A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for June 2016

[PHOTO] First night of Fringe in the Alley, Honest Ed’s

First night of Fringe in the Alley #toronto #fringeto #fringe2016 #honesteds #thealley

The photos that I’ll be taking this year of The Alley, the corridor between the two main buildings of Honest Ed’s that serves as headquarters for Toronto Fringe, will have a certain sadness to them, at least for me. This year will be the last year that the Alley will exist: the complex, the entire block, will be torn down, and the Fringe will be moving further down Bathurst Street.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2016 at 4:14 am

[URBAN NOTE] On the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival (#fringeto)

This year, I’ll once again be contributing reviews of plays at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival for Mooney on Theatre. I’ll provide links as I come up with them.

In the meantime, I’ve seen a few interesting article on the web highlighting things of note. blogTO came up with a shortlist of twelve must-see shows, while NOW Toronto singled out ten artists as particularly noteworthy and Toronto Life identified ten particularly unusual shows.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2016 at 8:30 pm

[OBSCURA] “Justin Trudeau joins Alpha Flight in Marvel comic book”

This Canadian Press article describes something glorious.

Make way, Liberal cabinet: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have another all-Canadian crew in his corner as he suits up for his latest feature role — comic book character.

Trudeau will grace the variant cover of issue No. 5 of Marvel’s “Civil War II: Choosing Sides,” due out
Aug. 31.

Trudeau is depicted smiling, sitting relaxed in the boxing ring sporting a Maple Leaf-emblazoned tank, black shorts and red boxing gloves. Standing behind him are Puck, Sasquatch and Aurora, who are members of Canadian superhero squad Alpha Flight. In the left corner, Iron Man is seen with his arms crossed.

“I didn’t want to do a stuffy cover — just like a suit and tie — put his likeness on the cover and call it a day,” said award-winning Toronto-based cartoonist Ramon Perez.

“I wanted to kind of evoke a little bit of what’s different about him than other people in power right now. You don’t see (U.S. President Barack) Obama strutting around in boxing gear, doing push-ups in commercials or whatnot. Just throwing him in his gear and making him almost like an everyday person was kind of fun.”

The variant cover featuring Trudeau will be an alternative to the main cover in circulation showcasing Aurora, Puck, Sasquatch and Nick Fury.

Trudeau follows in the prime ministerial footsteps of his late father, Pierre, who graced the pages of “Uncanny X-Men” in 1979.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2016 at 7:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] Three links about the problems with the John Tory Scarborough subway expansion

In the Toronto Star, Ben Spurr in “Jury’s still out on subway’s impact on immigrants” notes that the subway expansion, contrary to Tory’s claims, will not open up Toronto to Scarborough’s many immigrant poor.

In an effort to win over hearts and minds for the controversial Scarborough subway extension, Mayor John Tory has suggested that a major benefit of the project would be its ability to deliver transit to underserved immigrant communities.

But the city’s own analysis shows the $3.2-billion, one-stop subway would directly serve only a small number of residents in disadvantaged neigbourhoods that have high populations of newcomers.

[. . .]

Tory wrote that the subway would “promote social equity,” and charged that “many of the subway’s loudest critics do not live or work in Scarborough, where more than half the population is born outside of Canada. When they say this is too much to spend on a subway, the inference seems to be that it’s too much to spend on this part of the city.”

[. . .]

City planners determined the Scarborough subway “would directly serve very few” disadvantaged residents, which they defined as people living in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas — designated areas that are economically marginalized and often have high immigrant populations.

The proposed one-stop subway extension running along McCowan Ave. would bring only 1,700 additional residents of NIAs within walking distance of a transit station, the report found.

Christopher Bird’s fisking of Tory’s op-ed at Torontoist, “John Tory is Lying About the Scarborough Subway”, is thorough.

John Tory’s greatest power as a politician is his veneer of respectability and reasonableness. No matter how irresponsible a position Tory takes, he is masterful at presenting himself as someone who has considered all positions and chosen the most moderate and reasoned course. Because Tory is a politician, people can often forget that this is strictly a veneer, a mantle he adopts to cloak policies that are unreasonable, ill-advised, or just plain stupid.

The latest terrible idea Tory has chosen to advance during his mayorship is the Scarborough subway. Unfortunately, the Scarborough subway is so evidently a bad idea that widespread opposition has risen to it, because it is an enormous waste of money on a bad transit strategy that the general public actually doesn’t want as much as they want the Downtown Relief Line. As the months have progressed and people do not magically agree that his terrible policy initiative is actually really good, Tory progressively gets more and more upset. The latest iteration of this is a truly mendacious column in today’s Toronto Star, which probably could have done with a once-over from the paper’s fact checkers before it hit print—because it is full of shit.

