City staff approve of large development at Weston and Little

City staff have recommended approval of the large development at 1956-1986 Weston Road and 1-5 Little Avenue. The development will be considered by Etobicoke York Community Council on June 27.

If approved, one of the buildings will have 35 storeys—up from 29 storeys in the 2019 plan—and be the tallest in Weston. The other will have 29 storeys. Together they will have 733 condominium units, up from 592 three years ago.

In the past, the development was opposed by staff, the Weston Village Residents’ Association, and community members, who said, among other things, it was too tall, too dense, too ugly, too close to the property line, and would cast too long a shadow.

Some of those concerns have been addressed. The buildings, while taller, take up less of the property. One of the buildings has been “reconfigured from the original proposal and pulled further back on the site, and angled away from Weston Road. This was to provide a stronger pedestrian perception area”.

Also, the developers have agreed to build a 3,400 square foot “non-profit community cultural space located on the ground floor of the existing heritage building at 3 & 5 Little Avenue” for the city.

However, issues remain. The 2019 staff report said the buildings “would result in a bulky, overwhelming presence which would not fit in with the surrounding area nor provide adequate transition in height to the surrounding properties”. The developers made some design concessions, but the buildings still seem overwhelming to me.

Staff also said “[we] suggest that the northwest portion of the site be re-designed to be a mid-rise building”. That, clearly, hasn’t happened. The shorter tower remains 29 storeys high.

Staff had concerns about shadows, particularly “regarding the shadow impacts on Little Avenue Memorial Park”. The new report doesn’t address the effects on the park—which presumably remain—but says shadows will fall on Weston Common (erroneously called the Weston Hub) at least some of the year for part of the day.

Other reasoning in the report is odd. For instance, the author says “although Tower A has a larger floorplate than typically recommended, it is in keeping with the existing built form context and is complemented by Tower B having a varied and generally smaller tapered floorplate.”

Even if a large tall tower were complemented by a smaller tall tower—which, honestly, I don’t get—there is a large, 12-storey podium joining the two towers, and the tower floorplate is invisible at ground level. Nobody will see the putative complement except from the air.

The development is also scheduled to be considered by City Council on July 19.

Debate report

Wednesday night’s debate was extremely well attended. The hall at Weston Park Baptist Church was full, and the audience was very engaged. Faisal Hassan (NDP), Tom Hipsz (New Blue), Nadia Guerrera (Liberal), and James Fields (Independent) attended.

The questions covered social supports, the environment, flooding, the Eglinton Crosstown, and housing, among other things. In general, the responses were unsurprising: both the Liberal and NDP candidates promised much and differed only in details, such as what the minimum wage would be and how rent control would work. Their promises were expensive, too: I’m not sure either of the leading candidates said they wouldn’t fund a program, whether it was tunnelling under the Eglinton Flats or a universal basic income.

I do wish someone had asked about debts, deficits, and how the candidates planned to pay for their promises. I also wish Michael Ford had attended—but he did not. Perhaps he would have had a more fiscally-conservative plan.

I was also hoping there would be a decisive moment or a victor, but Nadia Guerrera and Faisal Hassan sparred only infrequently and there was no mortal blow that settled the contest. In fact, the candidates were almost always very generous with one another. At one point, Guerrera even applauded Hipsz, her very conservative competitor, while Hassan was nodding in agreement.

Guerrera did fire on the NDP at a few points, saying that Hassan and his party have not been an effective opposition. In her concluding remarks, she said “This is our moment to decide what matters, to be visionary and aspirational… The NDP did not hold [the Ford] government to account and will not prevent them from forming another Conservative majority”. It was, perhaps, the most stirring moment of the night, but also, perhaps, a concession that the Liberals are trailing in the race and will not form the government.

Hassan criticized the record of past Liberal governments, especially regarding our riding. He said “we have seen the promises they made with respect to electrification and the UP Express” and “the record of the Liberals and the Conservatives when it comes to the environment is horrible”. In his closing comments he said “we cannot count on Michael Ford to stand up to his uncle, or on Steven Del Duca to fix the mess they made—or even to win his seat.”

Both Hassan and Guerrera were extremely well prepared, with an excellent command of the issues and their parties’ platforms.

Tom Hipsz and James Fields were, I think it’s safe to say, a little less polished. (I don’t blame them. I’m a pretty big YSW nerd, and I was lost much of the time.) Both of them were exceedingly good sports. Hipsz often tilted at green-power “windmills”, and COVID mandates (he was maskless the whole night). He also admitted when he didn’t know the answer to a question, which I thought was refreshing. Fields was harder to pin down: he seems to have an eclectic platform—but as he said, as an independent, he can steal the best ideas.

