It’s gonna be a close one.

It’s likely that Ahmed Hussen was reflecting on his spectacular political career at this week’s debate. After all, Weston Collegiate Institute was the building where he seemingly came out of nowhere to win the Liberal nomination back in December 2014. He won the seat in 2015 (the first Somali-Canadian to be elected to parliament) and was appointed Minister of Immigration in 2017. Mr Hussen could well have been wondering if the circle was complete or if he can win another four-year term as Member of Parliament for York South-Weston.

There’s a website called 338canada.com that uses polling data to prognosticate on elections. They have made a prediction on the outcome of York South-Weston’s tussle for the federal seat currently occupied by Mr. Hussen. Their four-point prediction scale ranges from ‘toss up’, ‘leaning’, ‘likely’ to ‘safe seat’. Readers may remember that Toronto went totally Liberal in the Big Red Wave of 2015. Times have changed and now only five of Toronto’s Liberal seats are considered safe. Four Toronto seats are thought by 338canada to be (merely) leaning Liberal and YSW is one of them. The latest prediction may be based on data that is a few days old and with the ongoing surge of the NDP in the polls, contender Yafet Tewelde (with a back story no less compelling) may be inching ahead enough to have a shot at unseating the incumbent. Incidentally, the predecessor to 338canada.com (threehundredeight.com) correctly predicted a strong win for Hussen in early 2015, well before the election was called.

You can bet as time ticks away today and tomorrow, the Liberal and NDP campaigns will be frantically redoubling their efforts.

Incidentally, other candidates in the running are Jasveen Rattan (Conservative), Nicki Ward (Green) and Gerard Racine (Peoples Party of Canada).

Find the 338canada Toronto predictions here.

Find the Elections Canada voter’s checklist here.

I’m voting Green

This week’s debate left me deeply impressed. All the candidates were worthy of consideration. Most were more than worthy: they were excellent, and any riding would be lucky to have them. We’re spoiled for choice in York South–Weston.

That said, I’m voting for Nicki Ward, our Green candidate. She is thoughtful, smart, articulate, and fiery. She would be an excellent representative for us. She would be a particularly excellent Green candidate because she would stand out in a party of beige.

It’s taken me a long time to reach this decision, though I was able to eliminate two parties quite quickly. I won’t vote Conservative because they do not have a viable plan to deal with climate change. Their plan is nonsense on stilts. I won’t vote for the PPC because they are far-right populists.

The Liberal party has led on issues I believe in, including legalization and carbon taxes. I would gladly vote for them if Hussen weren’t our MP. However, I don’t think he is a good representative for his riding, and he has been a quite bad Minister of Immigration.

Hussen lauded and posed with Turkey’s autocrat warmonger, Erdoğan, who this week launched an invasion of Kurdish-controlled Syria.

Turkey’s autocrat, Erdogan, L. Ahmed Hussen, R. Edogan has imprisoned journalists, among other repugnant acts.

He has mismanaged the Safe Third Country agreement.  He has lied about his ministry. He has insulted other politicians. And he has consistently blamed the Conservatives for his department’s problems.

I think Hussen is the worst kind of politician: he’s a team player. We elect people to work for us, not their party. I’ve long felt that Hussen shows up every day for the Liberals.

That leaves the NDP and the Greens.

I think that Yafet Tewelde would make an excellent MP. He seems to work hard and be serious. He lives in the community, and he is smart. He also has a good ground game and support. I was going to vote NDP until I saw Ward in the debate.

Nicki Ward was very impressive. She seems to have run her campaign almost alone (and by public transit!), and she brought a well researched, zingy performance in a field of bright minds. She was brave and funny, and she held her own against better supported candidates. I would love to see what she is capable of if she had a party apparatus behind her.

Ward also impressed me very much when she said she would express only her own opinions, not her party’s. Canada needs more of that. While everyone else was standing on platforms,  Ward committed to building one to represent York South–Weston.

But, I hear you say, “strategy”! “Divided votes!” “The next Harper!”. I hear you complain “the Greens don’t stand a chance”.

Honestly, I don’t care. Strategic voting is a bit of silly “I know that you know that I know…” where we all try to guess what everyone else is doing. Knock yourselves out. Really. I can’t be bothered.

