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Toronto approves 2018 budget, with extra funding for transit

City Council approved the Toronto 2018 budget Monday 33-11, with a special interest in transit. Included in the $11-billion operating budget budget is over $50 million for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to help in new investments and maintenance, as well as provide discounts for low-income riders and the hop-on-hop-off transfer.

There will also be a fare freeze for the next year.

The city is planning on investing in transit, shelters, recreational spaces, and the Vision Zero plan, among others. The revenue for this budget is being collected from various sources, including taxes, TTC fares, provincial grants, and reserve funds.

“This is a good news budget. It invests in key areas while spending low and keeping tax increases low,” said budget chief Gary Crawford in a statement. “Toronto residents want City Hall to build the city but they also appreciate that we strike the right balance, that we tighten spending, find efficiencies and don’t hike taxes sky-high. For the fourth year in a row, I’m confident we have struck the right, responsible balance that people expect.”

Residential property taxes are set to increase 2.1 per cent along with the rate of inflation, while commercial taxes will only increase by one per cent. City staff say this will equal an increase of about $82 on average for homeowners with property valued at $624,418. Residents will pay an additional 0.5 per cent for the City Building Fund, which supports infrastructure projects such as transit and housing. The city will be relying on approximately $800 million collected from the municipal land transfer tax to fund services, something city manager Peter Wallace says is dangerous considering the real estate market.

Prior to budget approval, mayor John Tory announced $3 million (included in the $50 million investment) earmarked to help overcrowding on Line 1, including the prioritization of the relief line. The 10-point plan includes the addition of more subway cars during peak hours, overnight maintenance schedules, hiring of platform staff for the Bloor/Yonge station, and the use of express busses to alleviate overcrowding.

“I know delays and crowding can be frustrating. I know people want an expanded transit system as soon as possible. I know how maddening it can be when transit and traffic don’t move in this city,” said Tory in a statement. “I want Toronto residents to know that I am dedicated to getting transit and traffic moving. I’m dedicated to building our entire transit network plan. I’m dedicated to making sure the TTC is doing everything possible to minimize delays and ease crowding.”

Council also voted to approve a 50 per cent reduction in property taxes for culture hubs like 401 Richmond. To be eligible, a hub must prove their tenants produce cultural goods and services, charge tenants below market rent, and have a minimum rentable space of 10,000 square feet (5,000 if owned by the city).

Hey Toronto, the minimum wage is going up

No matter what happens in 2018, at least Ontarians will have some solace in the fact the minimum wage will increase by a dollar.

Ontario Minister of Labour announced that as of Jan. 1, the minimum wage will rise to $14. This means an estimated 55 per cent of all retail workers in the province will be getting a raise. Employees will also be eligible for an extra 10 days of personal emergency leave and increased family medical leave for eight to 28 weeks. The government is also instituting a new domestic or sexual violence leave of up to 10 individual days.

“Our plan for Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs provides a minimum wage people can actually live on and modernizes our labour laws to address today’s world. Too many families struggle to get by on part-time or temporary work. Those working full-time can be living in poverty. This is unacceptable in Ontario. Our plan will help ensure everyone who works hard has the chance to reach their full potential and share in Ontario’s prosperity,” said Flynn in a statement.

This is the first step towards the province’s plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2019.

Do Toronto women need another gender-flipped film?

The trailer for the gender-flipped Ocean’s 8 movie dropped last week.

It does look good. The cast is amazing — Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna to name a few — and the one-liners made me chuckle. I was a fan of the original Ocean movies, so I will probably see this one. It is being described as not a remake, but rather a spin-off or a sequel. It follows the storyline of Debbie Ocean, sister of Danny from the original films, who wants to steal an incredibly expensive diamond necklace worth one or one and a half billion dollars (unclear). She assembles seven other women to help with the job.

This is the second “gender-flipped” film set to be released. The first was the all-female Ghostbusters reboot and there are rumours of more on their way.

While I’m all for seeing films with strong female characters, I have to wonder why they are all remakes or sequels to pre-existing films in which the cast was dominated by men? Can anyone come up with a movie script that has a predominately female cast, with complex characters and a decent storyline. Wonder Woman was a good film, but those characters were also pre-existing in lore and comics.

Other original films revolve around romance or motherhood — and most of them are really terrible. They tend to make fun of women more than they empower them. What the world needs isn’t another remake, but rather an intense drama or action film with a diverse range of female stars. Preferably, this original film would be written, directed, and produced by a woman. 

I know it may be a long time until something like this is produced. But, I think the challenge is worth it. In light of feminism being the word of the year and sexual harassment being the story of the year, maybe it’s time to start considering real, strong women as inspiration in film.

From Toronto, New Year’s traditions from around the world

As we approach 2018, it’s time to think about all the positive things we have managed to accomplish in 2017 and how our lives will be different in the new year. Luck and prosperity are just a few of the things many people from around the world hope for. In keeping with this, many people have a few customs and traditions to help make the transition easier, and hopefully bring luck along the way. Here are some New Years customs and traditions from some countries around the world.

