Author

Sarah Thomson

Browsing

It’s all about people – Mitchell Goldhar: The Giver

I’m building this unique luxury tent and cave resort concept in the Caribbean, and as most of my friends and family will attest, I live, breath, and sleep it.  My days are spent inspiring people. One day it’s our engineer who is designing the hydraulic system that will support our tents (and fold them up in case of hurricane), and on another it is our architect who has to figure out a design that will keep our cave units dry and bright.  And almost every day I work to inspire investors to believe in me and my concept of a luxury cultural “safari”, where affluent guests can stay in a peaceful natural setting, yet still access golf, fine dining, shopping, movie theatres, and all the urban amenities they love.  

I’ve never had to search for investors before. In the past, I’ve relied on bank loans and my own funds to build my businesses. So when I started out, I made some mistakes. I learned from them and carried on.  

One of my first investment pitches was to Mitchell Goldhar.  His background can be intimidating.  At the age of 28, Walmart recruited him to secure locations for their warehouse club division in Canada. He believed that expensive landlords were driving up the cost of goods and he was determined to bring fair prices to Canadians by building facilities with lower rents. But, Walmart changed their strategy and decided to go to Mexico instead. Goldhar, like most passionate entrepreneurs, refused to give up. He continued for almost a year, bringing together more properties and leaving voice messages for his Walmart contact – messages that didn’t get returned. Sure enough, almost a year later, Walmart finally called him back to say they had reconsidered.  Goldhar became their development partner and led conversion of 122 Woolco locations into Walmarts.

Through his company, Smart Centres, he has developed more than 200 shopping centres across the country. His enterprise was founded on his desire to give back to the world by creating conditions that help the average family get better prices on the goods they purchase.  He understands the power spaces  have to shape habits and actions. He’s a community builder. Needless to say, I was very nervous going into my meeting with him.

But, Mitch came into the room in jeans and a t-shirt, he put his phone on the table face down and asked me about my background, my history, my family. He put me at ease. In hindsight, I wonder if he could tell how nervous I was and wanted to help me find my footing before giving my pitch.

Over the years, I’ve begun identifying people, putting them into two different categories. I call them the “takers” and the “givers.”  The takers are people who are driven by status and shackled by fear.  They build walls around themselves pretending to know everything, but their lack of real engagement in the world shelters them from the mistakes and harsh realities that build wisdom. They tend to undermine anyone with a strong spirit, anyone who might challenge or question them.  They are easy to identify – they avoid direct, intimate conversation, and in meetings they check their cell phones every five minutes to avoid real engagement. They take from those around them, and waste their opportunity to significantly contribute to the world. I try to avoid these people as much as I can.

Then, there are the “Givers.” These are people who are driven to do things that will make the world better. Mitchell Goldhar is a giver – he believes in people and isn’t afraid to show it. Mitch understands how just a little bit of encouragement can go a long way. His encouragement and interest in my concept is something I hold on to whenever I come up against negativity.

Mitch is a true leader, but he is also very humble. He doesn’t place himself above those pitching to him, but listens intently and thoroughly.  This is perhaps the key to his success.  He heard everything I said in my pitch, and the questions he asked filled in the information I hadn’t yet given him. His ability to understand and intuitively pick up on my vision was startling.  

Givers draw strength and confidence from their actions and interactions. They have courage and engage with the world. They make mistakes and learn from them, and this produces confidence. Mitch exudes confidence, he is wise, but not too wise.

My father used to say that courage is about facing life and all its adversity with honour. And being honourable is about living up to a moral code that protects and enhances civil society.  Mitchell Goldhar has a lot of courage, and I’m looking forward to working with him in the very near future.

AirBNB is the driver of change in travel

AirBNB has become the largest “hotel chain” in the world and it’s having a huge impact on hotels  in tourist destinations like the Caribbean.  It’s hard to say what the exact conditions were that enabled AirBNB to succeed.  Some argue the knowledge the internet brought into our homes gave travellers a stronger sense of security, while others believe that government legislation making all beaches in the Caribbean public opened up the market to AirBNB, while still others argue that the desire for more local experiences was crucial to their success. I tend to think it was a convergence of all of the above. The playing field for the hospitality industry was significantly changed, and hotels can either change with it, or fade away.

Change isn’t easy, especially to those who have spent there careers in the industry.  As AirBNB expands people begin to demand more from their vacations, they learn that having a view of the ocean, is better than not having it, that having a kitchen to cook in is better than having to eat out every single night.  If travellers can rent a home with a view of the ocean and access to a beach – they are more likely to rent it than a hotel room that doesn’t have a view of the ocean. I would argue with any hotel developer out there that having a property with an ocean view, kitchenettes, and beach access,  is far more valuable than a hotel room located on a beach.  And until the industry begins to take AirBNBs influence on travellers seriously, they’ll miss out on opportunities driven by the change.

The first victims of AirBNB are the “garden view” hotel room suites. Why would anyone choose to pay for a small garden view room, when they could rent a large room in a home with a view of the ocean for far less, and get free access to a number of beaches?

In Barbados a family can rent a 4 bedroom home through AirBNB with a pool, an awesome view of the ocean, and public beach access 5 minutes away, for just under $300/night. Compare this to one Superior room at the Marriot hotel in Barbados for $220/night and it is easy to see why the hospitality industry is in turmoil.

