Hassan calls for fewer pot shops

Our MPP, Faisal Hassan, asked Queen’s Park to do something about the “proliferation of cannabis stores” in York South–Weston and the province. Ontarians are, he says, “losing the character of their neighbourhoods, with cannabis shops seemingly everywhere. At the municipal level, business improvement areas and residents have little influence on the location of these cannabis operations”.

Hassan said that the NDP’s plan was better: “well-regulated cannabis distribution, including control through the proven, responsible hands of the LCBO.”

The Attorney General, Doug Downey, took his question but dodged it with a non-answer.

Hassan said in his email circular that “There is a clear consensus throughout York South—Weston that things need to change”. He also said he supported Bill 235, which would give city halls the ability to veto retail applications.

My toke take: I don’t like pot, and I have no particular love for cannabis shops. I think I’ve been in one once—and you know what? It was really nice.

I’m also not really sure what the harm is. It seems to me that nearly all pot shops are responsible retailers, and are, in fact, extremely quiet. I’d certainly rather have a pot shop next to me than a muffler—or even coffee—shop.

Pot shops are making jobs, supporting a nascent national industry, and providing a service people pay for. They don’t work on large margins (they must buy from their largest competitor), and these are very early days yet. I say we let the market decide. If they’re truly not wanted, they’ll go out of business. Otherwise, let them bloom.

Weston is a “red zone” for bikes—but that isn’t changing

The city says that Weston and Mount Dennis are “red zones” when it comes to cycling and social equity—but it isn’t doing much about it.

The city says that Weston Road would make an excellent bike route (red in the map below). But according to Spacing Magazine, it’s not going to happen. It’s not part of the city’s 2021–2023 implementation plan.

Jane St (orange) would make another good route, but it will only be studied —though, as I reported earlier, the city had been planning extensive bus-only lanes. As far as I know, the orange route along the railway tracks is only a dream.

Planners did say that there will be

Weston neighbourhood connections extending from Silverthorn Ave and Trethewey Dr.. and will connect to the Mid-Humber trail and
closure of the gap.

However, in the city’s recent briefing slides, these connections are only to be studied.

Mount Dennis is in particularly bad shape, with less than one percent of the street (measured by the kilometer) having a bike route. However, Mount Dennis looks to be getting only a path along Eglinton, to connect to the new station.

Transportation Services will be reporting on their new bike plan for 2021–2023 later this fall, and will bring it to City Council.

Two votes on stormwater in YSW

City Council also voted for two very interesting motions to reduce flooding, which has been a particular problem in parts of our riding.

One motion asks city staff to study a stormwater tax—which, if you think about it, is a rain tax. But it’s a super idea!

The trouble is that large, paved surfaces push much rainwater into the sewers. Right now, water users are charged for stormwater management, even though the water you use has nothing at all to do with how big your parking lot is. The motion introduced by Mike Layton will ask city staff to study taxing hard surface areas like parking lots. Councillor Frances Nunziata voted in favour. The motion narrowly carried.

A second motion, proposed by Nunziata, asks city staff to study naturalizing the Black Creek Channel.

The Black Creek was ‘channelized’ in the middle of the 20th century—meaning the river was replaced with a concrete channel instead of a natural environment.

Black Creek Channel, from the TRCA

The TRCA says that “while providing some riverine flood remediation benefits, [channels] do not fully protect the area from riverine flooding.”

Nunziata’s motion asks staff to consider “alternative design options for the Rockcliffe Riverine Flood Mitigation Project… and report on its findings.”

Vacant home tax coming

This week, Frances Nunziata and City Council voted to implement a vacant home tax in Toronto.

Homes empty for more than 6 months in a calendar year would be subject to a 1% tax on the value of the home—$10,000 a year on a $1 million house, for example. The tax would start in January, 2023, based on occupancy in 2022.

There will be exemptions for snowbirds, the sick and recently deceased, and homes undergoing renovations.