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.

Reasons to be cheerful.

Adapted from Real Style Network.

As the New Year opens, there are some hopeful signs that 2018 will be better and more cheerful than 2017. Here are a few in no particular order.

Minimum Wage and Paid Vacations.

From today, the Ontario minimum wage moves from $11.60 to $14.00. While this may be a tough slog for small businesses, for a large number of people in Weston / Mount Dennis and millions in Ontario, a 21% rise in hourly wages will be a great boost to their personal finances. Contrary to the debunked Trickle Down Theory, when poor people get money, they spend it, increasing growth.

Prescription plan for under 25 year-olds.

This little heralded plan will genuinely improve the lives of millions of Ontario children and young adults by ensuring that most prescriptions and health care supplies are provided at no cost. These two measures from the Ontario Government will provide a much needed boost to our local economy as disposable income rises. Better yet, they were implemented before an election.

Net Zero

The ongoing Net Zero initiative from the impressively well organized and determined Mount Dennis Community Association. 

It can only get warmer.

Our spell of Alberta weather has no end in sight and is no doubt providing a bonanza to plumbers and furnace repair companies. Our days are already getting longer so can spring be far away? Besides, there are surprising benefits that come with cold weather.

Election year x 2

Here at Weston Web we love elections. Not only do we have a provincial election in June but a civic one in October.

Ontario

In Ontario, Kathleen Wynne will be looking to hang on to power for the Liberals, battling the Tories’ Patrick Brown and Andrea Horwath for the NDP. Locally we have Laura Albanese who has gained in confidence and competence over the years and will be a formidable opponent. She will be facing Faisal Hassan who worked locally in former NDP MP Mike Sullivan’s office and Mark DeMontis whose compelling story and hockey background may resonate.

In Etobicoke Centre, Liberal Yvan Baker will probably hold his seat despite his seemingly limited thinking skills. In Toronto last year, around 50 people were killed by people driving vehicles, yet in spite of data showing distracted driving to be the major cause of deaths, Mr Baker chose to target pedestrians with his private member’s bill.

Toronto

In Toronto‘s civic elections in October, Ward 2 will see Mike Ford handily re-elected while in Ward 11, Frances Nunziata will no doubt achieve the same result. The big story will be who will win the mayoral election and thus decide the future of the city. Doug Ford is already pulling rank on nephew Mike – Mike’s Christmas message was hijacked by Uncle Doug. Frances Nunziata will likely be speaker regardless of whether Tory or Ford win since she has a foot in both camps. The big question will be if a credible centre-left candidate can run and pull the rug out from under ‘Rob Ford in sheep’s clothing’, John Tory. The Mayor has already moved his talking points sharply to the left in anticipation and will be vulnerable to Ford as a result.

Another reason for optimism is that thanks to ward distribution, the three additional council seats may not be so friendly to Mayor Tory should he be successful.

Pedestrian and Cycling Safety

Councillor Nunziata’s Pedestrian Safety and Cycling Committee will soon be releasing their recommendations for Ward 11.

Weston Hub

The Weston Hub will see artists able to occupy their studio spaces in July as work continues on the 30-storey rental apartment tower, community space and rental storage facility.

Sewer Relining Ends

Sewer work will be ending this year along the Humber and peace will return, (hopefully in October) to our parks after years of clanking disruption from heavy machinery. Cyclists and walkers will appreciate having the Pan Am trail to themselves once more.

We’re Safer than Ever!

The Economist recently placed Toronto as the fourth safest city in the world after Tokyo, Singapore and Osaka.

OK readers, your turn. What makes you cheerful about 2018?

Five things that need to change in Weston / Mount Dennis. Part 4.

As we approach the year end, here are some things that seem to be holding us back locally. This is the fourth of a five part series.

As always, your comments are welcome.

4. The Democratic Process.

From aguafund.org

Next October will see city council elections for councillors and and mayor. Barring a cataclysmic upheaval, few seats will change hands in 2018. One positive note comes from the recent redrawing of ward boundaries to better reflect the changing population densities. The boundaries, in place since 1999 needed updating since ward populations had become uneven during that time. For example, downtown has many more residents thanks to the ongoing condo boom. This change was fought by the likes of Justin Di Ciano and Giorgio Mammoliti who presumably felt threatened by a more democratic redistribution. The OMB, (needing to act quickly and not known as a fan of democracy) in a surprising decision, rightly smacked down the appeal.

