Ron Taverner back on the job with TPS

After a storm of controversy, Ron Taverner has rescinded his resignation from the Toronto Police Service and is back on the job as north west district commander (Divisions 12, 23 and 31) that he left on Friday. On Saturday, Mr Taverner asked that his appointment as OPP Commissioner be put on hold pending the results of an inquiry (requested by the NDP) by the Integrity Commissioner.

Two days after the OPP Commissioner’s job was posted, the requirements (deputy police chief or higher) were lowered thus allowing Superintendent Taverner to apply and his selection, according to the Ontario Newsroom site, was the, “unanimous recommendation of a selection committee comprised exclusively of members of the Ontario Public Service and supported by Odgers Berndtson, an executive search firm.”. Apparently 23 out of the 27 candidates for the job met the original requirements so lowering them was probably not merited on the basis of a shortage of candidates.

Acting OPP Commissioner (and fellow candidate for the job) Brad Blair cried foul on Taverner’s appointment and has since been demoted.

Many pundits have claimed that the fix was in and that Taverner’s friendship with Premier Ford was the reason for his appointment. Superintendent Taverner may well have been the best candidate to lead the OPP. Unfortunately, perceptions of the Premier’s large thumb on the scale have tainted his appointment and there is likely no going back regardless of the Integrity Commissioner’s report.

TTC-Presto ‘Consultation’ Meeting

About 150 people showed up at the TTC-Presto ‘consultation’ meeting last night.  It was labelled as consultation but it quickly became clear the decisions had been made and were mostly irreversible.  The meeting had been asked for by the Fair Fare Coalition and TTC Riders.  TTC and Presto refused to advertise the meeting on their social media.

TTC will be converting fully to Presto within the year, so that by Jan 1, 2020 tokens will be phased out completely, as will ticket booth operators in subway stations.  Presto has signed an exclusive deal with Loblaw to make Shopper’s Drug Mart the only retailer of Presto media.  In York South – Weston there are 37 retailers today.  That will drop to 2.  Although TTC Riders has asked to see the contract with Loblaw, it is currently secret.

There are 135 Shopper’s in Toronto.  There are currently 1100 retailers.  TTC has stated there needs to be at least 421 outlets to maintain accessibility.  Neither TTC nor Presto could answer how or if that will be done.  They are looking at libraries and community centres, as Loblaws apparently will permit that.

Without a loaded $6 Presto Card, seniors and students will only be able to get their discount by using cash on a bus or streetcar.  With no ticket booth operators in subways, TTC has no idea how persons will transfer from a bus or streetcar to the subway, if they paid in cash.

Buying and maintaining a full presto card is a hardship for many.  It costs $6, and the minimum load is $10 in cash or $20 on a credit card auto-load.  Ironically, the TTC handed out presto cards to everyone who came to the meeting, loaded with $6!  So the minimum load is not carved in stone.  Vancouver’s minimum load is $5.  Many thought it should be a ttc fare.

There will be paper presto tickets for sale (at Shoppers and TTC stations) but they will be full-fare only ($3.25).   Currently tokens cost $3, and senior/student tickets cost $2.05 so this is a hidden fare increase. The only discount available will be to social service agencies or schools etc. who can afford to buy 400 at a time, which will be the minimum bulk order.

There are plans for a two-ride ticket, a day-pass ticket, and a weekly-pass ticket. No family pass, and no convention pass.

Presto and TTC admitted the paper tickets are not recyclable, so considerable waste will be created by the new system.  They had no suggestions as to how to avoid this.   They also admitted the tickets have no braille, so the blind have to tap the ticket on a machine in the subway or Shoppers to know if it is still valid, as they all will have a printed expiry date on them.  Tickets purchased one at a time will expire in 90 days.  Tickets purchased in bulk will expire in one year.  There will be a recommendation to the TTC board that there be a way to issue refunds for expired tickets, but that is not currently assured.

