Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Ontario election 2011: Davenport and beyond

I live on Symington Avenue, right in the middle of the recently christened Junction Triangle. I've been here for over three years now and I love it. I think the West Toronto Railpath is one of the city's great recent successes, abbreviated though it is for the time being. The Wallace Avenue footbridgeoffers a terrific view of the city (and great exercise). There are excellent and affordable new restaurants, cafés and businesses opening up all around. Even the 168 Symington bus, which runs frequently past my door, is more convenient than noisy or intrusive.

I try to pay attention to neighbourhood issues. The things I hear about most are the Georgetown rail corridor/air-rail link (could be amazing), planning (where's that boys and girls club?), development (there's lots), incumbent industry (should it stay or go?), politics (how to engage the diverse and transitional population?), and traffic (Dupont is pretty bad).

Here are the issues that concern me the most this election.

1. Honesty, integrity, and vision among candidates
I have had enough of politicians who lie or misrepresent the truth to the public in order to advance their agenda. Toronto and Canada have seen too much of this in the last 10 years. In my opinion, candidates should have a positive vision for their city and province. They should express their vision plainly; they should answer questions clearly; they should avoid pithy slogans and name-calling; they should publicly discuss their ideas to improve their city and province, rather than simply attacking other candidates' proposals. They should act like concerned citizens, like you and me. They should talk and listen to citizens, and try their best to understand them. They should be clear about their ideas and willing to defend them, but accept that they might be wrong. (I know, I know. I must be dreaming!)

2. The Georgetown rail corridor/air-rail link
This is an issue that affects the entire electoral district of Davenport, and really the entire west end of Toronto. The problem is pollution, mainly from diesel exhaust. The Liberals have committed to increasing the number of trains running between Union Station and Georgetown, starting with a Union-Pearson Airport rail link. Due partly to the costs and partly to an artificial timeline, they have chosen an unproven "clean diesel" technology at a time when jurisdictions around the world are implementing electric railways. Critics of the plan say it is an immense threat to citizens' health and an enormous waste of money. The government says it will electrify the corridor eventually, and the new technology will limit the threat from pollution.

3. Public Catholic schools: LGBT rights and funding
These aren't Davenport-specific issues. Rather they affect citizens across the province. First, the taxpayers of Ontario support Catholic religious education with their money to the exclusion of other religions. In fact, Canada's constitution mandates this arrangement, but the constitution was written at a time when there were only (or very nearly only) Catholic and Protestant Christians in Canada, and there were fears that Catholics would suffer discrimination in what were at the time mainly Protestant schools. That is obviously no longer the case, but the system remains, only now it discriminates against all non-Catholics. Second, the Toronto Catholic District School Board recently refused to endorse a policy of support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) students, in defiance of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Ontario's Human Rights Code. The problems that this situation presents are obvious: can the province justify using citizens' money to fund an organization that actively discriminates against citizens?

4. Planning, development, transit
Some might find this stuff dull, but I am very interested in how the city looks and, more importantly, how it works. I travel the city on foot, by bike, by car, bus, and train. I get stuck in traffic, and I get delayed on the subway, and I'd love the city to move people around better. In my neighbourhood, I hear of new developments regularly. In fact, I can hear one project being built at Dupont and Lansdowne from my house. I'd like Toronto to demand greatness in its development; to create and follow long-term plans that make the city—its streets and buildings and businesses and services—work for communities, not against them; to do more to respect its built heritage and to complement what exists with developments that make citizens and communities proud.

But Davenport is much more than my neighbourhood, and I'd love to hear what you think is important this election or in general. I'll be writing about the election on The Star's Speak Your Mind blog until the results come in. See the Davenport file there. (Click the "Blogs" tab beside ">>Davenport news" for the good stuff.) Blog blog blog.

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