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The Toronto Islands reopen to the public.

It seems the opening of the Toronto Islands on July 31 has managed to salvage some of our summer fun. Many people have been anxiously awaiting the reopening of the Toronto Islands to the public. As of April this year, the islands were severely flooded — even in mid-June 50 per cent of the land was still underwater.

While this presented a stunning and unusual visual for photographers, many Torontonians and tourists were left seeking activities elsewhere as they dealt with the frustration of the closure.

Now that the islands have reopened, many businesses are hoping to recover from the losses endured over the first few months of summer. One example is the amusement park on Centre Island. Centreville has long been a fun family favourite for parents will small kids looking to enjoy a relaxing day with celebrated rides. Earlier in July, the owner of Centreville, Bill Beasley announced the amusement park will be selling their 110-year-old carousel ride for $3 million in an effort to sell off assets to bring in some form of revenue due to the extended closure. It is estimated the company lost over $6 million due to the flooding and this is just one of many business on the island

Now that the Islands have reopened, Women’s Post has some tips and key points to remember while visiting the Toronto Island.

  • Ferry service, recreational programs and summer camps are all reopened on the islands. Ferry tickets can be purchased online to avoid the rush at toronto.ca/ferry
  • Take your time to enjoy the beaches again! Centre Island beach, Wards Island beach and Hanlan’s Point beach will all be open and only certain areas will be closed off and due to raised water levels the beaches may appear much different this year. There are also many wading pools and splash ponds to cool off in the heat.
  • Eat some delicious grub! The Toronto Islands are home to interesting and delicious restaurants such as the Carousel Café on Centre Island, The Rectory and Island Café on Wards Island and various other food stands along the way selling small treats such as popcorn, ice cream and hot dogs. The perfect summer treats.
  • Rent a bike! Earlier this year,  it was announced the long-standing Toronto Island Bike Rental on Centre Island would close its doors, but thankfully this is not the case. Help keep this fun business going and rent some tandem bikes or quadricycles as you get in some summer fitness and leisure.
  • As a reminder, some parts of the Toronto Islands are still off limits due to flooding and this includes areas such as Olympic Island. It is wise to pay attention to signs and blocked areas to ensure your safety.

So get out there and enjoy your summer Toronto! Let us know in the comments below how you feel about the reopening of (some) of the islands.

Recipe: delicious island trio

What’s the best part of summer? In my opinion, it’s taking advantage of the fresh fruits and veggies that are in season for these precious months. Bringing summer into your kitchen is certainly a way to delight and embrace the sunshine.

When I think of sunshine, I often end up thinking of the tropics, that’s why Women’s Post is going to inspire you with a simple and delicious trio of quick and easy Caribbean recipes.

Island Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups diced ripe mangoes
  • 1 cup diced watermelon (seedless)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup passionfruit juice
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the diced mango, watermelon, and red onion in a large bowl
  2. Add passion fruit juice, lime juice and thyme
  3. Sprinkle with salt, toss lightly and serve refrigerated

This island inspired salad is refreshing, crisp, and offers the right amount of zesty sweetness.

 

Island Jerk Wings

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs chicken wings
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1tsp thyme leaves
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1tsp black pepper
  • 1tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp jerk sauce (wet mix from supermarket eg: Grace Jerk seasoning)
  • ¼ cup green onion
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

Preset oven to 425 degrees.

  1. In one large bowl, toss the chicken wings in the garlic, thyme, salt, cinnamon, paprika, black pepper, and all spice.
  2. Add tsp of jerk sauce (more can be added depending on your spice preference)
  3. Sprinkle Worcestershire sauce
  4. Line a baking tray with foil and place chicken wings, lightly drizzle with olive oil (optional)
  5. Place on the top rack of your oven and bake for 45 minutes, rotate wings halfway through.
  6. Wings should be crispy and ready to serve.

This recipe is fun and easy to prepare. It adds a burst of flavour and summer heat to your palette.

 

Frozen Island Tea Pops

*Can be prepared the night before to enjoy the next day.