Ward 11 (along with only 6 others) will be unaffected as the population in our area has remained relatively static but four additional wards will be created in time for the elections; three of them in the downtown core. Downtown wards are often quite left leaning so the good news is that this may signal a more progressive council in the next term

We have a ‘first past the post’ system for all Canadian Elections including local council seats and mayor. A simple majority determines the winner. Unfortunately, the first past the post voting system favours incumbents and many people stay home, knowing that their candidate is disadvantaged. This is why we have so many career-politicians in Toronto. Some are elected term after term, often with the votes of a tiny fraction of constituents.

There is a better way. Ranked balloting allows voters to choose their first, second and third choices and gives more voting power to electors whose first choice doesn’t win. It also prevents fringe candidates from winning through a split vote. In the last mayoral election for example, Doug Ford could well have been elected if Olivia Chow had run a stronger campaign and split the centre-left vote between herself and John Tory. As an aside, other than bluster and the occasional ferris wheel popping up, one can be forgiven for wondering if anything would be different had Mr. Ford won in 2014.

From rcvmaine.com

It would seem obvious that anyone interested in a better democratic process in Toronto would support ranked balloting. The province is in charge of such legislation and would need a request from City Council to make the change. Sadly, our own councillor voted against studying the use of ranked ballots and effectively (with a group of other councillors) killed the possibility for the near future.

At council meetings, our councillor along with a cadre of nodding deputy mayors is obliged to vote the Mayor Tory line on most matters since she is Council Speaker and wants to keep her prestigious job. Sadly, this means that she and the rest of the Tory bloc often vote against the interests of Ward 11. The councillor cannot serve two masters effectively and it would probably be better for Ward 11 to have a councillor with no such conflicts.

Voter participation:

As the saying goes, all politics is local. We are lucky enough to have local politicians who consult with the people on a regular basis on matters of importance. If we do or don’t like what’s going on, we need to attend the meetings and express our views. Shy folk can send emails or write letters but it’s vital that people express their opinions because no matter what the issue, you can be sure that corporate interests have already made their cases strongly and often.

Lastly one final thought: we need a better turnout for elections. In 2014, fewer than 51% of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.

From garyvarvel.com

Part 5 of this series (The Planning Process) may be a couple of days what with Christmas festivities and all.

 

Man falls to death, SIU investigating

The Special Investigations Unit is investigating after a 30-year-old man fell to his death from a balcony at 1775 Weston Road last night.

The police, searching for someone, knocked on the door of an apartment, and “shortly after that, a man fell from the apartment unit”. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tory defends the indefensible.

Mayor John Tory and homeowner Dave Bennett. From CP24.
Mayor John Tory and homeowner Dave Bennett. From CP24.

An interesting little charade was taking place yesterday in Weston. The Mayor and Councillor Nunziata were here to extol the virtues of keeping property taxes low. Never mind that Toronto’s budget is facing a $516 million shortfall next year and that Council has a backlog of $33 billion in capital projects with possibly $11 billion still to be added for transportation. Never mind that in our city, the average detached home owner occupies a $1.66 million home.

To support the Mayor and Councillor’s viewpoint,  a press conference was arranged in front of Weston resident Dave Bennett’s lovely home where Dave was quoted as saying that his property tax bill is ‘one of the biggest bills he gets’. Tory chimed in to state that property taxes were good for things like services but shouldn’t go towards capital expenditures (presumably like his completely useless $3 billion one-stop subway in Scarborough that we’re already paying for via a 0.5% property tax levy).

This is the mayor, aided and abetted by our own councillor who would rather cut city services across the board by 2.6% than impose a meaningful property tax increase. When services are cut, it’s the poor who suffer the most. TTC cuts, library cuts, parks cuts, police cuts, social program cuts and public housing budget cuts affect the poor disproportionally. Also look for user fees to be increased in the new year. In the meantime, those of us who own a home, from the most humble of condos in Rexdale to palatial mansions in Rosedale are spared an above-inflation increase in the lowest property taxes in the Province. Coming soon, (and this apparently is a good thing) tolls will be imposed on drivers using the Don Valley and Gardiner routes into town but instead of boosting the TTC budget in anticipation of higher passenger loads, a 2.6% budget reduction will ensure that fares are higher, routes are cut and buses and subways are crowded and even more uncomfortable.

