Author

Sarah Thomson

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Sarah’s journal: September 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My fear of navel-gazing

 

As a young adult, I created a bucket list of things I wanted to do in my life. I started with wanting to build a multimillion-dollar company, sidetracked by the idea that money was important. It took a few years and gaining a bit of success to realize it was an empty pursuit. So I focussed on finding a life partner and having children. As I learned more about the world, built my company, found love and had children, my bucket list grew. My life expanded and I found myself wanting to have a bigger impact on the world—to find a way to make it better. I found that the daily act of trying to make it better gave me a sense of inner strength.

I noticed that those who were guided by the desire to make money, as I once was, were also limited by it. They didn’t grow much beyond it and seem to shuffle through life, terrified of failure and constantly worried about what people might think of them. They take fewer risks and fear the bigger world beyond the mighty dollar. Sadly, they never end up making a real difference in the world.

When I think about people who have made the world better by their actions, I am drawn to those who lead and force positive change to happen—people like Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill and recently Malala Yousafzai. They stood up to a society that shunned their ideas at a time when the world needed leadership, and were guided by a strong moral code. These are the people everyone knows; however, there are so many others I am blessed to have met, who are determined to make a better world through their actions and words. They make a difference every day in the way they choose to live and in the way they help those around them. They don’t help others to gain recognition, but to make a positive impact on the world. I’ve noticed that people who want to make the world better are more focussed on the world around them—they look outward rather than becoming absorbed by their own inner drama—they aren’t sidetracked by their own positions.

This drive to focus on the world outside them allows them to find love, experience success and failures—and grow from both.

I’ve found that those who focus inward often become consumed by their own inner issues, they fear change and refuse to gain experience in the world beyond their door. Sadly, they often wrestle with depression, and the positive impact they might have on the world never gets realized. It’s a terrible cycle some people get into and I am beginning to wonder if one can slip from focusing outward to focusing inward? So my bucket list has grown to include items that force me out into the world from moving to another country, to trying to make the world better in my own small way.

I have travelled to a lot of places, but the area I’m drawn to again and again is the Caribbean for its beauty and its people. Unfortunately, tourism has pulled the population away from all other industries, to the point where manufacturing and local food production is almost non-existent—take, for example, the island of Barbados, where agricultural production is unable to sustain the local population, which now relies on importing most of its food.

Realizing that the greatest need in the Caribbean is to improve local manufacturing and food production, I began to research the best ways to inspire leadership in these areas. Time and again, I came across innovation hubs, places where artists and entrepreneurs collaborate. Cultural centres, shared work spaces, technology hubs, all create a culture of productivity and collaboration. The key to building a successful innovation hub is to sustain it long enough to spark and fuel productivity.

As I did more research into tourism, I came across changes happening in the hospitality industry. Airbnb was educating travellers to the benefits of renting homes and experiencing local communities. More and more travellers want local experiences and the opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture, from food to arts and environmental experiences. By studying the changes happening in the travel industry, I realized the the trend for all-inclusive resort experiences had peaked and the new wave just building in the industry is experiential travel. From glamping—glamorous camping—to luxury tree-house suites and ultra-luxury canvas habitats. Travellers want to experience the local culture in a natural luxury setting.

My objective is to develop a boutique-hotel concept focused around an innovation hub. We will offer travellers unique opportunities to experience the local culture with the boutique hotel sustaining an innovation hub for local artists and entrepreneurs. I have managed to build a great team to work on our first proof-of-concept site in Barbados—Canvas and Cave. My goal is to prove that the innovation hub sustained by the hotel will have a positive impact on local manufacturing and food production. At the end of this month my family and I will move to Barbados to work on this project and begin this adventure. We have the land, we have formed a consortium of investors, and we have the construction team; but I know that I’ll need more help as we grow.

If you would like to get involved, please contact me at sthomson@canvasandcave.com

Did ambition hurt Smart Track?

A group of colleagues and I set up the Transit Alliance back in 2011 to educate the public on the need for dedicated transit funding and transit development. We believed that transit development was suffering because politicians used it to garner votes, but few bothered delivering on their promises. Our goal at the Alliance was to keep transit development in the public eye, so politicians couldn’t slink away from it. By keeping the level of discussion around transit constant, the public would demand development. We started the discussion on dedicated transit funding, we worked on building support on the use of tolls, and we advocated on the need to build the Relief Subway Line.

