Camping in Cruickshank Park

The start of a tent city or a one-off? (Click to enlarge.)

Someone’s camping in Cruickshank Park; they’ve been there for several days. Their position tucked under the trees provides shade and renders them almost invisible from the south. Let’s hope they can find better accommodation soon. The park should not become an alternative housing location as is happening in Nathan Phillips Square and several downtown locations. There are no toilet or washing facilities in Cruickshank Park and no doubt human waste is either piling up or going into the river.

Let’s hope social services can step in and find them better accommodation.

Today in Weston

A wild turkey was grazing quietly today in Cruickshank Park.

Two of us were photographing the rare sight when a large white dog got loose from its owner and chased the turkey down the length of the park, its flexi-leash flailing after it. The turkey and dog were last seen heading south. Fortunately, wild turkeys can fly and the two of them disappeared towards the river.

The owner’s response was, “That f***ing dog”. Mine was, “That f***ing owner”. According to another dog owner, this particular dog is allowed to run loose quite often.

Another food outlet for Weston

The site of the new Church’s Texas Chicken in 2018. (file)

Atlanta based Church’s Texas Chicken (formerly known as Church’s Chicken) will soon have a franchisee occupying the old Bank of Montreal building (the bank where time stood still™) on Weston at John Street. It will be a stone’s throw from the Popeye’s Chicken just up the street and directly across from P&M Restaurant. Close by are Pizza Pizza and Zeal Burgers to name but a few. Yet another food outlet in a small area seems to be a gamble on the part of the chain but at least it’s one less prominently empty building in Weston.

Church’s will begin renovations after July 1st when they take over the building.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the exterior of the old 1906 building constructed for the Bank of British North America. It was in continuous use as a bank for over a century, gaining the Bank of Montreal name in 1918 when the two banks merged.

Let’s hope the exterior renovation won’t be too garish. Perhaps the Weston Historical Society knows when and why the second storey was removed. The brick building further along John Street looks to be where Peter the Barber’s is today. Could it be the same building?

The bank building during construction in 1906. Adapted from the Toronto Public Library image. (Click to enlarge)

Another Consequence of Covid-19

The (now deceased) Bank of Montreal branch on Weston Road and John Street. The bank where time stood still.

According to a friend in the banking business, online banking has expanded hugely during the pandemic. People who until recently have resisted modern technology are being been forced into the digital age. Huge resources have been diverted into teaching these customers how to use internet banking over the phone and apparently once they have tried it, many have found it surprisingly easy and have indicated they will continue after Covid goes away (2022?). They have been pleased with how easy it is to move money between accounts and don’t miss waiting in line although many also regret losing contact with a human teller.

As a result of the adoption of online banking by many more people, my source tells me that bank bosses are accelerating plans to close branches earlier than they dared hope a few months ago.We’re down to a precious few branches in Weston. Let’s hope that some will remain.

Thought of the day:Did you ever imagine that one day you’d put on a mask and enter a bank?

Even more thoughts from the lockdown.

Sick Days.

From Green Party of Canada.

New word alert: presenteeism.

In a previous life I was lucky enough to occupy a job with 20 paid sick days annually. If they went unused, they accumulated. I ended up using an average of one or two a year and left the job with 300 sick days (the maximum allowable) they disappeared into thin air the day I left. I didn’t need them as it turned out but they gave me peace of mind and allowed me to stay home without penalty when suffering from contagious or other illnesses.

Most professionals in Ontario are protected from ill-health by a version of paid sick days. No doubt the Premier and MPPs don’t miss a beat if they have to take a day or two, or even a month off for illness; or a pandemic.

In contrast, most low paid workers (yes, the people who do the actual work in this province) are on the hook for their own sick days. They are torn between coming in when ill and having a big hit to the pay cheque.

Prime Minister Trudeau, for all his sins, thinks that Canadian workers should be entitled to 10 paid sick-days a year. Apparently he’s been persuaded by Jagmeet Singh that paid sick days are a good thing. Especially if there’s a second wave of the Coronavirus this winter. Premier Ford, the man who suppressed the minimum wage, says the money can be better used elsewhere. No doubt in some corporations’ offshore bank accounts.

Readers may remember that Ford eliminated paid sick-leave days back in January 2019. The Liberals had legislated only two of them but Ford thought that zero would be better. With a move worthy of Mike Harris, he replaced them with three unpaid leave days and re-introduced the requirement for a doctor’s note – when taking unpaid time off! After all, doctors have nothing better to do, right?

