New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

There is a saying that ‘All politics is local‘. Here in Weston, we are blessed with politicians and three levels of government that don’t neglect to tax us in various ways yet seemingly invest little in our neighbourhood.

This is my personal list for our politicians and even for the citizens of Weston. Readers are encouraged to add their own contributions.

There is much that is wrong with Weston and at the same time reason for optimism. Weston looks tired and could be so much more. Nobody likes to shop in a run down area yet customers are the life blood of stores. The type of main street layout seen along Weston Road is the basis of revitalization in Bloor West Village and other parts of the city. It’s one thing to attack political opponents for criticizing Weston’s appearance but as recent Council candidate Dory Chalhoub pointed out, the reality of litter strewn streets, empty stores and dilapidated signage stares us in the face every day.

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Bicycle (and skate) maker CCM went bankrupt in 1983 and yet we still use the slogan ‘Home of the Bicycle’.

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Our slogan could just as legitimately be ‘Home of the Skate’ or ‘Home of Bankruptcy’, or even… ‘Home of the B.I.A. (Weston Village Business Improvement Area is one of the oldest and has been going since 1979).

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Weston BIA Resolutions:

1. Come up with a plan to replace the tired bicycle logos and ‘Home of the Bicycle’ slogan with something more meaningful to Weston – perhaps along the lines of our proximity to the Humber and beautiful parkland.

2. Encourage BIA members to take advantage of the City of Toronto’s financial support for sign replacement.

3. Members should keep their properties in good order and clean up litter on a daily basis.

3. Work on schemes that will boost attendance at the Weston Farmers Market.

4. Stores that sit vacant for months on end do nothing for the community and lower custom in remaining stores. Contact owners and find creative ways of beautifying vacant storefronts and using empty space.

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Frances Nunziata: Resolutions:

1. Focus on the appearance of Weston through the B.I.A. and similar organizations as well as money from the City.

2. Work to reduce litter and visual pollution along Weston’s business areas.

3. Revitalize the Weston Farmers’ Market.

4. Find ways of dealing with empty storefronts that plague our business districts.

5. Continue to look for ways to bring meaningful and well paid employment to Weston.

6. Encourage and facilitate completion of the Humber Trail from Mallaby Park northward.

7. Encourage 12 Division officers to get out of their cars and walk the streets of Weston.

Laura Albanese: Resolutions

1. Use your position to get the Weston Farmers’ Market in on the LCBO pilot project (even though it’s now beginning its second year). This would surely boost attendance.

2. Continue to press Metrolinx to electrify the UP Express and the Kitchener GO line. Also continue your efforts to lower fares on the UP Express with the goal of creating an above ground commuter line that will serve communities along the way.

3. Look for grants that will elevate the poorer parts of the riding and encourage education and prosperity.

4. Look for a way to establish a government office in Weston. This will boost employment and stimulate local business.

5. Investigate the possibility of attracting a community college or university campus to Weston.

6. Work with Councillor Nunziata to encourage and facilitate completion of the Humber Trail from Mallaby Park northward.

Mike Sullivan: Resolutions

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1. It’s great that you have a constituency office here in Weston. Set an example by freshening the paint and landscaping its exterior. Use the business directly across the street as your model.

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2. Continue to bring matters pertaining to Weston to the attention of the community and the appropriate representative. No, your party is not in government; we get that. Yes, we understand you’re a federal politician, not a provincial politician or the city councillor. As an MP, your mandate is to help and facilitate matters for all your constituents and not be hung up about jurisdictions.

3. Work in conjunction with colleagues from the other levels of government to reduce the levels of crime and poverty in Weston.

4. Call attention to the role of payday loan companies and their predatory effects on the poor.

4. Continue to call attention to the Harper Government’s attack on the environment with particular emphasis on how it affects Westonians.

Citizens of Weston: Resolutions

1. We need to stop lamenting the past glories of Weston and move on. We have an active Historical Society that helps us celebrate the past. The only thing we can change is the future.

2. A vibrant shopping district needs people who will take the trouble to patronize its stores. Don’t expect stores to sell us what we want without actually visiting and spending money.