As I look back over our work, I realize that our biggest challenges came from politicians who tried to use transit as a stepping stone to power. Politicians, who created controversy over what and where transit lines should be built, were actually delaying the development of transit across Toronto. For example the Eglinton West subway line broke ground in 1994, but was cancelled with the tunnel filled in by Premier Mike Harris in 1995, to the horror of transit development experts around the world.

Political candidates (desperate for power) continually throw out transit plans that will garner the most votes. But transit is a complex issue and planning it properly to meet with population and density growth should be left to educated experts not campaign teams. Unfortunately, in Toronto few politicians listen to the experts.

In 2014 Mayor John Tory came out with a transit plan that was put together by some of the best transit experts in North America. Their focus was to create a transit plan that would help not just Toronto, but the entire region. And knowing the political road blocks likely to happen along the way, my guess is that they created a plan that asked for much more than what is essential, as politicians and public servants would invariably widdle down the plan over time. Mayor Tory’s Smart Track plan lived up to its name and was a smart plan for the entire region. Tory pointed out that the Relief Line was the highest priority subway line, but he also knew that the connections that moved people across the region were key to a strong transit network.

What many don’t realize is that politicians rely on public servants to deliver on their plans. Mayor Tory relied on his former chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat to figure out how to deliver Smart Track efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to do it and seemed to have stalled the process. I’ve grown to admire and respect Mayor Tory. But I know him well enough to know that he would never point this out.

Today I learned that Jennifer Keesmaat, former chief planner, is now blaming Mayor Tory for her failure to deliver Smart Track. Her lack of willingness to take responsibility for her failures is shameful. But to blame Mayor Tory for her lack of success makes me wonder if she might have actually worked to hold it back? As chief planner, she could have added multiple layers of red tape, she could have delayed every aspect of the planning process around Smart Track and undermined the entire project.

I remember a dinner the Transit Alliance hosted with Jennifer Keesmaat as our guest of honour back in 2015 when she was Toronto’s chief planner. Keesmaat spoke about how great the Smart Track plan was and how it would help relieve gridlock in and out of the city. After dinner, I suggested that she should go into politics, that she might gain a lot of support. Her response – “Why do you think I’m here?”

Election 2018: how many seats needed for majority?

Majority government = 63 seats ~ Official party status = 8 seats

If liberals drop to under 8 seats they could lose official party status and be relegated to the back getting little meida coverage, no coverage for research or stakeholder outreach or a causus service bureau. They could go from the governing to having little say in any of the decisions for the next 4 years.  

There is an annual subsidy that goes to each part of $2.71 for every vote cast for them. If the Liberals drop to just 20% their funding would drop from approximately $5Million to just $2.5Million

With 124 seats available a majority government needs to win 63 seats. If the PC party wins with less than 63 seats they will have to form alliances and work to ensure they don’t lose confidence in the house. In 1985 this happend when PC Frank Miller won the general election with just 52 seats; David Petersons Liberals won 48 seats and Bob Rae’s NDP held 25 seats. Miller lost confidence in the house and David PEterson formed an accord with the  NDP – the Liberals formed government for two years on condition that they impliment a number of the NDP policies.

A minority PC government could still be pushed aside if the PCs can’t gain support and work with the other parties – an me thinks a PC government under Doug Ford will have a very hard time getting support from any party.

Oh Doug Ford what would Rob think?

Mr. Ford your first duty is to take care of your brother’s widow, there is no situation where you can ever shirk that duty – even if you really, really, want to be Premier!

Renata Ford and her children were driven to seek legal councel in her fight to gain what she alleges is their one third inheritance in Deco labels, as well as funds from the late Mayor’s life insurance.

The lawsuit alleges that despite Doug Ford’s focus on his political career he has continued to take “extravagant compensation” out of Deco even though the family business is losing money. The statement also claims

“Doug Ford knowingly and deliberately put (Renata and her two children) in a highly stressful and unfair financial position during their period of grief after Rob Ford’s death, and continued to do so for more than two years after Rob Ford’s death.”

