Ontario, Toronto release framework for deal to upload city’s subway to Queen’s Park


It sets the stage for the biggest subway transfer in the history of the Toronto Transit Commission.

Premier Doug Ford’s government on Tuesday released the terms of reference for the deal to “upload” the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.

Premier Doug Ford has released the terms of reference for the deal to upload the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.
Premier Doug Ford has released the terms of reference for the deal to upload the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.  (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

The plan, a cornerstone of the Progressive Conservatives’ election platform last June, would leave the TTC responsible for day-to-day operations of the subway while keeping fare box revenues.

Buses and streetcars would continue to be run by the city.

“With an upload, our government can cut through red tape to start new projects and finish construction faster,” Ford promised.

“Necessary maintenance and investment in the subway system has been put off for too long. We’ve also been waiting far too long for subway expansions. New subway construction has been stuck in red tape for years. It’s time to take action and speed things up,” the premier said.

Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek said the “bold action” would speed up construction, making life easier for commuters from across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

“As a government, we are turning priorities into real projects and get the job done. We know that a lack of transit infrastructure and traffic congestion are costing money, jobs and time,” said Yurek as the framework was announced.

Read more:

Law to upload responsibility for Toronto subway to province coming in spring

“The signing of the terms of reference between the province of Ontario and the City of Toronto signals a shared interest to improve subway service, build more transit projects, to expand, and integrate the regional network and get people moving,” he said.

That means a push for more integrated fares and services between the TTC and regional transit systems, including GO.

“As we continue to work with the city and TTC, we will act in an open and transparent manner to get desperately needed transit built sooner and we will make every decision with … taxpayers and transit riders top of mind,” said Yurek.

As part of nine-page accord, Queen’s Park and the city will assess the value of the subway system, which carries 289 million people annually, and the price tag for deferred maintenance.

Sources told the Star that both sides are close to agreeing that the subway is worth between $8 billion and $9 billion, with about $5.6 billion required to maintain and upgrade existing equipment such as signals, tunnels, and track.

That suggests the city would have a one-time net gain on its bottom line of between $2.4 billion and $3.4 billion.

But according to a report published by the TTC last month, the subway network and stations will require roughly $22 billion in capital investment over the next 15 years, a figure that doesn’t include the cost of building the much-anticipated relief line or other expansion projects. More than $16 billion is unfunded.

The required work, which the TTC says is necessary to keep current levels of service and meet future demand, includes capacity improvements on Lines 1 and 2, installing the automatic train control signalling system, buying new trains, and expanding Bloor-Yonge station.

The terms of reference released Tuesday make clear that options on the table include ones that would fall short of a complete transfer of subway assets to the province. The city and province will also examine a model under which Ontario would only assume ownership and responsibilities of new transit expansion projects.

In December, Toronto council voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm its position that the subway should remain in the city’s hands. But at the same meeting of that largely symbolic decision, councillors also voted to enter talks with the province to set terms of reference for discussions about the upload.

Despite Mayor John Tory and the majority of councillors registering their disapproval of the upload proposal, many said they felt they had little choice but to sit down with the province, having received confidential legal advice that the city had no legislative authority to prevent Queen’s Park from taking over the rail network.

“Discussions between city staff and the province will continue now guided by the approved terms of reference and I expect a full report to council at the appropriate time,” Tory said Tuesday.

“I continue to firmly believe that any actions taken with regard to our subway system need to be in the best interests of the people of Toronto, including transit riders and employees, and that Toronto must be completely involved and fully consulted as Premier Ford previously indicated would be the case,” the mayor said.

“It is a good document that has been agreed upon by the two parties to now shape the discussion. The real decision time will come once those discussions have happened and whether or not they produce some kind of a deal or some kind of a change from the status quote that is good for employees, transit riders, taxpayers and anybody else who is a stakeholder from the city of Toronto,” he said.

“I can’t tell you if that’s going to be the case or not.”

At Queen’s Park, the opposition New Democrats said Toronto’s subways are “one step closer to being stolen by Doug Ford.”

“What Toronto’s subways need is the provincial investment they’re owed, not a complicated Doug Ford scheme to break subways apart from the TTC,” said MPP Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale).

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner was also not convinced.

“Centralizing power in the premier’s office is not a silver bullet for fixing transportation delays,” he said in a statement, calling for a downtown relief line as soon as possible.

“Given Ford’s well-documented distaste for above-ground public transit, I am skeptical about the ability of his government to make evidence-based decisions for the TTC,” Schreiner said.

“Putting the relief line on the back burner while Ford builds subways to the suburbs would be disastrous for the TTC and for anyone trying to travel in Toronto.”

The terms of reference released Tuesday lay out objectives that largely reflect council’s stated position from the December meeting that the framework for discussions should give consideration to guiding principles of good governance, fair allocation of financial obligations between the city and province, and an integrated transit system.

They also state the province and city will consult the public on the proposal, which council had also set out as a condition for talks in the December vote.

Under the framework, there would be more private-public partnerships to build infrastructure like the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which is slated to open in 2021.

“The parties jointly recognize the need to pursue alternative approaches to the planning, funding, decision-making and delivery of transit in Toronto, and spanning the broader region,” stated the document signed by the province and the city on Monday.

This means the “accelerated implementation of priority transit projects,” better integration of TTC with Metrolinx and transit agencies in the 905, the “modernization and enhancement” of the existing subway system and a “long-term sustainable, predictable funding model” for transit.

However, there remains a lot of room for the deal to go off the rails.

