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Changing the Official Plan can save us

Before there was a Town of Leaside, there was a Canada Wire and Cable (CWC). In November 1912 the CWC purchased 16 acres of land where the SmartCentres’ big box stores stand today. The Town of Leaside was not incorporated until May 7, 1913.

Although CWC purchased the land in 1912, it didn’t have an operating factory on the site until 1916 when its subsidiary, Leaside Munitions Company, started manufacturing artillery shells for WW I. Rumour has it that there is an ammunition dump still buried somewhere in the industrial area.

By  the end of the war the company had 4,000 employees. To accommodate at least part of their work force CWC built 100 homes on Randolph, Sutherland, Airdrie and Rumsey.

After WW I, CWC manufactured wire and cable at the Leaside factory. Like all businesses the company suffered during the 1930s but it continued to buy more land and expand its facilities. By the end of the World War II it had become one of the largest manufacturing companies in Canada with 2,700 employees.

Five years ago I visited a WW II battlefield museum at Casinina in northern Italy where the Canadian army broke through the “Gothic Line” in 1944. There I was amazed to see a large coil of communication wire labelled Canada Wire and Cable, Leaside.

CWC was a huge industrial plant extending from Laird to the east end of the present Home Depot. Former CWC employees have told me that inside the plant they had to ride a bicycle or use roller skates to get from one end to the other.

I told another CWC employee who rented an apartment over the Leaside Restaurant (now the Fox and Fiddle) how lucky he was to be able to just walk across the street to work. “Heck,” he replied, “I drive my car to work because I work at the far-east end of the plant.”

In 1990 CWC sold to its monstrous French competitor Alcatel. Before the sale CWC sold its products around the world. After the sale Alcatel restricted CWC to selling only where Alcatel wasn’t already doing business. CWC couldn’t make a profit that way. So Alcatel shut it down, moving its jobs, unique technology and tax revenue to France.

Former CWC employees believe that after selling the land and special equipment Alcatel actually made a profit on its purchase of CWC.

Now with this huge plant empty, the East York borough council panicked and, by amending the long standing Official Plan and zoning bylaw separating the Leaside industrial area from the residential area, allowed the SmartCentres to get its toe in the door. Once it was, SmartCentres  moved in completely.

The intensive traffic generated by commercial and residential development is incompatible with industry. It drastically interferes with its deliveries and shipments.

Industry by its very nature is noisy and smelly. Before long nearby residents and retail customers start complaining. Municipal inspectors then begin to harass the industries and inevitably industry looks for new locations where they will be welcomed, not interfered with.

If we wish to see our remaining industry leave Leaside taking their jobs and their tax dollars with them to Mississauga or Markham, the way to do it is to approve more commercial and residential developments in our industrial area.

If we don’t want that to happen we need to encourage our councillor to pursue another Official Plan amendment to stop this in its tracks.