Mr. Ford what would your brother Rob think of you now? He asked you to take care of his wife and kids;  he made you trustee of their inheritance and he believed you would do right by her. To have let your relations with her get to the point where she was driven to seek legal help is disgraceful.  

Our prayers are with Renata Ford and her children.  It isn’t easy stepping out publicly against Doug Ford. He will do all he can to discredit her, and claim her accusations are completely false. He won’t openly call her a liar after strutting her out on his campaign – so he insinuates that she is.  Doug Ford has a history of discrediting women who tell the truth. That he is now attacking Rob Ford’s widow is disgusting… and shows a man so ambitious he would destroy his own family.

The lawsuit further claims that

“Deco was worth $10-million when founder Douglas Ford Sr. died in 2006 and he had amassed personal investments worth between $15-million and $20-million. The company is alleged to have lost more than $5-million over the past six years”  

No one can know what goes on behind the Fords’ front door, but the fact remains that Rob’s widow Renata has had to turn to the courts to receive what she alleges is one third of the family business and his life insurance.

Today conservative supporters have to face the fact that the character of their leader might have some serious flaws and begin to question him.

Has Doug Ford lied to his supporters about his personal success as a businessman?

Has Doug Ford taken a salary from Deco labels that he didn’t earn and thus robbed his brother’s widow and children of their rightful inheritance?

Doug has attacked Renata Ford, suggesting that her allegations are untrue, his words work to discredit her.  His actions are of a man so desperate for power that he seems to have forgotten his first duty is to protect and care for the widow and family of his late brother Rob.  We urge Doug Ford to step down, to take the time to settle his chaotic family issues, and allow Christine Elliot to take the helm.

However we know that ambitious men rarely do the right thing. It will be up to Conservatives to decide just how low they are willing to go to support a conservative mandate. We encourage them to take a look at the Green Party platform before voting, it has some very smart and strong conservative economic policy issues within it.

Green isn’t just a dream

The Ontario election is just days away and with so much up in the air there seems to be a vacuum when it comes to smart government leadership. Moderate voters looking for balanced leadership are wondering who to vote for.

 As I sit on the GO train heading back to Toronto, I’m reminded of all the transit work the Liberal government has done over the past decade. As a transit advocate I know that they did their best to build as much as possible. But Wynne let a lot of people down in Toronto when she refused to approve the tolls Mayor Tory’s council asked for.  Tolls that would have been dedicated to funding transit expansion and relieving some of the enormous debt burdening our province.

I spent the weekend carefully analysing all the platforms –  and the quality of the party leaders. My experience as a candidate opened my eyes to the control and power the leader has over the rest of the party. Don’t be fooled by those who suggest you can avoid the leader and vote for the local candidate – the leader has total control over what the party does in government.

As a long-time Liberal I was surprised to hear Wynne give a concession speech this weekend, and I wondered why she wasn’t fighting to the very end. I have to admit that she pushed me to look outside the party for other options.

Who can moderate liberals realistically vote for?

After checking the positions each party put forward I have to admit that I was impressed with the support of the relief line that the NDP have touted as well as the huge list of all the other transit they plan to support. But read through the entire platform and their ability to pay for all the items comes into question. There are literally hundreds of special initiatives the NDP promises to make, as if trying to give each and every voter something. With promises so extensive, delivering on them would be impossible, and the level of debt it could bring on is worrisome.  I admire Andrea Horwath. Her character and contribution to this province is without question, but I worry over the lack of fiscal accountability the NDP platform reflects.

Looking over the Conservative platform I also see a lot of promises without any clear explanation for funding them.  Add to this Ford’s suggestion of selling the Greenbelt – which could devalue house prices across the GTHA – with his retraction of this policy, and it’s obvious he has little understanding of economic forces.  Doug Ford has a somewhat shady history – who can forget the ease at which he lied publicly about his brother never touching drugs? He lacks integrity, and I worry he’ll make backroom deals that would threaten the open and just system of balanced government we have achieved in the last decade.

By chance I found a printed copy of the Green Party 2018 election platform left on a bench at the Burlington GO train station. I read through every page and found it both a smart and a balanced platform that doesn’t over promise, and has a clear and concise explanation of how their initiatives would be paid for.