3. Crime levels in Weston are lower than in many areas of Toronto. Get out of the SUV. The walk will do us good.

4. Politicians have no idea what we think unless we tell them. Don’t be shy.

Weston Business Improvement Area: Phone: 416-249-0691

Laura Albanese: Phone: 416-243-7984

Frances Nunziata: Phone: 416-392-4091

Mike Sullivan: Phone: 416-656-2526

 

Trail extension proceeding.

The extension should be completed by the end of this year.
Graders and diggers lay out the trail extension which will be paved by the end of the year.

Construction on the 600 metre extension to the Humber River cycle / walking trail is well under way. While this new (breathtakingly beautiful) section will begin at the north end of Cruickshank Park it will end at Mallaby Park, tantalizingly disconnected from the rest of the trail which resumes at Fairglen Crescent. Apparently negotiations are proceeding which will sort out rights of way and allow the two sections to link up. This will save cyclists some nasty traffic encounters north of St Phillips and allow for an almost traffic-free trip to the lake from the North of Toronto.

Atlantic Salmon should reach Weston this weekend

Weston residents wondering what has happened to Humber River salmon this fall will be pleased to know that their arrival is imminent. According to Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) workers, the problem has been the antics of downstream wildlife and a recent dry spell.

A big obstacle to migrating fish is the 3 metre tall weir/dam in Raymore Park. A few years ago, a denil fishway (aka fish ladder) was built thus extending the migratory range of several species. Unfortunately, beavers stuff the fishway with wooden debris in the hopes of creating a dam. On Friday, two workers were clearing the way for the salmon and told WestonWeb that as soon as water levels rise, these large Lake Ontario fish will be able to access the ladder. From there they will swim upstream to their birthplace, spawn and return to the lake – assuming they can run the gauntlet of people out to get them.

Workers clear the way for salmon.
Workers clear the upper end of the fish ladder.

In spite of their impressive size, salmon will be seen along the Humber as far as Bolton and Palgrave. For its part, the TRCA is studying the removal of obstacles to fish migration along the Humber and the weir in Raymore Park is definitely one of them. Probably a good thing as the beavers are relentless in their efforts to block the fish ladder.

Fish enter at the bottom left of the weir.
Water levels and beaver permitting, fish enter at the bottom left of the weir.

Nice article on the Humber

The Star has a nice article on the Humber, one of Weston’s gems.

Beginning north at the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment, the river travels 100 kilometres south to Lake Ontario, dropping more than six times the height of Niagara from its highest elevation to its lowest. This extreme slope gives it a fast current and chilly waters.

McDowell learned how to love — and fight for — the river from her mother, who was a founding member of the Humber Heritage Committee. In 1984, the committee tried to get the river recognized as a heritage river, which both McDowell and her mother thought was a no-brainer.

The river was not only the site of many mills during Toronto’s industrial heyday, it was also the site of Étienne Brulé’s travels along the Carrying Place Trail.

Humber? I hardly knew her!

You’ll think I’m mad, but I paddled around in the Humber River yesterday. It’s not the stygian mess of discarded diapers and human waste that you think. It’s nice. It’s a small, flecked emerald in our city.

I put my kayak in near the end of Jane Street, at the bottom of a small park. A nearby impromptu campsite was covered with dumped garbage, but almost as soon as I pushed off I could have mistaken Toronto for Lake Kawartha.

Trees hang low over the broad, slow river, and there were floating seeds being carried on the wind. A deer drank at the water’s edge and we stared at each other for a few minutes until my passenger, my dog Sofie, startled her.

It wasn’t undisturbed wilderness, mind you. There was some graffiti and a few floating bottles. I could hear the highway and construction. I also saw two docks—likely illegal ones put in by nearby homeowners from Baby Point, a wealthy neighbourhood.

I don’t mind. The docks aren’t doing any harm. But, as the law stands now, I could have those docks removed with a phone call. The law, and the government, are on my side. Sometime soon, that will change. The law will be on my side, but the government will stay out of it. If I want to have the docks removed, I’ll have to sue.

