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Legal cannabis in Canada has wild reactions

On Wednesday, Canada did what it said it would and became the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace, joining Uruguay to become the second country in the world to nationally legalise cannabis.

To the surprise of no one, sales began early Wednesday in Newfoundland with hundreds of customers lined up around the block at St. John’s by the time the clock struck midnight.

The atmosphere could only be described as ‘festive’  with some of the customers too excited to wait until they returned home, lighting up on the sidewalk and motorists honking their horns in support and they drove by the happy crowd.

Ian Power will go down in history as one of the first in line in the private store on Water Street to buy the newly legal national marijuana in Canada however, he told reporters that he has no plans on smoking it, instead he will frame it and hang it on his wall to be saved forever.

“Prohibition has ended right now. We just made history,” said the 46-year-old Power, who bought a gram. “I can’t believe we did it. All the years of activism paid off. Cannabis is legal in Canada and everyone should come to Canada and enjoy our cannabis.”

There was even more good news for cannabis aficionados, as hours before any retail outlets were opened, it was revealed that Canada would be pardoning all those with convictions for possessing small amounts of the drug up to 30 grams.

News of Canada’s firm decision to begin a national experiment that will alter their cultural, economic and social fabric in was met with calls for other countries to follow suit, expression of envy over Twitter and some backlash from other countries who are not willing to decriminalize the drug.

“Canada shows the way. When will the UK end the catastrophic prohibition of cannabis?” tweeted British MP Norman Lamb.

“Now that our neighbor to the north is opening its legal cannabis market, the longer we delay, the longer we miss out on potentially significant economic opportunities for Oregon and other states across the country,” said  Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon in a statement, urging the U.S Government to follow Canada’s lead.

However just as there were thousands of excited tweets coming in, there were those who expressed their distaste with the legislation.

One such instance came from the citizen group the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which said Canada had declared a winner in the war on drugs, tweeting,  “Congratulations Drugs. Better luck next time public health and saftey [sic]”.

The U.S has set up its own wall against the legalisaiton of the plant based drug by revealing that those who use marijuana legally in Canada could be banned from entering the country for smoking a single joint.

On the eve of Canada’s big day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection executive assistant commissioner Todd Owen told journalists, “Admission of illegal drug use are grounds to be found inadmissible into the United States.”

“It’s now legal in Canada, so a lot of it comes down to … whether the officer believes they may engage in the same activity while in the United States,” he said. “If somebody admits to smoking marijuana frequently in Canada, then that will play into the officer’s admissibility decision on whether they think on this specific trip they are also likely to engage in smoking marijuana in the United States as well.”

There are still many things that have to be resolved around the national legalization of the drug, including health and public safety as well as the threat of addiction and the effects it will all have on young people, including social pressure similar to what many already experienced with alcohol use.

 

Barbados making moves to bolster infrastructure

The Government of Barbados is determined to boost the island’s natural disaster readiness as well as its ‘woeful’ infrastructure.

In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Kirk, which dumped heavy waters over the island from Thursday evening well into Friday, leaving many parts of the island inaccessible due to heavy flooding, Prime Minister Mia Mottley, is set to implement strategies aimed towards national preparation.

The Prime Minster, who cut her attendance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York short, and arrived in the country early Sunday morning, took to the streets with several of her Cabinet Ministers to assess firsthand, the damage Kirk had inflicted to several flood-affected communities around the island, including Bayland and Chapman Lane, St Michael; Wotton, Christ Church; and Ruby Tenantry, St Philip.

During the tour, she revealed that Barbados would soon be engaged in a national preparation exercise, once the current hurricane season was over in November and that a simulation exercise would be launched in early 2019 for affected communities.

“We are not waiting until next June because these things are affecting too many people and in ways that are substantive,” she said.

Barbadians she noted, needed to be better prepared and educated on how to cope and respond after being impacted, as well as how protecting the environment also enhanced their safety.

