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September 2018

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Woman of the Week: Alison Dalglish-Pottow

 

“Kindness reveals itself most authentically when people aren’t looking,” says Alison Dalglish-Pottow, and her latest venture lends a great deal of truth to this statement. Amidst the commotion of our modern world, which is often pumped with a daily dose of bad news, Alison has been crafting a movement of positivity. She calls it, Angel Love.

The idea was first conceived by Alison, her friend and co-founder, Mimi Wood, and their two adolescent daughters while sitting in a patisserie in East Toronto. As they sipped hot chocolate and munched on cupcakes in a sliver of wonderland, they chatted about the state of the world beyond these magical walls, where the weight of negativity seemed to be deepening its pull on society’s well-being. They picked apart this moment of joy, thinking of ways in which they could extend it to others and perhaps, even slightly, ripple its force across the globe. All they needed, they soon realized, was one special ingredient: kindness. And so, Angel Love was born.

Angel Love is an e-commerce platform that maintains a mission of “spreading kindness through wearable, shareable, charitable products.” Their online store sells custom clothing and accessories that are ethically-sourced, high-quality and made in Canada, often in collaboration with local artisans. Each line of product that Angel Love creates is launched in partnership with an international charity, which sees 10 percent of net sales donated towards their cause.

“It’s kind of like how people say you wear your heart on your sleeve. Well, now you’re wearing your kindness on your sleeve, quite literally,” Alison says. “We’d like to activate a megaphone around the concept of kindness through this movement.”

Their latest product line was created in alliance with Heartmob, an organization that stands up to cyberbullying, and includes custom hoodies, graphic tees and semi-precious stone jewelry that was specifically crafted with rose quartz and hematite to attract good energy and repel the bad. Partnering with charitable organizations, Angel Love hopes to create an ecosystem of positive living, ensuring all of their products are manufactured, sold and bought under the guiding light of compassion.

As the company’s CEO, Alison has dedicated herself wholly to this venture. Her innate love for helping others is most likely a trait passed down from her parents, whom she describes as genuinely good humans. Growing up, she witnessed the importance of generosity and spent years working with a slew of charities, creative organizations, and even running her own successful, and entirely digital art gallery, called FPI Gallery, which was designed to help market local artists in an increasingly online world. In 2001, she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for her outstanding contributions to Canada.

Along with her Angel Love partners, Mimi Wood, who is also a Canadian realtor, and Jennifer Bassett, who runs a flourishing events company, Alison measures the success of this latest venture not by the number of products sold, but by the social impact the products have. “The products are a way of keeping our audience engaged,” she says. “But the movement is truly the lead in all of this.”

Alongside their custom products, Angel Love focuses on initiatives such as the #mankind Wall, which is a way to highlight “the good guys,” as Alison calls them, in a fairly female-centralized movement. “Why girls and women leading this? It’s not because men aren’t amazing too, and we try to provide that inclusive aspect for men with our #mankind campaign,” she says. “But we really wanted this to be a safe place for girls and women because really, girls and women are born, engrained from childhood and nurtured to be the leaders of emotional compassion and sensitivity.”

They also advocate for Angel Activism — the mere task of paying forward an act of kindness in the modern world — and are hoping to popularize this trend by translating their efforts to the digital world through a predominantly online presence and their unique brand hashtag, #WithKindness. “Why the words #WithKindness? Well, we lead with kindness, we click with kindness, we can eat with kindness, meditate with kindness, help with kindness — there are so many ways that you can live and function with kindness … The possibilities are truly endless.”

And Alison’s dreams don’t stop here. As this altruistic movement grows, she hopes that Angel Love can collect enough steam to eventually partner with A-list celebs and global companies that will help spread their mission of love. Her goal now is to recruit a squad of angels who will begin to flutter their own wings in every corner of the world.

“Kindness is the new cool. Let’s create a world that stands up for that,” she concludes. “Let’s be those champions of a kinder world.”

No tech, no phone, no problem: Family fun in the digital age

 

Living in a time when technology has invaded nearly every aspect of our lives, finding ways to interact directly with one another can be a challenge. Even just a decade ago, families lived together as one unit. Now, with all of the digital devices available, it may seem that we are more like single units sharing the same address. In order to make your family feel more connected to each other, engage these ideas that will bring you all closer together.

