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Woman of the Week: Linda Hung

Linda Hung is a theme park enthusiast. While speaking on the phone with Women’s Post, she talked excitedly about Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando. The experience, she said, was made unique by the magical landscapes and the transitions from island to island.

And Hung knows what she is talking about. As Senior Director of Theme Parks for FORREC, it is her job to ensure theme parks and resorts are designed in a way that cultivates the best possible guest experience — and the most fun.

FORREC is an international entertainment design agency based in Toronto, responsible for designing some of the world’s most attended and admired theme parks. This includes Canada’s Wonderland, Universal Studios in Florida, and several LEGOLAND properties, among many others.

Hung was always fascinated with design and architecture. “It was the idea of being able to create something with your imagination and then believing you can transform that image into a real place,” she said. “I day dreamed a great deal when I was young. I had an interest in art, design, and drawing, coupled with technical skills in math. I fell into landscape architecture.”

After graduating from the University of Toronto with a bachelor degree in Landscape Architecture, Hung moved to Asia. Employment in Canada was scarce, and in Hong Kong she was able to get a job as a Junior Architect and Intermediate Landscape Architect, while learning more about her family history.

While she loved her work, she loved theme parks and resorts more. Ever since she was young, she visited these attractions as much as possible. When a position opened up at FORREC for a master planner, Hung jumped at the opportunity. That was 19 years ago.

“I often think of how lucky I am and stay engaged and inspired in one place all these years. I’m constantly learning from my peers and clients. Projects are so diverse, I’m never bored.”

Now, she serves as Senior Director of Theme Parks, a role that incorporates her knowledge in design and architecture with business and finance. “I’m not just trying to sell them a theme park. I understand what they need to make their project and development viable, efficient, and compelling to guests. Plus, I love the whole industry, bringing entertainment to projects. We have a unique skill set with FORREC to marry it with our projects to make it stand out.”

With so many options around the world, the theme park industry is highly competitive. Each project needs to be looked at through different lenses and must cater to the client, location, brand, culture, and story. With so many entertainment offerings out there, Hung needs to constantly think about what is going to make their parks unique. How will they capture the free time of their guests?

According to Hung, the key to a successful resort is integration, ensuring guests are entertained and occupied from when they get up in the morning to when they return to their rooms at night. At a theme park, great rides and attractions are absolutely necessary, but Hung says it is about more than that. “The park in itself is also a destination. We look for things that create a whole story or environment so that once you walk in you are entering a different world. You are escaping your world and walking into a fantasy.”

FORREC also helps design smaller, local projects such as a playground at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto. The playground included elements of waterplay, handwork, and food, set around a chimney, which acts as a central gathering space. Hung says that working internationally is a thrill, but it is even more rewarding to work in your own backyard.

Hung also helped create Splashworks at Ontario Place, an experience she enjoyed greatly.

“I remember working on that project and bringing the master plan home and my kids were inspired by it and said we have our ideas, and this is what we would love to see in a splash park. And I implemented some of their thoughts. Years later they recognized some of those things in the waterpark. Those are the little moments that make it really special. Creating things in your mind and having it built into a physical place. You can experience it in design.”

Hung has an entrepreneurial spirit, and encourages creativity and adventure within business. “I would encourage a curious mind. If you have a new concept, whether it;s landscape architecture or entrepreneur. You shouldn’t stop there. Always think what could make it better. For women, being sensitive is a good thing. It’s what makes us keen observers, that’s what enables us to explore.”

When Hung isn’t working, she spends a lot of time volunteering. She does work with World Vision, Toronto City Mission, The Scott Mission, and Sketch Toronto.

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CEO Sidewalk Labs answers Toronto’s questions

Back in October it was announced that Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs, in collaboration with Waterfront Toronto and the Canadian federal government, was chosen as a partner to create an innovative city hub in Toronto, coined Quayside. 

Sidewalk Labs will be helping develop “a new kind of mixed-use, complete community” on 12-acres of unused Waterfront property. The aim is to use new technology and sustainable practices to address urban problems. They claim this new “smart” will help improve economic growth and bring international attention to Toronto.

