Two new entrants in race for councillor

To nobody’s surprise, incumbent Frances Nunziata has  entered the race to Frances Nunziatabe Ward 11’s city councillor. Nunziata has been a politician for more than 30 years, and our councillor since the ward was created. She is also City Hall’s speaker.

Another candidate, whom I have had not had the pleasure of meeting, has also thrown his hat into the ring. Luis Portillo used to work for Seaton House, a homeless shelter, as a client services worker.

Padovani tackles TD Canada Trust closing.

TD Canada Trust in Weston.

Chiara Padovani wants to be York South-Weston’s next councillor for Ward 11, replacing long-time incumbent Frances Nunziata. She has become quite active in the ward and among other things is closely monitoring the state of retail in YSW.

She recently promised that she would contact the Financial Consumer Agency regarding the recently announced closure of Weston’s TD Canada Trust branch. The closure was announced without any community consultation and Ms Padovani is seeking such a consultation by writing to the FCAC’s Commissioner, Lucie Tedesco.

Here is the letter that Ms Padovani sent:

Re: File with reference number 363484

Dear Commissioner Tedesco,

I am writing to request a meeting regarding the closure of the TD Canada Trust Bank located at 1979 Weston Road in Toronto Ontario (Branch Number 335).

This marks the fourth TD Branch closure in York South-Weston, a community that has become the target of predatory lending and payday loans. The bank has failed to fulfill its obligation to consult with the community, and many customers – myself included – did not even receive notice of the bank’s closure.

As a resident and local social worker in the community, I cannot stress the importance of providing fair access to financial institutions. Had TD Canada Trust consulted with the community, they would have become aware of the social and economic hardship that this closure will cause to the residents of Weston including but not limited to:

Proximity – The branch is within walking distance of over 10,000 residents. Many of these residents do not own cars and spending nearly $7 on the TTC fare required to get to the new location will be a significant barrier for low-income customers. In Forest Hill, a far less densely populated neighbourhood, there are seven TD Banks within close proximity of each other.

Accessibility – The branch is located in a neighbourhood where many residents are seniors and people with disabilities. These residents rely on this branch because they can access banking services without having to travel far.

Lack of financial alternatives – CIBC, Scotiabank and TD Canada Trust branches have already closed down and left the neighbourhood. Predatory lenders are quickly filling the gap for financial services in York South-Weston. As you know, these institutions trap hard-working families in a cycle of debt and economic violence that will threaten the quality of life for too many in this community.

These are just some of the reasons I ask that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada convene a public meeting between the community and TD Canada Trust to discuss and resolve the challenges posed by the bank’s imminent closure.

Sincerely,

Chiara Padovani

I contacted the MP for York South-Weston Ahmed Hussen a couple of weeks ago regarding the closure and a staff member tried to fob me off to the Ottawa office bizarrely claiming that it was not a local matter. After persisting, the staffer said he would inform the minister and call back but never did. Apparently that’s not an unusual experience.

If you would like to add your voice to the initiative, contact the FCAC at 1-866-461-3222 and mention file number 363484.

Local lawyer wants to be mayor of Toronto

Saron Gebresellassi (from Facebook).

High flying local lawyer, 31-year old Saron Gebresellassi is running for mayor of Toronto. She came from Eritrea to Canada as an infant in 1989 and according to an article in The Lawyer’s Daily, her impressive list of accomplishments ranges from fluency in six languages to classical piano and flute playing. She graduated debt free from three universities thanks to winning several private scholarships. While she’s unlikely to defeat the incumbent, she will no doubt raise the profile of York South-Weston and introduce some important issues into the campaign.

New entrant in race for councillor

Ward 11 has been Frances Nunziata’s turf for as long as the ward has existed, and nobody has come close to unseating her: the last serious challenge was by Paul Ferreira, in 2006, and he was walloped.

Nunziata’s long reign may, at least, be challenged. Chiara Padovani, a left-leaning activist, announced her candidacy this week. In her letter to residents, she said,

For too long, we’ve been forgotten by City Hall.

Overcrowded buses, potholes, flooding, abandoned lots with overgrown weeds – these are just a few examples of the municipal neglect in our community. Growing inequality, unaffordability, declining city services, and a lack of meaningful community engagement from the current leadership at City Hall, threaten to worsen the quality of life for all of us.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Chiara Padovani
From Twitter.

Padovani has institutional support like no challenger has had in more than a decade, and she will flank Nunziata from the left, where Nunziata is weakest. She has also been positioning herself for a several months as an advocate and community member, and led opposition to a meat plant at 200 Rockcliffe (including in these pixels).

Nunziata has not yet filed her election paperwork, but when she does so, she will be the third candidate in the riding. Joey Carapinha, with whom your correspondent is unfamiliar, has also registered.

PC Vote result for York South-Weston

The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario has published results of its recent leadership vote, broken down by riding and there are some interesting details. The vote was done through a process known as ranked balloting. Voters ranked each candidate in order of preference. Once all the first choices were counted, the last place candidate was eliminated. Voters whose candidate was eliminated in the first round had their second choice vote added to the remaining candidates’ tallies.

The online ballot used in the PC leadership vote.

