Wednesday, December 26, 2007
It must have seemed a good idea at the time. Bell Canada would put up a cellphone tower on church property, the Guildwood community would get improved phone service for their cell phones and blackberies, and the Church would make some welcomed income. Everybody wins.
However, the 150 people who jammed the Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church just before Christmas, clearly disagreed. The meeting had been called by officials from Bell and Industry Canada, the federal agency that governs telecommunications, to reassure residents that electromagnetic radiation from the tower would pose no health threat and that the tower will look like a flagpole. Although at 37 metres in height, that would make for a very large flagpole indeed. One with a large shed at its base.
The deal had been reached between the Church and Bell Canada in back in April, but residents, only learned about it on Nov. 8th, after Bell sent letters to about 70 homeowners in the area informing them the tower would be built in the new year. Ward 43 Councilor, Paul Ainslie, told the meeting the city has developed a protocol requiring telecommunications carriers to consult with the municipality on tower locations as of January 1, 2008, but it couldn't be backdated to this tower and wouldn't be binding on cell companies.
Under the Radio Communications Act, Industry Canada has the final authority to approve the location of telecommunication towers and antennae. Municipal zoning by-laws do not have to be considered. A court decision on March 2, 2007 determined that telecommunication installations are not subject to site plan control since they are a Federal undertaking.
Many people at the meeting were also angry that no church officials showed up to explain why they made a 20-year lease deal with Bell without first informing the community.
In the past, the City of Toronto Board of Health have noted concerns that existing guidelines may not be health protective for continuous lifetime exposure to radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic levels and that several jurisdictions have adopted stricter limits than those in Canada. In 1999, the Board of Health recommended a prudent avoidance policy that RF waves from telecommunication towers and antennas be 100 times below Safety Code 6 in areas where people normally spend time. The Medical Officer of Health has recommended that the City collect data from cell phone carriers on predicted RF levels of proposed towers and antennas to allow the City to monitor the potential impact of proposed telecommunication facilities in Toronto.
Bell officials reassured residents that testing done at the base of other towers showed the electromagnetic radiation is "thousands of times" lower than acceptable levels; however, many at the meeting distrusted the claim. Others felt that even if the tower was not a health threat, they didn't want a flagpole more than twice as high as the church steeple towering over their community.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Morningside Crossing isn't the only major construction slated for West Hill in the new year.
Ward 43 City Councilor Paul Ainslie's office has just confirmed that an 8 story condominium is planned for 4151 Kingston Road, on the site variously known as the Petro Mart or the Shamrock gas station, beside Johnson Chevrolet. The application complies with the existing zoning and would only require site plan approval before it could proceed.
According to Ainslie, "The drawings demonstrate an attractive building for this site and I have asked staff to ensure that a number of trees be added to the plan."
The Councilor is in the process of arranging his own community meeting for February 2008 to discuss the proposed development because City staff have advised him that a community meeting is not mandated for such an application.
The mixed use building would contain some street level retail along with the privately owned condominiums. The Payzac and Kingston Road Building would not likely be completed until 2009
Having disused gas stations turned into condominiums instead of used car lots will be a refreshing change.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
It came as predicted. All the way from Texas. The most vicious December storm in more than two decades.
The City's plows were out early racing against the endless down fall of snow and the wind whipped drifts that made driving treacherous. But the task was hopeless. The storm just too massive.
Neighbours were out shoveling driveways again and again, trying to stay ahead the accumulation. Ambitious teens were out with shovels making extra money clearing driveways and walks. For the most part the roads were deserted and the small number of drivers braving the weather were taking proper care. Of course there were always the few, with engines more powerful than brains, driving their pick-ups and muscle cars as if it was a fair weather day in springtime, putting at risk those cautious drivers whose responsibilities forced them onto the road.
The photo above was shot at the Tim Horton's restaurant parking lot at Kingston Road and Morningside looking west along Kingston Road. The usual coffee line-up back to the restaurant door was missing; but, despite the weather, all the tables were taken. Groups of people huddled over their coffees, refugees from the storm, talking in hushed tones, worried about the drive home.
Most Westhillians stayed indoors, snuggled around kitchen tables or roaring fireplaces, sipping hot chocolate and hoping Monday would be declared a Snow Day.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Dan Sandor, recent Conservative candidate in Scarborough Centre, is leading the fight to protect police enforcement animals with a new law he calls "Brigadier's Law".
