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Sarah Thomson

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The best summer camp in Canada

This summer, my boys spent two weeks at Camp Muskoka and they are still talking about it.

According to them it is the “best summer camp in Canada or even the world.” Not only did they make some terrific friends, but they learned new games (Magic) and songs (Little Red Wagon) that they randomly start singing at the dinner table.

What they like most about the camp is the freedom to choose what they do during the day instead of feeling like they have to stick to a strict routine that other camps have. Rather than swimming in a freezing cold lake at the crack of dawn, their only worry is to get to the cafeteria before breakfast is finished. And the meals are apparently way better than anything we serve them – there too they have a lot of choice in what they were served.

Camp Muskoka is in the business of making happy campers. As their website states, “we firmly believe that everyone has physiological needs that must be met in order to have any hope of meeting their more refined needs. For example, a camper won’t be able to enjoy the mental and physical activities at camp without proper nutrition or a comfortable, good night’s sleep.  Likewise, a camper won’t be able to build confidence and friendships if they don’t feel safe. Whether it be providing our campers with healthy, well-balanced meals throughout the day, having air conditioned lodging to ensure a good night’s rest, or nurturing a healthy and safe environment so campers are recognized for their personal achievements;  everything we do is about helping our camper’s reach their highest potential.”

The thing is, the camp truly does live up to this description. I notice that my kids came back a bit louder than they were before going (their voices raw from singing, laughing and shouting), a bit more conscientious (aware of the need to clear the table – which they are taught to do their at meal times), and a bit more enthusiastic – “hey mum lets make a song about that.”

If you are looking for a safe camp your kids will truly enjoy, I recommend Camp Muskoka. Here’s a video the camp and kids put together that will give a small view of the great energy that permeates the camp.

I tip my hat to the founder of Camp Muskoka, Scott Creed, for creating a fantastic safe place where kids can learn, grow, and have a heck of a lot of fun!

Ontario will still have a revenue problem

I became a Liberal advocate in 2011 because they were the only party honest enough to admit that both Ontario and Toronto have huge revenue problems. Services like healthcare and education suck up all the tax dollars collected by the province and, as our population grows, there is an even greater need for more funding options. Few politicians have the guts to stand up for increasing taxes or implementing tolls because they risk their chances of re-election. But Toronto Mayor John Tory did. He stood up for tolls despite the risk of losing support in the suburbs because he, like many of us, understands that dedicated funding for transit has to come from somewhere.

I met Kathleen Wynne and others in the Liberal party who said they were willing to admit that Ontario didn’t collect enough revenue to pay for the services residents want — services like transit and housing that cities desperately need. I became a Liberal because of these facts. I believed the Premier would stand up and do the right thing, and not cave to low-polling numbers or pressure from cabinet members desperate to get re-elected. She once believed that tolls were a necessary tool to get the dedicated transit funding Toronto needs.

Tolls on Toronto highways are just as important as tolls on provincially-owned highways. Not allowing Toronto to access this funding tool will simply push the cost of transit expansion and other services on to future generations. From health care, to education, to efficient transit, we don’t have enough funding to pay for everything. But today, Premier Wynne has decided to ignore that problem and gamble that economic growth and low gas prices will last forever.

Relying on our current gas taxes for the billions of dollars needed over the next decade for transit expansion in Toronto is the same “do nothing” approach that has caused the growth of gridlock in the city. Gridlock is costing residents over $13 billion per year in time and lost revenues. A slight slip in economic growth, or increase in gas prices will lower the amount of revenue Ontario collects, meaning we’ll be financing all this transit expansion through debt.

So, why would Premier Wynne go against everything she stood for? Rumours of internal “poli-tricking” swirl with cabinet ministers outside Toronto apparently demanding she stop her support of Mayor Tory’s plan. The Premier should remember how flip flopping on the gas plant in Mississauga almost cost Liberals the 2011 election and this huge change in her position on Toronto tolls may very well lose her the liberal base of support in 2018. This kind of internal poli-tricking is why voters lose faith in politicians, and will choose an honest buffoon over a smart, intelligent, candidate.