Dan Doctoroff, Chairman and CEO of Sidewalk Labs, answered questions from the public about the project on Reddit. A lot is still unknown, but here were some of the big, and quirky, questions**:

Question: What is the timeline for this project, when do you hope to break ground, and are there plans to have mix use housing? 

Answer:  Great questions. The only timeline right now is the year-long community planning process that we launched with the Town Hall on November 1. We’ll be releasing the formal engagement plan in early 2018. At the end of this process, Sidewalk Labs, Waterfront Toronto, and the local community will determine whether we should proceed.

As for mixed-income housing — I answered that above but it’s worth repeating. We are strongly committed to making Sidewalk Toronto affordable and accessible to people with a range of incomes, ages, and abilities. We also believe strongly (this is in our RFP response) that mixed-income housing should exist within buildings.

What can you and your company do to ensure that there will be housing available for all kinds of families from various income brackets?

Right from the very beginning of this project, we and Alphabet have committed to making Sidewalk Toronto representative of the socioeconomic characteristics of the greater Toronto area. As a result, we think one of the great opportunities is to figure out ways to make housing more affordable to far more people than is typically done in new developments.

We’re looking at new types of buildings that can reduce construction costs; new approaches to making buildings more adaptable, which can lower cost; and innovative financing programs to make housing more affordable. I was very proud in New York to have led the development of a housing plan that created or preserved 165,000 units of subsidized housing over an 11-year period of time and would hope we can adapt some of those approaches to Sidewalk Toronto.

I was wondering if you can comment on what it is about Toronto that is unique or unprecedented when it comes to urban planning?

We have studied the idea of building a neighbourhood of the future since I formed Sidewalk Labs, in partnership with Larry Page, in 2015. Since then we’ve looked all over the world for the perfect place to bring that vision to life — and we found it in Toronto. Toronto is unique in its incredible diversity and openness, its rich legacy of urbanism, and its rising tech sector. It’s also suffering the problems facing many growing cities around the world, such as affordability and sustainability, which makes it the perfect place to explore new ideas to improve urban life. We did a tremendous amount of research on Toronto while preparing our vision response to Waterfront Toronto’s RFP — and we look forward to getting to know the city even better this year.

With the challenges that Toronto faces to transit and moving people across its sprawling “downtown” – coupled with Quayside’s somewhat remote location – how do you see Quayside attracting people from outside of the bubble to come visit/work/play?

A second core assumption that we made right from the beginning is that this would never be a bubble! It should be fully integrated into the fabric of the metropolitan area. We’ve done a lot of work thinking about the ways that this site — which sits on the water, separated by the Gardiner from the rest of downtown — can be stitched together into Toronto’s existing neighbourhoods. That includes potential expansions of mass transit, new forms of shuttles (over time potentially using self-driving technology), heated bike and pedestrian paths, and other ideas. We also believe some of the approaches we pilot here, including using technology to manage flows of pedestrians, cyclists, transit vehicles, as well as cars, can be applied more broadly in other Toronto areas.

I would love to see some of this area opened up to a low-tech thing – fishing. Are there any plans to include a fishing node or assess areas for fishing the new harbourfront areas? 

Having spent a day last week fishing and having caught nothing, that’s a sore subject right now! I think Fishing as a Service would be a great thing to include in Quayside. (Promise I’m joking.)

Your point is really about waterfront access for the local community, which is a great one. Many Torontonians feel disconnected from the water by the Gardiner Expressway. One of our goals is to support the city’s plans to stitch together the waterfront with downtown neighborhoods, and we’ll be exploring many potential ways to improve access via transit or other means (I mentioned some of them in another answer). We’re also big fans of the recently launched Bentway project (Waterfront Toronto is a project partner) to create a lively public realm beneath the Gardiner and help draw people down toward the waterfront — to fish or otherwise.

What is the first structure you plan on building?

A statue of Jane Jacobs? The real answer is we don’t know yet. What would YOU like to see us build first?

How can I have a job with you?

