George Brown College takes the first steps to Weston campus

George Brown College wants to build a new campus in Weston. The province confirmed this week that the college had submitted an application for funding.

In May Councillor Nunziata wrote to John Milloy, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, to recommend Weston for a campus. This week, Milloy responded, saying, in part, “George Brown College has submitted its capital project template, and … the proposal for a new campus in Weston has been included.”

Paul Bedford, former chief planner for the city of Toronto, had first proposed a Weston campus at a community meeting in May, as one of several other ideas for reinvigorating the town. He said then that “George Brown College has taken interest in expanding a campus to Weston, although talks are in early stages.”

Lately, the status of the talks had not been clear, but Nunziata says “this is no longer just an idea—there is now a plan”. Of course, there are several hurdles yet to be overcome, not the least of which is securing approval and financing from the government. The province is collecting proposals from all colleges this year and will announce its plans in 2011.

College staff have toured the roughly 75,000 square feet of empty retail space at 31–35 King, which has sat vacant for several years. It is not yet clear whether that space is still being considered, but a space of that size would, by your humble correspondent’s rough calculations, be able to hold about 1000 students (George Brown has 15,000 full-time students).

The potential new site for George Brown College's Weston campus

Stimulus programs in Weston

While people have been saying the recession has been over for more than a year, the economic stimulus programs keep chugging along.

There are very few stimulus projects in Weston, though: only four, in fact. Three of the four are quite small, too—only one is more than $100,000.

By a huge margin, the largest project is in Weston Lions Park. According to Laura Albanese’s speech on Monday, the city, province, and feds are building an inflatable recreation dome. The project will cost about $2 million.

Other projects are tiny by comparison:

  • Improvements in Pelmo Park—$99,000
  • Improvements in Pellatt Park—$99,000
  • Resurfacing of a laneway near Weston and Laurence—$80,000

Oddly, almost all of the money in Weston is being spent on parks. City-wide, there are 9 categories of spending, the biggest of which are transit, water, municipal buildings, and roads. Weston did not get any money to build projects within these categories. Your humble correspondent worries that we missed opportunities.

Yet while we might have forgone some government money, our big project was funded much better than the city average. The average park project within Toronto was given about $400,000. The Lions Park Dome was given quintuple that.

Weston community groups denied grants for AIDS projects

Two Weston community groups failed to get grants at the last City Council meeting. The grants would have run programs to slow the spread of AIDS and HIV among immigrants and addicts. Both applications were rejected by Council on the advice of the Board of Health.

Northwood Neighbourhood Centre applied for a grant of $29,ooo to provide HIV/AIDS awareness to newcomer parents. This application was rejected. The blow was likely worsened by the rejection of its other application for $31,000 to run a drug prevention program. It too was turned down.

The Weston King Neighbourhood Centre applied for a $83,000 grant to run a HIV/AIDS Harm Reduction Project. That grant was also denied.

Tn all, the city approved 41 of the 52 applications it received for AIDS/HIV projects. In total, it granted $1,574,960.

While more than 80% of the projects received city money, none of the projects from Ward 11 did.

Tonks draws three pensions, and that’s OK

Alan Tonks draws three handsome pensions from various levels of the civil service, according to the Canadian Press. Each of the pensions is more than $10,000 annually and in addition to his $157,731 annual salary as an MP. Tonks appears to be triple-dipping, but the appearance is incorrect.

The tone of Elizabeth Thompson’s article invites contempt. The story opens with a quote from a sitting MP:

““I think we earn enough money,” said Mr. Maloway, who estimates he is giving up $30,000 a year. “I don’t think anybody thinks MPs are underpaid.”

After a long name-and-shame list of sitting MPs who also draw pensions (among them Alan Tonks), the article concludes with a quote opposing the pensions:

Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says he doesn’t have a problem with MPs collecting pensions from private companies but is troubled by MPs also getting pension cheques from governments.

