I've enjoyed seeing so many of you recently at community events, while I've been visiting local small businesses, meeting residents in the community or simply walking in our neighbourhoods, parks or ice rinks with my family. I'm also happy to tell you that it's been a busy and productive time at city hall with a renewed spirit of cooperation and optimism. That being said, I remain focused on our local priorities and the many real challenges facing our city by taking what I hope is an accessible, honest, determined and evidence-based approach to public policy decisions.
I'm delighted to report that we have two new Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) in Ward 22- The South Bayview BIA on Bayview Ave. north of Davisville and The Midtown Yonge BIA between the Beltline and Soudan. It was a pleasure working closely with local merchants to form these associations that will contribute to more vibrant and beautiful main streets and our communities' quality of life. They join our Forest Hill Village, Mount Pleasant Village and Eglinton Way BIAs. Regarding Eglinton, I strongly encourage you to visit these local businesses, especially while the Crosstown LRT is being constructed. They really need our support.
The 2015 City of Toronto Budget
This week, City Council passed Toronto's 2015 City Budget. I commend Mayor Tory for creating the climate for an inclusive and respectful budget process. While I have significant concerns about the City's financial position and priorities, I was pleased that Council made significant investments in areas that I know are important for our Ward 22 community's residents, including:
- Eliminating fares for children 12 years and under
- Restoring evening service to some bus routes cut in 2011 (I will advocate to the TTC Commission for Midtown bus routes to be part of this initiative, including the Mt. Pleasant 74)
- Ten-minute or better bus and streetcar service on busy routes during off-peak hours
- Reduced wait times and crowding at off-peak times
- Expanding the Express Bus network, adding 4 new routes to a network that serves 34 million rides annually
- Expanding the Blue Night Network, adding 12 routes to the 22-route network that serves 4 million rides annually
- Adding up to 2 additional subway trains on Lines 1 and 2 during morning and afternoon rush hours to ease overcrowding
- Allocating additional resources to focus on subway reliability around signals, track and communications systems to help address recent service problems
- Initiatives to Support Children and Youth:
- Expanding the Student Nutrition program in up to 27 new schools
- Creating 3 new Youth Spaces to support marginalized young people
- Expanding the Connect2youth employment and training program
- New shelter for LGBTQ youth
- Creating 8 new planning positions, including 4 new Heritage Preservation staff
- Improving emergency response times by adding 56 new paramedics and 25 fire prevention officers
- Purchasing 60 new subway cars which will help expand capacity on the overcrowded Yonge Line, as well as 810 new 40-foot diesel buses and 195 low-floor accessible street cars
- New shelter beds and enhanced warming centres during extreme weather
- Implementing traffic control and traffic congestion management infrastructure at major intersections
While there are many positive investments contained in this year's budget, I am concerned about Toronto's financial position moving forward. Prior to this year's budget, the Provincial government announced it would no longer transfer "pooling" funds collected from 905 municipalities to Toronto to offset the cost for social housing that was downloaded after amalgamation. The City essentially "borrowed from itself" with debt financing to cover the $86 million hole this move created. As well, it was recently announced that Metrolinx presented Toronto with an over $90 million bill for work related to the Union-Pearson Express project.
I believe that income, sales and other taxes that grow with the economy, collected by senior levels of government, are more appropriate tools to fund redistributive social programs and major capital infrastructure projects than municipal property taxes. The City's current program and infrastructure needs are too much of a burden for the City's property tax base.
Mayor Tory has signalled that he will work with the Province and the Federal government for a new deal that will see fair funding for Toronto. I will support Mr. Tory in any way I can, to help him in this pursuit. The status quo is unsustainable and doesn't achieve enough results.
I'll be serving Toronto as Chair of City-School Boards and Tenant Issues Committees
I want to thank Council's Striking Committee for recommending me as Chair of both the new City-School Boards and Tenant Issues Committees. Mayor Tory supported my motions for the creation of these two important bodies. I look forward to working with the mayor, councillors, trustees and Queen's Park in my new roles on important school board-related issues such as potential school closures, protecting green space, creating community hubs, and for tenants, challenging Above the Guideline Rent Increases, and many others.
Ultimately, I'm working to make government work better, smarter, and more comprehensively rather than in silos.
I'll be sure to provide you with information through this e-newsletter on meetings of these committees, once dates and agendas are set.
The future of Yonge and Eglinton: The Midtown Secondary Plan Public Meeting
As residents are all too aware, the Yonge-Eglinton area is facing tremendous development pressure. An application for another tall building is seemingly submitted every week in this Urban Growth Centre while the subway's getting more crowded. That's why we're initiating a review of the Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan, aimed at improving and expanding our community's public spaces, as well as the area's social and physical infrastructure. The review will also seek to strengthen the City's built form policies in the area.
Please join me on Monday, March 23 from 7 pm to 9 pm at Northern District Library (40 Orchard View Blvd, Room 224) for a public consultation to learn more, ask questions and provide your feedback.
March Break at Toronto's Historic Sites
Spadina Museum and several other historic sites in Toronto will be open all week during the March Break for drop-in activities. For more information on family fun offered by the City during the March Break, please visit the City of Toronto's Arts and Culture website.
2015 Wiesenthal Scholarships
This year, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies will be offering 7 education scholarships for students pursuing post-secondary educations. Each scholarship is worth $3,600 and the application deadline is April 30.
For more information, please visit www.fswc.ca/scholarships.
Free Consultation and Referral Service for Seniors
Sharon, Lois & Bram Playground Public Meeting- Let's make it even better!
On Wednesday, March 25 at 7 pm, please join me to discuss your vision for an improved and expandednSharon, Lois & Bram Playground at June Rowlands (Davisville) Park. Parks, Forestry & Recreation staff will be in attendance to present different options for an upgraded playground, including unique musical features. Other improvements to the park will be discussed as well.
The meeting location is in The Lodge at Greenwood College School (443 Mount Pleasant Road). I hope to see you there!
Toronto Community Housing Tenant Representative Elections
Tenant Representative Elections are taking place on March 26 in Toronto Community Housing buildings across the city. Tenant Representatives work to advocate for the interests of tenants in their buildings at Neighbourhood Tenant Councils, to identify issues in their buildings and keep tenants informed about the Neighbourhood Tenant Council.
Come Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with the Hon. Carolyn Bennett!
On Sunday, March 15th from 4 pm to 6 pm, please join me, my family and our local MP, the Hon. Carolyn Bennett, for her annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Unicorn Pub (175 Eglinton Avenue East).
This year's event will feature live Irish music by multi-instrumentalist Loretta Reid and guitarist October Browne. Light snacks will be served. We look forward to seeing you there!
To ensure that you are informed and engaged about development proposals that are being proposed for sites near your neighbourhood, I've created an interactive webpage with locations, staff reports and public meeting notices. Please click here to learn more about what you can do to help free Toronto from the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).