TORONTO - The massive and rapacious condo complex envisioned by the “reimagine” campaign launched by the group that has seized control of Villa Charities is now on life supports. It is not yet dead, but it is in critical danger of losing a fundamental partner, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB).
Trustee Sal Piccininni’s Motion (reprinted elsewhere on this page), despite procedural tactics designed to stall the debate, discourage public representations that had been duly registered, repetitive efforts by recalcitrant Trustees to raise bogus issues whose sole purpose was to defeat the Motion, in the end prevailed.
The debate began at 10:00pm – three hours after the scheduled start. Mr. Piccininni “hung tough”. So did the hundreds of supporters from the Save the Columbus Centre group.
For those who believe that democracy and citizen-engagement begin and end with a click and send, that group might consider giving seminars on how to prepare and deliver messages – and how “to wait out the noise”.
There was a considerable dose of the latter. TCDSB orchestrated last-minute, unscheduled interventions by representatives from three schools in Northeast Scarborough to jump the queue in the hope that supporters of the Piccininni Motion might go home.
They went so far as to e-mail one of the intended and registered presenters, Debbie Galego, that she would no longer be allowed to speak, even as they knew they were about to allow 16 others, who had not registered, to do so.
One wonders why the TCDSB is so insistent on demolishing the Columbus Centre an icon of Italian Canadian integration, inclusiveness, lifestyle and culture. Is it an inherent bias resident in its Staff or some “unexplainable” predisposition to contrariness on the part of some Trustees?
The first objection by those who opposed the motion centred on the word “overwhelming” – “unquantifiable, unmeasurable”, they claimed; therefore, it should be struck, they said. They did not explain how anyone would then measure or quantify the remaining “support”.
Clearly, not to be Biblical, a handful would be sufficient to then justify demolition strategy. The word “overwhelming” shifts the burden of proof onto the ones who want to tear down what has taken generations to build.
The second “red herring” focused on the legal liabilities the TCDSB might face if it were to step away from a partnership with Villa on the project. On two separate occasions the TCDSB’s counsel stated that there are no legal implications. The Director, reaffirmed the position that the Trustees of the TCDSB only have an obligation to accept or reject (after an informed debate) a report presented by the Staff.
Several Trustees rejected this “guidance”. One in particular, Trustee Poplawski, already subject to allegations of conflict of interest and indifference by her own electors, expressed disagreement with the TCDSB’s legal counsel and voted against the motion.
Trustees Davis, Crawford and Rizzo did likewise. After listening to the presentations, one wonders why.
Trustees Andrachuck, Bottoni, Del Grande, Martino,Tanuan sided with Piccininni. Frank D’Amico was absent due to the burial of his brother that day. The Chair, did not register her vote – the motion carried in any event.
The presenters who made representations were cogent, succinct, and professional in the content they presented for consideration and in the style of their delivery. If they were not co-ordinated then they deserve even more credit for the information they imparted and for their eloquent defense of a community icon.
They run the full gamut of academics, writers, lawyers, community representatives, teachers, health club members, local residents, business people, etc. - all successful in their own right.
It is right to name those who appeared on behalf of CASA – without diminishing the value of those who have appeared in the past in other fora and did so again in support of their colleagues (Vera Held, Christine Genowefe, Kerry Kotlarchuk, Lawrence Pincivero, Paul Cavalluzzo, Elio Costa, Joe Baglieri, Dorothy Pullan, George Galegolo).
We reprint the intervention of another, Stephanie Fusco-D’Amico, whose content and tone captures values that seem difficult for some Trustees “on a mission to destroy” to comprehend.
Lawyer, health Club member, former Trustee, Joe Baglieri proposed that the TCDSB “stop playing the role of enabler and accomplice of the VCI” in its plan to efface what has taken forty years of nurturing to create.
It needed to be said.
Sal Piccininni, deserves credit for at least allowing the facts to be placed on the order paper for discussion. He was cautious: “the fight is not over yet”, he said., adding that “this is no longer a purely local issue; thanks to Frank D’Amico some of us have begun to accept that the implications of the proposed project have implications that go beyond the Northwest corner of Lawrence and Dufferin.”
PART OF SAL PICCININNI'S MOTION
"BE RESOLVED THAT: should the outcome of the public consultation not document overwhelming support for the redevelopment of the Villa Charities Inc.
and instead proceed with the building of Dante Alighieri Academy Catholic Secondary school
on the property presently owned by the Board."