And finally

It’s been a fun photographic evening on WestonWeb. One more to go, with an an idea almost as old as the bike.

The photo below just appeared on the Toronto Public Library’s excellent photo stream. It shows Mike Barry, the recently-deceased father of Canadian cycling, riding a penny farthing.

From the TPL

The caption is:

Home of the bicycle: “Mike Barry rides a penny farthing, built in the late 1800s. Some Weston residents are hoping Weston will one day have a national cycling museum and hall of fame.”

The photo, and the article it accompanied, are from 1988.

30 years ago, the Weston BIA hatched a plan, hosted the first (and probably last) Weston Criterium, and started working on a mobile museum. They christened Weston “the home of the bicycle” and hoped to have a permanent museum underway within four years.

Clearly, it didn’t work.

But you know, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today.

I think a cycling museum and hall of fame in Weston is a damned fine idea. Canada has a fine history of bike building and racing–and some of the best bikes in the world are still made here–but I don’t think there’s a proper museum anywhere in the country.

Norco, CCM, Rocky Mountain, Devinci, Mariposa and Cervélo are all Canadian brands, as are Cannondale, GT and Schwinn.

And bikes are beautiful. Sure, I’m a little biased, but I’d visit. Am I crazy?

Frances Nunziata has egg on her face

Frances Nunziata ended up with egg on her face after a Twitter blast yesterday from Chiara Padovani, her former rival for the Ward 5 seat.

Padovani pointed out that though Nunziata had promised to support affordable housing during the campaign, she voted against several homelessness and affordable-housing motions this week at City Council.

Nunziata voted against declaring a homelessness a state of emergency. She was following city staff advice–and voting with a substantial majority–when she did so. Staff said that Wong-Tam’s motion was a panicky reaction to “social and economic problems of an ongoing systemic nature that cannot be resolved in days, weeks or months.”

Nunziata also voted against making many new developments rent controlled, and against an amendment that would have made more of those units affordable and doubled the number of very deeply discounted units–and done so at enormous expense.

What to make of this? On the one hand, Padovani’s criticisms are sharp, and Nunziata did march with ACORN, the way-left anti-poverty group that was championing the amendments to the Housing Now plan.

On the other hand, we can probably be grateful the motion to spend hundreds of millions on 3700 rent-controlled units on 99-year leases was defeated. So, in this case, she voted responsibly.

Unlike Padovani, I’m not angry that Nunziata didn’t vote with ACORN. That was the right thing to do.

I’m disappointed that she ever gave the impression she would. Here we have proof positive that her campaign wasn’t honest. I’m not surprised, but I’m disappointed.

New Year Predictions

As the new year progresses, it’s probably a good time to make some local and not so local predictions for 2019 and beyond.

Where we are right now.

During the regimes of the late Rob Ford and current mayor John Tory, Toronto has suffered almost a decade of austerity. Now that we have a premier who operates on the same policies, it looks as if Toronto’s public realm will shrink at a more rapid pace. While John Tory looks and sounds like a moderate politician, he’s as radically right-wing as either of the Ford brothers.
Austerity at the provincial level will add to Toronto’s woes, particularly here in Weston / Mount Dennis, especially after Ford gerrymandered Toronto Council by halving the number of councillors and basing council seats on outdated demographics. The current council will have enough support for John Tory to continue the decline of our city. The only differences between Mayor Tory and Premier Ford involve jurisdiction and style rather than political leanings.

A feature of the Rob Ford and John Tory mayoralties has been ignoring the planners and making awful decisions based on dogma and pandering rather than actual need. (Scarborough Subway, Gardiner rebuilding, dangerous streets and the failure of Vision Zero, lousy transit planning, an ineffective and demoralized police force, uncontrolled development…). Added to that, the refusal to charge an appropriate level of property tax has resulted in a lack of funds for city initiatives along with a dilapidated and inadequate public housing inventory. The late British actor Peter Ustinov once called Toronto, “New York run by the Swiss.“. I wonder how he would have described the 2019 version of our city.

Prediction 1: Poverty is about to get real in Weston / Mount Dennis.

Ford has frozen the (already inadequate) minimum wage at $14.00 an hour. It was due to rise to $15 this January 1. This roughly translates to a $2000 annual loss for minimum wage earners, only slightly offset by a tax cut. Basically, general taxes subsidize the wages of minimum wage earners while companies keep the savings and remove them from the community. Other austerity measures include removal of funding for repairs to Toronto schools and public housing (the money would have come from Cap and Trade). Less money and fewer job opportunities will mean more poverty and crime.

What can we do to fight this? Patronize only those businesses that pay workers $15 or more hourly. Call out companies that don’t. Support organizations that fight poverty.

Prediction 2: Massive decisions based on hunches and rewarding friends.