Suggesting that the  recently launched national clean-up Many Hands be conducted every quarter to improve the situation of garbage negatively affecting the island’s drainage she called for Barbadians to join in the clean-up efforts to further protect the environment thereby enhancing their own safety.

Water, sewage, drainage and roads were the biggest claims to the country’s infrastructure and the Prime Minster explains that while Government did not have the finances available to deal with all the issues following the passage of Kirk, they would be prioritizing critical needs.

“Our country’s infrastructure is in a woeful state and we need to be able to deal with it. We don’t have the money to deal with all at once but we have to prioritize what we need to and between the various ministries we are going to go after it systematically” she said.

She further added, “When we say sometimes to people that we are focusing on needs, and not wants, it’s because we understand that the needs of the country in terms of public spaces is able to avert drainage problems . . . able to avert flooding . . . able to avert problems with the roads . . . . All of these things are as a result of a lack of attention to detail and not prioritizing how we spend public money,” Mottley added.

Mottley noted that the problems facing the country in terms of its infrastructure were not ‘insurmountable’ and in some cases, there were fixes that could be immediately resolved by the Ministry of Public Works and the Drainage Division; however other challenges she noted would need to have more ‘medium to long term solutions’.

“If we don’t take care of each other in preparing for this, then what happened in other jurisdictions will cause too many people regrettably to die. Most people don’t die from the water itself, they die from the consequences of it,” Mottley said.

The Prime Minster also revealed that she would like to meet with Cabinet to discuss how to have a better ‘decentralised system’ where all residents worked to keep Barbados clean and safe.

EllisDon unveils Ontario’s first net zero structure

Infrastructure companies are seeking new and innovative ways to develop while keeping the environment in mind. EllisDon is one internationally-known construction company that is set on reducing its carbon footprint.

 Most recently, the company took on the impressive project to build the Mohawk College Net Zero Energy Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation. It is Ontario’s first institutional building of its kind while also the first project under EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative.

McCullum Sather and B + H Architects joined forces with EllisDon to complete the project  The “ Net Zero” facility essentially  produces as much renewable energy as it consumes, which is fascinating seeing as infrastructure, and development usually result in energy consumption.

 Linda Franklin, President and CEO of Colleges Ontario, spoke about the completion of the structure and its importance for future generations:

“EllisDon’s expertise is helping colleges implement significant measures to contribute to a green energy future for Ontario – everything from net zero buildings to improving energy efficiency in existing buildings to training the next generation of green energy workers. This will make a real and measurable difference in reducing carbon emission throughout Ontario.”

The design of the college is remarkable. The exterior looks like sleek and futuristic artwork, and the building utilizes many green energy elements. These include geothermal wells, a storm water harvesting system and  an LED lighting system throughout. The structure also has a green and high-efficiency plumbing system,  is 5 storeys high and can accommodate 4,500 students. Outfitted with a mechanical system installed to enhance ventilation, heating and cooling it also has an electrical system that optimizes lighting.

Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, also shared in the excitement about this pilot project:

“We’re excited to witness one of the first pilot projects using CaGBC’s newly developed Zero Carbon Building Standard. Mohawk College incorporates energy harvesting and conservation technologies and is a giant leap in future proofing new buildings that are fit for purpose, offer climate resilience as well as an enhanced user experience. As the Paris Agreement has set the international challenge to reduce global emissions, green buildings, such as the Mohawk College, demonstrate that innovation and energy efficiency can work together without compromising design.”

EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative not only targets net zero energy emissions, but also vows to track carbon emitted over the course of various projects and aims to introduce new clean technologies that can still result in effective structures for clientele

 They are a leader in green building design and innovative ideas. Women’s Post salutes their initiative!

Sidewalk Labs to improve Toronto living

Toronto is a great city and I am happy to have called it my home for over a decade. But there are flaws that have me thinking about moving to the suburbs and even to the Hamilton region. Mainly this has to do with the astronomical cost of living , and the unavoidable congestion on roadways and delays experienced on transit.  But even a move to the suburbs would mean a more expensive and time-consuming commute to central Toronto for work.