That is the question I get most often! The truth is, we can’t achieve our goals with Sidewalk Toronto unless we create an organization that combines skills that no single company has ever had. We are looking for people with experience in government, product and engineering, real estate development, business development and investment, communications — and others. The Sidewalk Labs website will give you a sense of what types of jobs are available right now (several are potentially based in Toronto). We also have a way for people to submit their resumes to our “talent network” so that if a job opens up we can see if there are any qualified applicants already in the system. Here is that link — you should apply! https://boards.greenhouse.io/sidewalklabs/jobs/594339#.WlYuYbQ-dE4

Some members of the civic policy community are concerned that giving a private agency greater control over municipal space will result in reduced public ownership and oversight of regions of the city. How will Sidewalk Labs ensure that its activities are transparent, accountable, and that its outcomes serve the people of Toronto – as opposed to financial interests of Alphabet/Google? 

Answer: The short answer is we don’t see this as a private entity controlling this. We see this as a robust partnership with the public sector. Many of the staff members of Sidewalk Labs (including myself!) have spent much of their careers working in local government, and we believe strongly in its power to improve the lives of people in cities.

We also believe strongly in transparency, which is why we’ve been releasing documents at the Sidewalk Toronto site as often as possible, as does our partner, Waterfront Toronto, which will be taking the lead on making records of open meetings publicly accessible. (Waterfront Toronto also has an Open Meetings Processes that applies to board meetings and board committee meetings.)

**Questions shortened for space. Full Reddit Q&A can be found here

‘Everyone is King’ aims to appease Toronto business

Businesses along King Street in Toronto are not happy. They have reported a decrease in sales since the pilot study began back in November, and have complained rather publicly about how the transit-first policy is impacting their finances.

A coalition of business owners are even considering legal action against the city if it doesn’t allow cars full access to the corridor on nights and weekends.

To counter these complaints, Toronto Mayor John Tory launched a design-build competition for the public spaces along the pilot. The hope is that these public spaces and the initiatives that are tied to them will encourage more people to visit King St.

The competition is called “Everyone is King” and calls for ideas on how to animate the curb lanes (15 to 140 metres in length) of the corridor.

“I am pleased we have seen improvements to the efficiency of King Street as part of the downtown transportation network,” Tory said in a statement. “I want to make sure that King Street remains a great place to eat, shop, gather and be entertained during this pilot. This program will encourage people to continue to come out to King Street.”

Local businesses are also being given the opportunity to claim additional space outdoors to support their stores, such as a patio. Any space not claimed by a business will be transformed into something the public can enjoy. Some of these installations will include warming stations, ice sculptures, fire performers, and artwork. Food will be provided through an initiative called “Eats on King”, which hopes “to promote local quick and full-service restaurants in the King Street Transit Pilot Area” on Feb. 19 and March 29.

The mayor reminded residents and businesses that King street is open to car traffic; albeit limited to certain intersections. Drivers may use any of the designated pickup and drop-off locations, and there is $5 off parking in the area around the pilot thanks to a partnership with the Toronto Parking Authority, available until November 2018.

While I understand the complaints by businesses, it is also important to note there may be external factors in play, such as the horrendous weather Toronto has experienced over the last month or the fact that most people are broke after the holidays. And remember, the pilot study began only two months ago, and people are still trying to learn the rules. Give them time to adjust.

Despite the complaints and potential law suite, the first set of transit and traffic data released in December showed improved transit service during the afternoon rush hour. Travel time has reduced from 25 minutes to 22 minutes eastbound, and 24 minutes to 19.7 minutes westbound.

The King Street pilot runs from Jarvis to Bathurst. The corridor funnels drivers to parallel east-west routes like Queen St., Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, or Front, while still allowing local drivers to access the street for short periods of time. It began on Nov. 12.

New Data will be released on Jan. 12.

No, I will not forgive greedy Tim Hortons

On Friday, Tim Hortons released a press statement to counteract the complaints regarding the slashing of benefits and paid breaks for employees at an Ontario store owned by the children of the franchise’s founders.

