Metrolinx: Merge UPX into GO.

The UP Express in Weston Station (file).

A Toronto Star article published today sheds light on a leaked internal Metrolinx document from February of this year that proposes huge changes to the UP Express. The document proposes that when the Kitchener line is electrified in 2025, the airport train would become part of the GO system and use the same new rolling stock. The current UPX stop at Union Station will also be relocated because of increased numbers – at the cost of at least $77.4 million and some inconvenience to passengers – according to the planning document.

The plan leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Where will airport travellers store their luggage on commuter trains built to maximize numbers of people? What will happen to the separate UPX and GO platforms at Weston Station? What will become of the existing UPX trains which were designed to be converted to electrical power? Will the UPX airport platform need revamping to accommodate the new and larger trains? When will the changes take place?

It’s clear that the change won’t happen for at least five years. On the bright side; there’ll likely be two changes of the provincial government between now and then so anything can happen. My bet is that Doug Ford’s austerity regime will modify it severely or put it (and electrification) firmly on the back burner for a future government to tackle.

Read more here.

Update: According to CP24, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Akins has stated that the $77.4 million needed to enable relocation of the Union Station platform is no longer ‘necessary’. The money would have been spent on a pedestrian bridge initially proposed thanks to the platform’s southerly relocation.

The austerity prediction didn’t take long to be borne out. Read more here.

Update #2: The UPX platform specifically designed for UP Express trains will become redundant once the move is made to electrified GO trains. According to the Globe and Mail,

“…the Union Pearson Express will load in a different part of the station – leaving the soaring Zeidler-designed wood space where the train now stops to find a new use – and its unique rolling stock will be replaced gradually by regular GO trains.”

It’s hard to imagine what that new use would be – unless it’s re-purposed as a museum dedicated to the follies of GTA transit decisions. There could be sections devoted to David Collennette, Mike Harris, Mel Lastman, Rob Ford, Frances Nunziata and Glenn De Baeremaeker to name but a few.

Greenland Farms Developer Doubles Up!

Tucked into Councillor Frances Nunziata’s latest newsletter is this gem:

1956-1986 Weston Road and 1 Little Avenue

In August 2017, I held a community meeting with the owner of 1956-1986 Weston Road and 1 Little Avenue to discuss their future plans for the site and what the community would like to see in advance of an application being submitted to the City. Yesterday, an application was formally submitted to construct two 29-storey residential towers including a 12-storey mixed use podium and underground parking.

The approximate boundaries of the development at 1956-1986 Weston and 1 Little Avenue. Click to enlarge.

The councillor didn’t mention any concerns she has with the proposal. The property is huge and runs north-west to the corner, including 1 Little Avenue.

At the meeting back in August 2017, the site owner, Weston Asset Management Inc. showed some vague (but seductive) concept drawings and proposed a single 28-storey tower atop a 6-storey podium. Two years later they’re proposing two 29-storey towers on a 12-storey podium.

Based the recent Official Plan Amendment and Rezoning Proposal, the community must have voiced its overwhelming support for the tallest and most crass development that could be squeezed onto the site. I’m guessing the community said, ‘Please destroy any remaining main street feeling on Weston Road and put up a hugely out of scale development that will overwhelm everything in the area and lead to further eyesores’.

As with other developments in the past, outrageous proposals lead to slightly less outrageous proposals. The project if built could add more than 2000 people to the already busy Weston and Lawrence intersection. Let’s not even think about the additional load placed on our inadequate sewage system (you can be sure nobody else will).

The attitude in City Hall seems to be, “It’s Weston, they should be grateful for any development”.

In most Toronto neighbourhoods, 12 storeys is a huge building. Here it’s merely a base.

Senior Planner Sabrina Salatino is asking for community input on the proposal.
(416) 394-8025
[email protected]

Councillor Nunziata would probably like some direction too:

(416) 392-4091

[email protected]

Ban on New Payday Loan Outlets?

From somos.presente.org

Councillor Frances Nunziata is attempting (with council colleagues) to freeze the number of payday loan companies in Toronto through a Council by-law that would stop licensing new ones.

Payday loan outlets have expanded exponentially and have tended to cluster in lower income areas. Weston has more than its fair share of them.

Payday loan / check cashing companies began in the U.S. in the 1990s thanks to repeal of usury laws there. It was the Harper Conservatives who opened the door to payday loan companies across Canada. The maximum interest rate under the Criminal Code was (and still is) 60% annually before the Tories opened a Pandora’s Box loophole in 2007. Provinces were allowed to regulate their own rates after that. The Wynne Liberals tightened the rules slightly (nothing the industry couldn’t drive a truck through) and lowered the rates to the current astronomical level.

