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Budget cuts could increase efficiency of affordable housing

City Council made an announcement of a 2.6 per cent budget cut that will affect all programs, including affordable housing. So what does this mean for the Open Door program and other affordable housing initiatives in the city?

When the budget cuts were presented at council Tuesday, Councillor Mike Layton put forward a motion to protect Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), which the chair of affordable housing and Councillor Ana Bailao surprisingly voted against.

Though budget cuts are never welcome news for desperate programs like affordable housing, it isn’t as dire as it may seem. Councillor Bailao explains an alternative perspective to the budget cuts involving affordable housing that would ensure it doesn’t cut essential services, but instead would rid the system of inefficiencies.

“We weren’t discussing if anything specific was going to be cut. At community housing, we have 107 IT applications that don’t speak on each other. If we embark on an IT restructure and reduce the cost of doing things, isn’t that a good thing?” Bailao says. “There was nobody talking about cutting anything with an impact. If I can get 2.6 per cent in reduction to be more efficient, why wouldn’t I look at that?”

If the budget cuts put pressure on TCHC to make it more efficient, it could benefit the affordable housing agenda overall. The affordable housing corporation has come under fire over for their inefficiencies, long waitlists, and a lack of proper care for residents. Perhaps tightening up operations would propel TCHC into gear. Open Door, an affordable housing program and approved and amended Wednesday, attempts to address some of these concerns.

The Open Door Affordable Housing program was introduced by Councillor Bailao and Mayor John Tory in November 2015 in an attempt to meet housing targets put forth by the 10-year affordable housing plan. “The plan is for 1000 rental units and 200 ownership annually. There hasn’t been one year that we have fulfilled that goal,” Bailao says. “We know the city is trying hard and we are trying to enhance the partnership. Aside from the affordable housing program, we are saying the city is going to contribute.” Open Door streamlines building applications that have a minimum of 20 per cent affordable housing, provides government land and provides incentives such as the avoidance of building fees and permits.

Additionally, 294 new affordable housing properties were approved in council on Tuesday. Councillor Ana Bailao and other City Council members are slowly but surely making progress in the affordable housing profile though sometimes success feels limited. The recent 550 subsidies for $250 for families that have been on the waitlist for 10 years or more is a prime example of how the needs of people who require housing are not being met as much as the city would like.

“These are larger families that have been on the list for so long. Having a federal government that is talking about a federal housing strategy allows us to do a little more,” Bailao says. “They will be allowed to continue on the waiting list because we don’t believe it is enough but it is a little bit of help.” The Federal Housing Strategy that was recently launched should further help support affordable housing in Toronto.

The Federal Housing Strategy and Toronto’s Housing Summit should help to promote fresh ideas. The Summit will be put on by the City of Toronto to promote new ideas and gather stakeholders to talk about affordable housing solutions. Using sustainable building practices is an example of a possible solution to reduce costs and support the environment.  “The province released their green fund for social housing so that we can get environmental and repairs benefits, and reductions in operations such as electricity. More and more social housing providers are going in that direction,” Bailao says.

It is an uphill battle for Councillor Bailao and the TCHC because of the long waitlist and lack of available affordable housing, but innovation and perseverance could bring the change that Toronto needs. Open Door is a step in the right direction, and it will be interesting to see where the budget cuts are applied.

Open your door to the housing agenda at City Council

Affordable housing is on the agenda at this month’s city council meeting, only falling behind transit as a central focus. The Open Door Affordable Housing Program spearheaded by Toronto Mayor John Tory and Councillor Ana Bailão is on the agenda at the July City Council. Here is a rundown of the different programs and motions being recommended:

The Open Door program works to streamline the affordable housing process to speed up approvals and provide incentives for developers to create affordable and mixed-use housing. Open Door would provide incentives to private developers who are looking to build affordable housing. This includes providing an exemption from building and planning permit fees in order to build affordable housing and would be secured for a 20-year term.

The Open Door program is part of the 10-year Affordable Housing Action Plan 2010-2020 (HOT). HOT has a target of 1000 affordable rental homes and 200 new affordable ownership homes annually, or 10,000 rentals and 2000 ownership homes over 10 years. Currently, the project is set to fall short by 6000 rental units and nearly 600 affordable ownership homes. Open Door hopes to remedy that situation by implementing more development by the private sector, piloting projects, activating government land, and streamlining city processes.

