Local Business Feature: The Flaky Tart

The Flaky Tart, located at 711 Mount Pleasant Road, is an independent bakery on the Western border of our Ward that has been open for almost ten years. George Brown College educated baker Lisa Biemans has honed her skills at other bakeries, but for the last three years she has owned and operated the Flaky Tart. Chef Lisa works diligently to supply the neighbourhood with delicious desserts.
 
The desserts the Flaky Tart craft have an amazing homemade feel because everything is made from scratch in-house. Lisa and her team find innovative solutions to ensure that everything they bake is not only delicious, but also nut-free.
 
In addition to the bakery, Flaky Tart products are available at McEwan grocery stores. The shopfront also sells custom cakes and desserts for birthdays, weddings, or any other special event needing a tasty treat.
 
Whether you're strolling through the Mount Pleasant Village, or planning your next event that calls for a knock out sweet treat, be sure to visit Chef Lisa at the Flaky Tart and have a taste of what's good.
 
You can call the Flaky Tart at 416-484-8278 or email flakytart@gmail.com.

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Protecting our Leaside Business Park

The Leaside Business Park is a major industrial park in the heart of Toronto, with direct access to the Don Valley Parkway and Highway 401.
 
Since October's election, I've heard from neighbours across Leaside concerned about the future of the Business Park. Specifically, many Leasiders want to ensure that planning policies will protect the Park from an influx of condo buildings and other residential developments.
 
In January, the Government of Ontario announced their plans to introduce new amendments to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2017. The Province proposed the implementation of a new designation, Provincially Significant Employment Zones (PSEZ), but only extended it to 67% of Toronto's current Employment Areas.
 
While the 67% percent of lands would receive additional protections, the remaining 33% could potentially be "unlocked" for redevelopment. The Leaside Business Park was not designated a PSEZ in the Province's initial plan.
 
My office caught this issue early and developed a strategy to ensure the Leaside Business Park would be included in City staff's recommendations to the Province. I am pleased to report that our efforts paid off and City Council adopted the staff report requesting the Province to designate the Leaside Business Park a PSEZ. In my remarks, I highlighted the importance of use compatibility and reiterated my commitment to protecting our Business Parks from residential incursions.
 
Though City Council has submitted their comments and recommendations on the proposed amendments, the ultimate decision lies with the Government of Ontario.
 
When I met with the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, I request ed that the Province include the Leaside Business Park as a PSEZ in their final amendments to the Growth Plan. I specifically articulated the value of the employment provided by the Leaside Business Park and advocated for its continued protection.

The Minister seemed receptive to my comments and I am cautiously optimistic that the Province will make the changes necessary for the continued protection of Toronto's valued Employment Areas. Thank you to the Leaside Business Park Association (LPBA) and Leaside Property Owners' Association (LPOA) for their ongoing support.

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Update on the Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan

As many of you know, I've been a vocal opponent of the out-of-control pace of development in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood. In the absence of a comprehensive and up-to-date Secondary Plan, development in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood has gone unchecked by the Province for many years.
 
The negative consequences of this rapid intensification include overcrowded transit, constant construction, traffic congestion, lack of sunlight, significant dust, and lack of green space.
 
Last summer, City Council voted to approve the new Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan, Official Plan Amendment (OPA) 405. You can read more about our community's successful efforts to amend the Secondary Plan and reduce the permitted building heights on my website, here.
 
The Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan requires approval by the Minister of Municipal Affairs before officially coming into effect. We've been advised that the Minister has recently extended his time period to make a decision until June 6, 2019.
 
In light of this impending deadline, I met with the Minister of Municipal Affairs immediately to advise him of our collective efforts on this file over the past eight years. While I cannot predict the Minister's ultimate decision with any certainty, he listened closely to my summary of the community's concerns. Specifically, we discussed how the flood of Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approvals in this neighbourhood has placed an immense amount of pressure on our existing infrastructure.
 
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the residents of the north-east quadrant of Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood for your support throughout this process.

School Visits at City Hall

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Welcoming student groups to City Hall is one of the best parts of my role as a City Councillor – It reminds me of the importance of the work we do every day to build a more vibrant, liveable, and safe City.
 
In February, I welcomed students from Northlea Public School in Leaside who stopped in to the TTC Board Meeting I was chairing to observe local transit planning in action. I was impressed by the great questions and ideas the students shared with me.
 
The City of Toronto offers free educational programs and tours for students of all ages. More information for parents or teachers can be found here.

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TTC Fare Evasion

As a regular transit user, I know how frustrating fare evasion is for the residents of Toronto who consistently pay to travel on the TTC. Every dollar lost through fare evasion is one less dollar available for much-needed service improvements.  
 