Today I am ashamed.

Green Cities 2017 Conference

Join the Women’s Post and The Transit Alliance at the Green Cities 2017  Conference  for a discussion on building healthy urban communities.  With special guest speakers:

  • Bruce McCuaig, CEO of Metrolinx
  • Jennifer Keesmaat, City of Toronto Chief Planner,
  • Dr. Dianne Saxe, Ontario Environment Commissioner
  • Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Ontario Green Party
  • Mary Margaret McMahon, Toronto City Councillor
  • Amy Erixon, Principal and Managing Director Investments, Avison Young
  • Christopher Wein, President Great Gulf
  • Andrew Bowerbank, Global Director, Sustainable Building Services, EllisDon Corporation

Tickets:  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/green-cities-breakfast-tickets-31207879608 

Sponsored by:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Women: Ann Kaplan

Have you ever met a beautiful woman who seems to grow even more beautiful when she speaks? Ann Kaplan is a woman like this. She has an elegant business look and exudes a strong grace that I’ve only seen a few times in my life.

The more time you spend with Ann, the more her sense of humour and intelligence shines through. I was fortunate enough to meet her over a decade ago and since then I have watched as she built her business – iFinance – from the ground up in a predominantly male industry.  As I grew to know her,  I developed a sense of awe over the way she could think and handle hard, emotionally-exhausting life events and yet keep her sense of humour and desire to put others first. Her strength shone through at a time when others might have collapsed under stress of illness and family losses that saw her move from having six children to suddenly having eight.

When Olympic athletes talk about inner strength and endurance, my mind always turns to Ann, who seems to gain strength with each hurdle she jumps over.  I remember having lunch with her while she talked of all the pain and loss she had to cope with, and yet she could still smile and care about what was going on in my life. She draws strength from giving to all those around her.

Now, add to all of this the fact that she is one of the smartest women I have ever met and you start realizing that there are some great lessons you can learn from Ann. Just a few things I have learned from her are:  laugh as hard as you cry, focus on what you can give and not what it takes out of you, and always be able to laugh at yourself.

Ann Kaplan has become a success in business because she understands what is important in life.  She is the perfect example of someone who gives more than they receive, who values what she can do for others over what they will do for her. When thinking of what makes a woman beautiful, I think of Ann’s grace, her intelligence, and how her inside beauty seems to shine all the way through her.

I am lucky to have her as a friend. I think of her often and find myself thinking… now what would Ann do in this situation? I’ll never have her grace, but if I can try to come close to her level of kindness, I may just capture a small part of the beauty that surrounds her.

Reupholstering Wicker in Muskoka

We have a beautiful set of old wicker furniture that was built to last. The quality of the craftsmanship is excellent and the idea of throwing away anything that can be restored has never sat well with me.

The key to restoring furniture is finding a good upholsterer. I discovered Worth Upholstery in Bracebridge. Mary Henderson, the owner, is fantastic and does everything from marine and auto upholstery to furniture repairs, refinishing and revitalizing old furniture, and creating custom built furniture.

And she is FAST!

In just two weeks, I was able to get the entire wicker set reupholstered.  We had tried getting it done a couple of years ago, but the cushions came back far too hard and small, and we soon found that we didn’t use the furniture as much.  But now, with the new cushions made for comfort, I am happy to report that in the past four days we have played games of Apples to Apples, Settlers of Catan, and Spite & Malice all using the wicker furniture set.

Completed repolstered set
Completed upholstered set
Original set of wicker furniture
Original wicker furniture
Stripped down chair
Stripped down chair

 

A big THANK YOU to Mary Henderson of Worth Upholstery for doing such a fabulous job on our wicker furniture set.