Josh Matlow, the one member of council who voted against entering into talks with the province, said he took no comfort in the fact the terms state the two parties will consider options under which the city would retain ownership of existing subway assets while ceding new projects to the province.

“I think we’re being suckered,” said Matlow (Ward 12-St. Paul’s).

Citing past statements by the premier and the province’s recently announced strategy of using private development at station sites to fund transit, he charged the Ford government is dead set on taking over Toronto’s subway system wholesale and selling off land and air rights along the lines.

Matlow said councillors would be a “bunch of Pollyannas” to believe otherwise.

“Metaphorically, they’ve already announced that they want to take over your house and all the belongings in it. And to get you to the table to give them your keys and the number for your alarm they’ve said, oh yeah, we’ll also discuss some other options too. Maybe we’ll only take your furniture.”

Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10- Spadina-Fort York) slammed the upload talks as “a waste of time.”

Cressy said if Ontario was sincere about improving transit, it would increase its spending for the TTC instead of trying to take the subway system from the city.

“If the province truly wants to support the TTC and the movement of people and goods and services in this city, they should invest in it,” he said.

But proponents argue the province, which can borrow more money and run a deficit, will be better positioned to build and repair the subway network.

With files from David Rider

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1


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RCMP plead for help finding missing man with dementia who was last seen in Sherwood Park – Edmonton


Strathcona County RCMP issued a plea for help from the public on Friday afternoon as they search for a 74-year-old man with dementia who was last seen in Sherwood Park earlier in the day.

In a news release, police said Robert Marcel Verschaeve may be “unaware of his surroundings.”

Verschaeve was last seen in Sherwood Park at about 1:45 p.m. on Friday. Mounties said he left his rural home near Range Road 232 and Township Road 520 and was last known to be driving his 2011 white Ford F-150 with Alberta licence plate BZX 5010.

“The truck has a water tank in the back and has front-end damage,” police said. “RCMP members have been actively patrolling and searching for Robert to verify his well-being.

Verschaeve is five-foot-seven and about 160 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing a red and black jacket and blue jeans.

Anyone with information on Verschaeve’s whereabouts or the location of his vehicle is asked to call the Strathcona County RCMP detachment at 780-467-7741.

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Funds raised for creation of Lethbridge Exhibition Park military monument – Lethbridge


The Lethbridge United Services Institute, in partnership with Exhibition Park, have announced a campaign to bring a monument to the city with historic significance. The goal is to not only display a monument to the First World War, but to remember and honour veterans from Alberta.

“We are pleased to announce and unveil a capital project recognizing the rich military history of Alberta,” said Glenn Miller, president The Lethbridge United Services Institute.

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“The connection the city of Lethbridge has, being an artillery town from 1908,” Miller said, “111 years ago it started and continues today with 20th Independent Field Battery.”

Funds are being raised for the creation of a quarter-size bronze monument of six horses, towing an 18-pounder field gun, and will be on permanent display at Exhibition Park. The monument is expected to cost approximately $200,000 and organizations are reaching out to government, business and individuals for funding.

“It’s a great piece of history for Exhibition Park,” said Rudy Friesen, CEO of Lethbridge Exhibition Park. “We’ve been on this location since 1910, we played a significant part — this property, at least — in both world wars.”

WATCH: WWII POW Camp in Lethbridge leaves lasting impression on German soldier (November 2018)

The monument will be modeled after the last gun to be fired in the First World War from the Lethbride 39th Battery. It’s news a former member of the battery is proud to hear.

Small Alberta hamlet receives 1st-ever war memorial in time for Remembrance Day

“It’s special to bring to the citizens of Lethbridge the history of the artillery here,” said former reservist Don Graham, “and I think by bringing things like the monument into Lethbridge, it kind of reminds folks, yes, we were there and we still are.”

Having served as a reservist for 13 years, Graham hopes that this statue will remind younger generations what Canadian soldiers went through in defense of the country.


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Sherwood Park jewelry to be included in Grammy Awards gift bag – Edmonton


A Sherwood Park jeweler has been selected to be part of this year’s Grammy Awards. A necklace by Rockstar Jewelry will be included in the gift bags for presenters and performers at the music awards this Sunday.

“I’m excited,” owner Jeremy Willuhn said Monday.

“Let’s just say I was glad I was sitting down when I found out.”

Drake, Shawn Mendes to rep Canada at the 2019 Grammys

Willuhn has been making jewelry for about nine years. He reached out to the public relations company that does the gift bags last year and has been working since mid-May on the 160 pieces that will be given away at the music awards this weekend. Altogether, Willuhn used about 65 metres of sterling silver.

“I was doing one a day just because I wanted to pace myself but near the end, I was doing three a day.”

Lollipops from Fort Saskatchewan small business to be given out at Grammy Awards

The Sherwood Park company uses gemstones from around the world to create unique pieces, including rings, necklaces and bracelets.

The piece being included in the Grammy gift bags is a sterling silver amethyst bar necklace, which the company said “embodies the simplicity of every piece by Rockstar Jewelry and highlights the beauty of the natural amethyst stone.”

“Made with sterling silver chain and four pure amethyst beads nestled on a piece of sterling silver wire, the amethyst has the appearance of floating on air,” reads a press release from the jewelry company.

While excited, Willuhn admits he’s also a bit nervous about the exposure. His products have never been featured like this before.

“It’s a new demographic so I don’t know how well it will be received. You never know with these things,” he said. “I have no idea how this is all going to end up. Your guess is as good as mine.”

