Business Improvement Areas Toronto

Business Improvement Areas Toronto

Redefining Toronto’s Mainstreets

Summary

Redefining Toronto's Mainstreets

Redefining Toronto’s Mainstreets

Main street commercial retail is experiencing a decline. This decline can be partially attributed to ongoing pressures from other forms of retail. Such pressures are found in e-commerce, which allows the consumer to stay at home to shop. Large format centres such as malls and big box stores also pose a threat. Lower prices and the perceived convenience of ‘one stop’ stores such as Wal-Mart, can often erode the consumer base of traditional main street commercial areas. Despite this, some BIA’s in Toronto have managed to be more successful than the average retail strip within the city.

At the request of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), Planning Partners of Toronto (PPT) has been given the opportunity to develop a comprehensive report looking at the strengths of successful BIAs in the city. PPT will yield a template of the best practices, for the purpose of assessing and strengthen less successful BIAs in Toronto.

Contributors

Kailey Lamont

Christopher Jones

David Bigwood

David Addington

Aidan Ferriss

Esther Imm

Brandon Langille

Brent O’Neill

Mark Tiburcio

Peter Giampa

Negar Javaherian

Andrew Randell

Personal Contribution

Demographics

Retail Data

Walkability Studies

Metrics Calculation

Presentation Design & Delivery

Communication Director

 

Download the Final Report for Redefining Toronto’s Mainstreets

Download the Final Presentation to Ryerson and TABIA

 

 

 

Defining and Mediating the Cause of the Newly and Elderly Homeless in Toronto

Defining and Mediating the Cause of the Newly and Elderly Homeless in Toronto

While there are many studies on the cause and effect of homelessness within our cities that provide analysis and policy remedies – even for subsections of this problem, such as families and youth groups – little research has been committed to a growing trend in our culture: The newly-elderly homeless. In the past, this stratum of poverty has been extrapolated from more generalised statistics and merely speculated on the berth and condition of its members (Cohen, 1999) offering little insight in how to combat the problem or even provide a solid definition of the core issue. A recent study by MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn sought to identify issues revolving around the recently homeless who are elderly, identifying the causation and current policy and regiment gaps that allow these members to silently suffer more so than their counterparts (2007) and shed light on this growing cohort. Shifting demographics with an aging population coupled with economic turmoil and subsequent austerity measures have placed elderly people who live at the margin in peril of losing adequate shelter and services – breeding a new housing condition which is complex to anticipate and demands further research and planning intervention.

 

Determining the pathway to homelessness in the elderly is cumbersome and not unlike that of street youth in that it consists of multidimensional factors including the lack of affordable housing, employment or institutional services (Stegiopoulos & Herrmann, 2003). But the risks are different, harder to measure and often more abrupt:  the sudden loss of stable income, death of a spouse or significant other, lack of a proper caregiver and even eviction (Crane, 1999). Others that have been institutionalised for a long period due to physical or mental health may have lost their ability to maintain housing within that time (Hecht & Coyle, 2003) and are often released to shelters as a last resort. Further still, some have become homeless in their middle-age as they were living with elderly parents – due to economic or health concerns – who’ve since passed away leaving their offspring little-to-no social safety net (Crane & Warnes, 2000). While generally better educated, these factors are pressured by past economic ability – with many surviving in poor or near-poor conditions most of their lives – never having the benefits that full- and long-time employment provides, such as personal saving or pensions (Cohen, 1999). Alternatively, they may have had their pensions rescinded through bankruptcy or corporate raiding or their retirement savings dwindled by sudden economic decline (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn, 2007; Gillespie, 2007).

 

