Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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


kristen said...

Wow, well said Elizabeth. Hopefully there will be a bigger awareness of these do-nothings come election time. It really is shocking how uninformed they are about this issue.

West End Girl said...

My apologies to the Portuguese community. I did not take proper care in representing their community in relation to their perception of the electrification of the corridor, and their access to media, and I received a comment saying so. I corrected my blog post immediately, as I felt this comment had validity, and I felt that it deserved consideration. In my defense, this entire blog is about my concern for the health and welfare of my neighbourhood, and I am without prejudice.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your clarification and candor Elizabeth. I cannot agree with you more that the dialogue should be about the health and well-being of individuals in our common community. Having said that, I don’t see the point in segmenting support for the electrification of the corridor into particular ethnic groups, in this case Portuguese-Canadians. It runs counter to the goal of creating a groundswell of support across all parts of Davenport, regardless of background, for electrification as soon as possible. To be fair though, many Portuguese-Canadians in Davenport have supported Silva in the past but they have also elected people Giambrone and Ruprecht over candidates of Portuguese descent (2003 and 2007 respectively.) It seems they vote on the issues that matter to them like everybody else. But again, let’s not bring ethnicity into this debate. It’s just too important an issue to be creating divisions amongst people in our community who at the end of the day have the common concern of creating a sustainable environment in our neighbourhood. Thanks again for your clarification.

Anonymous said...

Surster said:
This was an excellent commentary and needed to be said. In defence of the comments made about one community, which have now been corrected, clarified and the apology accepted, it is often the problem with any ethnic community in any area of the GTA where they rely on their native-language newspaper solely for their news. Unless those in the community, ANY community speaks up to the editors to insist on factual and correct information, misinformation will persist and thus, the impression is left that there is tacit support of something that may not be. I would suggest to 'Anonymous' that he/she contact the newspaper(s) who may have given this impression to the community that they need better reporting that better represents what is actually happening with the project and not giving false facts. The media has the responsibility to take the utmost care in what they report and amend if incorrect. But if nobody tells them it is wrong, then the misinformation will persist and create divisions and comments such as what was written.

Most people believe that if it is written or reported by a reputable source, it must be true even when shown the contrary.

Anonymous said...

In response to Surster, although I am a member of the Portuguese-Canadian community, I’m not familiar with the inaccurate reporting you’re referring to. I subscribe to English language media sources (The Star, The Globe & Mail, CBC radio) and research and participate in English language forums (such as this blog.) Perhaps, you could take it upon yourself to contact the outlets in question to seek a clarification to any misrepresentation you've come across. I am sure you will agree, it falls to every individual supporting electrification (regardless of ethnicity) to be vigilant in our cause. For my part, I have and will continue to raise issue with inaccurate reporting and characterizations that I come across surrounding the diesel train issue. In that spirit, Elizabeth, can you please update the contacts listed along the side of your blog. David Caplan is no longer the Minister of Health (it’s Deb Matthews) and the Minister of Children and Youth Services is now Laurel Broten. Thank you.

J said...

Came across your post after a search on the Davenport riding. I'm very glad to see that there are others in the riding who care and have noticed that our MP and MPP are not accountable to their constituents. I am a Young Liberal who attends OYL meetings representing the riding of my university because MP Silva has never expressed a consideration for youth involvement in his riding (he's never returned my phone calls or emails in the past). When I canvass, I'm in St. Paul's and should I need advice, I turn to MP Glen Pearson. While I really would hope to see a Davenport Riding Club for the Ontario Young Liberals, such is life when my MP is in Ireland...