Dawn of a new Don

The new and old Don River channels in E.T. Seton Park

The work to reroute a portion of the Don River in E.T. Seton Park recently resumed after months of little visible progress. In the picture above, you can see a portion of the new channel filled with water and plants in middle of the photo, with only a low strip of rocks separating it from the soon-to-be-former channel in the background. Excavation work was continuing today at the other end of the new channel.

Time to change the channel

A TRCA worker on the site today told me that he expected the river to be flowing through the new channel within a week. Given the progress I saw this afternoon, I’d be surprised if the old channel wasn’t blocked off by this weekend.

The metered city

A medley of meters standing watch over…something or other.

Our modern urban infrastructure is so pervasive that most of it goes virtually unnoticed. But every once in a while, something appears just out of place enough to make you stop and wonder what it’s doing there. For example, an electricity meter strapped to a light pole directly above a pedestrian “push to cross” button, its familiar flat disk spinning slowly and recording usage of, um, what exactly? Surely it’s not metering the little light that glows after you press the button.

Since first puzzling over that meter at Kingston Road & Celeste Drive earlier this year, I’ve been noticing a lot more of them in odd locations. Some of the places deemed to require monitoring include the edge of a forested park, a hydro pole with big fat conduits leading to a small grey box, and a lamp post with no obvious connection to anything (all pictured above). Unlike meters at cellular or broadcast transmission towers, these don’t seem to be associated with any particular structure or electricity consumer. So what are they measuring, and for whom? It’s a bit of a mystery.

Sadly, Toronto Hydro hasn’t yet responded to my week-old query about the purpose of these seemingly random meters. Whenever I call or email someone to ask for an explanation or clarification about some obscure piece of infrastructure, I feel like I’m more likely to be put on a terrorist watch list than I am to get an answer. I wonder if The Fixer and Urban Decoder ever feel that way.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.

The Fun Party of Canada

 Vote Dora Keogh

Well, I’ve dissed the Family Coalition Party, the NDP, the Tories, and the Liberals. Other choices in Toronto-Danforth include the Communists, the Greens, and Polkaroo. And then there’s the mysterious Fun Party of Canada’s candidate Dora Keogh.

These signs come out for every federal, provincial, and municipal election since I’ve lived in the riding, yet I can never find her name on the ballot. Having her in the race would certainly raise the bar for the other candidates. Maybe it’s time for a draft movement.

Liberal values

Behold the inspiring first sentence from Toronto-Danforth Liberal candidate Joyce Rowlands’s page on the Ontario Liberal web site:

Foremost, I’m running because I’m a Liberal and I support Liberal values.

Well, I’m convinced. Where do I sign up? Actually, wait a second. What exactly are Liberal values again? Rowlands concludes:

I’m asking for your vote so Ontario can keep moving forward, and not return to the harsh days of Conservative rule. Let’s not jeopardize the Ontario Child Benefit. And let’s not invite turmoil back into our schools.

Oh right, Liberal values are FUD.

Okay, maybe it’s not fair to judge a candidate based on a short bio posted on the party web site. But that’s not going to stop me from doing it. When the basis of your candidacy is, “I’m not the bogeyman,” it’s time for me to keep flipping through the candidate list.

She’s pro-Portlands Energy Centre, which alone is probably enough to sink her hopes in the southern half of the riding. Interestingly, she was selected to the Portlands Energy Centre’s dysfunctional Community Liason Committee as an “unaffiliated resident” in January 2007, less than five months before winning the Liberal nomination for Toronto-Danforth. She seems pretty affiliated now.

Release the hounds

One of the many fun things about living on the Danforth is wondering what sacrificial lamb the Conservatives will be tossing to the electorate this time around. Tory candidates in Toronto-Danforth have been drawing around 10–15% of the vote in recent federal and provincial elections, making the continued municipal success of Case Ootes in the northern half of this riding a curious aberration.

This time around, John Tory‘s team drops Robert Bisbicis, a 26-year-old wiz kid fresh out of 8 years at the University of Windsor, among the Liberal and New Democratic wolves of Toronto-Danforth. His bio and position statement is pretty standard Conservative material, but contains this awkward declaration:

Robert is engaged to Amanda Moscar, an actor, singer, dancer who is currently operating her own music studio in the beaches, which she and Robert built together. Robert and his family know the value of the arts.

Combined with assurances that, “he knows that local residents need to keep more of their earned income,” and that “he believes the system needs to change, not the people,” I suppose the statement is meant to allay any fears that a Conservative government may be petty, mean-spirited, or vindictive. I remain stubbornly unconvinced, despite the fact that he’s engaged to an actual artist. Even if they did build the beaches together.