Presto advised they are working on an app for Android phones with the correct hardware to allow users to use their phones to reload their presto cards.   There are no plans to allow credit cards or Apple Pay or Android Pay systems on Presto readers.  Presto is removing credit card readers currently installed in streetcars.  Vancouver’s system, which is almost identical to Toronto’s but cost 85% less to design and build, does allow credit cards. Vancouver also has wristbands with the card built in.  No fumbling with wallets and purses.

As expected, a big part of the meeting focused on how the poor, those on Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, seniors and students will manage without tokens.  There were demands for meetings in areas of Toronto with high concentrations of such persons, as the downtown locale limited participation.  TTC and Presto appeared to agree to have more ‘consultations’.  But it remains to be seen whether any advice from the public will change anything.

 

Ron Taverner’s Weston connection

As controversy builds around the appointment of local police Superintendent Ron Taverner (and friend of the Premier) as head of the OPP, the Toronto Star (via the paywall free ourwindsor.ca) has found that Mr Taverner purchased a home in Weston in July 2017. The deal was private with $550,000 changing hands for the home near Church and George.

The problem? The seller, Simone Daniels  worked for the Ford family business, Deco Labels, and is currently employed as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Premier.

In related news, the Globe and Mail reports that when Doug Ford was a Toronto councillor, he suggested to former Police Services Board Chair, Alok Mukherjee that his longtime friend would make a good Toronto Deputy Police Chief (Taverner did not apply for the job and was not appointed).

Rightly or wrongly, this steady drip of negative stories adds to the perception of strong connections between Doug Ford and Ron Taverner and a possible conflict of interest.

It will take great deal of determination to stare down this kind of pressure. My guess is that Mr Taverner (who has not commented publicly on the current brouhaha) may decide that the job isn’t worth the bother, plus,  he’ll probably not want to begin his new job under a cloud that will likely persist during his term of office.


Update: We’ve removed the picture, because that seems like the right thing to do.

Toronto City Council kick-off tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be like the start of a new school year in Toronto’s council chambers. All 25 councillors and Mayor Tory will be present, freshly scrubbed and on their best behaviour to begin a new four-year term. This will mark the beginning of the new Ford-imposed slimline Council – according to Doug; fewer councillors means better government.

Work-wise, it will be a fairly light day that doesn’t officially get under way until 2:00 pm. The first order of business will be to formally introduce the Mayor and Councillors to the public and then they will recite the Declaration of Office.

Mayor Tory will then address Council and deliver a pep talk designed to motivate council. Tomorrow’s other important task will also set the tone of council meetings for the next four years. The mayor and councillors will elect a Speaker and Deputy who between them will adjudicate over Council’s affairs. According to the City website, the Speaker:

presides over meetings of Toronto City Council in place of the Mayor, although the Mayor may take the chair at any time he desires.

Unlike the Speakers of the provincial and federal legislatures, the City Council Speaker has no additional duties beyond presiding over meetings.

While most Ontario municipal councils are chaired by a Mayor, Warden or Reeve, the City of Toronto adopted a Speaker in 2006 on the recommendation of an expert governance panel. Having a Speaker chair meetings allows the Mayor to participate more freely in debate without worrying about the additional duties of running the meeting.

The selection of a speaker will be an open vote among the 26 council members. Ward 5 (formerly Ward 11) Councillor Francis Nunziata has held this post since 2010 and it will be interesting to see if she:

(a) still wants the job, or

(b) will be re-elected, or

(c) if a new candidate(s) will emerge.

In the past, the job has been a major chore thanks to the (then) larger council and the antics of a few whom Speaker Nunziata found particularly hard to rein in (the Ford brothers and Giorgio Mammoliti come to mind).

Tomorrow’s fun begins at 2:00 pm. To watch the action, tune in here.

Local Police Superintendent appointed OPP Commissioner.

Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner, currently in charge of 12, 23 and 31 Divisions (the north-west corner of the city that includes Weston and Mount Dennis) is heading for a new job on December 17. He has been appointed Commissioner of the 9000 member Ontario Provincial Police. According to Ontario’s Newsroom site, his appointment is “based on the unanimous recommendation of a selection committee comprised exclusively of members of the Ontario Public Service and supported by Odgers Berndtson, an executive search firm.”.