The CityPlace site at Bathurst St. and Lakeshore Blvd. and is one of the five sites chosen to kick off the project. This project will provide 389 affordable rental and ownership units. There will be 80 affordable homes built in the area.

Other projects that will be discussed in City Council include a program for 100 new affordable rentals and ownership homes at 30 Tippet Rd, and 32 new affordable ownership homes at 2 Bicknell Ave. Securing affordable ownership housing at 505 Richmond St. W. is a priority and property tax exemptions at 3087 Danforth Ave. and at 3738 St. Clair Ave. E. is also on the agenda.

Councillor Joe Cressy also introduced an item that discusses the role of Toronto Community Housing. This item on the agenda recommends that City Council transition a portion of Toronto Community Housing Corporation into a new community-based non-profit corporation. This recommendation was made in light of the organization’s reputation of being an unsuitable landlord for affordable housing tenants. Cressy is pushing for more council support in affordable housing to give residents better care.

It is a busy day in City Council, and the transit debate is sure to take over the agenda Wednesday. However, we can hope that once a decision has been made the city can finally focus on the affordable housing projects the residents of Toronto desperately need.

Desk yoga to help alleviate aches and pains

Sitting at a desk for the better part of the day is hard on the body and can cause back aches and discomfort.

Instead of sitting still for hours staring at the computer screen, desk yoga provides an opportunity to get up and stretch to ease those aching bones. Here are a few easy poses that will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to return back to work without aches and pains.

Scale Pose

Sitting on the edge of your chair, press your hands onto either side of the chair and lift your legs and buttocks off the chair. This will stretch your abdominal muscles and help relax your back. Engaging your core is revitalizing and stretching your arm muscles helps to engage different parts of your body. Hold for three to five breaths and repeat two or more times.

High Altar Pose

Place your arms above your head, and clasp your hands together. Stretch to both sides and breathe in and out while moving slowly downward. This action will stretch your lower back muscles, and realign your spine. It also engages your core, and expands your stomach muscles. Sitting for long periods of time can be damaging to the digestive system and stretching stomach muscles can help.

Cat and Cow

Sit on the edge of your chair, and round your back into the cat position. Hang your neck, allowing it to relax. This motion also stretches the spine, and eases pressure on the lower back muscles. Take a deep breath and move into cow, where you push your shoulders back and engages the back of the shoulders. Stretching the shoulder muscles will also expand the lower back and further relax the area. This pose is amazing on several levels for the back and shoulders.

The Twist

Sit with your feet flat on the floor, and your palms face down on your knees. Turn your body to either side, until you can see behind your shoulder. Repeat this on the other side. The twist stretches several areas of the body, from head to toe. The pose itself is fairly easy to do and will stretch out your back muscles, the shoulders, neck, and buttocks all at once.

Three-part Breathing

Breathing is vital to our nervous system. If we do not take the time to breathe, we will feel unwell mentally and physically. Taking time to breathe is the most important stretch of all, and will revitalize completely. A three-part breath begins with breathing in, followed by engaging the stomach muscles deeply by holding the breath for a second, followed by a deep release. Doing this movement several times will calm the system, and give you energy in a way coffee never could.

Taking time to stretch and taking deep breaths should be of equal priority to working during the day. It will help you be a better employee overall and will ease the build-up of stress in the workplace. Try to get your colleagues involved. Enjoy being an ache-free working yogi.

What kind of stretches do you do at your desk? Let us know in the comments below!

Inflated Toronto housing market prevents buyers from going green

High housing prices in Toronto are affecting homebuyer’s pockets and effectively preventing them from investing money in building sustainably instead.

The real estate market has skyrocketed, with expensive homes and low availability for people looking to buy. A detached single-family home in the GTA costing between $2 million and $4 million rose 77 per cent compared to 2015. Single detached homes in the GTA between $1 million and $2 million rose 64 per cent compared to the prior year. Homes have become unaffordable and are causing homebuyers to pool all of their available funds into buying a house at an extremely inflated price.