The statement reads: “Let us be perfectly clear. These recent actions by a few Restaurant Owners, and the unauthorized statements made to the media by a “rogue group” claiming to speak on behalf of Tim Hortons®, do not reflect the values of our brand, the views of our company or the views of the overwhelming majority of our dedicated and hardworking Restaurant Owners. While our Restaurant Owners, like all small business owners, have found this sudden transition challenging, we are committed to helping them work through these changes. However, Tim Hortons® Team Members should never be used to further an agenda or be treated as just an ‘expense.’ This is completely unacceptable.”

Essentially, the actions of a few spoiled children have resulted in a public relations nightmare and head office decided they needed to respond — without actually offering any assistance, solutions, or guarantees.

Last week, I wrote an article about how the Tim Hortons franchise was being greedy. I said a company that made roughly $3 billion (US) in revenue last year shouldn’t be so quick to devalue their employees. I also said I would not be purchasing any more product from the franchise.

Cue the comments from people defending Tim Hortons, many of whom I would bet make more than minimum wage.

A common argument expressed on social media was that I shouldn’t boycott all Tim Hortons based on the response of one or two store owners. While it is true that not all stores have decided to react to the minimum wage increase in this manner, the franchise itself is partially to blame. Most people have expressed a willingness to pay an extra 10 cents for a cup of coffee or a donut to make up the costs lost to the owners. People are actually asking Tim Hortons to raise prices so that their employees can afford their rent.

These people are the heroes Ontario needs.

Tim Hortons, on the other hand, has not raised prices. They have not promised to absorb the cost of the minimum wage increase. Instead, they chastised store owners for having to make difficult (and wrong) decisions. They claim no responsibility, merely saying they were “saddened” to hear of the actions taken by a “reckless few.”

Cry me a river.

It’s not like businesses didn’t see this coming. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne made the announcement back in May 2017, saying the minimum wage will increase to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018. That was seven months ago. Did no one do the math? Did no one think: “maybe I should look at the books to figure out how I’m going to make this work?”

And it’s also not just Tim Hortons. Other big chains are dipping into their employees tips and laying off staff,. Sunset Grill is increasing their servers’ tip out by one per cent. This is part of a process called tip pooling, in which servers pay a portion of their day’s tips to support staff like bussers, cooks, and dishwashers. This tip out increase comes in addition to menu price increases at Sunset Grill. The Clocktower, a restaurant in Ottawa, is now removing dishwashers from the tip out, saying they make enough now that minimum wage has increased. They also increased their tip out by one per cent. Smaller businesses have cut store hours and even changed to commission-based wages rather than increase their hourly rate.

Unfortunately, this is how it will be for a while. Corporate head office will blame store owners. Store owners will blame the government. The government will call the store owners “bullies”, and then corporate head office will step in with a nicely worded press release. But, at the end of the day, who is actually left hurting? The employees caught between the madness.

It’s a few dollars per shift. If you can’t figure out the math and get creative, you don’t deserve to own a business.

So, to conclude — thank you for all the comments and remarks, but I’m going to keep boycotting greedy Tim Hortons. And if you had respect for the minimum wage workers in this province, you would do so too.

Greedy Tim Hortons just lost my business

My heart bleeds for you Tim Hortons. Last year, you only earned $3 billion (US) in revenue, so with this minimum wage increase, I’m wondering how you will keep afloat? Those extra two dollars you now have to pay your hard working employees is bound to create havoc. Owners of the stores will need to work even harder to make ends meet.

Hopefully, you detected the sarcasm.

It was all over the news Thursday. A Tim Hortons, owned by the children of the business’ founder, has told employees they will no longer receive benefits or get paid for their breaks. The reason?  It’s that darn minimum wage increase. Without “assistance” from head office or the government, Tim Hortons apparently cannot afford to continue offering 15 minute paid breaks or health and dental.

Here are some of the changes Tim Hortons — at least this particular store — is making to accommodate the new labour laws:

  • Breaks will no longer be paid. This means that someone working an eight hour shift will be paid for seven and a half hours instead of the full eight.
  • No more bonuses for covering shifts when called on days off.
  • No “day of pay” when you have a death in the family and cannot work
  • Dental and Health benefits will no longer be covered. Those who have worked at Tim Hortons for five years or more will have to cover 50 per cent of the cost. Those working between six months and five years will have to cover 75 per cent of the cost.