Brazil: jump seven waves 

NYE in Brazil is well celebrated and can feature spectacular firework displays all along the famous beaches in Rio. Many people find themselves hanging out by the beach and not just to watch the fireworks. Wave jumping is another tradition. If you jump over each wave while making your wish, this will increase your luck and bring you joy for the new year. If you want to increase your chances in love, make sure the first person you greet in the new year is someone special.

Turkey: wear red underwear

Wearing red underwear is common in many countries on NYE, especially those in Latin America. Many people head to the malls to buy themselves some red undergarments for their NYE celebrations. Wearing red panties guarantee passion and love for the new year ahead for many women. It is also common to wear yellow underwear to bring happiness and money. Perhaps aim for a red panty with yellow polka dots?

Spain- lucky grapes

There is a tradition, as well as a superstition, in Spain where people eat 12 grapes at midnight. These grapes are known as the lucky grapes and can be traced back to a custom in 1895 by grape growers. If you eat 12 grapes at midnight, each grape will represent the 12 months of the new year and the 12 wishes you are permitted. These 12 grapes must be consumed in the first 12 minutes of the new year. If you get a sour grape amongst the bunch this could mean a sour month in the year ahead. It is also common to find this tradition in the Philippines and other Spanish countries and communities.

Denmark- break plates

If you live in Denmark and you have a broken dish, don’t throw it out. Instead, smash the remains on NYE. This tradition is odd, yet serves as a sign for friendship in that country. After midnight, it’s not uncommon to find a pile of broken dishes on your doorstep, as this is a sign that someone values your friendship. Smash plates and other wares against your friend’s door as a sign of lasting friendship and love — just make sure it’s not glass.

Jamaica- clean your house

Similar to many other Caribbean islands, Jamaicans have a tradition of cleaning out their homes for Christmas and for the New Year. You clean out all the negativity and leave room for positive space in your life. People find the time to buy new decorative items for their homes and even repaint their houses. Many people around the world also take a broom on NYE and (literally) sweep all the negativity held throughout the year.

Japan- ring 108 bells

This may not be a personal requirement for the New Year in Japan, but many temples ring the bell 108 times at the stroke of midnight. Ringing the bell 108 times represents 108 worldly temptations a person must overcome in the Buddhist belief.

Italy- Pucker up

particularly in Venice, there is a custom of mass kissing that takes place at the stoke of midnight. As fireworks  light up the sky over St Marks Square, couples are encouraged to start smooching!  Many couples make this a romantic event. It’s not odd to kiss at midnight, as this is common in many cultures around the world, including here in Canada and in the united States. kissing someone at the stroke of midnight is meant to set the tone you wish to establish for the future with that person. It is about maintaining the bond. If you’re single and don’t have anyone to kiss, I say to kiss all your problems from 2017 goodbye.

Happy 2018!

5 hair trends you need to leave behind in 2017

We’ve talked about beauty, fashion, and food that have all become a hot mess in 2017. This week we are going to close off the trends series by talking about some wacky hairstyles I’ve seen this year. Here are five hair trends you need to leave behind in 2017:

Unicorn Hair

This one should not come as a surprise! We are living in a culture that seemingly obsessed with a mythical and magical creature. Unicorn hair, or hair in layered pastel colours, is not uncommon to find, especially during the summer of 2017. There were lots of millennial pink heads out there in addition to the rainbow hair styles.

Silver Hair

At one point silver hair on a younger person became all the rage and it’s still present in 2017. Maybe in 2018, we should try not chemically stripping our hair for the sake of fashion and embracing our natural hair. Colourful styles can we fun, but by all means get highlights and stop layering in bleach and dye.

Chunky Highlights

Speaking of highlights, back in October of this year, a hairstylist from New Jersey posted a few pictures of her clients wearing this 90’s trend in 2017. It was well liked and many started to consider bringing back chunky look. Think Kelly Clarkson peak 2003 the Thankful album cover. While we have seen some embarrassing styles in the 90’s (I’m not afraid to admit I was once a lover of chunky highlights too), I think people should return to the preferable the thin, blended or ombre effect for 2018.

Half Shaved Head

It’s the classic ‘badass’ look. Having one side of your head buzzed and the other with a flip of luxurious hair. This look has been popularized in the pop music industry by people like Cassie and Rihanna. It also made its way to Hollywood. However, shaving half or even a bit of your head is a big commitment. If you really want this style you have to stick to it and maintain it, or deal with having uneven hair for a very long time afterwards if the look doesn’t please you.

Excessively Long Extensions

Long hair can be a lot of work, but it sure looks great.  However, if you’re a lover of wearing hair extensions, the excessively overdone look can be bit much. Celebrities like Kim and Kylie Kardashian have been known to switch up their looks ever so often using this trick, but half the time they are using some really good quality wigs. Earlier this year, Kim was known to switch up her looks from blonde to short to extreme 32 inch extensions. It was her “Cher’-inspired beauty look. This Rapunzel type look has been a favourite of celebrities to express drama and luxury — but that doesn’t mean it works for the regular everyday person.

Here is hoping you can leave all the excess baggage and negativity in your life behind for 2017 and focus on better things to come for the New Year!

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