When homebuyers use every penny to invest in their home and begin paying their mortgage, much needed sustainable building practices such as solar panels or geothermal energy are cast by the wayside. Homebuyers often view sustainable practices as expensive and not worthy in the long-term. Though sustainable energy can be expensive initially, the long term investment is actually less expensive. However, many people aren’t even considering green energy investment because of current astronomical costs of housing.

Solutions are being discussed though to remedy the inflated real estate market and assuage the housing issues at hand. The federal government is discussing a speculative tax targeted at foreign investors. Many properties in Toronto and Vancouver — the two Canadian housing markets that have increased — are owned by absentee owners. The Canadian government has made it fairly easy for foreign investors to purchase property without paying taxes as a local citizen and it has helped inflate the market significantly.

One idea that has been presented to help Vancouver’s housing market is the B.C Housing Affordability fund. House owners would be charged a 1.5 per cent property surcharge on residential real estate, which would amount to $15,000 on a $1 million property. If the homeowner paid over $15,000 in income taxes though, they would be exempt from the surcharge.

Another issue that is driving housing prices upwards is a loophole in the real estate board that allows investors to flip properties without being taxed, which drives up the property value at a fast rate without repercussions. In Vancouver, the provincial government has promised to intervene in the real estate board to ensure they are following fair practices, but Toronto has not moved forward with any commitments of their own.

The federal government is also discussing forcibly cooling the housing market by increasing the mandatory down payment for houses under $1 million to 10 per cent. This would dissuade most first-time buyers from purchasing a house and decrease competition in the Toronto and Vancouver markets. At the same time, measures need to be taken to ensure that the rental market doesn’t accidentally drive prices up. There is also a fear that cooling the market would harm Calgary and Montreal’s housing markets, which aren’t doing as well as Toronto and Vancouver.

Preventing first-time buyers from purchasing homes to cool the market has been criticized as an unfair practice, and another option might be more profitable for everyone. Creating affordable housing in key areas would allow first-time buyers to purchase homes and wouldn’t continue to increase current house prices. Calgary launched a program called “Attainable Homes” that allowed buyers to purchase a home for $2000 as long as they could manage the mortgage. These homeowners were required to take financial training to properly understand the market and to pay the organization a certain amount of the property value increase when they sold the house. People are also prevented from flipping their house because if they try to sell too quickly, they would owe “Attainable Homes” a higher percentage of their property value increase.

The housing market has been a popular topic of conversation at the dinner table and the chosen solutions don’t seems to be working. It will be interesting to see how government intervention will cool the market, and if affordable housing becomes a priority. No matter what, cheaper housing prices will allow people to focus on sustainable building practices and invest in the future of green living.

Pride Parade through the eyes of a five-year-old

I decided to bring my daughter to the Pride Parade last Sunday to teach her the importance of inclusivity and LGBTQ rights in Toronto. We created a rainbow flag at home prior to leaving for the event and I explained to her the meaning behind each of the colours on the flag and we talked about what those words meant to us. Red represents life, orange is for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic and art, indigo for serenity, violet for spirit, and hot pink for sexuality. We also discussed the term sexuality and how it meant that you were allowed to like anyone you want, boys or girls, or anywhere in between.

My daughter took all of this in easily and was excited to celebrate people who loved rainbows as much as her. When we discussed trans-people, she told me that two kids in her class dressed as boys and everyone in the class accepted their chosen identities with ease. I was thrilled to see how accepting and open my little lady was and thanked my lucky stars that I decided to raise her in Toronto, one of the most progressive cities in the country.

We headed to the parade, rainbow flag and bubbles in tow, only to be overwhelmed by the thousands of people that crowded Yonge St. To say that the pride parade was a mildly popular affair would be an understatement. Luckily, we brought lots of water and snacks, and once we found a spot where we could see, the crowd bothered us less. I definitely recommend that parents bring hats, water guns, sunblock, and a lot of refreshing snacks. The parade is long and can be very hot due to the crowds and summer weather.