Essentially, for some employees, having to pay 50 per cent of the cost of their benefits and with the loss of paid breaks, an employees biweekly paycheck could be even less than it was prior to the minimum wage increase.

But, the owners? Oh, they won’t be affected now. The revenue will continue to stream in. Problem solved, right?

This is what I hate about the world we live in. It’s run by greed. While small, mom and pop businesses have a right to be a little concerned, this province-wide freak out by large franchise businesses is disgusting. It’s proving that employers really don’t care about the people who work for them. It’s all about the bottom line, and if that means your cashier can’t afford to actually eat at your restaurant, then that’s too bad.

As a former Tim Horton’s employee, I know first hand how hard these people work. It is a fast-paced environment, with high expectations of quality and service. Most employees are immigrants or young people trying to support themselves and their families. They come in before the sun rises and sometimes leave after the sun sets. They cater to the whim of all customers, no matter how rude or inappropriate they may act. They clean bathrooms, work the food line, stand at cashier, and make runs to the garbage dump wearing t-shirts in -30 degree weather. They do all of this, every shift, regardless of whether they are feeling well or just spent the last 12 hours in classes or writing exams.

Can you imagine doing that job?

The raising of the minimum wage is causing unnecessary fear among business owners. They think they need to immediately cut staff and raise prices. A December report by the Bank of Canada didn’t help with its statistic that 60,000 jobs could be lost by 2019. But, can you judge the financial repercussions of these labour laws after only one week, based on predictions and rumours? As with most big changes, businesses need to give the process time to work. The economy will bounce back after a few months of uncertainty, and if it doesn’t, owners can deal with it at that time. Acting pre-emptively to ensure larger revenue does nothing but make you look foolish and heartless.

In fact, before making any changes to your business, I challenge every business owner, manager, or executive to try living off $14 an hour while paying into benefits. Do this for a year. Only then can you complain about the minimum wage’s affect on the economy.

As for Tim Horton’s, it’s a damn shame. As a fervent Timbit lover, I’m incredibly disappointed. The franchise is saying that each store owner has a right to enact their own rules, but this store is owned by the family founders. What kind of example are they setting for everyone else? This precedent is incredibly dangerous for those working for so little money to begin with.

Honestly, I would rather buy a more expensive coffee at a local business and reduce my caffeine intake than spend money at a restaurant that treats its employees with such disdain.

Sorry Tim Hortons, but you just lost me as a customer.

Woman of the Week: Michele Romanow

Michele Romanow is best known for her role as a “Dragon” on CBC’s hit television show Dragon’s Den. Her passion, tenacity, and knack for numbers has made her a driving force on the show — and an investor everyone wants to have backing their team.

What sets Romanow apart from her co-stars is her focus on the individual. If she is going to invest in a business or a company, she wants to get to know the people behind the project.

“I think as tempting as it is to look at the exact business on hand, I inspect the entrepreneurs themselves,” she said in an interview with Women’s Post. “You are looking for someone with a chip on their shoulder. Someone who needs to win. There are so many pivots and turns when you start a business, you want someone who is going to make it work.”

Beyond the “Den”, Romanow is a tech titan and serial entrepreneur who knows how to spot an opportunity. By her 28th birthday, she had already started three different companies across different industries.

She began her career as a civil engineering student at Queen’s University, a tough program that taught her how to problem solve. Romanow had an interest in math and science, but it wasn’t until she helped launch a sustainable, zero consumer waste café on campus that she realized she had a passion for business. Her goal was to convince the administration that her pitch wasn’t about a food service, but rather a sustainability project important to the development of the school. She raised most of the capital herself and the café — called The Tea Room — remains a fixture on campus to this day.

Since then, Romanow has jumped from project to project, solving problems and building new ventures.