Ingredients :

  • 2 cups Iced Tea (black tea)
  • 2 cups canned pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup lime juice

Directions:

  1. In a large pitcher mix the iced tea with pineapple juice
  2. Add lime juice and stir well
  3. Pour mixture into popsicle moulds of your choice
  4. Freeze for 6 hours

Hopefully this collection of Caribbean inspired treats adds a little bit of sunshine to your home! Enjoy and feel free to let us know how your recipes turned out. Leave a comment below.

Recipe: Instagram-worthy grain bowl

It can be hard to muster the energy to prepare lunches everyday, especially when the summer heat hits. There is nothing less appealing than cooking on a hot day. But, if you want to continue to eat healthy and homemade lunches, then preparation is key.

That’s what’s so great about the grain bowl (sometimes called a Buddha Bowl). You can prepare them on the weekend and alternate flavours and ingredients throughout the week for unique meals each time.

The best part about these bowls is that it doesn’t require a recipe — just an understanding of the mechanics.

The base of the bowl is, obviously, usually a grain like rice or quinoa. Next, choose your protein source. One of my favourite gain bowls uses cooked chickpeas, but you can use grilled chicken,pork, tofu, or even something like goat cheese.

Then you add vegetables. The key is to pick ingredients that are colourful and compliment each other. Some suggestions include: beets, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, asparagus, peppers, or zucchini. Cook some of the harder vegetables to make them easier to chew in combination with the rest of the bowl ingredients. It’s okay to have some cooked and some raw.

Afterwards, add something like hummus or tabbouleh so that the grains aren’t so dry. If you want something a bit more saucey, try a greek salad dressing or an olive oil based mixture with dry herbs.

Top with sprouts, olives, or pickled vegetables to taste. Add a little fresh coriander, basil, or mint.

The best part about this meal is that you can cook the grains and cut all of the vegetables on the weekend. Each night, just cook the vegetables you want cooked and that’s it — you have a healthy meal fit for kings!

Variations include breakfast bowls with sweet potato, a poached egg, and sausage.

What is your favourite combination? Let us know in the comments below!

6 things you can put on the grill other than hamburgers

Are your ready to barbecue this summer? At my house, no one ever uses the oven during the months of July and August unless it’s for baking sweets or pastries. It’s all about the BBQ. Who doesn’t love the smell of grilled meats and vegetables? The best thing is, there is almost nothing you can’t cook on the barbecue. Here are a few ideas for those of you looking to try something new:

Kabobs: This one may be a bit obvious, but it’s all about what you put on the kabob. Just grab some chicken, steak, shrimp, or even tofu for those vegetarians out there and put it on a wooden kabob stick. Make sure to alternate between protein source and vegetables. My favourite vegetables are button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and yellow peppers, but feel free to spice it up.

Cheese: To be clear, this does not mean every cheese can be grilled. But, some brilliant person invented cheese that you could grill. It’s great on sandwiches, wraps, or even served on it’s own with tomatoes and basil as an appetizer. It has a texture a bit similar to tofu, but with the squeak of a curd. The taste is incredibly rich, and it takes on the taste of  it has a very rich taste. Halloumi is the most well-known of grilling cheeses, but you can get some at any artisan cheese stop or market.

Potatoes: You can cook potatoes on the grill similarly to how you do it in the oven. But, you have to cut them into larger pieces. it’s recommended that you slice them so that they don’t fall through the grill. Top the potatoes with cheese and cooked bacon and serve with sour cream! If you want a healthier option, simply grill the potatoes with oil, salt and pepper.

Pizza: Try to make your own pizza using your barbecue. I would lightly-precook the vegetables and meats, just to ensure they are cooked at the same time as the dough. Don’t cook them completely though or you risk soggy toppings on your pizza. Make a crust and place it on your grill with tomato sauce and your toppings of choice. Close the lid and wait 10-15 minutes. This only really works with thin crusts, depending on the size of your barbecue.

Pineapple or watermelon: Not all fruits can be put on the grill, but these two are wonderfully refreshing. The grill chars the fruit and keeps the juices in, while also giving it a nice smokey flavour. Grilled watermelon is fantastic in cold salads and grilled pineapple makes an excellent appetizer or a great topping on a meat dish.

