Padovani: TD to keep ATM in Weston for now.

The TD Canada Trust branch at 1979 Weston Road. Note the Rockport rental apartment building in the background that will be home to hundreds of new residents when it opens in the coming months.

Toronto Council candidate Chiara Padovani has managed to wrestle a concession from TD Canada Trust, set to close its 1979 Weston Road branch on September 21. The building’s ATM will remain open for ‘the time being’ after the branch closes. The bank’s WiFi hotspot (who knew?) will not continue past the closing date.

Ms Padovani also wrote to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada; the 120-employee independent agency that according to its own site,

“ensures federally regulated financial entities comply with consumer protection measures, promotes financial education and raises consumers’ awareness of their rights and responsibilities.”

These are the people who sit on their hands while predatory payday loan companies fill the void left by departing bank branches. Apparently they’ve educated the public about those things so it’s ok. In their reply to Ms Padovani’s letter, FCAC alleges that TD provided adequate consultation with the community before announcing the closure. As a result, FCAC won’t compel TD to hold a community meeting.

If a letter announcing the closure counts as adequate consultation, then yes, the community was consulted adequately.

Undaunted, Ms Padovani also tackled TD who have relented somewhat by agreeing to keep the ATM open past the closing date. In the meantime, she is working with TD Canada Trust to set up a permanent ATM in the vicinity.

So far I have received confirmation that the ATM will remain at the current location while they search for a permanent home in the vicinity. While TD is hosting sessions on digital banking and financial literacy in the community, they have not committed to installing a WiFi hub to facilitate the use of such services for people who don’t have access to the Internet.

I’m committed to continue to advocate for accommodations for the members of the community who will be negatively impacted by the bank’s imminent closure.

Access to fair banking and financial services is especially important in Weston, given the increase in predatory lending that has sever consequences on socioeconomic health of our neighbourhood. As a social worker in the community, I’ve seen far too many hardworking people get trapped in debt through pay day lenders.– Chiara Padovani

Read more from the candidate here.

Read Adam’s excellent take on the issues here.

Banking in Canada is regulated federally. Incidentally; crickets from MP Ahmed Hussen’s office on the branch’s closing.

Some reflections

We’re officially in the summer doldrums – at least I am. Adam’s still incredibly productive.

In spite of having a new premier with his early announcements and the delicious prospect of October’s civic election, my side of Weston Web’s virtual office is eerily quiet with ceiling fans gently moving stale air over the desks, typewriters and silent telephones.

WestonWeb’s imaginary virtual office in busier times. From Early Office Museum.

Before the civic election campaigns begin in earnest, this might be a good time to take a breath and reflect on some of the almost 3000 articles that have appeared on Weston Web since Adam began publishing in 2010. Incidentally, every article written on Weston Web is still available and can be searched by topic or date.

WestonWeb uses WordPress which keeps statistics on the number of times each article is viewed. Interestingly, some articles have a life of their own and are constantly being read – even years after publication. Many of these most popular articles were written by student writers who are paid a small stipend for their efforts.

Grab a beverage and get comfortable; here’s a list with links to the 20 most popular Weston Web articles of all time – in reverse order. You’ll have to supply your own roll of the drums.

20. St John’s Anglican Church up for sale. February 2016. The mid-19th Century church at 2123 Weston Road was for sale at that time.

19. Weston Wins. February 2016. This is about former Premier Wynne’s (those were the days, remember?) decision to lower fares on the UP Express that resulted in dramatically increased ridership.

18. Drake general store pop up hits Mount Dennis. December 2016. Whenever you have an article with the words ‘Drake’ and ‘Weston’ in it, there’s bound to be lots of interest. Sadly for Drake fans, this was a Drake Hotel pop up.

17. Atlantic Salmon should hit Weston this weekend. September 2013. This one is popular when salmon are running in the fall.

16. 5 buildings to be ashamed of in Weston. May 2010. As a mark of Weston’s transformation over the past eight years, all of these buildings have disappeared entirely except for the Plank House which continues to sit empty and unloved.

15. TV show filming in Weston. March 2011. An interesting article on Weston’s film operations at the time. Scroll down to view an informative comment from Weston Historical Society’s Martin Proctor.

A prop NYPD car outside Weston Lions Arena in November 2012

14. Longtime York South-Weston resident and advocate to become NDP candidate. November 2017. This article about (now MPP) Faisal Hassan is from guest writer Riley Peterson.

13.  WCI home to the youngest recipient of Volunteer Toronto’s Legacy Award. June 2016. This was written by one of our student writers, Natalie while she was a student at Weston Collegiate Institute.

12. Weston youth flies to Sweden to represent Canada in Youth World Cup. July 2014. An earlier article from Natalie about a talented WCI soccer player.

