Toronto's Little Jamaica devastated by endless construction, COVID-19 | David Menzies reports

Eglinton Avenue West is home to Toronto’s “Little Jamaica.” It used to be such a vibrant stretch of the city, resembling Montego Bay more-so than Hogtown thanks to reggae music filling the air, and the scent of jerk chicken being cooked on barbecues situated upon the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, an extraordinary number of barber shops, which double as social hubs, line the avenue.

But these days, Little Jamaica is a mere shadow of what it once was, through no fault of the merchants; but rather, the one-two punch of a transit project that is horribly over-budget and much-delayed (which has made Eglinton Avenue resemble a war zone for years now) and of course, the Wuhan virus pandemic.

The Eglinton Avenue Light Rail Transit (LRT) project has proven especially troublesome. This boondoggle began all the way back in 2011. It was supposed to have been completed by now, but apparently the latest deadline for completion is 2022. Maybe.

In many areas, Eglinton is a nightmare for both vehicle and pedestrian traffic as construction proceeds at a speed resembling molasses going uphill in the wintertime.

Then, of course, many businesses were forced to close thanks to those Wuhan virus safety protocols. And now the question arises: can Little Jamaica survive another two years of LRT construction?

Little wonder that there was a rally for this community last Saturday night, staged by those who want to save the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, a couple of individuals – who organizers say were not part of the rally – acted out violently. Seven police officers had to be treated in hospital.

Violence against members of law enforcement is unacceptable, of course. But, so too are the endless and inexplicable construction delays on Eglinton Avenue.

Indeed, why is this even being tolerated?

In fact, I recall how John Tory was first running for mayor in 2014.

I covered a press conference he delivered in front of Union Station (a renovation project that is also grossly over-budget and much-delayed.) Tory stated that if elected mayor, this sort of infrastructure incompetence would no longer be tolerated. He noted that those bureaucrats responsible for mega-projects enduring endless delays and ballooning budgets would be held personally responsible and would be disciplined – including dismissal if need be.

Well, as the saying goes, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” And Little Jamaica continues to wither as a result.