Smores: You don’t have to go camping to have this beautiful and sticky dessert. I should warn you though, once you realize you can make smores in your backyard, you will never want to go camping again! Wrap your smore in tin foil to make sure it doesn’t get too messy, and make sure to watch them carefully, as the marshmallow will melt fast.Another rendition is to split open a banana, place bits of chocolate and marshmallow within that split, and wrap it in tin foil. Place on top of the grill until everything is gooey and delicious!

What are your favourite foods to grill? Let us know in the comments below! 

Harrison Hot Springs: favourite getaway for locals and tourists

“Country roads take me home…” this song by John Denver could have been inspired by the route to Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. Just substitute Lillooet Ranges for Blue Ridge Mountains and the mighty Fraser for Shenandoah River. There could be no more appropriate song running through my head while driving to Agassiz, a small community located in the Upper Fraser Valley region. With picturesque mountain views, wide open vistas of farmlands with rolling hills and the smell of country fresh air, it was almost heaven, and the serenity reminded me of growing up on a hobby farm in the Eastern Townships, in Richmond, Quebec.

Outdoor Activities: Agassiz, B.C.

About 5km outside Harrison Hot Springs we made a couple of stops, firstly at Farm House Natural Cheeses. Featuring a country style store with seemingly every kind of exotic cheeses you could desire, including hand made artisan cheese produced on site. My partner and I enjoyed the company of goats and dairy cows at some of the large and tidy barns. At our next mini tour, we visited the Back Porch Coffee Roastery, where the owners, Dan and Lynda welcomed us into their studio. We noticed an antique coffee roaster dating back to 1919, as well as other collectibles and antiques. Their expansive property was immaculately kept, with manicured lawns surrounding heritage buildings loaded with character, to go with a million dollar view.

Both the Farmhouse Natural Cheeses and the Back Porch Coffee Roastery are ideal tourist stops for the whole family. It was a chance to unwind before heading to Harrison Hot Springs, which was our ultimate destination.

We were excited to visit Harrison Hot Springs, as we always enjoy running the trails or the lakeside pathway and then soaking in the hot springs pool after a workout. Harrison Hot Springs is a small, friendly resort community of about 1,500 people. There are so many outdoors activities, from boating, fishing, golfing, kayaking, etc. It is THE place for a runner’s getaway or just a gorgeous destination to escape from the city, about a 130km drive from Vancouver. Harrison Hot Springs is at the Southern end of Harrison Lake in the Fraser Valley and is world famous for its natural healing hot springs, which attracts tourists and locals alike year round.

Photo by John Moe.

Spirit Mask Trail:

We walked the Spirit Mask Trail, which is a circuitous 1km route through pristine forest lands just a few minutes from the village, though it seemed longer as it was enjoyable not just for the walk through the woods, but because many trees are decorated with carved masks from local artists. Each mask depicts a different mood, creating a thought-provoking setting. The walk is fun for the whole family and is a wonderful photo opportunity.

Spirit Mask Trail. Photo by John Moe.

Health/Wellness – Muddy Waters Café:

After our workout it was time to refuel with some healthy eats at Muddy Waters Café, which is family owned and located in the heart of the village. We could feel a sense of community spirit upon entering the room. Located on the main strip with spectacular mountain and lake views, we were greeted by manager, Richard Fife, who recommended the yogurt plate served with an assortment of fruit along with homemade jam and healthy grain bread, while my partner, John had salmon over scrambled eggs with fresh fruit. Richard says proudly, “we source all of our food locally,” which includes an extensive menu for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. We enjoyed our breakfast in this charming café that also offers specialty coffees, which we couldn’t refuse. Overall, if you are a foodie you will want to try out this place.

