Hassan hosting meeting on autism programs

Faisal Hassan, our MPP, will be hosting a community meeting on the cuts to autism services. The meeting will be this Saturday, at 2 pm, at the Jane Street Hub.

The Progressive Conservative government is reimagining the province’s autism plan, and replacing money given to health agencies with money given to parents. The goal is to reduce waiting lists, but a side-effect will be reduced funding for those already receiving services.

New Year Predictions

As the new year progresses, it’s probably a good time to make some local and not so local predictions for 2019 and beyond.

Where we are right now.

During the regimes of the late Rob Ford and current mayor John Tory, Toronto has suffered almost a decade of austerity. Now that we have a premier who operates on the same policies, it looks as if Toronto’s public realm will shrink at a more rapid pace. While John Tory looks and sounds like a moderate politician, he’s as radically right-wing as either of the Ford brothers.
Austerity at the provincial level will add to Toronto’s woes, particularly here in Weston / Mount Dennis, especially after Ford gerrymandered Toronto Council by halving the number of councillors and basing council seats on outdated demographics. The current council will have enough support for John Tory to continue the decline of our city. The only differences between Mayor Tory and Premier Ford involve jurisdiction and style rather than political leanings.

A feature of the Rob Ford and John Tory mayoralties has been ignoring the planners and making awful decisions based on dogma and pandering rather than actual need. (Scarborough Subway, Gardiner rebuilding, dangerous streets and the failure of Vision Zero, lousy transit planning, an ineffective and demoralized police force, uncontrolled development…). Added to that, the refusal to charge an appropriate level of property tax has resulted in a lack of funds for city initiatives along with a dilapidated and inadequate public housing inventory. The late British actor Peter Ustinov once called Toronto, “New York run by the Swiss.“. I wonder how he would have described the 2019 version of our city.

Prediction 1: Poverty is about to get real in Weston / Mount Dennis.

Ford has frozen the (already inadequate) minimum wage at $14.00 an hour. It was due to rise to $15 this January 1. This roughly translates to a $2000 annual loss for minimum wage earners, only slightly offset by a tax cut. Basically, general taxes subsidize the wages of minimum wage earners while companies keep the savings and remove them from the community. Other austerity measures include removal of funding for repairs to Toronto schools and public housing (the money would have come from Cap and Trade). Less money and fewer job opportunities will mean more poverty and crime.

What can we do to fight this? Patronize only those businesses that pay workers $15 or more hourly. Call out companies that don’t. Support organizations that fight poverty.

Prediction 2: Massive decisions based on hunches and rewarding friends.

Arbitrary decision making and cronyism has only just begun. When you have lots of friends and lots of jobs to fill, there’s no end to the possibilities. Ford is a big proponent of subways regardless of need, cost and location. He famously suggested building a casino at Exhibition Place and and a ferris wheel on the Port Lands. Now that he’s in charge, the sky will be the limit. The TTC’s subway system will soon be handed over to the hopelessly inept Metrolinx. These are the people who are bungling the Presto Card implementation  The subway takeover plan will involve selling building rights on top of subway stations. The TTC will become a bus service. Incidentally, Metrolinx seems to taking measures designed to suck up to Ford – things like removing electric vehicle charging outlets from GO stations.

Prediction 3: A fire sale of provincial assets.

In order to balance the books and pay for Ford’s re-shaping of Ontario, the private sector will be called on to provide financing. Obtaining private money will involve selling precious public assets such as the LCBO and Ontario Place.

Prediction 4: A two-tier health care system.

Our health care system eats up $53.3 billion or about 39% of the Ontario budget. Ford would dearly love to find ‘efficiencies’ here. He may want private companies and hospitals to set up shop in Ontario. He may also entertain the possibility of people jumping the queue for a fee. A big obstacle is the Canada Health Act and that is why Ford is openly campaigning against Justin Trudeau in the hopes that a Conservative federal government will repeal or amend the act to insert some private health care. The new system might look like the  U.K.’s National Health Service which runs alongside a private system. When the rich (and politicians) are able to jump the queue, you can guarantee that health care for regular folks will suffer.

Prediction 5: Less information and more secrecy.

Many decisions made by the Ford government are made to reward his cronies or appease his fringe supporters and don’t hold up well under scrutiny (1998 Health Curriculum, Ron Taverner…).  Look for Ford and his government to distance themselves even further from accountability and awkward questions from the press. They spread the word through Ontario’s taxpayer funded version of Pravda.

Prediction 6: Local lefty initiatives to end.

Now that Councillor Frances Nunziata has been re-elected, look for her pre-election moderate stance to be dropped. Lefty frivolities such as bike paths and pedestrian safety measures will be quietly shelved. Ms Nunziata will continue to be the councillor most likely to vote with Mayor Tory.

Glimmers of hope for Weston /Mount Dennis:

The Weston Hub will open in February along with many new residents in the 360+ rental units. A small colony of artists will occupy the live / work spaces. Construction on the site will end allowing the area to flourish.
The Weston Farmers Market will have an attractive new home in the centre of Weston that will attract people from outside the area. Two cultural organizations, Shakespeare in Action and UrbanArts hold anchor positions in the new Hub and will also attract visitors to our community.

More businesses are opening up as the UP Express provides a rapid and regular link to downtown.

On Weston Road, retail stores are being renovated and a payday loan company has closed.

A small number of affordable units at 22 John Street will be made available through a lottery held between eligible applicants. Use this link to apply (the link becomes live on Monday January 14; the application process will close January 28).

Interesting Possibilities:

Prime Minister Trudeau will perform a minor cabinet shuffle on Monday and unpopular York South-Weston MP, Ahmed Hussen may be moved laterally or demoted. A lateral move might be part of an effort to distance Mr. Hussen from the burdensome immigration file and boost his chances in October’s general election.

