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Sarah Thomson

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Toronto’s next Mayor must come from outside city council

Toronto needs a vision, with lack of leadership we  haven’t had a strong long-term encompassing vision in decades.  Without this vision Toronto gets pulled from extreme left to far right of the political spectrum with each election.

It doesn’t help having opportunistic politicians using our differences to divide rather than unite us. Toronto has fallen far behind other cities precisely because we haven’t united, but constantly fall into division.

You only have to look at Toronto’s decaying transit system to see what years of indecision have done. Transit and subway expansion have fallen dramatically behind from a point in the late 70s when Toronto was once a world leader in subway development.  Commute times in the GTA are now the worst in North America at an average 80 minutes. Add to that the cost of gridlock that is estimated 6 billion dollars in lost productivity per year and there is not just a philosophical argument but a strong economic case to be made for ending the partisan division and uniting behind a strong vision.

A strong vision needs a strong effective leader who can build consensus and who will work tirelessly to unify the city. I don’t believe that leader can be found on city council. Here’s why: I’ve spent the past few years working on getting the east west relief subway line on TTC and Metrolinx plans; I’ve also worked to push the idea of dedicated transit funding to pay for the subway and transit expansion in the Toronto region.  This required hours spent at city hall, in committee rooms, councillors offices and at city council meetings.  It gave me first hand experience at city hall with city councillors. I have watched councillors interact, play political games and fight for what they believe in. There are some who truly want to make the city a better place, some who pretend to want to, and others who can’t seem to see beyond their ward.

I’ve watched councillors I thought had leadership potential ignore many opportunities to lead, especially when it comes to subway and transit expansion.

For example Councillor Karen Stintz, chair of the TTC, has changed positions on the Danforth subway line, and the Big Move transit plan, so many times that I doubt anyone knows what her “vision” will be next week let alone a year from now.

Karen is learning, she is determined, and she carries enough doubt to question everything around her. She makes a good councillor, but her constant position changes don’t provide the stability needed for leadership.

If Councillor Stintz had supported the Big Move plan, and instead of announcing her own divergent plan, if she had worked to add the transit lines she believes necessary to the Big Move plan, she would have earned much more credibility and demonstrated the consistency needed for leadership.

In 2012, Councillor Stintz broke ranks with Mayor Ford and  supported Transit City with plans for above ground LRT to replace the aging Scarborough RT.  However in the past month, with thoughts of a mayoral run in her head, she now seems to be backing a subway to replace the RT in a move that looks more like pandering for Scarborough votes than strong leadership supporting underground transit.

But what truly lost my belief in Councillor Stintz was her refusal to take a strong stand on funding tools for transit.  When leadership on revenue tools was needed earlier this year Councilor Stintz, played political games declaring the tools she would NOT support instead of sticking her neck out and backing the tools that she would support. It’s a subtle difference with a huge impact.

As Chair of the TTC Councillor Stintz could have shown leadership by strongly stating to the Province the tools she and council supported to fund subway and transit expansion, but instead she backed away from taking any responsibility. Her actions and those who supported them set the move toward dedicated transit funding back months, perhaps years.  Toronto should have led the region on laying out the transit funding tools that we, as a city, accept. This would have set the stage putting the Province government in the position of having to support those tools or risk looking unresponsive to the need for transit expansion.

By abdicating her responsibility Councillor Stintz delayed and added to 40 years of political indecision around transit funding.

Over the past term I haven’t seen any councillors step up and fill the leadership void at city hall. I’ve made no secret of my support for John Tory. He’s a leader who can unite the city and he understand the importance of dedicated funding for transit expansion.

Transit funding has become a political football at the Provincial level. Dedicated revenue streams for transit expansion are crucial, but it is important that we secure the funding with something like a sunset clause to restrict politicians from using the funding for anything else thus removing it from the political arena. Dedicated transit funding must survive beyond changes in government.

