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Kaeleigh Phillips

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Ontario needs to make conservation a priority

Have you ever been hiking on Manitoulin Island or in the Niagara Escarpment and paused for a moment to appreciate the ethereal beauty of the natural land?

Conservation is the only way to ensure that certain areas remain protected  in Ontario. The problem is that it is no easy feat to keep land from the greedy hands of major developers, and every single day more of these natural habitats disappears. Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy is a land trust that is dedicated to ensuring natural landmarks are conserved in the province. Unfortunately, the province of Ontario has removed their funding and this leaves the charity in a difficult position to continue protecting natural regions.

As a land trust, Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy accepts donations of land for conservation and also helps property owners to protect their own land from buyers. The conservancy is spearheaded by Robert Barnett, a passionate conservation advocate and architect by trade. The charity has 151 nature reserves making up 47 km altogether in the province. Biosphere focuses operations in the escarpment, but has several reserves across the province and is the second largest conservation charity in Ontario.

Thomson Reserve near Wiarton, Ont. Photo provided by Bob Barnett, Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy.
Thomson Reserve near Wiarton, Ont. Photo provided by Bob Barnett, Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy.

However, the charity has been facing roadblocks since their funding was removed in 2012. In that same year, the provincial government released a new plan called biodiversity: it’s in our nature to compliment Canada’s decision to sign a mandate towards conserving 17 per cent of Ontario land by 2020. The plan indicated that by 2020, “17 per cent of terrestrial and aquatic systems are conserved through well-connected networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures”. Four years later, conservation areas stand at 4.4 per cent.

“The minister announced this plan in 2012 and now of course nothing is happening. They aren’t increasing the land protected area at all,” Barnett says. “The premier has given the minister a mandate to protect our biodiversity and once again, nothing is being done. The environmental commissioner at the time, Diane Sax, recommended that they put funding into protected areas. This means the environmental commissioner, the premier, and the biodiversity initiative are being ignored.”

More than that, the province removed the charity’s funding the same year they introduced the new plan to increase biodiversity conservation. Previously, Biosphere received $30,000 to $40,000 in provincial funding to support operations at the charity. Now, Barnett can only rely on cash donations and limited federal funding for the projects.

“We spend $100,000 a year to protect the land, for legal fees and getting inventories done. It costs $5000 to receive a land donation because of appraisals and paperwork,” Barnett says. “That is a lot of money for a charity and we just don’t have it.”

Barnett believes that the funding cuts are in part due to the budget cuts the Ontario ministry of natural resources has experienced in the last five years. That being said, natural areas bring $84 billion to the economy and the conservation funding only costs $135,000. The Ontario government could easily fund such a low budget to complete such an important task.

Cape Hurd where one of the cottages to rent is located. Photo provided by Bob Barnett, Escarpment Biosphere conservancy.
Cape Hurd where one of the cottages to rent is located. Photo provided by Bob Barnett, Escarpment Biosphere conservancy.

One MPP is trying to make a difference for property owners interested in conservation. Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle has introduced a private member’s bill to lower the property tax on private properties that place covenants protecting the land on their property. If a person owns a piece of land, they have the option to contact a land trust such as Biosphere to create a list of restrictions — known as covenants — to prevent future land owners from ever building a gravel pit on the land for example. In exchange for placing covenants on the land, homeowners receive a $100,000 tax receipt from Biosphere as a part of the land trust.

Placing covenants on the land lowers the property value, but the province continues to charge them the same property tax anyways. Colle has presented a bill to lower the property tax for conservation covenants to zero. The bill has had its first reading in 2012 and has since been stalled.  It is yet another example of the province not putting conservation of the land as a priority.

It is apparent that the province needs to pull up its britches and take conservation seriously. The fact that only four per cent of land in Ontario is protected when there is a mandate in place to have 17 per cent is unacceptable. The funding for Biosphere and other conservation charities needs to be reinstated and hopefully Colle’s bill will pass second reading and become law. Conservation doesn’t appear to be a priority — let’s make it one!

The top 5 most sustainable cities in the world

What does it mean to live in the most sustainable city in the world?

Imagine living in a place that has an urban planning agenda that focuses on the environment while maintaining prosperous development and has a booming economy. This type of city places health as a top priority, and offers recreation activities and high-level education.

