Author

Jessica Merkley

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Not taboo – period

That dreaded “time of the month” often means dolling out extra cash to ensure comfort and sanitation. Products needed to manage menstruation and make it less terrible, such as tampons, pads and pain relief capsules, can add up in cost each month. Those who have the means to buy these seemingly accessible items, perhaps don’t think much about what it’s like for those who do not. Periods are terrible enough, even when all those products are available and affordable. But for those without the funds to purchase necessary menstruation products, it can mean health risks, missing out on day-to-day necessities, like work and school, and can result in unnecessary embarrassment.

In Toronto, pads and tampons are made available, but at a cost of $8 to $10 a box, on average. Those from low-income families or living on the streets or in shelters, are often prohibited from having access. The Period Purse, is an organization that provides purses filled with pads, tampons and menstrual wellness items to homeless and impoverished individuals across the nation in need of the items. The founder of the organization, Jana Girdauskas, shares about the reality many women face and the options they are left with.

“The reality is, many people experiencing homelessness are using newspaper or homemade tampons, or they resort to stealing,” she said. “What other choice do they have when menstrual products aren’t even a line item in the budget for our city’s shelters or drop-in centres? Any products that are available have been donated and supply can be sporadic. You might get one or two tampons for your entire cycle.”

Public restrooms make soap and toilet paper available, but there is clearly a need for pads and tampons to be as well. Heavy Flow podcast host Amanda Laird went so far as to point out that the lack of menstrual products made accessible to those who can’t afford the cost in drug stores and grocery stores, indicates who is making the decisions in Toronto and even on a global scale.

“Boys aren’t taught about menstruation in health class and it’s still such a taboo topic. Periods are just not something you’re supposed to talk about,” Laird says. “If you’ve never had a period or you don’t know anything about them you’re not going to think about how a lack of menstrual products might impact your day; about how being caught unprepared when your period starts might affect you.”

The Period Purse is holding a fundraising drive on June 8th to bring awareness to the issue while also collecting items like tampons, large purses and backpacks. Donations can be dropped off at Tokki, at 3124 Dundas St. West in Toronto.

Menstruation has somehow become a taboo topic. But why? It’s a necessary part of a cycle that prepares a woman to give new life. All are alive because of menstruation and all women need to have access to appropriate sanitary products that will allow each to live their lives without worry, fear and embarrassment.

Am I missing the bride gene?

 I’m getting married. It feels strange to be engaged. Don’t get me wrong, I love my fiancé and am over the moon that he put a ring on my finger. I just never thought this time would arrive for me. When growing up friends would share excitedly about what kind of wedding they wanted and the style of dress they liked best — but when asked, I would shrug my shoulders and simply say, “Hadn’t really thought about it.”

What I have always known is that one day I would like to marry my best friend and build a life with him. I thought when the time came, it would be like that wedding planning bug that seemingly every one of my friends had, would come out of its dormant state in me.  It’s not the case.  I’m excited for the day I put on my wedding dress, but I’ve always had the mindset that it’s just ONE day and it’s the adventure that follows which I’m most excited about.  I also hate being the centre of attention, so, of course, I am not one who has ever wanted a massive traditional wedding.

From day 1, Cody and I both admitted we wanted a stress-free, fun, destination wedding with our nearest and dearest. I’m an unconventional girl and despite the expectation to plan a massive wedding at a ornate church and a reception at a lavish ballroom, it’s just not my style. I woke up at 5 am for coverage of the Royal Wedding and loved every moment, but fascinators and Cinderella carriage rides, just aren’t me.

I have to admit it’s enjoyable witnessing my mother’s excitement since I told her Cody and I are engaged. She has waited decades for this time to arrive and as soon as I announced the engagement, she began busily planning as if it is her own wedding on the horizon. She set us up with a destination wedding coordinator, took me to find the perfect dress (which I did. it’s straight off the rack, without a need for alterations. Thank goodness. I hate extra spending on alterations.) and spread the word like wildfire to friends and family, all within 48 hours of the ring being on my finger.