Incidentally, although the PCs, Liberals and NDP use ranked balloting when choosing a leader, most of the right-leaning members of council (including our own) voted against studying ranked balloting for the 2022 civic election. The federal Liberals have backed off also.

First Round: York South-Weston

  • NAME                                         VOTES     %
  • ALLEN, Tanya Granic                23     11%
  • ELLIOTT, Christine                    46    22%
  • FORD, Doug                                  133    63.6%
  • MULRONEY, Caroline                   7      3.3%
  • 209 total votes

Second Round

  • NAME                                         VOTES     %
  • ELLIOTT, Christine                    49    23.7%
  • FORD, Doug                                  151    63.6%
  • MULRONEY, Caroline                   7      3.3%
  • 207 total votes

4th place (in Ontario) Tanya Granic Allen, was eliminated and as expected, most of her votes provincially and in YSW went to Ford.

Third Round

  • NAME                                         VOTES     %
  • ELLIOTT, Christine                    55    26.7%
  • FORD, Doug                                  151    73.3%
  • 206 total votes

All vote percentages have been rounded to the nearest tenth for clarity.

The riding with the most eligible votes cast (from those who joined the PC Party and paid $10) was Don Valley West with 1334; the least: Kiiwetinoong (a huge new northern Ontario riding that comes into play this year) with only 34. York South-Weston had 209 people voting.

The fact that only 209 people voted does not bode well for the PCs in York South Weston. On the other hand, the local strength of Doug Ford should give PC nominee Mark DeMontis some comfort in a riding that has been solidly Liberal with a brief exception (Paul Ferreira for the NDP between February and October of 2007) since its formation in 1999.

Income inequality linked to crime.

From Bizarro.com

Here in Weston / Mount Dennis, a significant percentage of our population earns less than the average Toronto resident. In addition, we have more single parent households (30%, compared to the Toronto average of 21%).

How can these statistics be improved? Gentrification is often thought to be the answer. Unfortunately it can force low income people out through higher rents and property prices. This is happening across Toronto and simply shifts the problem to other areas. It does nothing to help people – in fact by forcing them to move, their lives are further disrupted. A better and more humane way is to support individuals so that they can pull themselves out of poverty. It also benefits society as a whole.

A review of studies in 2013 concluded that:

a decrease in income inequality is associated with sizeable reduction in crime. It is evident that a focus on reducing income inequality can be advantageous to reducing property crime, robbery, homicide and murder…

One of the problems with studies and facts is that sometimes they don’t fit the popular narrative. Some politicians find it much easier to blame the victims of poverty as being the cause of their own misfortune. They also look down on efforts to help the poor. Rob Ford’s famous ‘Hug a thug’ comment was made to justify his council vote against participating in a federal gang intervention project.

Should we expect politicians to look for ways to lower poverty? For example, raise the minimum wage so that people can earn a living wage. As of last month, the minimum wage became $14.00 and will become $15.00 next January. Without wishing to impugn the Premier’s motives, we may have to thank an election year and her attempt to outflank the NDP for that move. In general though, it makes sense to lower inequality as it has the potential to improve everyone’s quality of life.

How else can politicians reduce inequality? They should be spending more on:

  • education
  • public housing,
  • transit
  • bike lanes
  • social services
  • libraries
  • parks
  • addiction support
  • homelessness.

Why should we support this? Another recent study has shown that increasing social spending has a more positive impact on longevity and general health than increasing health care spending.

With the provincial and civic elections coming up in June and October, politicians will be courting our vote through some blunt platforms. There will be some who will promise to reduce spending, find efficiencies and cut taxes. They will talk about taxpayers rather than citizens. They will promise to keep property taxes at or below the level of inflation and reduce income taxes – in effect forcing a funding shortage since costs are always rising. Beware of these people – they have caused our current crises through:

  • A constant focus on austerity
  • Inadequate spending on public housing and repairs
  • Opposing anti-poverty initiatives
  • Prioritizing cars over pedestrians, bicycles and public transit
  • Diversion of money to dogma / re-election driven transportation issues (e.g. Scarborough subway, Gardiner extension).
  • Refusing to adequately subsidize public transportation (Toronto’s subsidy is .78 per ride compared to $1.03 in New York or $2.21 in Mississauga).

In other words, their platform is designed to increase income inequality and therefore higher crime and lower quality of life.

Thinking citizens don’t mind paying taxes because they see the bigger picture. The siren call of lower taxes is a tempting one and popular with unscrupulous politicians. Unfortunately the effects aren’t pretty.

Incidentally, everyone in Canada is a taxpayer. Perhaps politicians should talk about citizens instead.

Budget subcommittee presentations this afternoon and tonight.

This afternoon and tonight at the York Civic Centre, Budget Subcommittee members will hear public presentations on the 2018 Operating & Capital Budgets at the York Civic Centre, located at 2700 Eglinton Ave. W. on January 9, 2017. Included in the discussion will be proposed changes to user fees.

It will be interesting to see if the John Tory administration will continue to increase user fees to place more of the burden on users. If they don’t, it might indicate a leftward shift in time for next October’s election.

There will be two sessions; one beginning at 3 pm and the other from 6 to 8 pm.