Rockstar Jewelry isn’t the only local company being showcased to some of Hollywood’s best singers; handcrafted lollipops from Fort Saskatchewan’s Sumptuous Lollies will also be given out in the Grammy Awards gift bags this weekend.

Watch below: A small business in Fort Saskatchewan is getting the opportunity of a lifetime.

The 2019 Grammy Awards are being held in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 10.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Regent Park residents say they can’t access their neighbourhood pool. City data backs them up


“Where is our pool?” read one of the signs held aloft by children who had waded into the reflecting pool in Nathan Phillips Square on a summer day in July 1969.

Their protest was over the lack of recreation space in their Regent Park neighbourhood and their demand was for a wading pool for those hot days.

Mary Ann Scott, left, typically lines up overnight to register her children for programs at the recreation centres in Regent Park, and often still can’t get them in. She is pictured here with her children Tessa, 13, Selam, 12, and Abyssina, 7, outside the Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre.
Mary Ann Scott, left, typically lines up overnight to register her children for programs at the recreation centres in Regent Park, and often still can’t get them in. She is pictured here with her children Tessa, 13, Selam, 12, and Abyssina, 7, outside the Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

It would take several more decades for their request to be exceeded by the state-of-the art Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre, which opened its glass doors in 2012 with a 25-metre lap pool, hot tub, water slides and more in the heart of a neighbourhood in the midst of revitalization.

But now that there is plenty of pool right in their backyard, Regent Park and nearby residents say they are consistently struggling to access the new space and that most of the people signed up for the popular swim programs are coming from other parts of the city, a claim backed up by City of Toronto data.

The data provided to the Star shows that only about a quarter of the registrations at the aquatic centre for the most recent fall/winter session of city-run programs were for registrants whose home address was in Regent Park or the area immediately surrounding it.

And while there continues to be a waiting list tens of thousands of people long for recreation programs across the city, the Star has learned that the most recent budget recommendations would significantly delay the council-approved goal of creating 70,000 new spaces in three years. Instead of 25,000 new spaces council had approved for 2019, the latest budget includes just 7,500 spaces and stretches the plan over five years instead of three.

Read more:

Regent Park community reflects and regroups as final chapter of rebuild begins

In response to questions about proposed delay, Mayor John Tory’s spokesperson, Don Peat, noted Tory’s earlier push to increase the number of recreation spaces funded in 2018.

“This is just the beginning of the 2019 budget process,” he said in a statement. “The budget committee will be reviewing the staff recommendations in the coming weeks and will make further recommendations.”

In the case of Regent Park, nobody is abusing the system. The city has a policy that allows anyone to access any centre regardless of where they live or their income level. Someone who lives in a suburb but works downtown might prefer to use a centre en route. Across the city, there are just not enough recreation spaces for those who want them, creating a competitive environment during registration and the long waiting list.

Mary Ann Scott, a mom of three in the Church and Dundas Sts. area and member of the group Access to Recreation, which was created by Regent Park parents over these types of concerns, knows how it feels to be missing out.

Scott said she typically lines up overnight outside a local community centre at 8 p.m. ahead of registration that begins 7 a.m. the next morning in hopes of getting her children into the programs they helped pick out — swimming at the aquatic centre as well as gymnastics and other programs at the nearby Regent Park Community Centre.

That’s because she’s competing with other parents, some who are using multiple devices and high-speed internet to get through the city’s often cumbersome online system in hopes of getting the spaces they want.

Hani Afrah, also mother of three who grew up and still lives in Regent Park, met Scott waiting in line to register. As a member of the Access to Recreation group since its inception, she said they have no issue with the aquatic centre attracting people from across the city. They just want priority to ensure local residents can use the space.

“We know that if youth know to swim, how to skate they’d rather be doing those things than getting into trouble,” she said, adding she feels sad to see that her children’s friends miss out on programs.

“They feel disadvantaged and the community centre is right there.”

The gleaming aquatic centre, with windows overlooking the park under a cedar-panelled roof, has been celebrated for its sleek and welcoming design. On a recent weekday, moms pushing strollers traded recipes in the warm, chlorine-scented lobby. A meeting was being held in a nearby multi-purpose room that’s sometimes used for kid’s birthday parties.

The Regent Park Community Centre was also rebuilt as part of the revitalization, featuring a gym, indoor track, dance studio, weights room and more.

Both centres in Regent Park — which the city still officially designates as a priority neighbourhood based on low income and other factors — offer free programs for children and adults, and they are both “at or near capacity with extensive wait lists,” according to recently-posted city budget documents.

Scott said their community has also been squeezed every time there are local emergencies. Recent cold-weather alerts and a fire at the 650 Parliament St. apartment building have seen the community centre taken over for shelter, cancelling programs for residents.

On one such day in September of last year, Mackai Bishop Jackson, who had just turned 15, was shot and killed up the street from the centre while outside an apartment building with his friends. He often attended the after-school programs at the community centre, which was closed at the time because of the 650 Parliament fire. His death has left friends and neighbours wondering if his fate would have been different had the centre been open that day.

“What’s the logic in closing down a recreation centre in a community that needs places for children to be?” Scott asked. “It should have never been closed in the first place.”

The aquatic centre replaced an existing recreation centre and outdoor pool in what was once an insular Toronto Community Housing complex of interlocking lowrise apartments and highrise towers. The long-term revitalization of Regent Park, still underway, has seen TCH units demolished and rebuilt alongside market condos and townhomes surrounding a park and the new aquatic centre.