 

Black Forest Restaurant:

You can virtually enjoy a slice of Germany – right in the village since 1975 – at the Black Forest Restaurant where naturally, you will find the most delicious black forest cake. This family-run business offers authentic German food, with all spices coming directly from Germany. If you like beer with your bratwurst, the restaurant offers the Krombacher Pilsner, which is an exquisite German brew, served in B.C. exclusively at Black Forest restaurants in Harrison Hot Springs and New Westminster. We enjoyed our meal, which was recommended by owner and chef, Vic Singh. His wife Kamal says, “we also offer vegetarian plates.” The restaurant is in the heart of the village, offering delicious German cuisine, along with breathtaking views from its upstairs patio deck.

Harrison Beach Hotel:

A better view will not be found at Harrison Hot Springs than from our suite at the Harrison Beach Hotel. Stepping onto the huge balcony from the front room, I knew instantly this was what the doctor had ordered. It not only offered stunning vistas of the lakeshore and beyond, closer inspection revealed kitchenette with fridge, separate bedroom, two TVs and coffee. If you thought you’d seen it all when it comes to towel art and design, you’d best make the trip. The design art towels for the bathroom made me feel almost guilty for actually using them. Importantly, the coffee maker, together with Starbucks coffee, was a much-appreciated convenience for runners and writers like us.

Harrison Hot Springs offers something for everyone, from a stroll through the village, to soaking in the hot springs, to running the lakeshore pathway and much more. At just a stone throw from Vancouver, it’s the perfect getaway where you are limited only by your imagination.

Looking for more getaways? Check out Christine Blanchette’s adventure in Abbotsford B.C.

 

By Christine Blanchette and John Moe

Instagram: runwithit_christineblanchette
Twitter @christineruns
runwithit.ca

Summer activities and culinary delights in Abbotsford, B.C.

Summer is a great time to explore British Columbia, with her many outdoors activities and festivals. While some will make the drive straight to Vancouver, the more enlightened traveler will stop and visit Abbotsford, the largest city in the Fraser Valley. According to Destination B.C., Abbotsford is known as the “City in the Country” for its agriculture, hospitality, and outdoors activities.

Abbotsford is nestled on flatlands between the Coast and Cascade mountain ranges. With a burgeoning population of approximately 143,000, Abbottsford lies in the heart of the Fraser Valley, 68km east of Vancouver and just 5km from the US border. While Hwy 1 connects the community east and west, its airport has put Abbotsford on the international map. Abbotsford is an alternate arrival/departure point to Vancouver’s International Airport.

It’s a great place to stretch your legs walking, hiking or running one of Abbottsford’s numerous scenic trails or have a bite at some of the best eateries you’ll find anywhere, and perhaps spend a night. Enjoy the panoramic view at 300 meters after hiking the Abby Grind or run the Mill Lake trail, for a perfect sample of what Abbottsford offers outdoors enthusiasts. My partner, John and I checked out both trails recently in perfect mid-spring conditions. Read on for our detailed analysis:

Outdoors – Abby Grind

The Abby Grind is like the little sister to North Vancouver’s Grouse Grind. This was our first time hiking the steep Glen Ryder Trail. It has a viewpoint that can be reached in about 45 minutes. The 4km trek can be a challenge if you’re not wearing the proper shoes, though on this sunny day runners and walkers with their dogs enjoyed the trail as much as we did. The Abby Grind has been around since 2013 and offers a great workout. Steep though it is, there are sections that level off, allowing one to rest.

View from the top of Abby Grind. Photo by John Moe.

Outdoors – Mill Lake

We started out walking around the paved pathway and boardwalk that encircles beautiful Mill Lake Park in central Abbottsford, but ended up running parts of the two kilometre path. Mill Lake is a popular trail that attracts everyone, with picnic tables, a playground, and water park. Prepare for photo ops abound with spectacular views of Washington State’s Mount Baker. A fun fact: did you know that Mill Lake Park is the Jewel of Abbotsford because of its rich history? The first saw mill was built there in 1903 and  remained active until 1934.

Wellness/Health

After our workout we were welcomed to lunch by friendly staff at the Harvest Grill n Greens in downtown Abbotsford. It’s a one-of-a-kind eatery in which owner/chef Dion Brisson presents a varied menu of all healthy choices for the vegan and meat lover alike. It’s comfortable, bright, and super clean, built in part with 100-year-old cedar beams that were discovered under the original building by Dion’s friend and carpenter. The wood benches and foot rests are brought back to life from barns that once occupied the site.

