Tonks cocky about Liberals’ chances

In an interview with the Hill Times, York-South Weston MP Alan Tonks was rather dismissive of the NDP’s chances in the next federal election. That’s quite odd, especially since his own riding has been vulnerable to the NDP in the past.

In an article about the Liberal leadership, Tonks said he isn’t concerned about the NDP gaining ground.

“My feeling is that the NDP have held around 16 per cent, always have, when it comes to an election,” says Toronto Liberal MP Alan Tonks (York South-Weston, Ont.). “There’s a window at this time, but when it comes to an actual election call and the issues are out, I don’t think that [traditional] percentage is going to change.”

Tonks may not have the right to be so cocky; while Weston has been consistently Liberal for decades, in the last election his own share of the vote slipped dramatically from 57% to 47%. In fact, his popularity has been declining since 2004, when he received 60% of the vote.

All parties benefitted at Tonks’ expense, but none more than the party he criticizes most. In the last election, the NDP took 28% of the vote here—much more than the 16% he says they “always have”.

Alan Tonks’ Salary

There is an uproar on Parliament Hill about transparency. It’s not the Afghan detainee scandal: it’s a screaming match about MP’s expenses.

Almost no MPs want their expenses to be transparent, but all parties want to appear transparent. The Conservatives are calling for more debate about MP’s expenditures, but won’t release the actual data. The Liberals this week released their member’s expenses to show the Conservatives up—never mind that the data are exactly the same as were released in the annual House of Commons report—and exactly as paltry.

Alan Tonks

According to the report, Alan Tonks’ office costs taxpayers about $575,000 a year. His office expenditures are $423,035, and the base salary for an MP is $155,400.

Tonks’ expenses do not compare favourably with his colleagues. The Prime Minister’s expenses are only 60% of Tonks’. Stephane Dion’s expenses are 20% less.

Tonks’ leader, Michael Ignatieff, spends only 13% more than Tonks does, as does Gilles Duceppe, the BQ leader. Jack Layton spends 30% more.

Constituents and taxpayers should be concerned with the expenses of a back-bench MP who spends like a leader. Unfortunately, until MPs reveal more detail, we won’t know whether Tonks’ expenditures were justified. His secrecy does not lend confidence.

Other Liberal MPs have released their expenses. Tonks should do the same. He has little to lose and much to gain.

My data, in OpenOffice format: Tonks’ expenses

Metrolinx wants another (and better) link to the airport

Yesterday Metrolinx affirmed its plan to build a rail link to the airport. But they weren’t endorsing the Blue 22, the private airport train that will run through Weston. Metrolinx will be building competing train line: a light rail link to Pearson.

Metrolinx’s “Big 5”  program will complete 5 major transit projects over the next 10 years. One of these is the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which will run from Scarborough to the airport. The line will be high capacity (about 5000 passengers an hour), frequent (every 3–6 minutes) and cheap ($3 or so). Light rail isn’t the same as rail-rail; it’s more like a subway crossed with a streetcar.

The LRT will make connections to the Yonge and University subway and to the proposed Jane St LRT. Thus it will serve the same locations as the Blue 22, if less directly. It will also be quite fast, especially for travellers heading midtown and not to Union. For $3, the Eg train will get you to the Yonge subway station in 48 minutes. In contrast, the Blue 22 would save 19 minutes but cost $20 more.

Both will be fast, frequent, and comfortable. But only the Eglinton LRT is cheap, connects directly with the subway, and takes riders midtown.

The private nature of the Blue 22 may yet be its undoing; the Eglinton LRT is the better way.

Route of the Eglinton LRT

5 buildings to be ashamed of in Weston

You don’t have to go to New Orleans or Detroit to see urban decay. Weston has some appalling rot right on our main street.

Buildings need people like people need buildings: just as we die without housing, they die without inhabitants. Decay and mould soon ruin empty properties, so abandoned buildings show deep despair in a community—nobody would abandon a building that had a future.

But in Weston, there are several buildings that have been left empty and decaying for years. One building in particular, one of Canada’s oldest, has been abandoned for at least 10 years.

The Plank Road building at 2375 (or 2371) Weston Road was built in 1841, 25 years before Canada existed. Though it is beautiful and historic, it has been empty for at least ten years; photographs from the Ontario Heritage Properties Database show that it was certainly abandoned in June of 2000, and judging from its condition, it looks to have been abandoned years before that.

Plank buildingPlank building

It’s not the only abandoned building on Weston Road, merely the oldest. An old liquor store has been abandoned since at least 2007, when I moved to Weston. It was likely abandoned before that. There is a bright side: behind the store, a very large parcel has returned to nature–it’s completely inaccessible and probably a lovely refuge for wildlife.

The most decrepit buildings are certainly two houses on the west side of the street. While the Plank house has had a new roof put on and the LCBO looks like it could be salvaged, these two houses are completely ruined. Nobody will live in them again, yet nobody will tear them down.

Finally, a burned-out Donut shop at 2562 Weston Rd has the highest visibility. It is right near the highway off-ramp and across from the gigantic grocery store. Its owner has not repaired the store since it was gutted by fire. It, too, has been in this state for many years.

All of these properties are on Weston Road, and all are within a kilometer. They exist because businesspeople, politicians, and residents feel our community is a dump. They would not stand anywhere else in Toronto.