Superintendent Taverner’s career with Toronto Police began in 1967 and there are many supportive and glowing testimonials in reaction to his appointment. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Police Association President Mike McCormack (among others) welcomed the news and think that the appointment is a good one.

There is at least one dissenting voice. Former OPP Commissioner (2010 – 2014), Chris Lewis says he is shocked. In an interview with CTV News, Lewis says says things like, “The appointment is a real kick to the OPP – someone from the outside with very limited experience.”, “The fix was in from the outset.” (Taverner is a friend of the Ford family).

Who will replace Taverner? Let’s hope it’s someone who can solve some of the problems that have frustrated the current incumbent and stubbornly resisted a solution over the past few years.

Rents rising in Weston, Mount Dennis.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Toronto’s apartment rental costs increased substantially between 2012 and 2017, particularly in the Weston and Mount Dennis area. The Toronto Star has used CMHC data in an interactive map which shows that Weston’s rental prices jumped nearly 18% during that time period while Mount Dennis prices increased by 27.8%.

In 2012, apartment rental averages in both neighbourhoods were roughly comparable at around the $1000 level but by 2017, rentals jumped to $1117 in Weston and $1201 in Mount Dennis. While this is still low compared to downtown where rents average over $2200, it will be of little comfort to people who come to the suburbs looking for more affordable accommodation.

The average annual rent increase over that period (thanks to the power of compound interest) seems to have been about 2.5% for Weston and 4% for Mount Dennis. Under Ontario’s rent control legislation, the average yearly rent increase over that period should have been 1.68%. Why the discrepancy? Once a tenant moves out, landlords can charge whatever the market will bear. In areas with more turnover, rents can rise rapidly if there is sufficient demand.

From the Toronto Star.

Premier Ford recently legislated the end of rent controls on all new rental buildings occupied after November 15th. He apparently believes that this will encourage more rental apartment construction. Incidentally, PC Premier Mike Harris ended rent control in 1997 claiming that a boom in rental housing construction would result.

It didn’t.

Toronto Star pans Ward 5 incumbents

The Toronto Star Editorial Board has made its quadrennial candidate endorsements for Toronto’s newly shrunken wards. The Editorial Board is once again unimpressed with the current incumbents. They bluntly state, “Frank Di Giorgio and Frances Nunziata, should be sent to pasture.”. Four years ago,  The Star said of Frances Nunziata, “Painfully ineffective in recent years, she has been one of council’s most complacent Ford followers.”.  2014’s opposition to Frances Nunziata, Jose Garcia and Dory Chalhoub failed to get their campaigns off the ground. While Mr. Chalhoub successfully argued that Ms. Nunziata had done little to help her constituents, his and Mr. Garcia’s rightward leanings put them on a par with her politically. Despite endorsements from the Star (and Weston Web – go figure) Mr. Garcia and Mr. Chalhoub placed a distant second and third respectively.

This time there are two strong candidates among those opposing the incumbents and both are left-leaning.

The Star’s Board has given the nod to Lekan Olawoye as their 2018 choice for councillor stating, “His work on talent development at MaRS and numerous community organizations make him well placed to constructively address the issues facing youth and marginalized communities.”. The other local candidate, Chiara Padovani has built an impressive campaign and will no doubt take issue with the Star’s pick.

The good news for them is that the vote will be somewhat split between the two incumbents. The bad news is that the anti-incumbent vote will also be spread between multiple candidates, thus diluting any movement for change. That’s why all candidates will be working hard to ensure that as many people as possible get out to the polls next Monday.

Voter participation in 2014 was 53% in old Ward 11 and 55% in old Ward 12. There is plenty of room to improve as some Toronto wards had a voter turnout of over 70% that year. This compared to an average of 60.4% in Toronto as a whole.  A similarly low turnout in Ward 5 this year will probably result in one of the incumbents being sent back to city hall.