It’s back to Ward 11 – for now.

From the Toronto Star.

Premier Doug Ford’s surprise re-alignment of city wards from 47 to 25 seats has been kicked into touch by a Superior Court judge this morning after a challenge by a group of concerned citizens. The judge cited the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and called  his legislation unconstitutional. He made it clear that Ford’s actions were unjustifiable. No doubt Mr. Ford will be railing at ‘elite’ judges this morning but he now finds himself in a serious quagmire with his latest legal setback. If he doesn’t appeal, there’s just enough time for the election to go ahead with 47 seats instead of Ford’s 25 that would have matched provincial ridings. These 47 seats were the result of much consultation and expense to better reflect increased populations in the downtown core. The 47 seat count is likely to produce several more left-wing councillors as downtowners tend to vote in that direction.

If Ford appeals, either the October 22 poll date will have to be delayed – a decision will take weeks – or we’ll keep the original date and hold a 25-seat election. Either way, an appeal will be a disruptive and constitutionally risky event.

What’s a premier to do? My guess is that he will forego the appeal but ask his lawyers to look for ways to sideline Council’s future decisions. One idea already floated is to expropriate important City assets such as our subway system.

Locally, Ward 11 Councillor Frances Nunziata will not be facing Ward 12’s Frank Di Giorgio and Ms. Nunziata’s main challenger, Chiara Padovani will now be able to focus her finances and resources on our section of York South-Weston.  On the other side of the water, in Greater Weston™, it’s back to being in Ward 2, most likely represented by (barring an apocalyctic event)  Premier Ford’s nephew Mike.

Possible flooding solution rejected in 2017.

A man walks under Weston’s Lawrence Avenue bridge the day after the floods of July 2013 (file).

One of the problems of living in a big city is that much of the surface is paved over. When it rains, water drains quickly and can raise river and stream levels as well as create flooding in low lying areas. The solution is well known. Plant trees, build green roofs and where possible create temporary holding tanks for sudden water flows. To pay for this, staff last year proposed charging homeowners for the amount of non-absorbing roof and parking surface on their property. These are the people creating the problem so it’s fair that they should help pay for the solution. When Toronto’s Executive Committee considered the matter, following the Mayor’s direction, they recommended voting against the charges.

Councillor Nunziata voted with the mayor when the matter came to a full meeting of council but today has issued a helpful email itemizing what to do if your basement floods. That will be of small comfort to the many people whose lives have been disrupted yet again.

Running a big city costs money. Without a mayor and council with the courage to do the right thing, ordinary people are left to suffer the consequences. Charging people for the runoff they create would encourage a reduction in stormwater runoff and help pay for larger-scale flood prevention measures.

Instead of following staff recommendations, Mayor Tory and Councillors Mammoliti, Nunziata and others seemed place their trust in the short memory of voters, believing their re-election chances are more important than flooded basements. Kindred spirit Giorgio Mammoliti framed the charge as a ‘roof tax’ that would not play well in the suburbs.

Are voters really that stupid?

Nunziata challenged to refuse corporate and developer donations

It’s well known that a small number of people finance the election campaigns of most councillors in this city, especially incumbents. In Ward 12, much of this money comes from outside the ward and is no doubt given in expectation of future considerations. Brave are candidates who refuse such money as it’s harder to collect small amounts from a larger number of people.

Strictly speaking, only individuals can donate to a councillor’s election campaign and the cap on such donations is $750. In effect though, wealthy business owners can exert an undue influence as very few people can afford to donate so generously – even with the rebates that the city gives to donors. Toronto keeps track of complete donation lists on this website.

Here is a list of $400+ and/or well known donors to Councillor Nunziata‘s 2014 campaign. Few of these people lived in the ward the time and in fact more than a third of her donors didn’t even live in Toronto. Ward 11 residents are marked in blue.

