Elections Ontario not taking action on low voter turnout

In 2015, the Downsview Advocate featured an article illustrating the lack of accessibility to provincial voting locations in the area. Unfortunately, years later and with an election this summer, the issue remains unresolved. While Elections Ontario has recently completed an outreach effort to deal with accessibility to polling stations, with regards to ramps and other similar issues affecting people with disabilities, it did not properly address the low number of voting locations in the riding.

The west part of Downsview is now a riding called Humber River–Black Creek (formerly known as York West – the name was changed by Elections Ontario, although the boundaries have remained the same). This area had the second lowest provincial election turnout across Ontario.

Humber River–Black Creek has one of the province’s highest tenant populations and to account for this during municipal and federal elections, larger buildings have polling stations in their lobbies. As expected, tenant turnout in municipal and federal elections is much higher than provincial elections in relative terms. Elections Ontario knows this. Humber River–Black Creek only has 45 polling stations as compared to the neighbouring ridings of York Centre and York South–Weston which have 66 and 65 polling stations respectively. These ridings have almost 50% more places for residents to vote as compared to Humber River–Black Creek.

When this was brought to the attention of Elections Ontario in 2015, there was no response. Now, a few years later, with an election around the corner, it would be timely to see a response. Voters deserve ease of access to voting stations, and Humber River–Black Creek deserves the same standard as neighbouring ridings. This is unacceptable and those responsible in Elections Ontario need to take immediate action.

To see the 2015 article on low voter turnout, visit: http://www.downsviewadvocate.ca/2015/02/arent-people-downsview-voting/

Community Meeting on the Future of the Jane and Finch area

Dozens of community members from the area met at the former Regina Paget school site on Norfinch in early December to discuss the future of the area. The meeting was organized by Community Action Planning Group  – York West (CAPG), whose mandate is to influence the development of the area and its social environment.

Many problems in the area can be traced to poor planning decisions from 20 or 30 years ago, such as poor transit connections, which are made more difficult because of the physical layout of the neighbourhood. The group organized a meeting to inform community members of community benefits that may be used in the near future and how these can help shape the Jane and Finch area.
One of the biggest changes to the area will be the construction of the LRT along Finch, which is scheduled to see construction start in 2018-19. Not only will this create better transit for the area and clean up the roadways for drivers, but there are a number of other benefits for Jane and Finch. Participants at the meeting learned that there is a big push by an organization called Toronto Community Benefits Network(http://www.communitybenefits.ca/) to create local jobs out of it, but there are also other opportunities.
Metrolinx, the agency that will be building the LRT and creating the jobs in the process, also needs to have a place to park all those new trains. They have chosen to buy and re-purpose the empty field north east of Jane and Finch next to the mall. CAPG and the local City Councillor, Anthony Perruzza, have worked to have the City set out a number of policies to create more than just a car house for the LRT. You can see the details of the City report on what these added community benefits could entail once approved here: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2015.MM11.23
For more information or to get involved email the group here: jf-capg@mail.com

Tolls are Not the Way to Build a City

The City’s Mayor recently proposed to put up tolls on the Gardiner and the DVP in order to raise money for transit and roads. Many people support this idea as the environmentally responsible thing to do and just as many more think that out of town drivers need to pay their fair share too.

This line of thinking, however, has many problems. For starters, this new levy is going to hurt working people that have no travel options the most. If you work downtown, but have no other mode of transportation and cannot afford to live downtown, this will be very unfair to you. Most people cannot afford to live in the core of the City any more. If that is where you work or study you are not driving there by choice. Nobody drives downtown without a reason during rush hour nowadays, the commute is awful. Let us not forget that the drive in the 401 is awful, because Hwy 407 costs money to use. If we force cars and the people that drive them off our highways for environmental reasons, but Lakeshore Blvd and Avenue Road become rush hour parking lots, will that reduce the carbon foot print of the City? Where is the study that shows that the effects seen in other places will work here? What options are being built for commuters and when will these be available for them?

Many of us do not have an easy transit route downtown and a car isn’t an option for many, but is instead the only means of getting to the place where you make a living. Tolls may, in theory, provide some resolution for the transportation needs of suburban commuters, but do not solve their real life transportation problems for the next 10 plus years. The poorer you are as a regular commuter, the worse tolls will make your situation, because tolls are after all a flat tax that hits the working people relatively harder.

Tolls are not used normally to pay for major infrastructure projects as it is being proposed in Toronto, but instead for operational maintenance. Tolls are normally used to repave roads and other operational costs and City’s alone do not build major infrastructure project in North America. The City is short of money, because the Province has structured it that way and it lacks the power to make a better choice, but it is still a poor choice. We must remember that the Gardiner and the DVP are Provincial highways, but the government is making the City maintain them. There is no natural disaster we are dealing with, but rather, we are dealing with the downloading that has been happening for decades now.

Furthermore, to think that tolls would allow Toronto to build new subways lines, more LRT’s or more highways is not thinking outside the box. It’s defying reality. You would never be able to raise enough money from this type of taxation tool. Tolls will be bad for the health of the City in the long run because they accentuate poverty.

Most of us do not like user fees instinctively. Not too long ago in the Advocate, Howard Moscoe wrote an article about hospital parking fees and we had a good response from our readers about that article (http://www.downsviewadvocate.ca/2016/01/enough-with-hospital-parking-fees/). There is no difference between parking fees in a hospital, the fee you pay nowadays for your passport renewal, fees to use libraries or public parks or any number of other fees that are new and that keep on adding to the cost of living for working people.

The truth is, neither property taxes nor tolls will build a City. In order to build a City we need the Province and Canada to come to the table with plans and the funds to build and maintain our infrastructure. Hundreds of millions of dollars that were available to the City of Toronto and other cities yearly throughout Ontario in the past are no longer there. They came from Provincial coffers through income tax, a much more progressive taxation method. We must change the existing conditions of Toronto and other cities to truly fix our transit problems. The services we all share and use collectively, like roads, libraries and hospitals need to be funded properly, but tolls will not solve our current problems.