Scavenger hunts provide multiple benefits that include getting fresh air and exercise while helping to clean up the environment. Take your family to a nearby beach or park, give each member a list of items to find, garbage bag and pair of gloves. Great incentives for the first person to find all of the items on the list include choosing what movie to watch that evening or what to have for dinner. Item suggestions include: plastic straw, cup and bag, glass bottle, can, feather, rope or string, fishing line, piece of metal, smooth rock, pine cone, piece of paper, candy wrapper and napkin.

Volunteering as a family gives back to your community and builds valuable social skills. Some opportunities include serving meals at a shelter, walking dogs at an animal shelter and visiting seniors in nursing homes.

Your local visitor’s guide is a valuable asset as they contain dates and times for most events in your area in addition to coupons.

Of course, your home provides the perfect location for activities you can do as a family. Charades and classic board games get everyone involved and can be adapted to any age group. You can go camping in the living room by building a tent using furniture and blankets. Stock your tent with snacks, flashlights and sleeping bags. A pretend camp fire using cardboard paper rolls for the wood and orange tissue paper as flames is a place for everyone to sit around. Have fun creating your own tale where each person adds one word to the story. Family members can also make up funny names for themselves using things such as their favourite vegetable coupled with their favourite movie character or their favourite animal coupled with their favourite food. Imagine the laughter when someone says “Cucumber Harry Potter” or “Zebra Spaghetti”.

If a wall in your home needs some sprucing up, let the whole family participate. First, have the adults prepare the wall with a fresh coat of white paint then let everyone have a paint brush and a selection of colours to work with. This is a way for family members to express themselves artistically and provides a lasting tribute to your time spent together. You could also purchase canvases that are ready to paint and let everyone create their own masterpiece.

Attending high school sporting events such as hockey or basketball supports local teams and there is often a canteen with reasonable prices. Add some extra fun by dressing up in the team colours and even using face paint to show your support!

Having dinner together whenever possible is one way to ensure your family stays in touch with each other. As a ‘no tech time’, you can employ conversation starters such as asking everyone to share their first memory and what they wish they could invent.

With the cooler weather upon us, there are even more chances for your family to garner some together time. Bubbles are fun even on cold winter days when you can watch them freeze in the air. Many golf courses offer super hills that are open for sledding. Visiting the zoo in the fall or even the winter will allow you to see animals more active as they tend to sleep in the shade during the summer months.

An exciting way to spend an afternoon is to get together with other family and friends and chip-in to rent ice time for a lively game of hockey.

While advances in technology have provided more ways to communicate include staying in touch from almost anywhere in the world, putting down the smart phones and tablets is the best way to keep your family close. It is important to remember that video chats and text messages will never replace hugs or that feeling you get when you see a loved one smile at you in person.

Elon Musk: A glimpse into the future

 

Elon Musk has made headlines last week for smoking cannabis live on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. But what those headlines missed out is what happened in the other 150 minutes of that interview (a sorry reflection of today’s click-bait reporting culture). That interview revealed a portrait of Musk which is simply fascinating.

What I’ve discovered in my own studies of Musk is that he is as close to the definition of ‘genius’ as anybody alive and in the public eye. His achievements with Tesla Inc., revolutionising the quality of and attitude towards electric cars, are truly special. Also his SpaceX project, which intends to improve the cost and reliability of access to space, has made public interest in space exploration as significant as it has been in years. Musk, in fact, is well-known to be an advocate of colonising Mars, as well as (eventually) other planets. He believes that it is a plausible idea, that it is a good idea, and Musk has announced that SpaceX plans to send humans to Mars by 2024.

While I myself have my scepticism about the necessity of landing man on Mars, Musk sees it as necessary for human preservation. In his interview with Joe Rogan, he described the colonisation of other planets as a beautiful dream — a future that, logically speaking, we should seriously consider (with overpopulation issues looming, and the climate changing in ways that we don’t really understand).

Strange, given his stance on space travel, is Musk’s existential outlook on life. He said during the interview: “Enjoy the journey! Even if we sort of existed as humans forever there’d still eventually be, like, the death of the universe … eventually it’s gonna end. It’s just a question of when … so it really is all about the journey!” Knowing that the end of humanity is inevitable, it seems paradoxical that Musk is so passionate about striving to survive the human race via ‘planet hopping’.

