Art hub approved

Yesterday, City Council approved the first stages of Weston’s community arts hub, a project to build artist live-work spaces, a residential rental building, and community space on the John Street parking lot.

“Artists often pave the way for positive change,” said Laura Alderson, vice-chair of the Weston Village Residents’ Association and a former chair of UrbanArts, a local community arts incubator.

“The project is long overdue. We’re thrilled that it’s happening,” she said.

Mike Sullivan may have misused office space for partisan rally

Conservatives and Liberals are attacking the NDP MPs, including Mike Sullivan, for misusing their community offices as staging grounds for political events such as door-to-door blitzes. This would violate the rules about spending government money.

Sullivan comes under particular scrutiny in a CBC story, which says,

But at least one NDP MP has used his constituency office as a gathering place for a more overtly partisan event.

Mike Sullivan used his Toronto office earlier this month to gather supporters for a bus ride to a downtown rally with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

 

MS

The rules governing the use of government resources—including MPs offices—are uncommonly clear: MPs are not allowed to use offices for

 the administration, organization and internal communications of a political party [or] activities designed, in the context of a federal, provincial, or municipal election, or any other local election, to support or oppose a political party or an individual candidate

And that is the nub of the issue. Was Mulcair’s rally an election rally?

I think so. Sullivan himself tagged his tweets #NDP, and wrote in a Facebook post

This past Sunday, Thomas Mulcair spoke to our wonderful city of Toronto. His message was one of hope not fear and optimism not despair….  It’s time to build a more progressive and generous Canada. In the next election say no to the same old kind of politics, turn away from the talking points of cynicism and negativity, and vote for the change you want – and actually get it.

However, in response to the CBC story, Sullivan said:

My constituency office was not used for partisan purposes – it happened to be a convenient location for folks to meet before getting on a bus, near parking and 11 bus routes. As far as I know, the freedom to assemble is still in the Charter of Rights & Freedoms.

It is true; we still have the right to assemble. Next time, though, Sullivan supporters might consider exercising those rights in the Tim Horton’s just down the street.

 

Perfect Blend Official Opening

On Saturday March 28, there was a packed house inside Weston’s newest and long anticipated coffee shop and bakery. Perfect Blend had its official opening and Weston’s politicians were there in force to mark the occasion.

A packed house enjoys Perfect Blend's offerings.
A packed house enjoys Perfect Blend’s offerings.
MPP Laura Albanese and Councillor Frances Nunziata.
MPP Laura Albanese (L)  and Councillor Frances Nunziata.

During her speech to the crowd, Councillor Frances Nunziata thanked George Kalamaris  stressed that things are looking up for Weston. As evidence, she named the new medical centre opening up in the old Post Office Building that she claimed will bring ‘thousands of people into Weston’ as well as the new P&M restaurant opening soon. The councillor referred to Weston as being a vibrant community. MP Mike Sullivan stated that people in Weston have been waiting for a good coffee shop for a long time. ‘They were begging for some of the chains to come here but we did better than that with this opening by a local person.’ Sullivan stated he is trying to get Perfect Blend, ‘Connected to the GO Station too so that when the GO Station has its own little coffee shop, then it’s these folks that are supplying it’. Sullivan stressed the importance of supporting local businesses.

Laura Albanese stated that, ‘Small businesses are the heart of every community’ and that Weston is no exception.

Mike McDonald representing the Weston Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association said, ‘We have needed this and wanted this for a long long time.’ His six-year-old son declared that his Perfect Blend bagel was the best he’d ever had.

Mike Sullivan, Laura Albanese and Frances Nunziata congratulate George Kalamaris at the official opening of Perfect Blend Bakery.
Mike Sullivan, Laura Albanese and Frances Nunziata congratulate George Kalamaris at the official opening of Perfect Blend Bakery.

Owner George Kalamaris thanked everyone in the community for coming out and stated that opening Perfect Blend was a dream come true for him. He and his father Costas have been part of the build ‘from the ground up’ at his location as well as across the road at the new P&Ms. George recalled when his grandfather opened P&Ms many years ago and said that 40 years later, his family is part of the community and proud of the contributions they have made in Weston. Perfect Blend has a core of regulars already, after only three weeks. George personally thanked his father Costas for all his hard work and support, ‘Without him, none of this would have been possible. Without him, Perfect Blend wouldn’t be perfect.’

The ribbon cutting ceremony.
The ribbon cutting ceremony (apologies to George the actual ribbon cutter).

Look for Perfect Blend’s Facebook page coming soon. Perfect Blend is an easy walk for most Westonians; and as the old expression goes, use it or lose it.

UP Express nearing completion.

The UP Express is close to becoming a reality. Beginning today, Monday, March 30, Metrolinx will be testing its service at 15 minute intervals between 8:00 pm and 3:00 am, moving to daytime towards the end of April.

In early April, a footbridge across Lawrence just east of Weston Road will be installed to steer passengers safely to the train platform for UP Express and GO Train users. The big lift into place will occur on Saturday, April 11th and should be worth watching.

The North ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.
The North ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.

 

The North ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.
The South ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.

As for the John Street footbridge, this will be installed in the summer.

John Street looking towards Rosemount March 2015
John Street (and its unattractive overhead wiring) looking towards Rosemount. March 2015
The John Street bridge deck - artist's impression.
The John Street bridge deck – artist’s impression – looking towards Weston Road.
The John Street Bridge.
The John Street Bridge – artist’s impression – looking towards Rosemount Avenue.

The UP Express and GO stations are almost complete and are next to each other.

Note the higher platforms for the UP Express.
Note the higher platforms for the UP Express.
The new GO platforms and waiting areas.
The new GO platforms and waiting areas.
Artist's impression of the new Weston GO Station.
Artist’s impression of the new Weston GO Station.

It has been a long haul since the airport link was first proposed. The UP Express is seen by many to be an elitist project for the rich while the transportation needs of the many are unchanged. The trains will be diesel which is a disappointment as it was hoped that the new train would provide an opportunity to electrify the line. Sadly, the much hoped for all-day electrified GO service is still a far off dream.

What’s good about the changes that the UP Express is bringing?

First, the good citizens of Weston showed their political muscle by arguing for and receiving one of only two stations along the route. The fight galvanized the community and has ensured that Weston has a voice and can no longer be relied upon to meekly accept whatever planners and politicians decide is best for us.

Second, although the GO station moved further away from many people in Weston, its replacement is modern, visible (unlike the old station) right on Main Street (Weston Road) and is a visual reminder of access to an incredibly quick ride downtown (and frequent once all day GO service is launched). As has been pointed out before, even on the currently limited GO Train service, Westonians can glide downtown in comfort in 21 or 23 minutes while commuters from the much coveted Royal York subway area have a 34-minute journey and have to change trains, battling the crowds at St George.

Third, the old station was hidden and the new visual reminder and the upgrading of transportation infrastructure has begun to revive interest in Weston as a place to live. Real estate prices, once depressed are starting to recover and businesses are investing in our commercial areas. While the old GO station occupied virtually no real estate, its parking lot that doubles as the home of the Weston Farmers Market (and surrounding property) will be developed to be the focal point of an exciting ‘Community Hub‘.

The lesson we have all learned is that a community has to be vigilant and fight for good infrastructure. It won’t arrive by itself. In addition, developers want to make money regardless of the social cost to the community. We need continued citizen involvement and active and responsive politicians who will represent us regardless of the cost to their career ambitions or political beliefs. We also need to believe in our own community by patronizing local business. Only then will Weston achieve its awesome potential.

City Council will consider ‘Community Hub’ in Weston next week

City Council will vote on funding the cultural hub in Weston next week.

The development will have

  • An 18-storey tower with 350 rental units
  • An 800-square meter (8600 square foot) community/cultural hub
  • 26 rental artist live/work units
  • An 1,150 square meter (12000 square foot) open-space area for the  Weston Farmers’ Market
  • A 75-spot parking lot

The apartment building, townhouses, and live-work spaces will be built on the John Street parking lot and in the vacant spaces under 33-35 King.

City Council will be voting next week to “expedite the planning review process once the Rockport Group has made the necessary planning applications”, among other motions.

The proposal to Council says:

The proposed multi-million dollar investment in the Development will create some 940 new jobs, which, together with the local expansion of public transit byMetrolinx and GO Transit will contribute to an area-wide social and economic revitalization…. The cost to build the Community/Cultural Hub, Live/Work Units and Open Space Area is projected to be $13.3 million, including an operating reserve.

 

Construction is expected to begin in 2016.

 

Mount Dennis rink-masters get a shout-out in the House

Simon Chamberlain and Guy Ruggieri, the coolest guys in Mount Dennis (they’re ice cold), got a nice mention in the House of Commons this week. Mike Sullivan said:

In York South—Weston, this cold, harsh season was made warmer and brighter by a dedicated group of volunteers who for the third year ran the Mount Dennis outdoor community skating rink in Pearen Park.

I was delighted to host a Family Day skating party there. Over four hundred individuals learned to skate at the rink this past season. Nearly nine hundred used the free skate loan program. The rink continued its fine tradition of making a positive difference in the community — one smile and one skating lesson at a time!

With a tip of my toque, I’d like to congratulate rink coordinator Simon Chamberlain, who received a Volunteer Toronto Award for his outstanding efforts, and ice master Guy Ruggieri and his over 40 volunteers who gave generously of their time to make this grassroots initiative a smashing success.

 

CN Rail far less safe last year

CN, whose trains run through Weston, was far less safe in 2014 than in previous years, according to the Globe and Mail. CN recently had two fiery train crashes in northern Ontario, and, like other railways, uses dangerous tanker cars to carry oil.

Canadian National Railway’s safety record deteriorated sharply in 2014, reversing years of improvements, as accidents in Canada blamed on poor track conditions hit their highest level in more than five years, a Reuters analysis has found.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said on Tuesday that track failure may have played a role in CN’s three recent Ontario accidents, which have fueled calls for tougher regulation. The agency said oil unit trains, made up entirely of tank cars, could make tracks more susceptible to failure.

Transport Canada has proposed modifications to tanker cars that would make them safer by 2025.