Dion says he’s always been passionate about healthy eating from being an athlete himself as a hockey player, wrestler and an avid Abby Grinder. His passion for healthy eating led him to create custom meals from soups, salads to entries. Dion says the food is local and all fresh, as we tried his recommendation – salad served with local produce and sausage. Dion says, “it is the new Kits,” in reference to Vancouver’s trendy Kitsilano district, in offering a gluten-free menu to a knowledgeable clientele.

Brodeur’s Bistro carb loading!

Brodeur’s made me feel like I was home in Quebec with their Montreal style menu. It’s a great place for carb-loading before a hike or a long run. I couldn’t resist ordering my favourite Quebec dish, poutine, along with Pierre’s Cuban sandwich. Their specialty is Montreal smoked meat, which is served in large portions. John had a half rack of ribs with Brodeur’s barbecue sauce, which he devoured. Chef Jay Baker has about 20 years experience and the food dishes are a fusion blend of New Orleans and Montreal cuisine.

Brookside Abby

En route to our overnight stay at the Brookside Abby, we drove by pristine farmlands that seemed to stretch for miles. It’s a charming boutique inn on Chardonnay Lane that is close to local vineyards. The Brookside Abby was voted best small hotel in Canada by TripAdvisor for 2017 and their award list goes on. We stayed in the “Midnight in Paris” suite, which is themed after the romantic comedy about a writer, directed by Woody Allen. Each suite has a movie theme and is decorated with items based on the movie, such as an Underwood typewriter from the late 1920’s in our suite, as well as other fascinating artifacts and paintings. Chris and Sandi, the owners told us, “the items were to remind people of the movie theme. The movie is the central theme. All of that is Sandi’s idea. She thought of which movie themes: Thomas Crowne Affair, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We are not aware of any other hotel like this in the world.” We were treated the following morning to a homemade gourmet breakfast, which was included in the stay. As a rather muscular action movie star might say, “We’ll be back.”

If you have a passion for living a healthy lifestyle, your visit to Abbotsford will be fulfilling. The city is a gem of a place with healthy eateries, lots of outdoors activities, beautiful vineyards, parks, mountain views and lots more.

Look for next week’s feature as we explore Harrison Hot Springs……

 

www.runwithit.ca

Twitter: @christineruns

YouTube – runwithit

How to wake up in the morning if you are a night owl

Do you absolutely dread mornings and wish they didn’t exist?

DO NOT be alarmed! You are not alone! Mornings are the absolute worst, especially if you are a dedicated night owl. Unfortunately though, if you want to function in the real world, then you must learn to tolerate, and one day even enjoy mornings.

The best way to do this rather than wake up and throw pillows at your alarm clock, and show up to work looking like you’ve been at the rodeo is to develop a morning routine. Sound like a snooze? It is indeed the complete opposite, and will help you to wake up instead of rush out of the house in a mad frenzy every morning.

The absolute first thing you must do when you wake up is drink a tall glass of cold water with lemon if possible. It will immediately revive your dehydrated, tired body and give you that first kick to waking up. Once this task is complete, stretch from head to toe. And when I say that, I don’t mean simply raise your arms above your head. I’m talking a full-on cat stretch that engages every part of your spine.

Now you are ready to put your feet to the ground. Do it quickly before you lose motivation and fall asleep again. Once your feet are out of the bed, the day has started. Celebrate! Rejoice! You have achieved the first hurdle of your day. Next up, yoga.

Try doing 10 minutes of yoga, beginning with morning sun salutations. It gets the blood moving in your body and will help work out any kinks that developed through the REM cycle. If you prefer to self-lead, do so and if you need support, there are many 10 minute yoga videos to try out. Finding your preferred method of getting your body moving in the morning is essential, and if yoga doesn’t do it for you, try push-ups, Pilates, or jogging on the spot! Whatever works, simply remember to get your body moving.

