Judicial review to go ahead.

A piece of good news has emerged from the life that was going on before COVID 19 hit.

As a reminder, in 2018, St Helen’s Meat Packers somehow managed to buy an 8-acre parcel of contaminated flood-plain land from the city after the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, normally fiercely protective of flood plain land, gave permission for its sale and use as a meat packing plant.

TRCA says that the land doesn’t help protect adjacent locations from flooding. Community consultation meetings became raucous affairs with St Helen’s employees ‘packing’ the meeting in matching t-shirts.

The cost for 8 acres of land in our fair city? $3.19 million.

Incidentally, Robert Bielak, president of St Helens is a Ford family friend and his wife donated (legally) to Ward 5 Councillor Frances Nunziata’s 2018 election campaign.

The site borders Rockcliffe Boulevard, a street where homes are flooded in severe rain events. The last hope for residents to stop the plant’s construction is a judicial review in which a judge will check to see if all protocols have been followed. Reviews are expensive but the $25,000 cost has been raised through a combination of public fundraising and private donors. Landscape architect Devin Tepleski organized the successful fundraiser. Incidentally, and in keeping with the councillor’s style of appearing to support both sides; one of  the donors to the fundraiser was none other than Frances Nunziata.

Frances Nunziata protesting in an Acorn march in October 2018. From CTV.

Read more here, here and here.

Floodplain fundraiser almost there

Thanks to a private donor, the gofundme fundraiser to launch a judicial review of the floodplain lands purchased by St Helen’s Meatpackers and approved by the TRCA has received a boost thanks to a donation of legal services. St Helens intends to build on the land in the face of common sense and community opposition.

The floodplain land opposite Rockcliffe Court. File.

According to team fundraiser, Devin Tepleski, the fundraising target is less than $2500 and the deadline is March 23.

From the fundraiser webpage:

“Since the TRCA decision, two men nearly drowned footsteps away from the creek, and homes in the area  flooded twice in one year.  How can the TRCA  claim to have a mandate to protect communities from flooding and at the same time allow easement on to city land so it can be sold to a meat packing plant?  This is same land they TRCA recommended be used to mitigate flooding in one of their own Environmental Assessments (2014).”

To donate click here.

A failure of politics in Ward 5.

Just 8 days after NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visited residents of Rockcliffe-Smythe, another heavy rainfall inundated the area and a nasty sewage mix flooded many homes. It must be the last straw for families who were flooded as recently as last year. Last week, resident Franco Ruffolo despaired that his house is uninsurable and unsellable because of the regular flooding. Franco, and many others in Toronto and particularly in Ward 5, York South-Weston, constantly dread that heavy rain will lead to the inundation of their homes.

The problem stems from  the fact that as more of the city becomes paved over, runoff from roofs, driveways and streets is dumped directly into channels, rivers and storm sewers which in many parts of the city are combined with the sanitary sewers. This means that rainfall overloads the combined sewers leading to raw sewage being dumped into rivers and eventually into homes – City News.

From Bergen Counties Utility Authority.

In the Rockcliffe-Smythe area, the creek that used to flow naturally through the area (Black Creek) was channelled into a concrete straight jacket. Thanks to heavier rains and more buildings, the channel overflows occasionally with horrible yet predictable results. In other areas, the extra pressure on a combined sewer forces sewage up into homes through basement drains.

What can be done? We need to plant more trees, put up green roofs, divert downspouts so that runoff from roofs drains onto ground where it will be absorbed rather than piped directly into sewers. We also need to separate storm and sanitary sewers so that raw sewage stays out of people’s homes and our rivers and creeks. A few years ago, Toronto instituted a mandatory program to disconnect downspouts where possible. Most of all, we need politicians and agencies to actually do their job and work for the people.

Councillor Nunziata in the City News clip blames the TRCA for dragging its feet. The horrible flooding of six years ago should have propelled all actors in this tragedy to get their act together and do something. Sadly, the councillor even voted against an innovative hard surface charge that would have made homeowners pay for the hard surfaces covering their property. This revenue would have been directed towards flood relief but Giorgio Mammoliti framed it as a roof tax and Council (including Mayor Tory and Ms Nunziata) voted against it.

Perhaps it’s time for politicians and agencies to stop the blame game and actually do something. We can start by accelerating the separation of storm and sanitary sewers in priority areas. Holding tanks can reduce the flow in the meantime and planting trees would help. We also need Council to take this issue seriously.

That’s without even considering the bizarre and troubling sale of 8 acres of Rockcliffe-Smythe flood plain land to St Helen’s Meat Packers Limited for less than $4 million – with the support of Councillor Nunziata.

Incidentally, St Helen’s President Robert Bielak donated (the maximum allowed) $1200 to Ms Nunziata’s 2018 campaign.

As Brian Mulroney used to say, “You dance with those who brung you”.