Arbitrary decision making and cronyism has only just begun. When you have lots of friends and lots of jobs to fill, there’s no end to the possibilities. Ford is a big proponent of subways regardless of need, cost and location. He famously suggested building a casino at Exhibition Place and and a ferris wheel on the Port Lands. Now that he’s in charge, the sky will be the limit. The TTC’s subway system will soon be handed over to the hopelessly inept Metrolinx. These are the people who are bungling the Presto Card implementation  The subway takeover plan will involve selling building rights on top of subway stations. The TTC will become a bus service. Incidentally, Metrolinx seems to taking measures designed to suck up to Ford – things like removing electric vehicle charging outlets from GO stations.

Prediction 3: A fire sale of provincial assets.

In order to balance the books and pay for Ford’s re-shaping of Ontario, the private sector will be called on to provide financing. Obtaining private money will involve selling precious public assets such as the LCBO and Ontario Place.

Prediction 4: A two-tier health care system.

Our health care system eats up $53.3 billion or about 39% of the Ontario budget. Ford would dearly love to find ‘efficiencies’ here. He may want private companies and hospitals to set up shop in Ontario. He may also entertain the possibility of people jumping the queue for a fee. A big obstacle is the Canada Health Act and that is why Ford is openly campaigning against Justin Trudeau in the hopes that a Conservative federal government will repeal or amend the act to insert some private health care. The new system might look like the  U.K.’s National Health Service which runs alongside a private system. When the rich (and politicians) are able to jump the queue, you can guarantee that health care for regular folks will suffer.

Prediction 5: Less information and more secrecy.

Many decisions made by the Ford government are made to reward his cronies or appease his fringe supporters and don’t hold up well under scrutiny (1998 Health Curriculum, Ron Taverner…).  Look for Ford and his government to distance themselves even further from accountability and awkward questions from the press. They spread the word through Ontario’s taxpayer funded version of Pravda.

Prediction 6: Local lefty initiatives to end.

Now that Councillor Frances Nunziata has been re-elected, look for her pre-election moderate stance to be dropped. Lefty frivolities such as bike paths and pedestrian safety measures will be quietly shelved. Ms Nunziata will continue to be the councillor most likely to vote with Mayor Tory.

Glimmers of hope for Weston /Mount Dennis:

The Weston Hub will open in February along with many new residents in the 360+ rental units. A small colony of artists will occupy the live / work spaces. Construction on the site will end allowing the area to flourish.
The Weston Farmers Market will have an attractive new home in the centre of Weston that will attract people from outside the area. Two cultural organizations, Shakespeare in Action and UrbanArts hold anchor positions in the new Hub and will also attract visitors to our community.

More businesses are opening up as the UP Express provides a rapid and regular link to downtown.

On Weston Road, retail stores are being renovated and a payday loan company has closed.

A small number of affordable units at 22 John Street will be made available through a lottery held between eligible applicants. Use this link to apply (the link becomes live on Monday January 14; the application process will close January 28).

Interesting Possibilities:

Prime Minister Trudeau will perform a minor cabinet shuffle on Monday and unpopular York South-Weston MP, Ahmed Hussen may be moved laterally or demoted. A lateral move might be part of an effort to distance Mr. Hussen from the burdensome immigration file and boost his chances in October’s general election.

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.

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.

Welcome to Weston Videos

I was away for a while last month and missed these two excellent videos on Weston produced by Options for Homes. OFH is currently building a condo on the banks of the Humber at 10 Wilby Crescent.

Both videos feature Squibb’s Stationers owner (and Weston Village Residents’ Association Communications Director), Suri Weinberg-Linsky talking about Weston and promoting it as a place to live.

Here they are in one convenient spot.


 

Nunziata acclaimed as Speaker.

Council Frances Nunziata thanks colleagues for her unanimous acclamation as Speaker at today’s city council meeting.

At today’s brief session of Toronto City Council, Frances Nunziata was the only nominee as Speaker and she was elected unanimously by her colleagues in a recorded vote. Similarly, Councillor Shelley Carroll was also the sole nominee and unanimous choice for Deputy Speaker.

Some random observations from today’s opening session:

Council opened with an acknowledgement that Treaty 13 granted settlement rights over the land that covers Toronto and lands to the north. The money paid for the quarter of a million acres or so? Ten shillings (nowadays 50p or 84 cents). Even taking inflation into account it’s less than $40.

Only four new councillors were elected in Toronto’s 25 wards.

Councillor Jim Karygiannis is a very tall man.

Mayor John Tory seemed to be nursing a bad back as he walked into the ceremony with some difficulty. In his opening day speech he mentioned:

  • We don’t need to be divisive to do our job – possibly a dig at the Premier.
  • Toronto is Ontario’s financial engine – a message for both the Premier and Prime Minister
  • We need to keep taxes low and spend money carefully  – more austerity coming
  • Land transfer tax revenues are falling – more austerity coming
  • Toronto needs to be a more liveable city (whatever that means).

Everyone was on their best behaviour today with lots of hugs, handshakes and nice words. We’ll see how long that lasts with the new, smaller and more intimate Council.