Some thoughts on skipping debates

Mark DeMontis did not attend tonight’s all-candidates debate; he spent it campaigning door-to-door instead.

It makes me very sad—and angry—that he wouldn’t attend, but it fits into into a broader pattern: PC candidates across the province are avoiding their electors. They’ve skipped debates in 25 ridings as of last weekend (and now 26).

Doug Ford denies muzzling candidates, saying “I’ve never told them not to go to a debate,” but a party spokesperson was more equivocal, and political scientists say that this is part of a plan to keep attention on the party leaders—and away from local politicians.

It’s the making of a monarchy: one person—Duke Doug—is to know all and fix all. His ‘ideas’ (they’re slogans) will not be tested in the public square. Objections won’t be heard, and experts (like other candidates) won’t be tolerated.  Doug Ford is so sure that he knows what you want that he won’t let you tell him. It’s omakase politics.

Mark DeMontis also denied us the chance to see Hassan and Albanese’s ideas lit up with a bright blue light. He missed his first chance for public service: showing us what is wrong with the Liberal, NDP, and Green platforms. We’re doubly worse off because he would have been an excellent debater (he has been a public speaker and broadcaster).

Mark DeMontis should have stood up for his party and presented his ideas to be debated. He also should have stood up to his party and attended in defiance, if he was told not to go.

Dave McGregor is a brave man

Dave McGregor, a Mount Denizen, is putting his mouth where the money is to raise funds for kids: McGregor will be boxing at the 2018 Victory Charity Ball. The proceeds will go to young people who have dropped out of high school, and will help them complete their diplomas and move into post-secondary.

Photo by Krug Studios

McGregor, who will be fighting a larger and taller opponent, has been training for the fight since the beginning of the year. Far from being nervous, he says his at-risk childhood has made him ready.

I boxed as a kid and I took it up again a few years ago. I’ve met Pinball Clemons and I heard him speak. [His] charity helps kids, and the goal is to help them get back in school and get their diplomas.

I’m from Regent Park and I had to work to get through school, so it’s of profound personal importance to me. That’s my motivation for getting involved.

If I’m being completely honest, the fights I’ve been in in my life have been a  lot more dangerous than this one. The biggest strain has really been making sure that I make the goal I commented to donation wise.

 

Those who give $50 or more get a link to live stream the event. McGregor is at 78% of his fundraising goal.

Best french fries in Weston / Mount Dennis?

From Wikipedia.

I’m on a quest to find the best french fries and I need your help dear readers. French fries are my guilty pleasure. They’re packed with calories, have way too much fat and salt and probably shorten our lives but who cares? Good fries are worth it.

There aren’t that many variables in creating good fries. The type of potato is important, the fat or oil has an influence, how they’re cooked (once, twice etc.) and at what temperature as well as seasonings added before or after cooking.

The mark of a good fry is that it can be eaten on its own without too much ketchup, vinegar or mayo. My wife insists that the best fries in the world are sold at just about any food joint inside the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. While I have to agree, it would be nice to find some just as good here.

We’ve quite a few places to choose from when it comes to local fries but quality seems to vary. If you go to P&M’s, you can be sure to get fresh cut fries and lots of them. Close by, Zeal Burger has great fries; especially with the ‘Z Sauce’ that Mark makes. Golden Crisp in Mount Dennis gets good reviews. Local political activist Riley Peterson insists that the fries at Weston Lions Arena are the best by far.

As a community service, readers are invited to share where the best local fries are. We are excluding chains like MacDonalds which add things like beef flavour and dextrose (a form of sugar) to their fries.

So dear readers; where are the best local fries? Please share. As part of my personal mission, I’ll be trying some at the arena this Saturday to see if the rumours are true.

Sad Postscript: Weston Lions Arena is closed until October. I went round there today and they are melting the ice.

Here are some of the comments from WestonWeb’s FaceBook account.

1916 Weston and Mount Dennis map detail

There is a huge and detailed map of Toronto, printed in 1916 that shows the various townships that make up the Toronto of today. It’s interesting to see the land holders of that time whose names now adorn our streets.

The map has been digitized and is currently hosted on the University of Toronto Library website. Below is a small section of that map showing our locale and with the folds digitally removed for clarity. It’s a fascinating look at the Weston, Mount Dennis and Lambton Mills of a century ago. The concentric circles on the map radiate from the intersection of Bloor and Yonge.

In Weston Village, Pine and Elm streets can be seen but Maria, Elizabeth and Beech streets are no more. Further south, West Park Hospital now occupies the site of the National Sanitarium where many tuberculosis patients were treated. A Janes Walk a couple of years ago toured the site of the old piggery that fed patients. West Park now specializes in many areas but treats TB patients to this day although thanks to antibiotics, not in such large numbers.

For the complete map (and many hours of browsing) grab a coffee and click  here.

From University of Toronto Library. Click to enlarge.

Dennis Ave school to be rebuilt

The province announced that Dennis Avenue Community School in Mount Dennis will be replaced with a brand-new, $10.8 million facility as part of a new $784 million funding package for schools and daycares.