The Greens are the only party openly willing to consider using tolls or congestion charges to create dedicated transit funding. As well, Green Party leader Mike Schreiner told me that the relief line is their top Toronto priority.  I’ve known Schreiner for years. He’s consistent, steady, smart and dedicated.  Just the sort of leader Ontario so desperately needs. Anyone who has done their research will note that the Green party also has some of the best local community candidates in the province.

The Green party platform points out the serious transit issues that commuters have, with the average daily commute in the GTHA sitting at 80 minutes (equivalent to eight 40-hour work weeks each year).  Gridlock costs the economy $11.5 billion in lost productivity and congestion delays in trucking cost Canada $650 million per year.  The Greens plan to invest $1 to $1.5 billion per year and fund 50% of the operating costs of municipal transit systems – which would be a huge relief on our local municipalities – and they plan to pay for it all by implementing revenue tools such as congestion charges, parking levies and land value taxes, which will raise over $3.9 billion per year.

With so many people wondering who to vote for in this election I’m guessing the Green party may well get a surge of support – if they can get their platform out to voters in time. Their 2018 platform is one of the best I’ve evaluated. They will provide grants and interest-free loans to help homeowners, renters and businesses invest in energy conservation. And even better, they will pay for it by closing the Pickering Nuclear station and replacing it with the much lower cost of water power from Quebec which will save $1.1 billion per year!Ontario needs smart leadership and the vast majority in the middle need a party that can represent them. The Green party has put forward a well-balanced platform, they have a reliable smart leader in Mike Schreiner, and when combined with the excellent local candidates (52% are women) representing them, they are an excellent option for those in the middle who want an open and balanced government.  

Liberals have lost their chance of winning and the only hope for moderate voters is to go Green. It is time for Ontario residents to stop thinking that the Green Party will never get elected and start thinking about what Ontario could achieve if they did.

The impact of action

It’s one of those overly warm spring evenings at the cottage. An afternoon storm passed through Muskoka and the air is still heavy. The lake is calm, like glass, and the large puffy clouds in the distance are lit bright orange by the setting sun. Spiders are busy in the corners of the boathouse windows, I’ve just turned on a lamp and their webs will catch the bugs attracted to its light. It is so quiet I can hear the clock ticking away the minutes. A bird calls to its mate, or maybe he is just letting his friends know where he’ll be for the night.  I am feeling thoughtful  thinking about the new journey my family and I are setting out on.

Our goal is to have a positive impact on the world through the work that we do. We’re heading to Barbados to start a project working with local communities to build a culture-entrepreneurial centre that will be sustained by a unique “experiential” resort.

Tourism has become the biggest economic driver on most of the islands, but it has also had some negative impacts on local communities – like the loss of local food production and manufacturing. Even local arts and craft markets are becoming dominated by cheap Chinese imports. The cost of importing food and products has risen as local production has slowly disappeared; and many of the islands have become far too dependent on imports. Our goal is to reignite the entrepreneurial flame by providing space, encouragement and resources.  We hope to inspire local entrepreneurs, artists and manufacturers.

Barbados will be our first “proof of concept” location and we are moving there to launch the project. It’s a big life change but one both my husband and I are looking forward to.  We have some terrific local partners and just recently the island elected their first woman Prime Minister – Mia Motley.  She is a strong, smart, and dynamic woman with an excellent record. Prime Minister Motley sat in opposition to the local government as leader of the Barbados Labour Party for over a decade. She was elected in a landslide victory winning all 30 seats in Parliament and over 70% of the popular vote.  With no opposition she’ll be able to bring about significant changes to a government that was plagued by inaction.   There is a new sense of vibrancy on the island, and it fits well with our own determination to contribute to the community.

The sun is low in the sky and long shadows stretch out over the lake – a stillness has settled over things and all the possibilities that a new day will bring are just beginning to form.

Doug Ford: Stalker or love sick pitt bull?

Yesterday an affidavit came out that was sworn by a former PC candidate – Pina Martino. It was sent to the PC party legal team back in 2016, three days before her nomination race in Etobicoke Centre. In it she named dozens of people who were on the riding member list but admitted that they had never paid for their membership. She worried that Doug Ford had signed up and paid their membership fee for them. A secret tape recording of Mr. Ford telling people they didn’t have to pay was released by the Liberals this week and would seem to verify that indeed Mr. Ford likely  paid for their memberships. This  goes against the PC party bylaws. Martino was concerned because the rules around nominations were being flagrantly ignored, signing up members and paying their dues results in lack of commitment and support for the candidate. It’s a stupid thing to do and undermines the strength of the party. 

