Railroaded by Metrolinx: We Need Heroes in the Davenport Riding

“Toronto will commit suicide if it plunges the Spadina Expressway into its heart… our planners are 19th century men with a naive faith in an obsolete technology. In an age of software, Metro planners treat people like hardware‚ they haven’t the faintest interest in the values of neighbourhoods or community.”

– Marshall McLuhan, sometime during the campaign against the Spadina Expressway between 1959 and 1971

Sound familiar? Within the past month, I have sat across from Davenport Riding’s MP Mario Silva, and MPP Tony Ruprecht, and discovered a void of leadership for my riding. It was like talking into a well, in which concerns echoed, but no resolutions were made, no actions taken, and the paper trail of contracts leading back to the Liberal Party and Queen’s Park was erased.
Neither MP Silva, nor MPP Ruprecht, had made the slightest effort to prepare for this community meeting, or attend the Human Train Rally, and neither made any effort to pretend they had. MP Silva blamed the City of Toronto, and said that had the City of Toronto done more, this would not be happening. His buck passing met with a stony silence. Everyone at that table knew better, and had been working with Councillor Giambrone’s office in different capacities, and his assistant made their involvement known – very well. The residents present were far more knowledgeable than either politician.
Vacuous. A vacuum. The center cannot hold, and that center of all this rail expansion is the Davenport Diamond, and that center has had no advocacy or representation. The Davenport Diamond will be the epicenter of the traffic, a triangle created by the Newmarket and Georgetown corridors running through Brockton Village, and bounded by CP tracks above the Junction Triangle. It will have all future rail traffic, freight and commuter, hurtling through this 5 km triangle. You would think that MP Silva and MPP Ruprecht would be alarmed.
When MP Silva asked why people in the rest of Toronto should be concerned about this rail corridor, I listed the $2.2 billion a year that the City of Toronto pays in health costs due to air quality, that according to the World Health Organization, particulate matter of diesel travels 200 km, and that Toronto is competing with Los Angeles for number of smog days. I had to reiterate that his riding, the Davenport Riding, was going to most impacted by the construction, traffic, noise, and vibration, and did he know which riding he represented? When was he here last? And why is his attendance record one of the lowest in the House of Commons?
Many in the Portuguese community believe that the corridor will be electrified at the outset through their Portuguese language media sources. Europe does not run diesel trains through inner city neighbourhoods; it is considered unconscionable. MP Silva has his M.A. in International Human Rights Law from Oxford, has been Vice-Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, and serves the Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Association. He needs to advocate for the health of his immigrant constituents for integrated, sustainable municipal and intra regional transit, and for environmental justice, or he will lose his seat. He has the knowledge – we have paid for his extended leave for his education during a time when he should have been defending us. Currently, he is in Ireland researching failed states for his PhD dissertation. Failed states, and failure of representation. How apropos.
I have learned brutal truths as I have fought for the health of my ward, Ward 18. When a community is considered to be disenfranchised, it receives the lowest engagement of leadership and protection. This community is undercut by its representatives time and time again by their absence. Politicians predict their multicultural constituents will not protest, because if English is not their first language, they will have difficulty monitoring their advocacy. We are paying for the tuition of MP Silva abroad, and MPP Ruprecht has been AWOL for a long, long time, and in the meantime, my ward is about to be severed by diesel trains and walls that will divide its neighbourhoods. Davenport Riding is not considered to be part of the public, and the definition of ‘public good’ simply does not apply to our health, as there is no one advocating for us at the provincial or federal levels, and quite possibly in the future, at the municipal level. It is no coincidence that both these men are Liberal. Follow the contracts to the region beyond the greenbelt, ripe for development, and Liberal votes, and add to that party enforced silence.
Like the Spadina Expressway, this Georgetown South, Air Rail Link and Newmarket expansion will be the most pressing issue of the upcoming municipal, provincial and federal electoral campaigns. It is directly tied into quality of life for the entire City of Toronto. Make no mistake – the ongoing expansion of the Toronto City Centre Airport, Pearson International Airport, the addition of this GSSE, Air Rail Link and Newmarket rail corridor, and the Gardiner Expressway- will guarantee the GTA’s championship status over Los Angeles for smog days, and bring with it even higher rates of respiratory disease, and they are proving, heart attacks. There is a 40% increase in the relative risk of death from heart disease and stroke in the most polluted areas, which will include the Davenport Diamond in the near future. Electrifying by 2030, indeed.
I must say that I am non partisan, but very green, and I will vote for any candidate who advocates for electrification, consolidates the project scope of this rail expansion, and works to protect the Davenport Diamond from diesel fumes. This issue is as important to Toronto as the Spadina Expressway was in the 1960s, with a similar social and economic price tag. Where is Jane Jacobs when we need her now?
As someone at the meeting said “Does the entire rail corridor have to become NDP before someone listens to us?” Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo has been the patron saint of this project, and no one else has earned my respect more. If future candidates come forward for all levels of elections, municipal to federal, who can also earn my respect, I will support their candidacy with all that I have. I want people to step forward to be heroes, represent Davenport properly as MP and MPPs, and as the new Mayor of Toronto. My ward and riding are waiting for you, too. It is clear that the Liberal Party does not care about our health, but they do care about our votes, and these votes are not being earned. So let others who have integrity come forward to earn our trust. Please, step into the void, so the center can hold again, and represent the best interests of those who live in the Davenport Riding and Diamond. We need you.
Invitation: On Tuesday, March 2nd at 7pm at the Gladstone Hotel, come out for the Railbender, the First Anniversary Party of the Clean Train Coalition. Mayor Miller will speak at 8pm.
Toxic Air Increases Risk of Death at http://www.healthzone.ca/health/article/579542#comments
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