“The power that you have [as an entrepreneur] is enormous,” she said. “I think the fun is in solving problems you don’t want to see in your world.”

Her second business was Evandale Caviar, a fishery based in New Brunswick that distributed high-end, Canadian sturgeon caviar to luxury hotels. Unfortunately, the business fell apart in the 2008 recession.

Since then, Romanow has launched a number of incredibly successful businesses. She is the co-founder of Buytopia.ca, Snap by Groupon, and Clearbanc. Clearbanc is Romanow’s most recent venture — an online financial service that makes it easier for entrepreneurs to get capital to grow their own company.

Romanow also helps craft digital solutions for international brands like P&G, Netflix, Starbucks, and Cirque du Soleil. She was a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award; the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards; and was a Cartier Women’s Initiative Award global finalist. Romanow is listed as one of the top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada and was named as one of the Forbes Top 20 Most Disruptive “Millennials on a Mission”.

You would think she is a person who loves to be busy and have numerous things on the go, but Romanow is passionate about her work and doesn’t like to “be busy for the sake of busy”. She would rather get things done and spend her time on something that matters.

In July of 2017, Romanow partnered with Ruma Bose and Richard Branson to launch the Canadian Entrepreneurship Initiative. The goal is to showcase Canadian entrepreneurs and offer assistance to those starting out.

“How do we create more Canadian success stories, especially women,” Romanow asked. “Almost half of Canadians can’t name an entrepreneur they look up to.”

Clearbanc is committing $1 million to finance small businesses and help create those success stories.

In addition to all of these projects, Romanow makes time to mentor women and offer advice to young entrepreneurs. Her biggest piece of advice? Just do it!

“Overplanning can be a detriment,” she said. “My first piece of advice to people is that you have to get started now. Most people think about and analyze businesses for a long time, but it’s important to start to move it. The first idea never ends up being the business that works, but the process allows you to get there.”

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Toronto has a directory of ‘Women and Color’

Have you attended a technology conference or speaking series and noticed the gender parity within the audience? How about on the panels or the keynote speaker lists?

Over the past year, I’ve attended a number of conferences within the fields of technology, marketing, and business. I was startled to see so few women represented. In the crowd, there was often one table or two of women, all clumped together and isolated from everyone else. Those women who were part of the panels, were often asked the questions about gender in the workplace, as if they were token members

And this is just women as a whole gender. I can count the number of women of colour who took the stage on one hand. While feminism may have been the word of the year in 2017, STEM fields still have a long way to go in achieving gender and race equality.

When I read about ‘Women and Color’, a directory of women and people of colour who are available to speak at such conferences, I was floored! How has this database existed for two years without people knowing about it?

The directory was created by a product designer named Mohammed Asaduallah, who was just as frustrated as many women to find the lack of diversity within the tech industry. Asaduallah and a team of volunteers help maintain the site by adding in new profiles of women in Toronto. The profiles include a photograph, job title, a short description of the person’s expertise through tag words, contact information, and a link to their Twitter account.

Asaduallah hopes to grow Women and Color and add profiles from cities across Canada and even venture into the United States.

 

At your next conference or speaking series, perhaps consider reaching out to one of the numerous qualified women in this directory. It’s time to stop using women as “tokens” at technology events and start seeing them as the qualified and capable experts they are.

Dear Santa: the women of Toronto, Canada, deserve more

Dear Mr. Kringle,

The head office of Women’s Post is situated in Toronto; therefore much of our news coverage occurs in this city. Toronto is our home — and we can see it needs a little extra help. The staff at Women’s Post is hoping that you, Nick, may be able to help us all out.

This is what is on our Christmas list:

More women on boards: This was a topic of great debate throughout 2017 (yay!), but it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. The European Union announced a proposal to make it mandatory to have 40 per cent of non-executive members on company boards to be women. This, unfortunately, does not include managerial or executive roles on boards.

Meanwhile, in Canada, very few boards are gender equal (and even less female dominated). Women hold approximately 14 per cent of all board seats and only 26 per cent of open board positions are filled by female applicants. A McKinsey & Company study in 2016 showed that only six per cent of Canadian CEOs are women. A new organization was formed this year to help tackle this issue.