I’m reminded of the 2004 federal election, when I lived in neighbouring Beaches-East York. I posted to a mailing list about my encounter with the Conservative candidate the day before nominations closed halfway through the campaign:

I met the Conservative candidate in my riding (Beaches East-York) today. I’m not sure that “met” is exactly the right word here. He actually chased us half a block down Woodbine Ave. this afternoon, shouting that he just wanted to shake our hands. So we stopped and chatted for a minute. I don’t know about other ridings around the city, but here and next door (Toronto-Danforth), the Conservatives will be hard-pressed to beat the Greens for a very distant third. How distant? Well, at 3 p.m. this afternoon, poor Nick Nikopoulos was still trying to find 100 electors willing to sign his nomination papers. With nominations closing tomorrow afternoon, he’s got his work cut out for him.

Nick did get his nomination papers signed and garnered about 15% of the vote despite running what one prognosticator on the Election Prediction Project called “one of the worst campaigns I had ever seen anywhere at any time.” Robert, you should be so lucky. For Conservatives, these east-end ridings must be like the September roster call-ups in baseball: you know the poor shmucks are going to get the living tar beaten out of them, but you want to give them the experience and judge whether they’re ready for The Show. Some never make it back.

No future in petroleum, 1857 edition

I’m a little behind on my reading, but I couldn’t resist sharing this nugget of prognostication from the May 1857 issue of Scientific American:

We believe that no particular use is made of the fluid petroleum, from the ‘tar springs’ of California, except as a lotion for bruises and rheumatic affections. It has a pungent odor, and although it can be made to burn with a pretty good light, its smell is offensive. This, perhaps, may be obviated by distilling it with some acid; we believe that this is not impossible in this age of advanced chemistry. If the offensive odor could be removed, a valuable and profitable business might be carried on in manufacturing burning fluid from it.

This quote was published earlier this year in Scientific American‘s monthly “50, 100 & 150 Years Ago” feature, where they reprint snippets of interesting stories from back issues of “the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S.” Pungent, offensive, and the basis of the modern world. Seems about right.

Toronto's Best MPP

Toronto’s finest?

Some of Peter Tabuns’s election signs have a curious sticker on them declaring him to be “Toronto’s Best MPP.” I thought at first that someone in his campaign was merely being boastful until Risa pointed out the tiny type that attributes the quote to NOW Magazine last October, barely six months into his first term:

The former Greenpeace director is one of the only voices in the legislature pressing for a provincial climate change plan. He’s also waged war against the Portlands Energy Centre and nukes, while fighting for screen time for Canadian flicks, early childhood learning centres in his ‘hood, same-sex parental rights and the Chinese head tax redress. Can’t wait to see what he does in the next nine months.

Who knew? I’m glad that thanks to the hard work of Toronto’s Best MPP, we don’t have to look at that big ugly Portlands Energy Centre and won’t be getting any more nuclear plants. The air smells cleaner already.

Victory in the bike lane

A sight for sore eyes: a bin-free bike lane

It took five weeks and a whole lot more effort and patience than I thought it would, but the recycling bins at 55 Cosburn Ave. were finally in their rightful place—and out of everyone else’s rightful place—this morning. It’s a small victory, but I’ll take it. Maybe next week I’ll start taking on the cars that are always parked and idling along this stretch.

With a garbage-free Cosburn greeting me this morning and the Works Committee making some noise about a major report to be delivered at next Wednesday’s meeting, it’s looking like it could be a great autumn for cyclists.

It's for cycling, not recycling

55 Cosburn Ave. uses the bike lane for garbage

It’s now week four of my quest for justice in the Cosburn bike lane. In previous weeks, I’d been bounced around in email and on the phone to various departments and units in my effort to deal with the recycling bins in the bike lane in front of 55 Cosburn Ave.

This week, I escalated my issue to the Waste Enforcement Investigations supervisor for the area, having received no responses to two emails and one voice mail the previous week. I spoke to her on Wednesday morning as I stood on the front lawn of 55 Cosburn Ave. Surprisingly, she said that an enforcement officer had spoken to the superintendent about the issue on Monday, two days earlier. She vowed to get another officer out there this week and said that the issue should be resolved for next week. So either the bins will be out of the bike lane next Wednesday or I’ll be making some more early-morning phone calls. The most annoying thing about this entire situation is that I have to wait a week each time to see if anything has happened.

A couple of weeks ago, Shawn Micallef suggested that I call in the Fixer. I’ve thought about it, but I object to the idea that the only way to take care of this is to shine a big media spotlight on it. That said, I may yet do so if the situation drags on much longer. A part of me suspects that the city and the police would have been all over it after the first complaint if the bins were anywhere on the roadway but in the bike lane, and that bugs me even more. It shouldn’t take four weeks to address an issue like this, but I’m semi-confident that I’ll see some results next week.

I hope this meets your expectations for this week, poika.

Things not to do in the back of a dump truck

Why not?

From the “Who knew it was such a rampant problem?” department comes the warning painted inside this dump truck, which probably makes more sense when the dumper is horizontal and the truck is in a quiet parking lot at the end of a long day of work.

I’m guessing that whoever got tired of cleaning the urine-soaked asphalt out of the corner of the truck didn’t realize that his painted message would be visible to the entire world when the truck body was tilted up. Chalk up another curiosity surrounding truckers and urine.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.