Another of his projects, The Boring Company (which apparently started as a joke), is currently implementing Musk’s idea to build a tunnel under Los Angeles in a bid to improve traffic. That such a project has been approved so easily demonstrates one of two things: that Musk is super-rich, and super-rich people can do whatever they want; or that the authorities have so much respect towards him that they believe whatever he touches will turn to gold. In any case, Musk is clearly an extremely powerful man — probably much more powerful than any politician.

Yet, behind that mechanical and scientific brain of his, there resides a genuinely emotional and vulnerable individual. “I don’t think anybody wants to be me,” he told Rogan, when the MMA commentator described him as having a super power. This degree of self-depreciation brought to mind an Uncle Ben quote from the 2002 Spider-Man movie: “with great power comes great responsibility.”

I happen to believe that Musk feels deeply responsible for the future of the human race. He declared throughout the interview with Rogan that he “loves humanity,” and on the dangers facing the species at present, he seemed extremely affected. He appeared emotional when speaking about the high-profile issue of carbon emissions:

“We’re taking vast amounts of carbon, from deep underground, and putting this in the atmosphere. This is very dangerous […] The bizarre thing is that, in the long term, we know we’re going to run out of oil […] It’s tautological. We must have sustainable energy transport and infrastructure in the long term, so why run this crazy experiment?”

He seemed just as emotional when discussing the dangers posed by AI. “Nobody listened,” he mourned when explaining how he told as many people as he could about those dangers — including former President Barack Obama. Musk, though, has thought long and hard about solutions to the AI problem, and declared that another of his companies, Neuralink, will have something to share soon regarding the merging of AI with the human mind. It sounded rather creepy, actually! One of the possibilities for the future he described verged on dystopian sci-fi: “if your biological self dies you can probably upload it into a new unit… literally.”

This possibility didn’t seem to creep out Musk, however, who believes that the universe is probably a simulation. However, Musk himself is talented at using the resources of the simulation in a more productive way than most other people. It seems like a paradox that someone who understands what we call the real world so deeply believes, in fact, that reality is not strictly ‘real’. What an interesting thought.

It also seems paradoxical that someone like Musk so openly encourages, above everything else, something as abstract as love. “Love is the answer!” he declared at the end of the podcast. His self-described “fatalistic” world view seems a whisper away from nihilism; yet, he is still emotionally involved with humanity, and has an honest desire to help people. His ideas are intended to literally help humanity to better itself. Perhaps he is simply rich and bored — perhaps his eccentric ideas will cause more harm than good; but maybe we should be thankful that such power has found itself in the hands of someone like Musk.

Sri Lanka: Paradise found

 

On my way back to India from Oman, I had the opportunity to pay a brief visit to Sri Lanka. My trip to Oman had already left me flabbergasted, and my expectations were high as I stepped my foot in Sri Lanka. An island nestled in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka had everything that I wanted from a travel destination. Let it be the diversity of the place or the delicate cuisine that left me looking forward to the next meal.

The people were as warm and welcoming as the sun, and a smile always lingered on their lips ready to help you with all your traveler’s queries. I found trains to be the best form of public transport to travel across the provinces. It also provided me with a chance to interact with locals and to learn about the less crowded and must-visit destinations. I expected to see palm trees and beaches lining when I boarded the flight, but the vast stretches of green valleys and hilly regions left me dumbfounded. Though I don’t enjoy going to beaches much, the Mirissa Beach definitely made its way into my heart.

Not only was the place clean, but did I spot monkeys happily jumping from one tree to another. There were even squirrels and peacocks running across the resort’s roof. Early in the evening, beach dining starts at Mirissa Beach. Sizzling, crackling, and clanking sounds fill the air with a delicious spicy smell lingering in the air. Dining here was more expensive compared to other restaurants.

On the other hand, I found Ella, a small laidback town in Sri Lanka, to be a place taken right out of a fairy-tale. It was here that I experienced the most beautiful train ride of my life. The area is surrounded by stunning tea gardens and mountains offering great hiking opportunities. I hiked up the Little Adam’s peak and it took me around 20 minutes to reach the top in addition to the 45 minute’ walk from Ella town to the foot of the mountain. I wanted to visit Diyaluma Falls, which is the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka, but as the trip would consume up a whole day, I had to restrain myself from visiting it.