While Michael Ford is the highest-profile candidate to skip last night’s debate, he wasn’t the only one. Ignacio Mongrell, who is running for the Green Party, did not attend. Neither did Ana Gabriela Ortiz, of the Ontario Party. Neither seems to be campaigning very much, if at all.

The debate was organized by the Weston Village Residents’ Association, the Rockcliffe–Smythe Community Association, and the Mount Dennis Community Association, who did, as always, a super job.

Michael Ford skips debate

Surprising nobody and disappointing many, Michael Ford did not attend last night’s debate. I think this is inexcusable.

Perhaps Ford was afraid he’d embarrass himself in front of his constituents. If that’s the case, he shouldn’t go any further. If he can’t take the heat of two hours in a church basement, he’ll be incinerated over four years at Queen’s Park.

Maybe Ford was worried his ideas or experience won’t stand up to the scrutiny of the other candidates. If so, he should quit. There is no shame in that—a good person knows when they’ve been bested.

But I think these possibilities are very unlikely. Michael Ford has been city councillor— he’s not afraid of the spotlight, nor a little rough-and-tumble.

He is almost certainly following the instructions of his masters in the party. If so, he’s got his responsibilities backward: he works for us, not the PCs. He needs to take courage and make his pitch. If he catches hell for it, so be it. York South–Weston needs someone with guts to represent us, not a PC puppet taking orders from above.

Meeting with—and representing—his constituents is the job. If he won’t show up for the interview, we would be fools to hire him.

I take debates seriously because politicians are too sure, too often. Debates test their ideas in front of constituents and competitors. If politicians won’t bring their ideas into the light, they are afraid of what we’ll see—or that we’ll see nothing at all.

I won’t be voting for Michael Ford.

VIA Rail stop in Weston?

For years we’ve heard that VIA Rail would love to stop their four daily trains in Weston but that they’re being thwarted by Metrolinx who say that there wouldn’t be enough time for VIA trains to transfer passengers on and off without disrupting UP Express and GO Train schedules. The stop would be an incredible convenience for Weston Residents, would slow the train down as it roars through Weston and would allow eastbound VIA passengers destined for Pearson Airport a short cut instead of having to schlep all the way downtown.

If you go to the VIA Rail site however, they’re still posting Weston’s station address as 39 John Street so maybe an awareness of the new location would indicate a more sincere wish for a Weston stop. Either way, it’s beginning to look highly unlikely that a the devolved passenger arm of a corporate Father of Confederation™ and the mighty execs of Metrolinx will get together to make life easier for actual passengers.

Source: https://www.viarail.ca/en/explore-our-destinations/stations/weston Click to enlarge

Maybe this is a problem that an election promise could solve.

Candidates, what say you?

Mike Ford wants YSW MPP seat.

What’s in a name?

Mike Ford has had a wildly successful political career. He began as a Toronto school board trustee in 2014, became a Toronto city councillor two years later after the terminal illness of his uncle and former Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford. Now at the ripe old age of 28, Mike Ford has announced he will be running as a candidate for the Progressive Conservatives in the provincial election on June 22. His other famous uncle, Premier Doug Ford holds Etobicoke North and family friend Kinga Surma has Etobicoke Centre – the next nearest local seat is York South Weston where incumbent Faisal Hassan is enjoying a successful first term.

Many naysayers claim that Ford has succeeded on the coat tails of his two famous uncles. That may well have been true at the start of his career but Mike Ford has shown himself to be a good listener and sincere advocate for his constituents while his council votes tend to be on the conservative and frugal side.

Councillor Mike Ford (L) talks to constituents at the official opening of the Raymore Park off-leash area in July 2017. (file).

No Progressive Conservative candidate has won the York South-Weston seat since the riding was created in 1999. Mark DeMontis came close in 2018 with 33% of the vote compared to 36% for the NDP’s Faisal Hassan. PCs must be confident that Ford has a good shot at the seat as he is a local boy having been raised across the river in Etobicoke; there’s that magic Ford name and no doubt there will have been some local polling to scope out possibilities.

A Mike Ford win depends on a good connection with voters and a reasonably sized Blue Wave hitting the province. That might just happen. According to 338Canada Projection, the PCs currently poll at 37% support to the Liberals’ 28% and the NDP trails at 25% – with the usual caveats that anything can happen between now and June. In recent months, Doug Ford seems to have moved his party to the centre, is now in favour of lefty things like a higher minimum wage – he’s even encouraging electric cars. His removal of the mask mandate from much of daily life has pleased his base and infuriated the provincial Liberal and NDP parties. At the same time, Ford is positioning himself as the best friend of the federal Liberals and the man who can work with them. The main strategy seems to be to attack the NDP while giving the Del Duca Liberals nowhere to go.