I dwell on the thought of moving for a moment, and I remind myself why I love Toronto so much- the culture, the activity and the people.

Organizations are stepping in to attempt to better our great city. Sidewalk Labs is a Google-affiliated high-tech company, which is pushing to develop a technological hub on Queen’s Quay. The Manhattan-based firm that specializes in urban innovation, seeks to use its technology to include sensors that will collect and analyze data. This will then be used to  assist with solving problems in Toronto — such as high housing costs, road safety and safety of citizens as well as other issues that go along with urban living.

This all sounds beneficial, but worries have arisen over how the data collected will be used. On the heels of the Cambridge Analytica case, which saw a privacy breach on 600,000 Canadians and over 80 million Facebook users, this is a growing concern. Questions as to whether the U.S. government will have access to private data were also posed.

Sidewalk Labs won a Waterfront Toronto contest last October to develop a live-and-work neighbourhood on 12 acres of land that stretches from Queens Quay to Parliament Street. The firm released a “summery report” on Wednesday.

In the report, residents said their wish is for any data collected to be “transparent and consensual.”

If the Sidewalk Toronto project is fully approved, it will be partially paid for by Canadian taxpayers through a public-private partnership. Any councillors who know insider details about the project have signed a non-disclosure agreement.

The pitch made by Sidewalk Labs last fall was quite attractive- proposing the neighbourhood would serve as “a hub for innovation-related companies and entrepreneurs,” while offering residents more opportunities to “live, work, learn and play.”

While some developers are concerned the benefits that may result if the plan is executed in a transparent  and effective way could be massive for the city.

Buses, buses, buses!

It’s always fantastic when people can work together for the greater good, especially when it involves top decision-makers  and a faster commute for transit users.

Today It was announced that the City of Toronto and the Federal Government are pooling resources and investing in public infrastructure –buses, new routes and cycling infrastructure – in Toronto. The funds will support efficient and affordable services. The total investment is $934 million. The Federal Government is providing over $442 million and the City of Toronto is  Matching and adding a bit more with an investment of $492 million.

The funds will ensure buses are maintained and will meet the demand of commuters. Improved accessibility and lower greenhouse gas emissions are an added perk.

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi, Ontario Minister of Transportation Kathryn McGarry,  Mayor John Tory and Chair of the TTC, Councillor Josh Colle announced the purchase of 1,043 new buses and the revitalization of 695 current buses as a part of the TTC’s Bus Purchase and Bus Rebuild project. The fleet will include 729 clean diesel buses, 254 second generation hybrid electric buses, and 60 battery electric buses.

Funding was also announced for 15 new public transit projects across Ontario. $20 million will go towards new transportation routes and cycling infrastructure. Mayor John Tory spoke about the initiative:

“Every day, the lives and livelihoods of Toronto residents depend on being able to move around our city quickly, safely and reliably. Maintaining our existing bus fleet and adding more buses on our roads will bring transit into every neighbourhood of our city. There is no area where collaboration and cooperation is more essential than in keeping our residents moving. Together, we will make Toronto’s transit system faster, stronger, safer and more accessible to everyone in every part of our city.”

The project is much-needed in Toronto and across the GTA. The extra buses and repaired fleets will cut down those end-of-day wait times, and will lessen the number of breakdowns which add extra minutes, or even hours on transit routes.

Ontario Government Announces Plans To Expand GO Transit

Due to increasing congestion on roadways and expenses of owning a car making public transit a more viable option for commuters, I always take it as welcome news when the government announces its plans for expansion and improvements that will further connect me to outlying regions with greater efficiency.

Kathryn McGarry, Ontario’s transportation minister, has said that the provincial government has now set plans to expand GO Transit in Greater Toronto and the Hamilton region.

McGarry has shared the news about the GO Transit expansion while appearing at Union Station on Monday, when she indicated that the government has issued a request to begin selecting companies to initiate the designing, building and financing, in addition to operating and maintaining the GO Regional Express Rail network.

