of Ontario Website.
Every four years, election fever grips the land (did I mention we love elections here at Weston Web?). This year, there are two elections and the first (June 7) is to elect a provincial parliament for the next four years.
Before we go any further, as a helpful guide to our readers, here is a 3-point cynical guide to the Canadian political system’s 3 levels of government.
The Federal Government collects most tax money (about $300 billion) and does the least for the average citizen on a day-to-day basis. It takes care of nation-wide things like defence, trade and border controls.
The Provincial Government collects a lot less money (about $140 billion) but does more things that affect our daily lives like build and maintain major transportation links and run health care.
Toronto Council has the biggest impact on our daily lives yet collects the smallest amount (about $36 billion) to serve 23% of Ontario’s population and because it is forbidden by law to run a deficit, has nowhere near enough money. To finance city operations, they must beg for funds from the other two levels. This may be because the other two levels know that on any given day, about one third of councillors are batshit crazy logic impaired and many of their decisions make no sense. To put things into perspective, PC leader Doug Ford was a Toronto councillor for four years and was considered at the time to be mildly eccentric.
Anyway, digression over. About two years ago, just before the last federal election, Weston Web went out on a twig and predicted that a big red wave was coming that would sweep the country. Dutifully, the Liberals under Ahmed Hussen captured York South-Weston from then MP Mike Sullivan.
We’re going to make another equally bold declaration for the upcoming June 7th provincial election. According to several polling companies, the Progressive Conservatives under Doug Ford are likely to form the next government barring a major upset. We don’t (that’s the royal ‘we’; I shouldn’t speak for Adam) beg to differ.
What does that mean for Laura Albanese, MPP for YSW since 2007? Over the years, she has formed alliances, grown into the job and holds down a cabinet post. She is hard working and well liked with an effective and experienced staff. Will she be swept away and lose her seat to the PC Candidate, Mark DeMontis? Will the animosity towards the Wynne government combine with a blue Ford Nation wave to propel young Mr. DeMontis into office? Then there’s the NDP. Running for the first time is well known community activist, Faisal Hassan. Can the NDP under leader Andrea Horwath mount an opposing Orange Wave between now and June 7? Will York South-Weston’s left of centre voters consolidate under Mr. Hassan’s NDP banner in order to stop PC leader Doug Ford? Let’s not leave out Bonnie Hu and Grad Murray running for the Libertarian and Green parties respectively.
What does it mean for Toronto and in particular YSW? The provincial government is vitally important in steering much needed money towards Toronto’s woefully inadequate transit system, lousy infrastructure, and other neglected projects like public housing. If allocated funds are cut off, or are diverted to projects that align with a new government direction, the city will have to start the laborious planning process from scratch. More on this in later articles.
At the moment, campaigning cannot officially begin until May 9th but leaders and candidates are straining at the leash. Let’s hope they can get the electorate to participate more than they did last time. In 2014’s provincial election, Ms. Albanese won with 15,660 votes – a mere 22% of the 72,000 eligible voters in the riding. Sadly, almost 39,000 eligible voters in YSW didn’t vote for any candidate. Thats 54% of voters!
Engaging those, ‘Who cares?’ non-voters may be the key to winning on June 7.
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.
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.”
Chris Ballard’s father worked at the Kodak plant during the heyday of Mount Dennis and it was fitting that his son would return as Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to lend support to the area’s revival in the post-industrial future. Now living in Aurora, the Minister recognized that there is ‘something special’ going on in Mount Dennis. The size and enthusiasm of the crowd and organizers attested to that fact.
He was speaking in the Mount Dennis Legion to upwards of 80 people who braved last night’s cold to attend the Mount Dennis Community Association‘s AGM. Applauding the MDCA’s Net Zero initiative under way, he commented that their strong organization and forward thinking should be emulated by all communities.
After an opening invocation and ceremony from indigenous leaders, the Minister outlined Ontario Government initiatives designed to reduce energy consumption and promote conservation. He encouraged residents to visit the website greenon.ca to see the financial incentives designed to help people conserve energy. The money for such grants comes exclusively from the cap and trade system recently set up in Ontario.
MPP Laura Albanese and MP Ahmed Hussen (by recorded message from Ottawa) greeted the crowd and Councillor Frances Nunziata announced that the Pinetree Daycare Centre will become a net zero facility and will increase its capacity to 98 spaces, making it the largest daycare in the area. In addition, the Cycling Committee under her leadership will be making a number of recommendations to the community soon.
All in all, a very impressive showing for the dynamic Mount Dennis Community Association as their initiatives continue to gain momentum on a variety of fronts.
At Weston Web, we occasionally run across things that were once a good idea but now no longer work. One of them was a generous property tax rebate given to landlords of empty stores. We wrote about it back in 2013 and were pleasantly surprised when about a year ago, Mayor John Tory pledged that he would eliminate the break that had ended up doing more harm than good.
The 30% tax discount began during an economic downturn in 1998 when the Province thought it would help Ontario landlords struggling with vacant storefronts. Although times changed, Toronto continued to reward owners after a qualifying 90 day vacancy. The generous plan backfired somewhat as it reduced property tax revenues by about $22 million annually and encouraged longer store vacancies since owners are rewarded only when they hit the 90-day qualifying mark. This lower pressure to find a tenant also encouraged landlords to hold out for higher rents.
In a corner of the city struggling to keep a viable retail sector, ending the rebates may help reduce the number of empty storefronts that plague Weston and Mount Dennis. Property owners have been given notice that as of June 2018, the rebates will end after a phase-out period that began last January. The Province passed the necessary legislation on May 17, allowing the city to come up with the timeline. Well done Mayor Tory and the Provincial Government.
Incidentally, this year, claiming a shortage of money, the city kept Toronto Public Library’s budget increase to a mere 0.9% and Ontario then piled on by reducing the TPL allocation by $700,000 for the next two years.
Let’s hope that with the additional revenue, the library’s budget can now be brought up to where it should be.
Weston, like many parts of the third world – oh and also Toronto – is plagued with overhead wiring. It’s completely unnecessary since there are no streetcars in Weston. It’s in fact a false economy on the part of power and communications companies.
In the winter of 2013, the city was shut down for days because an ice storm downed a lot of overhead wiring. More than 300,000 Toronto households were affected. The cost to individuals, the city and the economy was enormous and clean-up costs alone were estimated at over $100,000,000 at the time. Don’t blame the trees; many Toronto trees had been weakened thanks to pruning to accommodate wiring!
The adjacent city of Mississauga was minimally affected because their wiring is buried safely underground.
Overhead wiring is a danger during ice storms and traffic collisions but there is an aesthetic consideration too. What is the effect of wiring on our streetscape?
Take a look at our beautiful Arts and Crafts library without overhead wires (courtesy of a quick Photoshop job). The building can be appreciated in all its glory without unsightly wiring.
Overhead wiring and transportation have one thing in common. The city and utilities should have been tackling them for decades but in Toronto, there is always a lack of money thanks to the short-sighted obsession with keeping property taxes below the rate of inflation. Interestingly, this same obsession doesn’t apply to salaries for the mayor and councillors as their paycheques are automatically linked to the rate of inflation. Nice.
Oh, by the way, yesterday’s photo reveals that the library needs new shingles. Probably cheaper than a leaky roof but then that’s not the Toronto way, is it?