Mom clearly has the wedding planning bug. Why is it missing in me? I can’t pretend to feel it when I don’t. I wear my feelings on my sleeve and my opinions on my face, so feigning excitement is not something I can do. Whenever I worry that my interest in wedding planning isn’t what it should be, I realize that my excitement triples when I think about the future Cody and I have planned after the wedding.  I think all too often we put too much emphasis on the immediate. On the one day , the one dress and the first dance. I understand that maybe I’m a bit different in many ways, but I’m not strange or missing the bride gene. I’m just looking with more excitement at the journey and the future.

GTHA Transit Wants & Woes

A transit strike is looming that may impact the GTHA. Metrolinx shared that the strike involves CP labour unions and may commence as early as Monday. The action by the union may impact GO Transit rail services.

Metrolinx made a statement on the impending transit troubles promising that services will not be disrupted:

“While we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached, we have plans in place to ensure customers can continue to travel safely and as easily as possible if a strike occurs. Our plans have been adjusted since our last communication to customers in April and no train services need to be cancelled. In the event of a CP labour disruption, we are now able to operate trains into Hamilton GO Centre.”

The reason that a CP strike may still impact GO Transit service is that many tracks that are used by Metrolinx for these services, are owned by alternate rail companies, such as CP. A strike means less CP staff available to operate the traffic switches and signals, leading to delays and suspended services.

The unions, which include the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, have carried on talks with railway management.

A spokesperson for Teamsters Canada stated that the union would likely reject any offer and that they will request immediate resuming of negotiation to reach a deal before a strike ensues.

If the unions decide to strike, members must give 72 hours notice, as CBC indicates.

GTHA Transit efficiency is always a focus, whether good or bad, in this city. Even without a looming strike posing a threat to service, it’s clear that Toronto and GTA transit could be made more efficient. The upcoming election has the big four political parties making promises to do just that. The PC, Liberal and NDP parties are all pro-relief line plan. The line is to be built from the Danforth directly to downtown and relieve overcrowding on the Yonge/University Line. The Green Party is also making transit a focus, but in Scarborough.

Strike or not, Canada’s most densely populated region needs politicians and transit services always looking to the future for betterment of the transit network already in place. Hopefully negotiations and elections lead to reaching this common goal quicker.

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Dobbelsteyn

What always astounds me about women I’ve chatted with who have become CEO’s and presidents of notable companies or of ones they founded, is that they all have a sincerity and generosity towards others while also being driven, focused and intelligent. Dr. Jennifer Dobbelsteyn, President of Dobbelsteyn Consulting Group International Inc. is no exception to this.

Jennifer has worked in the healthcare industry as both a nurse and in management but saw there was a gap in the system. Staff, who assist and care for ill patients that are often in devastating condition, often lack support themselves.  She decided to begin her consulting company as a way to improve “healthcare work environments for staff, thereby, improving the caring environment for patients,” after completing her PhD and MBA.

Jennifer shared with me about the importance of the work done by her consulting company:

“This work is timely and extremely important currently because of the changing demographics. The population is aging in Canada at an unprecedented rate, making long-term care the healthcare environment of the today and tomorrow… I work collaboratively with organizations to resolve the problem, involving front-line staff which allows organizational leadership to target their resources strategically.”

Through her firm, Jennifer aims to effect a positive change within organizations by providing necessary education sessions, valuing all staff and encouraging team work. Healthcare workers take on a lot of stress and a safe and supportive environment is key to motivating workers to be at their best for patients.

Despite achieving great success with her business, there are still changes that Jennifer feels are necessary to be made in Canada’s healthcare system. She sees a need for improvement and for a focus of provincial governments to be on working environments in healthcare, including “preventing violence, insuring occupational health and safety, promoting professionalism, managing workload, and stabilizing staffing.”

“I guess I thought that someone needs to do more about these problems facing the healthcare system. My next thought was that the someone can be me and my company,” she added.

Jennifer also sees a need to be a support to women in her workplace by inspiring them to speak up and fostering confidence in the environment. She motivates women in her field to strive for success, persevere and accomplish goals that make a difference.