To be sustainable means to only use as much as can be naturally replaced in order to sustain and maintain this place all people call home. Existing within our means in large cities can have an incredible impact on the planet, and every city needs to make sustainability a priority. Frankfurt is leading the way as the most sustainable city in the world, according to the Sustainable Cities Index. This internationally-recognized index analyzes three key factors when looking at each city: people, planet, and profit. The first measurement tool, people, includes the quality of life for citizens of that particular region, which includes factors like education, green spaces, and health. Focusing on environmental initiatives, planet measures energy emissions, pollution, renewable energy, air pollution and solid waste management. The profit of a city is measured by how well the business economy is doing as well as its economic performance, which is calculated by using GDP and the cost of doing business.

Here are the top five most sustainable cities in the world:

Frankfurt, Germany.
Frankfurt, Germany.
  1. Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt was listed as the most sustainable city in the world because of its dedication to sustainability and helping the environment. “Green City Frankfurt”, as it is popularly dubbed, has its own energy agency and is the founding member of the Climate Alliance of European Cities created in 1990. The city has committed to lowering CO2 emissions by 10 per cent every five years with a 50 per cent cut by 2050. Currently, the city has lowered CO2 emissions by 15 per cent since 1990, while still growing its economic power 50 per cent. Frankfurt is also home to Germany’s largest city forest and is surrounded by a Greenbelt.

London, England. By Jim Trodel.
London, England. By Jim Trodel.
  1. London, England

London falls into second place with high scores on the people and profit measures because of a strong healthcare system and highly-ranked education facilities. The British city is also an international economic center and is the best connected global city alongside New York. The current mayor of London has launched a 2020 vision to make London “the Greatest City on Earth” to become the best city for work, living, investing and doing business. The mayor also set a target to lower carbon emissions by 65 per cent by 2025 from 1990 levels. London isn’t a leader in environmental initiatives, but is still a sustainable city when it comes to its strong economy and high quality of life.

Copenhagen, Denmark.
Copenhagen, Denmark.
  1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen city council has created a climate change plan, similar to Frankfurt and is going a step further by preparing for the future effects of climate change now. The city is developing a plan to catch all of the rainwater in the city because of the lowering precipitation that is expected from climate change. Copenhagen also has green roofs, living walls, and pavements that allow water to percolate through. The quality of living is reportedly high in Copenhagen and the city is booming.

Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  1. Amsterdam, Netherlands

In Amsterdam, the city takes a leading global role in creating green business. Many enterprises in Amsterdam are creating green products that are being sold worldwide and is also invested in creating highly sustainable buildings in their downtown core. Amsterdam boasts an electric transportation system and is dedicated to using sustainable electricity. It has a goal that by 2020, 92,000 households will be using renewable energy. Amsterdam scored high in all three categories, making it the most balanced city in the world.

Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Rotterdam, Netherlands.
  1. Rotterdam, Netherlands

Rotterdam has the highest quality of life for its people out of any city in the world because of its high literacy rate and good work-life balance. The city has also launched green programs, but scores lower in these categories than other cities. The Rotterdam Sustainability Programme is a plan that wants to make a clean and green city, and reduce carbon emissions in half. Rotterdam also claims the world’s largest carbon capture program known as the Rotterdam Capture and Storage Demonstration Project (ROAD) that will be stored in an empty gas reservoir in the North Sea. The government committed to spending $31 million towards the green program.

Sustainability is the way of the future if we want to save our planet. Many cities are taking initiative and Europe is definitely leading the way. In October, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) will bring together cities across the world to discuss how to reach a sustainable standard similar to Frankfurt or London. Toronto is ranked at number 12, and if the city attends Habitat III and adopts new strategies of more sustainable cities, the “six” could climb into the top ten.

In the midst of global distrust due to isolated acts of terrorism in Europe and other parts of the world, Habitat III will be an opportunity for cities to unite and work together towards creating a sustainable and healthy world. I look forward to seeing which concepts and ideas are adopted in Canadian cities and to see positive impacts of global communication for a change.

 

B.C implements foreign tax on housing in Vancouver

Buying an affordable house in Vancouver is often compared to living in the land of unicorns and leprechauns, but B.C’s new legislation may help make this far-away dream a reality once again.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark announced a one-time 15 per cent tax on Monday, July 25 in Vancouver that would apply to foreign investors who are neither Canadian citizens, nor permanent residents, in an effort to cool the housing market. The new legislation applies to residential real estate in Metro Vancouver, from Bowen Island to Maple Ridge and Langley, and begins on Aug. 2.

With the new foreign tax, a $2 million home in Vancouver would accumulate an additional $300,000 if purchased by a foreign buyer. If a foreign buyer purchased a home for $10 million, this tax would raise to $1.5 million. On the other hand, if a foreign buyer tried to avoid the tax, “anti-avoidance” measures would be put in place that include $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for corporations that don’t comply to the legislation.