In February, the City's Auditor General released a comprehensive report assessing the cost of TTC fare evasion. Based on an extensive investigation, the Auditor General estimates that the current fare evasion rate is about 5.4%, meaning that the TTC lost close to $64.1 million in passenger revenue in 2018. The highest rate of fare evasion was identified on the streetcar network, where it is estimated that 1/10 passengers do not pay their fares.
 
The recommendations included in the report will guide the TTC's action plan moving forward as we approach full transition to the PRESTO farecard system. This year, the TTC is planning to further enhance the existing fare inspection.Currently, the TTC is in the process of rolling out new technologies to discourage fare evasion across the network.
 
Despite the difficult transition to the new system, PRESTO will provide the TTC with an opportunity to track fare evasion more consistently and accurately than ever before. For the first time, the TTC will have the ability to cross-reference PRESTO ridership data with the number of "boardings" registered by automatic passenger count technologies on buses and streetcars. As I always say, you cannot manage what you cannot measure. This valuable data will give us a better picture of ridership and allow us to identify priority routes. 
 
I hear from residents across Toronto concerned about PRESTO equipment that seems to always be malfunctioning or out of service. At the February TTC Board Meeting, I moved a motion reaffirming the Board's commitment to ensuring that Metrolinx delivers the agreed-upon service levels for fare collection equipment.
 
Throughout her review, the Auditor General observed fraudulent usage and distribution of the Child PRESTO cards. In response to these findings, I moved motions to request that Metrolinx implement visible or audible differentiators for all discounted fare categories. I was very concerned by the high instance of fraud and will be investigating this issue closely in the coming months.

As the new TTC Chair, I look forward to implementing vital revenue protection initiatives and continuing the Auditor General's important work to identify gaps in the TTC's fare collection system.

A Discouraging Update – The LPASC is Closing

In my last newsletter, I provided a brief introduction to the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre (LPASC). The LPASC was introduced to level the playing field for residents participating in the development appeal process.  
 
In February, the Province announced their decision to close the LPASC permanently. Effective immediately, the Centre will no longer be accepting new requests from the public.
 
Like many of you, I was shocked and disappointed by the Province's decision. At the February meeting of City Council, I endorsed the following motion:
 
That City Council advise the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing that the City objects to the closure of the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre.
 
In my remarks to Council, I spoke at length about the lack of accessibility and transparency for residents participating in the complex and expensive development appeal process. The process is difficult to navigate and often leaves engaged neighbours feeling like they are in a David and Goliath battle against powerful, well-funded developers.
 
While professional developers can assemble large teams of qualified experts, the costs of participating in an OMB mediation or hearing are often prohibitive for concerned neighbours and residents' associations.
 
I would encourage you to reach out to the Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs to share your concerns about this decision.

Mobile Watch Your Speed Program

Traffic infiltration and vehicle speeds are issues in many Ward 15 neighbourhoods.
 
As part of the City's Vision Zero Road Safety Program, new mobile Watch Your Speed Program (WYSP) signs have been installed throughout the City on a rotational, per-request basis.
 
The mobile WYSP uses LED driver feedback signs to measure the speeds of oncoming vehicles and display them to passing motorists. These new, solar-powered signs are installed on hydro poles or streetlights and are rotated throughout the ward. WYSP signs typically stay in place for 2-3 week periods.
 
In a 2016 study, staff found that where a mobile WYSP sign was installed, vehicle operating speeds decreased on that street. The City installed 188 WYSP signs in 2018 and this number will increase in 2019.
 
For more information on the Watch Your Speed Program and to request a sign on your street, please visit the City's website.

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Relief 'en route' at Bayview and Eglinton

After numerous conversations with Metrolinx and Crosslinx regarding the traffic and safety implications of the current configuration of the Bayview and Eglinton intersection, I am pleased to advise that this intersection will re-open later this spring and return to its previous configuration.
 
In other Crosstown-related news, Crosslinx is in the process of installing tent structures to cover their shallow excavation at Mount Pleasant station site near Mount Pleasant and Eglinton. Crosslinx will require 3 tents to cover their work area for a period of 4 months. The entire structure will fit within the limits of their current construction site, without having to change the traffic set up. Water runoff will be contained within the site as the tents will not go past any construction fences. I have been assured that there will be no impacts to motorists or pedestrians.

Finally, Metrolinx will be holding a public meeting this Thursday, April 4 regarding plans for construction at Leslie and Eglinton. Please find more details on the meeting below:

Date: Thursday, April 4, 2019
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Location: Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre (6 Garamond Ct.)
 