I think the real strategic vote is for a person who should hold a prominent position in a party that could hold the balance of power. The real strategy is electing a hard-working, respectful, smart and principled person to represent us.

That person is Nicki Ward.

 

Goodbye Farmers Market. Time to act Ms Nunziata.

Weston Farmers Market at the old location in 2004.

Here at Weston Web it often seems as if we’re voices in the wilderness. When the Weston Hub was proposed it was extravagantly sold to the people of Weston as an indoor-outdoor community gathering space that would host a year round market.

Nunziata reported she and York South-Weston MPP Laura Albanese recently gained a financial contribution from Metrolinx to create an indoor farmers’ market to complement the existing, popular outdoor market in a parking lot, making the farmers’ market a year-round draw.” From toronto.com Feb 15, 2012.

Councillor Nunziata has contacted WestonWeb to say that the John Street parking lot is being developed to accommodate a year-round farmers’ market, cultural hub and affordable condo living / workspace for artists. She goes on to say that nothing is being done behind closed doors. Perhaps she can shed some light on this topic (at a community meeting) on March 14th“. From Weston Web March 9, 2012

The Weston Farmers Market is a creature of the Weston Village Business Improvement Association. Once plans for the Weston Hub were revealed, it was clear that there would be no year round market and the space allocated for the WFM was miserly. In effect, the Market was used as part of a bait and switch scheme. The Weston Residents Association launched a full court press in support of the scheme and opponents to the development were regarded as progress-hating pariahs. Now it seems as if the forebodings were real and that residents were sold a bill of goods.

It was also clear that the farmers market on which Ms Nunziata based her plans was the one at Wychwood Barns; also held on Saturdays. It is basically a boutique market. No doubt there is a demand for rainbow catchers, sheep yogurt and hemp smoothies in Weston but we’re a working / middle class neighbourhood that has (thanks to the departure of Greenland Farms) just become a bit of a food desert. This is not the time to be alienating legitimate produce sellers who were fighting  to improve the cramped and inaccessible Weston Hub space opening next season.

Market vendors have known for years that the new space in the Hub was inadequate. They were told to adapt or look elsewhere. Truckloads of fresh produce would have to be parked on side streets and delivered by hand to the new mini stalls.

Joe Gaeta had been with the WFM for 39 years. He was one of the few market vendors who genuinely grows his own produce, spring bedding and decorative plants. Joe is someone who speaks his mind and he made it known that the Weston Hub space was inadequate, poorly designed and inconvenient. He no doubt spoke truth to power once too often and was asked to leave with only a day’s notice.

Joe Gaeta at the Weston Farmers Market in May 2019.

Ms Nunziata has been busy this week campaigning for Liberal candidate Ahmed Hussen. Incidentally other candidates running are Jasveen Rattaan (Conservative), Yafet Tewelde (NDP), Nicki Ward (Green), Gerard Racine (PPC).

Perhaps our Councillor can remove herself from the hustings long enough to fix this mess that threatens to destroy one of the few bright spots in our community.

From Facebook.

Nothing happens in the Weston BIA (or indeed Weston) without the express approval of Frances Nunziata (and that includes Joe Gaeta’s expulsion). She must fix this by apologizing to Joe and offering to accommodate his needs and those of other legitimate market vendors. There has been a subsequent movement to boycott the WFM for the rest of the season. Just in case you need any further indication of the classiness of the Gaeta family, Joe’s daughter Sabrina posted this response on Facebook (edited for clarity):

Boycotting the Weston Farmers Market for the remaining season on our behalf, Gaeta Farms and Greenhouses is NOT the right decision. As much as we appreciate everyone’s support with how unfairly we were treated we have to continue to support the farmers and other vendors who still attend the market. The Weston vendors did not ask for us to be ejected from the market, they don’t need to be punished as well. We want our vendor family to succeed. It’s Thanksgiving weekend, so let’s be thankful.

The loss of Gaeta Farms will be a death blow to the Weston Farmers Market. The loss of our Farmers Market will be another self-inflicted blow in the (apparently re-energized) decline of our community.

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.

5 Bellevue residents still without hot water.

I spoke with a number of residents at 5 Bellvue Crescent today and they are still without hot water despite being promised that the problem would be fixed on Tuesday 17th. Hundreds of people live in the building and many are children, seniors or disabled. Apparently hot water has been available for random periods of perhaps an hour on some days and this has been ongoing since June. Five Bellevue is a Toronto Community Housing building but it is managed by a private company.

