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Tunnel Vision on Scarborough subway

The amount of uninformed nonsense written about the Scarborough subway is scary.

There are those who say, “it’s just one stop.”

That’ true. What they fail to point out is that it will remove five stops on the existing Scarborough Light Rail line.

They say there aren’t enough people at Sarborough Town Centre to warrant that. Don’t know where they’re getting those figures from, but before people spout nonsense, they should go look at what’s at Scarborough Town Centre. There’s been massive development over the past 10 years.

Not just that, there’s a vast shopping centre and government offices. I renewed my passport last week. Like the hundreds of others in line at the passport office, I’d have liked to take the subway. Alas, there isn’t one. There were no riders at Eglinton before the subway stop was built. So that’s a silly argument.

If you didn’t complain about the subway to Vaughan, you have no right complaining about the subway to Scarborough. People in Vaughan have not been supporting the TTC with their tax and transit dollars all these year. People in Scarborough have. They pay taxes in Toronto and deserve to be part of the transit system.

Vaughan just happened to be particularly well connected politically, and made out like a transit bandit. They should never have been the priority transit project. Do you really think those affluent Vaughan types will ever be pried out of their SUVs and into transit? Of course not.

There are, however, a great many blue collar Scarberians who need and want transit to get to work. And they have no other way of getting around.

In future, before you show your ignorance of Scarborough – go find out just where the subway will go before you make ridiculous statements.



Power trips

Now that we’ve seen Premier Kathleen Wynne’s $25 billion plan to bail herself out of the mess she and the previous Liberal government have landed us in on electricity, you wonder which shoe – or perhaps whose shoe – will drop next.

The Liberal Party is no doubt anxiously eyeing Wynne’s desperately low poll ratings. Trust me, they will do anything they think will keep them in power. If that includes ditching Wynne, they’ll do it – although they’d have to do so very quickly, in order to instal a new premier before the election in June 2018.

A fresh face would help them lose some of the baggage the Liberal Party is staggering under right now. Health Minister Eric Hoskins is one obvious name of someone who could step into the role. He ran in the last leadership and has done a lot of heavy-lifting in Health. Children’s Minister Michael Coteau is a newcomer who’s rapidly making a name for himself. And you have to wonder if Education Minister Mitzi Hunter harbours leadership ambitions. Attorney-General Yasir Naqvi would also be a strong contender.

That said, the Liberal Party has a strong track record when it comes to winning elections. Like Jaws II, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, they pull off a stunning election upset. They did it in 2014, when everyone thought Tim Hudak was a shoo-in after years of Liberal waste, mismanagement and scandal.

And in 2007, they turned John Tory’s platform that took the very reasonable position that the current system of funding religious education is wrong and discriminatory and turned it into an albatross around Tory’s neck.

Don’t count Wynne out yet. And those polls saying PC leader Patrick Brown will win a “supermajority,” are just that. Polls. And 18 months before an election, they’re meaningless.

Brown needs to up his game. His response to Wynne’s plan on Newstalk 1010 sounded like someone who isn’t taking media training. He must. And he should listen carefully, if he doesn’t want to be portrayed into the next election as someone who’s not ready for prime time.He can’t cruise to victory under the radar. Voters aren’t focused on the election right now. Once they do, they may take a look at him  – and not like what they’re seeing.

And who will they turn to? Either the devil they know – Wynne – or the NDP. New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath routinely polls much higher than the other two leaders and she could end up the beneficiary of Brown’s gaffes.

Best before date?

The unfortunate story of Nancy Elgie, the York Region school board trustee who used a disgusting racial epithet when speaking to a parent, underlines the need for an age limit on elected officials.

Elgie, 82, has claimed her outburst was a result of a head injury. In that case, I’m sure we all feel sorry for her in light of that injury. But it doesn’t excuse her.

Asked about the situation.Premier Kathleen Wynne used her words very carefully recently, saying Elgie needed to “search her conscience.” You’ll have a tough time finding any politician calling for the resignation of another politician. After all, if you force Elgie to resign over this, it begs the question why Wynne wouldn’t resign over the scandals her government’s mired in.

Elgie may well need her trustee job, to pay the bills. That isn’t the point. Public office shouldn’t be regarded as a pension supplement – and I’ve seen far too many octogenarian politicians use it as just that.


Sic transit gloria

There’s a lovely ticket collector at Victoria Park subway station who always makes me smile.

When I ask for 10 seniors tickets, he winks and pushes them across the counter.

“For your mom, are they?” he laughs.

Ah, yes. My morning chuckle.

But what the heck is going on at the TTC? First they change the names of subway lines to numbers. So the Bloor-Danforth line is “Line 2” and the Yonge-University line is Line One. They’re also starting to colour-code the lines on the TTC map, which is fair enough. Once we start adding the new LRT lines, the map will become complex.

But for pity’s sake, why are they taking away the line names that actually indicate something about where the trains are going? Other cities around the world give their subway lines names that become part of the city’s historic tapestry. Think of London, with its historic Piccadilly line, commemorative Jubilee and Victoria lines and directional Northern line.

Now they’re changing the way the numbers on streetcars and buses are expressed. The 501 Queen car was always pronounced 5-oh-1. Now, according to the automated voice on the streetcars, it’s five hundred and one. Really? When the recorded voice on the streetcar calls the vehicle a name the passengers on it don’t recognize, you wonder where they made the recording. Mars? Or is it from Uranus?

Times Change

It’s been 50 years since I first started working for a newspaper. I’ve seen a lot of changes.

We’ve gone from moveable type to Twitter. Newspapers were once laid out on the “stone” in the composing room and stories were set in metal type. You had to be able to read upside down and backwards to proofread.

You had three editions and perhaps a couple of replates throughout the day. Now with the Internet, stories are updated at any time throughout the day.

TV has changed as well. I was still in England as a child when JFK was shot in Dallas. The BBC didn’t know how to cover it. In the pre-satellite days of television, there was no footage until they could fly it over the Atlantic. We knew he was dead, but we had no details.

As I recall, the BBC put up a test card because I think they found it inappropriate to continue with their regular programming.There were news updates throughout the evening, but details were sketchy and we sat staring at a mostly static screen, wondering what was happening.

Now major news is covered wall-to-wall, 24/7 with sat trucks beaming every detail instantly around the world.

On reflection, I think too much information is better than too little.


The real school bus problem

Why are all these school bus problems suddenly cropping up? No drivers. Autistic kids left at the side of the road. Whatever happened to the day when the person driving was someone who’d been doing the job for years and the company was local and had been business and served the community for years.

Then the Liberal government decided to go to competitive bidding. The contracts went to the lowest bidders – i.e. the school bus company that paid the least to their drivers. That resulted in the contracts for busing in the hands of one or two multinational corporations.

School bus companies in small towns that had been in business for years shut their doors. I think that’s a terrible shame. Those drivers took pride in their work. They knew their kids. The knew the ones who needed a bit of extra help and whose parents were who.

Yes, it meant lower costs. For now. The big companies were able to eat the losses for a while. But I wonder how long it will be before they hike their rate and we’re left with the worst of all worlds.


to be or not to be?

I love the Cineplex livestreams of great theatre from London. Just saw Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch. it was amazing. He takes Hamlet to a whole new level. The entire cast was great – especially Gertrude (Anastasia Hille).

It is an amazing production that stays faithful to Shakespeare while still opening up whole new perspectives on it. Cumberbatch reportedly was nervous about his role in the play, as he felt expectations were too high. Trust me, he had no need to worry. Superb performances all round.