As the Crosstown project continues, I will maintain my efforts to ensure that concerns I hear from residents about aspects of the project are communicated directly to senior staff at Metrolinx.
 
If you are looking to receive updates and information from Metrolinx directly, you can sign up for their e-news distribution list here: http://www.thecrosstown.ca/news-media/whats-new/construction-updates. You can also call the East Crosstown Community Office at 416-482-7411, or visit in person at 660 Eglinton Avenue East (at the Northeast corner of Bayview and Eglinton).

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Crime and Safety Update

It is clear to me that issues around public safety and crime remain top of mind for residents across Don Valley West. While Toronto is currently ranked the safest city in North America, I want to ensure that the residents of Ward 15 continue to feel safe and secure in our neighbourhoods.

Toronto Police are integral to our community-based safety efforts. As part of the 2019 Toronto City Budget, City Council approved more than 300 new officers. This is on top of the more than 200 police officers the City provided funding for in 2018. These 500 new officers will help to ensure that Toronto Police have the front-line resources they need to keep our neighbourhoods safe.

In order to ensure that these new police officers are able to direct their efforts to high priority and emergency situations, Toronto Police will be 'civilianizing' 184 uniform positions. This means that, in 2019, 184 positions within TPS will be filled by civilian employees rather than officers. These positions are largely administrative, freeing up officers whose time is better spent in our communities. This initiative is one of many that Toronto Police are exploring to deliver more effective service to residents.

Crossing Guards Update

In recent months, I have been contacted by Don Valley West parents regarding the unacceptable gaps in crossing guard coverage in some of our school communities.
 
The City of Toronto is in the process of transitioning responsibility for the school crossing guard program from Toronto Police Services (TPS) to its Transportation Services division. While TPS is responsible for the provision of crossing guards for the 2018-2019 school year, the City has worked with them to contract an independent security service provider for relief coverage when a regular crossing guard is absent from work.

This school year, a number of crosswalks in our neighbourhoods have been without regular guard coverage due to the unexpected number of guards that retired and newly warranted locations.
 
As a result of this, I moved a motion at the December 2018 meeting of City Council requesting that the General Manager, Transportation Services make recommendations to improve and enhance the school crossing guard program. I have since followed this up with two meetings City management requesting immediate attention to the matter and urging staff to use all tools at their disposal to ensure that the City is providing reliable crossing guard coverage.
 
The City responded by pursuing an additional sole-sourced contract to manage demand and fill the remaining crossing guard vacancies in Ward 15. These new crossing guards have now completed police vulnerable sector screening and training and commenced duties on March 4th.
 
The importance of school crossing safety cannot be overstated and I will continue to advocate for students and parents across the ward until this issue is resolved. If you notice an unstaffed crossing guard post, please report it to the City's school crossing guard program by emailingSchoolCrossingGuard@toronto.ca, or call 311.

Save the Date: My Annual Community Environment Days

My Environment Day is a great opportunity to clear out items found during spring cleaning such as used electronics and household hazardous waste. Due to the recently expanded Ward boundaries, I will be hosting not one, but two Community Environment Days this year!

Day 1:
Date: Saturday, April 6
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Location: York Mills Collegiate Institute (490 York Mills Road - East Parking Lot)

Day 2:
Date:
 Thursday, May 9
Time: 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Location: Leaside Memorial Community Gardens (1073 Millwood Road)
 
You can bring everything from old computer equipment to compact and fluorescent light bulbs for disposal and recycling. You can also bring items for donation such as sporting goods, books and gently-used dishes. 

City staff will also be giving out one cubic meter of compost per household - for free!

Several groups that have partnered with the City on this program will also be attending, including:

  • Solid Waste Management Services

  • Toronto Water

  • Live Green Toronto

  • 311 Toronto

  • Toronto Hydro

  • The Salvation Army 

For more information on upcoming Community Environment Days, visit the City of Toronto's website here.

Slow Down Signs Available

"Slow Down" signs are an effective way to remind drivers to respect the speed limit - especially on local and residential streets.If you're interested in getting a sign for your lawn, you can pick one up at one of my upcoming Environment Days!

Quantity is limited - signs will be given out on a first come, first serve basis.

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Provincial OMB Reform - Local Planning Appeal Support Centre (LPASC)

After many long years fighting against the Ontario Municipal Board, I am pleased to report that, as of April 3, 2018, all new planning appeals will be directed to the new Local Planning Appeals Tribunal.

My overriding concern with the prior OMB process was the lack of accessibility and transparency for residents. While developers can assemble large teams of qualified experts, the costs of participating in an OMB mediation or hearing were prohibitive for concerned neighbours and residents' associations. 
 