Interestingly, York South Weston’s Ward 11 residents paid only $35 million in property tax last year compared to Toronto Centre-Rosedale whose residents paid $151 million. Most of Weston’s residents would dearly love to be in the fortunate position of directly paying property taxes* and contributing to the City’s budget but unfortunately they can’t afford to buy a home. User fees and transit costs will rise and programs designed to help people better themselves and eventually move onto the property ladder are being gutted by this idiotic strategy.

All this so that John Tory can say he didn’t raise property taxes above inflation and be re-elected in 2018.

Here’s an article and video of yesterday’s event from CP24.

*A whole other article; renters indirectly pay triple the rate that homeowners pay.

Ward boundary changes: citizen input requested.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-4-46-44-pm

The late Rob Ford always chafed at the number of councillors at City Hall and thought it was an unmanageable (and expensive) number. He thought that Toronto should have the same number of councillors as federal ridings; i.e. one councillor per riding instead of the current two. From what I gather, the current number of councillors (44) may actually be increasing slightly as a result of population increases and needed boundary changes. By way of context, between the baseline year of 2011 and 2030, Toronto’s population is predicted to rise by 500,000 and the extra people won’t be evenly distributed.

The subject of ward boundary changes is a complex one. Dedicated citizens may take some time to absorb this document giving the background to proposed changes and asking for input. Quite simply, as wards’ populations change, the numbers of people represented by one councillor are increasingly out of whack. For example, the number of people living in the downtown core is increasing rapidly as more condos are built there.

It’s beyond most citizens’ abilities (mine anyway) to absorb all the variables as there are so many factors to juggle. Nevertheless, citizen input is being requested and then the boundary review folks will make their recommendations to council for a vote.

Before then, four public meetings are being held across the City in September, from 7pm-9pm:

  • Wednesday Sept. 14, 2016 – Metro Hall – Room 310
  • Thursday Sept. 15, 2016 – Scarborough Civic Centre – Committee Room 2
  • Monday Sept. 19, 2016 – North York Civic Centre – Committee Room 1
  • Wednesday Sept. 21, 2016 – Etobicoke Civic Centre – Meeting Room 1

A kinder gentler Ford Nation?

Michael Ford.
Michael Ford. Photo from Twitter.

The death of former Toronto Mayor and Ward 2 councillor Rob Ford created a vacancy which was filled last night by his 22 year-old nephew, the former Michael Stirpe. Last year Mr. Ford legally switched to the more recognizable maiden name of his mother Kathy and hasn’t looked back since. He won a trustee seat in the 2014 civic election and now this.

The by-election wasn’t close; Ford was pitted against an assorted collection of mostly fringe candidates and swatted them aside with almost 70% of the vote. By-election voting numbers are usually low and this was no exception. Ten-thousand fewer people bothered to turn up compared to last time and indeed, in 2014, Rob Ford alone garnered more votes than all candidates combined in 2106.

Mr. Ford campaigning yesterday supported by former Tory MPs Julian Faction (R) and Ted Opitz (L foreground)
Mr. Ford (centre) campaigning yesterday aided by former Tory MPs Julian Fantino (R rear) and Ted Opitz (L centre). Photo from Twitter.

What can we expect from young Mr. Ford? Will he join the ranks of the Mammolitis and Di Cianos to be another right-wing vote on Council? The answer is probably yes. Mr. Ford presents as a thoughtful young man who appears to be in favour of social justice; yet, in spite of huge levels of poverty in Ward 2 that approach those of our adjacent Ward 12, Mr. Ford spouts the same idiotic mantra of lower property taxes. This is precisely the misguided policy that leads to cutting services that benefit poor people the most.

Only time will tell if Mr. Ford will learn the reality of Toronto politics and understand the need for local politicians to focus on maintaining services and providing opportunities for people to pull themselves out of poverty. Other desirable traits, sadly lacking in many councillors are to act for the betterment of the whole city, defer to good planning and help the weak.

Will he become yet another friend of the development industry and an enemy of services that help level the playing field for the less fortunate – or will he realize that keeping property taxes low only helps the rich and reduces social mobility?

There may be hope that he’ll be a thoughtful, progressive and hard-working councillor. Let’s focus on that for now.