Nick, can you please help us! Instead of dreaming of sugar plums this year, can you help private and public leaders, CEOs, and board executives dream of a company that represents everyone? Let’s have people of all genders, sexualities, and races represented on boards — and not just in non-executive roles!

More funding for things that matter: Infrastructure, transit, education — three things that will help our country, and the people who live in it, grow. All levels of government have pledged a certain amount of money to help municipalities develop new routes and lines for public transportation, but it’s not nearly enough. People are desperate for housing, whose prices have skyrocketed throughout the year in big cities like Vancouver and Toronto with no hint of dropping back down.

Sure, the federal government has announced funding for a National Housing Strategy, and $4.8 billion in transit funding has been earmarked for Toronto, but all of these promises come with a) a timestamp and b) a political commitment. Politics always gets in the way. For example, the Ontario government refused to allow Toronto to collect money from tolls because it could affect votes in the 905 area.

Canada is a prosperous country, and Toronto is better off than other cities. But, there is still work to be done and our politicians may need a little bit of help. How about it Nick?

More women in politics: Canada may have a gender-equal cabinet within the federal government and the Ontario government, but there more to gender parity than representation within a single entity. For beginners, women are still underrepresented as elected representatives to begin with, sitting at only 26 per cent nationally.

More women need to be encouraged to run for all aspects of public government. Politics are unforgiving for women. There seems to be some strange double standard in which women are questioned about their capabilities (and wardrobe) much more than men. This scrutiny makes it very difficult for women to commit to a public service campaign. What if you change that Nick? Can you remove the gendered lens through which people view politicians? That would go a long way to encouraging more women in politics.

End sexual assault and harassment: Forget the celebrity aspect of the #MeToo campaign for a second and lets visit the statistics. Earlier this year, Statistics Canada released the rate of self-reported sexual assault in 2014, and it was about the same as it was in 2004. In 2014, there were 22 incidents of sexual assault for every 1,000 Canadians over the age of 15. This equates to 636,000 self-reported incidents.

This figure only gets more disheartening when you remember that only one in five cases report assaults to the police.

Now, I know you cant do much about this Nick, but is there a way you could spread your holiday spirit around a bit so that people are more kind and compassionate towards others? Maybe if people were more compassionate, they wouldn’t look at women as objects and treat them with such violence?

Nick, I know our wish list is long and complicated. I know it may be impossible to full fill these requests. But, it would mean the world if you could try. We believe in you!

Best,

The staff at Women’s Post

P.S. We promise we have been good this year!

Woman of the Week: Meg Davis

Meg Davis loves to witness change in a neighbourhood. It’s her passion — to watch a vibrant community evolve over the years. As Chief Developent Officer of Waterfront Toronto, Davis gets to see this kind of transformation on a daily basis.

Davis has worked for Waterfront Toronto for the last 10 years, and says the change within the neighbourhood is heartwarming.

“When I arrived here we had a couple small parks and wave decks, which were stunning and beautiful and got a lot of attention, but we hadn’t built a building yet,” she said. “In the last 10 years we’ve built an 18-acre park in the West Don lands, Pan Am athletes village, condos in the West Don lands, [and] East Bayfront. People are starting to build down here and one of the things we have started is programming. Cultural events, the sugar shack program, partnering with Luminato — we are really animating the waterfront.”

The waterfront, a 46-kilometre stretch of Harbourfront property along Lake Ontario between Etobicoke and Rouge River, is constantly transforming. Waterfront Toronto is a public advocate and steward of this revitalization process. It was created by all three levels of the Canadian government with the purpose of overseeing and implementing strategies to transform the area.

One of the things Waterfront Toronto stresses is the difference between redevelopment and revitalization. Redevelopment, Davis explains, refers to the selling of land to the highest bidder, regardless of what they plan on doing in the area.

“Revitalization means achieving public policy objectives such as reducing urban sprawl, providing transit, reducing carbon emissions, contributing to economic vibrancy, addressing affordability and providing excellent public realm and architecture by leveraging public land,” she said.