“It does smack of problems for taxpayers when elected officials, in effect, end up double-dipping at taxpayer expense.”

Mr. Gaudet said more MPs should follow mr. [sic] Maloway’s example and voluntarily forgo other government pensions while they sit in the Commons.

While I, your humble editor, have never been unduly kind to Tonks, Thompson’s article is unfair. There is no good principle that would require MPs to forgo public pensions. Those pensions were voluntarily agreed to by employer and employee. Nobody objects to private pensions or to personal wealth among MPs; public pensions are no different: they are a part of the total compensation given to public servants.

Asking MPs to return their public pensions is asking for a double standard. It is saying that those in the public sector deserve a lower real salary than those in the private sector. Demanding the money’s return is also unfair. It is asking for money made fairly to be repaid. It is, in short, asking former public servants (and only public servants) to pay for the privilege of serving in the House.

While a $160,000 salary seems to me quite generous, Tonks should not be singled out merely because he has worked in the public sector for decades.

Community council officially opposed to school move

The Toronto District Catholic School Board took a liver punch yesterday. Etobicoke York Community Council expressed its disapproval of the proposal to move St John the Evangelist elementary school to Swanek Park.

The TDCSB wants to move the over-crowded school to Swanek Park. The school is now located on a small, primarily concrete parcel near the train tracks. At a minimum, the board would buy and demolish enough homes to create space for an entrance to the school. Likely, however, it would have to create green space equal to the amount given up to the school site. This may entail the expropriation and demolition of all the homes around the park.

The council passed a motion yesterday that said the plan to buy and demolish “many, if not all of the 33 houses immediately surrounding the park” was “unacceptable”. Frances Nunziata, the councillor for Ward 11, said that Swanek Park is “not an appropriate location for the school” in her summary to the council.

There are no sanctions or actions attached to the council item. Still, the pressure is now clearly on the school board; Nunziata also sits on the the Toronto Parks and Environment Committee, and is also almost certain to win the election in the fall. Thus, the TDCSB now faces both an outraged community and an opposed, long-sitting councillor with considerable power over the fate of its plan.

While this is only a symbolic loss for the TDCSB, the board appears to face a struggle.

The Toronto District Catholic School Board took a liver punch today. Etobicoke York City Council hammered the board for its proposal to move St John the Evangelist elementary school to Swanek Park.

The TDCSB wants to move the over-crowded school to Swanek Park because it is a large green site. At a minimum, the board would buy and demolish enough homes to create space for an entrance to the school. Likely, however, it would be forced by the city to create green space equal to the amount used for the school site. This may entail the expropriation and demolition of all the homes around the park.

The council passed an unscheduled motion today that said the plans to buy and demolish “many, if not most of the houses surrounding the park” was “***”

The motion does not appear to actually do anything except express council’s disapproval. There are no sanctions or actions attached. Still, the pressure is now on the school board; Frances Nunziata, the City Councillor for Ward 11, sits on both the EYCC and the Toronto Parks and Environment Committee. She is also almost certain to win the election in the fall. Thus, the TDCSB faces an outraged community and an opposed, long-sitting councillor with power.

While this is a first (and mostly symbolic) loss for the TDCSB it will not likely be the last.

Etobicoke-York Council considering future of Swanek Park

The first political shots have been fired in the battle over Swanek Park. Etobicoke-York City Council will today vote on whether it should officially disapprove of moving St John the Evangelist into the park.

The Toronto District Catholic School Board would like to move the over-crowded school to Swanek because the current location is small, lacks green space, and is close to the train tracks.

At least 4 houses would have to be demolished, but Nunziata says the “TCDSB have stated that if the school were to be built on this parkland, many, if not all of the 33 houses immediately surrounding the park would have to be acquired or, if necessary, expropriated.”

The local council will consider two of Nunziata’s recommendations: whether to not support the conversion of Swanek Park, and whether to direct the city to consider adding Swanek Park to the inventory of heritage properties.

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”.