BlackLivesMatter at the Pride Parade 2016. By Kaeleigh Phillips.
BlackLivesMatter at the Pride Parade 2016. By Kaeleigh Phillips.

We were waiting for the parade to start for awhile until twitter alerted us that BlackLivesMatter was protesting and preventing the rest of the parade from continuing. They were conducting a sit-in protest and demanding the organizer of Pride, Mathieu Chantelois, sign a list of demands before they would let the parade continue. Chantelois signed the list and the parade resumed. The incident has incited a hot debate as to whether this delay caused BlackLivesMatter to alienate the LGBTQ community or incite positive activism in the parade. From my standpoint as a parent, it was difficult waiting in the extremely hot crowd with my five year old for the parade to start.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. By Kaeleigh Phillips.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. By Kaeleigh Phillips.

Once the parade started again, she was clapping and singing along with the music. She described the elaborate and beautiful outfits as “magical” and we bogeyed and cheered the day away. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walked by, my daughter wanted to be picked up to see “the ruler of the land”, and cried when she only saw his back. The colourful signs of Pflag, an organization of parents, families, friends, and allies of Toronto’s LGBTQ community, cheered her up though. She loved the positive messages of love and family, and really took the best from the parade.

We went home exhausted, sunburnt and satisfied. My daughter will grow up being part of the LGBTQ community and seeing positive messages flow through loving events such as pride. As a young woman who grew up in a community that was often homophobic and close-minded — and was harmful to many people I loved — I am so deeply grateful to the people who fought for events that celebrate LGBTQ interests. It shows that society can progress in an inclusive manner, and it gives me hope for my daughter’s future.

Animal Protections Act needs our support

As an animal activist, I am continually surprised by how little protection there is for animals in Canada against extreme acts of cruelty. Even if people try to obtain justice for animals that have been mistreated, it is extremely difficult for the current laws to make any credible difference in court. Animals deserve to be treated with respect, and updating Canadians laws is necessary to do just that.

That’s why Beaches-East York Liberal MP Nathaniel Erksine-Smith has introduced a private member’s bill called the Modernizing Animal Protections Act.

Bill C-246, also known as the Modernizing Animal Protections Act, was introduced on Feb. 26, 2016 and focuses on three main elements. The act looks to tighten shark finning laws, ban dog and cat fur in Canada, and, most importantly, to change the criminal code concerning animal cruelty. Section 446 of the criminal code currently states that a person cannot “willfully neglect” an animal, but this can be difficult to prove in court because of the vague language used. Prosecutors often have a hard time proving willful neglect, meaning that an animal abuser can commit egregious acts of cruelty and go unpunished if they can prove they didn’t “wilfully” do it.

“The most significant component is modernizing the provisions to the criminal code. They were slightly modified in the 1990s but it is necessary to close loopholes related to severe negligence conditions,” Erksine-Smith says. “Crown prosecutors have said on a number of occasions that it is harder to secure convictions on the criminal code because of the language used. One of those terms is “willful neglect”. The willful component can be hard to prove”.

Animals became protected under the criminal code in 1892 and that section of the legislation has not been greatly changed since 1954. There have been several attempts to amend the criminal code in the past that have been met with limited success, including proposed reforms by former Justice Minister Anne McLellan in 1999 that were shot down. Current Liberal MPs Mark Holland and Hedy Fry have also tried to champion legal reforms in the criminal code. In the last 16 years, there have been 13 attempts to change animal rights laws in Canada that have been denied, despite the fact that 92 per cent of Canadians support changing the criminal code for animals. This lack of success in parliament is confounding.

Erksine-Smith also noted that Canada’s animal rights laws pale in comparison to other countries worldwide, such as New Zealand who has gone as far as to declare all animals sentient beings. “I refer to it as helping to bring our animal protection laws into the 21st century. Other countries are moving well beyond what we are doing,” Erksine-Smith says. “I choose these three issues because I thought I was selecting three issues I thought everyone could get behind.”