Capturing the scope and severity of the issue through traditional services who aid the homeless – which rely on a methodology of crisis intervention in an attempt to focus on building independence and self-sufficiency (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn, 2007) – is often untenable as they are programs more attractive to youth and young adults. Elderly homeless require greater access to mobility and care during the day, often unavailable in shelters as they only operate during the evening hours or are inaccessible for those with disabilities (Stegiopoulos & Herrmann, 2003). Mental health issues – including depression – requires constant and consistent care to stymie isolation and chronic and multiple physical health conditions need support and aid for medication (Cohen, 1999). The current lack of services and support are cited as the causation and continuance of both mental and physical health issues and further isolation and reliance on the street. Often, without third-party encouragement, physical ailments go undiagnosed because of the lack of a family physician, inability to recognise the severity of the issue or fear, either of being shunned by or directly suspicious of, the medical community and potential institutionalisation (Crane & Warnes, 2000). Others were barred from seeking medical help because of the lack of a health card or insurance and from the reluctance of health providers to register homeless people because of their multiple inflictions and transient nature (Hwang, 2000). The newly-elderly homeless tend to stay with services familiar and close to them, such as family doctors or neighbourhood clinics where they make shelter, but are seemingly oblivious to community outreach programs and drop-in centres (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn, 2007) where research can be completed more comprehensively. Agencies, such as The Daily Bread Food bank have conducted their own surveys that show 40% of older recipients of their service often had difficulty paying for their prescription medications every month with as many as 27% declining outright to purchase them simply because of affordability (2001). The MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn study in Toronto also showed that 50% of the recently elderly homeless are also recent immigrants to Canada and have suffered from family breakdowns and have little communication between ex-spouses or the community and suffer from a language or cultural disadvantage. The elderly are also subject to more victimization within these shelters from other residents due to their frail condition, including physical assault, thief and rape (Cohen, 1999) but rarely are these events reported out of neglect, indifference or shame.

 

Those who are moved immediately out of standard programs to dedicated, specialised shelters where they can obtain services and a more appropriate social network suffer less from chronic health issues and are more likely to survive longer and find permanent homes (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn , 2007). Similar studies in the United States and Britain confirms the stark difference in needs and services between the elderly homeless and existing policy structures. While programs are available to provide economic support in both nations – including old age security and medical care – often these are only enough to mitigate the current problem and not enough to permit a further decline in physical or mental health (Hecht & Coyle, 2003). As well, the qualification cut-off rate to obtain these services often disallow the ability to earn other income, however little or temporary, rendering those who claim this aid constantly reliant and remain at the upper-edge of poverty (Crane & Warnes, 2000) where they become an invisible statistic. Defining the issues that cause elderly homelessness and capturing the potential size of this problem will require resources from multiple agencies and personal interviews to create effective and preventative policy and support services that will not only take undue strain off of existing social assistance – but better and lengthen the lives of those who spent theirs building the community we have today.

 

 

References

Cohen, C. I. (1999) Aging and homelessness. The Gerontologist, 39(1). 5-14.

Crane, M. (1999) Understanding Older Homeless People. Housing Studies, 15(2). 325-327.

Crane, M & Warnes, A. M. (2000) Lessons from Lancefield Street: Tackling the needs of older homeless people. National Homeless Alliance. London.

Daily Bread Food Bank (2001) Aging with Dignity? How governments create insecurity for low-income seniors. Toronto.

Gillespie, K. (2007, Sept. 27) Who can rescue seniors from property tax trap? The Toronto Star. Retrieved from: http://www.thestar.com/article/261080

Hecht, L. & Coyle, B. (2001). Elderly Homeless: A Comparison of Older and Younger Adult Emergency Shelter Seekers in Bakersfield, California. American Behavioral Scientist, 45(1). 66-79.

Hwang, S. (2000) Homelessness and Health. Canadian Medical Journal, 164(2). 229-233.

MacDonald, L., Dergal, J. & Cleghorn, L. (2007) Living on the Margins. Jornal of Gerontological Social Work, 49(1-2). 19-46.

Rokach, A. (2003) The Lonely and Homeless: Causes and Consequences. The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Psychosocial Stress, Toronto.

Stergiopoulos, V. & Herrmann, N. (2003, July) Old and Homeless: A Review and Survey of Older Adults Who Use Shelters in an Urban Setting. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48. Canadian Psychiatric Association. 374-380.

 

 

Toronto Harbour Commission Building

Toronto Harbour Commission Building

The Building

Toronto Harbour Commission Building

Toronto Harbour Commission Building

Started in 1917 and completed a year after, this six-storey building was developed on reclaimed waterfront land called Harbour Square at the end of Bay Street south of Lake Street (Goad’s) – Now known as Lakeshore Blvd West – to house the newly formed Toronto Harbour Commission. It was designed in the Beaux-Arts style by the architectural firm Chapman and Oxley and clad in Indiana limestone. Given the date it was constructed – just after the war – it wasn’t prudent to construct ornate or monumental civic structures, but the predominance that this building had on the waterfront did request some special treatment; with window mouldings and mantles accompanied by a central sculpture helped dignify the simplified frontage and three-quarter decretive columns added depth and shadow (Gagnierm, 1919, 37).

