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Would you donate to support Toronto’s roads?

Toronto’s roads needs your support!

Every day, these roads suffer. After decades of neglect and abuse, they deserve to be nurtured. There are too many car accidents and too many road deaths. But does anyone think of the roads themselves — they have gone through hell each time. They need your help! Without your support, they will continue to live in these terrible conditions.

Donate now!

Imagine you read this on a pamphlet or saw an advertisement on television asking you to donate funds to the city to help develop safety infrastructure for your neighbourhood. It sounds ridiculous right? And yet, not ridiculous enough to avoid becoming a recommendation to city council.

At this week’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, a report on the city’s Vision Zero Road Plan actually recommended accepting donations from residents for local projects. It reads: “In addition, this report considers the feasibility of accepting donations from the public to provide funding support for local projects and recommends commencing the detailed planning and implementation process for an automated speed enforcement program to operate in school zones and community safety zones.”

City staff said that an additional $6.303 million in capital funding will be needed between 2019 and 2021. These funds can help “further accelerate” the Road Safety Plan. The cost of Vision Zero is already $80.3 million.

This report will be heading to city council on Dec. 5.

Now, I know funds are tight. There are very few outside revenue sources available to city staff, so it kind of makes sense they would resort to these type of suggestions.

HOWEVER, there is a serious socio-economic problem with this recommendation.

First of all, the report indicates the funding will support “local projects”. This means that donations in Regent Park will be used in Regent Park and donations in Forest Hill will be used in Forest Hill. The wealthier neighbourhoods — whose residents may be more inclined and able to make those donations to the city — will reap the benefits. The other neighbourhoods will be left behind.

This is unacceptable.

The whole idea of Vision Zero is to reduce fatalities and injuries on roads, aiming for zero traffic-related deaths and injuries. This will never happen if some neighbourhoods are safe and others are not. Instead, it will just reinforce the economic divisions within this city.

The truly disappointing part about this recommendation is that there was no amendment proposed by any committee member that would change this section of the report. No one said – well why don’t we look at increasing taxes or looking at outside revenue sources for this $6 million instead of asking people to donate funds to a government they already pay for.

We can only hope that council sees past this and is able to have an actual conversation about what crowd-funding for road safety really means. Because at the end of the day – safety is about the people, not the roads.

Woman of the Week: Susan Swail

With rising housing costs and developers vying for land to build on, ensuring the safety of Ontario’s Greenbelt is no easy feat. Principal of Lloyd Swail Consulting, Susan Swail, is one of the women leading the fight to keep this preservation of farmland protected for years to come.

Swail launched her own consulting firm in 2008, which has enabled her to work on several environmental policy projects at once. “I’ve been doing policy analysis, facilitation and strategic communications in the planning field for the last 10 years. I created this consulting firm so I could work on project based contracts. I can work on a number of projects on the same time,” Swail says. She is currently on contract with Environmental Defence and the Greenbelt Foundation.

Swail works for Environmental Defence as the Smart Growth Program Consultant of the Greenbelt and is also working on a review that focuses on the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) review. During the OMB review, over 5000 letters were submitted to the province to obtain funding for citizens and citizen groups, and upholding provincial and municipal plans. Swail conducted a literature review and interviewed many stakeholders, including planners, ratepayers and lawyers to develop a policy position for Environmental Defence.

Swail and the non-profit await the new OMB legislation to see if the recent changes are a success. “[Environmental Defence] didn’t get everything we asked for. We’re still waiting to see what happens. We wanted opportunities to have legal support and advice for ratepayer groups who are launching appeals and we don’t know if the legal advice is intended to be free,” Swail says. “The province is also looking at a joint board hearing that would refer environmental planning matters to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) rather than being heard by just a OMB chair. The provincial announcement suggests they are considering joint ERT, and OMB board hearings. It is important have an environmental lens when making land policy decisions that effect groundwater, and natural heritage features like forests and wetlands.” Originally, Environmental Defence asked the OMB to refer environmental matters directly to ERT, but instead the legislation suggests having a joint board with the OMB and the ERT.

Swail was also a city councillor for the King Township for three years from 2000 to 2003, which helped foster her passion for policy and giving citizens a voice. “It was an exciting time to be on council because Oak Ridges Conservation Plan was being created at that time,” Swail says. When asked about the most important lessons she took from being a councillor, she explained that giving citizens a voice is so vital and being able to negotiate solutions between stakeholders and citizens is what really counts.

“When I was councillor, there was a situation with a developer who wanted to build on 107 acres in the headwaters of the Humber River.  The citizens were adamantly against it. We negotiated between the ratepayers, the Region of York, the Conservation Authority, Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust and the City of Toronto,” Swail says. “In the end, the developer agreed to make a gift of the land and recieved a donation receipt. Today the tableland is part of the York Region Forest.”

After Swail lost the next election, she moved to the Oak Ridges Land Trust,and eventually became the Program and Outreach Manager of the Greenbelt Foundation. Swail returned to York University in 2008 to do a master’s degree in land use planning and launched her own consulting company from there. At York, she was awarded the MITACS Research Award for the research project, Building Sustainable Communities in South Simcoe.

Swail believes the most prevelant environmental issue today is climate change for land use conservation projects. She has dedicated many years to sustainable planning, helping the environment and trying to mitigate the impacts of climate change through supporting and implementing conservation land use projects over the years. She has served as the executive of many charitable organizations for the last 20 years.