The funds raised by the new tax will be put towards a new housing priority initiatives fund for provincial housing and rental programs that is set to be launched in the near future. This fund will receive an initial investment of $75 million from the government and then begin to accumulate revenues from the tax on foreign buyers.

In order to obtain the necessary information on buyers in Vancouver, Clark also announced the Real Estate Services Act, which officially ends the real estate board’s self-regulation or ability to govern itself. The government’s involvement in the industry will allow them to access information on buyers to see what homes will be charged the foreign tax. Finally, the province will also introduce a vacancy tax that targets empty rental homes of foreign investors to increase the number of available rentals.

There are possible issues with the foreign tax, though the response from B.C home buyers has been overwhelmingly positive. Investors could potentially avoid the tax by getting family members to purchase properties, highlighting a loophole in the legislation that relies on buyers reporting their nationality honestly. The tax may also hurt international recruitment because new immigrants won’t be able to purchase property tax-free until they are permanent residents or Canadian citizens.

Toronto’s housing market has skyrocketed and a foreign tax in Canada’s largest city would cool the hottest housing market in the east as well. Ontario Financial Minister Charles Souza reported he is looking at implementing a similar law in Toronto. Hopefully Toronto will follow Vancouver’s lead and take necessary steps to implement a foreign tax and cool the housing market for local buyers. The outcome of the foreign tax remains to be seen, but any effort to lower housing prices and give people access to homes is a step is a good move.

 

First Nations housing crisis may have a sustainable solution

Imagine living in a house without running water and having to share your room with five or more people. A fire ignites in the kitchen and takes over the home. There are no fire hydrants nearby. The fire consumes the house and takes those five lives with it.

Unfortunately, this is a reality and it is happening in our own province. The Pikangikum reserve in Northern Ontario suffered a huge loss in March 2016 when nine people were killed in a fire contributed by unliveable homes and a severe lack of resources. The First Nations in Northern Ontario are experiencing an affordable housing crisis and the conditions are appalling. According to Statistics Canada, 29 per cent of Aboriginal Canadians live in houses that need repair and 45 per cent of First Nations live in homes on reserves that need repairs.

To help the First Nations build affordable housing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised $2.6 billion during his electoral campaign in October 2015. After the federal budget was released in March, it appears that campaign promise will not be fulfilled unless the liberal government is re-elected in 2019. The budget for First Nations is spread out over four years, and over half of the $2.6 billion is back-ended, with $647 million in 2019 and $801 promised in 2020 after elections.

In short, the First Nations are being put on the back burner yet again. Living in isolated reserves in locations as far as 600 km north of Thunder Bay, it is easy to ignore these suffering populations. Affordable housing often lacks materials that last, and the conditions of the dilapidated homes have increased as years have passed without repairs. The allocation of funds into various First Nations reserves doesn’t tackle affordable housing strategy and it is expensive to build and transfer materials so far north, which leaves people without a way to fix their homes in remote places.

Fortunately, an environmentally-friendly company is taking the problem seriously. Earthship Biotecture has launched an initiative to build a sustainable home in the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve 100 km south-west of Toronto. The company is covering some of the costs, along with thousands of dollars raised through fundraising.

Earthship builds sustainable homes around the world for people in need, and upon hearing of the First Nations housing crisis, set off to build a home in Ontario. Owner Michael Reynolds has built self-sustaining homes out of recycled materials for 45 years. The home in Grand River will use recycled tires, have solar panels and a cistern to collect rainwater. It will hopefully be the first of many sustainable homes for the First Nations in Ontario. Tires are commonly used in Earthship homes and create sturdy and well-done walls.

Toronto Mayor John Tory took a personal trip to Big Trout Lake, a reserve 2500 km north to learn more about First Nations culture on the weekend of July 15th. Thirty per cent of Toronto’s shelter system is used by First Nation’s men and women. Tory reported returning with a better understanding of indigenous cultures, and advocated on behalf of reconciliation for First Nations in Canada.

This particular housing crisis is gaining public attention from non-profits and all levels of government, but more needs to be done. The federal government needs to keep its budget promises and even invest in building more sustainable homes in partnership with companies such as Earthship. The new house in Grand River is a first step, and hopefully many more of these projects will pop up after the construction of the Earthship’s first Canadian home is completed.

RECIPE: Mouth-watering savoury vegan cookie

Are you tired of only having sweet vegan baked goods?

