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”.

The heat is on Metrolinx

Metrolinx has been spanked in public by the Toronto City Council. Again.

Metrolinx is the public agency that governs regional transit; notably, it is responsible for the increased GO Train and Airport Express traffic that will run through Weston. Metrolinx is often criticized by politicians and transit advocates for being opaque, adversarial, and disrespectful of public input.

In a motion passed yesterday, City Council said Metrolinx is “highly streamlined, one-way, and not in any way [open to] meaningful or respectful of community input”, Council moved that the agency should be “open, transparent, and accountable to the public by requiring it to conduct its meetings in public… provide advance public notice of meetings; allow public deputations; and publish all reports, agendas, and minutes.

This isn’t the first time Metrolinx has been given a whupping, but City Council may be the most powerful and unified group yet to have taken off its belt.

Pressure lightens on payday loan shops

Toronto City Council has shot down proposals from the Etobicoke York Community Council that would have pressured payday loan operations.

Last month the Etobicoke York Community Council started pursuing the payday loan shops sprouting up around Weston. There are now at least 10 within walking distance. These shops cash cheques and give extremely high-interest short-term loans. The Etobicoke council voted to inspect the payday loan businesses in Weston—even though what it was hoping to find was never very clear. It gave vague instructions to look for “problems” and “issues”.

The much smaller community council wanted the full Toronto City Council and its staff to “determine what regulations are necessary to eliminate the problems”, “address the issues arising from this type of business” and to see if the city can license the payday loan offices. However, the Toronto council ruled Etobicoke’s recommendations out of order, and they were withdrawn.

It now seems that the community council will only have the director of municipal licensing and standards inspect the shops; it is not clear what, if anything, she or he will be able to do.

City Council spanks Metrolinx

Toronto City Council spanked Metrolinx in public today. It’s likely to spank them again tomorrow.

Council voted to ask the Province to “require the Air Rail link between Union Station and Pearson Airport to be electrified by year 2015 as a demonstration project for regional transit.” In other words, the Province should just tell Metrolinx to electrify the line and skip the studies.

City politicians were asked to do this by the Parks and Environment committee, on which Weston’s councillor (Frances Nunziata) sits. This motion seems to imply that the electrification issue is settled as far as the city is concerned.

Tomorrow Council will vote on whether Metrolinx should be spanked again. A motion asks “the Ontario Government [to] amend the governance of Metrolinx to make it open, transparent, and accountable to the public by requiring it to conduct its meetings in public, consistent with the rules governing municipal government; provide advance public notice of meetings; allow public deputations; and publish all reports, agendas, and minutes.”

City Council seems to be going toe-to-toe with Metrolinx by calling them unaccountable, closed, and opaque and by asking them to lay off the studies and get started building. Of course, City Council is asking to spend other people’s money—and the province is not likely to dance to the pauper’s tune.

Clean Train Coalition launching new campaign

The Clean Train Coalition is launching a new campaign to pressure politicians into taking a stand on the electrification of GO Transit.

The coalition has been very successful in the past. Pressure from it and other community groups forced GO Transit to make many expensive concessions along the planned Georgetown expansion. The Coalition is co-chaired by the NDP candidate for York-South Weston, Mike Sullivan.

The new campaign will ask local politicians from all levels to take a pledge to “call on Premier Dalton McGuinty to direct Metrolinx to electrify the Georgetown Corridor”.

This pledge campaign coincides with a vulnerable time for many politicians: the provincial and civic elections will both be this autumn. Politicians who refuse to take the pledge will look rather foolish when more expensive and expansive promises are falling like so many leaves from the trees.

The coalition says, though, and rather implausibly, that the pledge is meant to coincide with a City Council meeting on Tuesday.