The Sri Lankan cuisine was out of this world. The curries, mostly accompanied by rice, are made with the freshest ingredients. Vegans won’t be disappointed as there is a wide array of vegan options to choose from. On the other hand, the seafood tastes heavenly and is pulled right out from the ocean. Coconut is an important ingredient in most of the Sri Lankan cuisine, and I found the lotus root curry to be extremely delicious.

Sri Lanka is home to an abundant number of national parks that are brimming with wildlife. It was a great experience to catch a glimpse of leopards and elephants in the wild at Yala National Park. The national park even had a beach where the luckiest people could spot dolphins and killer whales. Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to spot either.

Lastly, to experience the cultural and religious side of Sri Lanka, I decided to visit the Ancient city of Polonnaruwa. There was a lot to see here including the Royal Palace, Sacred Quadrangle, Pabalu Vehera, and the Buddha figures at Gal Vihara. My trip ended with a visit to the Temple of Tooth in Kandy which is home to Buddha’s teeth.

The Song and the Sorrow: Film debuts this weekend

 

October 10 is World Mental Health Day and according to the Canadian Mental Health Association: “Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague. By age 40, about 50 percent of the population will have or have had a mental illness.”

The National Film Board will be releasing this Saturday at the Atlantic International Film Festival in Halifax The Song and The Sorrow. Through the lens of Canadian filmmaker Millefiore Clarkes following Juno award winning musician Catherine MacLellan, the film is a journey to understand Catherine’s father, Canadian folk legend Gene MacLellan’s mental illness which led to his suicide.

Produced by Rohan Fernando and Paul McNeill, and executive produced by Annette Clarke for the NFB’s Quebec and Atlantic Studio, The Song and The Sorrow contains archival footage and intimate interviews with friends, family members, and musicians who knew and played with Gene—including Anne Murray, Lennie Gallant, and the late Ron Hynes. The film reveals a troubled and loving man who was never at ease with fame and money. The land and people of Prince Edward Island inspired Gene MacLellan’s music and are a vibrant presence in Clarkes’ documentary.

In an interview both Catherine and Millefiore talk intimately about the film.

How did you both collaborate in making this film?

Millefiore: “Focusing The Song and the Sorrow on Gene’s struggle with mental health was Catherine’s initiative. When I first approached her about making this film, the focus was more on the creative legacy between a parent and child, about the complex relationship and inspiration derived from a parent with a large personality and artistic temperament. I was also interested in how sadness and loss can precipitate creative expression. However, I was nervous to ask her about his suicide. I didn’t want to exploit her personal tragedy. But Catherine was at a point in her life, 20 years after Gene’s suicide, where she was looking for ways to talk about her experience. She got back to me immediately suggesting that we focus on Gene’s struggles as well as her exploration of how that has affected her and her family.”

How many threads to this film are there?

Millefiore: Quite a few. A daughter’s story of her father’s legacy of mental health struggles and suicide; Catherine’s story of her own struggles as a result; Gene MacLellan’s rich and enigmatic musical and personal legacy; and a bit of Canadian music history woven in there. It could have been a much longer film. There were so many paths to follow. It was always an endeavour to contain the film and keep it focused while touching on all these threads.”

What is the message the film wants to deliver?

Catherine: “The biggest message I’d like people to get from this film is how important it is to talk about mental health, and how in doing that we can all be a part of reducing the stigma that keeps so many people from finding the help they need. I hope that people get a sense of the lasting effects of a suicide and how we really need to continue the conversations surrounding mental health to help the people all around us who may be suffering.”

What did you enjoy the most about the making this film?

Catherine: Interviewing Lennie Gallant, Ron Hynes and Marty Reno was a really nice experience for me. They were all close to him and had interesting experiences and thoughts to share. Getting to visit with Anne Murray was a bit intimidating for me at first, she’s such a legend and I hadn’t met her since I was a little kid. She shared some really great stories and was very kind and generous with us.

Showing at the Atlantic International Film Festival on Saturday, September 15.