  • Constantine Alexiou, (Ward 11), $600
  • Palvinder Aujla, (Mississauga) $750
  • Pritpal Aujla, (Mississauga) $750
  • Alex  Bela, (Richmond Hill) and Jack Matrosov (North York) $2000 – Checker Taxi
  • Maurizio Bicci, (Ward 17) $400
  • Gloria Bielak, (Forest Hill) $750 – St Helens Meat Packers
  • Adam Brown, (Yonge/Sheppard) $500
  • Roslyn Brown, (Downtown Toronto) $750
  • Fran Caplan, (York Mills / Yonge) $400
  • Frank Caruana, (Mississauga) $500
  • Paul Caruana, (Junction) $400
  • Chau Yan-Thoai, (Etobicoke) $400
  • Carlo Corsetti, (Richmond Hill) $400
  • Ettore Corsetti, (Newmarket) $400
  • Patrick Corsetti (East Guillimbury) $400
  • Manuel DaCosta, (King City) $750
  • Debra DeMonte (High Park) $400
  • Rueben Devlin, (North York) $200 – Former President & CEO Humber River Hospital
  • Robert Deluce, (Summerhill) $300 – President of Porter Airlines – Donated $3930 to 10 candidates (Holyday, Colle, Minnan Wong, Kelly Crisanti), 8 of whom won.
  • Sean Didierserre, (Forest Hill) $600
  • Thomas Erlich, (St Clair East / Mount Pleasant Road) $600
  • Bob Foley, (Ward 11) $400
  • Karla Ford, (Etobicoke) $750 – Doug Ford’s Wife
  • Masum Hossein (Mississauga) $200 – Weston BIA Chair
  • Gabriella Galli, (Ward 11) $400
  • Mitchell Goldhar, (North York) $350 – SmartCentres Real Estate Income Trust. Donated a total of $3300 to 9 candidates, all of whom won.
  • Khalid Irshad, (Milton) $400
  • Cameron Johnstone, (Georgetown) $600
  • John Johnstone, (Ancaster) $400
  • Jose Lourenco, (Davenport / Dufferin) $750
  • Terry Mantzukis, (Ward 11) Realtor $400
  • Alex Matrosov (Richmond Hill) Wheelchair Taxi business $750
  • Bela Matrosov (Richmond Hill) $750
  • Pina Morelli, (Woodbridge) $750
  • Holly Murdoch (Mississauga) $400
  • Tim Neeb (Mississauga) $400
  • Aleksander Nikolovski, (Eglinton / Spadina) $400
  • Frances Nunziata, $20
  • Frances Nunziata, $1613.42 – Signs and office supplies from previous campaign
  • Cormac O’Muiri, (Mississauga) $500
  • David Paiva, (Dufferin / Dupont) Luso Canadian Masonry Ltd. $750
  • Matthew Pantalone, (Etobicoke) $750 – Developer
  • Pat Pelosi, (Woodbridge) $750
  • George Politis, (Bolton) $400
  • Frank Raso, (Etobicoke) $400
  • John Ruddy, (Gloucester, ON) $750 Ottawa developer
  • Dero Sabatini, (Etobicoke) $400 Mississauga – TD Bank VP
  • Marvin Sadowski, (North York) $500 – Former Developer?
  • Stacey Scher, (Aurora) $600  – All Canadian Self Storage
  • Bruno Schickedanz, (Kettleby, ON) $750 – Developer and Woodbine horse owner
  • Conrad Schickedanz, (North York) $250 – Developer
  • Tony Scianitti, (Maple) $750 – Developer
  • George Seretis, (Thornhill) $400 – Easy Plastic Containers Vaughan
  • Darryl Simsovic, (Oakville) $400 CEO – Trillium College (Private career college)
  • Marcel Stirpe, (Woodbridge) $200 Toronto Chrysler
  • Paul Sutherland, (Grafton ON), $200, Former Toronto Councillor, now lobbyist. Involved in TPA Emery Village land purchase.
  • Tim Tallon, (Etobicoke) $400
  • Alan Tonks, (North York) $200 – Former YSW MP
  • Chris Tonks, (North York) $300 – TDSB Trustee
  • Alan Tregebov, (Deer Park) $200 – Architect
  • Steven Upton, (East Toronto) $600 – Tridel
  • Lou Vavaroustos,  (Woodbridge) $750 – Old Mill Cadillac
  • Susan Vavaroutsos, (Woodbridge) $750
  • John Ward, (Etobicoke) $500 – Ward Funeral Home
  • Jack Winberg, (North York) – $200 – Weston Hub Developer
  • Hua Yang, (Downtown Toronto) – $500
  • Don Yuill, (Ward 11) $500

Oddly, none of Ms Nunziata’s 135 donors donated less than $200.

The generous rebates offered to donors – even those living outside the city.

Chiara Padovani is  running against Councillor Nunziata (and if Doug Ford has his way, Ward 12 Councillor Frank DiGiorgio). She has stated that she will not accept donations from any business interests including developers.

One can ask if this is a strategic mistake that will hamstring Ms Padovani’s campaign or will voters choose to reward a candidate who does things differently?

Why I’m voting.

Here we are, it’s another provincial election and despite the PCs and NDP being virtually tied in the opinion polls, a majority Ford government seems poised to take office. It’s clear that Kathleen Wynne has to go and she acknowledged as much in her shocking announcement on Saturday. Governments in power more than two terms are filled with corrupt elements along with opportunistic self-promoters. The names Steven Del Duca and Glen Murray come to mind regarding the latter category but there are too many Liberal villains, both in public and behind the scenes. Premier Wynne had a chance to distance herself from the worst aspects of the McGuinty years but instead became his accomplice. As my wife delicately puts it, it’s time to change the pigs at the trough.