You may remember Brigadier, the 8-year-old prize-winning Belgian cross, who worked in the Mounted Unit of Toronto Police until he was killed by an erratic driver in 2006 at Lawrence and Kingston Road. Being 16 hands high, "Brig", the "Gentle Giant", weighed 1500 lbs but was no match for a speeding car.
According to police, on February 24, 2006, Brigadier and his rider, PC Kevin Bradfield, were on Community Patrol in the West Hill area, when their attention was drawn to a driver stopped at the former drive-through ATM machine at TD Canada Trust. The driver was reportedly yelling and screaming at the driver in front of him. The enraged driver sped away when approached by the mounted unit, but then made a u-turn, and drove full force into Brigadier, leaving the horse and his rider crumpled in the roadway. The officer's neck, back and rib were damaged, and he was rushed to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. But Brigadier had taken the full brunt of the collision and his massive injuries were untreatable. He was put down where he lay on the street next to MacDonalds, by officers from the Toronto Police Emergency Task Force.
Unlike many other countries and several US states, there are no additional charges available under the Criminal Code of Canada for deliberately killing a law enforcement animal. This is despite the critical roll Police Service Animals perform in a whole range of duties such as Search and Rescue, Community Oriented Policing, Public Safety and building a bridge between the community and the police.
Now Dan Sandor has proposed creating an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada to better protect Law Enforcement Animals. Letters have been written to the Canadian Federal Government, including the Prime Ministers office, regarding this proposal giving Police Service Animals the much needed protection they require, under the law. The proposed amendment was nicknamed "BRIGADIERS LAW". For a copy of the open letter to Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, written by Dan Sandor, visit: http://www.brigadierslaw.ca/ or join the cause on Facebook at http://apps.facebook.com/causes/view_cause/46332?recruiter_id=10811716
Saturday, December 8, 2007
West Hill Collegiate has just finished a brilliant production of Antigone (an-tig-o-nee). Not the ancient play by Sophacles, but the 1944 adaption by Jean Anouilh, intended to make the play more accessible to modern audiences.
Antigone is, of course, a tragedy and modern audiences have little appetite for tragedies, no matter how well adapted. If anything, our entire culture is a rebellion against tragedy, against predestination, against fate. Against death itself, for that matter. Given the hubris of our time, it is little wonder the West Hill Auditorium was less than half full.
Antigone is the daughter of King Oedipus who married his mother without knowing his relationship to her. But in ancient Greece, innocence is no excuse and once the rule of the gods has been transgressed, there is only once possible outcome. Oedipus is destroyed and so are his innocent children who are the result of his marriage. Oedipus' two sons fruitlessly battle over their father's throne, killing each other. Crea, the new Queen, declares one brother an enemy of the state and orders that his body remain on the battlefield unburied, and therefore deprived of what passed for heaven in ancient Greece. Outraged, Antigone determines to give her brother a proper burial knowing that her disobeying the Queen's law will result in her death. As, of course, being a Greek tragedy, it does. But there is a twist in Anouilh's Existentialist adaption, no longer does Antigone nobly choose death, instead she rejects life as desperately meaningless without affirmatively choosing a noble death.
Antigone is a challenging play with difficult themes and an heroic clashing of ideas, as the various characters debate Antigone's plan and debate the appropriate response to her disobedience of the Queen. As Anigone, Gaayathri Saravanamuthu is in nearly every scene of the play and has an astonishing amount of dialog to master. Antigone succeeds or fails with this one performance and Saravanamuthu carries the part off with a spirited and rousing performance, well worthy of the standing ovation and the two curtain calls. Giving as good as she gets, Shanique Pearson, as Queen Crea, dominates the stage with a regal presence that also infuses the part with with a real humanity as her personal sympathy and affection for Antigone wrestles with her duties as ruler of a shattered country.
There were no weak performances in Antigone but Stephanie Hinds as Antigone's sister Ismere, Eric Slyfield as Antigone's finance and Aretha Reid as her Nurse were out standing. Justin Kwan managed to replace the entire Greek Chorus with an arresting performance that was at once omniscient and more than a little creepy. Providing much needed comic relief, Priyanka Kumor as the First Guard, showed a rare comedic talent that reached the audience every time. Unexpected additional comic relief was also provided by Bruce, a bat that had gotten into the threatre and occasionally swooped over the heads of audience and cast alike.
Perhaps the real tragedy of Antigone were the empty seats in the auditorium. The acting was at a near professional level, the play was filled with challenging and engaging ideas that are as relevant today as they were in Sophocles time. The actors deserved a full house. If this level of sophistication is the norm for plays put on by West Hill drama students, the community needs to give them more support.