Inside, the building hosted some marble and wood treatment; but most floors, aside from the Commissioner’s room lined with walnut panels, focused on simple dressings around the ceilings and crown moulding. Only the basement, first, sixth and part of the second floors were designated for the Toronto Harbour Commission with the rest to be leased out to like-mined industrial and commercial concerns – specifically those with an interest having office space close to the harbour and ports. Services included a switchboard reception, elevators and lavatories with a bulkhead to conceal plumbing – and given that this was mentioned, perhaps a luxury at the time (Gagnier, 1919, 35).

The Architect

Alfred Hirschfelder Chapman is regarded as a well-known architect of the early 20th Century and his buildings have become local cultural icons with many remaining standing to this day. Born in Toronto in 1878 he attended Harbord Collegiate before graduating from The National Fine Arts School in Paris, France (École Nationale et Spéciale des Beaux-Arts) in 1902 – where he studied his traditional style. After a brief stint in New York, he returned home to design several Carnegie libraries, including the Toronto Reference Library on College, now the University of Toronto Bookstore (Achieve of Ontario, 1976).

After the war, he combined forces with engineer J. Morrow Oxley and developed some the more predominate pieces of institutional and commercial architecture in the city, including many of the buildings on the Canadian National Exhibition ground and its grand entry, the Prince’s Gates. He slowly evolved his style to match the Art Deco movement as seen with the old Toronto Star Building – since demolished to make way for the TD Centre – and the Toronto Hydroelectric Building on College which remains today (Achieve of Ontario, 1976).

Toronto Central Library

Toronto Central Library

His final project was to be the 16-storey contemporary classical-designed Bank of Montreal building at Bay and King but was halted in 1940 during the war and Chapman, after suffering a stroke in 1943 only just saw its completion in 1948 a year before his death (Montreal Gazette, 1946). With his wife Doris, he raised six children, one of which, Howard D. Chapman, followed in his father’s footsteps and became known for his modern architecture style for a number of Toronto landmarks, such as the Riverdale Hospital – now demolished and under replacement by Bridgepoint Health (City of Toronto, 2011).

The Style

The Beaux-Arts style of architecture is often described as ornate but imposing, mixing a number of other styles and building members onto on façade, including classical, renaissance and baroque details and over-sizing elements over doors and windows (Kyles, 2002). Often criticised for its garishness and opulence, it was the style of choice for governmental buildings, city institutions and financial headquarters in North American from 1880-1920’s. The style is developed by the accumulation of talents over centuries both teaching and studying at the Fine Arts School in Paris, where Chapman trained (Cunliffe & Loussier, 2006, 178-179).

A number of examples, aside from those worked on by this architect, can be found in and around Toronto – from as early as the 1880’s with the Bank of Montreal branch at Front and Yonge to the most familiar of which is Union Station, on Front just north of the Commission building. The latest example of notice would be the Canada Life building, one of the only implementation of the master grand avenues plan developed by the city after the war to beautify the downtown and provide better traffic flow with the advent and growing popularity of the car only to be halted by the on-set of the depression (Osbaldeston, 2011, 45; Hayes, 2008, 138-139).

At openning

At openning

The Tenant

The Toronto Harbour Commission was established by Act of the Parliament of Canada in 1911 to manage the port facilities of Toronto – then a major international shipping facility – and to encourage the reclaiming of shallow and swampy land that has limited the capacity for growth in the city. At the time, no single authority had control over harbour traffic and infrastructure development along the waterfront thus a single agency was sought to allow for the local management of industries and private concerns surrounding the area (Transport Canada, 2006)

After construction of the building, the THC embarked on an ambitious plan to perform dredging of the inner harbour to accommodate for larger ships that were expected after the creation of the Welland canal, piling for the infill of land with garbage to provide piers at the end of city streets and by marking out promenades and recreational reserves with shoreline breakwaters to limit erosion. The plans also called for a link over the east and west channels to connect the Toronto Islands and its inhabitants to the mainland and provide for new beaches at both ends of the waterfront located at Sunnyside and Ashbridge’s Bay (Gagnier, 1919, 37-39).

At this time over 300 acres of newfound land was created with over half leased to factories, warehouses and shipwrights. The full completion of this plan would see the present shoreline extend another 300 feet in to the lake from its current position with wharfs protruding another 500 to 700 feet further (Gagnier, 1919, 39). Changes to the waterfront, including the Island Airport and new marine terminals to handle increased load from the St. Lawrence Seaway increased the importance of Toronto as an international port. But, the Depression and the shift from shipping by boat to rail and transport trucks along with industrial and manufacturing concerns moving to cheaper lands outside the city, eventually led the dissolution of the Toronto Harbour Commission; transferring some of its land to the city and the remainder ending in Federal hands under the Toronto Port Authority, which still uses this building as its headquarters since the 1990’s (Transport Canada, 2006).

