A bridge for Metrolinx, not for us

Laura Albanese, our MPP, wrote a quite scathing letter to Bruce McCuaig, the CEO of Metrolinx, demanding that the John Street Bridge be opened.

Apparently, Metrolinx doesn’t answer letters even from MPPs; Albanese says her last correspondence was “never followed up on with a formal response”.

I know, at the end of the day, it’s a bridge and arguably, an ugly, oversized one. But to me, it stands as a symbol of all that is wrong with Metrolinx: it is expensive, consultative, and sold with breathless unfalsifiable jargonese.

But at the end of the day, after millions of dollars and hours of puffery,  it’s a bridge built for Metrolinx, not for us.

Letter from Albanese

 

 

Payday loan shops face push

City Council is considering a motion to space out payday loan shops. The motion would force money stores to be separated by at least 400m and increase the licence fees from $1000 to $3000. The motion was seconded by Frances Nunziata.

There are at least 10 cheque-cashers and two pawn shops in Weston. This bylaw would not affect them; it will only affect new businesses. 

The law will reduce the number of cheque cashing businesses, but will likely enrich the existing owners by reducing competition.

The motion would also ask the province to reduce the interest rate to 35%. It will also build encourage credit unions and banks to set up (or not leave) priority communities, like our own.

Finally, it will ask the feds to look into a postal bank—an idea recently championed by ACORN in Weston.

Albanese trying to get answers about LRT

The Eglinton LRT should be a huge boon for Weston and Mount Dennis, but it hasn’t been without controversy. Metrolinx says that it, not the TTC, will own the rail line, though the TTC will operate it.

This has led to many questions: How will the fares be split? How easy will it be to transfer? And why is Metrolinx getting involved in something that seems clearly like a municipal issue?

Laura Albanese tried to clarify some of these questions in Queen’s Park last week. She asked the Transportation Minister, Bob Chiarelli, to explain.  After a bit of self-congratulation, he said “the TTC will be responsible for vehicle drivers, station operators and ticket staff; safety and enforcement; and dispatch and control of vehicle access throughout the system.”

In a follow up question, she asked him to explain how the lines will work with the existing system. Chiarelli explained that there will  be only one fare and simple transfers.

While Albanese’s effort to get more transparency is to be commended, there is little reason to be sanguine. Steve Munro, in a (typically) long and incisive post, raises many questions and has little faith.

Metrolinx is a notoriously opaque agency that conducts much of its business in private. Details of the arrangements for [the] contract are likely to be shrouded by the term “commercial confidential” that conveniently hides private sector agreements. If the TTC screws up, everyone knows about the problems, and the fallout can damage political careers. If a private contract goes awry, we may never know. This is not acceptable for such important public infrastructure that could remain, through a badly written contract, “public” in name only.

Metrolinx owes Toronto an open discussion of its intentions for how the new LRT lines will be built and operated, how the funding will work, and what expectations the city and its transit riders should have of what they’ll be getting. At a regional level, Metrolinx needs to be frank with all municipalities on its future role in transit operations and funding. The Toronto LRT decision should have been a detailed announcement, with the unknowns clearly acknowledged and marked for future discussion. What we got was a two page letter between bureaucrats.

 

Albanese explains why she didn’t sign letter to Premier

A couple of weeks ago, local politicians sent a letter to Premier McGuinty chiding him for allowing a diesel Air Rail Link and asking him meet with the affected communities. Mike Sullivan and Frances Nunziata both signed it. Laura Albanese, however, did not.

I asked Ms Albanese to explain why she did not sign the letter; she replied that the letter had been sent to her with little time to respond:

My office was contacted by MPP Jonah Schein one day before the letter was to be sent out, with all the signatures of the other officials already attached, which I feel did not give me very much time to speak with the other representatives to express my concerns on this matter. I felt that parts of the letter were not accurate, and although some changes were made to the letter before it was sent in its final form, I could not in good conscience sign the letter on MPP Schein’s timeline as it was presented.

She says that she will support Jonah Schein’s bill to electrify the Air Rail Link, however, though “MPP Schein needs to recognize that significant progress has been made toward our collective end goal of electrification.”

You can read the entire letter.

Albanese’s campaign manager explains

Laura Albanese did not attend the televised debate last night. I spoke to her campaign manager, Guy Bethell, to find out why.

Bethell said it was his decision to not have her go; he said there was “a whole number of reasons” and gave me two.

First, Ferreira, he said, didn’t debate in good faith at the Learning Enrichment Foundation. Ferreira accused her of missing a vote on hydro bills, but, according to Bethell and Albanese, she was recovering from surgery. Ferreira was, “trying to be cute, like Jack Layton in the federal debate. It ended up being a cheap shot.”

Second, Albanese was busy meeting voters at the door. She broke her elbow a few days ago, and, he says, lost some time campaigning so “she wanted to meet voters face to face”.

I told Bethell that my readers had left many comments expressing disappointment at not being able to see Albanese, and I asked him what he would say to those who had been looking forward to the debate. He said, “There were three debates that people could have attended. They could have come out to those debates. Two days before the election, she’s talking to as many voters as possible at the door.”

 

Update:

Paul Ferreira has been in touch to defend himself against Bethell’s allegations. Ferreira said that he stands by what he said; Albanese did skip the vote in question. He told me, “She was in the house. She was there on the transcript. I looked it up myself. For her campaign manager to come out and say that it was cheap is beyond the pale.”