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FORUM: Fighting on five fronts (Summer 2023)

September 14th, 2023 · No Comments

No sleepy summer in University-Rosedale

By Dianne Saxe

I hope you’ve had a good summer, even if it has been the hottest in at least 120,000 years. Here are a few of the issues we have been working on for you.

 First, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the reconstruction of Bloor Street between Avenue Road and Spadina, starting with the north side. By next July, this section of Bloor will be safer for everyone, with better sidewalks, raised cycle tracks and a protected intersection at Bloor and St. George. Raised cycle tracks protect cyclists from careless or aggressive drivers; “magic” painted lines do not. In the meantime, though, the construction is a challenge, especially because it interrupts Toronto’s major cycling route just as more and more people are getting around by bike. Pedestrians with disabilities have also been adversely affected. Ahead of time, city staff promised me multiple precautions to keep walkers and cyclists safe through the construction zone; many of these were not yet realized at the time of writing. I continue to press senior staff on this and hope you will see gradual improvements.

 Second, we have heard from many constituents about the heart-wrenching scenes of asylum claimants camped on the sidewalk. While the federal government has taken responsibility for asylum claimants in Montreal, they refuse to do so in Toronto. In two years, a 500 per cent increase in asylum claimants has flooded our shelter system, leaving no beds to offer anyone. The new mayor’s extraordinary efforts in July, adding 250 new refugee beds, didn’t change much; the new beds were filled within days. We literally have no space for the new asylum claimants who continue to arrive. 

Moreover, this prevents the city from responding effectively to the hundreds of angry, anguished complaints I receive about encampments, including about open criminality, fires, trash, aggression and harassment. While I always immediately ask city staff to take action, there is little they can do for either the homeless or the general community when the shelters are full. This is unacceptable.

Mayor Chow continues to work hard to break the impasse with the federal and provincial governments. You can help. Chrystia Freeland is our MP. She may not be listening to the city, but she has to listen to her constituents. This would be a good time for you and your neighbours to contact her office. Let her know how important it is that the federal government looks after refugee claimants so that the city can provide shelter space to those who are homeless here.

Third, I’m working with Parks on the two new parks that will be built next year—a beautiful new Huron-Washington playground and a quiet park for adults at Sussex and Spadina. Consultations on both designs should begin shortly. I’m pushing for new playgrounds that are different from each other, with more natural materials and more challenges for older kids. Adults, too, tell me they would like to have access to outdoor fitness equipment in parks, not just places to sit. Don’t miss the chance to have your say.

Fourth, as the effects of climate change become more obvious by the day, council supported several of my climate-related motions, including: 

tying CEO compensation at city agencies and corporations to implementation of TransformTO, Toronto’s ambitious and essential climate action plan.

phasing out loud, polluting two-stroke engines, such as leaf blowers. 

evaluating the opportunity for a publicly-controlled micro-mobility rental pilot project that puts sidewalk safety first. 

Fifth, Christie Pits and Queen’s Park are part of the Alcohol in Parks Pilot Project where alcohol may officially be consumed until Oct. 9. This allows residents without the luxury of a private backyard to responsibly enjoy a drink outdoors, alone or with friends, as they do in Vancouver. So far, it seems to be going well, except that many people dislike the absurdly large signs that announce the pilot.

Thank you again to those constituents who help to make University-Rosedale a great place to live and work. 

Dianne Saxe is city councillor for Ward 11, University-Rosedale.


Tags: Annex · Opinion