One woman in history that certainly made a difference is Mother Teresa. Jennifer shares that if she could go back and meet one woman, it would be her, because of the inspirational and amazing work she devoted her life to.

As to what superpower Jennifer wishes she had, the realist shares how everyone has a superpower innately within them.

“We all have a superpower. We just need to discover what that is and use it to make a difference in our own small way,” she said, then added that she would love to have the power to make a workplace that is safe and perfect for all, despite this likely putting her out of work!

She is not a dreamer, but a doer and Jennifer is about getting things done that have positive and long term effects on society, while motivating others to do the same.

 For more about Jennifer and her consultation firm, visit www.dobbelsteyngroup.ca

Doug Ford and Kinga Surma controversy

The Ontario provincial campaign is well underway.  It seems there really isn’t a clear leader. Although the Conservatives initially appeared to be leading the pack in the early stages, controversy has shaken Doug Ford’s platform.

Ford was under attack last week after allegations surfaced that Tory candidates may have used stolen customer information obtained as part of a data breach from a toll highway operator.

The Liberals have shared evidence discovered in a recording that implicates Ford  involving membership and nomination of local Etobicoke conservative  candidate Kinga Surma.  Wynne’s party has released a tape of Doug Ford asking people to sign nomination papers for Kinga Surma and telling them that they don’t have to pay for them. This is illegal and something he, himself, has said he’ll put a stop to. He recently blamed  Patrick Brown for PC candidates accessing 407 data, but now it seems more likely that Mr. Ford may have had more involvement.

Ford reportedly paid for memberships of new Tories and indicated that memberships were “free”. This is illegal and goes against the PC party bylaws. The National Post indicates that a former top Conservative official who was at the 2016 vote, has confirmed this.

The Liberals have released a statement about the recording that implicates Doug Ford. The anonymous source  recorded Ford and Kinga Surma at a Tim Horton’s, offering free memberships.

The candidate who lost the Etobicoke nomination, Pina Martino, has since filed a complaint, that consists of  an email to then party lawyer Mike Richmond that Ford used “intimidation” tactics against her that included following her home. the National Post relays. The party allowed Kinga Surma to continue as the Etobicoke candidate, despite the complaint.

Surma began her career in politics in 2010 by working on Sarah Thomson’s Toronto mayoral election. She moved on to help George Smitherman’s race against Rob Ford and was then hired by Peter Milczyn who was a councillor in Etobicoke.

Kinga Surma has refrained from commenting on the latest controversy surrounding her and Doug Ford. The question is, why was membership stacked in favour of Ms. Surma by Doug Ford? Could there possibly be more to the relationship between Ford and Surma than politics?

 

 

Sidewalk Labs launches Toronto Transit Explorer App

Sidewalk Labs continues to impress Torontonians. The company won a bid to develop Toronto’s waterfront from the eastern section of Queen’s Quay, over to Parliament, into a high- tech hub. Many have shared worries about transparency and security, because the New York-based company has promised to collect data to help improve Toronto living. They will focus data collection on aspects like housing costs, and congestion, in addition to others like safety and development.

The Google-affiliated company has now launched  apps and made them “open-source,” which means they are open to the public. The latest app is Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto Transit Explorer, which was first presented at a public roundtable back in March.

The web application is available on desktop and mobile and takes data from a variety of open data sources, then creates an interactive map of transit in Toronto. This allows users to find out how accessible each form of transit is to them, and to compare which mode of transportation is best for reaching their destination by outlining the time it will take using each option.

 The app shows different colours; anything in blue means biking in that area is the most efficient form of transportation, white means that both transit and biking take about the same amount of time and red means public transit is fastest. Software Engineer Samara Trilling developed Toronto Transit Explorer and spoke about the benefit of the application.

This tool “can be really useful if you’re looking for the most accessible new apartment or a new school or if you want to compare if it’s worth it for you to buy a bike-share membership,” said Trilling.

Although there are a number of transportation modes to choose from on the app, Toronto Transit Explorer does not add the car as a mode of transportation because Sidewalk Labs is focusing on how accessible the city is to people, without the use of a car.

