A contrast in Nomination Meetings this weekend

Political junkies will be in their element this weekend which will see York South-Weston Liberals and N.D.P. nominate candidates for the upcoming federal election.

Federal NDP:

On Friday, local New Democrats will gather to officially acclaim incumbent Mike Sullivan as their candidate for the election scheduled to take place next October. The meeting takes place at the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Toronto headquarters, located at 47 Densley Avenue, in the Keele/Lawrence area. The start-time is 7:30 p.m. Halifax MP and NDP Deputy Leader Megan Leslie, will be the guest speaker.

Only current NDP members who live in York South-Weston are eligible to vote at the meeting, but members of the public are welcome.
For more information, call the York South–Weston NDP hotline at 416-244-3349.

Federal Liberals:

On Sunday, at Weston Collegiate Institute, 100 Pine Street, these six candidates will compete for the nomination to replace former MP Alan Tonks who was defeated by Mike Sullivan in 2011:

Mubarak Ahmed
Anthony Cesario
Ahmed Hussen
Masum Hossein
Monique Rudder
Bill Saundercook

Candidate speeches begin at 3pm and rounds of voting will begin at 2pm and take place until the winner receives more than 50% of the vote. Liberal Party members resident in York South-Weston are eligible to vote.

Federal Conservatives:

Once WestonWeb receives news of the Conservative nomination meeting, we’ll amend this article and post the date and time.

Hurricane Hazel – Iconic Art Memorial Fades

Back in 2002, local artist Mario Noviello was commissioned to decorate the Eastern abutment of the old Humber footbridge. Mario’s concept was brilliant—to illustrate the old bridge and neighbourhood and replicate the front pages of several newspapers reporting on the disaster. All this was using remnants of the old bridge as a ‘canvas’. This is one of the many bridges swept away during Hurricane Hazel. Mario’s beautifully executed and extensive set of murals covered the abutment telling the story of that fateful night in 1954. Many more photographs of the mural are here.

Sadly, the mural has not withstood the elements well and has almost faded to the point of oblivion.

The main mural showing the old footbridge - photo taken in 2002

When I spoke with Mario in 2004 after the mural and plaques were unveiled, he told me that an anti-graffiti coating placed over the murals was already leading to a deterioration of the underlying paint.

Cutting the ribbon at the official opening, October 16, 2004; from left Rob Draper, Alan Tonks, Mario Noviello, Julian Fantino, Elaine Heaton and Frances Nunziata.

 

 

The mural as it looks today.

This corner of Lions Park is the nearest thing we have to a shrine commemorating the victims of the hurricane and, along with plaques describing the event, draws many a school group, walking tour, pedestrian and cyclist on their way through the park system. Thieves took about 5 minutes to remove the original cast metal plaques on either side of the new bridge—now replaced with plastic ones.  It’s truly a shame that the mural is in such poor shape. Hopefully, one day it can be restored to its former glory.

 

Election Results: The 20% Solution.

With no word from Alan Tonks about his stunning defeat, regular folks and political insiders are buzzing about Mike Sullivan’s upset victory in York South-Weston.  Sometimes statistics can provide an insight into what happened.

The voter turnout this time was 51% which is well below the average of around 61% for the country. In 2008 it was 50.4%. Why is our voter turnout so low? Who knows; maybe non-voters feel disconnected from the process or perhaps they feel that it doesn’t matter who wins. Either way, democracy is not well served when half of eligible voters decide that it is a waste of time to vote. The winning candidate won by a comfortable margin yet received 14,119 votes –  that’s only 20.4% of the riding’s 68,978 eligible voters. Think about it; 20% of voters decided the result.

Here are the vote counts and electorate percentages:

  • Mike Sullivan 14,119 …..20.4%
  • Alan Tonks 11,481 ……..16.7%
  • Jilian Saweczko 8530 …..12.4%
  • Sonny Day 1045 ………….1.5%

In municipal elections, voter turnout is even lower – only 40% bothered to vote in Ward 11 last time.

A determined candidate needed to marshal less than 20% of the vote this time—Mike Sullivan was that candidate. Without taking away from Mike Sullivan’s message and excellent campaign, this should be a warning to all politicians who feel that they own a safe seat. The fact is that where voter turnout is traditionally low, a candidate with credibility and determination can overcome even the most comfortable of incumbents.

Our Election Pick

On Monday, May 2, democracy is calling. Voters have a realistic choice between incumbent Alan Tonks (Liberal) and longtime resident Mike Sullivan (NDP).