This situation persists despite media coverage and the intervention of Federal NDP Candidate Yafet Tewelde. Chiara Padovani assisted tenants last year during a water outage. This lack of adequate response from the city illustrates the kind of disrespect that public housing tenants face – both subtle and in this case not so subtle. Residents had few kind words to say about Councillor Frances Nunziata and feel that her efforts on their behalf have been (to put it kindly) inadequate. They also have nowhere to turn – if they phone 311 they are told that it’s up to the management company and there’s nothing the City can do (in the residents’ words they are getting the run-around).

This is quite simply disgraceful and Councillor Nunziata owes these residents an explanation along with a realistic date for when hot water service will be restored on a permanent basis.

Cancer – back to battle stations.

From prostatecancer.ca

Cancer is no stranger to the Murray household. My wife successfully battled two versions of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the first arriving in 2001 and the second in 2013. Thanks to an alert (and superb) family doctor and the world class expertise of Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre, she has made a complete recovery and leads a full life.

Imagine my annoyance and indignation to find that I too have cancer.

It started with a routine suggestion from my doctor to have a PSA test. This is a test that measures something called prostate-specific antigen. As men age, prostate antigen levels become higher. Cancer raises PSA levels too. I had resisted getting tested in the past because – well I just had. Put it down to boundless confidence in my immortality, some doubts about the test and yes, ignorance. About 12% of white men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes. For black men, the incidence is considerably higher while it’s lower for Asian men. The good news is that most men die with the disease rather than from it. The bad news is that it’s an unpleasant way to die. As some wit once said, “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens”.

From Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

Anyway, in response to my mild concern that something might be happening ‘down there’, the doctor suggested and I agreed to the test. The result was double the normal level for my age and the follow-up specialist recommended a biopsy. Prostate tissue samples can confirm but can’t eliminate a cancer diagnosis as the samples may not be from an affected area of the prostate.

The biopsy was done a week later in the specialist’s office. Without getting into the gory details, I was bent over a bench and it felt like an electric stapler barging around and firing inside my body. Definitely a moment requiring a stiff upper lip! Thankfully it was done quickly and efficiently. I waited three weeks for the results, expecting the ‘all clear’ and wasn’t particularly concerned.

The news was broken matter of factly in the specialist’s busy premises, “Out of the twelve samples we took, ten were cancerous”. I sat in a daze while he handed me a pamphlet and talked about a ‘Gleason Score’ (lower is better; my score was 7, indicating a moderate involvement – maximum is 10) along with probabilities and options for treatment. Luckily my wife was there and asked some pertinent questions.

Treatments for prostate cancer depend on how far it has progressed with options narrowing if the cancer has spread beyond the prostate. Basically the major options are:

  • Active surveillance if the involvement is low and / or the patient is older.
  • A radical  or partial prostatectomy (Removal of the prostate) if the cancer has not spread elsewhere.
  • Hormone treatment to suppress the body’s testosterone production. (Prostate cancer grows a lot slower in the absence of testosterone.)
  • Various radiation options to attack the cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy (These last three treatments can be used in combination.)
  • Palliative care -if the cancer is incurable.

Surgery is ineffective if the cancer has spread much beyond the prostate.

To determine treatment options, bone and soft tissue CAT scans were ordered. This was deja vu for my wife and brought back vivid memories of her own long agonizing hours spent in treatment and waiting for test results. After her first diagnosis she had radiation and in 2013, six chemotherapy treatments (every three weeks) with accompanying hair loss.

My CAT scans were clear indicating that the cancer hasn’t spread. What now? Luckily, I have the option to have the damned thing removed. This will likely eliminate the need for radiation and hormone treatments. The surgeon has ordered an MRI of the region so that he can plan his attack and the operation should take place in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I’m 99% symptom free and a few weeks after the operation should be able to return to a ‘normal’ existence. I’m lucky that I have a loving wife to take care of me and access to a health care system that is second to none.

Note to men over 40: it’s probably a good idea to get a PSA test done so that a baseline reading can be established. The test isn’t totally reliable – see the diagram above – but it’s a useful diagnostic tool.

If members of your family have had prostate cancer you may be at increased risk. Early detection improves your chances and treatment options.

For more information go here.

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]