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Friday, June 3, 2011
Change in Heart for Mayor, Minnan-Wong
TORONTO - Call it a change of heart.
While Mayor Rob Ford and Public Works chairman Denzil Minnan-Wong made political hay with the closure of the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway for the Ride for Heart in the past, they’re toning down their criticism now that they’re at the city’s helm.
Drivers can count on getting stuck in traffic gridlock Sunday when the city shuts down the Gardiner and DVP for the annual Becel Heart and Stroke Ride for Heart which will see 13,000 cyclists take to the two major highways to raise money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
The Gardiner will be closed from Carlaw Ave. to the Humber Bridge and the DVP will be closed from Hwy. 401 to the Gardiner from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
As a councillor, Ford raged against the closure along with Minnan-Wong, even posing for a photo over the Don Valley Parkway to protest the shutdown.
What a difference an election makes.
This year, Ford proclaimed Sunday as “Becel Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart Day” across the city and summed up his proclamation by encouraging people to “tune up their bicycle” and take part in the largest one-day charity bike ride.
Ford’s office did not respond to a media request Friday.
Minnan-Wong, who in 2006 called the closure “wrong-headed” and bad for residents, business and tourism, shifted gears on his criticism.
“It’s part of living in a big city but you try and mitigate it as much as possible,” Minnan-Wong said.
He pointed out the city’s 400 road closures a year are typically for worthy causes or economic benefit.
City staff also abide by a policy not to close the same road more than once a month or to ensure closures on one street aren’t compounded by other nearby closures.
Minnan-Wong added the shutdown was approved by the previous city council.
Just before last year’s election, council voted in favour of three more years of the city’s longest road closure, approving the shutdown for 2011, 2012 and 2013.
But Minnan-Wong isn’t ruling out pushing for an alternative to the massive DVP and Gardiner closure in the future.
“It may be useful at some point in time (for Heart and Stroke) to look at ways to achieve their fund-raising goals without closing the DVP and the Gardiner,” he said.
Teresa Roncon, senior manager of public relations for Heart and Stroke Ontario, said they recognize there are always people who are inconvenienced by the annual event but those are the same people are benefiting from the event.
Roncon said one in three Canadian deaths are attributed to heart disease or stroke and the ride raises money for life-saving research.
“Everyone is touched by heart disease and stroke,” she stressed.