Ballard: ‘Something special’ going on in Mount Dennis

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Chris Ballard, takes questions from the audience.

Chris Ballard’s father worked at the Kodak plant during the heyday of Mount Dennis and it was fitting that his son would return as Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to lend support to the area’s revival in the post-industrial future. Now living in Aurora, the Minister recognized that there is ‘something special’ going on in Mount Dennis. The size and enthusiasm of the crowd and organizers attested to that fact.

He was speaking in the Mount Dennis Legion to upwards of 80 people who braved last night’s cold to attend the Mount Dennis Community Association‘s AGM. Applauding the MDCA’s Net Zero initiative under way, he commented that their strong organization and forward thinking should be emulated by all communities.

After an opening invocation and ceremony from indigenous leaders, the Minister outlined Ontario Government initiatives designed to reduce energy consumption and promote conservation. He encouraged residents to visit the website greenon.ca to see the financial incentives designed to help people conserve energy. The money for such grants comes exclusively from the cap and trade system recently set up in Ontario.

MPP Laura Albanese and MP Ahmed Hussen (by recorded message from Ottawa) greeted the crowd and Councillor Frances Nunziata announced that the Pinetree Daycare Centre will become a net zero facility and will increase its capacity to 98 spaces, making it the largest daycare in the area. In addition, the Cycling Committee under her leadership will be making a number of recommendations to the community soon.

Opening ceremony led by Anishinaabe Grandmother Vivian Recollet and Mitchell George.
Mike Mattos, Mount Dennis Community Association Chair calls the meeting to order.

All in all, a very impressive showing for the dynamic Mount Dennis Community Association as their initiatives continue to gain momentum on a variety of fronts.

Mayor Tory schools Nunziata in compassion.

Last year, it was announced that up to 15 new homeless shelters would be built in wards throughout Toronto. One of them, a temporary shelter located at 731 Runnymede, just south of St. Clair Avenue West was proposed with a lease of 10 years with two 5-year extension options. Much effort has been put into ensuring that the shelter was to be state of the art after addressing many community concerns.

Early this morning, Ms Nunziata came up with a way of killing the shelter by cleverly proposing that the shelter site be leased for only 5 years at a time, effectively rendering the proposal dead given the uncertainties of the short time frame.

For some time now, Ms. Nunziata has been taking credit for chopping the proposed 100 bed shelter down to 50 but was shamed into voting for the temporary shelter’s 10-year lease when Mayor Tory gave the councillor and her allies a strongly worded lesson in compassion. Ms. Nunziata also managed to accuse city staff of misleading the council about the project but was forced to withdraw her comments by the mayor.

Her allies on the motion were Cesar Palacio and one of our many deputy mayors, Denzil Minnan Wong. No doubt it helps that Mayor Tory has the power to strip these councillors of their privileged positions on council.

Watch the whole process unfold here:

and part 2 here (Mayor Tory’s speech is in this one):

Perhaps Mayor Tory isn’t the worst mayor ever…. We’ll see.

Read more in this Toronto Star article.

Great news and bad news.

It’s well known that many more people in Toronto would cycle if they were isolated and safe from other traffic. The Ontario Government announced today that it will be spending up to $42.5 million on cycling infrastructure across the province. According to Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, the Ontario Municipal Cycling Commuter Program aims to, “promote safety for cyclists and make cycling more comfortable and more appealing for daily commutes and other frequent trips”. The Ministry has also set up a website to promote cycling. This is great news as York South Weston is one of the most under-served wards in the city when it comes to separated bike lanes. As pointed out in a previous article, a few sharrows are the main concession to cycling in the Weston, Mount-Dennis area.

Toronto Council and the mayor were no doubt horrified and shamed by the recent tragic death of a five year-old riding with a parent in a separate but unprotected lane adjacent to busy traffic. This lane should have been physically separated from Lakeshore Road traffic had the city followed its own guidelines. The fact that it wasn’t is an indication of the low esteem in which cyclists and their safety are held in the city. The Mayor has offered to dither study the matter once more – a familiar council tactic designed to do nothing after the clamour for action has died down.