And if you have any spare foam from pillows Mary will take it, clean it, and make it into dog cushions – with all the proceeds going to Sick Kids Hospital. Please share this with your friends and support a wonderful, strong and dynamic woman who is making a difference. Her contact information is:

Mary HendersonWorth Reupholstering
705.205.2777
WorthReupholstering@gmail.com
Facebook; Facebook.com/groups/WorthReupholstering

Edits I would make to Mayor John Tory’s Op Ed

Toronto Mayor John Tory wrote an op-ed Tuesday defending his transit plan. His writing was balanced and to the point — but I feel like there were some things that he really needed to say. 

Edits – Delete what’s between [ ]’s and add  in CAPS

“Throughout my time in office, I have tried to be completely honest with the people of Toronto so I will make this admission: The extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway is an issue [THAT OVER AMBITIOUS COUNCILLORS WANT TO USE AS A WEDGE ISSUE FOR THEIR 2018 MAYORAL RUN [with which I’ve struggled].

We are a city that likes to draw lines and take sides, especially when it comes to transit, and it’s easy to characterize people as either “for the subway” or “against.”

But this does a disservice to me and to everyone who cares about our city and its long-term success. WE CAN BUILD WITH IMMEDIACY TO SATISFY VOTERS TODAY, THE LRT WILL DO THIS — OR WE CAN DO THE HARD JOB OF ADDING TO OUR SUBWAY SYSTEM AND HAVING A MUCH MORE SIGNIFICANT  LONG-TERM IMPACT ON TRANSIT FOR OUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN.

There is no doubt the original decision to cancel a planned LRT in Scarborough and extend the subway instead was made without enough information or process, but I cannot let the mistakes of the past cloud my judgment on what Toronto needs for the future.

We are decades behind when it comes to [transit] EXPANDING OUR SUBWAY SYSTEM and as mayor I’m driven by one principle: to move this city forward, productively, responsibly and collaboratively.

There are those (IDIOT COUNCILLORS POSTURING FOR MEDIA ATTENTION) who argue we should cancel the planned subway extension into Scarborough because of its projected cost,  even as our city clearly requires a major SUBWAY network expansion to improve service and connectivity throughout the city.

I have considered the Scarborough extension with an open mind and have found compelling reasons to proceed.

Opponents of the Bloor-Danforth subway extension seem to take for granted that cancelling the subway would result in the immediate construction of an LRT. OPPONENTS OF SUBWAY EXPANSION COMPLETELY RELY ON THE JUDGEMENT OF TRANSIT PLANNERS, IGNORING THAT OUR PLANNERS ARE DUTY BOUND TO BASE THEIR VISION ON EXTREMELY LIMITED FINANCIAL PROJECTIONS. LONG-TERM VISION HAS TO STEP BEYOND 20 YEARS TO LOOK AT THE NEXT 50 TO 100 YEARS FOR OUR CITY. TRUE LEADERS COUNT THE PLANNERS AS ONLY ONE PART OF THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS.

There is no discussion of what the real aftermath of another about-face would be, whether the LRT remains feasible, or would have the support of Metrolinx and our government partners. THE IDIOTS OPPOSING SCARBOROUGH SUBWAY DON’T REALIZE THAT TORONTO MAY LOSE THE FUNDING PROMISED BY OTHER LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT IF WE FUCK AROUND WITH THIS ISSUE.

There would be sunk costs from three years of planning and engineering work, on top of the $85 million incurred by the city after cancelling the LRT.

The proposed LRT corridor is now also shared by SmartTrack, which proposes to provide local commuter service on the Regional Express Rail network, with Scarborough SmartTrack stops at Lawrence and Finch East. WHY SPEND TORONTO FUNDS BUILDING AN LRT WHEN SMART TRACK, PRIMARILY FUNDED BY THE PROVINCE, WILL PROVIDE SERVICE IN THE SAME CORRIDOR?