Conservative candidate Jilian Saweczko has played a peek-a-boo campaign – if anyone has seen her please would you let us know?

The Green’s Sonny Day struck us as a true gentleman but is very inexperienced and will need some time to learn the ways of politics.

Let’s look at the two front runners:

Career politician Alan Tonks, has been the Liberal member for York South-Weston since 2000: half of that time as a government MP and half in opposition. In all that time, there has been no great achievement on which he can stake a claim. In fact, since 2000, York South-Weston has continued its steady decline. While his style is congenial and he is by all accounts well-liked in Ottawa, as has been pointed out in WestonWeb, Mr Tonks is the Liberal who voted with the Tories more than all but one of his colleagues. Tellingly, Mr Tonks no longer resides in his own riding.

Mike Sullivan has worked hard to bring improvements to Weston and was the NDP candidate in the 2008 election. For the past seven years he has worked to bring some transparency and accountability to the Air Rail Link project and has battled to make it an asset to Weston rather than a source of noise and disruption. As head of the grassroots Clean Train Coalition, he applied pressure (with some success) to electrify and/or cover the line so that Weston residents would not be subjected to the noise and pollution of diesel locomotives. It was through such activism that the Air Rail Link was pressured into stopping in Weston rather than barreling straight through. We need continued advocacy to ensure electrification now, not at some future date as well as minimizing disruption to residents. He is also working to bring jobs to the empty Kodak site.

Sullivan is intelligent, articulate and well-informed. As a Weston resident of two decades’ standing, he knows the issues.

We need a strong, knowledgeable, well-spoken advocate for Weston with a proven record of getting things done. Alan Tonks’ would be a great MP for Rosedale where everything is going swimmingly, but Weston is in dire straits and we need someone who can advocate with knowledge, passion, intelligence and forcefulness. The fact that Mike Sullivan is a long-time resident is another plus.

WestonWeb’s endorsement therefore goes to Mike Sullivan.

All Candidates Debate

The all-candidates debate for Federal election candidates was held at the Mount Dennis Legion on Wednesday, April 13th.

The event was well organized and attended with a well-structured questioning process which allowed both neighbourhood organizations and individuals a chance to address the candidates. An air of respect and courtesy was evident throughout the evening due mainly to the comportment of the candidates who answered questions without resorting to negativity, and the audience’s interest in listening to the candidates. It was evident that everyone was there to exchange and receive information rather than engage in the discussion of preconceived ideas. The Mount Dennis Legion should be congratulated for their contribution to the democratic process by hosting this event.

Unfortunately there was one negative aspect to the evening; the non-participation of the Conservative candidate who apparently had a more pressing engagement which prevented her from meeting with ordinary voters and responding to uncensored questions. Her empty chair stood as a testament to the discomfort the Conservatives seem to have with Toronto. No doubt voters will return the favour at the ballot box.

The other candidates showed an interest in helping Weston area residents and a knowledge of our needs. All three as stated above presented a professional attitude. Of the three, Sonny Day (Green Party), Mike Sullivan (New Democratic Party) and Alan Tonks (Liberal), Sonny came across as a genuinely nice man who demonstrated a generosity of spirit when he praised the good work Mike Sullivan has done for Weston. Mike came across as well prepared, confident, professional and articulate. Many of his answers met with the approval of the audience. Alan Tonks as the elder statesman of the group was suave and well-spoken. Unfortunately, he has developed and perfected the career politician’s habit of restructuring questions while answering them, thereby never really addressing questioners’ concerns. As a non-resident, he suffers in comparison to the other two candidates. Hopefully Weston has matured beyond the need to be represented by gentleman candidates who claim to know our concerns better than we do. It might be time to be represented by one of our own.

Each of the candidates had winning moments, the best was Sonny’s answer to a question about Harper’s proposed purchase of jet fighters designed for aircraft carriers (Canada has none). He won loud applause when he stated that Canada needs to purchase military equipment that meets Canada’s needs; ‘We are not a northern branch of the U.S. Air Force’.

Mike Sullivan had a lot of solid ideas on how to improve the Weston area and received loud applause many times throughout the evening. He stated that the proposed airport express should be an above ground subway line serving all of the communities along the line. This would be a good step towards bringing Toronto’s transportation system in line with other world cities which are extensively served by rapid public transit. Alan’s major good point was that he claims to be working to bring a campus of George Brown College to Weston, a great way to stimulate the Weston economy.