The planning reform legislation passed by the Province in December 2017 implemented new Local Planning Appeal Support Centres (LPASC) to provide free advice and support to residents on local planning matters.
 
In April, the Toronto LPASC opened its doors to the public for the first time. The LPASC is an independent agency of the Province of Ontario, accountable to a board of directors. The stated purpose of the organization is to help "people understand and navigate the land use planning and appeal process in Ontario." Chapter 4 of the LPSCA Act (2017) outlines the following support services:
 
1. Information on land use planning.
2. Guidance on Tribunal procedures.
3. Advice or representation.
4. Any other services prescribed by the regulations. 

I would encourage all residents concerned about a development application in their neighbourhood to contact the LPASC for more information about the appeal process. If applicable, the LPASC will also provide planning and legal support in certain cases.
 
Hours: Monday – Friday
            8:30am – 5:00pm
 
Address: 700 Bay Street, 12th Floor
 
Telephone: 647-499-1646 or Toll-free: 1-800-993-8410
 
Email: info@lpasc.ca
 
Web: www.lpasc.ca
 
If you are interested, you can read more about improvements to the land use planning and appeals system, here.

Crossing Guards

In recent months, I have been contacted by Don Valley West parents regarding the unacceptable gaps in crossing guard coverage in some of our school communities.
 
The City of Toronto is in the process of transitioning responsibility for the school crossing guard program from Toronto Police Services (TPS) to its Transportation Services division. While TPS is responsible for the provision of crossing guards for the 2018-2019 school year, the City has worked with them to contract an independent security service provider for relief coverage when a regular crossing guard is absent from work.

This school year, a number of crosswalks in our neighbourhoods have been without regular guard coverage due to the unexpected number of guards that retired and surplus of newly warranted locations.
 
As a result of this, I moved a motion at the December 2018 meeting of City Council requesting that the General Manager, Transportation Services make recommendations to improve and enhance the school crossing guard program. I have since followed up with two personal letters to the General Manager requesting her immediate attention to the matter and urging staff to use all tools at their disposal to ensure that the City is providing reliable crossing guard coverage.
 
The importance of school crossing safety cannot be overstated and I will continue to advocate for students and parents across the ward until this issue is resolved. If you notice a vacant crossing guard post, please report it to the City's school crossing guard program by emailing SchoolCrossingGuard@toronto.ca, or call 311.

A New Plan to Regulate Construction Dust

Dust from residential construction is not only a major source of disruption, it can also have significant environmental and health impacts on our communities. With input from residents across Don Valley West, I moved a motion in May 2014 directing Toronto Building staff to develop a comprehensive strategy and enforcement plan to regulate the production of construction-related dust.
 
As a result of these efforts, I'm pleased to report that the City's first Dust By-law came into effect on September 4, 2018. Previously, construction dust was completely unregulated in the City of Toronto. Residents who contacted their political representatives were bounced between municipal and provincial offices with no tangible results or enforcement.
 
The new bylaw requires builders to take specific, preventative measures to minimize the generation and distribution of construction dust, including:

  • Wetting the construction material;

  • Using a wet saw or dustless saw technology;

  • Tarping or otherwise containing the source of dust;

  • Installing wind fencing or a fence filter; or

  • Using a vacuum attachment when cutting.

Failure to comply can lead to fines up to $100,000, with special fines where it is determined that the conduct could have resulted in economic advantage for the offender, to the detriment of the surrounding neighbourhood.
 
At the July meeting of City Council, I moved a series of motions to build on and strengthen the newly-established by-law. I directed Toronto Building to unite this strategy with the new residential infill construction strategy, and ensure that notice of the new bylaw is communicated to residents through on-site signage. As you may know, residential construction is regulated and enforced by Toronto Building inspectors. Dust suppression, however, will be enforced by Municipal Licensing & Standards by-law officers. My motion is intended to link the two departments to prevent overlap and encourage efficiency.
 
I also directed City staff to expand the scope of the City's dust regulation efforts by creating a strategy to regulate dust from large-scale construction projects including multi-residential buildings, subdivisions, and mixed-use developments. Finally, I requested a report back on the implementation and enforcement of the new bylaw. I'm expecting a staff report to be presented for consideration at City Council later this year. 

Leaside Rotary for The Toronto Commandery Hospice

Contribution by: Phil Russel, Ward 15 – Don Valley West resident

Toronto needs more hospice care, and The Rotary Club of Leaside wants everyone to know about it.  The Toronto Commandery Hospice, to be located close to West Park Health Centre, is being developed to serve the whole of north Toronto, and they need our help.

