New PC candidate: Mark DeMontis

The Progressive Conservatives have long been total also-rans in York South–Weston, but that looks about to change. Mark DeMontis has announced his candidacy for the PC nomination.

DeMontis, a Westonian, is well known for rollerblading across Canada to raise money for Courage Canada, a charity that helps blind and low-vision people get into hockey. DeMontis was a promising hockey player himself before losing much of his sight in early adulthood.

Past PC candidates have been total duds, and have barely campaigned. DeMontis, by contrast, has been present in the community and has been increasing his presence on Twitter for several months. He may prove a challenge in this traditionally centre-left community.

Glen Murray’s departure and The RailPath Extension

Former Ontario Minister of the Environment, Glen Murray was in Mount Dennis in June, (along with Frances Nunziata and Laura Albanese) supporting their Net Zero initiative. His abrupt departure has left a few questions hanging about two important Mount Dennis initiatives, in particular their Net Zero push as well as the Toronto West Railpath cycle and pedestrian trail northward expansion.

This article covers the West Toronto RailPath.

The RailPath is a great idea that has been tirelessly promoted by people along the UP Express line and particularly in The Junction and Mount Dennis. Why a path along a rail line? Railway lines are built to smooth out hills wherever possible – trains don’t like inclines. For that reason, a bike / walking trail alongside a rail line is a perfect match because without hills and dips a bike / pedestrian path is easier and safer to use. Plans are to extend the trail southwards below Queen Street and beyond (under study).

In June’s meeting in Mount Dennis, Murray seemed to give an assurance that a northward Railpath extension would get the go ahead despite a previous firm no from Metrolinx. At the time of the meeting, Murray must have known that his future lay elsewhere. Attempts to contact his constituency office on the topic have not been successful.

Then Environment Minister Glen Murray (centre) at the June 12 meeting in Mount Dennis Library.

The new Environment Minister, Chris Ballard directed my inquiry back to Metrolinx Senior Media Manager, Anne Marie Aikins who tells me that “The City of Toronto is the lead on the Railpath project and is in a better position to answer questions about the project and its timelines.” Metrolinx has basically said that the RailPath must end at Black Creek Drive and the City has been tasked with finding a route.

Simon Chamberlain (recording secretary of the (ever awesome) Mount Dennis Community Association) is very knowledgeable on the issues around the possible northward extension. He says that this particular rail track passes directly through communities and could be be a link to stores and other amenities along the way. Unfortunately, without wide enough bridges, the rail path can only run north as far as Black Creek Drive and then exit the corridor at that point, continuing on a much hillier trail through the Black Creek Valley to Trethewey and westward into the back streets of Weston.

The rail corridor as it makes its way north-west from Union Station. Red dots indicate where the bike / pedestrian route might leave the corridor and where it could join Trethewey.

Simon explained that the main obstacles to continuing the trail northward are bridges which are expensive to widen after the fact. Sadly, unlike the builders of the Bloor Viaduct, Metrolinx didn’t seem to anticipate the need for a wider corridor. The MDCA unsuccessfully tried to get Metrolinx to only partially demolish the Photography Drive bridge that crossed Eglinton and thus leave room for a pedestrian / cycle trail. He believes that there is a possible route northward over the bridge that crosses Black Creek Drive and MDCA has been pushing Metrolinx to extend the RailPath north to Ray Drive and beyond, possibly as far as Denison.

Simon believes that Metrolinx is reluctant to alter any contracts that are under way because of the additional expense (think of home renos when you ask a contractor for changes during the job).

The City’s Railpath Senior Public Consultation Coordinator, Maogosha Pyjor says that,

“There have been questions about extending the Railpath further north west along the rail corridor. Planning for this extension would require its own Environmental Assessment…. the City has been informed by Metrolinx that due to their track expansion plans there will not be space in rail corridor for a trail going north. The City will have to  look at on-street connections.”

 That seems to be the way it goes for Weston / Mount Dennis. Two steps forward and one step back.
This might be a good time to remember that politicians will get to work on an idea if they think that people are behind it.
Updates when more news comes in.

Farmers Market Official Opening

Today, the Weston Farmers Market officially began its 39th year and a trio of local politicians was there to celebrate. Local folklore as recorded by Councillor Nunziata claims that there’s never rain on opening day and this year was no exception. The Market is in its second of three years at the UP Express parking lot.

L to R: York South-Weston  MPP Laura Albanese, York South-Weston Councillor Frances Nunziata, BIA Chair Massum Hossein and York South-Weston MP Ahmed Hussen declare the 2017 Market officially open.
Long time market trader Grampa Ken checks on a couple of customers.
Acoustic pop cover band The Turnups play for visitors.
Sunshine Natural Beauty products on display.
Lots of bedding and container plants to choose from.
Local bakers, World of Cake serve coffee and delicious baked goods.
Market stalwart, Joe Gaeta stands beside his favourite bougainvillea.
Cheri Hurst of Weston’s Historical Society (far left) hard sells membership benefits to a potential new member.
The Egg Man has returned for another season.
Home made jams and juices from the Niagara Region.
Albion Hills Farm is back.
Sunshine Natural Beauty has a selection of their products on display.

 

Mount Dennis Net Zero Community Meeting

Glen Murray discusses implications and possibilities for Mount Dennis.

Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray was the star attraction at a meeting held in Mount Dennis Library tonight. The meeting was hosted by Councillor Frances Nunziata and Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Laura Albanese. Jim Baxter, director of Toronto’s Environment and Energy Division was along to add support. Over 40 people came out on a 34° evening to hear some details about Ontario’s five year Climate Change Action Plan and how it can be applied in Mount Dennis.