My vision for Toronto is to build an expansive underground transit (LRT & Subway trains) system that supports the Big Move regional transit plan.  To do this the Toronto region will need secured and dedicated transit funding – from a 1% sales tax, to development charges and tolls — we have many options, but we lack politicians with the balls and tenacity to stand up for it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding Toronto’s biggest bullies

Annual spring-clean up in our house means our boys each have to fill a large box with toys for charity — and it always brings back memories of my childhood. My twin brother and I didn’t have a lot of toys.  My parents put everything they had into buying our farm, and building our home.  Any money my father made went into buying shingles, wood or paint.  Our home was an eclectic place and reflected the values of my parents – my father built polished oak bookshelves, but our living room had plywood where the door to the garden should have been.  Our clothes were patched up hand-me-downs from our older siblings, but our house was filled with books.

In the late 70s most of the major banks wanted to get rid of what was they viewed as high-risk farm mortgages. They called in a lot of these mortgages and owners were expected to come up with the funds in 30 days. But once a bank called a mortgage, no other bank would touch it.  A lot of people lost their farms and our family was one of them. We lost almost everything when the bank foreclosed and sold our farm for the value of mortgage owed (not even 1/4 of its value), but we were allowed to keep our furniture … and our books.

We moved from our farm into run-down house in the city.   The house was in what was then the poor area of Burlington in the downtown core, filled with boarded-up old homes, low rent apartments, and community housing. At the age of 11 my brother and I found ourselves in a very different world; we went from building forts in the fields and forests, to exploring abandoned houses filled with drug addicts. At the farm school, most of the kids came from lower-income families and like us, they wore second-hand clothes, but there was more wealth in the city where the upper and middle-class kids came to school in designer jeans.

I was picked on, beaten up and bullied until I learned how to throw a punch, to stand up to the bullies and never back down.  It only took a few good punches before my reputation began to spread. I discovered that most bullies are cowards, and by standing up to them, and yelling just as loudly, I could destroy their status. By high school they avoided me completely.

Like many kids from my neighborhood, I landed my first job in grade nine and worked every day after school, this separated me from the middle-class and rich kids who enrolled in after school sports. But my job gave me confidence and my vision expanded quickly beyond the vast majority of high-school kids who were pre-occupied with a need to fit in.

Back then the middle-class dominated, and kids from wealthy families were as much a minority as the low-income kids.  The kids who focused on their studies were dubbed the school nerds (both low and high income). There was also a small group of wealthy kids who used their wealth to impress and insert themselves into every group.  Driven by their misguided belief in their own superiority, they needed to be popular and enjoyed their influence over the majority of middle-class kids. Bullies to the core they would pounce on anyone who threatened their position. Spoiled by wealth they never excelled at anything, their only goal to hold influence over every group – jumping between the jocks and the druggies – they fit into both groups by amplifying their basest and most common attributes. From the class clown, to cool jock, to drug dealer they needed popularity and would do whatever it took to get it. As they aged they fell behind their peers, never having to achieve, their adult lives are a constant attempt to mimic their high-school years.

Even now I can spot the older versions of those high-school bullies. They still don’t fit in, often with radical views and poor judgment. Inheriting their wealth with no need to work hard for anything, they have bravado but lack the confidence that comes from true success. This stunted development (often noticeable in their vocabulary) leads to addiction issues with alcohol and drugs giving them bursts of false confidence. Some are drawn to politics for the power and influence they so desperately need.

These political bullies claim to speak for the average person, pretending to be just like them, they hide their sense of superiority behind crass language and campaign slogans. They loathe minorities, outspoken women, and anything that challenges their status. They pretend to hate the press but need the attention and are drawn to the media, like a moth to a flame. Their lack of personal development puts them at odds with their peers and often embroils them in scandals that seem to be self-inflicted. They work to destroy anyone who stands up to them, deflecting scrutiny, and denying anything that might compromise their support.

Unfortunately they know how to appeal to those with below average intelligence. Using slogans and propaganda, they stir up negative emotions – jealousy, division and hate – to fuel their supporters.

Like any bully, the only way I know to stop them is to punch them back, expose their lies, and never back down. Eventually their supporters will see them for the privileged and spoiled charlatans they are and abandon them.