The site is one of 38 city-designated free centres, which are selected based on their proximity — within 1.5 kilometres — of census areas where at least 30 per cent of families are classified as low-income.

However, the city has a policy that allows anyone to access any centre regardless of where they live or their income. City staff say participants “typically travel within 3.5 (kilometres) of a recreation centre” for registered programs.

The city also has what is called a “welcome” policy that provides a limited amount of funding to low-income families to access programs at paid-for centres.

The city provided data for all fall/winter registrations in Regent Park by “forward sortation area” — the first three digits of a postal code. The area for Regent Park also includes neighbourhoods including Cabbagetown and St. Lawrence.

That means it is likely that of the 326 sign-ups in that immediate area captured in the data provided to the Star, not all were made by Regent Park residents, meaning even fewer than 25 per cent of all registrations came from Regent Park.

The data shows residents living as far away as the Kingsway and Malvern are accessing the centre for programs. And there are more sign-ups from East York, The Danforth, Riverdale, Leslieville and the Beach combined than from the Regent Park area.

At the Regent Park Community Centre, which is also a free centre, registrations from the immediate area made up 40 per cent of all sign-ups.

Both recreation facilities also offer free drop-in hours.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents the Regent Park area, said the data confirms what those in the community already knew — that the majority of those signed up for swimming programs live outside the community.

After advocates recently organized to demand Regent Park residents be given priority access, Wong-Tam moved a motion at committee earlier this month to have staff explore a pilot project to increase recreation availability at local schools. Staff say a pilot could be launched in the fall of 2019 but the $160,000 cost is currently unfunded.

“They had already said quite eloquently and with a lot of urgency that we needed to reform the system so that people who had championed these facilities, who had borne the brunt of construction impacts, who had waited patiently, could have access to their own swimming pool,” Wong-Tam said. “It reconfirms what communities are feeling, is that they’re struggling to get their children and themselves and families into recreation programs.”

The city has 123 community recreation centres, 119 splash pads, 61 indoor pools, 59 outdoor pools, 68 outdoor artificial ice rinks from Etobicoke to Scarborough, serving 10.7 million programmed visits each year, according to the most recent budget documents.

But not all neighbourhoods are treated equally. While there are a number of recreation centres, not all have the same amenities. For example, there are large areas that are not served by an indoor pool, such as most of Etobicoke North and large pockets of Scarborough. There are only four indoor pools in all of northern Scarborough, where staff have had to scramble to find temporary program spaces after one centre in Agincourt caught fire Thursday.

There is a concentration of free centres in or near the eastern part of downtown, including the aquatic centre, Regent Park Community Centre, Wellesley Community Centre, John Innes Community Recreation Centre and the Jimmie Simpson Recreation Centre. Another free centre, Secord Community Centre, is near Danforth Ave. and Main St.

Of those, three have pools. The Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre provides more than twice the number of time slots for swim programs than both the Jimmie Simpson and John Innes pools, offering a total 208 options for swim classes during the fall and winter registration.

Across the entire city there are 11 free centres that have pools, two in the Etobicoke and York district, two in North York, one in Scarborough and six in the Toronto and East York district.

The Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre has features including a lap pool, hot tub and water slides.
The Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre has features including a lap pool, hot tub and water slides.  (Tom Arban)

According to a staff briefing note provided to council during the 2018 budget process, there were more than 600,000 recreation spaces across the city and more than 198,000 wait-listed spaces representing more than 62,000 people on the waiting list. Those are 2016 numbers, but said to be the most recent, verified data.

To try to address the waiting list, city staff proposed a growth plan in 2017 to add 60,000 new spaces over three years. During the 2018 budget process, council increased the number added in that first year, bringing the total new spaces planned to 70,000 at a net cost of $2.4 million.

City staff say both Regent Park recreation centres directly benefited from that growth plan, with the total number of registered recreation spaces increasing 22 per cent in 2018, creating more than 1,500 new openings.

But after staff were asked to bring forward budgets this year that froze spending at last year’s levels, the 2019 recommended budget from staff only plans for 7,500 new spaces to be added in the second year of the growth plan — 17,500 fewer than the 25,000 council approved. It will now take five years, staff say, to reach the goal of 70,000 new spaces. The budget process continues for the next month and will be finalized by council in March.

Responding to the Star late Friday evening, city staff said they “misrepresented” council direction in their budget notes, saying council had decided to “fast-track” the plan and that council never intended to actually expand the plan from 60,000 to 70,000 spaces.

“There is nothing we can find in council’s decisions and direction that indicates council’s intention to expand the plan from 60,000 to 70,000, but rather that they wanted staff to implement more spaces in the first year,” a city spokesperson said, adding they would be correcting a budget note.

A 2018 budget briefing note from staff outlined how adding an additional 10,000 spaces in the first year of the plan would increase the total number of spaces to 70,000. Council later voted to “further increase” the number of spaces funded in 2018 to 20,000.

The original three-year plan would have seen 35,000 spaces approved by the end of 2019. The current budget plan would see just 27,500 approved even with the increased number of spaces council added in 2018 — still 7,500 short on the original growth plan.

Asked about stretching the original plan over five years, the city spokesperson said: “Given our experience in the accelerated implementation of the first 20,000 new spaces in the first phase of the program, we have recommended a more gradual implementation of the remaining 40,000 spaces.”

Wong-Tam said the city should be able to set a target and then allocate the resources needed to make it happen.

“Clearly there’s a disconnect there,” she said.

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags


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Regent Park community reflects and regroups as final chapter of rebuild begins


Sureya Ibrahim stands on an icy sidewalk in Regent Park and surveys a neighbourhood she fears is headed toward an uncertain future.