“Today, I am pleased to announce that we are on track to deliver the next stage in GO Transit’s evolution — Regional Express Rail,” McGarry said. This includes new trains, refurbished vehicles, infrastructure for electrifying the entire GO corridor, and improvements such as bridges, tracks and noise walls to make travel seamless. This also includes improvements right here at Union Station to its tracks as well as its platforms to make room for more train service and electrification across the entire network.”

The process is therefore underway, ahead of any contracts being offered for GO Transit expansion. Ontario will issue a request for qualifications.

Six new Toronto Smart Track stations will also be built, and there will be upgrades made to 22 current GO stations that will involve renovations to stations, digital signage and new bus loops.

Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said the request for qualifications is a “big milestone” and the transit projects are “hugely exciting” for the provincial agency. “In many transit jurisdictions, these are the biggest projects out there today,” Verster said. “For our customers, this is really exciting.”

Regional Express Rail is also to include more than 400 projects across 40 municipalities, which is being financed with the city of Toronto.

The project Mayor John Tory initiated during the 2014 municipal election, SmartTrack, will include integrated services via rail on the Stouffville, Lakeshore East and Kitchener GO lines, as well as on the Eglinton West Light Rail Transit extension, between Mount Dennis and Renforth.

Spokesperson for Metrolinx, Anne Marie Aikins, says that this is “another step closer to building the transit people need.”

 

 

‘Gyroscopic Transportation’ could be the future of transit

Congestion on urban roadways and highways seems to be an ongoing issue in urban centres and large metropolises regardless of newly built infrastructure, roadway expansions, traffic light syncing, in addition to any number of other alterations that can be made to attempt to ease traffic flow.

One major concern in high density areas, is the timeframe in which emergency service vehicles can reach their destination to assist individuals. Heavy congestion creates impassable roadblocks by times, meaning that such vehicles are left to dangerously use shoulders of freeways and sidewalks of inner city streets, creating a dangerous situation for EMS vehicle drivers and pedestrians.

The wave of the future in regards to this particular concern, however, appears to possibly present a sci-fi-like solution that will result in vehicles avoiding any roadway obstructions without endangering any additional pedestrians or drivers.

Russian inventor Dahir Semonov is the genius behind the electric vehicles, known as gyroscopic transportation vehicles.  The pods are fitted with telescopic legs that are intended to rise above the traffic-filled roadways and pedestrian congestion below, allowing the futuristic-looking vehicles to move freely around using monorails that are to be placed in roadway medians.

In addition to emergency vehicles, Semonov is set to begin building a prototype of a vehicle that will be used in the same fashion, for public transit. The inventor is hopeful that investors worldwide will see the benefit in building his designs and making them a reality.

The released video models, introducing the world to the possible future of public and emergency service transportation, demonstrates how the vehicles maneuver on just two wheels with great ease. The cabin on public transit vehicle models, within which commuters are seated, are self-balancing and controlled with a joy stick. A glass dome covers the cabin for commuters to enjoy light and bright surroundings while making their way to their end destinations. The vehicles additionally produce no audible noise and are outfitted with comfortable seating.

As to how the vehicles are intended to run, solar panels on top of the vehicles are connected to two generators and a back-up battery, which will work to provide continuous power while maintaining continual motion of the gyroscopes. One safety concern, however, is that if those gyroscopes do stop spinning, danger is eminent for anyone on board.

Despite such concerns, the gyroscopic transportation models have massive potential and feasibility. While the design proposes an economically efficient mode of transportation, it would ease bus congestion on highways and road ways, while also improving the timeframe within which emergency vehicles arrive to a scene. The environmentally friendly design just might be a reality on the roads sooner than frustrated commuters know.

 

 

 

Toronto transit receives massive funds infusion totaling nearly $9 billion

By Jessica Ashley Merkley

Let’s be honest, it’s clear that the Toronto transit system is due for an overhaul. I, like many out there, am faced on the daily with the somewhat archaic city transit system that can certainly do with an upgrade.

