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.

Politicians, What Have You Done For Weston Lately?

Weston has had a raw deal in the past few decades. Our ‘village’ has lost nearly all of its industry, historic properties have been demolished to make way for unattractive developments, and the area has become depressed. The once attractive main street has been infiltrated by payday loan/cheque cashing companies, dollar stores, and other detritus of hard times.

Weston gets no respect. The airport link as originally proposed was never intended to stop in Weston. When the TTC wants to save money, Weston services are cut. When Metrolinx needed to expropriate properties as part of the airport link, the way they dealt with homeowners was reprehensible and high handed. Drug related gangs of criminals seem to operate freely without much fear of capture. There is apprehension on the part of many people about being a victim of crime. While there are many beautiful homes in Weston, there is a large amount of ugly low-income housing both public and private.

Throughout all of this process, federal, provincial and municipal politicians have collected their generous salaries and tut-tutted about the sad state of affairs: “What a shame and we’re doing all we can; by the way, don’t forget to re-elect me as I’m really concerned about unemployment—mine.”

With one election under our belts and two more on the way, perhaps it’s time that the citizens of Weston asked our politicians: what have you done for Weston lately? Sitting on committees and attending conferences in glamorous places doesn’t count. What really counts are results bringing prosperity and hope back to Weston and eliminating the conditions that encourage crime, namely unemployment and lack of opportunity.

Here are some of the things that Weston could benefit from:

  • Improved education and workforce training
  • Decent housing
  • Help for struggling retailers and small businesses
  • Doing something about empty commercial properties
  • Police on the ground, not in cars
  • Politicians actively working on our behalf.
  • Encouragement and support for local initiatives such as the Farmers’ Market
  • Community facilities such as an indoor pool
  • Better communication by politicians about what they are doing for the community

There is no desire to malign individual politicians by lumping them together as a group. Perhaps everyone is doing the best they can. It would certainly be appreciated if our individual representatives would take the time to outline plans for Weston to their employers, the people.

You may wish to contact them individually, here are their contact details:

Federal MP Alan Tonks,
2534 Keele St
Toronto ON  M6L 2N8
Phone: (416) 656-2526
Fax: (416) 656-9908
Email: [email protected]

Provincial MPP Laura Albanese
Unit 102
2301 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M6M 3Z9
Tel: (416) 243-7984
Fax: (416) 243-0327
Email: [email protected]

Councillor Frances Nunziata
Toronto City Hall
100 Queen Street West, Suite C49
Toronto, ON  M5H 2N2
Phone: (416) 392-4091
Fax: (416) 392-4118
Email: [email protected]

Metrolinx says no to electric trains

My grandfather went to work by electric train beginning in 1904. It was a wonder of the day with far less noise and pollution than steam trains. More than a century later, electric trains are even more efficient and are used in jurisdictions all over the world where clean, fast and quiet transportation is a priority. Quite simply, electric trains are quiet, efficient and far less polluting than any other mode of transportation except the bicycle. They are faster too, and can regenerate power when braking. Diesel is recognized to be noisier and more polluting although electrifying a rail line is an added cost.

More than 100 years later, Metrolinx is in the late stages of negotiations with a California counterpart (Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit) to purchase up to 18 Japanese built diesel powered locomotives for the route from Union Station to Pearson Airport scheduled for opening in 2015. This is in spite of a study forced on Metrolinx by politicians after a public outcry over plans to send dozens of noisy, polluting diesels through the heart of Weston every day. The electrification study report will be released in the middle of this month and Metrolinx will make a decision January 26th, for or against electrification based on the report’s findings.

Cynical souls like myself think that this is a done deal and that Metrolinx will claim that electrification will be too expensive, take too long (the two-week 2015 Pan-American Games again) and that their trains really aren’t that polluting. They might also do the right thing and electrify the airport link as a pilot study for the eventual conversion of the whole GO railway system (also under study). This is without even considering the thousands of jobs that could be created locally by Canadian manufacturing companies. We’ll see. In the meantime, the Clean Train Coalition is hoping that people will let the Premier and other elected representatives know how they feel. They have the support of local MPP Laura Albanese and recently delivered to the Ontario Legislature a petition with over ten-thousand names in support of electrification. The Clean Train Coalition is holding a general meeting this Thursday, January 6, between 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Perth Davenport Neighbourhood Centre; 1900 Davenport Ave (at Symington Ave) and invite all interested people to attend. Refreshments will be served.