Why women choose to freeze their eggs

 

The past few years have marked a notable increase in the number of women in western cultures who’ve elected to freeze their eggs, but to date no one has provided a reasonable explanation as to what caused the sudden rise in the practice. The prevailing wisdom has it that women freeze their eggs for career reasons, except new research recently published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology has shown this assumption to be incorrect. According to the study’s results, the most commonly provided reason why women freeze their eggs is so they can have enough time to find a suitable partner and avoid the “panic partnering” that frequently occurs to childless women as their internal clocks click ever closer to middle-age.

The study in question was based on 31 women, all stating the fear of growing too old to have children as the primary impetus behind their egg freezing. The most prominent concern among them was that age might create obstacles between their ever becoming a parent in an intimate, mutually committed relationship.

The study reported that at the time of their egg freezing, five of the women were in relationships while the other 26 were single. The women in relationships believed their current partners either lacked longevity potential or that their relationships were still too fresh to accurately evaluate their lovers as potential fathers to their children.

The single women all recounted previous relationships where their ex-partner was not ready for fatherhood or simply wasn’t capable of sustaining a long-term union. The most common reason for freezing, reported over and over again, was the simple bid to prolong fertility while struggling to find a suitable mate.

The Fear of Panic Partnering

Approximately two-thirds of the women who took part in the study reported a fear of “panic partnering”, opting to freeze their eggs in the effort to avoid finding themselves in this situation a little further down the road. Panic partnering is defined as settling for a relationship with somebody for the simple fact that you don’t want to be left childless. Finding themselves in their late thirties with no children or a suitable mate sets some women into a frenzy to conceive. Women in this state were known to try and conceive with the first man they date, regardless of their suitability as potential fathers. Freezing their eggs could help these panic-stricken women to avoid conceiving irrationally with the wrong man and enable them to pursue motherhood with a more ideal partner in the future.

Slightly more than one-third of the women who participated in the study claimed the reason for freezing their eggs was the fear of regret if they didn’t. Most said they were concerned the day might come later in life when they wished they would’ve done so and they wouldn’t be able to forgive themselves for passing on the opportunity.

Health Issues

Another 20 percent of the women in the study cited fertility issues or health problems as a factor in choosing to freeze their eggs. Polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes and the risk of premature menopause were the most commonly offered maladies inciting their decision.

Contrary to the popular orthodoxy, it’s emerged that career and professional issues are the least likely reasons why some women decide to freeze their eggs. While older studies pay mention to it, women participating in newer research categorically reject the notion.

Some blame religion and the media for stigmatizing women who choose to have children later in life as people who callously put their careers ahead of family or children. While there’s obviously nothing wrong with women waiting to have children in the first place, this assertion simply isn’t true. Overwhelmingly, women choose to wait until they’re confident they’ve found the right mate and time to have children so they can be the best mothers they can possibly be. Freezing their eggs helps them to do so.

Sarah’s journal: September 11, 2018

My family and I are now living in Barbados. We are getting used to the heat, and after a few weeks we’ve started to settle in, waking every morning at 5:30 with the sun. The whistling frogs that start calling at dusk fade out as the sun comes up and the birds start to sing. Our house is high up on a ridge that looks over the west coast. We have a fantastic view of the Caribbean and the sunsets are spectacular. In the early mornings you can hear the roosters crow and the monkeys out in the garden playing. There is life all around us and, as my son says, it’s hard to sleep through all the noise.

I’m discovering that the ocean and sky are a lot bigger here than in Toronto. The sea is constantly changing, this morning it is still, looking like glass reflecting the blue sky above. A goat bleats from the farm below and a rooster calls from a tree in the park down in Speightstown. We’re expecting Hurricane Isaac to pass by Barbados in a few days, but you wouldn’t know it, like the sea today the people are calm. The cars on the main road below give a double beep that is more a cheerful salutation than the angry horn blasts that seem to fill the streets in Toronto.

The first couple of weeks here have been a whirlwind of activity. From mistakenly not realizing our kids needed student visas (yes even if it is a private secondary school) and being detained when we landed — to finding the local (less expensive) hardware and grocery stores. The price of food seems staggering because it’s easy to forget that the Barbadian (Bajan) dollar is worth 2/3rds of a Canadian dollar. After paying $28 Bajan for some scoop nacho chips, I’ve inspired my family to eat more local foods, with the caveat that I’ll bake fresh bread at least once a week. So far my home-made bagels are a success.