Chef Katherine Kooks is breaking new ground in the vegan cookie market by choosing to create a savoury baked good instead of a sweet cookie. Using several healthy ingredients, her savoury vegan cookie is a protein power punch that has distinct garlic and onion flavours, but maintains the chewy texture of a cookie. It is unlike any baked good I have found in a vegan bakery.

Savoury Onion Garlic Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup oats

1 cup quinoa flakes

¼ cup chia seeds

¼ cup flax seeds

¼ cup hemp seeds

1 small Spanish onion

2 cloves of garlic

1/3 bunch thyme

Pinch of sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Soak the chia and flax seeds in ½ cup of water for 20 minutes until a paste is formed.
  2. Combine dry ingredients and flax/chia seed combination. Mix well and let stand for five minutes.
  3. Saute garlic and onion and remove from heat.
  4. Roll out dough with a pin and use a cookie cutter to make uniform cookie shapes.
  5. Place in the dehydrator at 145 degrees for one hour.
  6. Unplug and flip the cookies. Reduce temperature to 115 degrees and let run for 10 to 12 hours.

Katherine Kooks has started selling her cookies at markets in Toronto, and following her on Instagram will give you a heads up on where this ingenious gluten-free and soy-free snack is headed next!

Concrete has potential to be the greenest building materials

When I walk downtown, I am always slightly in awe of the construction of these magnificent concrete buildings looming over me. How can people build to such heights? Then my environmental brain kicks in, and I wonder if these concrete edifices are the result of years of planetary destruction. As it turns out, concrete has more potential to be green than I originally thought. If all concrete companies made sustainable production their priority, I dare say it could become the most environmentally-promising building material currently available.

Concrete is versatile, low maintenance, strong, diverse, and affordable. It is also one of the oldest building materials in the world, dating back to both the Roman and Egyptian times. It is a reliable thermal insulator and retains heat inside of the home, but it also cools buildings in the hot summer months. Concrete is also recyclable and can be broken down and used as aggregate when a building is torn down. A 2015 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discovered that concrete saves 20 per cent of the energy consumed by buildings made of wood.

That being said, concrete is still responsible for five per cent of carbon emissions. In order to become the greenest building material on the market, companies have to modify the way they produce their building blocks. Holcim, who recently joined forces with Lafarge, is one of the top ranking concrete company to use sustainable building practices on a global basis.

It takes a large amount of thermal energy to create concrete and that strongly contributes to its large carbon footprint. Holcim and Lafarge are sourcing their fuel from renewable energy resources such as waste and biomass. This production change will help Holcium meet global goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to pre-1990 levels, or 40 per cent by 2030. To date, they are on track with a 26 per cent reduction. Using carbon capture mechanisms to prevent high levels of carbon from being released also creates a more sustainable product.

It appears that concrete has potential to be one of the most sustainable building materials, but how do other building materials compare?

Tree sequestration is a popular construction material, and a lot of people think it’s sustainable because forests absorb carbon dioxide while they are growing. However, it is only sustainable if there is a larger plan to replace the wood cut for construction. Even if a company replants the trees and leaves portions of the forest untouched, it is still impossible to replace the natural biological diversity that existed before harvesting. It also takes time to regrow the trees that are used, which reduces the sustainability of this building material.

Another popular building material is glass, but there are arguments to be made that concrete is still the better choice. Glass is a sustainable building material because it is 100 per cent recyclable. Though glass is environmentally-friendly, it is not very durable and requires high maintenance and care. It is also not an efficient thermal insulator in comparison to concrete.

The highest polluting building materials are aluminum and steel, because these products need several materials. It takes six pounds of bauxite ore to yield one pound of aluminum, and the bauxite is strip-mined from tropical rainforests. Aluminum also requires 270 GJ/t of production energy as compared to concrete that only uses 1.4 GJ/t. Obviously, aluminum and steel are not sustainable building options and builders should avoid using them at all cost.

Compared to other options, concrete is clearly one of the best environmentally-friendly building materials available. The next step now lies in the companies themselves. If every concrete company embraced carbon capture and used biofuels, it would help reduce the global carbon footprint and the world would still have a truly reliable type of construction.

Ontario is on its way to clean energy

How clean is Ontario’s electricity?

Toronto and the rest of the province is avidly working towards embracing clean energy, but it has a long road ahead to catch up to other cities such as Reykjavik, Iceland, who leads the world in clean electricity through their use of geothermal and hydro energy.