Beyond the new townhouses and the state-of-the-art aquatic centre, she points out a site under early construction, the future home of a condominium building that will also house space for a catering collective and sewing studio.

A change in plans for the redevelopment of Regent Park has residents like Sureya Ibrahim worried. “We are still going to be here. We are still going to be doing what we love to do and building the community, identifying who the leaders of the future are and passing on the torch.”
A change in plans for the redevelopment of Regent Park has residents like Sureya Ibrahim worried. “We are still going to be here. We are still going to be doing what we love to do and building the community, identifying who the leaders of the future are and passing on the torch.”  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

That property will be built by The Daniels Corporation, in partnership with Toronto Community Housing — the third of five phases that make up a massive redevelopment project that began more than a decade ago and was designed to transform what was once one of Toronto’s poorest neighbourhoods.

“We went through so much and we built relationships,” said Ibrahim, the supervisor of community connections with the Centre of Learning and Development. “Now, we don’t know the future because there will be a change that is taking place that wasn’t revealed to us.”

The root of Ibrahim’s apprehension comes from what she describes as a surprise announcement last spring, that new developers could bid to build for the final two phases of what was originally meant to be a 12-year, $1-billion project.

A shortlist of bidders has not yet been made public and the people at the heart of what many already hail as a success story are worried about what an unexpected shift in course and lack of communication could mean for completion and hard-fought-for community benefits.

Older buildings, like the one seen above, are still part of Regent Park, though new buildings now outnumber them.
Older buildings, like the one seen above, are still part of Regent Park, though new buildings now outnumber them.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

“Are we a stakeholder or are we just going to be on the side?” asked Ibrahim. She believes having one company at the helm has allowed the community to form a relationship with the development team, and that communication is key if the actual needs of Regent Park residents are to be considered and met.

That uncertainly is fuelled by instability at the top of TCH — the country’s largest housing provider, responsible for some 110,000 people and $9 billion in public assets — with yet another scandal putting senior leadership of the corporation in question.

The Regent Park revitalization was designed to leverage the 28-hectare site by offering developers the opportunity to build more than 5,000 market-rate units. In return for the prime downtown land, they would rebuild all of the area’s roughly 2,000 rental housing units.

TCH awarded the first phase to Daniels in 2005. When the second phase was officially awarded to Daniels in 2009, TCH said the developer would handle the remaining stages of the project as well; TCH would provide the land in exchange for a large share of future profits on market-rent units, which would be built alongside public housing buildings.

But as phase three approached, TCH decided to go in a different direction — Daniels was sold a chunk of land instead of continuing the previous profit-sharing arrangement, and Daniels no longer had the automatic right to develop phases four and five. A tender process is now underway.

Phase four and five are made up of the final seven blocks to be redeveloped, and include the northern quadrant from just east of Parliament St. to River St. and north of Oak St. That area’s iconic lowrise brick buildings with their green awnings are some of the final remnants of the old Regent Park.

Vincent Tong, TCH’s chief development officer, said the public corporation has an obligation to undertake a “fair, open and transparent” process rather than awarding a sole-source contract to Daniels.

He also acknowledged the failure to properly communicate that process to residents. TCH learned from those concerns, Tong says, and redesigned the current tender process to require shortlisted bidders make community presentations. He said scores from residents based on those proposals will be factored into TCH’s ultimate decision.

But with that next stage yet to get underway, it’s not clear what weight the resident feedback might have in the overall selection of a development partner.

New townhomes are part of the changing landscape in the neighbourhood of Regent Park.
New townhomes are part of the changing landscape in the neighbourhood of Regent Park.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

Tong said TCH hopes to make that decision by the end of the year, with the final phases now expected to be completed in 10 to 15 years.

Daniels declined to answer the Star’s questions for this article. But in a statement provided to media in May, after the new bid process was announced, vice-president Martin Blake wrote that, despite the change in course following the 2010 election, “Daniels would very much like to continue the partnership with TCH and the residents of Regent Park through to completion of the revitalization.

“The work of this transformation, which is as much about building social infrastructure as bricks and mortar, is far from complete,” he said.

As the revitalization now moves toward its final chapters, the question that remains is, did it work?

Regent Park was a place, it was noted in the early 2000s, where it was difficult to even have pizza delivered to your front door through its winding maze of lowrise buildings and highrise towers, in an insular neighbourhood largely free of sidewalks and set back from main roads. There had never been a supermarket or a bank branch, and the overall design meant that parts of the cut-off properties were fertile ground for criminal activity.

But still, a community existed there. It was home for many new Canadians who were trying to raise their families amid the poor design, lack of services and a dearth of government support.

To understand what is at stake requires some reflection on the mistakes of the past. Regent Park was Canada’s first public housing project and one frequently described as a failed experiment. Planners tore down slum housing in what was South Cabbagetown and the first part of what would become Regent Park was ready for habitation in March 1949.

For Toronto’s low-income families, it was meant to be a safe and modern community in the heart of the city, one with green space for children and close to public services; thanks to poverty and poor design, it resulted in them being separated from their fellow citizens.

Today, the heart of the area that’s already been transformed is barely recognizable. A green central park is home to a gleaming aquatic centre and nearby there are colourful community spaces like Daniels Spectrum, which hosts both the arts and public meetings. There is a bistro that hires local residents. New TCH apartments are difficult for outsiders to differentiate from their condo counterparts, and both are now accessible from a simple city street grid. There is a Shoppers Drug Mart, a FreshCo and a Royal Bank branch. Residents flock to farmers’ markets in the summer months.