The lack of separation is contrary to the city’s own guidelines. From the Toronto Star.

Instead, Mayor Tory may wish to actually read the city’s existing guidelines concerning cycle trails in the city. I’ve saved him the bother of doing a ‘study’ by quoting the relevant section.

6.4.1. Trails Adjacent High-Volume or High-Speed Arterial Roadways

High-volume and high-speed roadways may have space for trails in the lands dedicated to them. Generally,

these are roadways with speeds of 60 km/h or more and four or more lanes of traffic. These types of roadways often do not have sidewalks, and a trail adjacent should be planned in a similar manner as a trail within a dedicated right-of-way.

The conflict between high-speed traffic and trail uses is best addressed by distance. Designers should try to achieve the maximum distance between the trail and the roadway. Aligning trails at the maximum distance from the roadway will also help to “future-proof” the trail against road expansions.

Where an appropriate distance cannot be achieved, guide rails and a physical separation such as a fence or landscaping are recommended.*

*my bold.

Toronto City Council has a large number of car-centric members. Read here (and weep) for some of our elected officials opining on two-wheeled transportation.

So the bad news is therefore that any spending has to be approved by individual members of Toronto City Council. Let’s hope it won’t take any more lives before some concrete and meaningful action is taken. With the province providing up to 80% of the funding, there will no longer be a valid excuse not to act.

 

New police action plan released

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders. (From cbc.ca)

The Way Forward was a catchy title used to describe best practices in Canadian palliative care, fostering success and innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador and as of today, the name of a report from Toronto Police. The report was seen to be a necessary response to a crisis of confidence in the force, the growing cost of policing and the need to adopt more modern policing methods.

It’s interesting that the public has known about the problems with Toronto Police for years. They  have known about the lack of involvement in communities, an overly belligerent response to situations requiring intelligence and finesse and a large body of evidence that police treat certain visible minorities differently. The cost of policing was also an issue that had risen relentlessly in the past few years. When Rob Ford ordered a pay freeze, then Chief Bill Blair just ignored him. Mayor Tory was able to appoint his own candidate as Chief and Mark Saunders has delivered the required report.

In addition to knowing about the problems, the public has known for a long time what the solutions were. Namely that police officers should become more visible, get out of the cruisers, crack down on gangs and gun crime, walk the beat and treat all people with respect. To some extent, there seems to be a willingness in the report to do this.

While the police should have a base in the community, large fortress police stations could be replaced by several storefronts. Nothing in the report suggests that this will change other than closing some stations.

The lucrative after-hours job of paid duty now sees 80% of cops on the Sunshine List. These jobs, such as supervising road works, could be done for a lot less by others. The report tackles this to some extent.

Police forces are notoriously difficult to turn around. Part of the problem is that the qualification to apply for the job is a mere Grade 12 diploma – a requirement unlikely to attract deep thinkers. Another is the overwhelmingly male (>80%) and white (>75%) component to the force. Yet another is the complete lack of psychological profiling for suitability. Nothing in the report suggests that this will change.

Training needs to be beefed up with the emphasis on the safety of the job – very few police officers are killed or injured compared to construction workers for example. In spite of this many officers react in situations where they show fear rather than courage and the consequences can be deadly for the public. There are several mentions of increased training in the report.

Will the new report turn things around? It’s nice to see that there is a set of specific recommendations that are time and performance based so that’s a good thing. The bad thing is that although the recommendations have timelines, many are vague and require more discussion and study. Look for little or no change on these.

Here are the recommendations in the report:

Recommendations 1-8 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 9-13 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 14-16 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 17-21 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 23-25 (Click to enlarge).

Let’s hope that real change is coming.

Read the official report summary here and the full report here.