Multiple lines in this corridor would require further study and would likely delay both projects, while cancelling local service on the SRT for years.  ME THINKS THAT SELF SERVING COUNCILLORS LIKE JOSH MATLOW (WHO REFUSED TO HELP AN ASSAULTED WOMAN — BY VOUCHING TO THE DRUNKEN STATE OF A CERTAIN GROPER) ARE USING THE SCARBOROUGH SUBWAY ISSUE AS A WAY TO GAIN MEDIA ATTENTION — PERHAPS THE COUNCILLOR COULD  LEARN TO STAND UP FOR WHAT IS  RIGHT INSTEAD OF POSTURING?

Trust and credibility

[The council-approved extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway has committed funding from our provincial and federal partners, both of whom continue to support the extension. With a change of plans, there is no guarantee their contributions would remain committed to Scarborough transit, and you couldn’t blame them for taking their investment elsewhere.] CITY COUNCIL HAS A FEW COUNCILLORS WHO ARE NOW REBUFFING THE COUNCIL-APPROVED BLOOR-DANFORTH SUBWAY EXTENSION. THEY PRETEND TO WANT TO  “SAVE THE LRT”, IGNORING THE FACT THAT THEY RISK JEOPARDIZING THE TRANSIT FUNDING COMMITMENTS WE HAVE FROM OTHER LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT, THESE SELFISH FOOLS PUT THEIR AMBITION BEFORE TORONTO’S NEED FOR AN EXPANDED SUBWAY SYSTEM.

Toronto is at a critical juncture, preparing to receive up to $840-million from the federal government over the next three years to make unprecedented investments in the reliability and performance of our transit system and advance the planning of our major transit projects.

With so much at stake, we cannot afford to deliver a self-inflicted blow to our credibility, resources and timelines. OR ALLOW COUNCILLORS WHO LACK VISION TO LIMIT TORONTO WITH EMPTY PROMISES OF IMMEDIATE TRANSIT.

It’s what people need

Earlier this year, Toronto’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat came forward with her department’s analysis of what good transit looks like in Scarborough.

They found most people taking transit downtown from Scarborough are students who want to connect directly into the core, which makes multiple stops along the way unnecessary — on an LRT or a subway. The analysis favoured an express subway extension above the original light rail. THERE ARE ONLY A HANDFUL OF PLANNERS WHO CAN THINK BIG – JENNIFER KEESMAAT IS ONE OF THEM, AND IGNORING HER IN FAVOUR OF THE LIMITED PROJECTIONS OF LRT-SUPPORTING PLANNERS IS EITHER A JUNIOR LEVEL MISTAKE THAT SHOWS AN INABILITY TO LEAD, OR A CALCULATED ATTEMPT TO SECURE LEFT-LEANING VOTES.

Transit ridership in Scarborough is also much lower than the rest of the city and greater high-speed connectivity from the Scarborough Town Centre will help get people out of cars and promote social equity and employment opportunities.

Development and investment in the region has stalled, a problem we cannot give up on considering our rapid growth and affordable housing challenges.

As an architect recently noted on Twitter in relation to the project, “Amalgamation was a deal for equality of conditions. Connect all City Centres.”

Of course, we will work with the TTC to bring down the $3 billion price tag for the extension. And yes, we need to talk seriously about how we will pay for transit projects, a process that is already underway. AND ONE WHICH I HAVE DEDICATED THE PAST DECADE TO WORKING ON!