Toronto produced 20,313,061 metric tonnes of CO2 last year. The city is involved in lowering greenhouse emissions, and the Ontario Green Energy Act (GEA) will help towards this goal. According to a report published by the Carbon Disclosure Project, a partner of AECOM, cities worldwide produce 78 per cent of energy emissions. But, the easiest way to reduce carbon emissions is by reducing your personal energy consumption.

Since the province decided to draw away from electricity fuelled by coal, other forms of energy have increased in Toronto that are more green and sustainable — also known as clean energy.  Nuclear energy produces 53 per cent of Toronto’s electricity, followed by Hydro at 26 per cent. Wind power only produces 11 per cent of the city’s energy, and solar power and biomass yield less than one per cent. Currently, the total capacity of renewable electricity is 40 MW, which generates 23,816 MWh annually. The City of Toronto is working towards incorporating more renewable energy into the grid through solar photovoltaic, wind and bioenergy in various programs such as green roofs.

Though nuclear energy is not officially considered a renewable energy resource, nuclear fusion could be considered sustainable if it were harnessed and used safely. We use nuclear fission, a secondary process of nuclear that produces mass amounts of energy and synthesizes easily with other renewable energy sources. On the other hand, nuclear fusion is replete with issues because if it isn’t harnessed correctly, it could be catastrophic (as exemplified in Chernobyl). If there was a way to use nuclear fusion with no threat of harming people or the planet, it could become the primary renewable energy source because its energy potential is limitless.

Another kind of renewable energy is biomass, which is created by burning left-over scraps taken from forests and agricultural operations and capturing the carbon energy that is released as an energy source. Though burning has faced criticism as a clean energy source, it helps use left-over materials to produce fuels that can power vehicles.

Ontario doesn’t use coal because it is unsustainable and produces high levels of carbon emissions. Two of these coal plants were transferred into biomass fuel plants and have been quite successful at producing energy. Atikokan and Thunderbay Generating Stations have been converted to biomass plants because the process requires a similar fuel storage and handling system to coal, and it allowed people to keep their jobs supporting a more sustainable energy source.

Many people in Ontario have been complaining about their rising hydro costs, but what they need to realize is they are paying into the future. The Clean Energy Act is paving the way for Ontario to successfully meet climate change targets, and there is a cost to going green. But, there is still so much to do! Ontario should be providing strong incentive programs for people who are struggling to pay their hydro bills. Currently aid programs exist for low-income residents, but more substantial incentives and education could help Ontario residents hop on board the green road to clean energy.

Five vegetables and fruits to grow indoors

As someone who doesn’t have a backyard, I miss gardening greatly. But, with a green thumb and a little bit of ingenuity, gardening indoors is possible. Growing fruits and vegetables in your home can be simply satisfying — seeing something grow from a seedling to something we eat can be deeply rewarding, not to mention delicious to consume.

1. Avocado 

Avocado trees can be grown indoors and produce a delicious fruit that is full of iron and vitamin E. The best way to grow avocados is to purchase a small avocado plant and place it in an area with high ceilings, because it can grow to over 11 ft. high (though this takes a number of years)! Make sure to plant with sand in the bottom of the pot to avoid the avocados becoming waterlogged. Potted plants can sometimes become clogged with water and then the plant itself drowns. Water daily, and prune the shoots for optimal growth.

sprouts-763457_1920

2. Microgreens 

Microgreens includes sprouts, radishes, kale, swiss chard, or beets. Fill a shallow tray with soil and moisten with water. Sprinkle the seeds evenly and place in direct sunlight, preferably on a windowsill. If you do not have access to direct sunlight, grow lights that can be purchased at most local gardening stores. Water with a light spray bottle daily so the sensitive plants won’t become waterlogged. Microgreens are relatively easy to grow and taste delectable in a summer salad.

Fresh herbs. By Suzanne.
Fresh herbs. By Suzanne.

3. Herbs

The easiest edible plants to grow in both indoor and outdoor gardens are herbs. Dill, basil, and rosemary are popular options and will leave your living space smell delightful. Planting in a shallow planter similar to microgreens and placing close to sunlight will help the herbs grow. Basil needs as much sunlight as possible. Remember to prune the herbs so that they flourish.

Lemon Tree.
Lemon Tree.

4. Lemons

Lemons can be used to flavour dishes and adds a refreshing taste to a cool glass of water in the summer months. Purchase a two to three year old dwarf lemon plant from a nursery and put it in a pot that is slightly bigger than the bulb of the plant. Use a draining plate in the bottom of the pot to catch extra water. Mist the leaves with water and keep the soil moist. Lemons need at least 12 hours of sunlight daily to thrive.