Why do payday loan companies exist? Especially when they charge loan-shark levels of interest. Without customers, PLCs would have gone out of business long ago. The chart below illustrates some of the reasons offered by customers.

Reasons for using a PLC. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

There are three reasons for PLCs’ continued existence:

One reason is the failure of Canada’s banking quintopoly™ to make their more affordable services known and widely available to low-income Canadians. Also by closing branches, they have been allowed to shirk their moral obligation to provide banking and financial education to the poor. Many people don’t realize how much a payday loan costs – $15 interest per $100 borrowed over two weeks is an annual interest rate of 391%.

Relative costs of borrowing $300 for 14 days. . Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

The second reason PLCs exist is a systemic poverty that prevents people from getting ahead. Ontario’s minimum wage is $14.00 an hour or about $29,000 annually. This is about $2000 lower than it should have been thanks to Premier Ford cancelling the planned January 1 minimum wage increase to $15.00. Ford (and others including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce) claimed that a higher minimum wage would kill jobs, lower profits and trigger inflation. When the min-wage was increased from $11.60 to $14.00, none of the dire predictions came true. Ford was dead wrong. Yes, For The People indeed.

Lastly, our living costs are astronomical. An income of over $100,000 is needed to afford the payments on a one-bedroom condo apartment in Toronto. Rental units are rising too. Toronto’s public housing has a 7 to 10-year waiting list and is in a state of chronic disrepair and neglect. Gangs, cockroaches and bedbugs are allowed to operate relatively unfettered inside their confines.

Thanks once again go to dear leader, Premier Ford who dismantled Ontario’s successful Cap and Trade program that was set to provide billions towards public housing, school repairs and upgrades. All together now: For the People.

Although banking is a federal matter, York South-Weston MP Ahmed Hussen has been silent on the banking industry despite being prodded to make some remarks on the topic. He represents one of the poorest ridings in the country (not that he actually lives here) yet fails to be moved by the plight of people victimized by the failure of our current banking system.

There are alternatives to PLCs. Anyone in Canada can open a low cost bank account that can charge a maximum of, $4.00 in monthly fees. Account holders are allowed up to 12 debit transactions a month and other features. Account holders can gain access to financial advice.

Even better, Luminus Credit Union has a branch at 2011 Lawrence Ave W unit 11 ( 416-243-0686). They have a zero-fee, zero minimum-balance checking account.

Of course we can (and should) stop new PLCs in Toronto but that’s not going to fix the predation caused by existing ones, idiotic legislation, low wages and costly housing.

This is a lucrative  industry with well-placed and well-financed lobbyists. Let’s see if Councillor Nunziata and Toronto City Council can begin the process of eliminating the scourge of payday lenders from Weston and the rest of the city. If they can do that, then they can move on to bigger actions.

From Richmond Times Dispatch.

Learn more about payday loan companies here.

York Memo Fire Statement – more questions than answers.

Seeing Through the School (file)

A confidential report on the York Memorial School fires of May 6th and 7th has been completed by the Ontario Fire Marshal based on investigations into the cause of the blaze that devastated the historic structure. The public will not see it for some time but a copy is now in the hands of Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg.

A spokesperson for  the OFM said yesterday that the fire was one event and was accidental in nature.

“This was a single-event fire originating within the wall cavities of the structure in the area of the school auditorium,”

Once the statement was released it was clear that was to be no further comment from any involved parties until more information is available. The Toronto District School Board is scrambling to make the former Scarlett Heights Academy available for the approximately 1000 students and staff on September 3rd and would not comment.

Readers may remember that Chief Pegg at the time called the May 7th blaze, ‘Separate and distinct’. While it’s now clear that there was one cause and that it was accidental (which is some good news at least), the statement has reporters and members of the public examining the chicken entrails in order to tease out more information. These troubling questions remain unanswered:

  • If this was a single fire that managed to smoulder overnight and re-emerge the following afternoon, who was responsible?
  • Was the Toronto Fire Department at fault in not killing the fire on May 6th?
  • Should there have been TDSB or TFD personnel on fire watch overnight at the school?
  • Why did Chief Pegg say there were two separate and distinct fires?
  • Can the school be saved or will it have to be demolished?
  • What about other old schools in Toronto – are students at risk?

No doubt there is much to be learned from the fire. Let’s hope the report and its recommendations can be released soon so that these and other questions can be answered.

Weston’s Beer Store open on Labour Day

From lookhuman.com

Just in case you find yourself running out of beer on Labour Day, the Beer Store at Weston Road and the 401 will be open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. next Monday. Our local branch of the privately run (and exclusive) purveyor of 12 and 24 packs of beer will be one of 63 in Ontario and 10 in Toronto to stay open on the public holiday.

Apparently this is the Beer Store upping its game in response to consumer demand. Readers; please feel free to suggest other ways in which the Beer Store can improve its service.