 

Today’s Etobicoke York Council Decisions

Etobicoke York Council meets about once a month to deal with local issues. Local councillors discuss matters of local concern and adopt, defer or reject motions which are sent to the full council for adoption and enactment. Today’s decisions that may be of interest to our readers are:

Proposed apartment at 10 Wilby Crescent.

EYC recommends the following:

  1. Staff be directed to schedule a community consultation meeting for the lands at 10 Wilby Crescent together with the Ward Councillor.
  2. Notice for the community consultation meeting be given to landowners and residents within 120 metres of the site.
  3. Notice for the public meeting under the Planning Act be given according to the regulations of the Planning Act.

Decision: Adopted

8 Oak Street demolition

Toronto Building recommends that the City Council give consideration to the demolition application for 8 Oak Street and decide to:

Approve the application to demolish the two storey industrial building without entering into a beautification agreement with the City and the appropriate City officials be authorized and directed to take the necessary action to give effect thereto.

Decision: Amended

Update: The minutes don’t give details of the amendment yet, however, InsideToronto says that Councillor Nunziata asked for a heritage report on the building that will be delivered at the April EYC meeting.

Traffic Calming Poll Results – Rosemount Avenue

The Director, Transportation Services, Etobicoke York District recommends that:

Etobicoke York Community Council NOT to approve installing traffic calming on Rosemount Avenue.¹

Decision: Adopted

All-Way Stop Control – Rosemount Avenue and MacDonald Avenue

The Director, Transportation Services, Etobicoke York District recommends that:

Etobicoke York Community Council NOT approve the installation of all-way stop controls at the intersection of Rosemount Avenue and MacDonald Avenue.

Decision: Adopted

Pedestrian Access to City Laneway – Lawrence Avenue West to MacDonald Avenue

Transportation Services recommends that:

Etobicoke York Community Council NOT approve installing fencing across the laneway between MacDonald Avenue and Lawrence Avenue West, east of Ralph Street in order to block access to pedestrians.

Decision: Adopted


¹(Sorry, we reported this wrong. They did vote to approve speed humps.)

Hussen promoted to Cabinet

Ahmed Hussen speaking in Parliament. Screen shot from YouTube.

In a cabinet shuffle announced today, newly minted MP Ahmed Hussen has been promoted to Immigration Minister and becomes the first black and Somali-Canadian member of the Trudeau cabinet. Hussen will take the place of John McCallum who has been appointed Ambassador to China.

Hussen came to Canada from Mogadishu as a 16 year-old and later managed to put himself through York University, earning a B.A. He worked in provincial politics before standing in the 2015 general election for the Liberals.

As a rookie MP, his rise to cabinet has been meteoric by any standards. York South Weston is already represented by influential representatives; the Speaker of Toronto Council, Frances Nunziata and the provincial Minister of Citizenship, Laura Albanese. Let’s hope this increased power and influence translates into some positive results for York South-Weston.

CBC has the full story here.

Ferreira quits NDP

Paul Ferreira from Wikipedia.

Paul Ferreira is a well known local political operative. He’s been a progressive political activist since 1990 covering all three levels of government. His work has been mainly behind the scenes serving under Howard Hampton, Mike Sullivan and Andrea Horwath. He won a by-election in 2007 to briefly become MPP for York South-Weston but was defeated by the present incumbent Laura Albanese in the general election held that same year.

It is rare that someone of his status quits the NDP and the reason seems to be that the party has lost its way. Socialism no longer seems to be a guiding principle and has been replaced by opposition for its own sake and policies based on winning power rather than on core beliefs. Both Mulcair and Horwath shifted sharply to the right in recent elections and voters punished them accordingly.

According to the Toronto Star, the last straw triggering Mr. Ferreira’s move was the provincial NDP’s opposition to tolls on the Don and Gardiner expressways.

People like Paul Ferreira live and breathe politics so it’s unlikely that we have heard the last of him politically. Currently the provincial Liberals seem to entertain more progressive ideas than the NDP. Perhaps Paul will find a welcome there. In the meantime, look for more dismal news from the provincial and federal NDP parties until new leadership takes over.