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Rookie councillor pushes for subway

by Don Peat

Standing at the corner of Bathurst St. and Sheppard Ave. W., Toronto Coun. James Pasternak hopes he’s at the future site of a subway station.

The former public school trustee is planting his political future firmly in York Centre (Ward 10) where he hopes to one day see the Red Rocket go west of Yonge St. and along Sheppard to the University-Spadina line.

“That’s a long planned initiative back to the Mel Lastman, North York time and that’s something that is a goal of mine to get going,” said Pasternak who eked out a victory from a field of 12 candidates running in last month’s municipal election.

“The plan is already in place; you need the funding in place … We just need the funding envelope and to start digging,” said the Toronto council rookie.

He represents an area roughly surrounded by Steeles Ave., Dufferin St. and Allen Rd., Hwy. 401 and a jagged boundary that includes a stretch of Bathurst St.’

“We really have to reduce the traffic density,” he said. “There is enormous building going on at Sheppard and Downsview, if you’re going to increase the human density, you have to have a solution to move them.

“Subways in a city like this are the only way. LRT is just a non-starter in this ward.”

Taking over from long-time incumbent Mike Feldman, Pasternak isn’t just trying to beef up the ward’s transit infrastructure — he wants to create some Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), upgrade Centennial Library and hold ward forums to give people a chance to connect to City Hall.

He hopes the BIAs would help create more pedestrian, user-friendly shopping areas along already existing retail corridors.

Pasternak believes he can work with Mayor Rob Ford and his fellow councillors.

“There is enormous desire to make (council) work,” he said. “The question is, can the mayor-elect influence or cajole that vital centre, that is the question. If he can work with the centrists, then I think he can either get his package through in a modified form or get a lot of it done as is.”

Pasternak has no problem supporting two of Ford’s major election promises — scrapping the personal vehicle tax and the land transfer tax.

But he’s against cutting council in half — from 44 seats to 22 seats.

“There is this enormous disconnect between the residents of Toronto and City Hall and if you cut the number of elected representatives in half, you’ll only exacerbate that disconnect.”

He thinks the cash needed to keep Ford’s promise to hire 100 police officers would be better spent on witness protection.

“If law enforcement and crime reduction is really the goal here then you have to take those funds and put it into witness protection,” Pasternak said. “If you look at major urban centres across North America that have really contained crime, they put massive resources into witness protection.”

But debates on crime prevention aside, Pasternak said he is ready to help set the city move in the right direction when it comes to spending.

“We have to be respectful of the public purse but we also have to have a city that functions,” he said.