Overall, all three candidates did well but if one were to pick a winner it would have to be Mike Sullivan who presented clear answers and was able to point out some of Alan Tonks’ worse decisions as a Member of Parliament. As an experienced advocate for the Weston area, he is the most closely tied to the community and its improvement. Tonks came across as smooth and professional which is fine if Weston is happy with the status quo and sees no need for improvement. Sonny Day is well-intentioned and would certainly be a breath of fresh air in Ottawa.

Alan Tonks is a Top Dissenter

The Globe and Mail has a story today on MPs and their parliamentary activities. While our Federal MP Alan Tonks is not among the absentee or silent members, he and Mississauga MP Paul Szabo hold the record for voting with the Tories against the Liberal Party mainstream.

As noted previously, he opposed a bill to add ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ to the Canada Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code’s hate crimes section. He also voted with the Tories to oppose Gerard Kennedy’s bill amending the refugee act to include conscientious objectors to seek refuge in Canada.

You can get the rest of Mr. Tonks’ voting record here.

It seems that when you vote Liberal, to quote the Rolling Stones, you don’t always get what you want.

Sow and Ye Shall Reap

The latest in a string of shootings is no surprise to most people in Weston. It is however a source of mild puzzlement to police and politicians. They simply don’t understand why Weston is seemingly plagued by such events. Let’s look at the facts of the situation we find ourselves in.

An exquisite combination of political bungling, poor planning and corruption permitted the building of large numbers of low income housing several decades ago. This low income housing became a magnet for immigrants seeking a new life in Canada. The village of Weston as part of the City of York was given a major challenge; how to assimilate large numbers of new Canadians and help them to become productive citizens. Unfortunately, Weston has been largely left on its own to achieve this while dealing with problems that have arisen.

The Federal Government is in charge of immigration and knows exactly the stresses placed on Weston by immigration. We need more resources, not fewer and Alan Tonks should be shouting this from the rooftops every day, instead of being satisfied with the occasional photo op and voting with his Tory friends. Lord knows, Alan Tonks is well paid for his work and will receive a pension better than most would dream of as a salary. Is he worth the money? Not in my books. One of his latest efforts is a poorly-written private member’s bill supporting electrification of urban commuter rail operations. Dear old Alan couldn’t even be bothered to check for grammatical errors in the bill! Private members’ bills rarely become law.

The surest way to help first-generation children of immigrants is through education. Schools need extra resources and the very best teachers. Perhaps Alan Tonks’ son Chris could help here. He is our public school trustee.

Laura Albanese is a Liberal MPP in the McGuinty government. As an immigrant herself she should know that Weston needs more resources. She has been an MPP since October of 2007 and seems to have achieved little in that time. Her activity in the provincial legislature comprises mainly of softball questions to Liberal ministers. She has submitted a private member’s bill in favour of electrifying the GO Train system with priority for the Georgetown corridor.

Frances Nunziata has in the past been a fighter for Weston and was instrumental in exposing corruption in the City of York. She has spearheaded some important initiatives such as moving Metrolinx towards serving the people of Weston rather than not stopping in the community. Now, she seems to be lost in the details rather than the bigger picture. Where are we in the planning of a community centre for the area? Is Weston getting value for money from its police services?

Police seem to regard Weston as a dangerous place. When a major crime has been committed we see lots of police. Between crimes we see nothing. When was the last time any of us saw a police officer on foot patrol? According to a recent John Sewell article on police in Toronto, the average police officer averages one dispatched call every 20 hours of duty. Driving around waiting for problems to happen might not be the best approach any more.

The TAVIS initiative supposedly assigns extra police officers to areas ‘experiencing an increase in violent activity’. I wonder if Weston sees any of these officers.

This latest attempted murder seems to have happened at a party or an after-hours club. These are notoriously hard to keep track of as they spring up spontaneously. That said, Weston Road is a fairly obvious place for patrols – would a large number of cars parked in an area at 4 a.m. be worth investigating? Admittedly, that would require courage and initiative but isn’t that what we pay our officers for?

Last for censure is the criminal element in Weston which seems to feel the need to carry weapons and use them when their delicate egos are threatened by an accidental brush or an ill-timed comment. Real men don’t carry guns, they find work and lose the fantasy that they are part of a gang. Real men try to better themselves in the face of adversity—they don’t choose to be a plague on society.