The Area

Pressures to expand the waterfront started with the adoption of railways as the primary mode of resource and product transportation. Rail, at first, required little, but linear land that could easily be formed along waterfronts and thus close to downtown factories and populations, sharing resource storage needs with the waterways but as war efforts and industrial expansion continued, competing railway companies and the businesses that rely on them for the movement of goods required more land in and around the waterfront (Hayes, 2008, 120-121). After two consecutives fires in the downtown core, cleanup efforts along with waste from reconstruction and expansion required a place to be disposed of – along with the growing waste produced by an expanding city (Fair, 2011). The waterfront and its marshy shallow waters provided a dual solution, quick access to dumping and reclaimed land to develop more rail and port lands upon.

The area

The area

The industrialisation of southern Ontario and capacity issues dealing with war efforts placing pressure of valuable land close to the core of the city, the expansion program in to the lake offered a simple, inexpensive way to expand a city continuous steps outward from the original shoreline expanded usable land by 500-700 metres. The areas south of the core were primarily rail yards while merchant buildings, warehouses, factories lined the shoreline. As industry and families moved further out of the city and after World War II and the automobile took over as the primary mode (Osbaldeston, 2011, 50-58) for transportation the usefulness of these lands centralised around the rail and water faded as employment lands opened on the outskirts of the city and suburbia exploded (Hayes, 2008, 154-157). As a result, many of the buildings were left vacant and more cost-effective to tear them down and turn the land into parking lots for the booming financial district (Wickson, 2002).

The push of people out of the city by the car and pull of cheap housing created an age where roadways were becoming infrastructure giants. The Gardiner Expressway promised to ease congestion by elevating traffic pouring in from the outer-suburbs directly into the city, bypassing crossroads and flying over the old industry lands (Hayes, 2008, 170). This created what Kevin Lynch regards as a hard edge – a barrier that visually and intuitively blocks the flow within and understanding of a city. While development continued north of the expressway, the reclaimed land on the waterfront saw only a small amount of development limited to properties on the water’s edge. Reconnecting the city to the waterfront – a difficult task undertaken in many eastern North American cities with mixed results – has had a number of false starts in Toronto over the past forty years (WTC, 1968, 126). Plans that show mixed-use office and residential towers lining the area around the Toronto Harbour Commission exist both when the CN Tower was planned and when the Metro Convention Centre was built in the seventies and eighties respectively (Osbaldeston, 2011, 234-235).

The Building Today

The building was listed as a Toronto heritage landmark in 1973 during the push to retain some of Toronto’s history while many buildings were lost to large-scale redevelopment of the downtown core. After modernization of the office space in the 1980s the building was designated under Section IV of the Ontario Heritage Act in 1987 as well as covered under the Union Station Conservation District by council in 2006. These successive designations limit changes allowed to the structure and require that consideration must be taken to land-uses on surrounding lands and abide by the limitations afforded by the Act (Toronto Preservation Board). The history and location of the building attracts many to question its origin and is regularly apart of the DoorsOpen event that takes place annually in Toronto to showcase the ornate commissioners office and nautical history. The basement of the building which once stored the documents and archive rooms for the Commission now contains a high-end steak restaurant.

The Future

With a more stable economy backed by sound banking practices and coupled with a vivid downtown with an active day and night-time street life that attracts the upwardly mobile individual has made condominium development within and surrounding the core a burgeoning industry (Waterfront Toronto, 2010). Reclaimed railway and industrial lands connected by both public and private transit provide ample land for redevelopment and efforts to contain sprawl within the GTA with provincial protection acts for the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Green Belt have made dense residential development more attractive to developers and young professionals over the past decade (Place to Grow, 12-13, 30).

Future Plans

Future Plans

With this, pressure on companies to relocate offices from the outer suburbs to find and appease new sources of young and creative employees plus incentives on commercial development and networking connections with other industries have brought forth a massive office construction boom that sees approximately 8 million square feet of office space being added south of the historic core of the city – lands that were once parking lots for sporting and entertainment events held by the close by Air Canada and Rogers Centres (UrbanToronto).