It’s not all good news, mind you: Dennis Avenue School had fallen into disuse and disrepair. Whether Dennis Avenue would be amalgamated with other schools was not included in the announcement, though your correspondent thinks it likely will be merged: the TDSB had suggested that Roselands and Cordella be joined with Dennis Avenue to address declining enrolment at all three schools.

Child poverty report damns Weston

While the business world is a-tizzy with the minimum wage and the city consults on the budget in this election year, you should cast a glance today at the kids walking home from school. Four in ten of them are desperately poor. They are your neighbours.

40% of Weston children live in poverty; 37% of Mount Dennis children do, a number that has not budged in the last 5 years, according to a report done in November by Social Planning Toronto and other social agencies.

Map of child povertyAnd make no mistake: children in poverty are very poor indeed: their families make between $25,498 (one parent, one child) and $36,426 (two adults, two children). They are more likely to be Indigenous, visible minorities, recent immigrants or refugees, and members of single-parent families, according to the report.

% of racialized children in low-income families
Weston’s poverty rate is much higher than the rate in the city as a whole, which is, in turn, much higher than in the rest of the country. Toronto has the highest child-poverty rate of any city in Canada: roughly 25%—more than double the rate in Calgary or the Halton region.

Even in Toronto, though, child poverty is unequally distributed. North and north-central Toronto are rich because the poor are pushed to the margins, generally in the inner, older suburbs.

Unequal City has one simple recommendation: pay for all the things we’ve already promised:

In recent years the City has developed, and City Council has overwhelmingly approved, a range of strategies to improve access to training and good jobs, as well as key supports and services, by those who face the most barriers to success. However, many of these strategies have not been implemented because they have not been fully funded.

Doing so would be cheap: $66 million a year, if we don’t include housing, which “may be partly supported at the provincial level”. That, as the report points out, is less than 1% of the city’s budget.

 

Five things that need to change in Weston / Mount Dennis. Part 4.

As we approach the year end, here are some things that seem to be holding us back locally. This is the fourth of a five part series.

As always, your comments are welcome.

4. The Democratic Process.

From aguafund.org

Next October will see city council elections for councillors and and mayor. Barring a cataclysmic upheaval, few seats will change hands in 2018. One positive note comes from the recent redrawing of ward boundaries to better reflect the changing population densities. The boundaries, in place since 1999 needed updating since ward populations had become uneven during that time. For example, downtown has many more residents thanks to the ongoing condo boom. This change was fought by the likes of Justin Di Ciano and Giorgio Mammoliti who presumably felt threatened by a more democratic redistribution. The OMB, (needing to act quickly and not known as a fan of democracy) in a surprising decision, rightly smacked down the appeal.

Ward 11 (along with only 6 others) will be unaffected as the population in our area has remained relatively static but four additional wards will be created in time for the elections; three of them in the downtown core. Downtown wards are often quite left leaning so the good news is that this may signal a more progressive council in the next term

We have a ‘first past the post’ system for all Canadian Elections including local council seats and mayor. A simple majority determines the winner. Unfortunately, the first past the post voting system favours incumbents and many people stay home, knowing that their candidate is disadvantaged. This is why we have so many career-politicians in Toronto. Some are elected term after term, often with the votes of a tiny fraction of constituents.

There is a better way. Ranked balloting allows voters to choose their first, second and third choices and gives more voting power to electors whose first choice doesn’t win. It also prevents fringe candidates from winning through a split vote. In the last mayoral election for example, Doug Ford could well have been elected if Olivia Chow had run a stronger campaign and split the centre-left vote between herself and John Tory. As an aside, other than bluster and the occasional ferris wheel popping up, one can be forgiven for wondering if anything would be different had Mr. Ford won in 2014.

From rcvmaine.com

It would seem obvious that anyone interested in a better democratic process in Toronto would support ranked balloting. The province is in charge of such legislation and would need a request from City Council to make the change. Sadly, our own councillor voted against studying the use of ranked ballots and effectively (with a group of other councillors) killed the possibility for the near future.

At council meetings, our councillor along with a cadre of nodding deputy mayors is obliged to vote the Mayor Tory line on most matters since she is Council Speaker and wants to keep her prestigious job. Sadly, this means that she and the rest of the Tory bloc often vote against the interests of Ward 11. The councillor cannot serve two masters effectively and it would probably be better for Ward 11 to have a councillor with no such conflicts.

Voter participation:

As the saying goes, all politics is local. We are lucky enough to have local politicians who consult with the people on a regular basis on matters of importance. If we do or don’t like what’s going on, we need to attend the meetings and express our views. Shy folk can send emails or write letters but it’s vital that people express their opinions because no matter what the issue, you can be sure that corporate interests have already made their cases strongly and often.

Lastly one final thought: we need a better turnout for elections. In 2014, fewer than 51% of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.

From garyvarvel.com

Part 5 of this series (The Planning Process) may be a couple of days what with Christmas festivities and all.