Highlights of the meeting:

Minister Murray promised to coax Metrolinx into approving the rail path northward expansion through Mount Dennis and possibly Weston. He applauded the net zero initiative being undertaken in Mount Dennis.

There will be energy retrofits available for social and rental housing.

Home energy saving upgrades will be subsidized.

The Ontario Government is very supportive of more bike lanes and better cycling infrastructure.

He thinks that bike paths along hydro corridors should be encouraged.

The province will be offering an incentive of up to $14,000 towards the lease or purchase of an electric vehicle and up to $1000 to install a home charging station.

Four years of free overnight charging for electric vehicles.

Rebates to help trade to an electric vehicle.

Before selling a home, owners will be required to perform an energy audit so that potential purchasers will know the home’s energy costs.

Encouraging words were said about the Black Creek channel and its possible naturalization.

The Green Investment Fund will provide money towards retrofitting low energy systems in homes, apartments and businesses.

Minister Murray was keen to return to meet with residents for a hike / cycle along the Humber to look at the weirs along the river.

Elliot Strashin owns and is renovating the old Cooper Canada sporting goods factory on Alliance and presciently enough has been renovating it, placing a solar farm on the roof, geothermal energy systems and better insulation. One of his tenants is a company called Dynacert which designs computerized on demand water electrolysis systems that feed the product (hydrogen and oxygen) into existing fossil fuel engines instead of using diesel or gasoline. This process reduces carbon emissions and increases efficiency. Container ship engines generate huge amounts of emissions are being considered for application of this technology. He was wondering about what support there would be for expanding the factory. Minister Murray promised to meet up with Mr. Strashin to see what can be done.

Mr Murray seems quite taken with Mount Dennis and mentioned that what people are looking for is a community with a history and unique businesses, restaurants and cafes. They don’t want to find chain businesses in their locale. Ideally the neighbourhood should be walkable and have good public transportation and cycling options. In 2021, once the Eglinton Crosstown is opened, and cycling infrastructure is improved, Mount Dennis will be well on its way to being such a community. The formal motion to declare Mount Dennis a net zero community will be presented to Council in July.

The meeting ended with an individual question and answer session.

Presto Cards at Downtown Weston Shoppers Drug Mart

It’s not a huge announcement (on Twitter) from local MPP, and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Laura Albanese but it’s one that makes sense for Weston. Many transit organizations including the TTC, GO and UP Express are moving to join the rest of the world in using electronic fare payments. This is done through an electronic card that can be loaded online, by phone or at a retail location. The card adopted for use in the GTA is the Presto Card and while it’s had some teething troubles, it’s supposed to be more convenient for customers and less subject to fraud than paper transfers or easily counterfeited tokens.

Minister Albanese announced today that our local Shoppers Drug Mart will be one of only 10 Toronto outlets selected to sell and service Presto Cards.

Weston has several modes of transit in one location and this is the reason no doubt that our branch of Shoppers will be one of the first locations in the city to roll out the service.

Trump’s vile policies reach Weston

Protestor in Washington, DC. Photo by Laurie Shaull.
Protestor in Washington, DC. Photo by Laurie Shaull.

Donald Trump’s repugnant policies reached right into Weston this week. Our MP, Ahmed Hussen, who is the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, had to deal with the prospect of dual citizens, permanent residents, and in-transit travellers unable to go to the US after Donald Trump signed a travel ban.

Bizarrely, Hussen even had to consider whether he, the Minister of Immigration, might be unable to travel there.

Asked about his own situation and whether he worried that he might be blocked from travelling to the U.S. because of his birthplace:

“Yes, I was born in Somalia, but I took my oath of citizenship to this country 15 years ago. And I’m a Canadian. I’ve spent most of my life here and I continue to be proud of our country our ability to be generous and to view those who seek protection.”

Hussen, though a Canadian citizen, fled to Canada as a refugee when he was a teen. Somalia is one of the seven predominantly-Muslim countries whose citizens are now disallowed entry into America.

Though Hussen did not “bluntly denounce” Trump’s policy, he did say “Canada is a country of immigrants…. We have always welcomed people in need and will continue to do so.”

Laura Albanese, Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, reiterated that commitment today in a news release. She said:

I spoke to the federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, and reiterated Ontario’s open door stance with respect to receiving immigrants and refugees from all countries, irrespective of race, ethnicity or faith.

We will proudly continue to welcome people from all parts of the world as we continue to create economic security and opportunity and develop the diverse and inclusive communities where all people thrive.

Hussen promoted to Cabinet

Ahmed Hussen speaking in Parliament. Screen shot from YouTube.

In a cabinet shuffle announced today, newly minted MP Ahmed Hussen has been promoted to Immigration Minister and becomes the first black and Somali-Canadian member of the Trudeau cabinet. Hussen will take the place of John McCallum who has been appointed Ambassador to China.

Hussen came to Canada from Mogadishu as a 16 year-old and later managed to put himself through York University, earning a B.A. He worked in provincial politics before standing in the 2015 general election for the Liberals.

As a rookie MP, his rise to cabinet has been meteoric by any standards. York South Weston is already represented by influential representatives; the Speaker of Toronto Council, Frances Nunziata and the provincial Minister of Citizenship, Laura Albanese. Let’s hope this increased power and influence translates into some positive results for York South-Weston.

CBC has the full story here.