While previous expansion of the core centred in CityPlace west of the CN Tower and the area just south of Union Station; the area surrounding the Toronto Harbour Commission Building remain the last few prime locations plans are before council to integrate the underground PATH network within a few years. As such, the past few months have saw exceptional interest by major corporations, including RBC and development companies, such as Tridel and Menkes to become new centres of retail, residencial and office construction. The announcements of new development in this area occur so rapidly that since the draft of this assignment was completed just over a month ago, plans for three new 70-75 storey condominiums and another office tower have been made public and are slated to enter feasibility and design studies while construction of a new 30-storey office tower has went from the planning stage directly into construction without the need for sales. The area directly around the Toronto Harbour Commission that was once slated for low-density warehousing and port facilities 80 years ago that never came to fruition due to yawing economic climates and wars will soon see a canyon of 50-70 storey buildings gracing its streets within the next decade – that is to say if a global recession doesn’t rear its ugly head again in the coming months (UrbanToronto).

 
Download the Toronto Harbour Commission Building report

 

 

References

Achieves of Ontario, Alfred H. Chapman Fonds (C 18) (Toronto: Queen’s Press, 1976)

City of Toronto. A Work in Progress: Commercial Architects, Howard D. Chapman (Toronto: City of Toronto Achieves , 2011)

Cunliffe, S & Loussier, J. [ed.] Architectural Styles: Spotter Guide (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press. 2006)

Fair, R. HST527 In-Class Lecture (Toronto, RyersonUniversity, 2011)

Gagnier, H. Publishers, Ltd. Construction: A Journal for the Architectural, Engineering and Contracting Interests of Canada, 12. (Toronto: Gagnier, H. Publishers Ltd, 1919). pp34-40

Goad’s Fire Insurance Plans (Retrieved from the City of Toronto)

Hayes, Derek. Historical Atlas of Toronto (Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 2008)

Kyles, S. Ontario Architecture (Hamilton: 2002)

Mongo (sic). 60 Harbour Street (Toronto: UrbanToronto, 2011)

Montreal Gazette, The. Bank of Montreal Set to Resume Construction of Toronto Building (Montreal, Feb.22, 1946) Retrieved from http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1946&dat=19460222&id=O64tAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GZkFAAAAIBAJ&pg=4014,3657352

Osbaldeston, M. Unbuilt Toronto: A History of the City That Might Have Been (Toronto, Dundurn Press, 2008)

Osbaldeston, M. Unbuild Toronto 2: More of the City That Might Have Been (Toronto, Dundurn Press, 2011)

Places to Grow (2005) Growth Plan for the Greater Toronto Horseshoe (Toronto, Queen’s Press, 2005) 14-30.

Toronto Preservation Board [TPB]. Heritage Listings. (Toronto, City of Toronto, 2011)

Transport Canada. Review of the Toronto Port Authority Report (Ottawa: Government of Canada, October, 2006) Retrieved from http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/policy/report-acf-torontoportauthority-e-955.htm#table_of_contents_

UrbanToronto [eds.] 120, 90 & 60 Harbour. (Toronto: Urban Toronto, 2011)

Wickson, Ted. Reflections of Toronto Harbour (Toronto: TorontoPort Authority, 2002)

Waterfront Toronto. Waterfront Toronto General Update (Toronto: Waterfront Toronto, 2010) [Slide Presentation]

Water Technical Committee [WTC]. Waterfront Plan for the Metropolitan Toronto Planning Area (Toronto: Metro Toronto, 1968)

Rob Ford vs Filion

Rob Ford vs Filion

Rob Ford vs Filion

Rob Ford vs Filion (Source: Toronto Life, Oct. 2011)

Late Monday, after the kerfuffle at City Hall over the Rob Ford scandal, I wrote to members of council a thank you note which received a number of positive responses, including those from members, staff and high-profile members in the #topoli twittersphere. While I am still new to posting on this site and through Twitter — and my active participation in municipal politics — I must say I am very impressed with the responses thus far. This includes this very well-written response to my letter from Councillor John Filion of Ward 23 Willowdale.