The company shared that its engineering team will build in scenarios in the future to see how changes to transit infrastructure might have an impact on city accessibility.

In addition to the Toronto Transit Explorer app, Sidewalk Labs also previously launched Old Toronto, which is an application that shares the history of Toronto by pairing old photography with landmarks in the city on an interactive map. It was developed by Software Engineer Dan Vanderkam.

Despite worries about security and data sharing, it’s clear that Sidewalk Labs is helping to ease these fears by demonstrating how devoted the company is to enhancing life and experience in Toronto through technology.

Summer salads, ace healthy eating

Summer is right around the corner and BBQ season has begun, but not everyone becomes excited about burgers and steaks straight off the grill. It’s also summer salad season. Let’s be honest, salads are a tad better for the waistline and there are many options when it comes to this food form. Here are a couple of healthy and delicious options for those who want to mix things up and bring some unique flavours to the next neighbourhood get-together.

Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad

 Ingredients:

1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. sea salt

3 c. cubed seedless watermelon

1 c. medium cucumber, chopped

1/2 c. coarsely chopped mint

1 c. crumbled feta

Whisk olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine cubed watermelon, cucumber, and mint. Pour contents from the small bowl over the watermelon mixture and top off with cubed feta and sea salt.

Fresh Broccoli Salad

 

Ingredients:

2 heads fresh broccoli

1 red onion

1/2 pound bacon

3/4 cup raisins

3/4 cup sliced almonds

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Place bacon in a deep skillet and cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Cool and crumble. Cut the broccoli into bite-size pieces and cut the onion into thin bite-size slices. Combine with the bacon, raisins, your favorite nuts and mix well. To prepare the dressing, mix the mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar together until smooth. Stir into the salad, let chill and serve. This makes 9 servings.

Southwestern Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

1/2 (16 ounce) package rotini pasta

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic

crushed1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves1 cup chopped roma (plum) tomatoes

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. In a large bowl combine oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, salt and garlic. Stir in pasta and set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn, beans, green pepper, red pepper and 1/2 of the cilantro leaves. Spoon onto a platter and garnish with tomatoes and remaining cilantro. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

Royal & rebels, can’t get enough

The day that royal enthusiasts have waited for over the past months has finally arrived. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are tying the knot today in Windsor. This Royal Wedding seems to have people even more excited than the masses were for Harry’s brother and the Duchess of Cambridge’s big day back in 2011. But why?

Perhaps it’s because Prince Harry is known as the more rebellious royal. Let’s face it, drama did surround Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s youngest for a number of years. For some reason, everyone loves a bit of a rebel. I know I do.

It’s also undeniable that Meghan Markle’s own family drama makes the former Suits star much more identifiable to commoners like me.  She was born into a middle class American family and is a divorcee. The royal family previously would have had an issue allowing a divorcee to marry into the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II bent the rules for her own son, when he married Camilla Bowles and that trend is carrying on for her grandson. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that it’s fantastic to see a more modern attitude from the long-reigning Queen.

Meghan’s drama and intrigue does not only come down to a divorce and her middle -class upbringing. She also has a half sister threatening to write an unflattering tell-all book about her and her father, sadly, was caught up in a staged paparazzi scandal, which means he has opted out of attending the royal occasion. As heartbreaking as that all sounds, it somehow amplifies Markle’s likeability.

She’s stunning, has a strong tie to Toronto, has a fashion sense that begs to be showcased, has ongoing drama in her life like everyone else, AND she snagged one of the most eligible bachelors on the planet while inspiring the royal family to be more open-minded? No wonder everyone is getting fascinators adjusted and tea parties organized, ready to tune in for today’s big event and to celebrate these two!

Here at Women’s Post, we are just as excited about the wedding of the year, and, dare I say, the Royal Wedding of the decade, as everyone else seems to be. Just the other day, I was talking to my lovely colleague about Meghan and how she used to wander the streets of Toronto as a relative unknown and frequent a favourite restaurant of mine on College Street. Now the stunner has gone and become royalty, covering pretty well every magazine around the globe. Ladies and gentlemen, fairy tales really can come true.

