This civil defense siren, slightly relocated east to its current location at Dundas and Shaw, just across Dundas from the northwestern corner of Trinity Bellwoods Park, is one of the last sirens remaining and a noteworthy artifact of the Cold War. In 2007, the Toronto Star published an article by Leslie Scrivener about it and the few others left.
“It’s a neat thing to look at,” says Claire Bryden, referring to the air raid siren near the corner of Dundas St. W. and Shaw St., a remnant of Toronto’s age of atomic anxiety. The sturdy, horn-shaped siren rests on a rusting column on the property of Bellwoods Centres for Community Living.
Few of these Cold War relics, which would alert the population to an imminent nuclear attack, remain in Toronto. One siren resides atop the York Quay Centre at Harbourfront. Others, like the one on Ward’s Island, disappear when buildings get new roofs.
Today, no one claims ownership of the surviving sirens. Call the City of Toronto and they refer you to the province. Call the province and they refer you to the Department of National Defence. Call the Department of National Defence and they refer you to … the city.
But Claire Bryden is happy to take possession of the one at Dundas and Shaw. Bryden is executive-director of the Bellwoods Centres, which provide homes for people with physical disabilities. The air raid siren, overlooked for decades, suddenly became of interest during construction of a new building. Because it was in the middle of the Bellwoods Park House property, which straddles old Garrison Creek (now flowing through an underground culvert), the siren had to be moved or removed altogether. A new public path, part of a Discovery Walk daytime urban trail from Fort York to Christie Pits, will go through the property right where the siren was.
What to do with the towering artifact? “Rather than throw it away, we decided it’s a piece of historical memorabilia,” says Bryden, who recalls air-raid-siren practice in her childhood. “It gives character, and we don’t see too many around.”
The National Post‘s Toronto news discussion panel, featuring Chris Selley, Jonathan Goldsbie, and Matt Gurney, tackles the question of the alleged Rob Ford crack video. Their conclusions leave me with the feeling that no one is going to come out of this looking very good–not the media, not the Toronto electorate, certainly not Rob Ford himself–but that this still might not be enough to change things.
Goldsbie: I’ve spent the last few days just assuming that the video would eventually get out, and probably sooner than later. But then I recalled that I took the same approach to the tape in which Rob Ford allegedly cursed out some 911 operators, and now I’m faced with considering the terrifying possibility that the footage may never be released. The thought that — in the absence of hard, publicly-viewable evidence — Ford might try to deny and move on from this allegation, as he has so many others, is upsetting to the point of being enraging. The thing is that, by now, it is difficult to imagine a scandal from which Rob Ford could not somehow escape: he is superhuman in his political abilities, with a hardcore fanbase that would find a way to rationalize a murder charge. Somewhere out there is a video recording that apparently depicts our mayor smoking crack and making disgusting homophobic and racist remarks, and yet nothing in his political experience would suggest to Rob Ford that the appropriate reaction is anything other than to carry on though there weren’t.
Gurney: I tend to agree that we’ll see the video. I’d have no doubt if we were dealing with rational actors. A deal would be reached and honoured. But both the Star and Gawker have said that the gentlemen in possession of the video are involved in the drug trade and their paranoia — making reporters meet them in backs of cars in random places — speaks to their mindset. I wouldn’t be surprised if the intensity of the coverage spooks them and sends them to ground. Again on the assumption that it never comes out, I agree with Chris that the voters would probably conclude that this indeed happened as related by the Star and Gawker. And they’d remember that in 2014. But Council, now? I don’t often give that group of human beings the benefit of the doubt. But here I will. Whatever they conclude about Ford’s alleged use of crack, if the video doesn’t come out, they’ll keep their private thoughts private and get on with the job. That’s good, I suppose. But it also leaves us where we were before the alleged video.
Selley: For now, sure. No point rubbing it in every chance they get. But suddenly it’s just that much more toxic to be seen supporting the Mayor himself, as opposed to happening to agree with him on any given issue. So many of his ideas depend on leaps of faith or logic — casino revenues build subways, for example — that this could become a significant hindrance, at least to the limited extent that the Ford administration operates according to standard rules of space, time and politics. Looking beyond that, it would certainly be an intriguing election dynamic. You’d think it would be easy to run a spirited campaign against an alleged crack-smoker, but it’s a fine line between pariah and victim. Ford’s best political play right now would be to step down, check into rehab — whether or not he really has a problem — and vow to return a better man in 2014. I don’t see that happening.
Torontoist’s Patrick Metzger had an interesting examination of how Singapore made its casino work for that city-state, with a minimum of social pathology. The key lay in Singapore’s very tight regulation of the casino’s development, something that–as Metzger notes–was not necessarily available in the case of Toronto.
[T]he broad approach—ensuring the development process is guided by government and not casino operators—makes sense. Singapore spelled out a set of conditions to be placed on any gambling facility before considering specific proposals, and made licensing contingent on operators accepting any future regulation they might choose to impose.
Toronto has already set out a list of 47 conditions that a potential casino would have to meet (although they’re far less draconian in addressing social issues than those imposed in Singapore). However, unlike the Singaporean government, which isn’t beholden to any higher authority, Toronto is subject to the whims of Queen’s Park. This is why many councillors feel forced into a binary choice: that their only real decision is the yes/no question of whether to open up this question. If they do allow the process to go forward, they fear, they won’t have the capacity to direct the development process thereafter. Though the province has said it will listen to the municipalities, subsequent negotiations will largely be left to their creature, the OLG (“creature” in this case being not only the technically accurate term but also one that serendipitously conveys just the right tone).
Also, even if the province and OLG were to agree to include Toronto’s conditions in any negotiation, many of those conditions are sufficiently vague (“the casino will have an urban form that is designed to fit within its local context”) that there’s plenty of weasel room, particularly when the cash-strapped government is under pressure from a developer dangling bags of Yankee greenbacks and resistant to anything that might hinder efforts to hoover loonies from the pockets of hopeful punters.
Singapore seems to have found a trade-off that works, largely through its willingness to take a strong stance on regulating the casinos it has allowed. It’s an example that suggests Toronto could introduce casino gambling in a way that could be an economic and—don’t laugh—a cultural asset. But to get there, the province would have to let the City drive, or itself take on the task of regulating the facilities very strongly, and the prospective operators would have to sit in the back seat.
The good news comes from CP24.com’s Chris Fox.
City council has voted in favour of rejecting any new gaming facilities for Toronto, effectively shutting the book on a multi-billion dollar casino and entertainment complex proposed for downtown.
During a special meeting Tuesday morning, council voted 40-4 against the creation of any new gaming facilities within the city. In a separate vote council also voted 24-20 against the expansion of gaming at Woodbine Racetrack.
A motion from Mayor Rob Ford that would have rejected a downtown casino outright, but left the door open to adding table games at Woodbine Racetrack was defeated 31-13.
“This was about the impact on the citizens of Toronto and the people of Ontario that didn’t want us to put forward a policy that encourages more people to get addicted to gambling and raises money in that fashion,” Coun. Mike Layton told reporters following the vote. “This was about how we treat people in the City of Toronto.”
“The casino vote was what thousands and thousands of Torontonians asked us to do,” added Coun. Paula Fletcher. “This is probably the biggest vote that we will have in our entire term.”