The Humane Society International, among other supporters, stand behind Erksine-Smith’s bill, but he has yet to convince Parliament to bring it to committee. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has even gone as far to reject liberal support for the bill because of pressure from the hunting and fishing communities. “We had the opportunity to meet Nathaniel and he is a strong advocate for supporting our work in Canada,” Humane Society International Political Officer, Michael Bernard says. “We are surprised and disappointed the government isn’t supporting it. We had at least hoped they would send the bill to committee. This bill goes after the most brutal offenders and worst cases. It is really just modernizing and giving protection to animals across the country.”

Erksine-Smith also pointed out that the bill doesn’t threaten hunters and fishers to any capacity because regulations concerning those parties fall under different jurisdiction and wouldn’t be applicable to the amendments proposed to the criminal code. The newly-appointed MP also expressed frustration at turning a private member’s bill into a forum for political gain, instead of looking at the bill as a way to create a new and much-needed standard of ethics for animals in Canada.

“These practices are frustrating as a new MP. I’m open to changes, I just don’t want to lose the good elements of the bill,” Erksine-Smith says. “I’ve gotten no uptake on that front unfortunately. The government has allowed the political pressure to get to them. People need to contact their MPs and the Minister of Justice.”

Erksine-Smith and supporters still have the summer to influence other members of the house as the MPs can vote independently of their respective parties because it is a private bill. The second reading is set to occur on September 21 2016 and if the bill is approved, it will then go to committee. Erksine-Smith encourages people to write to their MPs, the Prime Minister’s office and the Justice Minister to show support for the bill.

“I never like to give up hope. We need to engage with politicians and for Canadians to engage with this bill. Over the summer, we hope they look at changing their position,” Bernard says. “Realistically I know there is some opposition to it. Our job is to communicate with people and get the law passed.”

If you would like to help support the Modernizing Animal Protections Act, contact the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Justice here.

Is Canada Day worth celebrating?

Canada Day is an opportunity to appreciate a great country to live in….or is it?

It seems that most people look at the national holiday as a chance to work time and a half, and make a little extra cash on the holiday. But, where is the sentimentality for the great north? Does it exist or are Canadians feeling less celebratory than usual?

It has been an interesting year for Canada, full of good intentions and bad decisions. A new government was voted in, bringing the Liberals back into power after a disastrous end for the Conservative party. This was a shining moment for Canadians, as everyone young and old swept out a government that was actively pushing frightening bills such as Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act (which is currently still on the table). Canadians came together and decided that a country that didn’t support multiculturalism and democratic interests was not going to get another term. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau represents a new and fresh agenda for Canada and, whatever his flaws, he advocates on behalf of valuable issues such as equality and Aboriginal rights.

Canada also saw its first gender-balanced cabinet and female NDP leader in Alberta — Rachel Notley —which is unprecedented in the province. Canadians saw people rally when the Fort McMurray fires nearly wiped out an entire city, and proudly took in Syrians as the refugee crisis continued. Canada was a strong attendee at the first Paris Climate Change Conference and is making waves adopting new climate change legislation to try and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

On the other hand, the Mike Duffy trial was a disappointment, and the new gender-balanced cabinet made an embarrassment of itself when Trudeau accidentally elbowed NDP member, Ruth Ellen Brosseau. Canada also granted a U.S. town permission to take 8.2 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan, which opens up our great lakes for the taking.

Overall, Canadians should be celebrating a country that makes mistakes, but actively tries to promote its founding principles of democracy, respect, and equality for all. Canada has its flaws, but even though it is often compared to our American big brother or our cranky British grandmother, it also has its own identity. It is a blessing to live in a country of great beauty that is not suffering from many of the world’s desperate problems such as water scarcity or a lack of essential social services.

Canada is young, but worthy of national pride. Even if you are working or otherwise engaged and cannot attend any Canada day events across the country, take a moment to celebrate being Canadian. I am definitely proud to don red and white, and pledge towards building a new and better future for this country. Will you do the same?

Brexit vote causes loonie and pound to plummet

The Brexit vote has caused the loonie to plummet and has left many Canadian stockholders running. Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has upset the global market greatly due to the unprecedented nature of this event.

The Canadian dollar dropped to $76.28 cents US, after initially dropping $1.37 US on Friday and dropping another $0.65 cent US on Monday. This is a substantial currency loss and has put the TSX stock market into a frenzy. The Canadian dollar is expected to continue dropping to approximately $ 0.74 cent US over the next three months due to turmoil in the market over the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit vote. At the same time, many financial experts are expecting the market to re-stabilize because market overreaction is a typical response when a great global shift occurs.