In the past two weeks I’ve driven all over the island. I’ve learned to give a happy toot when going around a tight blind corner (the sugar cane grows too high to see over). Yesterday I discovered a shortcut that took me north along the western ridge of the island. I could see the coastline with fields of sugar cane rolling down to the sea. I turned west taking a road that suddenly dipped into a gully and found myself in a cool dense jungle that seemed almost magical. At this time of year, the flamboyant trees are all in bloom and the island seems painted with colourful orange and red blossoms.

There is a natural beauty here that I’m just beginning to understand. The people are gentle but also passionate — like the island itself.

I began thinking about moving to the Caribbean a few years ago when I realized that my actions could actually have a positive impact on the world. Keeping active and finding a way to contribute by building something drives me forward every day.

A few years ago, I started researching tourism in the Caribbean. While it has brought positive economic growth, it has also had some negative side effects. Local agriculture and manufacturing have dwindled to the point where most of the islands import most of their food and supplies. This makes living on the islands extremely expensive and feeds into the cycle of poverty that tourism was supposed to eliminate. I began thinking about ways to inspire local communities to become more self-sufficient and found that the self-sufficiency of a community relies on creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. I studied ways to inspire entrepreneurs. Government and community support play a large role, but so too do the level of arts and culture available in the society. Coming from a family of artists, this opportunity intrigued me, and as I did more research, I found that most of the islands lack what communities in Canada all seem to have — arts and cultural centres. Instead, the islands have theatres and art galleries designed to cater to tourists, but nothing geared at educating local communities.

This discovery shocked me and sparked the idea of creating arts and cultural centres across the Caribbean. But then the real challenge arose — how do we sustain them?

As I did more research, I discovered a unique anomaly in the hospitality industry. Affluent travellers were changing their habits, looking for more ‘experiential’ type of vacations rather than the all-inclusive gated resorts that once attracted them. Although the all-inclusive type of resort still attracts tourists looking for great deals, affluent millennials and baby boomers want to experience the local culture more intimately, and they support environmental initiatives.

Combine this discovery with the goal of building arts and cultural centres across the Caribbean and our business model for Canvas and Cave was born. I’m living in Barbados now to steer the development of our first unique arts and culture centre fused with an environmental resort. It will cater to affluent travellers, offer a gorgeous view of the Caribbean, with an organic garden to supply our restaurant, and an arts centre where local communities and affluent travellers can connect, create, and share ideas.

Greg and I have developed the habit of sitting out on the deck to watch the sun set and the stars come out. We’ve found the planets, and this time of year Venus sits bright in the western sky. A sliver of a moon is just setting and the whistling frogs at dusk signal that the end of the day. I find that I can hardly wait for what the next day will bring.

Toronto’s affordable housing scandal

 

What do you get when you hold housing development back, add millions of dollars in development charges, and layers of red tape to the development process? A housing shortage.

It isn’t rocket science, and yet city planners and politicians keep blaming “greedy” developers for housing affordability issues rather than evaluate their own flawed systems. The truth is that Toronto’s urban planning department has expanded their power and authority and in doing so they have added so much complexity to the project approval process that instead of taking the regulated nine month timeframe, development projects often don’t even get looked at for at least a year, and the entire approval process from start to finish can take between 4 to 6 years.

Toronto is just seeing the beginning of the housing crisis. With such a bloated approval process and no certainty on the costs associated with development, home builders have become wary of building in Toronto.

The fact that the city has more than doubled development charges over the past few years has added huge costs to the underlying price of housing. Take for example the square foot cost of building a condo. Add the cost of the land, construction, development charges the city imposes as well as the cost to borrow money to pay for construction, and developers could reasonably estimate the square foot cost they needed to charge their customers. However, Toronto refuses to standardize development charges to the point where one building might be required to pay much more than another directly beside it.

In other cities like Ottawa the development charges are posted so that every builder knows what they need to budget for in order to develop a project. In Toronto the development charges are not advertized because the city is constantly adding new ones, with the most recent addition in May of a transit development charge that has yet to be specified. Constantly adding fees every few months to development charges doesn’t allow a developer to know what their costs are going into a project, which in turn significantly increases the risk for investors and for home buyers – with many learning the condo they put money down on a year ago is no longer being built. This uncertainty has a cost and all costs get added to the initial price of a home. Yet the city Toronto refuses to come up with published rates for development charges that developers can rely on when costing their projects.