“Throughout my time in office, I have tried to be completely honest with the people of Toronto so I will make this admission: the extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway is an issue with which I’ve struggled.

“We are a city that likes to draw lines and take sides, especially when it comes to transit, and it’s easy to characterize people as either ‘for the subway’ or ‘against.’”

Well, yes. It is easy to characterize people as being for the subway or against it, because it’s a binary option. Either we build a subway or we don’t. Being for or against the subway is not the same as being for or against transit generally, which is what Tory is dishonestly suggesting here.

Also note that Tory here is also setting up one of his favored rhetorical ploys: to present everybody else as divisive and himself as a neutral problem solver. The issue with that is that this is a divisive issue, and Tory has chosen a side. He is not above this particular fray.

TVO’s Steve Paikin, meanwhile, in “Why John Tory’s sticking by the shaky Scarborough subway plan”, looks at the reasons why Tory may press ahead regardless.

However, Mayor Tory in his heart of hearts must also wish the hard data surrounding the proposed one-stop subway now on the books were a lot firmer. I’m sure ̶ without even asking him ̶ that he wishes the ridership projections for the subway were higher; that the population per square kilometre around the subway stop were denser; and above all else, that the cost of this project (which just jumped a billion dollars earlier this month) weren’t so egregiously high. More favourable facts on the ground, which would have made this project so much more justifiable, would be such a lifeline for this mayor. Alas, those more favourable facts just aren’t there.

However, other political realities are:

For better or for worse, the prevailing political winds at all three levels of government have agreed that Scarborough must have a subway ̶ that an LRT is somehow seen as second-class, and Scarborough, after being the butt of jokes for too long and being under-resourced with public services, can’t be seen to be receiving second-class treatment any longer.
Anybody hoping to be re-elected as mayor of Toronto in two years will need to cover his suburban flank against Doug Ford, who although currently out of politics is already increasingly appearing in the media and giving every indication he’s going to challenge Tory to a mayoral rematch in 2018. He was on Newstalk1010 the same morning Tory’s op-ed appeared, blaming the mayor for the return of “the gravy train,” a slogan so compelling, it propelled his late brother Rob to mayoral victory in 2010.
At the risk of indulging in too much psychobabble, Tory knows he is a child of privilege, went to the best schools, has had some great jobs, and lived a wonderful life. It is perfectly consistent with his sense of fair play or even noblesse oblige to ensure that Scarborough, with its large numbers of new and lower income Canadians, gets a subway, even if it’s only a one-stop model.
I don’t doubt for a second that Tory has struggled hard with this issue, as he confessed in his Star op-ed. He must know the cost estimate of this project is awfully tough to justify. And given the Toronto Transit Commission’s track record on previous projects, does anyone seriously believe this thing won’t eventually cost billions more? Who knows? It’s going to take years to build. Critics will say think of all the other more useful transit projects we could have funded with that money. And they’d be right.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2016 at 5:27 pm

[NEWS] Some Wednesday links

  • Bloomberg reports on the problems of France’s Burgundy wine region, looks at the impact of Brexit on the economy of South Africa, and thinks Airbnb will survive San Francisco.
  • Bloomberg View considers what the European Union will do next, looks at the EU’s failure to capture hearts and minds, and notes that young Britons are now trapped.
  • The Globe and Mail reports on the problems of Sobeys.
  • The Inter Press Service reports on Cuban agriculture.
  • MacLean’s examines the reasons for Québec separatists’ disinterest in Brexit.
  • National Geographic notes the suspension of Florida’s bear hunts.
  • The National Post suggests Canada could take up the slack in NATO left by the United Kingdom.
  • Open Democracy considers tabloid-driven nationalism in the former Soviet Union and features Owen Jones talking about the need for post-Brexit Britain (or England) to change.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • The Big Picture looks at flooding in West Virginia.
  • Centauri Dreams considers how to develop a deep-space infrastructure.
  • Crooked Timber considers Boris Johnson and looks at the Norway option.
  • Dangerous Minds praises Laura Nyro.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on Martian agriculture.
  • The LRB Blog considers the ongoing constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom.
  • The Map Room Blog looks at the results of the Spanish elections.