But in hindsight, says former interim CEO Greg Spearn, TCH should have planned the rebuild differently.

“There should have been a contractual arrangement that identified one developer for the entire revitalization, with a structure that protected both parties,” Spearn, who was pushed out of the organization in the spring of 2017, told the Star. Guaranteeing the whole project to a single developer would have allowed the public housing agency to leverage more assets for the community, he said, and avoided ongoing funding shortfalls and confusion over its future.

Since the beginning, the revitalization was never fully funded. City staff projected an early shortfall of just over $50 million — but where that funding was to come from was unclear. As the project continued, construction costs and changes to the redevelopment plan saw that figure climb to $108 million in 2017. City council, at the recommendation of housing officials, agreed to take on that debt to complete the project in a “timely manner,” leaving city taxpayers on the hook for up to $6 million every year for the next 30 years. The shortfall for phases four and five is expected to be as much as $182 million. It’s also unclear how that will be covered.

Spearn said how the final phases will be financed will be a key aspect of any proposal going forward.

Whether there will be a steady hand at the head of the housing corporation is also uncertain.

Since the Regent Park revitalization was approved by city council in 2003, TCH has been destabilized by corporate churn, with numerous senior managers embroiled in controversy and the departures of four chief executive officers. Its current CEO, Kathy Milsom, was put on paid leave in December after the board determined a “flawed” process” was used to award a $1.3-million consultancy contract.

Among the former CEOs is Derek Ballantyne, who advocated for Regent Park before leaving TCH in 2009.

The early vision for redevelopment, Ballantyne told the Star, was to avoid previous mistakes by designing an equitable and integrated environment that was guided by clear direction from the people who lived there.

“Without a doubt, this is a very different place and it’s a very different place to live in,” said Ballantyne, who is now chair of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. “This is not about being rich or poor. This is about simply having what anybody in other neighbourhoods in the city had.”

And while the goal was to create a healthier environment, Ballantyne said TCH never set out to design a perfect society.

“Was it going to get rid of violence? Was it going to end youth unemployment? It was never going to do all of that. I think what it did is it laid out the framework for how you might be able to better program into a neighbourhood and how you might be able to better address those issues.”

As of today, 800 of 1,360 households that had been relocated during the redevelopment are back and in new buildings. About 350 households have decided to stay where they are or have moved out of community housing. Another 200 are waiting to return as future phases are completed.

Construction by The Daniels Corporation, which is building a new condo building in partnership with Toronto Community Housing, is seen on Dundas Street East.
Construction by The Daniels Corporation, which is building a new condo building in partnership with Toronto Community Housing, is seen on Dundas Street East.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

Making sure that everybody in Regent Park gets a say in the neighbourhood’s future is why resident Walied Khogali Ali supports opening up the bid for the final phases. The neighbourhood has undergone dramatic change, not just architecturally but also in the composition of its residents — many who haven’t built relationships with Daniels and who would benefit from learning about past and future plans and get a new chance to engage in what must be a transparent process, he said.

“I think it is crucial for residents and the city to have confidence in a process where residents were not just consulted for the sake of consulting, but there was actual progress when it comes to specifically understanding the communities needs and building a relationship with the developer,” he said.

A New York Times article from 2016 declared Regent Park “a blueprint for successful economic and cultural integration.”

But one need look no further than its aquatic centre, where many local children have not been able to get into programs offered there, to see the challenges that remain for Regent Park’s residents.

A city policy that dictates children from any part of the city can access any community centre’s programs, the lack of overall spaces and a notoriously challenging sign-up system have created a competitive process, one usually dominated by families with multiple adults using high-speed Wi-Fi on several devices to sign up online.

That means children who live within a block of the aquatic centre can be squeezed out of programs by people from as far away as Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York.

“You actually have some children who have never ever taken swim lessons in Regent Park because they couldn’t get in — because when they got to the front of line or when they got on the phone, registration was already filled,” said Mary Ann Scott, a mother of three and founder of Access to Recreation.

Scott’s group wants a pilot project that prioritizes local access.

Her family lives near Church and Dundas Sts. On the night before registration starts, she heads to the Wellesley Community Centre for 8 p.m., and stands outside until sign-ups begin at 7 a.m.

If she’s one of the first four in line — and lucky — her children might get spaces in the gymnastics, swimming and cooking classes they’d picked out, she said.

Jason Kucherawy and his wife had no luck enrolling their two sons in the last round of local programing, despite using every electronic device in their home. They moved to Regent Park in 2012 after buying a two-bedroom condominium in the completed phase one.

“We wanted our kids to be global citizens and we wanted them to have friends and schoolmates from different backgrounds and different cultures and grow up in that environment,” said Kucherawy.

Given the past history of Regent Park, he said the idea that the final phases could go to the lowest bidder, rather than a company that has built trust and relationships in the community, is concerning.

“We are building a neighbourhood here and definitely want it to last a very long time,” Kucherawy said. “This is not supposed to be temporary housing.”

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam asked city staff earlier this month to continue reviewing the access problems for parents who pushed for these recreation spaces and participated in earlier consultations.

Wong-Tam said she want to be ambitious in filling the gaps and listening to what the community has long been asking for.

That includes a multi-faith space, she says, and the promise of a new library that could replace the Parliament St. branch and facilitate more after-school programs.

“Once those lands are developed upon, they are done,” she said. “I know that we can build it because there’s no point in finishing Regent Park and not completing all the facility service gaps.”