Councillor Filion is no fan Mayor Rob Ford. His Ford Nation Voting Score is a mere 11.32% according to Matt Elliott and once wanted to limit  the Mayor’s powers during the contract-outsourcing of residential garbage pick-up worried about the mayor might be planning to do something impulsive” – but he writes back in the following letter, which picks up on a number of my points quite well as well as introducing some interesting new ones I’ve always suspected, but never confirmed. His summary of the acts and actions required was so well summarized that I felt impelled to share it with the rest of Toronto — and the world (I’ve highlighted some of the more impressive parts)

 

Hi Christopher,

 

Thanks for your e-mail.  The past few weeks have been without precedent in many ways: the amount of international, national and local attention focussed on City Hall; ongoing appalling behaviour by the Mayor of this city; new revelations, allegations and admissions regarding Mayor Ford’s conduct, with no end in sight; and finally the overwhelming vote to strip the Mayor of most of his powers.

 

My office has been flooded with phone calls and emails, partly due to the high level of awareness and concern but also due to my role in the calling of three Special Meetings of Council to deal with my motions to remove much of Mayor Ford’s powers.

 

Some calls were from angry Ford supporters, from as far away as Saskatchewan. But by far the majority of calls and emails from constituents indicated strong support for my position that the situation had deteriorated to such an extent that something had to be done.

 

The actions I took in writing the motions, and in initiating the Special meetings to deal with them, were taken after much careful thought, many conversations with my colleagues on Council, and a considerable amount of personal sadness that the Mayor had, by his choices, left us with no viable alternative than to separate and protect the decision-making process from his highly destabilizing influence.

 

I will not attempt to chronicle Mayor Ford’s misdeeds, some of which he has admitted to, and others which remain as allegations at this point.

 

Council’s Actions:

 

On Wednesday of last week, 30 Councillors signed a letter asking the Mayor to please step aside, for a period of time, to deal with his problems. I was one of the Councillors who initiated that letter. Before this, virtually all of the Mayor’s allies on Council, with the likely exception of his brother, had attempted to give this advice to Mayor Ford privately. When the informal approach was unsuccessful, Council, also on Wednesday, overwhelmingly supported a motion formally asking him to step aside and seek help. Again, the Mayor adamantly denied he had any serious problems and refused to take a break from his duties.

 

At this point, I asked Councillors to sign a petition for a Special Meeting on Friday to deal with my motion to remove the Mayor’s ability to hire and fire the Chairs of Committees and the Deputy Mayor. For more on the reasons for that motion, you can read the opinion piece I wrote for the Toronto Star.

 

(http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/11/13/toronto_should_strip_mayor_rob_fords_powers.html).

 

On Thursday, the Mayor began the day with a public statement so grossly inappropriate that it cannot even be paraphrased. This was rapidly followed by the release of police documents including police interviews with several former members of his staff. If these statements are to be believed – the Mayor admitted to excessive drinking, and drinking and driving, but denied the rest – the  pattern of misconduct, was not only on his personal time but crossed over into his role as Mayor.

 

By Friday, Council was so shocked, alarmed and fed up that it approved (by votes of 41-3 and 42-2) my motions to remove his power over appointments, and to transfer, to the Deputy Mayor, his authority to deal with emergencies.

 

Still, the Mayor rejected many personal pleas from friends and allies to step aside to seek help. Members of Council became so concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation that they supported my petition for a third Special Meeting, on Monday, to remove any other powers Council had conferred on the Mayor.

 

On Monday, all of my motions received the required two thirds vote of Council. Among other measures, many of the Mayor’s duties, including chairing the Executive Committee, are transferred to the Deputy Mayor.

 

Was the decision democratic?

 

All Councillors – and me in particular as the author of the motion – agonized over this point. Mayor Ford was duly elected and there are 11 months left until the next election.

 

To begin with, it is extremely important to note that all of my motions kept in place all of the councillors Mayor Ford had appointed to positions of authority. All of these councillors have supported his approach to government spending, in accordance with the mandate received by the Mayor in the 2010 election.  By ensuring that the Mayor’s team remained in place, Council made it clear that the decision to reduce the Mayor’s powers was not politically-motivated; we were driven to it solely by his terribly bad behaviour and the need to protect the functioning of city government from a Mayor who was clearly spiralling out of control.

 

Secondly, the motions were overwhelmingly supported by the Mayor’s ideological allies on Council, as well as by Councillors from all parts of the City. In response to the Mayor’s suggestion that it was “a coup d’etat,” one commentator replied: “I’ve never seen a coup d’etat with so much voting.”

 

The Mayor noted the 383,501 votes he received in the 2010 election. But, at the same time, voters in the same area collectively gave the members of Council 415,546 votes. Individual councillors have limited authority, but Council as a whole has tremendous power, including deciding what powers it wishes to bestow upon the Mayor in addition to those granted him by provincial statute. What Council has the legal authority to give, it also has the legal and moral authority to take away if it believes that such action is in the best in interests of the City and its residents.

