Advocates raise concerns over new shelter locations; Musicians consider fairness of grand prize in TTC/Universal Music contest; Jersey Day city hall; A message to our subscribers and potential subscribers — help fund a Signal Toronto special series

11:29 a.m., April 10, 2018. Sticks outside Mayor John Tory’s office. On Tuesday, Tory said to reporters, “You know, it’s shocking when these things actually happen in a given moment in time, but the time that becomes the most difficult is when the reality sets in, and when a few weeks have passed, and we just want those people in Humboldt and people around the country who are so profoundly affected by this to know that the people in the city of Toronto at the mayor’s office are deeply affected by this as they are and that we’re thinking about them.”
11:29 a.m., April 10, 2018. Hockey sticks left outside Mayor John Tory’s office this week, a tribute to the Humboldt bus tragedy.

Weekend Newsbrief: April 14, 2018

What happened at city hall this week

Standing in support of families of victims of bus collision tragedy in Humboldt. At city hall on Thursday, councillors and attendees at the Community Development and Recreation Committee stood in silence for the families of the victims of Humboldt. “Obviously, we are heartbroken when we see the news reports and families,” chair of the committee and city Councillor James Pasternak said at the meeting. “Certainly as someone who has a son around that same age, I can’t imagine what the families are going through.” That same day at a news conference, Mayor John Tory spoke about Jersey Day, one of the ways in which people across the country expressed their sympathy for the tragic events in Saskatchewan. “[Wearing Jerseys] is a small way in which we can express our solidarity with and our deep sympathy for the people in Humboldt all of the families of those that lost their lives in that terrible bus crash. You know, this is a very big country, and there’s a lot of distance between one place and another … I think it brings us just a bit closer together when we can do something that they will see, I hope, on television. I’m sure they’ll feel it in Saskatchewan from the rest of the country … I’m glad to see people have responded and I think those vibes will be received in Saskatchewan, as well they should be.”

As temporary shelters close downtown, advocates raise concerns over distance to new locations. This week the city of Toronto announced two respite shelters will close as the weather warms, and two new locations will open. Starting in May, the Better Living Centre at the Exhibition grounds and the site at 348 Davenport Rd. will no longer be used for shelter. New temporary shelter services will be available at Lambton Arena (Dundas Street West and Royal York Road) and Don Mills Civitan Arena (Lawrence Avenue East and Don Mills Road). Advocates who spoke at the Community Development and Recreation Committee were dismayed about the locations. “It’s all right to open those places, but we cannot do without something in the downtown area,” Maurice Adongo, a downtown health worker, said to the committee. “Because the result is very simple as we see it: people, very simply, will go into the alleyways, they will go into parks, they will find anywhere else to stay.” Adongo said people will come downtown during the day to access their social network and health services, but will be hindered by the cost of public transit. “These people can barely afford one [TTC] ticket … this committee and this city has to figure out how to get beds available for people in the downtown area, particularly in the east end. [The new] options look good on paper, and we can say, ‘Come on guys, you got a place,’ and they say, ‘You’re joking, how am I going to get there?’ ” Councillor Joe Mihevc asked Paul Raftis, general manager of Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, about the possibility of the city transporting people to the new shelters. “We use our Streets to Homes teams with vehicles to offer transportation,” Raftis said, “but we certainly don’t have the resources for 24/7 bussing for respite. We do use the TTC for that.”  Advocate A.J. Withers also spoke about the issue of shelter location. “This winter, no one froze to death on the streets of the city. That isn’t nothing, like, that’s a really big deal, and that’s because of the respite sites, and moving sites into really irrational locations isn’t a good solution.”

Robinson and Layton face off over city’s agreement with Toronto Botanical Gardens master plan. A $55-million public-private partnership plan for the redevelopment of Toronto Botanical Gardens and Edwards Gardens was the subject of some heat between Councillors Jaye Robinson and Mike Layton at Monday’s Parks and Environment Committee meeting. At issue was whether the agreement between the city and Toronto Botanical Garden specifies that all future maintenance and construction within Edwards Gardens, the larger park to the west of the botanical gardens, will be done by the city’s unionized workers. The direction of the item took a turn with a surprise motion from Layton about involving the city’s unionized outdoor workers. (Read the story)

Musicians consider fairness of grand prize in TTC/Universal Music busker contest. The Toronto Transit Commission has held its subway musician program for nearly 40 years, but this year, the public transit agency is partnering with Universal Music Canada for an online contest that will end with one winner having the chance to build a relationship with the music label giant. This week, Universal started accepting online submissions for a contest called “Underground Sounds” that will result in 90 TTC music licences allowing musicians to perform in more than 30 stations throughout the GTA and 10 finalists who will compete at a late-summer show for a deal to record one song with Universal. The contest started on Monday and as of Thursday night there were 62 submissions. The contest rules allow for contestants to play any song, including covers or originals, but if the winning song is an original, Universal will own the rights to the publishing and master, with no compensation for the musician and no opportunity to negotiate the deal. There is no obligation for the winner to redeem the prize and record their song. Menno Versteeg (Hollerado, Royal Mountain Records) and Noah Mintz (hHead, Lacquer Channel Mastering) have weighed in on the question of whether the arrangement is fair to the grand prize-winning musician: “You know, if you’re a master of your craft, it’s not your right to get paid for it, but if someone else is making money off your music, you should be also,” Versteeg told Signal Toronto. (Read the story)

Good to know

Saturday and Sunday

The Bloor-Danforth subway (Line 2) will be closed between Kipling and Jane stations for track work and maintenance this weekend.

All stations will remain open for fare sales and connections to surface vehicles.

Buses will run frequently throughout the closure.

A photo of the metallic green sweat bee, the Agapostemon virescens, pictured in the Toronto Pollinator Protection Strategy.
A photo of the metallic green sweat bee, the Agapostemon virescens, pictured in the Toronto Pollinator Protection Strategy.

Seen and heard: puns at the Parks and Environment Committee

This week, the Parks and Environment Committee was asked to consider a Pollinator Protection Strategy for the city, including for council to declare the metallic green sweat bee, bicoloured Agapostemon (Agapostemon virescens), as Toronto’s official bee.

Jode Roberts, public relations and communications at the David Suzuki Foundation: … To conclude, I’d just like to point out that this is the first time I’ve been able to take a mic and not fall into a bee pun. So I’m going to end here and let it bee. Hm, that’s sad, I know.

Committee chair, Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon: You know this committee loves their puns, so get ready. Questions of the deputant?

Councillor Josh Matlow: Thank you so much for the advice that you’ve given us. I wonder, given all the buzz about this project, looking through the recommendations, are there any items that we should hive off, or do you think that would sting?

(laughter, and groans, in the room)

Read full exchange

This Newsbrief is by Arianne Robinson.