Sarah Thomson


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.


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 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


May 1, 2010


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.


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.


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.


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.


Sarah Thomson

Candidate for Mayor of Toronto


June 15, 2010

Change is never easy to bring about because most people prefer the safety of what they know to the uncertainty of what comes with change.

I’m not sure if it was the short time I spent couch surfing and sleeping on park benches as a teen, or the experiences I have had since, but I have learned that the one and only thing I can truly count on is change.

I remember hitting what I thought was rock bottom when I was just 15 years old. I was demoralized, alone, and realizing that I wasn’t the centre of the universe, and the people who passed by my huddled form in a doorway would go on despite me. It was then that I understood that change would happen with or without me, but the decisions I made would impact it. I could influence change, but I had to own the responsibility of making myself into the person I wanted to be.

I started pumping gas at the age of 16, and at 18 started my own company leasing service stations across Ontario. At 24, I won recognition as the top dealer in Canada and by the time I was 30 I had built a multi-million dollar company that focused on turning around failing service stations and making them successful.

The key to turning around each business came from changing the predominant attitude of failure to an attitude of success.

I wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo; to change the way things had always been done. I was one of the first to bring a retail component, to break from the traditional products like oil and windshield washer fluid and bring in different items like chips, chocolate bars, and juice. I was highly criticized for it and taunted by my counterparts for being a silly woman who didn’t know what I was doing.

I persisted and eventually others realized that by adding this additional retail component to my locations I was offering convenience to the local area residents and attracting them back. Combine this with cleaning up each location and motivating the staff to be friendly, and it seemed a simple recipe for success.

But the fact is that bringing about change is never simple. It is one of the most challenging tasks one can do, but also one of the most rewarding. Service stations with stores are now common and it is in part because of my desire to change the way that industry went about doing business.

I launched Women’s Post Media, a business publication – in newspaper format – designed specifically for women. I believed that businesswomen wanted and needed something to promote and unite them. I went to industry experts to get their backing, but was told that my venture was a long-shot and not likely to succeed because women were more interested in gardening and fashion.

Again I challenged the status quo, and despite having no experience in the industry, I managed to build a successful company turning the newspaper into a magazine and building a large community of businesswomen both through the print and online publications. Today it is a highly sought after community and I am glad I did not listen to the “industry experts” and those who told me I wouldn’t succeed.

And yet, despite my desire to constantly challenge the status quo, in my early twenties I took up the hobby of restoring old homes and have never given up. Maybe it is the stability of returning an old home to its original beauty that attracts me to this hobby. The reassurance of knowing that despite the changes, what lies underneath – the strong foundations – will always remain. Having solid foundations is the key to navigating through the inevitable changes that life entails.


October 5, 2010

Every time I fly, drive, or take the island ferry back to Toronto, I feel a sense of coming home. There is something about our city – its beauty and its flaws – that makes Toronto the place that I will always call home.

I was raised to fix things that break, to build things that last, and to make long-term decisions rather than short-term mistakes. Over the years I developed a hobby of restoring old homes to their original splendor. I know how to use a drill, a chop saw, and a hammer. I can do electrical, plumbing, and drywall.

My calloused hands are rough compared to the soft and often sweaty hands of the politicians I shake after each debate. I am the only woman on stage and yet the only one with rough hands scarred by hard work. I’m often asked what makes me different from the other candidates and I usually look down at my hands before answering.

I am the only candidate who has experience building companies from the ground up, bringing change to an entire industry, forming a vision, and leading others towards that vision – and the only one with calloused hands.

Like that of most entrepreneurs, my leadership style is collaborative – it takes collaboration to build a business from the ground up. And like most entrepreneurs I’ve learned how to sell good ideas and build consensus. I know the importance of negotiation, and I value change for the opportunities it can bring.

Before putting my name on the ballot for Mayor of Toronto, I approached the role as any entrepreneur would. I studied the city, looking for opportunities to do things better, for areas where change would bring huge success. I met with all sorts of people – from bus drivers, parks workers, and maintenance crews to neighborhood associations, and people in management positions at the city.

I discovered the main problem with our municipal government is the lack of communication between city council, management, front-line workers, and the people of our city. It is the cause of all our over-spending, our poor planning, and our failing transit system.

Without strong communication between city council, our front lines, management, and our people, most decisions – whether they be spending, planning, or transit – are uninformed. We must restructure the communication process.

It won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing is easy. It will take re-engagement with the people of Toronto, who have had the doors of the city locked to them for years. Public consultation must come first and foremost – before planning, before policy, before any city decisions are made.

I have a vision of a Toronto where our youth, our business owners, our entrepreneurs, and our people get a better shot at achieving their goals. A city where an extensive subway system joins mixed-income communities; where mixed-use zoning and lower business taxes allow our businesses to thrive; a city where our high-priority neighbourhoods become strong, flourishing communities.

Join me in working towards this vision.

To find out how you can help achieve this vision please go to or call the Sarah Thomson for Mayor Campaign office at 416-964-5850.

Approved by the CFO of the Sarah Thomson for Mayor Campaign.


October 25, 2010

Stepping down was not an easy decision, especially with the growth in ego required to lead and protect a campaign. But with only two staff, two full-time volunteers, and no funds my chances of winning were slim given the fact that the other leading teams had over 20 staff and even more volunteers. That we made it up to third place at one point was a huge achievement that shows the amazing talent I had on my team.

I ran for Mayor because I was fed up with the status quo, the locked doors at city hall, the lack of long-term vision, and the wasteful spending. I ran because I believe that the people of Toronto deserve an expanded subway system that would enable us to achieve so much more. I ran because I love Toronto.

I stepped down because I love Toronto.

With over 80 per cent of my support coming from Toronto’s left-leaning voters, I was creating a division. If I remained in the race the left wing vote would be split between myself, George Smitherman, and Joe Pantelone – giving Rob Ford an easy win and leaving Toronto without the expanded transit system we so desperately need.

I could not do that to my city.

Over the months I’ve watched the top four candidates closely both on- and off-stage to the point where I know their stump speeches so well I can repeat them. I can tell when Joe needs more sleep or when something is amiss on Rocco’s campaign just from the way they answer debate questions. I grew to respect George Smitherman and found his budget blueprint to be a smart, balanced plan. Like me, George believes in expanding our transit system to strengthen our economy. He understands that our diversity is our strength, and that we must make Toronto into a much more efficient business-friendly city. George has the vision Toronto needs to excel forward.

I hope my sacrifice will be enough to get George elected, but male pride could be the wedge that guarantees Ford a win. Joe Pantelone is a kind and friendly man, but he refuses to acknowledge that anything is wrong with city hall and that people are angry about it. That Miller chose to endorse him to try to protect his own legacy may very well backfire by splitting the left wing vote thus guaranteeing Ford a victory.

Gentlemen, don’t let the glory of winning get in the way of doing what is best for Toronto. Joe, if George is still ahead of you in the polls by the 18th, as he has been this entire campaign, I implore you to put Toronto before yourself and stand behind him as I have. It is the right, reasonable, and responsible thing to do for our city.

It was an honour to be a candidate for Mayor of Toronto, and I was very fortunate to have such an amazing experience. I set out knowing that I had much to learn. Over the months I made mistakes, had some achievements, and learned a great deal about people. I learned to have a sense of responsibility when dealing with the press and to be careful about late night tweets after a glass of wine.

Again thank you to those who considered supporting me as Mayor. I will work to give all I can to strengthening our city in other ways.


Originally published on December 14, 2010.

A year ago I decided to run for Mayor of Toronto because I wanted to give back to a city that has given me so much over the years.

I set out hoping that I might influence the discussion and get people talking about subway expansion and the need for a restructured, fiscally responsible, government. But I didn’t expect how much the experience of the campaign would change me.

In some ways it was very much like falling in love. During the spring, my first dates were at churches and community centres, and through the heated debates and passion-filled evenings my affection grew, and over the summer the love blossomed. I spent days and nights canvassing the city, attending events, and developing a huge respect for the creativity and humility of our people. I walked through sun-scorched streets, listened to the children laughing and playing in our tree-filled parks, and became devoted during quiet summer evenings downtown.

I think my husband caught on, but he chose to accept my affair with the city – indeed he believed I’d be a better woman for it.

He put up with the days and months I wasn’t there, filling the void by donating extra time to the charity he works for. He put up with my late nights and my restlessness after the evening debates and he learned to sleep through the typing I did on my laptop late into the night.

Since the election, we have spent many evenings drinking wine and talking all night long about everything and nothing at all. We’ve both grown and changed over the year. There is a sense of newness, like the first time – but with none of the shyness.

I learned so much over 10 months: how to debate; how to speak easily with crowds; and the importance of humility. I developed a way to ignore those who threw insults. I faced a number of editorial boards and overlooked the bias of a few individuals who should not be calling themselves journalists.

But most of all, I learned how truly exceptional my small team was: Robert Perry, Kinga Surma, John AD Tory, and his brother George Tory, who joined us halfway through the campaign. We grew together, we learned together, and we created some terrific memories together.

My love affair with the city came to an abrupt end on October 25, and although sad, and a little heartbroken, I know the relationship isn’t completely over, and I’ll always remain a good friend.

Sarah Thomson is a former Toronto mayoral candidate and the publisher of Women’s Post.