Friday, October 2, 2009

Metrolinx Telemarketing Advisory:

Metrolinx has hired a telemarketing company to ask homeowners about the number of children in each household over the next couple of days. Most likely, this poll is being held to ask leading questions in which telemarketers will try to convince people that the negative health issues have been resolved in this diesel expansion by the use of 'clean diesel'. There is not, and will not be in the future, 'clean diesel'. It does not exist.

Metrolinx is also trying to discredit the Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, who has said on record that he recommends electrification as the only solution, by a series of pamphlets delivered to homes along the corridor saying that Metrolinx is working collaboratively with Dr. McKeown. This is not true.

Now is the time to let Metrolinx's telemarketers know that all children, parks, daycare centers, seniors' residences, homes and schools are to be protected as the highest priority, not polluted by 464+ diesel trains passing daily through our neighbourhoods.

Build it once. Build it right. Go electric.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Point out the White Elephant of the Metrolinx Diesel Rail Expansion!

"What we know about air pollution in Toronto is that any proposal now should pass a very stringent test before it goes forward. This proposal has not passed that test in my view. The study, conducted by Metrolinx itself, indicates clearly that there will be impacts on air quality as well as health risks for those who live close to the line."
- Dr. David McKeown
More info, link to Transit Guru Steve Munro: "Metrolinx Fudges Clean Train Info"
Thank you to all who participated in the Human Train along the rail corridor! Many participants were deeply moved by the experience of walking along the tracks to connect with the railpath of communities. The protesters started in Weston, traveled down to Mount Dennis, the Junction, Wallace Bridge, and Sorauren Park, to go up Queen Street West, and to finally end up in Trinity Bellwoods Park, there to sign a huge card addressed to Premier McGuinty.

The citizens' outpouring of concern, anger, and love, urging the government to protect our neighbourhoods from the impending traffic of over 464 diesel trains a day, was extraordinary. I think this is the first time there has been a protest march organized along a railpath. As a network of communities, we are now informed, mobilized and ready for action against this project being pounded through by Metrolinx. Mike Sullivan, the co-chair of the Clean Train Coalition, noted that Metrolinx has been seen on the tracks, working already, which is in violation of formal codes of conduct during the Environmental Assessment process.

The speeches were passionate by the local politicians supporting the cause for electric trains. Cheri DiNovo, Adam Vaughan, Gord Perks, as well as Irene Atkinson, the Toronto District School Board trustee who enabled Sorauren Park to be built twenty years ago on this industrial site, spoke beautifully about the communities affected. Dr. David McKeown, the Chief Medical Officer of the City of Toronto refuted the claims by Metrolinx that the health of the residents would not be in jeopardy by the expanding GSSE/UPRL diesel traffic, and supported the communities' right to voice their strong opposition.

Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy for Parkdale-High Park outlined his opposition to the project, which is to have a moratorium on all infrastructure development for one year while electrification is studied thoroughly, whereas the Liberal MPP for the Davenport Riding, Tony Ruprecht, was nowhere to be found. Curious that those who represent the ridings which will be most negatively affected, and are legally designated most at risk socially, have been cautious to offer their support...why? And why are these vulnerable and priority neighbourhoods not being protected by their federal and provincial representatives? Is it that they are Liberals, and so is Premier McGuinty, and SNC-Lavalin is one of the major campaign contributors to the Liberal Party?

I have worked hundreds of hours to research this GSSE/UPRL diesel expansion, and I think that it should be legally decided that Metrolinx, as an arm's length agency of the province, is in direct conflict of interest with the goal of the City of Toronto, and the Greater Toronto Area, to support the objectives of public, accessible, clean transportation by privileging private-public partnerships for diesel infrastructure above the health of GTA citizens, as a matter of prudent avoidance for future health risk. If this were decided, the current Metrolinx Board of Directors, comprised of those vetting the interests of private corporations, could be formally dissolved, so that nonpartisan experts on transit could be instated, and Metrolinx could start the real work of electrifying the corridor.

As an artist, educator, and homeowner, when I get enraged, I get ingenious. My response, and gift to the Human Train Parade, was to make the obvious, obvious, and point out the White Elephant in the room. So I made a White Elephant, and here is the content of my broadside I distributed to those who attended the rally at Sorauren Park. We walked to Trinity Bellwoods Park, with the White Elephant balanced on the head of my 6'5" friend, Karl Junkin, and its body comprised of four white umbrellas naming the volatile organic compounds, the pollutants, and the ultrafine particulate matter, which will be emitted by exhaust hose pipe of these trains, carried by other members of the Clean Train Coalition, following along behind him.

The Absurd Transit Definition of the White Elephant:
  1. A rare, expensive diesel rail expansion that is a financial, social and health burden for taxpayers to maintain.
  2. Something of dubious or limited value in fulfilling public transportation needs.
  3. 464 diesel trains daily as an article, ornament, or household utensil not wanted by the residents of the Greater Toronto Area.
  4. Publicly subsidized, privately owned transportation that is expensive to maintain, and generates too little revenue to pay for itself.
  5. Any transit investment that nobody wants because it is unprofitable, and so is quickly politically abandoned by its owner, Metrolinx, and the provincial government, after its utter uselessness is proven. (See also 1950s Blue 22 retrofitted rail cars for the Union-Pearson Rail Link.)
  6. An endeavor or venture that proves to be a conspicuous failure.
  7. A papier-mâché elephant created by an outraged member of the community who refuses to pay the future, ongoing health, social and financial cost of absurd transit planning.
  8. Or unlike this case: An electrified rail system used as the inner city norm, and Environmental Protection Act standard, throughout the world.
Historically, the White Elephant has a precedent - the "Big Owe" Olympic Stadium in Montreal, built for the 1976 Olympics, which Montreal finally paid off in 2006. The difference is that the pollution from GSSE/UPRL rail corridor will be far more actively destructive to the health of the residents than the big white eyesore of a stadium ever has been.

Human Train Media Coverage:
This is the link to the video of 'Postcards to the Premier'. This video is a touching petition by the west end citizens to Premier McGuinty, captured during the Human Train.
This is the link to an insightful political analysis of the Environmental Assessment Process by John LaForet.