In stark contrast, one name that is associated with honesty, integrity and dedication is York South-Weston MPP and cabinet minister, Laura Albanese. She has served York South-Weston well and while it seems unlikely that she will win another term, she can be proud of her accomplishments and hard work for the people of her riding. If, as anticipated, Faisal Hassan wins for the Ontario NDP, he will have a steep learning curve if he is to match Ms. Albanese’s current effectiveness. As for the debate-shy Mark DeMontis, better luck next time.

Laura Albanese at the recent candidates debate at York Civic Centre (file).

Ms. Wynne’s concession announcement was shocking because it’s rare for any form of truth to be uttered during an election campaign. The reasoning is unclear – obviously Liberal deep thinkers ‘persuaded’ Wynne to fall on her sword but diehard Liberal voters may feel encouraged to abandon the party and vote NDP. If I was a Liberal candidate, I would feel that the legs had been cut from under me. Watch for unseemly jockeying for the position of leader in the final days of the campaign. Incredibly, it’s possible that the Liberals will be shut out of the legislature entirely or at best, lose official party status (8 seats required).

In Etobicoke North, Doug Ford is having a tough race against the NDP’s Mahamud Amin which is understandable as those same electors have already seen what he is like as a politician. They endured his ineffectiveness and absenteeism as ward councillor from 2010 to 2014. Non-resident nephew Mike who took over the council seat from his uncle has a better attendance record but manages to be even less effective and more right-wing than the man who claims to have been co-mayor of Toronto and saved the city over a billion dollars.  If Mahamud Amin can upset Ford, it will be a genuine shocker.

In Etobicoke Centre, incumbent Liberal Yvan Baker believes he is best positioned to defeat the PC’s Kinga Surma.  Ms. Surma was hand picked by local resident and family friend Doug Ford to replace the 2014 nominee, Pina Martino. Talk of Ms. Martino’s intimidation and a rigged nomination with fake party memberships surfaced recently but has gained little traction. The Wynne concession announcement may split the vote and allow Ms. Surma to win.

Doug Ford at the opening of Kinga Surma’s campaign office. (Toronto Star)

Erin Kelly, President and CEO of Advanced Symbolics has used artificial intelligence to predict the results of Brexit and Trump’s election victory. Barring a major disruptive event, Ms Kelly predicts a Ford majority government. Whether or not Premier Wynne’s concession speech is that event remains to be seen.

People say that electing Ford as Premier will be like a return to the days of Mike Harris. Well, not really. Harris wasn’t a one-man band, had an actual manifesto and laid it out during the election campaign. Ford has put together some proposed actions but no coherent plan. Look at what he calls a plan – it’s a list of repetitive promises.  Evidently the Ford Team believes that Ford Nation hasn’t the sophistication to understand rational and logical arguments. According to the ‘Plan For The People’,  Ford will fire the board and CEO of Hydro One several times.

Ford’s proposal to freeze the minimum wage at $14 will mean more poverty in Toronto where housing is expensive. It will be felt most strongly in our neck of the woods.

So, what’s a voter to do? On one hand, change is needed. On the other, after being out of office for so long, chaos is a distinct possibility under Andrea Horwath or Doug Ford’s premiership.

My only recommendation: vote your conscience. It really does make a difference, even though your party or candidate may not win. Many people will feel demoralized and be disinclined to vote, so individual votes will carry more weight. As an added bonus, parties that pick up at least 2% of the popular vote will receive a $2.71 per vote subsidy. In the last Ontario General Election, a mere 46.1% of York South-Weston voters bothered to cast their ballot. That missing 53.9% could have decided the result easily, but didn’t.

Ominously, according to the pundits, Progressive Conservatives are more likely to vote than members of other parties.

If that’s not a motivation to vote, nothing is.

June 4, Update:

The soap opera that is the Fords has produced another plot twist in the form of a lawsuit from the late Rob’s wife, Renata Ford, alleging that Doug isn’t the careful business manager that he claims to be. She also alleges that she has been short changed millions by Doug and brother Randy over Rob’s will and his shares in the family enterprise, Deco Labels. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

What about this idea, Council?

Giorgio Mammoliti speaking at City Council made absolute sense today when he questioned the uniform application of development charges across the entire city. Development charges are what the city bills developers for putting up new housing or building non residential floor space. These are the current rates for the city. Speaking shortly before the lunch recess today, Mammoliti seemed to indicate that Councillor Nunziata agrees with him.

He will be putting forward a motion at council this afternoon  that would encourage developers to build in the far flung suburbs by reducing development charges in areas like his own Ward 7, Weston, Mount Dennis and other parts of Toronto where some encouragement for development is needed.