Perhaps the delays and technical issues that cause frustrations quite regularly to commuters, will be a thing of the past, all thanks to a massive infusion of funds granted to Toronto transit by both the federal and provincial government, this week.

It was announced yesterday that Toronto transit will be receiving a massive boost from the federal government to be put to use over the next decade. The provincial government has also stepped up and nearly matched the amount given by the federal government.

It is now confirmed that the federal government has allotted $5 billion to the city of Toronto’s transit system. Additionally, the provincial government has matched this amount, allotting over $4 billion for various projects that are in the plans for the city’s transit infrastructure.

During a press conference that was held in Mississauga on Wednesday, the infrastructure ministers on both the federal and provincial level, joined forces and announced the signing of a bilateral agreement, which will see nearly $12 billion of federal funds used across Ontario for public transit, various community projects and environmental green infrastructure throughout the next ten years.

Of the near-$12 billion, Toronto is set to receive over half of the funds which have been allocated for Ontario transit- a figure that is roughly $8.5 billion. This infusion of money will allow the city to pay 40 per cent of the cost for slated transit projects.

It’s certainly refreshing to witness two levels of government joining forces to achieve a common goal. Ontario Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli, also holds the same opinion on this as I, stating “I often say that the people of Ontario are best served when all levels of government work together,” while at the press conference on Wednesday.

As to the reasons why Toronto was allocated such a massive sum compared to other regions of the province, Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi explained:

“The city of Toronto is getting a significant amount of money, Toronto’s ridership is larger and we want the resources to go where the resources are needed.”

The specific plans for how the funds allocated to Toronto transit will be used, have yet to be determined fully, however, the financial boost is sure to bring massive improvements to Toronto transit over the years.

Canada “ill prepared” for automated vehicles

Canada is not ready for driverless cars.

This new technology is supposed to help reduce the number of traffic-related accidents in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and yet, Canada is moving with caution when it comes to self-driving vehicles. A new report from the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications discusses the benefits and the challenges of self-driving vehicles, resulting in the overwhelming conclusion that this country is simply “ill prepared” for this technology.

“We are approaching the end of an era for the traditional, individually-owned, human-driven automobile. In the not-too-distant future, people will be able to summon a driverless taxi from their smartphone and may therefore decide to forego vehicle ownership in favour of these shared automated vehicles,” the report reads. “These technologies also raise a number of concerns in terms of job losses, privacy, cybersecurity, urban sprawl and infrastructure.”

Experts say self-driving vehicles could become commonplace in 10 to 15 years. The report differentiates between autonomous vehicles and connected vehicles, or rather technology that allows for communication between devices like a Smartphone or even vehicle-to-vehicle.

The benefits of automated vehicles are widespread — fewer traffic deaths caused by human error, ridesharing potential, and freedom for the elderly or those with mobility issues. According to the Conference Board of Canada, the economic benefits of self-driving cars could equal approximately $65 billion annually in collision avoidance, heightened productivity, fuel cost savings, and congestion avoidance. They also predict that automated vehicles will prevent 80 per cent of road deaths.

At the same time, there is still a lot unknown about how this technology is going to effect Canadians, especially when it comes to the economy. Experts say this change could affect the jobs of 1.1 million Canadians. For example, the trucking industry expects to employ 25,000 to 30,000 less drivers by 2024. New infrastructure may need to be created to accommodate this technology. Privacy is another big issue, as most technology is vulnerable to cyberattacks and the data collected from an autonomous vehicle would be rather sensitive.

The committee listed 16 recommendations on how to proceed with the integration of self-driving technology. Included in these recommendations is the creation of a joint policy unit to aide in the creation of a national strategy dealing with autonomous vehicles, the writing of legislation to deal with issues related to privacy and cybersecurity, and the formation of a road safety plan. The committee also wants Transport Canada to develop vehicle safety guidelines for the development, testing, and deploying of these new self-driving cars. At the end of the report, the committee calls for a national strategy on how to deal with this new technology.

What do you think about the potential for automated vehicles or connected vehicles? Let us know in the comments below!

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!