My prediction; a tough local fight that will push both Faisal Hassan and Mike Ford to their limits. Will the Ford name nudge the younger candidate over the top or will it be a liability? There is no doubt that the riding will be well served by whoever gets in. Hassan is accessible and has worked hard during his term, setting up a storefront office on Weston Road right in downtown Weston. Mike Ford will have enviable connections.

One thing for certain; this will be a devastating loss for one of these two candidates.

El Catracho: really good!

The family and I got takeout from El Catracho on Jane this week. It was very good, and I’m sorry that I hadn’t been earlier. They serve Latin American food from a Honduran foundation.

We ordered enchiladas, Mexican-style tacos, nachos, and tacos flauta (fried tacos). I’d happily do the same again; each mains came with three servings, and we passed them around (except to my wife, who is a vegetarian).

I think the tacos flauta were best. They were filled with chicken, and the shell was golden and crunchy. They were topped with cabbage, sauce, and cheese, and looked as good as they tasted.

Tacos flauta

I didn’t get to try the enchiladas, but my son, who knows a thing or two about eating (not food, eating) said they were “very good” and had “lots of flavour”. The nachos, he said, were “excellent”. I agree. The thinly-sliced peppers were beautiful, too.

Nachos

My parents’ carne asada tacos were also good. They are, however, served in the Mexican style—which shouldn’t have been a surprise, since they are called “Tacos Mexicanos”. I didn’t know, though, that Tex-Mex tacos have sour cream and shredded cheese, while true Mexican tacos do not.

Tacos Mexcianos—w. sour cream from the fridge

If you’d survived my cooking, you’d know I’m in no position to give suggestions. Still, I would love to see some vegetarian (or even vegan?) options on the menu. The chef was extremely accommodating when I asked if they could make something for my vegetarian wife. She got very nice looking meatless enchiladas with beans in place of the beef. Still, I felt a little awkward ordering off the menu.

Vegetarian enchiladas

El Catracho is at 1808 Jane, just south of Queens Drive. The restaurant is small and bright, and the staff couldn’t have been better. Dinner was about $20 a person, and well worth it. They don’t have a liquor license.

Topsy Turvy World

There once was a time when roughly speaking, the NDP stood for working people and the Conservatives represented the business classes. The Liberals would carve out the middle, blowing left and right as it suited them.

The Truckers’ Convoy has illustrated a profound shift in those positions. No longer is the NDP the party of the working class. They, along with the Liberals have for some reason decided to vilify the truckers, repeating the lie that they’re a bunch of yahoos, racists and ____phobes (fill in the blank with your choice of prefixes).

The Liberals are currently on the left as well and using the Covid emergency have managed to exercise control over nearly all of Canada’s media outlets. The legacy press has been supported financially through the pandemic with the expectation that the government’s messages would be reflected uncritically. It’s not a good idea to bite the hand that feeds you and with strings attached to the funding, the Liberals have turned almost every media outlet into a state mouthpiece since the money started flowing. If you’re wondering why the Sun and National Post are so pro-government, it might have something to do with the $1.3 million government donation to parent company Postmedia.

Most recently the Liberals have co-opted the press to declare that the truckers have (amongst other atrocities) disrespected the Ottawa War Memorial and the statue of Terry Fox. They have waved swastika and Confederate flags, have openly defecated and urinated in the streets, have stolen from food banks and generally terrorized the people of Ottawa.

Can any of this be true? Yes but in rare and isolated instances and by focusing on isolated unrepresentative occurrences, the government has been able to lie about the true nature of the demonstration in an attempt to sway public opinion. When the same distorted view is reported and repeated by so many outlets the big lie is created.

Is there another side to the story? Going outside the legacy press, there are several bloggers who have reported and even broadcast live from the protests and they tell a different tale. Here’s a sampling of YouTube channels (and a blog) that are presenting a completely different version of the protest. Naturally these people aren’t government funded and that’s why they may be more honest and credible.

Clyde Do Something.
JustinCredibleTV
Jordan Peterson February 5.
Freedom Convoy Manifesto

The Reformed Physicist blog.

It’s essential that news is reported accurately and contrary opinions can be aired. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right – it’s only with the exchange of views that a dialog can exist and opposing sides can come to an understanding.