5. Oranges 

Similar to lemons, dwarf orange trees can grow successfully indoors while potted. Purchase a tree from a nursery and pot it with a draining plate to allow access water to leave the soil. Spray the leaves and keep soil moist in the sunshine. Buying both an orange and lemon plant together would be a worthy purchase considering their care is so similar.

Get growing indoors, and enjoy the increase in oxygen flow in your home, and fresh food on your table. What do you grow indoors? 

 

Kensington small businesses are essential for sustainable growth

If the financial district is the brain of Toronto, Kensington Market must be the heart.

The market is an artistic centre of culture that holds a variety of unique retail boutiques, beautiful art, an eclectic combination of hippies and punks, and several fun restaurants and bars. In the middle of inner-city Toronto, this fragile ecosystem is threatened by rising prices, condo development and gentrification. But, there are people in power who want to keep Kensington local and sustainable, and protect it from being overtaken by large buildings and corporations. A property tax adjustment pilot project targeting small retail businesses could save the area.

Nigel Murray, owner of Dancing Days, a vintage retail shop in the area, feels the pain of the property tax hikes. “Last year, my property taxes were $7,000 and it went up with the property assessment to $15,000,” Murray says. “How much business can you possibly do when the rent is so high?”

The motion to support small retail businesses in Kensington Market is being supported by Councillor Joe Cressy and Councillor Michael Thompson. The project would incentivize high-risk retail businesses that are in expensive areas to stay open by providing lower property taxes. By providing financial relief in the form of tax adjustments, retail businesses can stay afloat and Kensington Market maintains its artistic and cultural roots.

Small retail businesses provide more than just artsy items for consumers, they offer sustainable growth and cultural integrity to a neighbourhood. The people of Kensington value creating community and in keeping money local. Kensington Market is a prime example of how a community can be dense, but doesn’t need to sacrifice its identity in order to grow sustainably. Density is often equated with development, but it can also be created by building cultural value into neighbourhoods and using existing space to foster independent market places instead of large-scale shopping centres.

Kensington Market’s popularity also drives up prices. Everyone wants to take part in the cultural phenomenon of the cool and artistic marketplace in downtown Toronto, and wealthier investors are taking an interest in the area. “Kensington Market is coming up,”Walter Munos, owner of One Heart Design, says. “Where there are the artistic people, the rich people come. These owners know there is a change because the rent gets higher every year.”

Since controlling the popularity of the area is nearly impossible, the solution must be to protect the cultural integrity of Kensington Market at a city level. the motion to protect small retail businesses in Kensington Market was approved at City Council on Tuesday to be reviewed by the executive committee in October. If the project is a success, it can also be repeated in other areas and local and sustainable community development can continue to prosper in Toronto.

Motion for gender disparity pushed until October at City Council

City Council has promised to address greater gender diversity on the boards of directors of public and private corporations in October.

Councillor Michelle Holland presented a motion to City Council that would see new appointments for women on public boards to start as soon as fall 2016. The motion further directs that all public appointments on boards in Toronto be made up of 50 per cent women by 2019. Unfortunately, the motion was deferred until October because of a heavy agenda at this month’s meeting.

Women in Canada only represent 15.9 per cent of board positions in large corporations and public companies only have 12.1 per cent women. Crown corporations have the highest representation in public office with 30 per cent, but this still falls well below the 50 per cent mark.

This motion is influenced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to have 50 per cent representation in his federal cabinet, which has arguably renewed the work equality debate in Canada. Ontario has also promised to have 40 per cent women representation on their boards by 2019. Involving Toronto in the gender parity goal makes sense alongside the other levels of government so that women can have better representation in positions of power too.

Private FP500 companies have increased their gender parity on boards in their companies to 19.5 per cent in 2015, according to a report by the Canadian Board Diversity Council. Ontario Securities Commission rose the bar when they created new disclosure criteria for gender diversity in Dec. 2014.  Public boards have a lower percentage of equal representation compared to private corporations in Canada.

In a country that advocates on behalf on gender equality, I wonder when the employment sector will embrace gender parity entirely. Both public and private institutions need equal representation on their boards, and it is interesting to see that private companies are leading the way. The fact that the motion was pushed to executive council in October indicates the issue was dismissed in the wake of an important time for gender equality in politics. Toronto needs to join the movement and take women’s rights seriously at City Council.

Women’s Post will be watching to see how seriously the motion is taken in October.