Let’s hope he succeeds.

Watch this afternoon’s City Council session live here.

The latest take on the Weston Hub

The Farmers Market with lots of room on its old site back in July 2004. (File).

Churchill once said that, “History is written by the victors”. An article in  UrbanToronto.ca, (basically a public relations organ for the local real estate and development industries) tells a sanitized version of the background story of the soon to be opened Weston Hub.

The article’s author, Dean Macaskill, has been involved in Toronto real estate since 1980 and was with the company given the GO Station parking lot listing back in 2012. The land was put on the market by the Toronto Parking Authority and according to Macaskill, the 5 offers received on the 1.42 acre site were, ‘at rather depressed pricing levels’.

What’s not mentioned in the article are thoughts at the time that the land belonged to the old town of Weston and that it should not be sold. Also, unlike the wealthy Wychwood Barns neighbourhood which received close to $20 million from the City for their Artscape project, poor old Weston received essentially nothing.

The message seems to be that no one wanted to invest in Weston until this development came along and since that time, developers have been falling all over themselves to buy into our community. He neglects to mention that his listing stated, “Area Is Undergoing Significant Change With Other High Rise Condominiums Planned In The Immediate Area.” Also missing in action is any mention of the 370 rental apartments and 40,000 square feet of storage units that came as part of the deal.  The 8000 square foot space devoted to the cultural hub seems rather ungenerous by comparison. Another unmentioned issue of contention is the tight space given to the Farmers Market .

Now that the Hub is nearing completion, we’ll all have to make the best of it and hope it’s a success – but it could have been so much better no matter what shine is put on it.

Just to cheer you up, here’s a Metro Morning  interview with Artscape’s Tim Jones talking to CBC’s Matt Galloway recently on the same topic.

Income inequality linked to crime.

From Bizarro.com

Here in Weston / Mount Dennis, a significant percentage of our population earns less than the average Toronto resident. In addition, we have more single parent households (30%, compared to the Toronto average of 21%).

How can these statistics be improved? Gentrification is often thought to be the answer. Unfortunately it can force low income people out through higher rents and property prices. This is happening across Toronto and simply shifts the problem to other areas. It does nothing to help people – in fact by forcing them to move, their lives are further disrupted. A better and more humane way is to support individuals so that they can pull themselves out of poverty. It also benefits society as a whole.

A review of studies in 2013 concluded that:

a decrease in income inequality is associated with sizeable reduction in crime. It is evident that a focus on reducing income inequality can be advantageous to reducing property crime, robbery, homicide and murder…

One of the problems with studies and facts is that sometimes they don’t fit the popular narrative. Some politicians find it much easier to blame the victims of poverty as being the cause of their own misfortune. They also look down on efforts to help the poor. Rob Ford’s famous ‘Hug a thug’ comment was made to justify his council vote against participating in a federal gang intervention project.

Should we expect politicians to look for ways to lower poverty? For example, raise the minimum wage so that people can earn a living wage. As of last month, the minimum wage became $14.00 and will become $15.00 next January. Without wishing to impugn the Premier’s motives, we may have to thank an election year and her attempt to outflank the NDP for that move. In general though, it makes sense to lower inequality as it has the potential to improve everyone’s quality of life.

How else can politicians reduce inequality? They should be spending more on:

  • education
  • public housing,
  • transit
  • bike lanes
  • social services
  • libraries
  • parks
  • addiction support
  • homelessness.

Why should we support this? Another recent study has shown that increasing social spending has a more positive impact on longevity and general health than increasing health care spending.

With the provincial and civic elections coming up in June and October, politicians will be courting our vote through some blunt platforms. There will be some who will promise to reduce spending, find efficiencies and cut taxes. They will talk about taxpayers rather than citizens. They will promise to keep property taxes at or below the level of inflation and reduce income taxes – in effect forcing a funding shortage since costs are always rising. Beware of these people – they have caused our current crises through:

  • A constant focus on austerity
  • Inadequate spending on public housing and repairs
  • Opposing anti-poverty initiatives
  • Prioritizing cars over pedestrians, bicycles and public transit
  • Diversion of money to dogma / re-election driven transportation issues (e.g. Scarborough subway, Gardiner extension).
  • Refusing to adequately subsidize public transportation (Toronto’s subsidy is .78 per ride compared to $1.03 in New York or $2.21 in Mississauga).

In other words, their platform is designed to increase income inequality and therefore higher crime and lower quality of life.

Thinking citizens don’t mind paying taxes because they see the bigger picture. The siren call of lower taxes is a tempting one and popular with unscrupulous politicians. Unfortunately the effects aren’t pretty.

Incidentally, everyone in Canada is a taxpayer. Perhaps politicians should talk about citizens instead.