Right now, the Humber is protected by a law almost as old as Canada: the Navigable Waters Protection Act of 1882. The NWPA protects any river or lake deep enough to float a canoe in, and it requires anyone—like those dock owners—who would build in a waterway to get permission.

This was a great law. Unimpeded rivers are healthy rivers. The law, written when getting around by water really mattered, had the happy side effect of protecting aquatic environments. Dams, for instance, make it hard for both fish and canoes to navigate a river. By protecting fishermen, we protected fish.

As part of the 2013 omnibus budget bill, though, the Conservative government has gutted the NWPA. There are hundreds of thousands of rivers in Canada—perhaps more than two million. The feds will now only protect 62 of them. There are at least 31,000 large lakes in Canada. Only 97 will be covered.

IMG_20130624_132844The new law, now called the Navigation Protection Act, contains a list of protected waters. The old law protected any river, wild or well-used, far or near, but the new NPA only protects the ones on the list. The rest of the rivers will be protected, if at all, by common law and local regulations.

This is a problem. Common law is the law of lawsuits. If I had tipped the feds off to those illegal docks in the Humber, civil servants would have come, removed them, and billed the owners. Under the new law, I will have to take the owners to court myself.

You can see the problems this will cause. I don’t have a lot of money. I don’t have a lot of energy. I might need to get standing and prove that the docks actually affected me, not just navigation in principle. And I, a poor Westonian, would need to take a Baby Point millionaire to court. She’ll cream me.

The docks in the Humber are small potatoes, though. The Kitimat and Fraser Rivers in BC are not on the list. The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline would cross them. Who can afford to take Enbridge to court? Tens of thousands of smaller, less known rivers and lakes are not on the list either. Nobody at all will protect them. Does our federal leadership expect trappers to take mining companies to court? Or is that the very idea—to help corporations even at citizens’ expense?

The federal NDP is pushing back against this deregulation. Our own MP, Mike Sullivan, put forward a private member’s bill to protect the Humber, and other members of his party have put forward bills to protect 26 other rivers.

This is a nice gesture. Private member’s bills never succeed, though, and we don’t need protection for 27 more rivers. We need protection for all rivers, lakes and ponds.

The Navigable Waters Protection Act was not good environmental protection. Far from it—it was ecological only as a happy coincidence. But dismantling any environmental protection is regressive. The government should rein in moneyed interests and protect the natural world. It should serve the public good; corporations can serve themselves.

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Sullivan blasts Feds

York South-Weston MP, Mike Sullivan pulled no punches when he announced his private member’s bill in Cruickshank Park today. Normally, building projects that affect the Humber must undergo an environmental assessment. During last year’s federal budget, the government removed this requirement from hundreds of Canadian rivers including all of the Humber and its tributaries, north of Bloor. As previously mentioned in Weston Web, private members’ bills rarely become law because in this case, the majority Conservatives will vote against it. The tactic is commonly used to raise awareness of a concern and this appears to be the goal of Sullivan and his party, the NDP. Sullivan would like protection restored to the Humber which is one of Canada’s heritage rivers. To make his point he even waded into the river in rubber boots. Sullivan believes the reason protection has been removed from the Humber is so that companies will have an easier time when building projects on sensitive land such as the Humber watershed. Enbridge, for example will have an easier time increasing the flow rate in one of their pipelines which travels through the Humber watershed.

Mike Sullivan by the Humber.
Mike Sullivan standing in the Humber.

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority board member Mike Mattos talked about pollution entering the river from a variety of sources and the need for more protection not less.  If the pipeline ruptures, as some have in the past, said Mattos, it could take hours before the flow is stopped.

Mary Louise Ashbourne with a map of the Humber Watershed.
Mary Louise Ashbourne with a map of the Humber Watershed.

Mary Louise Ashbourne, President of the Weston Historical Society emphasized the important part that the Humber has played in Canadian history and was of the opinion that while all rivers in Ontario are important, designated Heritage rivers such as the Humber deserve special protection.

Sullivan was handing out petitions supporting his argument that he will take to Parliament. Download a copy here. A YouTube video of the news conference is available here. The openparliament.ca transcript of the bill’s introduction by Sullivan is here.