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Mobs don’t rule, nor do pawns

February 15th, 2015 · No Comments

It’s sad to see the students of Central Tech used as pawns to advance a singular solution to the problem of the school’s playing field. It’s a complicated issue and the students are being fed an easy-to-swallow pill about who is to blame for the state of their field.

On October 12th some classes at Central Tech mysteriously stopped and placards were available for students to march along Bloor. Teachers were positioned along the street to corral the throng, and police who happened to be in the neighbourhood tried to keep everyone safe. Had the small army of cops on bikes not coincidently been there to stop traffic, then personal injury to students was a real possibility. It was irresponsible for Central Tech administrators to have permitted this.

The students were carrying placards saying such things as “Why are my sports in your courts” and “Trustees get some balls so we can play with ours”. The first is a reference to the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) decision to take the City of Toronto to court after the application to give the field to a commercial operator for 21 years was rejected. The operator, Razor Management, proposes to apply artificial turf and a winter dome to the playing field but this plan was rejected by the city’s committee of adjustment. If the deal comes to fruition, it’s not clear if the students even know that 70% of the available time they would not be allowed on the play surface, as the operator would be accommodating its commercial clients – primarily private sport groups. The TDSB did not ask the court to rule on the merits of that decision (because that is what the Ontario Municipal Board is there for) but rather asked the court to say that the city has no business applying the existing by-law, which was created to regulate development on school board lands. The court decided against the TDSB, who then appealed, and they again lost in a unanimous three judge decision. It is the TDSB that keeps bringing the apparently specious case to the “courts”, not the local community or the city. How much the TDSB is spending on lawyers when it could be fixing the field is not known.

The suggestion that “trustees need to get some balls” is a not so thinly veiled suggestion that the deal with Razor should be immediately consummated and damn the torpedoes with the city and the courts. In fact, interim trustee Briony Glassco tried just that in September. This would be a singularly irresponsible move, but it is consistent with the rash and reckless approach that the TDSB has taken to date on the matter.

Although it was quite a spectacle to witness the “spontaneous” student protest on Bloor, it was recently superceded by another. A small mob of students, again armed with placards, chose to crash Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) Annual General Meeting on November 3rd. That event was complete with television cameras and major daily media who somehow knew it would be happening. The major media outlets were all too eager to take the bait.

The HVRA is a stakeholder group that opposed the project. The Bloor Annex and the Harbord Street Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) supported it, each with their own conditions about mitigating community impact, specifically parking and traffic management. In a free and open democratic society that’s how it works. Fortunately, we have representative governments to decide what is best for everyone. Through the Committee of Adjustment, a determination was made that this project should not proceed. The ringleaders of the student protest are not taking them to city hall, where the decision was made, nor are they outside the courthouse where the TDSB was so soundly rejected. Both the city and the courts wield the real authority. The volunteers at the HVRA dared to espouse a contrary view, and even to offer alternatives, and now they have been vilified.

This latest chapter in the TDSB saga is indicative of their consistent lack of transparency, and it also represents their mounting desperation which is illustrated by them sacrificing student interests while allegedly acting for them.

Tags: General