 

What next?

 

A positive by-product of the drama at City Hall is that it has brought together councillors who have, unfortunately in recent years, grown accustomed to working in ideological and geographical pockets. I am very hopeful that Council will actually function better over the next year than it has in the past three.

 

I believe that Deputy Mayor Kelly, with his greatly increased powers, will encourage this.

 

Will the Rob Ford sideshow continue? Only he can decide that. Based on his behaviour during Monday’s Council debate – mimicking drunk driving, bowling over a female councillor, leaving his seat to incite the audience in the Council chamber, and vowing to wage war on members of Council, like George Bush did on Saddam Hussein – it’s not going to be pretty.

 

But – please – feel confident that, no matter how dysfunctional it may look at times – Council is made up members who are, for the  most part, rational, calm, intelligent, capable, hard working, and extremely mindful of the responsibility we have towards our constituents.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

 

The most shocking information was that of angry calls to his office regarding the decision coming from parts of the country nowhere close to our fine city. This should be a reminder to all of us that Ford Nation should not be dismissed as a subset of voters within our populous that are disenfranchised Toronto Sun readers living within the inner-suburbs. Ford Nation is more than just a grassroots municipal political movement — but that of a political ideology, one akin to that of the American Tea Party movement. While they state they are for democracy, transparency and fighting for the common-man — this couldn’t be further from the truth.  They are well-organised, well-funded, indifferent, irrational, disillusioned and ill-informed simultaneously — which is downright dangerous.

This should also be a reminder, to all of us, that we must be more involved in our local politics. While recent demonstrations and talk in bars and coffee shops (over lattes, perhaps, no less)  has been refreshing — the fact remains that political involvement during elections and voter turnout remain at all-time lows. Many I have talked to about the situation have either indicated that they never did vote in the previous election — or more worrisome — voted for Ford but did not understand how bad he would be. Sadly, I’d rather have inaction over ignorance — but ultimately, I’d rather have neither.

So visit, mail, call or tweet your councillor. Get involved!

 

*** On a side note. Doesn’t John Filion look a lot like Boris Johnson??? ***

Boris Johnson - Mayor of London

Boris Johnson – Mayor of London

 

Sidelining Rob Ford

Sidelining Rob Ford

Rob Ford bowling over fellow council member in chambers.

Rob Ford bowling over fellow council member in chambers. November 18th, 2013. Source: The National Post

On Friday November 15th and Monday November 18th 2013, two special meetings of Toronto City Council were held in order to strip the powers conferred by the chamber to the sitting mayor. These are powers that are not statutory as laid out by the Municipal Act of Ontario or the City of Toronto Act, 2006 and their removal would not contravene any law or negate the responsibilities laid out in the Acts — regardless of what Mayor Rob Ford, his brother Councillor Doug Ford and their lawyer George Rust D’eye may say.

But, under the threat of lawsuits both to the City, Council and perhaps individual councillors by Rob Ford and his newly obtained municipal lawyer, debate along with speeches throughout the day were wrought with worry over litigation, legality and the unknown and unfortunate precedent that the proposed motions would enact or establish. The decisions made by individual councillors were tough, formed under immense pressure and fear of retaliation.

Thankfully, the Mayor and his brother continued their rambunctious acts, insolent attitudes and thinly-veiled threats to their fellow colleagues, former-allies and friends — including an attack of intimidation of the members of the public that packed the chambers to express their interest in municipal politics and observe one of the most important and contentious political meetings held in Toronto since the Upper Canada Rebellion.

While these actions may have influenced those remaining on the fence, the ability to respond and act in defiance of those who manipulate and bully without concept of recourse — and to those who possess not only a boisterous and stubborn constituent but perhaps ties to dangerous drug and gun running gangs or organised crime — took amazing courage. It is these actions in voting for the motions, whether in-part or in-parcel, that our elected officials and our fellow citizens should be commended, appreciated and thanked.

Often correspondence to our elected officials is only in anger — venomous letters or response to single acts or votes that have upset us or continued protest to their political leanings or association. I, myself, have gone against leaders, representatives and legislative member — even when fundamentally I believe them to be excellent leaders and upstanding citizens — because of a stance or alignment that irked myself personally or professionally. But whether you are left or right aligned, light or heavy rail, socially or fiscally responsible — there comes a time when all political strips must align.

Council demonstrated this at both of these special meetings.