The focus of Hospice care is comfort rather than cure. The Hospice is where we find support, comfort, pain management and dignity for each individual.  This new hospice will be a centre of excellence that will include:

  • 10 residential hospice beds to offer a quiet, home-like environment that will serve as a comfort for the whole family.

  • Day Hospice Program

  • In-Home respite Volunteer Visiting Program

  • Bereavement support for both adults and children

  • Community Outreach Team

  • Integration with community partners

  • Psychosocial and spiritual support for clients, caregivers and family members

  • Education for medical professionals on hospice palliative care

  • Inter-professional education opportuni­ties (Nursing, Support Workers, MD’s, Volunteers)

  • Consultative support for long term care homes and the community

The Hospice, a registered charity, has recently started a Capital Campaign, and Leaside Rotary is both promoting awareness and encouraging you to help.

Contact us at https://www.torontoleasiderotary.com for more information about the hospice and how you can be part of building a better Community.

Thank you to Ward 15ers, Phil and Martha Russel, who are championing the Hospice project!

Thank you to Ward 15ers, Phil and Martha Russel, who are championing the Hospice project!

Community Policing

In recent months, I have heard from a number of concerned residents about how the City can best address crime in our neighbourhoods. More than ever before, the City needs to examine how we organize and deliver policing services in Toronto so that members are able to effectively and sustainably meet the complex needs of our City.
 
Community policing is an important aspect of the City's efforts to keep residents safe. As a City Council, we are committed to continuing to make investments in neighbourhood-based policing initiatives. Between last year's committment and this year's budget proposal, the City will have hired an additional 500 uniformed police officers.
 
As the budget process unfolds, I will join my colleagues in calling for continued and additional funding to community policing initiatives.

Housing: News from City Council

As most Torontonians will tell you, Toronto is a world class city and a great place to live. As our city continues to grow and attract new residents based on this reputation, it is important that we also take a close look at our housing needs.

At City Council last week, City Staff presented on the Housing Now initiative – a plan to address issues around affordable housing. As we know, Toronto's continued growth will place an increasing pressure on existing affordable housing. This plan, with the support of council, will unlock 11 City-owned properties to create 3,700 new affordable housing units by 2024. City Council approval is the first of many steps in this process, and residents will be consulted as planning on this project continues.

A New Playground for Leaside – Turning Grey to Green

Green space contributes to the vibrancy and livability of our neighbourhoods. A new, greener playground at St. Anselm Public School will benefit students attending the school and families living in the area.
 
In January, I had a productive discussion with Don Valley West's TCDSB Trustee, Angela Kennedy, about strategies to secure funding for the St. Anselm School Playground Revitalization project. Thanks to the community's collective efforts, I'm happy to report that the TCDSB has officially committed to funding the required paving and sub-surface work.  
 
If you would like to learn more about the project, please visit:https://ca.gofundme.com/Stanselm. The fantastic parent community has fundraised almost $200,000 of their $250,000 goal. On behalf of the neighbourhood, thank you to Nicole Watts, Christopher Burkett, and the rest of the Revitalization Committee for their hard work.

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Working with our Don Valley West School Boards

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) plays a vital role in the communities of Ward 15 – Don Valley West. In my first few weeks as City Councillor, I met with the newly-elected Ward 11 – Don Valley West TDSB Trustee, Rachel Chernos-Lin and Trustee Shelly Laskin, who formerly represented Davisville Village.
 
As I hear from residents across the ward, school capacity is a critical issue for the families of Don Valley West, particularly in neighbourhoods experiencing aggressive development. For the past eight years, I've been fighting to establish a moratorium on development in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood until we have adequate school capacity infrastructure to support additional density.
 
I'm pleased to report that the strong community opposition to the proposed development at John Fisher Public School inspired a new TDSB policy on development. The TDSB will now officially oppose development proposals if existing school capacity cannot accommodate new students in the area. I have raised the issue of limited school capacity during the development review process on several occasions, but without direct involvement from the TDSB. Going forward, I'm optimistic that the TDSB's support will help us to secure better outcomes for our communities.
 
This term, I will continue to advocate for the Ontario Government to amend the Education Act to permit the TDSB to collect educational development charges, without burdensome restrictions. The current regulations prevent school boards with excess capacity in any area from accessing the money that developers pay to the schools system when they build new sites. Due to declining enrollment in certain parts of Toronto, the TDSB will never meet this essential requirement. This additional funding could be used to improve school capacity in high-growth areas and support urgent school infrastructure needs. I would encourage you to reach out to your local MPP and the Minister of Education to share your feedback on this issue.

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