It’s this kind of urban development that Davis is passionate about. Her love of urban planning was encouraged by a geography teacher in high school, whose lesson plans focused on urban affairs. “It really grabbed me. I took as many courses like that as I could,” she said.

Her education is mixed. She has an Honours Bachelor degree from Western University in urban development, a Master’s in business Administration from the University of Toronto, and recently completed an Executive Leadership Program. She started her career as a junior planner with Bramalea Limited, focusing mostly on real estate. From 2005 to 2007, Davis acted as Director of KPMG Canada, focusing on public-private partnership projects, including $1 billion long-term care facilities and the sale of Highway 407.

“I love the physical aspect of it,” she said. “I love to see things come up from the ground and take shape. For me, the use of P3s were a unique opportunity to see how the government and the private sector could come together.”

This is especially true of Toronto’s waterfront, which Davis describes as essentially “one big P3.” Waterfront Toronto is putting a large emphasis on affordable housing within its neighbourhoods, and using that as a foundation for planning.

“You can have affordable housing and expensive condos, [but] if you don’t provide the public spaces, it’s not a place anybody wants to live,” she said. “You can’t squander the opportunities – being by the water is unique in Toronto and you have to make it a complete community.”

As Chief Development Officer, Davis is responsible for leading the development of all lands controlled by Waterfront Toronto. She is particularly proud of the Pan Parapan Am Games Athlete’s Village in the West Don Lands, which was transformed after the games into affordable rental housing, vibrant retail properties, student housing, market condominiums, and public art. Davis says it advanced revitalization of the neighbourhood by over five years.

“We are really animating the waterfront. I think the transformation is huge,” she says.

Davis helps co-chair the Women’s Leadership Initiative ULI Toronto. They are working on a speaking series that will help promote the voices of women in real estate, which she says is still a heavily male-dominated industry.

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What you need to know about net neutrality

Net neutrality is all over the news. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with the support of U.S. President Donald Trump, wants to repeal the net neutrality laws put in place to create a more equal and open Internet. People gathered in 700 different cities across the United States (mostly outside Verizon stores) to protest these changes.

But, what exactly does this mean and why are people so upset? Women’s Post has you covered with this super easy to understand (and perhaps overly simplistic) primer:

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is essentially equality on the Internet — all data must be treated the same by all providers, browsers, and platforms. It prevents these companies from slowing down service (or preventing access entirely) to website, applications, and other features from competitors. Internet providers can deny access to certain sites either because you don’t pay enough or because they have their own service they would rather customers use.

For example, in 2014, Comcast got caught slowing down streaming on Netflix, and AT&T started a program that required apps to pay more money in order to ensure they used less data. All of these things gave certain platforms and applications an advantage over others.

What happened in 2015?

In 2015, President Barack Obama encouraged the FCC to regulate broadband Internet providers as a public utility, recognizing the Internet as a service necessary for economic and social growth, as well as a tool for innovation. Internet was reclassified as a telecommunications service in order to justify the change. Telecommunication companies are exempt from any kind of price control. It also led to more government control over broadband traffic.

In short: companies were not allowed to block or slow down the content of their rivals.

What is happening now?

Trump was elected and wants to overturn everything Obama has done. This includes net neutrality. What are the arguments for net neutrality? Republicans believe the government oversight associated with Open Internet was slowing investment in the technology.

Without net neutrality, it would also allow carriers like Verizon and AT&T to offer tiered pricing for Internet access — the more a person pays, the faster they get their Internet. Those who agree with the appeal say this will create a more stable marketplace and remove barriers for investment.

However, without net neutrality it becomes difficult for emerging technology companies or startups to get the same amount of speed as other sites. There will be no guarantee your site wouldn’t be blocked or that it won’t lag when potential customers come to use your product. There is also a socio-economic concern — if you have to pay more for Internet access that works; what will this mean for those who can’t afford it?

The new rules are scheduled to be voted on next Thursday, December 14.

What do you think? Should the U.S. repeal net neutrality? Let us know in the comments below!