Shiner Family Values

November 9, 2012

[While we’re away living La SoBe Vida Loca, a post from guest commentator, Loose CanonTO.]

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Somehow it wasn’t surprising that David Shiner’s argument for a downtown casino in Toronto boils down to one thing: it would be further away from his constituents than one in Markham. See, Shiner isn’t above wrecking this city for his ward’s gain. He just wants to keep his cossetted Willowdale burghers as untroubled as possible. It’s not surprising because this is the second time in two weeks we’ve seen this behaviour from Shiner.

When council eventually, finally got to a vote on the Metrolinx Master Agreement last week the first thing they wanted to do was try to kick out all the taxpayers in the room (sorry, citizens and reporters) so that David Shiner could launch… something. Nobody’s fessing up about what he wanted to do, exactly, but he wanted it done in secret. One councillor would just say “this is about things happening next year.”

Gee, what’s happening next year? Probably, the end of the Liberal run at Queen’s Park and a different Premier. The Mayor’s people are drooling more than usual because of the prospect of a Hudak government and the chance to reverse the will of council on the transit file.

It didn’t work, of course. Because this is Rob Ford’s council, and Rob Ford is to transit votes what Sideshow Bob is to rakes.

The first thing that happened was that council shot down Shiner’s attempt to force council into a secret meeting. But Shiner wasn’t done there! For his second act, Shiner wanted to insert a poison pill into the agreement with Metrolinx. Instead of saying that Metrolinx would consult with the city when it finally starts building its LRT lines, Shiner stamped his feet and demanded that Metrolinx get the City’s consent, which is a hell of a big ask when the city is contributing nothing but headaches to these lines.

Shiner was overheard hissing at another councillor later in the votes, “stop calling it a poison pill!” But to help clear things up, we got Mayor Rob Ford who explained precisely why it was so important to support Shiner’s motion:

I couldn’t agree more with Councillor Shiner’s motion [to try to impose a city council veto clause]. This goes back to day one, streetcars against subways. You want to support this contract, you’re supporting streetcars. LRTs, whatever you want to call ‘em. That’s the bottom line. People do not want these, they want subways.

So it’s not a poison pill, but if you agree with Shiner it’s because you want to kill the deal. Thanks, Mayor! Nice of you to show up!

But the weirdest part of the day was when Shiner, talking about how many great ideas the city’s seen come and go thanks to the province just up and changing its mind name-dropped the Eglinton West subway… and the Spadina Expressway.

Shiner, of course, is the son of the late North York councillor Esther Shiner, who was as obsessed in her day about the Spadina Expressway as Rob Ford is about subways. Shiner told council he marched to support the Spadina Expressway, but it’s weird in 2012 for a sitting councillor to get up and say “you know what we really should’ve done? Turn Chinatown into a six-lane freeway ditch.”

A funny thing happened when the Shiners lost the fight over the Spadina Expressway. Premier Bill Davis (whose picture sits in the dictionary behind the words “Red Tory”) got up and said

Cities were built for people and not cars. If we were building a transportation system for the automobile, the Spadina Expressway would be a good place to start, but if we are going to build a transportation system for people, the Spadina Expressway is a good place to stop.

But no, the “we must burn the city to save my commute” mentality of the old Metro suburbs isn’t dead, it’s not even resting. It’s still there, trying to break the only transit plan we’ve got in the hopes that Big Daddy Hudak will throw us a subway lolly. And if that doesn’t work, hey, that casino downtown will build us all the subways and freeze property taxes and fund the Doug Ford Memorial Monorail.

Just keep it away from Willowdale, is all.

debutly submitted by Loose CanonTO


Shiner Light, Dimly

May 24, 2011

I like my magazines like I like my condiments. Just slightly out of date and not bland.

Reading through them a few months, half a year behind, it offers up immediate hindsight. An automatic retrospective that allows for quick judgment as to how well a writer grasped the subject at hand. Instant historical perspective.

So it was as I made my through the Spacing magazine’s Fall 2010 issue. One article in particular caught my attention, Deck the Allen by Jake Schabas. It offered an overview of the Allen Expressway and the various attempts that have been made since the early-70s to integrate what is, essentially, just a false start more fully and functionally into the neighbourhoods it so hideously slices through and divides.

A name jumped out at me as I read the article. Esther Shiner. First elected as North York alderman in 1972, and then the city’s Board of Control in 1976 which earned her a spot on Metro Council where she served until her death in 1987. During the 1980s she also served as Mel Lastman’s Deputy Mayor in North York.An early proponent of amalgamation way back in the 70s, her enduring claim to fame, however, appears to be her ardent support of the Spadina Expressway. So much so, she earned the nickname, ‘Spadiner Shiner’. When the project got bogged down after it made its initial way from the 401 to Lawrence Avenue, she fought successfully to push it further down to Eglinton where it remains today, known as the Allen Expressway. ‘Spadiner Shiner’ continued to press on with the project even after successive provincial governments and city councils had bowed to citizen pressure to halt it. According to Mr. Schabas, Shiner was also very instrumental in the ultimate auto-centric nature of the Expressway, helping to beat back plans (including one proposed by Buckminster Fuller. Buckminister Fuller, people!) that arose to make the Lawrence-Eglinton section part of a broader development that included parkland, public transit hub and residential and retail space.

Esther Shiner can also be credited with being the mother of current councillor, David. A former budget chief of Mel Lastman, Councillor Shiner was recently in the news for his spiking of the proposed Fort York Pedestrian and Cycling Bridge in late April as a member of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. ‘Too fancy’, he thought it, and his motion to deny the city giving final approval on the already approved project sent it back to the drawing board for a proper scaling down.The times have changed, it seems, but the results are about the same, laced though they may be with a lethal dose of irony. Esther Shiner was all in favour of plowing money into bulldozing and disfiguring downtown neighbourhoods to make way for a highway. Her son, David, withholds a miniscule amount of money to halt the building of a bridge that would’ve brought together neighbourhoods now divided by a highway.

Two generations of public service to Toronto, dedicated to draining life from the city one bad choice at a time.

belatedly submitted by Urban Sophisticat