But many of the subway’s loudest critics do not live or work in Scarborough, where more than half the population is born outside of Canada. When they say this is too much to spend on a subway, the inference seems to be that it’s too much to spend on this part of the city. COUNCILLORS TREAT THEIR WARDS AS FIEFDOMS AND THIS HAS LED TO INACTION ON BIG PROJECTS LIKE SUBWAY EXPANSION, PROJECTS THAT ARE GOOD FOR THE ENTIRE CITY. THOSE OPPOSING THE SUBWAY IN SCARBOROUGH ARE DOING SO BECAUSE THEY WANT TO DIRECT FUNDING INTO THEIR WARD, TO GET RE-ELECTED BECAUSE THEY CAN’T GET A JOB ANYWHERE ELSE. THEIR THINKING IS SMALL-MINDED AND LIMITED – BUT WHAT CAN WE  EXPECT FROM COUNCILLORS WHO LACK REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE? WITH WORK HISTORY SO SCANT IT AMOUNTS TO WORKING AT A COUPLE OF NOT-FOR-PROFITS AND AS A SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEE?  THE ONLY FOUNDATION THEY HAVE FOR THEIR JUDGMENTS IS LIMITED TO WHAT THE EXPERTS OF THE DAY TELL HIM TO THINK.

The optimized Scarborough transit plan is part of a proposed 15-year network expansion, one that finally presents projects, including the Relief Line, SmartTrack and Waterfront LRT as an interconnected network, rather than a zero sum game of competing priorities.

For those reasons and more, changing tracks on Scarborough is not the answer. It will delay transit for those who need it, introduce new problems, new costs and a weakened position for our city.

I will continue my work to find the best path forward for the people of Toronto. I WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD CONSENSUS; I WILL HAVE THE PATIENCE TO LISTEN TO THE BLATHERING OF FOOLS; AND CONTINUE TO BE OPEN TO IDEAS FROM DISRUPTERS WHO CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO. Those who fight to move backwards must ask themselves where that journey ends.

John Tory is the mayor of Toronto.

The value of a home

My husband and I bought a monster house 12 years ago. It was an old Victorian style, double brick with good bones, but in need of repair. In the 60s it was divided into four apartments and no one had renovated it since. The yellowed shag carpeting had seen better days, and the white stucco walls and arched doorways had gone grey over time. It still had all the old plumbing and knob and tube wiring so needed desperately to be gutted and restored.

A house has a personality, and ours seemed to be like an old oak tree that had been made to look like a Christmas pine. It had a solid soul, but the renovations were horrendous. Our goal was to restore it to the solid home it once was. It was the perfect project for a newly married couple!

We decided to live in it and tackle one floor at a time. Both of us were working full time, so it meant spending our evenings and weekends toiling away on the house.  After gutting out all the apartments, we found signs of the original stairs that were located right where we planned to put in the main stairwell. We repaired all the old fireplaces, putting new liners in all and using old bricks from the original construction that we found hidden away to repair the chimneys. We managed to save all the original leaded glass windows, and searched salvage yards for old six panel solid wood interior doors to match the original doors in the house.

Between electrical, plumbing, tiling and carpentry, we found that only a few of the trades people we hired could deliver the quality that we wanted and so did much of the work ourselves. There were months when we were too busy with our jobs to do anything on the house, and with the demands of toddlers, there was a year or two when very little was done. Our 10-month renovation project took us 12 years! And now that it is finally done, it feels like we’ve reached the top of the mountain. We’re looking around and enjoying the view, thinking cool we did it… but now what?

I don’t think I can sit quietly in a huge house, sipping tea and eating bon-bons, or give up the confidence I get from building with my own hands. What many think of as menial work —painting, sanding, tiling — is my way of keeping grounded and in shape! Being able to see the work that you have done take shape doesn’t happen often in politics, and there is nothing like taking down a wall to let out a little frustration!

Although we have built many terrific memories in our house, it was the journey, not the asset, that created them. And so we decided to put our house up for sale and continue our journey.

I feel that we have lucked out when it comes to our real estate agent. We have listed with Cheenee Foster. She is with Slavens and Associates and is one of the hardest working agents I have ever met. Cheenee spent years staging houses and has an eye for design. But what I admire most about her is her drive. She isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves and help, although she is always dressed to perfection. Watching her in an elegant summer dress and high heels as she set up my living room furniture, moving couches and chairs without hesitation, reminded me that women can do anything men can do — and we can do it in heels!

