Response to “Hamas’ disastrous schemes make this the right moment to show solidarity with Israel”, by Rosie DiManno, The Star, May 27, 2018

Re: 
Dear Editor:
I appreciate that throughout Rosie DiManno’s article she very often ‘pulled her punches’ on the State of Israel, Gazans and Hamas, giving some reasons for the actions of everyone. But she failed to provide the context that lies behind the actions of the Palesinian citizens of Gaza. She neglected to mention that Gazans are descendants of people displaced from their original villages and farms by the Israeli settler colonists, just like our First Nations people in North America. Some Palestinian villages have even been erased from the Earth and replaced in some cases by parks, one of these named in honour of Stephen Harper. Those who have been there describe Gaza as an open prison of collective punishment which the Israeli military, armed with the latest weapons attacks every few years, (2009, 2014), killing men, women and children who have no place to hide. Can Gazans (with their backs to the wall), perhaps led by the elected Hamas Party, not be forgiven for taking actions which seem suicidal to us? Rosie’s readers have no experience of living like this so Rosie is able to relativize the life experiences of Israeli and Palestinian civilians as if they were much the same which they are not. And there is no International accord with respect to Jerusalem being Israel’s capital. Even Canada respects the international consensus that negotiations must take place between all the national and religious parties who claim Jerusalem as a holy site. It is not the capital of one nation or religion and the U.S. violated International law in unilaterally moving its embassy to Jerusalem. There must be a solution that recognizes the human rights of everyone who has lived on this land for hundreds of years. Personally I believe in ‘one person, one vote.’
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Accountability and Transparency in Transit Planning – City of Toronto Agenda Item 2018.EX34.32

Re: City of Toronto Agenda Item 2018.EX34.32 – Accountability and Transparency in Transit Planning – Judicial Inquiry into Information Provided to Councillors regarding the Scarborough Subway Extension and the Scarborough Light Rail Line at the July 2016 Council Meeting
Dear Members of the Toronto City Council Executive Committee:

I support the Judicial Inquiry into Information Provided to Councillors regarding the Scarborough Subway Extension and the Scarborough Light Rail Line at the July 2016 Council Meeting. I support the views of the mover Councillor Josh Matlow and seconder Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.
I believe that true information about what happened at that Council meeting that has so adversely affected decisions surrounding the kind of transit service to all regions of Scarborough needs to be made public and preferably prior to the next Municipal election in the Fall of 2018.
For some inexplicable reason mayor Tory and a majority of City Councillors as well as the Liberal Provincial government supported what came to be a one stop Scarborough subway extension ending at the Scarborough Town Centre with major capital costs and operational costs being dumped onto City taxpayers (a property tax surcharge over 30 years) over the original seven stop Scarborough Light Rail Line, which was slated to be paid for by the Province, including operational costs.
This decision to go with the one stop subway that leaves Scarborough residents beyond that point, travelling on buses for at least another generation, defies logic. This decision was obviously driven by a set of political reasons; 1. the Provincial Liberals supported it to get Liberal MP Mitzie Hunter elected in the last Provincial election and 2. to please then Mayor Rob Ford who could only say ‘subways, subways subways, without understanding that the LRT would have its own right of way and would be as fast as a subway and would serve so many more people, including students of Centennial College campuses. The LRT is far more cost-effective and adequate to serve the projected ridership calculated by City staff into the future.
One now suspects that the fix is in. Somehow the desires of large real estate holders and developers of properties at Scarborough Town Centre, known as Oxford Properties are taking precedence over the needs of Scarborough residents as far east as Malvern Town Centre. The Mayor even promotes the idea that the one stop SSE will aid development around the Scarborough Town Centre. That is not what the original SLRL (LRT) was designed for. The SLRL was designed to give the best flexible transit (7 stations at grade) for all residents of Scarborough at a cost consistent with the projected ridership, which cost is not large enough to warrant $billions for a one stop subway. Councillor Matlow says in his Summary: “In 2013 Council moved away from a 7-Stop Light Rail Transit line in Scarborough that would have the same top speed as a subway, travel in its own corridor, and be fully-funded by the Province. In its place, Council was presented with a Scarborough Subway Extension in July 2016 that is proposed to have 1-stop with an estimated cost of $3.35 billion dollars and is projected to serve only 7,300 residents during the morning rush hour – less than some bus routes.”
 
The $3.5 to $5 billion cost of the one stop SSE also drains needed revenues away from other necessary transit projects such as the Eglinton East LRT (presently unfunded) with proposed 17 more stops (and surface stations are far less expensive than subway stations which are essentially two stations, one on the surface, one underground with all the excavation, and stairs, escalators, and elevators required with ongoing operational costs) and even the much more needed Downtown Relief line (still not funded and many years from completion) to deal with dangerous crowding on subways and platforms. 
 