United against Mayor Rob Ford, his actions and his past — including his inability to show any legitimate remorse — the mass majority of Toronto Council voted to strip the powers they were legally allowed. In response, Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug Ford declared ‘war’ — equating himself to Kuwait and the remainder of council to Saddam Hussein — threatening to unleash the rabid Ford Nation on each and every one of them.

So, for a change, I took it upon myself to respond in kind — by writing a thank you letter to each member who voted, regardless of my previous experience with them or their political leanings. Each member who voted for the motions limiting Mayor Rob Ford deserves our support and kudos — because it was this that separates the real politicians from those hailing from Ford Nation.

 

And I encourage everyone else to do the same.

 

Here is the boiler plate for the letter I written. Please feel free to work off of it.

 

Subject: Thank you for your votes regarding Mr. Ford

 

Dear Councillor,

 

I would like to take this time to thank you – both personally and on behalf of all citizens of this great city – for voting to limit the powers of our absent, abrasive and often abhorrent mayor.

 

While I understand it was very difficult for some members to vote on all motions or specific line-items, the act of council as a whole demonstrated a common front that shows the public – and the world – that his recent activities, associations and abuses will not be tolerated by the good people of Toronto. This not only cements our faith in the operation of City Hall, but our faith in the political system as a whole.

 

I would also like to reassure you given the thinly-veiled threats – prior, during and after through the media by the Ford family, their supporters and their colleagues – that myself, my acquaintances and the people of Toronto stand by your decision now and that during upcoming election and campaign you will have our full support to denounce any opportunist or illicit acts that they may commit in the name of their so-called ‘war’. To paraphrase: You have a solid ally in the coming battle.

 

I truly believe in our political system when the fight is fair and those participating are forthright. What the City has observed and has been subjected to was beyond the extraordinary – and required the extraordinary measures that you have taken in the past few council meetings in order to restore belief, balance – and sanity.

 

Again, thank you. And keep up your excellent work and passion for our city.

 

Sincerely,

 

Christopher Evan Jones, B.U.R.Pl

 

UPDATE!

 

No more than 24 hours after sending the e-mails, I have had positive and heart-felt responses from quite a number of council members! I wish to thank the following members for their replies and proving that civil, community-oriented politics is not dead in Toronto:

 

Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St.Paul’s)

Councillor Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest)

Councillor Raymond Cho (Ward 42 Scarborough-Rouge River)

Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15 Eglinton-Lawrence)

Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14 Parkdale-High Park)

Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32 Beaches-East York)

Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore)

Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina)

Councillor Sarah Doucette (Ward 13 Parkdale-High Park)

Councillor John Filion (Ward 23 Willowdale) – See his full response here!

Councillor Jaye Robinson  (Ward 25 Don Valley West)

Councillor Janet Davis (Ward 31 Beaches-East York)

 

*** And I should note that none of these councillors have a staff of 20 apparently required to respond so promptly  :) ***

 

Downtown Relief Line – It’s Finally Time

Sample from the report

Sample from the report

Submitted: Monday, March 28th, 2010

Planning assignment to demonstrate page layout and desktop planning as related to an on-going city planning issue.

Abstract: 

Transit City’s (TC) plan to connect Toronto’s inner-suburbs to existing high-order corridors aims to right the lack of adequate public transit long-suffered by area residents. But this plan, along with subway extensions northward, neglects to recognise burgeoning condominium development within the downtown core and strained load capacities of the existing and rapidly aging subway lines and stations. Resurrecting the Downtown Relief Line (DRL) will stem capacity and safety fears while garnering new revenue for the city through increased fares and development charges and become a showcase to the world.

Elevated public transit-use driven by environmental concern and the high price of oil have created a bottleneck at Yonge and Bloor. The extension of the Yonge Line into Richmond Hill is expected to increase through-loads even more. The 55-yearold station sits under an area of dense high-rises – existing, under construction or planned – and its redesign is expected to costs a staggering 450 million dollars and will disrupt service for 4-5 years – creating immeasurable economic drawbacks

A second loop from Union station connecting east and west along the Bloor-Danforth Line will aid in shifting traffic destined for downtown away from Bloor Station and act as feeder support for surface routes. With Union station already slated for large renovations and Pape station expected to be reconfigured for future LRT connections, the development of the DRL in tandem with TC would limit overlapping capital expenditures, avoid inflationary construction costs and provide new zones for intensification

 

Download the Downtown Relief Line – It’s Finally Time report