Cheenee spent a week helping me stage the house. From moving furniture to picking paint colour, she walked me through the process of preparing our house to sell. Few agents would invest the time that Cheenee gave to making sure our house looked terrific.  But, what truly makes her a top agent is her integrity. She knows that we aren’t in any rush to sell and has suggested that if we don’t get what we want, she’d recommend taking it off the market and trying again in the fall. I’ve bought and sold a lot of homes, and where most agents would try to coerce us down in price to make a quick commission, Cheenee sees the value in our property and in holding on for a better market if need be. What makes Cheenee Foster one of Toronto’s best real estate agents is that she puts her customers before her commission. So, if you are looking for a good agent to help you through the stressful process of selling your home, I highly recommend Cheenee Foster.

She’ll be hosting an open house at our home this weekend. Come out and meet her!

Eulogy to Rob Ford

 

Rob_Sarah

This week, the media is filled with images of politicians and personalities lining up to pay their respects to former Mayor Rob Ford. From friends to political rivals, they line up, touch his casket, and remember him. It’s the right thing to do, to drop their political differences and pay homage to a man who stepped forward to represent people frustrated with Toronto’s leadership.

I tip my hat to Rob, to his ability to capture and vocalize the discontent that so many Toronto residents were feeling.

I grew to know and respect Rob during the 2010 election and that is how I am choosing to remember him.

The 2010 mayoral race began in January and ran for 10 long months. The number of debates that year exceeded anything Toronto had ever seen before and it meant the top five candidates saw each other almost every day, and sometimes two or three times in one day. When we arrived at each debate we’d be ushered behind stage to the waiting room where we’d wolf down lunch, or dinner, and chat for a bit before going on stage

It was before the debates, in those quiet moments waiting, that we all grew to know and respect each other. A camaraderie builds up behind the stage that supporters rarely see and it lasted long after the election because we all shared the same experiences together. Joe Pantelone was always the gentleman. He would smile and joke and was an easy man to talk to.  George Smitherman always came into the room with a thick debate binder and an aid at his side. Rocco Rossi was usually loud and boisterous, friendly and full of energy. Rob on the other hand was usually very quiet. He was shy and after saying hello he would go and sit in a corner with one of his staff, drinking his “Big Gulp,” and checking his email. It took a while to get to know Rob, but eventually, over the months, we grew to respect each other.

The first opportunity I had to truly see Rob (without his stage personality) came after a debate. Following each debate the organizers would line us up for photos. Rocco Rossi was the tallest and when pictures were taken he would try to position himself beside Joe to make Joe look shorter. It was a political tactic that didn’t sit well with me. I noticed this and, wearing heels, I would try to jump in between them as a buffer.  Rob noticed what was going on, and one day as we lined up for a group photo I realized I couldn’t get there in time. I looked at Rob and without saying a word, he stepped in between Rocco and Joe. That is the Rob I hope people will remember.  He was a man who would quietly do the right thing.

Rob was a very shy man which made his outgoing actions during the campaign a testament to his inner bravery. He overcame his shyness in order to get on the stage and speak for the people.

As the hottest days of summer gave way to fall, our debates moved from small church basements to high school auditoriums. It was at one of the high schools that I learned a little more about Rob. He was standing in a hallway drinking his Big Gulp as we waited to go on stage. I was thinking about what the questions might be from the students and asked him if he were able to go back to high school and take another career path what he might chose to do instead. His eyes lit up and he smiled thinking about it. He told me that he had always loved the theatre and performing on stage. I nearly fell over, and he laughed, explaining that in high school he had a great drama teacher and had enjoyed every moment of it. The doors opened and we headed for the stage, Rob commenting — “it’s time to perform.”

Rob, your performance ended too soon. When Toronto needed you, you stepped up to the plate to fill the position. You loved this city and I hope one day, when your children look back at who their father was, they will know both your bravery and the quiet things that you did to help those around you.  I hope you are in the arms of an angel now – rest in peace.