 In an email to the party Martino went on to allege  that Doug Ford had followed her not once but twice in an attempt to intimidate her from running for the nomination.

Let’s imagine this woman is your sister, mother, wife, or daughter, who Doug Ford has followed in his big black SUV in an attempt to intimate/scare her from running for the party she’s supported for over a decade. What advice would you give her? Most people would say that Ford’s behaviour crossed the line. That following a women in order to intimidate her is called stalking

Stalking is a crime called criminal harassment.

Today there are many PC party members wondering if Doug Ford rigged his own leadership race. Many more are disgusted that Ford was caught cheating the very system he has pledged to clean up. Yesterday’s release of a voice recording of Ford telling people they “don’t have to pay a thing” while referring to their membership forms demonstrates that he was willing to break the rules in the nomination process and rig the vote to favour his chosen candidate. His claims that the issue was dealt with by the PC party – the same party he admitted was filled with vote rigging and corruption, doesn’t hold much credibility.

But it is Doug Ford’s total disregard for the legitimacy of the nomination process that should send warning bells off witin every sane voter across Ontario.

Once a corrupt politician always a corrupt politician.

Personally I wonder why Mr. Ford risked so much to set Kinga Surma up as the new candidate for Etobicoke Centre. It would seem that he has taken quite a fancy to this young woman whose only experience was as campaign organizer for me in the 2010 mayoral race, and then assistant to George Smitherman in his race to stop Rob Ford. She worked for Liberal Peter Milczyn when he sat as councillor for Etobicoke, but other than that she has little to no political experience.

I know Surma well from her time working on my campaign, and will say that she is very bright, attractive and ambitious. I don’t doubt that she makes a good candidate.  But compared to Pina Martino, she lacked the history of dedication to the local community. Martino has participated on the Etobicoke-Centre riding association since 2006 and she was the candidate for the riding in the 2014 election. She had name recognition and a long-term commitment to the party.

But Doug Ford opted for a young woman with little political experience over a former candidate with name recognition and a history in the riding. This is extremely questionable, especially when combined with news that Mr. Ford was willing to risk his personal reputation and break all the rules just to get Ms. Surma the seat.

As a journalist I don’t understand why he would risk so much for one candidate?  I know that there is more to this than meets the eye.

 

Omissions from investigation into Steve Paikin

This ordeal I have had so far with Steve Paikin is the perfect example of what happens to women who speak out on powerful media personalities. I was warned by many PR experts not to take part in an investigation that was controlled and paid for by TVO as the scope of the investigation could change and eliminate evidence that could damage Mr. Paikin.

Despite their warnings I was surprised to see that the investigator did not even mention my reason for stepping forward with my allegations. In giving my statement I explained to her that a friend of mine had learned that Mr. Paikin was involved with his wife – he felt Paikin was destroying their marriage. The wife had also appeared on the Agenda.  I realized that my inaction 8 years ago had enabled Paikin; and although I had told a lot of people about his behaviour, it had done nothing to stop him. I had an ethical duty to step forward. The husband was willing to give his testimony to the investigator, but required a confidentiality agreement. The investigator tried to get TVO and Mr. Paikin to agree to it, but they refused and limited the scope of the entire investigation.

My case also had some pretty concrete evidence the biggest being an email I received from my assistant after we had lunch with Paikin.  

The email relays very clearly the events that happened, as well it pointed out that I believed exposing him would hurt me. Yet the investigator chose to assert that for some reason I coerced my assistant into writing an email that could have hurt me politically.  And she refused to give it much weight in her overall calculation. We found the email after weeks of searching through all my files – from boxes in my basement to storage drives and old cds. Many of my email files were erased over the years, but I had saved some onto a number of storage drives. On one of the drives I found the email my assistant had sent to me back in 2010,  and my lawyer had it authenticated by an outside validation company to submit as part of our evidence. 

The FacebookTranscript with EA  my EA wrote earlier this year also back up his initial email and the fact that Mr. Paikin came on to me in response to my request to get on his show..  