What’s up at Church Street Hospital?

Way back in 2018, I was asked what was up at the Church Street site of the  Humber River Hospital (and I never did find out). An answer has come to light thanks to some readers and Frances Nunziata’s circular: It’s a “Reactivation Care Centre”—an off-ramp for acute-care hospital patients, who “no longer need acute care services, but often find themselves waiting for an alternate care facility, such as convalescent and long-term care.”

Photo from Sunnybrook

Our RCC is the second in the province, preceded by the Finch Avenue site that was also part of the Humber River Regional Hospital group.

According to Nunziata’s circular, things are still getting started at our location, and at present, there are 94 beds. An additional 120 will be opened in March.

The Church Street site will alleviate pressure at local acute-care hospitals that are part of the Central Local Health Integration Network. Sunnybrook, for example,  typically has “an occupancy rate of over 100 per cent”; sending patients to the Church RCC will free up beds needed urgently, and give patients specialized restorative care.

So it’s a win-win.

It’s also great news for Weston.

When the Church Street site was closed, many residents were concerned that it would be sold to developers, and that a high-density development would be built in a low-density neighbourhood. There were also concerns we would be missing the chance to develop a public good, like a college, seniors’ home, childcare, or park.

Plans to sell the property were thwarted, at least at first, by an odd legal artifact: 70 years ago, the Trimbee family sold the land to the Town of Weston with the condition that it would be used only for a hospital. The city sought to vacate that condition.

Mental Health Awareness in Weston for Men’s Mental Health Month

Movember is a term that was coined in 2004, though the first events with this name did not begin until 2007. Movember is a movement designed to bring awareness to men’s health issues like prostate cancer and mental health issues. There is an advertisement for this organization on the north-east corner of Church and Jane, which you may have seen. With the focus of this month being on mental health in men, it is a good time to brush up on the services available to us in Weston.

Within Weston itself, there are no mental health services that pop-up on Google, but this does not mean that residents do not have a need for it. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are on the rise, especially with adolescents. According to the CAMH website, 34% of high school students report feeling moderate to severe levels of psychological distress, which is a symptom of anxiety and depression, and by the age of 40, 50% of people will have had or have a mental illness.  Many people who experience these illnesses do not seek help as they either do not have access to it or are worried about what those around them may say, as there is a large stigma surrounding mental illness. This month is a good time to remind ourselves and those around us that mental illness is normal and that we are loved.

Looking online can provide those with mental illness with good coping techniques, but it is best to see your doctor if you feel you may be suffering. There are options. Some services in the area surrounding Weston include Etobicoke Psychological Services, The Etobicoke Children’s Centre and the Family Association for Mental Health Everywhere (FAME). Students can also turn to guidance counsellors within their school, as they can be given the accommodations they need. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness, there are options for you to get the help you need.

Weston walking club set for June.

The beneficial mental and physical effects of walking are well known. In June, the Humber River Family Health Team is holding a series of 60-minute Tuesday and Thursday walks along the Humber. The idea is to help Weston FHT patients with their health and fitness goals but anyone can participate.

A carpet of flowers stretches along the path in Cruickshank Park last June (file).

Entry requirements: participants must undergo a brief health screening one or two weeks prior to the walks to determine that vital signs like blood pressure are satisfactory. Screenings are at no cost to participants.

According to organizers, “We will walk for 60 minutes. 30 minutes reserved for cool down stretches, education and light refreshments.”.

Walks will begin at the Humber River Family Health Team’s location at 2050 Weston Road (the old Post Office building).

Dates:  June 5, 7, 12, 14, 19, 21, 26, 28

Time for all walks: 1-2:30pm

Phone 416 740 2810 for more information and to book a screening.

Could the Weston hospital re-open?

The province will likely reopen the Jane and Finch branch of the Humber River Regional Hospital, according to to Eric Hoskins, the Minister of Health. It may be used to ease a capacity crunch in pre-longterm care. Perhaps the Church Street site could be also be reopened.

Both the Jane and Finch and Church Street sites were closed in 2015. The HRRHs’ services were consolidated at the new Wilson and Keele site.

The Church site, which  Hoskins did not mention in his speech at Queen’s Park, remains unsold as lawyers work through a thorny issue: the Trimbee family gave away a chunk of land the building sits on with a condition: its ownership would revert to the Town of Weston if it were no longer used as a hospital.

Re-opening the Church site may be a long shot, but the province could use as many as 3000 beds for people too ill or too frail to go home but who are not suited to the acute care provided at a hospital. The Finch site has only 150. In a spirited exchange at Queen’s Park, Hoskins said

since day one of that new hospital opening, we have been looking at this as a positive opportunity to free up capacity in a number of hospitals, not just Humber River. There are a number of hospitals in Toronto and the GTA that are contributing to this plan.

 

West Park to be redeveloped

The West Park Healthcare Centre in Mount Dennis has asked for permission to change their campus quite a bit: one central building will replace three of the older buildings leading to “loss of the central lawn”, road building, and “potential impact[s] on the open space, natural heritage areas and trees on the lands”.

WP proposal
WP proposal

 

West Park now
West Park now

The planning process has been going on since 2003, and a new building is justified on the grounds that the older buildings are not up to “contemporary standards of care”.  In 2010, the centre received its first round of approval from the city.

Still, the central lawn is one of the facility’s most striking features: I wonder if it was for sick tuberculosis patients to take the air back when the site was the Toronto Free Hospital for the Consumptive Poor. It would be a shame to lose it; the site also provides riverside greenspace, and a mature tree canopy.

A meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 5 to discuss the proposal. I’ll update when I find out where it will be.