International Women’s Day – true leadership and journalist integrity

When I think about strong women, I think of women who have stayed true to their profession, who lead with integrity. As publisher of Women’s Post, it would be easy to simply trash men, to talk about women’s rights and the need for women to have more power. But it would be wrong.

Ethics are tools that help people stay true to the balance our society relies on to move forward. When that balance is shifted so that women or men gain too much power, our society as a whole suffers. I am proud that Women’s Post not only promotes the successes of women, but defends men from the attacks of women using their power unjustly.

In journalism, there are far too many writers who give way to sensationalism, who twist their words for political gain and twitter followers. This was obvious today, as I read Jennifer Pagliaro’s fiction in the Toronto Star where she writes “Tory proclaimed his transit priorities were SmartTrack and the Scarborough subway. He said SmartTrack would provide relief on the Yonge line while knocking Olivia Chow’s support of the relief line subway.”  This is so blatantly false that the writer in me screams foul.

I’m hoping that Pagliaro just hasn’t done her homework, because I hate to think that she might be attempting to use her platform as a journalist to twist the truth.

When John Tory was running for Mayor of Toronto, he came out in strong support of what he coined the “Yonge Relief” subway line.  I remember thinking how clever it was that he had changed the name from the downtown relief line to the Yonge relief line. By calling it a relief line for Yonge Street he was explaining to the public the actual function of the line – to offer riders from Scarborough and Etobicoke an alternative way of getting across the city.

That’s why I cringe today as I read Pagliaro’s words in the Toronto Star because it assumes that just because Tory suggested Smart Track that he was against the relief line, which is simply not true at all. If she were to do her homework she could have discovered that he has promoted the relief line for years. Pagliaro even suggests that Olivia Chow’s support of the relief line was authentic. As a transit advocate, I remember well that we could not get Chow to come out in support of the downtown relief subway line, because her loyalty was to Transit City and LRTs. Tory was constantly knocking her support of the relief line. When Chow came out claiming her love for the relief line all I could do was laugh and wonder if the journalists would notice/remember, or if naive young woman might fall for it —  indeed Pagliaro did.

When I ran for Mayor in 2010, I was very fortunate to have Mayor Tory’s two sons – George Tory and John Tory running my campaign. I’m not sure how big a role their father actually played, but I always had the feeling that he was quietly advising them. We decided to make the relief subway line a pivotal part of our campaign, because most transit experts insisted it was the highest priority line in the city. I remember going into a debate with John Jr. instructing me to answer every question with “the relief line or a subway.”  I balked when he told me he didn’t care if the question was about social housing, or land use planning — that I should answer “relief subway line” to every question or he would quit the campaign. And before I went up on stage he grabbed all my notes and told me I wouldn’t need them.

The next day all the papers were calling me “Subway Sarah” and I jumped to third place in the polls.  I was in absolute awe of the Tory boys and their father.

Back then reporters said our idea for the relief line was wishful thinking.  But over the years, as CEO of the Transit Alliance, my team and I worked to build awareness and support for the relief line, hosting many events in which John Tory would take part. He always spoke in support of the relief line, emphasizing it’s importance. Tory never gave up on the relief line, and that is why I wonder what Pagliaro is trying to do in her column?

International Woman’s Day is about the strength of women to lead within our society. We do this by staying true to ourselves, our profession, and each other. But yet again, I find myself defending a man against the political attacks of a woman who irresponsibly uses her stage to distort the truth.

Becoming a good journalist takes hard work. It isn’t easy to get beyond your personal assumptions and report the facts without bias, and in the world of twitter it is hard to avoid the temptation when given a global stage to write from. But a true journalist doesn’t take advantage of the stage they stand on. She does her homework, uncovers the truth, and writes the facts.