The fact that Toronto’s development approval process has bloated from nine-months to six years is good news for current homeowners as the shortage of housing will see home values increase significantly, but over the long term property taxes will need to increase dramatically to cover the operating cost of a large city and push middle class families out of the city.

There are a few quick fixes the City of Toronto must make in order to encourage housing affordability.

First reduce the amount of red tape involved in the development approval process.

Next stop city planners from pretending to be architects. They should not be deciding the design of a building (or the colour of a wall!) those aspects of design should be handled by educated designers and architects – they belong in the private sector. The job of Toronto’s city planners must be curtailed to encompass safeguarding that buildings meet the building code and the official plan. It’s time to focus on the fact that glass is falling out of buildings because city staff were sidetracked by more prestigious ambitions and not doing their job of safeguarding the public. The less design work city staff do, the more efficient the planning and building departments will be. As things now stand, city staff have grabbed far too much power and our taxes are paying planners to play at being architects and designers. It’s a waste of time and money that is distracting them from doing their job.

The leadership at Toronto planning over the past five years was a grab for power. Now that former chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat has set her sites on bigger ambitions it is time for the city to get planning staff back to focusing on their core job of being wardens over the designs brought to them.

An uber movement: Women share their journeys

 

Share Her Journey’ is a five-year TIFF initiative, which aims at reversing the current situation of underrepresentation of women in the film industry through a mix of concerted advocacy and fundraising efforts to achieve gender parity in film both on screen and behind the camera.

Last year’s data show that of the top 250 films, only 18 percent employed women directors, writers, producers and editors. In the same year, of the top 250 films 30 percent employed women in technical jobs behind the scenes.

Yesterday, I attended the ‘Share Her Journey’ rally where a few thousand people gathered on King Street to hear a panel of well-respected women in film speak in the name of all the women in the industry to advocate for gender parity and diversity. According to one of the speakers on the panel, Geena Davis, who looked out from the stage, the crowd was full of men, which is significant evidence that change is actually happening. Men are listening and perhaps rethinking behaviours that may not have not violated basic rules of consent, decency, and respect, but were still a reflection of gender inequality.

Geena Davis delivered a very inspiring speech which can be summarized by her statement “no more missed opportunities.” Since 2009, Geena has devoted herself advocating for more gender equality on screen through the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media. She said that in order to move forward and in the right direction, the leaders in the industry need to shift from an “unconscious gender bias” to a more “conscious gender bias”. The gender imbalance issue can be solved very quickly almost instantly by changing male first names into female first names in scripts, turning male characters into female characters, “If a script says ‘a crowd gathered’, add comma, ‘half of which is female’.”

Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, took the stage later “to depress” the crowd with some more stats that confirm a lack of inclusion and diversity in the entertainment industry. Stacey describes the steps that she feels need to be taken in order to move forward. The first step is accountability: “Companies need to set inclusion goals, and the public needs to hold those companies accountable.”; second is community: She has worked with the Geena Davis Institute for a number of years and she knows that connection is empowering. The third step is tenacity: in other words, never give up. “We must feel that our voices and our stories matter” Stacey said.

Other speakers on the panel included director Nandita Das who shared her experience as a “female director”. She explains that after years of taking offense about being addressed as a female director, she started to own it.

Mia Kirshner, Canadian actor and co-founder of the #AfterMeToo movement, talked about the lack of resources available to survivors of sexual harassment.

Amma Asante relays her experience as a director of colour being told that her project to make a film about World War I was too big for her.

Actress Amanda Brugel brought in the perspective of a mother and the necessity to teach young boys the proper way to behave so that they will not have to unlearn later on in life. She calls herself a “male mobilizer” as opposed to a “male sympathizer”. She urged everyone to call out inappropriate behavior, not to support the work of people who have been found guilty with sexually-related charges, and to support the work of women.

Finally, another accomplished woman took to stage, Cathy Schulman, film producer and winner of an Academy Award for Crash in 2004. Cathy urged artists to create art that makes a difference and executives running companies, to hire people who reflect diversity.

Sharing ideas and stories with others on social media has helped to create powerful movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp which have forced everyone to rethink, refocus, regroup, reframe, and relearn. In other words, let’s keep talking about it, let’s make some noise and let’s share the journey.

