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Not happy with change process

In last month’s Leaside Life, I described a report commissioned by the city to redraw Toronto’s 44 municipal ward boundaries and make city wards more equal in size.

The report proposed five alternative designs, four of which divide Leaside in half, and a fifth which keeps Leaside in one piece but moves us into a much larger ward while severing Bennington Heights.

The Leaside Property Owners’ Association has heard from residents who are very concerned about the implications and impacts of the proposed changes, especially as they would affect  our major current and future development and traffic issues

I’ve asked Councillor Jon Burnside what the likely timelines are. What impact can neighbourhood groups and individuals, who want to have further input into decision-making on this important matter, have?  

As of press time, it appears that in late May, just after the Victoria Day holiday, the city’s Executive Committee will be presented with a single option to consider. We do not know whether it will be one of the five original designs, completely new, or an amended proposal. We also do not know if deputations will be permitted. Executive Committee will vote on the proposal it receives and send it on to City Council, for its June agenda.

Deputations are not permitted at City Council. At that point the decision will only be in the hands of councillors. Council can accept or reject whatever Executive Committee has recommended, or propose amendments.

Finally, any changes in municipal boundaries would require provincial approval.

I have to say that I am not filled with confidence (or optimism) by this process, which seems to preclude active public participation.

The city’s original public meetings on this subject were poorly attended, held before many Torontonians had any sense of the process, or the threat that altering ward boundaries could have on their communities, in Leaside and across the city. The report received little attention by the media, which concentrated on the goal to equalize numbers, rather than ensuring that the process maintained or improved  effective representation in Toronto.

LPOA  will be collecting data and signatures, and mounting a campaign to press city councillors and the mayor to open the process to more transparency. We all need to make the point that redrawing ward boundaries is not just a numbers game.

Boundaries should respect communities and neighbourhoods, with their historic identities, traditions and priorities. Boundaries should be drawn in a way which respects local democracy for all Torontonians. They should not be revised to make our access to  councillors harder. Imagine if we had to deal, on every issue, with not one but two councillors, and potentially two different community councils.


 

Next, an update on the LPOA’s Leaside traffic study. Regular readers of this column will recall that we are concentrating on long-term solutions to our traffic woes, permanent measures implemented with the post-LRT construction period in mind.

Our consultant has met with city staff, who support the concept of community-led traffic calming proposals, especially those that do not benefit one area of the neighbourhood at the expense of another. Staff will participate in our study process and will provide information related to existing traffic volumes and flow, and traffic control measures upon request.

The LPOA traffic committee will meet in early April, to plan public meetings within Leaside, and get your input.

While the LRT is still under construction, we need to meet with the TTC to find out just how much surface public transit will remain along Eglinton Ave. once the LRT is operating. At this point we have no information as to how many – or, more likely, how few – bus routes may be available.

We need answers, not only because of its impact on Leasiders who want or need to use transit, but also because it will affect automobile use on both arterial and local streets, especially given the number of large developments being proposed around our area.

The LPOA board meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month, at the Trace Manes building on Rumsey Rd., by Leaside Library and the tennis courts. These meetings are open to the public. We encourage you to attend, with questions, or issues you’d like advice on, or just to listen in. Our next meeting is on Wednesday, April 6. And you can reach us at lpoa.ca.