Albanese looks unloved

Laura Albanese was left looking a bit like the unloved stepchild in the House yesterday. The Liberals—her own party— gave flaccid responses to her pointed questions about the Air Rail Link, leaving Albanese’s clout in question.

Last week, Metrolinx announced, to nobody’s surprise, that it was going to buy diesel trains for the ARL, even though Metrolinx’s own study showed only a month ago that electric trains make more sense in the long run. Albanese, and her colleague Tony Ruprecht from Davenport, asked the Transportation Minister why the government is moving forward with the purchase of the diesel trains.

Kathleen Wynne responded with the same old limp lines about the Pan Am Games and being an ‘international city’.

We are committed to having the air-rail link in place in time for the Pan Am Games in 2015. It’s a very important part of our commitment on the Pan Am Games. …

The air-rail link will connect Pearson airport to Union Station. There’s a need for this rail link if we’re going to be an international city. We need to have this air-rail link in place.

Your humble correspondent can’t believe that anyone finds these answers satisfactory. First, Pearson gets more than 85,000 passengers on a typical day. A two-week,  C-list event that will draw 10,000 athletes is hardly going to break the city.  Second, worrying about being world-class is so 1995.  And anyway, a world-class city would have a world-class link, not a filthy and noisy one. Surely not even Wynne believes Wynne.

Albanese must be feeling like her party forgot to let her in before they went to bed. Being unable to get  a decent answer leaves her looking impotent. At the same time, Albanese can’t go too hard on the Liberals—she is one, after all.

YSW residents might wonder just what the point of having an insider is.

Man shot by police, run over

According to the downtown media, a Weston man was shot by police investigating a domestic disturbance. He fled the scene but was apprehended after being struck by a car.

The 29-year-old man fled an apartment building at the intersection of Weston and Oak. He was shot at least once in the chest before running northward on Weston Rd. The Star says that he is expected to recover.

The Special Investigations Unit is investigating.

Thanks to the tipster.

Huge Ice Dam Blocks Humber River, Endangers Footbridge.

Looking upriver from Raymore footbridge.

It begins just south of Lawrence Avenue, a gigantic barrage of ice piling up and blocking the Humber. Water has been forced to go around the ice and flood Lions Park.
The recent thaw has compounded the blocking of the Humber that occurred in January. Large chunks of ice floated downstream as the river rose last week and they have plugged the channel forcing it to flood its banks. This latest pile of ice begins by the Lions Arena and continues south all the way to the dam and fish ladder in Raymore Park.

Looking downriver

Halfway between the two lies the footbridge connecting Weston to Etobicoke. Normally, the abutments of the old bridge destroyed in the Hurricane Hazel disaster are visible; now they are buried without trace under tonnes of ice. On Saturday, ice was brushing the underside of the bridge and today, the bridge foundations are underwater and in danger of being washed away.

This comparison gives an idea of the depth of the ice blocking the river:

Looking downriver from Lions Park

Here is the almost same view in summer:

Summer view looking downriver.

Looking upriver; notice the normal clearance of the bridge and one of the now buried abutments.

Is the bridge in danger? My guess is that if there is another thaw soon, there will be added pressure on the foundations, not from ice but from water undermining them.

Unfortunately, Thursday’s forecast is for periods of rain and a high of 6°C.

Artscape bullish on Weston

Artscape released the results of their feasibility study last month, and they have good news. Artscape thinks Weston would be a good place for a community arts hub.

Tim Jones, the President and CEO of Artscape, spoke to Matt Galloway at the CBC. He said that Weston–Mt. Dennis has very few creative workers now, and this dissuades creative workers from coming: “The area doesn’t have the critical mass of creative people. Nor does it have the services and amenities that would attract creative people naturally.” This is a problem, he says, because creative people “breathe life into a community”.

The problem, then, is how to attract the first few, so rest of the flock will come along.

The solution, according to Artscape, is a “cultural and creative hub”. According to Jones, a hub “will bring together a smaller mass of people in one facility.” A combination of retail and affordable live/work space will “create the anchor and the critical mass of  creative people that will help energize the neighbourhood.”

The presentation on January 26 explained some of the things that make Weston attractive to an artistic venture like this: we’re receptive, engaged, and have good local political leadership. We also have a number of suitable sites:

  • Weston Park Baptist Church Land
  • The new GO Station,
  • Kodak lands
  • The former  Price Chopper
  • Weston Federal Building
  • Green P on John Street.

(The presentation slides mention neither the farmer’s market at the Green P, nor GO’s plans around the church and the Price Chopper.)

Artscape does identify some problems, however:

  • Lower than average employment in the Creative and Cultural Sector
  • Very few Creative Businesses located in the neighbourhood
  • Lack of a single clear vision
  • Fragmented neighbourhood
  • No clear project leader
  • Representation of & perception within the neighbourhood that the area is unsafe
  • Significant economic challenges

Artscape has had considerable experience revitalizing communities. They played a significant role in turning around the Distillery District, and have built facilities similar to what they propose for Weston–Mt Dennis in Queen West, Parkdale, and other places around Toronto. Recently, Artscape transformed the Wychwood Barns into a community and art centre.

Metrolinx buying diesel trains

Against nearly all residents’ wishes, Metrolinx has decided not to get electric trains. Instead, it will buy diesel trains and convert them later if it gets the money to do so.

According to the Star, the trains will cost $53 million—about $4 million each, half of the original estimate. The article also says that the trains should start arriving in 2013.

Metrolinx had been saying for months that they would buy diesel trains, not electric. They claim that the health and environmental benefits of electric trains are marginal—even though their own report says that “electrifying the entire network would deliver a 94% reduction in GO Transit’s future GHG emissions”.

Clean Train rally tomorrow

The indomitable Clean Train Coalition is having another rally tomorrow morning outside Metrolinx’s headquarters. The rally is to give one more push for electric trains on the airport link.

Metrolinx is having a board meeting to consider many things; the cryptic item “Procurement” is on the agenda.  Metrolinx has said that they will buy diesel trains soon, then convert them to electric trains 8 to 10 years from now.

The coalition is having none of it, and they are threatening to unseat the Liberals along the track—Laura Albanese among them.

Devastating fire rips through local apartment

Fire trucks, police cars and ambulances were speeding down Gary Drive this afternoon.  An apartment above Brioni Supermarket caught fire. The resident, unfortunately, was inside.

An off-duty fire fighter was shopping in the store when the fire broke out.  He managed to get the female resident downstairs where he performed CPR until emergency crews arrived.  According to City News, the woman is in hospital with second- and third-degree burns.

It appears as if fire fighters managed to prevent the fire from spreading to the neighbouring stores and apartments. There is very serious damage, though, to the building. There is a large pile of charred rubble in the parking lot, charring on the brick, and the upstairs window is gone and covered with plastic.

The heroic firefighter will, according to the Star, be given the Rescue Merit Award.

Thank you to a reader for the tip.