Don’t forget to follow @womenspost on social media for updates about Meghan and Harry’s big day today!

 

EllisDon unveils Ontario’s first net zero structure

Infrastructure companies are seeking new and innovative ways to develop while keeping the environment in mind. EllisDon is one internationally-known construction company that is set on reducing its carbon footprint.

 Most recently, the company took on the impressive project to build the Mohawk College Net Zero Energy Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation. It is Ontario’s first institutional building of its kind while also the first project under EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative.

McCullum Sather and B + H Architects joined forces with EllisDon to complete the project  The “ Net Zero” facility essentially  produces as much renewable energy as it consumes, which is fascinating seeing as infrastructure, and development usually result in energy consumption.

 Linda Franklin, President and CEO of Colleges Ontario, spoke about the completion of the structure and its importance for future generations:

“EllisDon’s expertise is helping colleges implement significant measures to contribute to a green energy future for Ontario – everything from net zero buildings to improving energy efficiency in existing buildings to training the next generation of green energy workers. This will make a real and measurable difference in reducing carbon emission throughout Ontario.”

The design of the college is remarkable. The exterior looks like sleek and futuristic artwork, and the building utilizes many green energy elements. These include geothermal wells, a storm water harvesting system and  an LED lighting system throughout. The structure also has a green and high-efficiency plumbing system,  is 5 storeys high and can accommodate 4,500 students. Outfitted with a mechanical system installed to enhance ventilation, heating and cooling it also has an electrical system that optimizes lighting.

Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, also shared in the excitement about this pilot project:

“We’re excited to witness one of the first pilot projects using CaGBC’s newly developed Zero Carbon Building Standard. Mohawk College incorporates energy harvesting and conservation technologies and is a giant leap in future proofing new buildings that are fit for purpose, offer climate resilience as well as an enhanced user experience. As the Paris Agreement has set the international challenge to reduce global emissions, green buildings, such as the Mohawk College, demonstrate that innovation and energy efficiency can work together without compromising design.”

EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative not only targets net zero energy emissions, but also vows to track carbon emitted over the course of various projects and aims to introduce new clean technologies that can still result in effective structures for clientele

 They are a leader in green building design and innovative ideas. Women’s Post salutes their initiative!

Green Party set on tolls

The provincial election has kicked off and party leaders are doing their best to sway voters with promises and by calling out opponents.  There is no clear front-runner at this point either, which makes for an exciting campaign

Ahead of last week’s debate, the Tories were holding steady as the favored party. Andrea Horvath of the NDP, seems to be closing the gap since she impressed during the debate while joining Premier Wynne by taking aim at Doug Ford.

Most recently, it’s the Green Party that has earned the attention of voters after unveiling a tiered platform consisting of 9 parts.  Leader Mike Schreiner has high hopes that the platform will lead to the Green Party’s first seats in legislature.

On Monday, Schreiner shared the 9-part plan, named “People Powered Change.”  The platform focuses on the environment, transit, affordable housing and the expansion of health care, while also including the implementation of province-wide basic income.

“Greens are showing people that we can do politics differently,” he said. “Greens in Ontario are ready. We are ready to lead, we are ready to elect our first MPP. We believe it is time to end red tape for the most vulnerable in Ontario and ensure that everyone has a basic income guarantee,” he said.

One inclusion in the platform is to implement road tolls on all 400-series highways. Schreiner insists that tolling could raise over $1.4 billion for the province. He also intends to raise over $100 million in land value taxes and expand transit across the GTA

The 9- tier plan includes developing a clean economy, making homes and business more energy efficient, lowering payroll taxes on small businesses and non-profits, requiring all new developments include a minimum of 20 per cent affordable housing, putting mental health services under OHIP, implementing a basic income guarantee province-wide, protecting the environment, moving Ontario toward 100 per cent renewable energy, and expanding transit across the GTA.

Although the Green Party is focused on making big moves this election, Schreiner was left out of the recent debate between NDP, Conservative and Liberal leaders. The election is on June 7. Until voters take to the polls, it’s anyone’s game.