Ford’s actions on sick leave are dangerous, economically harmful and yes, stupidly counter-productive. Low paid workers spend their money locally. Unlike C.E.O.s, they don’t send it off to a tax haven in Aruba. When the lowest paid workers feel the pinch, so do local businesses. When ill and contagious workers are forced to work (especially health care staff), they are a danger to others. 80% of Covid-19 deaths happened in long term care and nursing homes where many such workers are employed. Even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, it’s important that workers be treated with decency so that contagious diseases can be contained and the local economy doesn’t suffer.

Let’s hope that Justin Trudeau can stop dithering and take some decisive action on this. Now is the time for strong leadership not agonizing. For example, if he had closed the borders sooner and stopped a southerly exodus in March, our Covid experience could have been a lot more benign.

Our medical officers of health need to chime in on this for the public good. Unlike their contradictory advice on face masks, this one is clear cut.

Face Masks:

Speaking of face masks, a big shout out to Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen DeVilla. When she, along with other experts, was telling us that face masks were ineffective, who knew that the good doctor was secretly signalling that a scarf could be adapted for such use. Genius!


In On your face David Williams and Theresa Tam.

Finally…on a brighter note:

Three of the many memes and images in circulation.

Weston Pool getting ready to go but will it open?

City staff are preparing Weston’s open air pool for opening once again this year but before welcoming guests for summer 2020, its opening will need the blessing of Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health along with the MOH for Ontario.

Will the pool open this year or will the Covid-19 virus end a 61-year tradition?

The pool getting prepped for 2020.

The MOHs will decide whether chlorinated water and fresh air will diminish the Covid virus sufficiently to warrant opening once school’s out er, would have been out for the summer. They will be pondering whether swimmers and paddling pool tots can be kept a safe distance apart.

The pool could be a great place for kids to use up some of that quarantine energy that’s been building for the past few weeks.

Incidentally, I peeked into the empty pool and there is an impressive deep end edging up to the tennis courts. When the pool was built in 1959, there must have been at least one board or platform so that this wing of the pool was reserved for diving.

An impressive deep end.

Sadly, the platform(s) disappeared years ago to be replaced by a lifeguard chair in our safety-conscious times.

I think I answered my own question.

Long Term Care Homes

A few years ago my father-in-law was a resident in a local, well known long-term care home. This was when homes were better funded and unlike today (thank you Mike Harris), the home was non-profit. He was recovering from a series of minor strokes, had Parkinson’s disease, was incontinent and while he could walk around, had been reduced to a child-like state.

My elderly and disabled mother-in-law visited him daily and it was soon obvious that there was a disquieting and sinister undercurrent running through the place. Many of the residents were physically disabled – victims of strokes or accidents and they and their relatives lived in fear of retaliation by staff if they spoke out about conditions in the home. My MIL discovered that at mealtimes, residents would be served and the meal would often be untouched after 30 minutes when it would be removed. Like several others, she ended up hiring an attendant to feed her husband so that he wouldn’t die of starvation.

At the home, staff had somehow persuaded management that uniforms were authoritarian and intimidating, so they wandered around indistinguishable from visitors. Residents would be left in soiled diapers for hours and changed grudgingly as if it was a great favour. Many residents were tied to their chairs so they wouldn’t be a nuisance between mealtimes. I was drafted to write letters, put on a suit and do battle with management (several times) and things slowly improved for my FIL. Sadly, few others had relatives who could or would do this. In those days, the only alternative, home care, was even less adequate than it is today.

Fast forward to the pandemic of 2020 and behold the sight of Premier Ford blinking  with emotion and surprise that the Canadian Armed Forces had reported squalid conditions and seemingly criminal neglect in the care homes where they had been assigned.

Long Term Care Minister Dr. Merrilee Fullerton seems equally bemused but that’s better than admitting that the reason might be that the Ford government reduced funding and inspections (an average home can now expect a full inspection once every 100 years). Add to that years of neglect by governments of all parties and long term care residents were sitting targets. Upwards of 80% of Ontario Covid-19 deaths have been in care homes. The highest rates have been in homes that were for profit. This was largely due to a lack of direction from Minister Fullerton and the systemic exploitation of low-paid agency workers, forced  to work in several locations in order to make a living.

Health Minister (and former Long Term Health Care Minister) Christine Elliott claims to know nothing about long term care home conditions but she may have a short memory.

The Feds no doubt are secretly pleased that the Army embarrassed Ford but they’ve got skin in the game.

There’s no shortage of blame to go round. Read about the Armed Forces report here and the actual document here.

Ford will resist holding an inquiry or changing the legislation. He’ll hope that the heat will die down and the public will be satisfied with a few dramatic band-aid gestures.

That won’t cut it.

If we’re stuck with private companies running long term care homes for a profit, there should be strong legislation to safeguard residents including standards of care, staffing levels, supervisory community involvement and rigorous, frequent, meaningful inspections.

Let’s see if Premier Ford’s tears are real or theatrical.