After working up a (little) sweat, it is time for the shower. There is nothing better than feeling warm water on your skin and a meditation to go along with cleaning off the soap suds will surely set your day on track. When you are in the shower, close your eyes and visualize the warm water washing away all of your stress and anxieties. Imagine all of these fears washing down the drain and open your eyes renewed and refreshed physically and mentally. Listening to music in the shower is also a pleasant add-on.

Another essential, though it will come as no surprise since everyone is told to do this from age three onwards, is breakfast! Even if breakfast isn’t “your thing”, try to have at least something small and healthy to eat in the morning. If you are like me, and aren’t much of a morning muncher, try a smoothie instead. Make sure it is full of delicious and healthy ingredients including flax seed, berries (full of antioxidants), and protein powder for an extra kick. At this point, remember to take your daily vitamins too to keep your body vital and strong.

If you make this routine a regular thing and incorporate rehydration, exercise, a shower, meditation, and healthy eating into your morning, you will find that waking up becomes a pleasant experience rather than a complete and total drag. It is inevitable that people must wake up in the morning whether for work or school — so why not make it a happy part of the day?

What are parts of your morning routine? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

Recipe: overnight oats with banana

I’m a big fan of this easy and simply overnight breakfast recipe. Just dump all ingredients in a jar, shake, put it in the refrigerator overnight, and then grab-and-go. It’s perfect for those who are super busy or just don’t want to have to deal with complicated breakfasts in the early hours of the morn. It’s also quite a refreshing post-workout breakfast for those who like to get up before dawn for a run.

 Ingredients

¼ cup of oats

½ almond or coconut milk

1 tbsp chia seeds

½ tsp of cinnamon

½ tbls of honey or agave

Banana or other fruit cut up into bite-sized pieces

Put all ingredients in a regular sized jam jar. Add fruit or nuts to taste. And then shake, shake shake! Maybe even dance around the kitchen a bit.

Put the jar in refrigerator over night.

It’s that simple! This breakfast is nutritious, full of fibre, and really tasty! You can heat up the oats in a microwave or it cold. Personally, I don’t mind it cold, especially if I add in some fresh fruit as opposed to frozen.

My suggestion would be to include half a banana (cut into small pieces) to help bind and fill up the spaces between oats. Add blueberries for a particularly refreshing taste. Other options include walnuts, apples, and mango for a Caribbean flavour.

Note: if you don’t enjoy the texture of oatmeal, you may not like this overnight recipe. Instead, why not try mixing chia seeds with milk, cocoa powder, and honey overnight to make a pudding!

Green Living Show even greener this year

Where do you go if you want Tibetean vegan momos, pants made out of tree fibres, and lectures about how cannabis can help you heal?

The Green Living Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is one of the largest environmental events of the year, featuring organic and delicious food, exercise, and how to build sustainably among many other things.  It is a festival that takes all things green and turns it into a massive trade show in support of an environmentally friendly world. The festival provides an opportunity to network, share, and learn about how many industries are involved in the ‘green’ trend that is growing in popularity every year.

So, how was the Green Living Show compared to last year?

It was definitely better for one main reason; the food! This year, the food pavilion had a centralized theme of ‘around the world’ fare. It had a range of options and also specified foods that were vegan and vegetarian, which was a fresh change of pace. The previous year, I struggled to find vegan options and this was frustrating at a green festival. The beer options were impressive as well, with a wide variety of craft brews, wines and ciders available.

The emphasis on medical cannabis was a new development, probably due to impending legislative changes around marijuana in Canada. The Green Living Show hosted the Weedmaps speaker series about Cannabis. The topics discussed by the panel included understanding which strains can help certain ailments, how to understand current marijuana laws, and how to cook medicinals. The Green Living Show is the perfect venue to educate and discuss the future of cannabis in Canada and its medial relevance, which is a very hot ‘green’ topic at the moment.

Another educational panel attended by Women’s Post was the urban farming speaker series that brought out Aquaponics start-up Ripple Farms, Holly Ray Farms, Orchard People, and Toronto Urban Growers, moderated by David McConnachie of Alternatives Journal. The panel explained various ways that urban farming can be implemented in the city. There were several vendors selling products related to indoor or urban farming, including sprouting containers and even indoor mini-hydroponic systems.