Residents of Scarborough have gradually awakened to the fact that they will lose the five stations, never to be replaced, that currently exist on the Scarborough Rapid Transit line (SRT) when it is closed down as subway tunneling begins. They are not happy about it. Polling of Scarborough residents by groups such as Scarborough Transit action and others, indicate that most Scarborough residents travel within Scarborough, not between Toronto and Scarborough. The one stop SSE therefore does not serve the majority of Scarborough citizens. It begs the question – for whom is this one stop SSE being built? Certainly not for the people of Scarborough.
The original seven stop SLRL (LRT) is not dead. The legal contracts to start it are still in existence. The SSE is nowhere near the beginning of construction.
Please pass City of Toronto Agenda Item 2018.EX34.32 and send it back to City Council where it is hoped that wisdom will finally prevail.
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More Congestion Is Coming, Removal of Bike Lanes on Woodbine not the Answer

Beach Metro News, Toronto, Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The call by some to remove the new bike lanes on Woodbine Avenue will not get rid of traffic congestion in the long run. With an annual population growth of 1.6 % per year, (Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (2014-2019)  https://tinyurl.com/yagzmmwn in five years Metro Toronto adds another Hamilton, Ontario to its population. According to Metrolinx’s recently released Draft 2041 Regional Transportation Plan https://stevemunro.ca/2017/09/16/the-next-big-move-i-overview/ projections indicate that auto use will continue to be the choice of most commuters – still in the mid 70% range by 2041 – with those choosing transit remaining at around 15%. What does this mean for Woodbine Avenue? It means that even with the removal of the bike lanes and restoration of four lanes in some places, Woodbine will still be overwhelmed by car traffic in a very few years. What needs to be done? The only solution is to diminish the numbers of cars, particularly within the city. How can this be done? When one realizes that most cars on all of our roads and highways are single occupancy vehicles, meaning that only the driver is in the car, a solution makes itself plain. Governments, eg. Ontario – have already realized this when they opened the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle – two or more occupants) lanes on some 400 highways and the QEW. My personal observations indicate that there are still very few cars taking advantage of HOV lanes. When will enough citizens and courageous politicians suggest that the solution to car congestion is to make it illegal for anyone in the city to make a trip in a car by themselves. A trip by one person would of necessity be made by transit, taxi, cycling or walking. If every car now using Woodbine, during rush hours, had two occupants instead of one, congestion would be cut in half. The math is simple. The answer is car pooling and car sharing. As a society interested in curbing environmental damage and climate change caused by so much car traffic and road building, what is stopping us?

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Re: Why is Car2Go allowed to park overnight on my street? Beach Metro News, Tuesday, August 22, 2017

 

Dear Editor:

My response to this question is that Car2Go should be allowed to park on our streets overnight because they are providing a valuable service – reducing parking and road gridlock.

I believe that Toronto City Council should allow Car2Go to purchase parking permits for our streets.

My reasoning is as follows: Upon us moving to Toronto and living in the East End for the past thirteen years, my son’s family and my wife and I have shared one car between us, mostly for out of town trips. When we both needed a car, one of us rented from a car rental company that is within walking distance of both of us. We finally ended that arrangement in June, 2017 when the shared car became too expensive to repair. I immediately signed up with Car2Go – just using my iPad. We still obtain full day rental cars from the company we have always used. I read many years ago that every auto purchased, requires eight parking spaces – one at home, one at work, one at the mall, etc. Therefore, my son and I together have released up to 16 parking spaces. Car2Go’s literature says that each Car2Go vehicle represents 11 cars (people can use Car2Go as their second car). I’m not shilling for Car2Go but they represent one step away from Uber taxi service – Car2Go is a cheaper self-driving taxi. You can use your smartphone (or the older magnetic card) to open one and drive away. A map on your smartphone or iPad shows where they are parked in your neighbourhood.

A further step away in a few years will be ‘self-driving’ taxi service. It is hoped that these developments will discourage the purchase and use of many private autos on our streets and be a source of reduced road and parking gridlock, along with new TTC transit, separated bicycle lanes and safer sidewalks for walking.

Therefore, for these reasons I am in favour of Car2Go being allowed to park on our streets.

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Reply to “I’m a TTC Fare Evader”, NOW September 21-27, 2017

 

I don’t agree with Darth Fare Evader the scofflaw in terms of breaking the law in cheating the TTC but I do agree with a lot of what he said is behind his actions.

There are many good reasons for ‘free fares’ on the TTC (and maybe eventually on GO Transit) and as he pointed out, other cities are providing some free fare routes or special times for free fares as does the TTC on New Years Eve – to save lives!