It’s important as well, she said, to build capacity for the future, not simply for demand that exists right now.

“I certainly do not want to see the problems that have emerged from the inequitable access to the recreation centre as well as the aquatic facility be replicated in the final development phases.”

New residents agree there is still more to do to make Regent Park a success story.

Megann Willson, who is part of the leadership team of the Regent Park Residents Association, said she was interested in the “intentionality of trying to build a different way of living” when she moved to a condo there more than three years ago.

She said the association is paying close attention to the redevelopment and said the change around Daniels not being signed on for the final phase came as a surprise to residents who were not consulted.

As for what comes next, Willson said she is wary about certain proposals, calling ideas like a new library “a carrot that’s been dangled” by prospective developers.

What’s clear, she said, is the need for more community space, improved neighbourhood safety and economic opportunities for residents.

“We want far more than just building buildings,” she said. “We have to move beyond the ribbon cutting.”

Ibrahim is also looking towards the future, focused on building a community that will continue to thrive long after the developers are gone.

“We are still going to be here. We are still going to be doing what we love to do and building the community, identifying who the leaders of the future are and passing on the torch,” she said

“They could do amazing stuff.”

With files from Toronto Star staff, Toronto Star library

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags

Emily Mathieu is a Toronto-based reporter covering affordable and precarious housing. Follow her on Twitter: @emathieustar


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Westmount Park Elementary School students to be temporarily relocated to 2 separate buildings – Montreal


A contentious plan to split Westmount Park Elementary School students up during a two-year renovation blitz is officially moving forward.

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) announced at a special meeting on Wednesday that students will be temporarily transferred to two different buildings for the duration of the project.

READ MORE: English Montreal School Board parents weigh in on disputed school moves

Students will be relocated to Marymount Academy in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and the former St. John Bosco Elementary School in Ville Émard for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.

Both locations will house kindergarten to Grade 6 students in order not to split up siblings, according to the school board.

The $12.5-million overhaul of the elementary school, which was built in 1913, will fix major structural issues.

READ MORE: Parents voice concerns over relocation of students at Westmount Park School

The plan has been met with both praise and concern from parents at school board meetings. Some said they were worried about where their kids will be transferred and separated from their friends.

At a consultation meeting last week, parents of Marymount students also voiced concerns over taking in hundreds of Westmount Park students.

WATCH: Westmount Park Elementary School students will have to move out of their school for two years

New French immersion school delayed

After announcing last October it would open a new French immersion school in NDG in September 2019, the school board says those plans have now been pushed back.

The elementary school was slated to open at 4850 Coronation Ave. — but now that building could instead house students from three other EMSB schools that are currently overcrowded.

READ MORE: English Montreal School Board plans to open new French immersion school in NDG

The EMSB says it is considering its options and that it will consult with the schools and their committees.

A decision is expected to be made by the school board’s council of commissioners on Feb. 20.

— With files from Global’s Elysia Bryan Baynes

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Revitalize Ontario Place but don’t raze it, residents say at rally for waterfront park


A theatre showcasing the work of local playwrights. A giant organic vegetable garden. A series of art studios. A world-renowned research facility.

The blue-sky ideas for Ontario Place abounded Saturday during a standing-room-only event at Metro Hall, where non-profit group Waterfront for All hosted a rally to share ideas for the park’s future and reflect on its unique importance to residents.

Amid the positive tone and memories associated with the waterfront public space — first dates, open-air concerts, movies at the Cinesphere — was an acknowledgment that Ontario Place is “at a critical decision point,” as urban designer Ken Greenberg put it.

“Let’s not underestimate the vulnerability of this particular moment,” he said, noting the recurring suggestion that the entire park needs a “big bang” revamp, rather than simply an improvement on what’s already there.

A razing of the park does not appear to be off the table, according to comments made by Jim Ginou, the new Ontario Place board chair and a friend of Premier Doug Ford. Ginou, who will oversee the park’s redevelopment, told QP Briefing this month that the park’s current state is “disgraceful.”

Opinion | Keenan: ‘Nothing can be saved’ at Ontario Place? That’s simply not true

Since the 155-acre park opened in 1971, Ontario Place has been celebrated as a beloved waterfront public realm that showcased Lake Ontario and drew crowds for concerts, movies at the Cinesphere and more. But when low admission led to financial problems, the previous Liberal provincial government in 2012 closed its main attractions, including its storied movie theatre.

Recent years, however, have seen improvements, including the reopening of the Cinesphere after renovation and the opening of a parkland section that features a 1.3-kilometre trail named after Bill Davis, who was premier when Ontario Place opened its doors.

For these reasons and more, it’s a “myth” that nothing’s happening on the site, Greenberg said. He emphasized to the crowd that improvements should build on existing assets, and should strengthen the idea of the park as a waterfront public realm, accessible to all.

“There’s a whole array of things that could happen … with clever use of what we find on the ground, taking inspiration from the original creation,” Greenberg said.

Mark Mattson, an environmental lawyer and president of water charity Swim Drink Fish Canada, called Lake Ontario “the most valuable” body of water in Canada, with nine million people drinking from it. There is more industry, business and real estate development happening on the lake than anywhere else, he said.

“People downplay Lake Ontario. Well, let me be very clear: this is the most important water body in the country, and we need people to …connect with it, to understand it, and this is an opportunity for that type of experience,” Mattson said.