There were some return favourites as well, including the classic Canadian green car awards (Cheverlot Bolt won) and the beautiful set-up celebrating tree stewardship in Ontario.

The Green Living Show is an annual favourite of Women’s Post. The sheer size and popularity of the event really shows how much the green lifestyle is growing. It would still be nice to see more specifically vegan food options and vendors, but kudos to the ones that were there (including Live Wild Love Free). It will be exciting to see what happens next year.

What was your favourite part of the Green Living Show? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

 

Is Toronto stuck as the child poverty capital or can it raise a village?

Toronto is one of the most liveable cities in the world, but if you live in poverty with your children, it’s quite a different story. Ranging from long daycare subsidy waitlists, high rent, extraordinary transit costs, and expensive food, raising a family can seem nearly impossible.

Child poverty is a difficult pill to swallow and Toronto has been dubbed the Canadian capital in a report called ‘Divided City’ that was released in early November 2016. The report said that Toronto has the highest rate of low-income children in an urban area at 26.8 per cent.

Two years ago in November 2015, Toronto approved its first-ever poverty reduction plan after a report was released entitled ‘The Hidden Epidemic’, which outlined the impacts of child poverty in the city. Though child poverty has decreased from 29 per cent in 2009 to 26.8 per cent, it still impacts specific neighbourhoods in Toronto. The 2016 report is the first update since ‘The Hidden Epidemic’ and shows that child poverty has decreased overall, but is now concentrated to particular areas such as Regent Park, where 58 per cent of children live in low-income households. Families struggle to pay rents, using over 30 per cent of their income on rent (the threshold to be considered low-income) and children end up missing out on important recreation activities and parents struggle to feed their kids.

Unfortunately, with budget cuts the poverty strategy has been put on the back burner and important investments for children such as affordable housing and funding for recreation and daycare subsidies is facing debilitating cuts. The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, Family Service Toronto with Ontario Campaign 2000, Colour of Poverty and Social Planning Toronto came together to create the updated report to emphasize the need for City Council to stick to their poverty reduction goals and avoid cuts as much as possible.

One of these goals needs to be affordable housing. Currently there are nearly 100,000 people on the affordable housing waitlist and helping families to obtain housing needs to be a first priority to help reduce poverty for families. If most of your money goes towards paying rent, it is nearly impossible to escape the spiral of poverty. One third of families with children under the age of 18 live in unaffordable housing. The report also highlights that a lone parent living on Ontario Works would have to pay 107 per cent of their income in order to live in inner-city Toronto. This pushes families out to areas with less transit and away from many of the jobs in the city. Affordable housing in inner-city Toronto needs to become a priority immediately.

One solution that City Council discussed in the Executive Committee is the poverty reduction goal of providing low-income TTC fare cuts. This will help transit users to better afford their commute to more available jobs and help alleviate the pressures of living a low-income lifestyle. Executive Committee passed the ‘Fair Pass Program’ that would lower the adult single fare by 33 per cent and the adult monthly pass by 21 per cent unanimously. The program, if approved by council, will be implemented in March 2018.

Though the city is working towards implementing small measures as a part of their poverty reduction program, all cuts that involve children-led programs including housing, recreation and daycare subsidy, need to be avoided. Oftentimes, it seems that children get left behind in the wake of transit-focused initiatives when it comes to the city council budget. Most importantly, affordable housing solutions need to be offered immediately, including portable housing, recognizing the need for affordable housing based on using more than 30 per cent of a parent’s income on rent and changing rent control guidelines.

Children are the city’s most important priority and putting them first is the only way to make Toronto Canada’s best city. Every child deserves to play in a safe home without pests, and learn how to swim or play tae kwon do. Families also need access to healthy food and equitable employment opportunities where their children are in safe daycares so that parents can obtain employment or go to school. Only when Toronto loses its reputation as the child poverty capital will it be a safe place for families to live. Only at that point will the city of Toronto truly be a considered a village that raises a child.