11. Zeal Burgers; real burgers. October 2016. Yet another of our student writers, Lieselotte Noort writes about the best burger joint in town.

10. P&Ms – lots of history and a bright future. June 2012. Guest writer Melissa wrote this about the restaurant that has been serving Westonians for decades.

The old P&M location.

 

9. New vegetarian restaurant. March 2016. This is about Budda Chay, the vegetarian restaurant at 1784 Jane.

8. Wakame Sushi is the best sushi joint in Weston. March 2012. Another of Adam’s excellent restaurant reviews; Wakame Sushi is still going strong at 2625 Weston Road.

7. Book review: Safe as Houses. August 2012. Adam’s review of an excellent novel by Eric Walters, written for young adults based around the historical background of Hurricane Hazel.

6. Mark DeMontis is PC candidate. November 2017. This gentleman generated considerable interest during his campaign to become a PC MPP. Adam’s astute observations proved to be correct.

5. Lutong Pinoy: A new Filipino restaurant on Weston. June 2016. Guest writer Charlie Siddayao wrote this about Weston’s first Filipino restaurant, still in business at 1754 Weston Road.

4. P&M: Ready for the Move. January 2015. The story of P&M Restaurant in the weeks before moving to its spanking new location in May 2015.

3. Irving Tissue expanding. July 2012. Irving Tissue is the last of the big employers on Weston Road and guest writer Laurie Mace covered the proposed expansion of the plant.

2. Scarlett Heights Academy to close. October 2017. There has been intense interest around the closing of this school which is not strictly in Weston but obviously of interest to residents locally.

1. Ahmed Hussen wins YSW Liberal nomination. December 2014. The dramatic federal Liberal Party nomination of Ahmed Hussen astonished pundits who expected former councillor Bill Saundercook to win. This story has been accessed more than 2000 times.

Just a couple of observations: the restaurants reviewed in our top 20 are still in operation. If you want them to stick around, keep patronizing them. It’s easy to forget that Weston has undergone some quite remarkable changes in the past eight years with more still in the pipeline. With large numbers of people about to make Weston their new home, the next few years will be interesting.

Hussen’s tough week

Ahmed Hussen, our MP, has had a very tough week. First, he was (to my mind, unfairly) criticized for speaking at The Suya Spot, “known as a criminal hangout”. The restaurant, according to the Globe and Mail, “has been frequented by members of the Neo Black Movement – also known as the Black Axe organized-crime group.”

More seriously, Hussen also said that the comments of Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s new Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services, were “not Canadian”. MacLeod had been asking the feds to pay more for illegal/irregular migrants into Canada.

Hussen said “Ontario sadly has chosen the language of fear and division…. They’ve intentionally chosen to use false language with respect to so-called queue jumping…. [It] is irresponsible, it is divisive, it is fear mongering, and it is not Canadian. And it is very dangerous. And that is the politics of fear and division that they have chosen to take. They are regurgitating the politics of fear and division that the Harper Conservatives peddled in Canada.”

MacLeod said she took “great offense” to being called un-Canadian,  said she wouldn’t be “bullied”, and she asked again for the feds to pay for the extra costs the province has borne. Michelle Rempel, Hussen’s federal critic, slammed Hussen—and made the whole situation worse by using even less parliamentary language:

Hussen’s needless combativeness is, unfortunately, in character. He regularly blames opposition politicians for the state of his department (he did so 15 times in just one long day), dodges their questions, and publicly rejects their ideas–even the ones he adopts.

Neither MacLeod nor her comments are unpatriotic. Quite the opposite. Nothing could be more Canadian than her suggestion to “sit down and have a nice cup of tea, calm down a little bit and maybe phone me and apologize”.

Hussen should follow her advice.

Hussen rebuked by Speaker

Ahmed Hussen has always been prickly in the House, and often refuses to answer questions from members of the opposition. Instead, he frequently attacks his questioners for their perceived failures and their records–even though the Liberals were elected in 2015.

Yesterday Hussen was being questioned about his department’s response to the swelling numbers of refugee claimants crossing from the US. Hussen crossed a line and insulted his colleagues in response to a question from Alice Wong, a Conservative from BC.

Ahmed Hussen

Mr. Speaker, the Harper Conservatives would not know what compassion is if it hit them in the face.

The Harper Conservatives cut $400 million from border security operations, and they pretend to care about the border. The Harper Conservatives kept families apart, with spouses, live-in caregivers, children, and others in queues. We inherited a huge, ballooning backlog under the privately sponsored refugees.

The Conservatives have no idea what compassion is about. They did not care about the Yazidi refugees.