Jordan Peterson: Irritatingly impressive

 

When I first encountered Dr. Jordan Peterson, I was put off by him almost immediately—he appeared a cold, cynical, even angry figure. I thought he misunderstood many of the concepts that, while I was critical of them myself, I was fascinated by. And I felt, in a way, like he was attacking my own stance; therefore, (in my arrogance) I reckoned his research must have missed something!

But the more I listened, the more I was convinced that he knew what he was talking about. He spoke about issues from various perspectives, and with a nuanced understanding. There remains a number of significant topics that I disagree with him on; however, his influence on today’s zeitgeist is significant enough that I believe he is worth talking about.

Peterson’s rise to fame/infamy began in September 2016, when he posted a series of YouTube videos criticising Bill C-16—a law passed which added gender expression and gender identity as protected grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Code. He claimed that the bill was an infringement of free speech, and that it would become a cause of compelled speech.

His upsurge has received mixed reviews. While he has amassed an enormous online following, and sold millions of copies of his new book, 12 Rules For Life, there remains a substantial number of people who disagree with his views on Marxist philosophies, postmodernism, religion, and (of course) who don’t share his opinions on gender. Instead of embracing the ‘progressive’ notions, which promote gender fluidity and non-binary gender, Peterson argues that gender is limited by biological truths, which Bill C-16 ignores. During a presentation on ‘The Rising Tide of Compelled Speech in Canada‘ at Queen’s University, Ontario, he criticised the bill’s use of the term ‘gender spectrum’: “I don’t know what that means, and I don’t believe the people who wrote it know what that means either.” At one point during the event, two protestors—quite perfectly summarising the opposition to Peterson’s alleged defence of free speech—came on stage holding a sign that read: “Freedom to smash bigotry.”

Peterson has attracted the acclaim of many people, as evidenced by his book sales. His audience, however, is observed as being mostly young men, and there is an accusation of Peterson that his stance encourages alt-right, Neo-Nazi thought. In a scathing article on Macleans.ca, Peterson was described as being “The Stupid Man’s Smart Person.”

Personally, though, I feel like there is a misunderstanding between Peterson and his critics. This was well demonstrated in an interview he had on Channel 4 with Cathy Newman, which now has more than 10 million views on YouTube. There was a theme in this interview where Peterson’s words were twisted to paint a picture of him that was quite inaccurate.

Moreover, the article I referenced on Macleans.ca seems to misrepresent his message, while bringing attention to factors that are out of his control (such as the people who listen to him).

Peterson’s message is a very basic, almost cliché encouragement. His 12 Rules could be summarised, in my reading, by one simple expression: “Buck up, bucko!”

It’s hardly a radical or original message. But his book does dress that message up in an impressively academic way; thereby it acts as a kind of self-help book for intellectuals. There are many other factors (less noble factors, too) that the book is celebrating success—Peterson is by no means a messiah! Criticism of him, though, has so far lacked genuine substance, or reference to his actual words. I think that is a shame.

One thing that is worth praising Peterson for is his success in attracting people with polarized views, and from different ends of the political spectrum, into the same discussion. His presence is known, one way or another, by both radical Feminists and Neo-Nazis (as well as everywhere in between). I think it’s rare that people from these two opposite poles meet, and I believe that a civilized dialogue between them (as unlikely as that seems) would be enormously beneficial to human consciousness.

In the name of progress, it is important to remember that humanity will not progress without the so-called alt-right, nor will it progress without the so-called ‘Social Justice Warriors’. Humanity can only progress in unity with itself. In such a crucial time, evolutionarily speaking, it is more important than ever that people talk openly, honestly, and reach some sort of understanding. The reluctance to accept each other’s differences—even those that are misled – and to work towards a logical compromise could have devastating results.

I would love to see Peterson debate thinkers along the lines of Peter Joseph or Roxanne Meadows, whose futuristic and technological points of view he seems not to have considered so deeply. Perhaps a meeting with leftists such as Abby Martin, or even an academic behemoth such as Noam Chomsky, would yield interesting results—maybe these debates would challenge Peterson in such a way that hasn’t really happened yet.

But what is true of Peterson, in my opinion, is that he has built a platform on which people can express their thoughts honestly and unashamedly. Whatever your view of Peterson may be, you can’t deny that there’s something impressive—even decent about what he has achieved.