[PHOTO] Pit, 2 (11 Wellesley Street West)

Pit, 2 #toronto #construction #wellesleystreet #11wellesley

Wellesley in the Park, a Lanterra Developments project at 11 Wellesley Street West, will one day rise 60 stories. Right now, the development is at the stage of being a hole in the ground.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2016 at 1:17 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Future waterfront access up for discussion at Scarborough Waterfront Project public meeting”

The Scarborough Mirror reports on a meeting today in Scarborough concerning the Scarborough Waterfront Project, an access project on the Scarborough Bluffs that is controversial.

A meeting on a future connected Scarborough waterfront may see a clash between people who want a continuous trail through Scarborough and others who to want to preserve its natural shoreline areas.

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority hosts a meeting on Tuesday, June 28 at Blessed Cardinal Newman Catholic High School, 100 Brimley Rd. South, to bring residents up to date on the Scarborough Waterfront Project. It kicks off with an open house at 5 p.m., presentation at 7 p.m. and Q&A at 7:45 p.m.

For now, the series of proposed green spaces between Bluffers Park and East Point Park is just being studied.

But Ron Moeser, a Scarborough East councillor, objects to a recommendation by TRCA staff to run the trail away from the shoreline through East Point Park.

He is asking his constituents to attend the meeting so they can support “a seamless trail system” he said his residents have always wanted along the water’s edge.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 28, 2016 at 8:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “I’m a Scarborough Resident and I Don’t Want a Subway”

Torontoist features an article by guest contributor Vincent Puhakka, member of Scarborough Transit Action, writing against an increasingly uneconomic proposal for a Scarborough subway extension.

From the very beginning of Rob Ford’s single minded “subways, subways, subways” obsession (to call it a campaign would lend too much legitimacy to the position), the needs of Scarborough transit riders have been secondary to political games and misinformation about which transit modes work best to serve different trips and areas of our city.

As long term residents of Scarborough and avid TTC patrons, I have always been mystified as to why these self-styled, fiscally responsible leaders would rather spend billions of dollars on a subway that will serve a tiny portion of the transit trips taken east of Victoria Park.

Tory, De Baeremaeker, and Duguid should know better. After all, the three claim to be transit supporters. They also have access to all of the information the rest of us do about the merits of a full LRT network. They know that a majority of transit riders in Scarborough are not heading downtown, making the small Bloor-Danforth Line extension to Scarborough Town Centre of little use to our area of the city.

These are facts that have been made public for years and are backed by our organization, Scarborough Transit Action. They’re also supported by the City’s chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, and a majority of citizens throughout Toronto, including in Scarborough. With this debate polarizing the city, I was cautiously pleased when subway supporters, backed by the mayor, seemed willing to compromise on their stance by agreeing to eliminate most stops on their pet project in order to fund the Scarborough-Malvern LRT, serving Eglinton East, Kingston Road, and the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus—all major transit destinations and corridors ignored by the subway plan.

The announcement last week that costs for a one-stop “express” subway have ballooned by almost $1 billion, putting the compromise LRT at risk, was not enough to halt De Baeremaeker, Duguid, and Tory from clinging to their dreams of underground trains at the expense of all else. At this point, it’s becoming clear that these men do not care about reasonable transit planning. They definitely don’t care about Scarborough, no matter how loudly they claim otherwise. If they did, they would stop resorting to tired accusations of downtown elitists depriving hard-working Scarborough of its rightful subway. This is insulting to the intelligence of all Torontonians, and shows the low-level divisive politics being used to save a bloated project.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 28, 2016 at 7:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “The Truth About SmartTrack”

Torontoist’s Sean Marshall is scathing about the originality of John Tory’s SmartTrack plan.

In 2014, then-mayoral candidate John Tory ran on a campaign of sound fiscal management, returning decorum to City Hall, and a curious new transit plan called SmartTrack, which promised “London-style” rapid transit from Mississauga to Markham. During the election campaign Tory claimed that the new rail service—53 kilometres long, costing $8 billion—would provide needed transit relief in just seven years, all on a TTC fare.

During campaign speeches, Tory called the plan “bold.” He also promised to build the Rob Ford-backed subway extension to Scarborough Centre, rather than return to the cheaper, funded light rail alternative that candidates Olivia Chow and David Soknacki were backing.

Of course, Tory won the election, and many Torontonians were looking forward to an era of competent governance, if not visionary leadership. But two years in, the costs of the Scarborough subway keep mounting, even if the number of stations kept shrinking (from three stations to one stop), and the scope of John Tory’s “bold” SmartTrack plan kept getting watered down.

With the recent provincial and municipal transit announcements on new GO Station locations, it’s now official: SmartTrack is nothing more than a brand name for transit projects that were already in the works. And the City of Toronto is stuck with some of the construction costs that would have been borne by the province.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 28, 2016 at 7:30 pm