The questions I messaged to my EA were the same questions any investigative journalist would ask when piecing together an article. I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t inaccurately added anything to my recollection.

Despite checking with the witness, I did make one mistake in the article I wrote about my #MeToo story. I had forgotten that when I ran for the liberals in 2011 my campaign manager had secured me a spot on the show as the liberal candidate.  I inaccurately wrote that I was never given access to the show after my lunch with Paikin.   At the time I wrote the article, all I remembered were the years after 2011 when I hadn’t been able to access the show. I began advocating for transit expansion in 2012 as head of the Transit Alliance.  We ran a huge campaign around dedicated transit funding. Our events saw hundreds of people attend, most of the press came out, and I was on radio programs and other television shows as the go-to transit advocate in Toronto. But when I tried to get on the Agenda, Paikin’s response was “take me up on my previous offer.” Not getting access to the show year after year to talk about transit expansion became much bigger in my mind than one brief appearance in 2011 to talk about the liberal election platform.

Going into the investigation I thought that I was luckier than many women because I actually had a witness – my assistant – who had heard everything Paikin had said to me. He had served as my aid during the formal campaign period, but also during the informal wind down stage of the campaign. His role was to attend events, meetings and canvass beside me. It was not a position for a meek individual.  He had to be strong enough to face very opinionated people, and he could hold his own quite well in policy discussions. He prided himself in being a strong feminist. This is why his decision to back-peddle on his testimony and on what he had written quite emphatically in 2010 as well as in his facebook messages to me this year was so devastating.  I was shocked. I tried to figure out why he would do this to me. At one point I felt sorry for him. I wondered what could have happened to make him give up his feminism. I thought that perhaps he was intimidated by Paikin’s inflamed blog, and that he just needed encouragement. But as more time passed I began to wonder what had made this man I knew so well, completely compromise his ethics in such a way.

I went over and over the timeline during that day in 2010. We returned to the office after the lunch with Paikin and spoke about the come-on with a woman who was working for me at the time. We spoke about the fact that I couldn’t come out publicly on Paikin because it would ruin my chances of getting elected.  But I don’t remember much more about the afternoon, I would have had to leave around 2:30 to pick my kids up from school. We had started the day hoping to get me on Paikin’s show, and I might have suggested my assistant email me if they came up with an alternative way to get me on – his email seems to be addressing that issue.

That TVO and Mr. Paikin took my complaint to the public after I specifically indicated I wanted it to be kept private, is a tactic that has proven effective for protecting powerful men, but one that most corporations would not condone. Sexual impropriety investigations must be kept private to protect witnesses and encourage others to come forward. Instead, TVO allowed Mr. Paikin to come out loud and threatening over social media.  I wasn’t protected but shamed. The shaming was so extreme that it made conditions unsafe for other witnesses to step forward. TVO, is an agency of the Ontario government and their handling of my private complaint, was disgraceful. CEO, Lisa De Wilde did not follow protocol, and employees might have perceived that stepping forward on Mr Paikin would lead to their own public shaming. Their complete disregard for protocol should be addressed by the Minister of Education, who is responsible for TVO.  

During the investigation we had a witness who was, at one time, an intern at TVO, she had heard rumours and was told by another employee that Mr. Paikin did this all the time. The employee refused to come forward, which isn’t surprising given the public shaming TVO allowed Paikin to put me through.  

Another witness who worked at TVO for 3 years wrote an email to me:
“Good on you girl for exposing Paikin. He has previous for that type of behaviour and it’s been well known at TVO for years.
I wrote: “ Thanks – the hate is pretty rough. Did you work at TVO?
Yes I did, for three years. Can’t really go into it in depth. It’s not worth my life being disrupted.”

None of the evidence above was entered into the investigators report – it’s almost as if she didn’t want the public knowing about the witnesses who were afraid of being publicly shamed.   There are hundreds of articles written about how sexual predators  bully people into silence.  They are often charismatic, they surround themselves with supporters. And they often groom their families, friends and co-workers into believing in their image.   “Even people who know them well cannot conceive that they are capable of exploiting others sexually. Such predators are masters of deceit,” states Psychology Today.

Today as I reflect back over the past several months, I know that  eventually the truth will come out, more women will step forward with their own experiences. The #MeToo movement has proven that there is strength in numbers. 