Britain’s vote has left Canada in a precarious economic position as well, as our country has strong trade relations with Britain. Though many financial consultants are stressing that the market will stabilize, others are concerned for the future of the North American market. Canadian and U.S markets rely on Britain as a primary communicator to the EU for trade relations.Without this point of contact, trade relations may become more difficult as the British middle man pulls out of the EU. The free trade agreement between Canada and the EU called CETA has already seen resistance from other European countries since Brexit.  London is also the base for Canadian banking operations and this decision may put them at risk.

Another concern is what will happen to British stock portfolios when the country separates from the EU. The EU passport that accompanies several stock portfolios in the country create higher value when considering trade options. Without unlimited access to the other countries in the EU, people are looking to sell their stocks. When the market falls out of balance with panicked stockholders looking to jump ship, it becomes threatened and could cause further instability to the market.

Before the vote occurred on June 23, the British pound was trading at $1.50 US. The pound now stands at $132.40, a 31-year low for the country. The severe drop of the pound is causing reverberations throughout England and it is unclear whether recovery will be possible once they leave the EU.  There are rumours circulating that the Bank of England will soon cut interest rates to try and help stabilize the market. Cutting interest rates would help lower costs to investors while their stocks plummet, but will not be enough to restore the pound to its pre-Brexit value. The Royal Bank of Scotland had their shares halted after declining 15 per cent, and the Euro dropped six per cent as well.

Other “glass-half-full” investors urge Canadian to buy the cheap stocks while they are hot, as panicked stockholders will sell cheaply when the economy temporarily drops. The TSX market was down a whopping 210 points to 13,681 in the afternoon on Monday, reflecting that Canadian stockholders were panicking. Bank stocks swung the market heavily because they dominate the TSX stock market, and are easily affected by global impacts.

Another potential plus is the impact on the US economy. Wall Street experienced its worst day on the market in the last 10 months and this might push the US Federal Reserve to delay increasing interest rates as previously planned. This would be helpful to the Canadian economy as it would make stock options cheaper in the US, but could potentially continue to drive housing prices upwards due to low interest rates in both countries so it is difficult to foresee if this is positive or not for Canadians. The Brexit vote also creates a more nationalistic tone in global trade relations and could hurt the potential for the Trans-pacific Partnership, an important trade deal for Canada.

One of the reasons that British citizens opted to leave the EU was to help their economy. It was argued by Brexit supporters that the taxes demanded by the EU were too high, and maintaining a private economy would be more profitable for the country. The plummeting pound and unstable British market has clearly proven otherwise. Leaving the EU will weaken the British economy tenfold and leave it without valuable EU trade partners in the global market.

This EU exit is unprecedented in history and its impacts to the future are unknown — but clearly it will be dark days ahead for the British economy.

How to make unpopular vegetables delicious

Fruits and vegetables are vital for your diet, and most people enjoy them in some form or fashion. Peppers and cucumbers, for example, are family favourites in a salad or a stirfry. But, what about the less popular vegetables such as radishes or rutabaga that aren’t so well-loved at the dinner table? These vegetables still have nutritional value and can be cooked to be delectable so that picky eaters will still enjoy them. Read below to find out how.

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Radishes

Radishes are a root vegetable that is often eaten raw. The radish is crunchy, with sharp flavour. If eaten in certain salads, the radish can actually be quite delicious, so don’t write off the strong taste quite yet! Radishes can be sliced or diced, and are full of vitamin C. The vegetable also has fibre, riboflavin and potassium. Radishes pair well with strong cheeses and are also yummy when doused in pepper and salt, with olive oil to balance the sharp taste.

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Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts are another commonly unpopular vegetable, but are delicious when cooked in oil and spices until they are tender. Brussel sprouts have vitamin C and K, with folic acid and a lot of fibre as well. If you slice the center of the Brussel sprout prior to cooking, it will help tenderize the sprout. DO NOT overcook Brussel sprouts or the buds will become grey and soft, releasing an organic and smelly compound that contains sulfur. Cook with Dijon mustard to brighten the taste of the sprouts and add maple syrup for a sweet kick. Brussel sprouts also pair well with pinto beans in a burrito to add extra fibre to the wrap.