 

 

 

THOMSON: Compromise, consensus and casinos

In Toronto, political ambition and partisanship  get in the way of our ability to unite around anything truly visionary or significant. There is  a growing division between suburban and downtown, between wealthy and poor, between drivers and cyclists. But there is also an opportunity to end the division, and it rests in the shared issues that arise as Toronto grows as a city and urbanism reaches out to the suburbs.

It is hard for politicians to step out of the divisive political arena, but compromise is the key to uniting the city, and to compete on the world stage we must have a strong, united city or risk falling behind.

I thought about this when studying the casino proposals for Toronto. The casino issue is working as a wedge to divide our city. It has strong support among the suburban councilors and strong objection from many in the downtown wards. Support is focused on the jobs and income potential the casino complex could bring to the city while objection aligns around the evils of gambling and the harm a casino complex could bring to the surrounding community.

I, for one, don’t support either position. I understand the positive arguments suggested by the pro-casino advocates, but I also worry about the negative aspects pointed out by those in opposition.

Looking closely at the jobs that an entertainment resort and casino might bring to Toronto one might think it fantastic — but the sales pitch around the project sounds a little too good to be true. For example MGM’s proposal is suggesting its entertainment resort and casino on the Exhibition grounds will bring thousands of “high-paying jobs” in the hotel and services industry. But resort casinos in other cities often reduce the price of hotel rooms and meals in order to attract customers into their casino. If a resort casino at the Exhibition grounds did this, it would very likely cannibalize from existing hotels and restaurants in Toronto’s core, drawing customers to the resort for cheaper meals and rooms. This means job loss in the core – which translates more to a shift in job location rather than a large gain in overall jobs. As well the average wages being bandied about in the discussions seem inflated, with suggestions of approximately $60,000 average wage, but the average wage casino workers in Toronto earn closer to $25,000.

While I don’t buy into the casino sales pitch I do see the potential, and the positive impact such huge investment could have on Toronto. But there is also a huge risk that a box-like casino would turn the area into a slum. The only solution is a tight and stringent design plan that recognizes the importance of the surrounding community.

With an issue like the casino it is easy, and almost second nature for some politicians, to jump to partisan positions in order to create the political controversy needed to unite supporters in time for the next election. The lines are being drawn, the insults are starting to fly but now is the time to tread carefully. There are a core group of councilors who are weaving their way carefully through this minefield. They see the political posturing for what it is, and they want to have more insight into the actual casino proposals. It is these Councillors who can and will set the stage for a new approach to city building — they have the opportunity to unite the city through their actions, their words, and their ability to compromise.

Nobody can ignore the huge empty parking lots at Exhibition Place and the need for redevelopment. Investment dollars could turn the space into a hub of activity.  Instead of trying to shut the entire project down, we should focus on creating strict design requirements to gain as much as we can from the investment dollars brought to the city, and provide the best possible outcome for all residents in Toronto. The first step is to outline conditions for consensus and I recommend each and every councilor write out the conditions that would allow them to support the huge investment that an “entertainment resort and casino” would bring to our city.

For example would they support a resort casino complex if it had these conditions:

  1. The resort would be built at Exhibition Place and the first requirement before any buildings go in would be to tunnel Lakeshore Road and create a park and pathways over it from the Exhibition grounds to Ontario Place.
  2. The land would remain under city ownership with a long-term lease issued to the developer. Exhibition Place is one of the most valuable pieces of property that Toronto owns and ownership of the property must be kept for future generations.
  3. A height limit of 10 stories on all buildings so that sunlight and views to the lake would not blocked to residents in the Trinity-Spadina area.
  4. All parking to be built underground.
  5. Toronto is losing too many historic buildings (100+ years) and the design requirement for the casino resort must be unique and stand out from all other resorts. Each structure built must reflect design features of the Beau Arts style of architecture (Liberty Grand) or the Art Deco Style (Horse building) that were originally built on the Exhibition grounds.
  6. The resort would have to have mixed use and allow 7% space for artists studios and start-up offices for tech/media at significantly reduced rents to create an arts and innovation hub for the city.
  7. The casino portion of the resort would not exceed 7% of the entire complex.
  8. All work (construction) to be done by trades registered in Ontario.
  9. A community garden with fish pond and greenhouse, producing local food demonstrating cutting-edge green technology, should be part of the resort complex, kept and maintained by the resort.
  10. Full accessible transportation must be provided around the resort complex and tie into the transit already coming into Exhibition grounds.
  11. All historically significant buildings must be kept and maintained.

Creating requirements like those above are a small step toward building consensus. There will be councilors from both sides who oppose but it is those willing to enter into the discussion who show their true leadership

THOMSON: Standing up to the bully in the schoolyard and in the city

“Courage isn’t the absence of fear but the belief that something else is more important than fear.”

In public school I was bullied. I was the prime target for one freakish girl who intimidated all the other kids. Her tactic was to have her victims ostracized by making up lies and turning others against them.

Everyone knew what the bully was doing but scarce few wanted to challenge her. It was easier to go along with her tyranny than to try to stop her. Her abuse got physical when she punched me in the stomach, pushed me down and kicked me until I was swollen and bleeding.

My father decided that enough was enough and spent a weekend teaching me how to stand up to a bully. He taught me that a bully is just a thug hiding behind bravado. Bullies never gain true courage — the only way to stop them is to stand up to them.

My father taught me how to duck and throw a punch; to make a fist and to close my eyes just before I swung so that I wouldn’t pull back; to use my foe’s weight and balance against them. He told me that speaking out was like a lion roaring, that I could use my voice and words to stand up to her as well… but if that didn’t work I should aim at her nose, punch her hard, and then run like hell.

The following week I walked the halls a changed person. My bully taunted me like before, but I threw her words right back at her. Furious at my audacity, she told me she would punish me after school. By the time the final bell rang there was adrenaline coursing through my veins. I felt the fear but focused instead on my anger.

Outside the school kids had gathered around the bully and were chanting “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!” The circle closed around me as she began hurling insults. I stared silently at her, my eyes focused on her every move with my fists clenched and ready to fight.

She threw her first and only punch and I stepped aside. As she fell forward I aimed, closed my eyes, and hit her square in the face. I could hear something crunch.

When I opened my eyes again I saw her on the ground with her nose bleeding all over the white snow. Everyone was quiet. I stepped towards her and she scrambled away. I yelled for her to get up and fight but she was frozen with fear. I turned to the crowd and asked if anyone else wanted to have a go at me. They all backed away.

In that moment I felt powerful. I wanted to hurt someone. Right then I could have kicked her on the ground the same way she’d done to me. Then a wave of disgust passed over me. I felt dirty, like a thug.

The seconds ticked by in silence until I roared that if she ever picked on anyone again she’d have to answer to me. I walked away and held my tears back until I was a block away, but I felt two inches taller that day. I’d found the courage to stand my ground.

Today there is much more education and awareness around the issue of bullying. Kids are informed at school about the problems bullying causes and are taught better ways to deal with a bully.

Recent events have, however, reminded me that school yard bullies often grow up to be adult bullies. Some people never fully mature and they continue on, stunted, pushing people around with their words and actions, and for some reason a lot of these grown up bullies end up in politics.

The most recent experience I have had was with an impulsive bully. Despite the consequences he had a hard time restraining his behavior. His arrogance and lack of respect for women is concealed behind an act of awkward shyness but it comes to the surface when he gets intoxicated.

I won’t forget the look Rob Ford gave me as I stood in the middle of a party, pawed over and speechless. It wasn’t the leer of a horny drunk after a quick grope, but the malicious smile of a bully who wanted to demonstrate that he could have power over me. His courage was fake, brought on by whatever drug he’d consumed.

I missed my chance to punch him in the nose… and if I had it would have set a terrible example to my sons. But I was not going to let him get away with it. There are different ways now for women to roar. Social media provides us a microphone that wasn’t available even 10 years ago. But it is a double edged sword. It can help the truth come out, but it can also spread the worst sort of lies. After I posted Rob Ford’s grope on Facebook, he and his brother used their influence over the media to brand me as a “crazy” opportunistic woman who simply wanted attention. They used my own words – that I thought Rob was on cocaine – against me, because (at the time) it was crazy to even suggest that the mayor would use narcotics. The court of public opinion was not fair, although eventually as the truth came out about the Rob Ford’s drug habits people realized I was telling the truth.

Silence is the veil that enables a bully to flourish. But out voices, if we have the courage to use them, will stop a bully in their tracks.

Emotional poverty

In Canada the law around sexual assault is designed to protect women from “secondary wounding” that can escalate when the accused holds a position of power and influence. Secondary wounding occurs when people respond to a woman who has been sexually assaulted by making her feel ashamed for coming forward, or blaming her for fabricating the assault.  From minimizing the magnitude of the event, to implying the victim desired financial gain or attention, secondary wounding turns the victim into the criminal and forces the woman to defend her allegations.

In Canada any victim of sexual assault can report an incident to the police in complete anonymity. The victim’s name and picture are protected and will not appear in the press or be released by the police unless she chooses to go public. With municipal political figures a complaint should be made to the OPP rather than local police, who risk being in a conflict of interest.  By making a complaint with the police the offense gets registered and if another is made the police take the previous offenses into account. Sexual assaults often lack the evidence needed to convict the assailant and without proof many women choose not to go to the police fearing that their lack of evidence will only result in dismissal of their claim and work to empower the accused even further.

While I like to think Toronto is a very progressive city there are still old notions of how women must behave that dominate conservative thinking.  Pundits promote the myth that women should never claim sexual assault without proof, ignoring that most sexual assaults occur when eyes are turned the other way. Sadly, if a woman does go public the backlash can be cruel – especially from those who cling to archaic social structures, spewing their opinions with no regard to the secondary harm they cause to the victim.

Social media (facebook/twitter) is creating a more transparent world, challenging the social structures that protected male entitlement.  Women who speak out about sexual assault represent an affront to the old way of doing things. The establishment insists women should deal with sexual assault privately through the police — but without proof charges usually get dropped and the criminal walks away justified. Studies show that the recidivism rate (reoccurrence) of sexual assault can be as high as 88.3 per cent.

With enough exposure calling someone out through social media will put the incident on public record and can serve to bring other victims forward.  The accused has every right to sue the victim for defamation, but this is unlikely because those who commit assault usually have a lot more to hide than their victims.

Studies have shown that there are shared personality traits among men who commit sexual assault. They are men with terrible role models like Chris Brown, or O.J Simpson; they are men raised to be thugs. They cling to anything that focuses on male strength; they hide their emotions, and claim not to “understand” women. Men convicted of sexual assault have an overwhelming sense of privilege that extends not only to the world around them, but into their personal relationships. The respect they show for others is a performance rather than a true understanding of civility. Their relationships aren’t fulfilling or empowering because they aren’t taught the value of respect for themselves, their influence in the world, or their impact on others. They view women as objects rather than equals.  Their exalted belief in their own male perfection dampens their natural drive to mature and develop as individuals. Without this drive emptiness haunts them, drugs and alcohol numb them, and their relationships are chaotic.

These thugs have children, and their daughters grow up believing their fathers’ misconceptions and sharing the same view of success – power, money and men.  They use their sexual power over men and cling to it because in a world of male entitlement it’s the only power they have — but as they age their relationships fail, they become less attractive, and they lose their sexual power over men, turning into sad bitter women lashing out at women who don’t conform as they did.

I could never hate someone with this level of emotional poverty. They are people who are raised without ever understanding the importance of civility or respect. They are deprived of ever having strong meaningful relationships. They rarely question themselves or their limited version of the world around them. And they fight against anything that doesn’t conform to their myopic sense of male entitlement.

There are times when it is important to speak out. When a thug attains power their sense of entitlement escalates, they become falsely confident, demanding and taking more from all those around them. They justify their illegal behavior (drugs/assault/drunk driving) by claiming the “stress” of their position drove them to it.

It is never easy to stand up to the tide of male entitlement that floods our society but unless we do there will be a new generation of emotionally stunted thugs who shun challenge, who expect the world to serve them, and who don’t understand how to have respect for themselves or others.

Civility is the glue that holds us together in a safe, fair and just society. Civility requires respect for others, the ability to accept the truth no matter how it is presented. Civility doesn’t force people into silence, or shame those who refuse to follow custom. Civility stops us from harming each other and allows a deeper understanding of the human condition.

THOMSON: The separation of transit funding from politics

The Toronto Regional Board of Trade recently released a discussion paper announcing four transit funding options for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) to support the Metrolinx “Big Move” regional transit expansion plan. Their four funding options are: A dedicated sales tax, fuel tax, parking levies and high occupancy vehicle lanes. It’s important to note that the amount of transit funding needed for infrastructure expansion is astronomical with the initial price tag estimated at $50 billion, or $2 billion per year over 25 years.

Not long after the Board made their announcement, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath rejected their proposal, claiming their measures were not “fair and balanced.” Instead she suggested the provincial government close “corporate tax loopholes” to pay for transit. Her suggestion ignored the importance of having long-term dedicated transit funding that is secure and free from political intervention.

The issue of transit funding has become a political football that has been tossed about for the past 40 years – and unless we separate funding from politics through a secured and protected funding stream the Toronto regions economic viability could be severely hindered.

I implore Ms Horwath to become aware of the “hidden” tax that gridlock is already imposing on people and corporations in the Toronto region. The Board of Trade estimates that gridlock is costing Canada $6 billion annually and this number is increasing each year. To suggest that we impose $2 billion more per year in taxes on companies that already suffer from this hidden gridlock tax could well drive them and the jobs they create out of the region.

I have always had great respect for Ms. Horwath; she is a smart, dedicated woman and I encourage her to listen to her constituents in the GTHA. They want action on gridlock, and are very much aware of the fact that politics has stood in the way of the transit expansion.

I hope that Ms. Horwath evaluates all forms of transit funding so that she understands the level of funding needed and why supporting the funding options suggested by the Board of Trade is an important first step to transit expansion. I hope she takes careful consideration of the idea of phased funding with a dedicated 1% sales tax being the first phase connected to the next phase of development for the Big Move plan.

Copying Mr. Hudak’s failing and blatant attempt to win votes and block transit expansion will only serve to lose her core NDP support in urban areas where they understand the need to fund transit expansion .

A much stronger stand for Ms. Horwath would be to insist that jobs and contracts for transit infrastructure expansion be awarded to Ontario companies. If Ms. Horwath truly wants to protect and create jobs for Ontario families, insisting that infrastructure expansion be done using Ontario companies offering jobs to Ontarians has much more consistency with her message — and doesn’t get in the way of transit expansion.

By working together, by agreeing to phase in dedicated transit funding and include voters every step of the way, we can move the transit file ahead significantly.

I implore Ms. Horwath to support transit expansion funding options outlined by the TTC and the Board of Trade and to work with the Liberal government to get the Toronto region moving forward. Together.

Public scrutiny is the best solution to G20

As written by Sarah Thomson in the Toronto Star on Sunday February 27, 2011

A few months ago I was open to supporting a less costly civic inquiry into police brutality at the G20 summit, thinking police forces would co-operate with investigations, share camera footage they have from the summit, and work to uncover any wrongful actions their officers might have taken. I believed their primary goal was to improve and that transparency and accountability would be paramount.

Facts are slowly seeping out that a group of officers taped over their name tags, brutalized innocent people, ignored the law and kettled people during the summit in areas outside the defined G20 zone, and that those in charge do not have a history of transparency and accountability with the provincial body that oversees them.

Last week the Star reported that a number of police forces across the province have refused to cooperate with the Special Investigations Unit — the provincial agency that investigates serious injuries from interactions between police and citizens. As more facts come out, I believe a public inquiry into the actions of police at the G20 is absolutely essential.

It is essential for all the innocent people who suffered injuries, had their personal property destroyed, and their rights trampled over without warrant or reason. It is essential because corruption can easily occur when full transparency and accountability are ignored.

It is essential for those officers who did a good job at the G20, who didn’t overreact, who didn’t cover up their nametags, who didn’t use excessive force, and who should be honoured for the great work they did.

A federal inquiry can be costly, but it would address the handful of officers who over-reacted with brutality against innocent civilians. A public inquiry could save more than one life and would make those who should be accountable stand up to the scrutiny their actions deserve.

THE NAME’S THOMSON, SARAH THOMSON

Originally published Feb 10, 2010.

Humility. I was raised to value it, treasure the fact that I could have my own personal accomplishments and keep them to myself – my strength quietly feeding off my actions with no need for recognition or reward. But now, as I shoot myself into the world of politics, my advisors say I must explain where my inner strength comes from, where I learned to negotiate and where I picked up my ability to lead, and how I developed the capacity to motivate people to work together towards one vision. The fact that I am not a politician is an asset, not a liability. Career politicians learn to follow the status quo, they don’t challenge it, so they don’t move forward, and they aren’t made fun of, or laughed at. They look for ways to appear busy while not actually doing anything. They form committees to address the issues and avoid taking responsibility. I am not a politician, I am a businesswoman. I haven’t changed much from that awkward kid I was at eight – making new friends; connecting them to other friends I made, and building tree forts in the woods. The tree forts have changed to businesses and my friends have grown older, but the kid inside me is still there. I’ve grown more confident than I was as a child, but that comes from living up to the person I want to be and taking full accountability for my actions. I suppose the summer I left home at 15 and couch-surfed around the country helped me understand that how I defined myself came directly from the choices I made. I learned that hitting rock bottom is about losing who you want to be to the world around you, and that nothing is ever worth that compromise. I am more open than I was as a child. This bothers some people, but I have learned that it takes strength to be open, and discussing my flaws both disarms and warms people to me. I am not conventional and this allows me to see the world differently, to find opportunities that others might overlook. My ability to negotiate probably stems from my 24 years of business experience, but it is also connected to the great respect I have for people from all walks of life. The management company I founded at the age of 18 (grossing $30 million/year) required that I put systems and structures in place for my management team and employees, and that I motivate and steer them towards a common vision. Our mandate was to go into service stations in crisis and make them profitable. My company did this successfully all over Ontario for 12 years. But it wasn’t until I became a social entrepreneur with the launch of Women’s Post Media that I learned the most vital lessons in my career. I built Women’s Post in a shrinking print industry against many much larger competitors all fighting for advertising dollars. I knew that businesswomen needed a community. And despite the odds, we grew and have become the trusted source of information and inspiration to over 300,000 businesswomen. My experience as a social entrepreneur is the most important training that a candidate for Mayor can have. It taught me to listen and understand the needs of my community. It taught me that complete transparency allows innovation to enter. It taught me to build strong foundations and relationships within the community. A business owner knows how to carry on despite hardship, how to run lean through difficult times, and how to spend responsibly for growth. I have learned how to create something from nothing but an idea, and what it takes to be successful. It is this experience as an entrepreneur that makes me the strongest candidate for Mayor of Toronto. If you want better service from the TTC, help me by making a small donation atwww.sarahthomson.ca. Together we can make Toronto a world class city again. I believe: •Subways must be built for the long term. They have a higher capital cost than Light Rail Systems (LRT), but long-term maintenance and operating cost is less. Subways have very little impact on the cultural vitality of the neighbourhoods they are built under. LRTs destroy the ebb and flow of neighbourhoods, and in the case of St. Clair West, they are much more expensive to build than initial estimates, and construction is more imposing than expected. •We must open up the city to new ideas and our entrepreneurs. By creating a system of managed competition on all government run services, businesses can bid alongside the public departments for the privilege of providing services to the people of Toronto. Opening the bidding process will allow knowledge and ideas to flow in as well as accountability. It will improve services and lower our costs. •I believe that every city department must have their books and budgets open, they must be transparent and online for all to see. The people of Toronto have a right to know where every penny of their tax dollars is being spent. City corporations (such as the TTC) must be held accountable for and must not exceed their budgets. For example, the current management at the TTC has gone over budget year after year ($388 million last year.) Authorized by the CFO of the Sarah Thomson for Mayor Campaign

MOMENTS CAUGHT IN TIME

May 1, 2010

BEAUTY

A cold snap makes our skating rink freeze in hours. It is smooth, like glass. Our parents woke us to go skating. I glide over the smooth ice, floating; thousands of stars twinkle far away, silent in the sky above. The night is so still my blades barely make a sound over the ice. A dog’s bark miles away carries over the fields. For a moment everything is aligned – beauty, time, space, understanding – then it is gone.

It is a hot August afternoon. The weight of the air presses down, heavy. My brother and I have spent most of the day exploring the cool forest until dark thunderclouds in the distance rumble. We race up our long driveway, the wind pushing on our backs. We climb the tall ash tree that is swaying by the barn. Holding tight we watch storm clouds roll towards us, black over the golden fields. We start singing Born Free at the top of our lungs, the wind catching our voices and taking them away.

EMPTINESS

It’s 7pm and the sun is setting. Long shadows stretch far across the lake. The hospital’s shadow is a square block on the ground below. My father’s breathing is laboured. I notice the seagulls in the sky flying high above the lake. I sit beside the hospital bed, tired. The weeks seem to have meshed together. I hold his hand and he stirs. Opening his eyes he asks the time. I look at the clock on the wall.

“8 o’clock.”

“I made it through the night?” he asks in surprise.

“No, it’s 8pm Dad.” He sighs, exhausted from a long fight.

I wake as the sun comes up, listening to the nurses begin their day outside our room. My father’s breathing is methodical, comforting. I watch the sun on the water. Time slips by. The room is filled with sunlight and something in the room changes, shifting the world slightly, stirring the air. I look at my father and know that he’s leaving with the breath that comes slowly from his open mouth. The room becomes empty. I walk to the nurse’s station and tell them I think my father has died. Code blue is called out over the P.A. system.

LOVE

We wade through the deep snow at the top of the hill, pushing through the green pine branches out into the clearing above the lake. We watch the snowmobiles drive over the ice far away, their noise barely making it up to us. We lie on the blanket of snow staring up at the blue sky and talk about our life and the things we will do together. Will we have two kids or six? Where will we make our home? The future is a path we both want to walk, hand in hand.

It is early in the morning and still dark when Greg wakes me. The rain is loud on the roof of the car and the wipers are going fast; the water streaming off our windshield. “I think I took a wrong turn. I’m not sure if we are still in Georgia.” I think for a moment and then sit up. “Awesome, an adventure.” He looks at me, eyes smiling and takes my hand. We drive through the rain that ends as we reach the mountains of Tennessee. The sun lights up the eastern sky as we wind our way through the mountains. Small clouds form wisps that trail up from the forest in the valleys below us. We both know our path ahead doesn’t matter as long as we take it together.

Our little boys climbed into our bed sometime in the night. The early morning light is melting away the darkness in our room. We can hear a few birds singing in the tree outside our window. Together, as if they had planned it, our little boys begin softly singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

AN OPEN LETTER TO MARCUS GEE

May 18, 2010

Dear Marcus Gee,

Today I read with great interest your article titledSubway Tunnels in the Sky. The title itself is brilliant, but I was surprised to see that you – of all people, one of the most thorough and creative journalists out there – have attributed to me an error in judgment that I have not made.

Allow me to clearly explain the importance of my plan for the expansion of a subway system and the funding model that I introduced back in March.

Expanding Toronto’s subway system over the next decade is a vital first step to putting Toronto back on the world stage. Great cities have great subway systems, mediocre cities go for cheaper alternatives. An expanded subway system will reduce gridlock and traffic congestion; it will tie our neighbourhoods together and bring development to high priority areas that need it most; and it is a long-term strategy for economic growth in our city. It is vital that we build it out over the next decade.

But let me be very clear, it will be costly and can only be done by combining my four funding strategies:

1 Rush hour tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway. This will allow commuters the opportunity to contribute to expanding our subway system.

2 Working with the province to secure long-term provincial funding.

3 Working with private developers wanting development rights above subway stations and having them share in the cost of building subway stations.

4 Creating a subway bond that will allow the city to build out the subway quickly over the next decade.

I have never claimed that any one of these methods alone can fund the entire expansion, and I believe that anyone who claims that just one funding method can cover such a huge cost has not done their research.

Mr. Gee, please feel free to contact me if you ever need clarity on the policy platforms I launch. My telephone number is 416-964-5850.

Sincerely,

Sarah Thomson

Candidate for Mayor of Toronto