The present fare systems including the new Presto actually serve as a barrier to people’s use of transit. The poorest among us are the hardest hit as Darth said. And the rollout of Presto is costing us all $millions. How will the easily breached Presto gates even be monitored when there is no-one in the ticket-booth?

Unfortunately according to the latest released Metrolinx $30 billion Draft 2041 Regional Transportation Plan, there is almost no anticipated auto traffic decline in the GTHA by 2041 because it will still be possible for drivers to beat transit times to and from work.

The only solution is to either make driving prohibitively expensive which is politically unpalatable or make transit so cheap – ‘free fares’ – that people will flock to it. ‘Free fares’ does necessitate paying for transit out of general tax revenues but there would be a big saving when Presto or ticket-takers are no longer needed. Why not ‘free fares’?

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To Carolyn Bennett, Federal Minister of Indigenous Affairs – Please Act On Indigenous Youth Suicide Crisis

To Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs; Hon. Jane Philpott, Federal Minister of Health; Hon. David Zimmer, Ontario Minister of Indigenous Affairs

Dear Minister Bennett:
I spent yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, August 9) sitting with the good people at the ‘Indigenous Youth Suicide Crisis Vigil’ at INAC, 25 St Clair Ave E, Toronto.
Their concern which I share is over the high number of Indigenous Youth suicides that are occurring, especially in northern indigenous communities.  Just over the past few days there have been even more reported youth suicides in these communities. The media reported the terrible news of additional Indigenous youth suicides just this week. See:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-indigenous-suicide-crisis-1.4239790 and http://www.metronews.ca/news/toronto/2017/08/09/toronto-advocates-want-action-on-indigenous-youth-suicide.html
The people I met with said that they are upset that you and other government officials have said that you will ‘meet again’ over this crisis … in the Fall! I agree with them that this is not good enough. Action is needed right now by the Governments of Canada and Ontario to prevent further youth suicides.
I agree that the conditions causing the hopelessness that leads young people to commit suicide are complex, but they have much to do with the way these northen communities have been treated – as second or third class citizens in a wealthy Canada.
As you know, Cindy Blackstock of The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society has been calling for the Canadian government to honour the decision of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) that ordered the government of Canada to end the racial discrimination against First Nations Children by immediately increasing payments to these children to equal payments made by Provincial governments to all non-Native children. Cindy Blackstock said in part:
The quasi-judicial tribunal initially found in January (2016) that the government had been discriminating against First Nations children in its delivery of child welfare services on reserve. Two subsequent rulings ordered the government to update its policies and procedures to comply with its original findings.

“You have a group of children who the federal government consciously decides are getting less public services than every other group in the country,” Blackstock said. “They are racially discriminating against them . . . as a matter of law and they are failing to comply with legal orders. That, to me, is pretty clear cut.”  See:  https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/09/20/trudeau-government-on-notice-in-first-nations-child-welfare-dispute.html

To my knowledge (please correct me if I’m wrong) at this point the Trudeau government has still refused to abide by the order of the CHRC. This makes Trudeau’s words about Reconciliation with First Nations ‘false news’ as far as I’m concerned.
I have lost patience with governments at all levels that still make our First Nations neighbours live in Third World conditions that contribute to the Indigenous youth suicides we are seeing continue. These living conditions are not inevitable. Please listen to the people at the Vigil, mostly mothers themselves who understand how awful it is to lose a child, especially when it is a suicide because of hopelessness.
We must all do better. Please act now!
I would like a reply regarding actions you are taking to make the lives of Indigenous people in northern communites better.
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Have Canadian citizen Dr. Hassan Diab released from unjust detention in France

Dear Ministers of the Government of Canada and my MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith:
This is a copy of my message to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau:
A friend of mine, Dr. Hassan Diab of Ottawa, Ontario, former professor at the University of Ottawa,  was extradited to France and has been jailed there for 30 months based on allegations his lawyer calls the classic recipe for a wrongful conviction. French investigating judges have ordered him released six times, and, in a move that is seen as unprecedented, each time the French Court of Appeal overturned all release orders at the prosecutor’s behest. (see https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/no-evidence-no-problem )
I have joined other Canadians in a ‘chain-fast’, a one day fast (or partial fast) from eating, during Ramadan, while focusing on ways to have Dr. Hassan Diab given true justice and released immediately.
Today, June 3, 2017, I ask you, the  Prime Minister of Canada, to use the full weight of your office to demand the immediate release of Dr. Hassan Diab from custody in France and bring him home to his family and many friends. Thank you for what you are able to do. I would appreciate a reply regarding actions you take on behalf of Dr. Hassan Diab.
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