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Mashed Turnips

Turnips

People often turn their noses up at turnips, but they are another food that is full of nutrition. Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, folate and calcium are just a few of the healthy components in the vegetable. Interestingly, turnips contain cyanoglucosides that release small and non-lethal amounts of cyanide. Sensitivity to the cyanglucosides is controlled by an gene in each individual person, and some people have two sets of the gene. This makes turnips taste twice as bitter for some and delicious for others. If you are one of the lucky few, mash them and douse the mixture with olive oil, and chives for  yummy dish.

Rutabaga

Rutabaga, also known as a Swedish turnip is a hybrid root vegetable that is a cross between cabbage and a turnip. Similarly to other root vegetables, the rutabaga is full of vitamins and fibre. It also acts as an antioxidant if you have a cold. Rutabaga can be roasted, baked, boiled and used in a soup. Rutabaga julienned and sautéed in a red wine vinegar makes a delicious side dish that will have your taste buds flying. Mashing the rutabaga and mixing it with pepper and olive oil is also an option.

Beet lemon cupcakes. By Dennis Wilkinson.
Beet lemon cupcakes. By Dennis Wilkinson.

Beets

Beets are often overlooked in meal planning, but they can be cooked in a variety of ways that can hide the texture that most find unpleasant. Beets have zero cholesterol and very little fat content. Betaine in the vegetable lowers the chance of heart disease, and stroke, along with essential folate. Beets can be used in salads as a grated vegetable, and even in cupcakes, which adds a natural sweetness.

By preparing and cooking the root vegetables listed in a new and fresh way, you get a delicious new meal. The plus side: these veggies are often cheaper as well because they aren’t in as high of demand, so it is a way to save on groceries.

How do you like to cook any of the vegetables listed above? Let us know in the comments below.

The best and worst of Toronto’s Bestival

What is better than listening to music in a kitty costume and feeling completely accepted by everyone around you? Bestival, an annual festival in the United Kingdom, made its way over to Canada to fill people’s minds with great music and an opportunity to dress in style.

Upon entering the festival, I anticipated a fun and loud experience and was not disappointed. The venue was quite extensive —Cosmic Café was the first stage I could see (and it happened to be a moving stage) before seeing the massive main stage. There was an indoor tent that had a heavy dance crowd within. The heard of the electronic soul of Bestival  was of course Bollywood Stage.

There were food trucks spread out in the festival, but limited arts & crafts vendors on site. A knitting café was tucked way into the corner, which allowed people to sit on comfortable coaches covered in a knit canvas. There were several washrooms for guests, which is often an issue in festivals. That being said, the porta potties were gendered with female and male symbols and this struck me as odd.

The gendered porta potty. By Kaeleigh Phillips.
The gendered porta potty. By Kaeleigh Phillips.

I had been excited for Bestival because there were a number of LGBTQ-friendly events listed for Pride Month, including a drag queen costume party and same-sex “fake “ weddings on site. Instead, I was surprised to see gendered outdoor bathrooms and not one pride flag on site. When I checked the inflatable chapel to see if any weddings had occurred, the staff indicated that every “fake” wedding were heterosexual. Though this is no fault of the festival organizers, it was disappointing to see an apparent lack of support around Pride month.

The music itself was spectacular, with Grimes on Sunday night busting her butt on stage even though she reported she was sick. The entire crowd danced through her set. The Cure played a great set, nailing every song and attracting a surprisingly mixed crowd considering the age of the band. They had a two-and-a-half-hour set and ended slightly early, but were otherwise a great performance to watch. The Bollywood Stage was full the entire weekend and left its dancing fans exhausted when the festival concluded.

Overall, Bestival is a stellar new festival for Toronto and Woodbine Park is a spacious venue for the event. With more focus on inclusivity, including genderless washrooms, the party shall continue stronger than ever next year.

What was your favourite part of Bestival? Share in the comments below.