I remember how vicious the press were over my claims that Mayor Ford was on cocaine, and the ridicule I received from the likes of Christie Blatchford for even suggesting the Mayor had substance abuse problems. I remember how Newstalk 1010 gave entire shows over to discrediting me. I remember how they all went silent when the truth came out. He needed help, and their lack of impartiality may have enabled him, and possibly delayed that help.

Once again the clickbait media have circled around Mr. Paikin declaring him the saintliest man there ever was on television. Once again they ignore the signs, they avoid the hard investigative work, and they attack the messenger. When the truth comes out,  I know they’ll slink away again hoping nobody remembers how they victim shamed and blamed me for stepping forward. I will remember. I hope you do too.

Mr Paiken: You allege that I defamed you. I did nothing of the sort. I specifically told you I wanted this out of the public eye, and instead you blew it up into a spectacle. You know Steve, you could have just chosen to admit you made a mistake and listened.  You could have decided to do better going forward for the sake of every woman you know. That response would be far classier than making yourself into a mid life power trip cliché.

Port St. Charles Barbados

I travel quite often to Barbados as I’m building an arts and cultural centre there.  I’m planning on moving with my family to the island in the fall. So I know the island quite well, and one of my favourite areas on the island is the north west coast. The beaches are less crowded than the south coast; the hotels and houses are luxuriant, and restaurants in Speighstown and Holetown are fantastic.

I believe the island of Barbados is one of the best in the Caribbean. It is below the hurricane belt, and after the devastating hurricanes in 2017, this is a very important issue – especially for those looking to buy a retirement property! But the island also has a long British history, the people are gentle, well educated – but in a relaxed way. The island has a high education standard, has a public library system, and is one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean.

One of my favourite places to stay is at Port St. Charles – a collection of luxury condos on the north end of Speighstown. With a beautiful white sand beach that connects all the way into Speightstown, a marina (with the largest boats I have ever seen), two pools and a yacht club offering some of the islands best dining the resort feels like a second home. It is as safe place – and while their are security guards that walk the grounds I’m not sure if they are truly needed. I like to sleep with my windows open and listen to the whistling frogs at night. And I’ve never felt any worry over doing it.  Most of the staff have worked there for years, and they all genuinely care about the place.

I’ve stayed in a number of different suites on the property, but find that the units facing west are best as they catch the afternoon sun on the deck, making it quick to dry out wet bathing suits.

I should declare that I’m a bit biased as I have a friend who owns one of the better units. It is  close to the yacht club – north end of the property. It has a private dipping pool and a great outdoor dining area. Three large bedrooms, two of them have views of the marina and a full kitchen and laundry. I can imagine myself there now having breakfast on the deck, coffee in hand and watching a sea turtle poke it’s head out of the water. 

If you don’t feel like cooking dinner in the condo, the Yacht club is a two minute walk, and a great place to relax in the afternoon. There is a pool next to the cocktail bar and a deck with ladder if you prefer swimming in the ocean. Sir Richard Branson was there one afternoon (alas I missed meeting him), but you never know who you’ll meet at the cocktail bar! 

Or if you feel like listening to live calypso and watching the sun set, drop into the Beach Shack in Speightstown it is just a 10 minute walk (along the beach).

In the morning between 10:30 and 11:00am the turtles swim up the coast and go into the channel that flows into the Marina. If walk up to the north end of the beach, take goggles and you can swim with them.

I’d also recommend heading over to meet the Warren family at St. Nicholas Abbey – Simon Warren is a gracious host who often leads the tours.  I met Simon and his family at Port St Charles Yacht club during a Sunday brunch (not to be missed) and had a nice chat with Simon’s mother Anna, she is a beautiful and interesting woman. I left thinking she was someone I’d like to know better.   The Warrens did a beautiful restoration of the old rum plantation. The guided tour of the Great House is definitely worth doing, and if you can get there when the distillery and sugar mill are running do take that tour as well. You can spend 2-3 hours there and have lunch at their outdoor cafe – the view of the jungle is gorgeous. And don’t forget to take your camera – from the red footed tortoise, to their Guinea fowl there is something to see around every corner!

If you are looking to take in Barbados, the north west coast is the place to go, and Port St. Charles will not disappoint!