Weekend Newsbrief: January 27, 2019
What happened at Toronto City Hall this week
Naming rights bring financial products to city’s public theatres. The Sony Centre will become Meridian Hall in September following a $30.75 million partnership announced on Monday. In an interview this week, Clyde Wagner, President and CEO of the city’s public theatre agency said audiences will have a new experience at shows as a result of the deal. Asked if patrons should expect to have Meridian’s representatives sell them financial products when they go to see a show, Wagner says “It won’t be like that… It would be a very elegant presence of being in the space and if people chose to come over and participate or had questions, they could activate in that way.” The naming rights will also extend to the Toronto Centre for the Arts, which will become the Meridian Centre for the Arts. Local councillor John Filion is happy about the partnership. (Read the story)
Members of the public tell mayor the City must do more to solve housing problems. Approximately 50 members of the public came to city hall for the Executive Committee this week. Many told the mayor and city councillors that despite a plan to build affordable housing units, it is not enough. “Why do we feel this plan is lacking?” asked Gordie Dent, Executive Director of Federation of Metro Tenants Associations, an organization that helps 80,000 people a year, with 50,000 direct face-to-face service. “The reason why that is, is we’re currently in a brutal crisis… we’ve got hundreds living on the streets.” Patricia O’Connell, Executive Director of Sistering, also spoke at the committee. She asked why the city government hasn’t gone to the federal government for help, and why the city isn’t doing more to improve the shelters. “It’s so wrong. The priorities are wrong. I’m here again begging that this council do something. You have no heart anymore. This city used to have a heart. It treated people well. It looked after people. In the last several years – I don’t see it.” What I don’t understand why hasn’t there been an uproar here at city hall?” Councillor James Pasternak asked if O’Connell had taken her message to their federal counterparts to come to the table, given that 40 percent of those living in shelters are asylum seekers or refugee applicants. “Is that your job or mine? It’s your job to get the feds to the table. It’s not my job.”
TTC fare hike. The TTC Board moved for a fare increase this week. Cash fares will remain $3.25 and Presto fares will go up ten cents. Later on Twitter, TTC Chair Jaye Robinson called out Councillors Josh Matlow and Gord Perks for calling her out for saying the city had no additional funds. Later, Perks penned what he called a “nerd thread,” which is actually not nerdy at all but a very good little explanation of why the TTC didn’t need to increase fares. The city’s budget process launches next week.
Ontario place monorail. A week after the provincial government said it was accepting proposals for the redesign of Ontario, QP Briefing’s David Hains learned the idea of monorail at the waterfront site is in the mix. City councillors Joe Cressy, Paula Fletcher, Mike Layton, and Gord Perks have formed a subcommittee of the Toronto and East York Community Council. The first meeting is not until March 5, 2019.
Mayoral candidate found guilty of promoting hate speech. James Sears, editor of a small paper called Your Ward News was found guilty of promoting hatred against women and Jews. The National Post’s Christie Blatchford condoned the verdict. The Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee did not. During the 2018 municipal election, Signal Toronto received a response to our candidate survey on behalf of Sears. We published why we decided not to publish it here (for members).
Scene and heard: “neoliberal right-wing hacks” at executive committee
Don Weitz: Some people may call me a grumpy old man, but I’m a social justice activist who’s been in Toronto over 55 years. This is the worst damn housing emergency … this is a rant, and it expresses my feelings and the feelings of many on the street… [it’s] called Shelter Skelter. It’s a rant inspired by Mayor Tory and the Toronto City Council.
Listen up you do nothing neoliberal right-wing hacks. Surprise, surprise we’re in the hall. We’re in city hall. We’re back, we’re back. Councillors shout housing, strategy, poverty reduction. Another law you care about going to another Bay St. function.
Deputy Mayor Minnan-Wong (acting chair): Thank you, sir. Your time is up.
Weitz: But you don’t –
Minnan-Wong: I’m sorry your time is up. Everyone gets three minutes.
Weitz: Are you interrupting me?
Minnan-Wong: Yes, sir.
Weitz: Why are you interrupting me?
Minnan-Wong: Because… we treat everyone the same – which I’m sure you’ll agree with. And everyone gets three minutes.
Weitz: Just a minute. You are guilty of bias against me. It’s not even five minutes and I’m being interrupted.
Minnan-Wong: We have your document here. Your rant. I think we’ve all seen it.
Councillor Paula Fletcher: It got changed to three minutes. Maybe you didn’t hear that.
Weitz: No I didn’t. This will take one minute so please be understanding. I made a special point – I’m 88 years old and I made a special point of coming down here to read this. So please [be] understanding. You’re supposed to represent the people. Are you representing?
Minnan-Wong: I’m at the will of the committee.
Mayor John Tory: If I was in the chair I would say there’s an 88-year-old discount or whatever it is, bonus, that’s applied. Anyone who’s 88 and above might be given one minute only to do that but we should be –
Minnan-Wong: Well, Mr. Mayor one of our neo-liberal right wing hacks on the committee (loud laughter in the room) I’m considering myself one of those because we’re all that on this council. I’m happy to give you your extra minute.
Weitz: What is going on here?
Minnan-Wong: … Mr. Weitz you can continue.
You can read Don Weitz’s rant here.
Arts and culture
Introducing a new column for Signal Toronto inspired by Mark Wigmore’s new podcast, Art at the End of the World. The 10-part series investigates the careers of some of this country’s most engaging personalities, while seeking reflections on what it is to be an artist during a time of massive cultural change. Each week, he will introduce us to his podcast guest, each with a special connection to Toronto. This week, Mark chronicles six-time Dora Award winner Britta Johnson’s career, weaving his experience getting to know her as an artist. (Read the column)
Mayor John Tory lost his composure with a reporter this week
Read the post.
This Newsbrief is by Arianne Robinson.