Add to this the rise of “Beach Clubs” like Nikki Beach and there is little reason to rent a room at a large corporate hotel.

So what is the answer? How can corporate hotel chains survive when AirBNB has so completely changed the playing field?

They have to start adapting to the change and offer more than just a room. They need to take a lesson from the small boutique hotels that are succeeding by attracting travellers with “experiential” opportunities. For starters, the land costs for a boutique hotel smart enough to know they don’t have to be right on the beach, are much lower. Boutique hotels offer travellers the chance to experience local culture and many of them set up partnerships with local businesses. Successful boutique hotels provide on site programming (yoga and cooking classes, nature hikes etc.) giving travellers more than just a room on the beach, but a memorable experience.

Corporate hotels have to change the way they do business. Sweeping policies that once guided their developments need to be strategically evaluated. For example here is a quote given by a development manager at the Marriott “We are currently interested only in a beach location for a luxury or an upper-upscale brand in Barbados.” That kind of  thinking is why so few of the large hotel chains succeed on islands like Barbados, where boutique hotels owned by private families control the luxury market.

Corporate hotels have a choice – change now or slowly watch their profits wither.

Love will conquer all

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary and my husband, Greg Thomson, started our day by playing a video on his Iphone of the Flintstones singing “Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary.”  Like our wedding day, today started with reckless giggling.

My husband is an amazing man. In that quiet time just before we get up in the morning, I sometimes feel as if there is an angel beside me.  He is man who has made it his goal to balance compassion, tenderness, strength, wisdom and grace — and he has succeeded.  Greg has never chased after power or fame, and he doesn’t need social status or wealth to define him – but he makes allowances for those who do.

Greg is rarely critical of people or ideas, he doesn’t possess the arrogance that too often develops in men who achieve success. Greg believes in human potential – in that ability people have to achieve things that others think impossible.

Greg would never hurt anyone and he would never try to limit or undermine someones confidence. He is wise and knows that those who think they know best are fools (although he’d never say that to them). He is a man who feels a duty to give back the world, to tackle mediocrity, and conventional thinking. In his work, he studies the social impact of charities hoping that he can help the small charities who have a large social impact. He gets frustrated over the amount of funds that get wasted by charities that have little social impact, but are filled with influential board members.

When I think about our marriage, I believe our happiness rests on our willingness to give up our individual selves to become part of something bigger. I remember when we were just married, I used to write about my love for him; about the things he did that inspired me, about the awe that I had over this man who chose to share his life with me. Today, I realize that my love is now weaved together with the love Greg has for me. It is constantly expanding. It encompasses our children, and, like a warm breeze, it spreads out over our family and friends. I think our love grows with the choices we make, with the friendships we have, and the experiences we gain. By living up to the people we want to be we are able to feel more deeply, and experience things more richly.

When we were first married we talked about what we wanted in our future. Greg wanted to feel more, to do more and to make a difference in the world. Back then I couldn’t understand what Greg meant by ‘feel more” because I had been raised to put both my heart and mind into everything I do. At the beginning of our marriage I realized that Greg put his head and thoughts into what he did, but not his heart.  He learned to be cerebral, to hide his feelings, but part of him knew he was missing out on something. Over time as our love weaved together Greg let himself feel more, he put his heart and not just his head into everything he did. He allowed himself to go beyond just thinking about the world to sensing it. I learned to see the world through Greg’s eyes just as he learned to see it through mine. Our world became much bigger, more vibrant, sensual, and beautiful. We are soaring above the ground we walked as individuals.

A few months ago a man told me that I should be much more afraid of failing than I am. I’ve thought about his words a lot since then; about what he thinks is failure, and about the limitations his kind of thinking has placed on him. In the world of keeping up the Joneses he’s succeeded, but in the world that Greg and I live in, he seems shackled by fear, limiting his involvement in things that might expand his world because he fears failure.

The love that Greg and I have has allowed us to embrace the world. Together we can take on any challenge. And the only true failure that either of us could have is to fail to live up to the moral code that guides our lives. Our love has made us free, and has given us confidence. Together we experience life, we set out to achieve our dreams and we live every moment to the fullest.

When our eldest son was born, I remember sharing that moment when we both realized that our duty extended beyond just what we could give to the world, but to provide our children with love, compassion and a value system that will allow them to find the love we have managed to build.

Everyday I wake up and I know how lucky I am to have such an amazing man in my life. Greg is the strongest man I have ever met. He would never compromise himself for gain, or use “business” as an excuse for hurting someone. I think he would actually be physically sick if he thought his words had hurt someone. He is kind, compassionate and every day he defines what it means to be a gentleman.

The vision of who Greg wants to be captures all the qualities that go into making a true hero.  He is a part of how I define myself, the pulse inside me that drives me forward and makes me want to put everything I have into everything that I do —  so that one day I just might be good enough for him.

Hurricane Irma – 9:00am update


Top level details

STRENGTH: Category 4

WHERE: Eyewall has reached lower Florida and passing over the keys

ROUTE: Up the western coast of Florida

END: Expected to reduce in size and force as it heads north over Jacksonville reducing to category 3, 2, and 1 as it moves north and inland.

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.

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!