Today, critics are piling on Mayor Tory simply because he is willing to admit that a campaign strategy – Smart Track — may not be feasible. They forget that when he announced Smart Track during the campaign he insisted it was an idea, a vision, and that studies would be needed to see if it could work. They want to ignore the fact that Mayor Tory coined the term the “Yonge Street Relief line” and that he was one of the first to advocate for it.  I want to remind the Mayor of a great quote from Jean Sibelius: “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.”

The gaping hole in Toronto’s budget

 

Change is in the air, sunny ways and sunnier days are coming to Toronto. Taking us out of the freeze that has limited our ability to grow. And this isn’t just because the Federal liberal government has announced infrastructure funding – although it helps –  there is a noticeable difference in the culture at city hall. Gone are the plotting whispers in the cafe, gone are the unanswered phone calls, and almost all of the arrogant attitudes and elitism that used to elevate public servants high above the people they worked for.  

Instead the city is starting to feel like a well run machine, and although it is in desperate need of funding for housing, transit and other services, city manager Peter Wallace is bringing the passion back to city hall. But for all his hard work and commitment he will have his hands tied if council doesn’t come up with a way of funding the infrastructure and services they have voted to move forward on.

With a $2.1 Billion backlog in affordable housing repairs and the need to raise over $10 Billion for transit improvements and infrastructure like the Relief Line, and the Scarborough subway and LRT extension, the city is stuck in a cycle of denial that started decades ago. Desperate for re-election politicians refused to deal with the lack of funding choosing instead to ignore the need to build transit and social housing. They allowed gridlock to grow and housing to fall into a such a state of disrepair that it will take decades to rebuild.

Today Toronto is at a crucial point in our history, our success as a city depends on this current council stepping up to the responsibilities we elected them to handle. Mayor Tory has stated in the past that he believes a basket of revenue tools is needed. Without his strong leadership and commitment to creating a viable revenue stream to fund the gaping hole in our city budget, there is little chance that the self interest of councillors wanting re-election won’t once again ignore the issue of funding the promises they have made.

Lately in the darker corners of City Hall a few councilors are whispering that perhaps the city should freeze development, or at least put a pause on it.  This blatant attempt to gain favor with older neighbourhood voters, shows their utter lack of awareness on the dependence our city has on property taxes and the desperate need to grow our tax base through development. Instead of trying to find ways to fund the services and infrastructure these councilors are more interested in finding ways to make voters re-elect them.

Mayor Tory is up against a huge challenge, he will need to get the self-serving councilors to support a revenue tool big enough to allow the city to pay for the infrastructure and services they have all promised Toronto voters. If he isn’t able to get the support of council on this issue, he risks being just one of a long line of Mayor’s who have added to the cities growing debt unable to lead council to deal with the growing debt that will impact our children and grandchildren.

Detroit refused to create revenue tools. Will Toronto follow in their footsteps?
Detroit refused to create revenue tools. Will Toronto follow in their footsteps?

Organizations across the region have called for creating revenue tools. The Board of Trade supports a basket of revenue tools that include a parking surcharge, a regional sales tax and tolls.  The Chamber of Commerce has suggested a fuel tax and tolls.  Just about every organization that has looked at the economic impact of gridlock have called on council to implement tolls. Given that Toronto owns and pays to maintain both the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway (DVP) and is now looking at rebuilding the Gardiner at a pricetag of over $2Billion now is the time to put tolls on these highways.

The city of Toronto has a critical choice to make.  Our council can continue refuse to create a revenue stream like tolls but this will push the entire cost of funding our infrastructure repairs onto Toronto property tax payers. And this would also require huge cuts to services we now take for granted – everything from snow clearing, to garbage collection, libraries, and recreation centres would be on the chopping block.  Or council can finally move forward on revenue tools, and put tolls on the Gardiner and DVP dedicated to the $2Billion needed to rebuild the Gardiner and then to building the relief subway line.

Mayor Tory will need help convincing his council that the time has come for each of them to do what is best for the city. Write your councillor today and tell them that you want them to support tolls or another revenue stream that will allow our city to tackle the growing infrastructure deficit. You can find their email address here: