I believe that as the City and School Boards serve the same constituents, the residents of Toronto, they must work more closely togther to make long-term and more comprehensive decisions.
As I'm sure many of you have seen in the news, the Minister of Education has asked the TDSB to develop a list of schools to review. The Minister's rationale for potential closures is that a large number of TDSB schools have low enrolment, with many at less than 65% capacity. While there are no schools in Ward 22 are at risk of closure, I am concerned about the possible city-wide effects associated with losing schools without a long term plan to retain community purpose of the facilies and green spaces.
Enrolment numbers alone do not present a full picture of a school's utilization rate. Field areas provide community green space while activities inside can include ESL and Adult Education classes, recreational sports programs, child care, Girl Guides and many others.
I am pleased that Mayor Tory has declared that the City has an interest in this issue and has supported the motion I originally moved in 2012 to create a City-School Boards Working Group to address closures, as well as other points of mutual interest such as supporting vulnerable youth and shared recreational opportunities, including pools and development requests. Unfortunately, the previous administration did not see the value of strengthening the City's relationship with the school boards, but Mr. Tory has signalled that he will be reviving the Committee.
For more information, please read this article.
Tenant Issues Committee
Tenants make up over 50% of Toronto's residents and have specific rights and responsibilities that are governed by City of Toronto by-laws and provincial legislation. Tenants have the right to live in a clean, well-maintained home and deserve fair representation when being faced with unfair rent increases or eviction.
Far too often, unfortunately, my office hears from renters that are living in apartments where these basic needs are not being met. That's why I brought a motion forward at Executive Committee to establish a Tenants Issues Committee for this term of Council. I was pleased that Mayor Tory recognized the importance of these issues and moved the motion.
Like many churches across our community and city, the Manor Road United Church (MRUC) has had to face the challenging reality of what to do with their property to secure their long-term sustainability. After reviewing several options, they decided that half of the church's current property at Manor Road and Forman Avenue would more efficiently serve their needs. The MRUC site is comprised of four city lots fronting on Manor Road; the church will continue to own/occupy the two westernmost lots (containing the church proper) and is selling off the two eastern lots.
I am delighted that MRUC reached out to me last year, rather than a developer, about the possibility of the City purchasing this eastern half of the church property. Since then, I have worked with Park Acquisitions staff and MRUC to have the City acquire this portion of the site using Section 42 funds, to maintain as a much-needed green space in the community. Both parties are currently in serious discussion about a finalized purchase agreement and we are all in agreement that protecting public space for our community is far better than another townhouse development.
Since the church is the property owner, it's important to note that it is their decision alone as to who they sell their property to, or who rents space in their sanctuary. As a parent myself, I am concerned for the organizations that would like to continue use of the church's facilities; however, that is ultimately a conversation between the church and each organization alone. The MRUC recognizes that each potential new or continued tenant situation is unique; interested parties are welcome to contact the church directly. And, of course, I am here to support any community group in the midst of relocating their activities if I can be of assistance in any way.
Despite recent announcements about political support for a 3-stop subway, the Scarborough LRT is still part of the Master Agreement with Metrolinx. Council will soon be faced with a very important decision. It can either reaffirm its support for the fully-funded, planned and ready-to-go, traffic-separated (in its own corridor), 7-stop rapid transit LRT line for Scarborough or spend more than $1 Billion on a shorter subway extension- serving fewer residents for more money, increasing the City's debt and Torontonian's property taxes.
Before this choice is made, it is vital that Councillors are provided with full information and put facts before politics.
Please read this article about some the questions I'll be asking at next week's city council meeting.
The recent demolition of Stollery’s at 1 Bloor Street West is only the latest example of the City’s inability to stay ahead of development applications and preserve historic or architecturally significant examples of Toronto’s built landscape: those physical links to our City’s past that also contribute to the unique character and vibrancy of our streetscapes. That's why it's important that municipal preservation efforts are as comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date as possible. Please see my motion that will be considered at next week's city council meeting.
This Saturday, February 7th at 2 pm, Deer Park Library (40 St. Clair Avenue East) will celebrate Black History Month with a free concert by the Arsenals, an authentic Jamaican ska, rocksteady rhythms and pop act.
Other events to look forward to this month include a talk by a CARP representative about opportunities for retirees to get back into the working world on Thursday, February 12th at 2 pm, and a presentation by consumer advocate Ellen Roseman on Thursday, February 19th at 6:30 pm.
For more information, please visit the Toronto Public Library website.
Clean Toronto Together 2015
The City of Toronto's annual community clean-up campaign, Clean Toronto Together (CTT), returns this April. This year's events will consist of Corporate & School 20-Minute Makeover on Friday, April 17th at 2 pm and Community Clean-Up Days on Saturday, April 18th and Sunday, April 19th. The Community Clean-Up Days are a great opportunity for individuals, groups, associations and organizations to clean up a park, laneway or other public space in their neighbourhood. This initiative coincides with the City's annual spring clean-up efforts and helps keep our city clean and green. Further information about how to register your event and receive support from City Divisions is forthcoming.
Please let me know if you are planning a community clean-up this year, as I would love to attend!
REMINDER: Toronto-St. Paul’s Annual Skating Party
Our local MP, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, will be co-hosting a community skating party with me at the new Hodgson Rink. Please join us from 12 pm to 2 pm on Saturday, February 7th for a fun, family-friendly afternoon with free coffee and hot chocolate. I look forward to seeing you there!
REMINDER: Casa Loma Community Open House for Wards 22 and 21
Nick Di Donato, Councillor Mihevc and I will be co-hosting a community open house at the gardens at Casa Loma. Please join us from 5 pm to 8 pm on Thursday, February 12th for a spectacular Winter Wonderland light display, live ice carving and wood carving presentations. Hot chocolate and s'mores will be available for purchase.
Seniors Community Grant Program
The Province of Ontario has introduced the first grant program in the province dedicated solely to seniors. The program is focused on encouraging initiatives and projects in the non-profit sector that encourage greater social inclusion, volunteerism, education and community engagement for seniors across Ontario. Grants range from $500-$8,000. For more information, please visit the program website.
Edward Snowden at World Affairs Conference
Earlier this week, on February 2nd, privacy activist Edward Snowden participated as keynote speaker in the World Affairs Conference. Congrats to the students from Upper Canada College and Branksome Hall who organized this important conversation, and to both schools for their support!
The Future of Casa Loma: North Precinct Public Meeting
On Thursday, February 26 at 7 pm, please join me at Grace Church on-the-Hill (300 Lonsdale Road) to discuss future uses including the possibility of a City of Toronto museum for the 2.5-acre North Campus of Casa Loma. The property consists of the hunting lodge, potting shed, garage and stables.
REMINDER: 2015 City of Toronto Budget Community Town Hall Meeting
On Tuesday, March 3rd at 7pm, I will be hosting my 2015 Budget Town Hall for Ward 22 residents. The meeting will be held in the Multi-Purpose Room at the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre (200 Eglinton Avenue West).
If you would like more information on the proposed 2015 City of Toronto Budget in advance of my Town Hall meeting, please visit the City of Toronto website.
Build the Relief Subway Line Now!
To keep you informed about development applications in our community that might affect you or your neighbourhood, I've created an interactive map on my website. I hope you will find this to be a useful reference.