The Speaker, Geoff Regan, rebuked Hussen for being unparliamentary, and said

It is not helpful for order in this place to suggest that people are not honourable or lack compassion or are not competent. Of course, that goes both ways. I ask members to be cautious and careful in the words they use, and particularly the minister on this occasion. I would ask him not to use that kind of suggestion in the future.

Hussen was barely chastened. Questioned again, this time by Michelle Rempel, he again blamed the Conservatives for his predicament, saying:

Mr. Speaker, the Harper Conservatives never understood a very simple thing about immigration, that investment follows silence. They did not make the necessary investments in immigration processing.

Vote for $20,000 for Frontlines

Frontlines hopes you’ll vote for them to receive a $20,000 grant for their Frontburners youth kitchen.

Youth at Frontlines; picture from @FrontlinesTO
Youth at Frontlines; picture from @FrontlinesTO

Frontburners helps young people from 18-29 learn with “hands-on training in the kitchen, in-class instruction and food handling training and assist them with finding employment”. Participants also cook for the kids from 6-12 in the after-school programs, and “facilitate workshops to teach them about meal preparation and healthy eating”.

The grant is from Epicure.com’s charitable arm, and the competition is pretty stiff: 15 charitable food organizations across the country are competing—so don’t delay.

Frontlines has really been knocking it out of the park with their culinary skills programs. This week, they catered the local politician’s Holiday Open House (and they would be delighted to cater for your holiday event, too).

Ballard: ‘Something special’ going on in Mount Dennis

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Chris Ballard, takes questions from the audience.

Chris Ballard’s father worked at the Kodak plant during the heyday of Mount Dennis and it was fitting that his son would return as Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to lend support to the area’s revival in the post-industrial future. Now living in Aurora, the Minister recognized that there is ‘something special’ going on in Mount Dennis. The size and enthusiasm of the crowd and organizers attested to that fact.

He was speaking in the Mount Dennis Legion to upwards of 80 people who braved last night’s cold to attend the Mount Dennis Community Association‘s AGM. Applauding the MDCA’s Net Zero initiative under way, he commented that their strong organization and forward thinking should be emulated by all communities.

After an opening invocation and ceremony from indigenous leaders, the Minister outlined Ontario Government initiatives designed to reduce energy consumption and promote conservation. He encouraged residents to visit the website greenon.ca to see the financial incentives designed to help people conserve energy. The money for such grants comes exclusively from the cap and trade system recently set up in Ontario.

MPP Laura Albanese and MP Ahmed Hussen (by recorded message from Ottawa) greeted the crowd and Councillor Frances Nunziata announced that the Pinetree Daycare Centre will become a net zero facility and will increase its capacity to 98 spaces, making it the largest daycare in the area. In addition, the Cycling Committee under her leadership will be making a number of recommendations to the community soon.

Opening ceremony led by Anishinaabe Grandmother Vivian Recollet and Mitchell George.
Mike Mattos, Mount Dennis Community Association Chair calls the meeting to order.

All in all, a very impressive showing for the dynamic Mount Dennis Community Association as their initiatives continue to gain momentum on a variety of fronts.

A banking desert in Weston / Mount Dennis?

From love money.com

Banking in Canada is pretty much a license to print money. Profits have never been higher and the big five banks enjoy a comfortable living. With the trend to computerized transactions, banks are finding that many of their customers have no need for a ‘bricks and mortar’ branch. Over the past few years, branches in Weston and Mount Dennis have been ‘consolidating’. This is banking language for closing and sending customers to the next nearest branch. As a result, Weston and Mount Dennis are quickly becoming a banking desert. At one time, we could choose from several banks but now, banks are closing their branches along Weston Road and Jane Street. While it’s true that demand has lessened considerably, many older residents need the comfort of talking to a teller and having their bank book updated regularly.

Like melting snow in a dog park after a long winter, what’s left behind after banks leave are payday loan companies that exploit the poor and vulnerable.

What does the future hold for banks and their branches? Probably more of the same resulting in less convenience for customers.

There is a possible solution to all of this consolidation and one that would be a ‘win’ for both banks and their clients. At least one storefront bank branch could remain open in each community. It shouldn’t matter which bank is represented as long as it services costumers from any of the other ‘big five’ banks without charging a fee. This is entirely possible in these days of Interac banking. Banks could consult with communities and decide which bank is represented in each locality. The banks could save a fortune with a clear conscience knowing that everyone; especially vulnerable seniors, had reasonable access to a bank.

The federal government is responsible for regulating our extremely profitable banks and their activities. Local MP Ahmed Hussen should take this on as a top priority before banks all leave town. If payday loan companies can have branches everywhere, it’s not too much to ask that one ‘big five’ branch stays open in each community. Competing brewers sell their wares through Brewers Retail. The banks need to set up something similar.