Her passion for the environment began in 1990 when she and her husband moved to Nobleton in 1990 from High Park because house prices in Toronto were too high. “I got involved in my new community right away in the Parks Committee and then co-founded a local ratepayer group,” Swail says. “They were going to put in a larger sewer system in around Nobleton, which would traveled over 17 km of farmland to serve 3000 people, not economically or environmentally sustainable.   Instead, we got a local sewer system put into our town and Nobleton is still a complete community today.”

Swail is also an advocate for women who are passionate about the environment. “I mentor women whenever I can. When I was working at Environmental Defence, I had a call at least once a month from women who wanted to get involved in the environment,” Swail says. “I took at least a dozen of people out for coffee and helped them out to understand what it takes to get involved in the environment, emphasizing the importance of volunteering and networking.” Swail also noted that being a considerate woman in the business world can go a long way to helping other women in the industry.

When Swail isn’t at the frontlines protecting the Greenbelt, she is an avid reader. Currently, she is reading Walking Home by Kent Greenberg and Dark Age Ahead By Jane Jacobs. She also enjoys visiting with her six-month-old granddaughter, hiking with her husband and three sons on the Oak Ridges Moraine, cooking and gardening.

 

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How to deal with the last-minute holiday shopping dash

If you, like me, left all your Christmas shopping to the last possible minute, never fear! It’s not too late! In fact, you still have a week! That’s plenty of time — but it’s also going to make gift giving a bit more challenging. The stores will be packed, kids are starting to get off school, and most of the sales that existed are now gone. While saying that, it’s not impossible! And, Women’s Post is here to help!

Here are some tips to help you out during your last-minute shopping dash:

Try to avoid malls: I know this one may be hard, but if you can visit a boutique shop or an outlet store, do it! Trust me. The malls will be incredibly busy and crowded. You will have to navigate through a sea of people just to get into the store. And then, it may take you 30 minutes to get to the cash once you finally choose a gift! Maybe try to hit some local fairs that are open and find some great hand-crafted items.

Have a list and check it twice: Don’t just wander. There’s no time for that. You’ll get overwhelmed by the people and the products thrown about. Eventually, you’ll leave empty handed because it’s just all too much. Have a plan and carry it out.

Be prepared to compromise: What you want to get your mother may not be available anymore. It also may be a lot more expensive now that the pre-Christmas sales are done. The list is important, but be ready to pick up something else if you can’t find the item you are looking for. Then take your previous idea and save it for a birthday.

Try online shopping: Amazon Prime appears to have a two-day delivery system if you sign up for their free 30-day trial, which is absolutely amazing! Just make sure to get it in the next few days. If you can’t get that type of quick service —and who knows how late the delivery is offered — don’t worry about it. Just print a picture of what you ordered and place it in a nice envelope or a box with a bow!

Donate to a charity: This can be done without even leaving your computer. Most charities make it really simple to donate, and will even provide you with a lovely email or photo that you can include in a card. Try to choose an organization that resonates with the person you are donating on behalf of. Just make sure you do some research to ensure the charity you choose is ethical and actually uses the donation to make a difference. Why not check out Charity Intelligence to make sure your donation goes far.

Ultimately, make sure to get an extra-large coffee and enjoy the experience. Take a few girlfriends and make a day of it. The physical shopping will be a pain in the ass, but with friends, at least that line won’t seem so excruciating! Good luck!

Hunger doesn’t take a holiday

For the third summer in a row, Gratitude Bag is helping to bridge the gap faced by Daily Bread Food Bank.

Donations to the food bank run strong around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but by the time summer comes, food stocks have dwindled and donations have dried up. Corporate food drives aren’t contributing in the same way, with many away from work during the summer months.  Not only that, but kids aren’t benefiting from other support systems like breakfast programmes provided by schools.

Enter Gratitude Bag. It’s a simple concept: we’ll take the food drive straight to your door. Our grassroots volunteers — often students and young people looking to get their community service hours — deliver a red, reusable bag to your door in the morning. Throughout the day, we encourage you to fill the bag with non-perishable food items. The healthier the better.

Maybe it’s extra cans of tuna in the pantry, or the peanut butter you bought in bulk — every little bit helps. That evening, our volunteers will come back and collect the donations to deliver to fire halls across the city, and from there to Daily Bread Food Banks’ processing centre.

It’s simple, and effective. In the past two summers, we’ve raised over 30 tonnes of food for the food bank.

This summer, with the support from Coca-Cola Canada and local businesses, we’re expanding the program across the city, with a friendly neighbourhood competition to see which neighbourhood, 1000 homes at a time, can raise the most food in support of those who go hungry. We kicked off the campaign this summer with Councillor Paula Fletcher, Coca-Cola Canada president Christian Polge, Gail Nyberg of the Daily Bread Food Bank and Chief Dan Sells of the Toronto Fire Services on July 11th, and we hope you will participate if you find a red bag at your door.

Hunger is a real, moral issue in our city, and it doesn’t go away in the summer. In the absence of meaningful and long-term solutions to poverty, we can make a real difference by giving to the food banks. Over one million of our fellow Torontonians used a food bank last year, and at least one third were children. So, please give generously through the Gratitude Bag program, or, if we don’t come to your door, please consider dropping off your own donation directly to your local fire hall.

For more information, and to donate towards the costs of bags (and receive a charitable tax receipt), please visit www.gratitudebag.org.

Grant Gordon (@_GrantGordon) is the founder of Gratitude Bag.