He cited as an example Kingston’s newly opened Gord Edgar Downie Pier, which was unveiled last year and has unlocked the city’s waterfront for residents and visitors, enabling them to wade, jump or even flip — “a Canadian thing to do” — directly into the water.

“The same thing could be done here, which would ultimately get more people down to Ontario Place,” he said, noting the water samples done on the site show it’s clean.

Suzanne Kavanagh, a director of the newly created Waterfront for All organization, said Saturday’s event was intended to be proactive.

“We’re not militant. We don’t have a petition, because we don’t know what we’re up against,” she said.

However, Ginou’s recent comments about Ontario Place set off “alarm bells,” she said, and served as an incentive to organize those who support the park and want to enhance it.

“We’re saying, don’t blow up the gem — polish the gem,” she said.

The bigger picture concerning the future of Ontario Place is about access to the water, said city Councillor Joe Cressy, who represents Spadina—Fort York. Over two generations the city lost the waterfront to industrialization, the railway and the Gardiner Expressway, “but we are finally starting to reclaim the waterfront,” he said.

“If you want to build a great city, you invest in waterfront revitalization. And what’s the opposite of waterfront revitalization? Mega-malls and casinos,” Cressy said, referencing concerns about what the Ford government might propose for the site.

Attendee Beverley Thorpe said she is concerned about the future of Ontario Place, a park she walks through regularly for “spiritual rejuvenation.”

“I think Toronto is sitting on a gem, the lake itself,” she said. “I would love to see how we could celebrate the lake more here.”

With files from Jennifer Pagliaro and Edward Keenan

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at wgillis@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis


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What’s so wrong about a national park in B.C.’s southern Interior? Many locals still strongly opposed


Doug Boult looks out over the rolling mountains behind his orchard in Cawston B.C., covered with sage brush.

Where his fields of Gala and Ambrosia apples ends, the foothills begin. It’s also the start of the proposed boundary for the South Okanagan-Similkameen national park reserve. 

« When I was a young lad we hiked these mountains continuously, hiking around and enjoying things, » he said. « It taught us a lot of disciplines that are great for later on in life. »

Doug Boult on his apple orchard near Cawston B.C., at the base of the mountain range that could soon all be national park reserve land. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Boult is one of a vocal group of people in the area who are worried the way of life he’s enjoyed will drastically change if the national park is established.

« We are going to lose our ability — our freedom to just go and enjoy [the back country], » he said. « It will now cost money to go and enjoy. It’s just a loss of freedoms. »

Park plan 15 years in development

The idea of a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen has been discussed and debated for the past decade-and-a-half

Provincial and federal governments have run and developed a series of feasibility assessments, engagement processes with First Nations, public consultations and park concept plans.

Progress stopped in 2011 when the B.C. government decidied not to proceed with the park reserve. Parks Canada soon stepped away citing lack of support from the provincial government.

The view from Mt. Kobau looking out over much of the area the proposed national park reserve area in the South Okanagan. (Province of B.C.)

But in October 2017, B.C., Ottawa and the Syilx/Okanagan Nation announced a renewed commitment to establishing the park reserve.

Now, Parks Canada is conducting a public consultation process to develop the concept and park boundary.

The government agency cites protection of the sensitive ecology and more than 60 provincially listed species living in the region, including badger species, birds and reptiles.

Local First Nations have recognized the need to protect the land through the establishment of a national park reserve.

« [It] will create greater protections for our siwɬkʷ [the water], tmxʷu’laxʷ [the land], and tmixʷ [all life on our traditional lands] within our unceded territory, » said Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow in a statement. 

Federal, provincial and First Nations leaders, including Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow, right, during a group photo from October 2017 at the tripartite announcement of establishing a national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen (Parks Canada)

Other park proponents cite the expected influx of tourists to the region.

However, many of their neighbours, like Doug Boult in Cawston, see it differently.

« It is a fragile area. We understand that. That is why we are doing everything we can to protect it, » he said. « The park and the visitors it will bring will end up doing more damage than what the locals have done to protect the land all these years up to now. »

Ranching concerns

A few miles north of Boult’s orchard, Mark Quaedvlieg inspects cattle at his feedlot.  Quaedvlieg’s grandparents settled in Keremeos in 1910 and provided pork, milk and butter to mining communities.

Now his cattle roam the Crown grasslands that could soon be within the national park boundary.

Keremeos rancher Mark Quaedvlieg’s cattle graze on Crown land that will be within the South Okanagan-Similkameen national park reserve boundaries, if the park is established. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Parks Canada has promised ranchers it will continue to allow grazing within the national park, but Quaedvlieg fears it won’t be easy to renew grazing tenure.

« I don’t want to ranch on a piece of ground where people aren’t happy to see me there. Everything I hear from Parks Canada is that cattle are not a part of a national park, » he said.

More than a decade ago, Quaedvlieg erected a large white sign along the highway between Keremeos and Cawston saying ‘No National Park.’

« It’s stood there every since and never been tampered with, » he said.

Anyone driving through the region will come across similar signs at the end of driveways — a stark reminder that despite the progress governments and proponents have made on the national park reserve idea, there are many who may never be won over.

A ‘No National Park’ sign along a road in Cawston, B.C. (Brady Strachan / CBC)


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One dead in overnight Park Street Fire – Peterborough


Officials with the police and fire department and the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal are on the scene of the fire on Park Street North. The fire was called in just after 2 this morning. Fire fighters arrived the four-plex south of Wolfe Street  to find smoke and flame showing from a first floor window. The fire was brought under control but the unit was heavily damaged. There is no estimate of damage, and investigation into the cause continues.


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