Huge Ice Dam Blocks Humber River, Endangers Footbridge.

Looking upriver from Raymore footbridge.

It begins just south of Lawrence Avenue, a gigantic barrage of ice piling up and blocking the Humber. Water has been forced to go around the ice and flood Lions Park.
The recent thaw has compounded the blocking of the Humber that occurred in January. Large chunks of ice floated downstream as the river rose last week and they have plugged the channel forcing it to flood its banks. This latest pile of ice begins by the Lions Arena and continues south all the way to the dam and fish ladder in Raymore Park.

Looking downriver

Halfway between the two lies the footbridge connecting Weston to Etobicoke. Normally, the abutments of the old bridge destroyed in the Hurricane Hazel disaster are visible; now they are buried without trace under tonnes of ice. On Saturday, ice was brushing the underside of the bridge and today, the bridge foundations are underwater and in danger of being washed away.

This comparison gives an idea of the depth of the ice blocking the river:

Looking downriver from Lions Park

Here is the almost same view in summer:

Summer view looking downriver.

Looking upriver; notice the normal clearance of the bridge and one of the now buried abutments.

Is the bridge in danger? My guess is that if there is another thaw soon, there will be added pressure on the foundations, not from ice but from water undermining them.

Unfortunately, Thursday’s forecast is for periods of rain and a high of 6°C.

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]

Clean Train Coalition Protest

Tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. Toronto’s Clean Train Coalition is organizing a protest outside the Central YMCA (20 Grosvenor St. 2 blocks north of College). This is to express opposition to the likelihood of 140 diesel trains running through Weston every day once the Airport Link is built. Currently the line is used only 4 hours daily.

For cynical people such as myself, it seems as if Metrolinx is playing this game both ways and their logic is faulty. On the one hand it has recommended electrification of the route. On the other, it has already purchased the diesel locomotives for the route and so electrification is planned for sometime in the future. According to Metrolinx, electrification takes a long time, is very expensive and besides, they want the line to be ready for the 2015 PanAm games in spite of the fact that athletes and officials will travel by bus on dedicated lanes. Weston Community Coalition has more details in their latest update.

An MRI Machine For HRRH Church Street Site

Humber River Regional Hospital‘s Church Street site will be getting a new MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine later this year. The machine will operate for 40 hours a week and presumably will operate for longer hours if the need increases. The existing machine operates 24/7 and performs 7900 scans annually at the Finch site while the new machine will perform about 3100 and save Weston residents from travelling to the Finch site. It is assumed that the machine will move to the new 1.6 million square foot site at Keele and the 401 in 2015.

This being a provincial election year, no doubt there will be similar announcements coming from other provincial ministries. The press release for this announcement helpfully contains boilerplate quotes from prominent area Liberal MPPs, the Minister of Health and health care executives.

Governor General Comes To Weston

Friday January 14.

This afternoon, Canada’s Governor General, David Johnston flew in from Ottawa to lend support to the Habitat for Humanity project at 1500 Weston Road. The complex of 20 energy efficient townhouses will provide safe, decent and affordable homes for 96 people currently living in sub-standard housing in Toronto.

Governor General David Johnston chats to a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.

The Governor General’s support came in the form of adding his presence to the Habitat For Humanity project thus providing moral support but he is no slouch when it comes to hammering a nail and laying down flooring. He worked on the second floor of a home that will be completed this spring.

His Excellency nails down a floor to the delight of assorted photographers.

The townhome complex is being built almost entirely by volunteers from the community as well as the eventual homeowners.

Governor General David Johnston talking with volunteers.

After putting in his work shift, his excellency moved to a marquee where he chatted informally with volunteers and community partners.  Later, he spoke about the contribution that Habitat For Humanity has made in many countries around the world and the dedication of volunteers who lend their muscle and expertise. Habitat For Humanity is an international non-profit organization dedicated to providing safe and decent housing at a reasonable cost.

His Excellency speaks to volunteers and Habitat staff.

The first residents will be moving in on Saturday and others will be moving in as the units are completed. A resident who will be among  the first to move in described her excitement and feeling of accomplishment and thankfulness at being able to move into a home of her own. The head of Habitat in Canada, Stewart Hardacre said that in his experience children raised in Habitat homes consistently graduate from university.

Weston Treasures: Weston Public Library


The original library entrance; not enhanced by Toronto Hydro, Bell and Rogers!

Just a little to the north of Shoppers Drug Mart at Weston and King is a gem of a building that sits quietly in its own regal splendour. This Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau style building is almost 100 years old.

In 1911, the Weston Library Board applied to the Carnegie Foundation in New York for a $10,000 grant for construction costs. The Board had changed from a subscription library to a public one in preparation for the grant. The Foundation approved the board’s plans and the village of Weston purchased a 140 x 60 foot site for $1950, agreeing to pay for books and library staff from tax revenues to the tune of $1000 annually (quite a burden for taxpayers). The librarian’s annual salary was $300 while the custodian was paid $60.

Original hours of operation: Daily 3 – 5 pm, evenings 7 – 9 pm except Wednesdays.

The Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau style was popular at the time and Toronto architects, Lindsay and Brydon were selected to design the building. Their previous collaboration in designing small churches seems to have carried over to the library design as it has a chapel-like appearance with stained glass windows. The design was approved by the community and, common to all Ontario Carnegie libraries, incorporates mosaic lettering over the doorway.

Detail of the original entrance showing the porch archway and mosaic.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish-American steel baron who became a philanthropist in his later years (think rich like Bill Gates). His story is a true rags to riches one and he credited some of his success to the availability of a library when he was a young man working twelve-hour days, six days a week as a telegraph clerk. He donated money through one of his foundations for 125 libraries in Canada, and about 2400 in the U.S. the U.K. and other English-speaking countries. The Weston Library is testament to his belief that libraries are a benefit to all of society and are a great tool to help people better themselves. He is famous for stating that the first third of a person’s life should be spent acquiring an education, the next third acquiring wealth and the last third giving away that wealth.

Carnegie Libraries pioneered the idea of browsing and selection of books directly by patrons rather than by requesting a book from the librarian. Remember when the LCBO was like that?

Weston Public Library is one of seven remaining Carnegie libraries still functioning in Toronto. It was declared a heritage building in 1979 after an attempt to have it replaced in 1975 (sound familiar?) and an addition, which tripled the floor space, was completed in 1982. Incidentally the attempt to demolish the library sparked the founding of the Weston Historical Society.

Other (now in) Toronto Carnegie Libraries:

  • Yorkville – 22 Yorkville Avenue – still in use; opened in 1907
  • Queen and Lisgar – now used by Toronto Public Health opened in 1909
  • Central Library – 214 College – now used by U of T., opened in 1909
  • Riverdale Branch – 370 Broadview; opened in 1910
  • Birge-Carnegie Library 73 Queens Park Crescent East; 1910 – 1961 now used by United Church of Canada
  • Wychwood Branch – 1431 Bathurst Street; opened in1916
  • High Park Branch – 228 Roncesvalles Avenue; opened in1916
  • Beaches Branch – 2161 Queen Street East; opened in1916
  • Mimico Public Library 1915 – 1966 (demolished)

Next time you go to the Weston branch, be sure to check out the original stained glass windows. They are beautiful.

Do you have a suggestion for coverage of another Weston treasure? Let us know through the comments section.