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Woman of the Week: Marie Bountrogianni

Marie Bountrogianni is the Dean of G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University as well as a former Ontario parliamentarian. She has a wide variety of passions and a true desire to make a difference in the world, which makes her the ideal candidate for both government and academia.

Dr. Bountrogianni was a Liberal MP from 1999 to 2007, representing the riding of Hamilton-Mountain. During that time, she served as minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Democratic Renewal, Children and Youth Services, and Citizenship and Immigration. Prior to entering the public life, Bountrogianni was the chief psychologist for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. She has a doctorate in Applied Psychology from the University of Toronto and was recognized as one of the top 10 most influential alumni at the University of Waterloo. Last year, she was honoured with the Gabby Award in New York City for her contributions on behalf of refugees, minorities, and people with disabilities.

Bountrogianni reached out to Women’s Post following the Golden Globe’s and Oprah Winfrey’s inspiring speech to discuss women in politics. As an educator, she hopes to inspire young women to be more active in world affairs, and discusses why academics and leadership go hand in hand. 

Question: Do you think Oprah’s speech and presidential campaign rumour will spark an interest in politics in young women? Do you think Oprah should run?

Answer: I am hoping young women – indeed, women of all ages – will consider running. It is very important for a democracy to be truly representative of its citizenry. If Oprah’s speech inspires women to run, then she should make more speeches. As for whether or not Oprah should run, that is really up to her and the American people. The fact that, like Trump, she is a billionaire TV celebrity (similarities stop here) may actually be an obstacle for her. Will the people accept another wealthy celebrity or will they want someone more experienced in governance?

Why do you think more women don’t run for office here in Canada? What are the factors?

As a former parliamentarian I can say it is challenging for women – particularly those with young children – to run for politics, for obvious reasons. My advice to young women is this: do not think of it as a life long career. Think of it as a term of service (or two or three terms), much like a military service to your country. Do it when you can “give everything you’ve got”, then leave. You will not only have made a significant contribution to your community but the benefits of your political experience will stay with you for the rest of your life. You learn how the system works. How it REALLY works. You will be able to assist any organization you work in or volunteer at.

You have a background in psychology and education, what made you run for office?

I ran for office because at the time I was the Chief Psychologist with a large school board and was frustrated by the effects of cut-backs on children’s lives. I was also on a hospital board and was similarly upset at how the cutbacks were affecting patients. I did not hold a party two membership and was never involved in politics before I ran. I had to ask, “How do I run?” I highly recommend the experience.

Did you experience any challenges as a woman?

The challenges I experienced are faced by working mothers every day. The guilt of long hours away from home, combined with balancing work and family life, etc. I did notice that younger male politicians experienced similar challenges related to their familial responsibilities, as it was more practise common for both partners to be in the workforce.

What needs to change?

Society has to once again respect the role of the politician. It is a challenging role when done properly. Politicians need to continue to remember why they entered politics and go back to basics. It was not (or should not be) for the partisan fighting, career and games – it was to represent their constituents. Social media often makes this difficult as everyone is under “a not so always fair“ microscope. We will all be better off if we bring civility back to politics. This takes leadership, however; when a leader takes part in rogue, self-serving and pedantic tweeting, “he/she poisons the well”.

How do we compare here in Canada to the U.S.?

Canada and the U.S have very different histories and political systems. We were born out of compromise and negotiations — the U.S out of revolution. There are pros and cons in each country. I am biased, of course, but I have to say that I am proud of our “just society“. We are a serious country.

As Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, you must witness the interests and drive of many students — do you think more women will run for politics in the future?

I hope more women will run. Ironically, what is happening south of the border has attracted more interest in politics and more chatter everywhere. I do believe, like Oprah, that things are shifting – the strong (finally) response to allegations of sexual aggression is a promising step in the right direction. This may lead to women feeling more empowered to enter fields that are predominantly held by men.

Why return to education after politics?

I don’t think I ever left education entirely when I was in politics and did not entirely leave politics when I went back to education. Politics comes from the Greek word that means “citizen”. We are responsible for each other and we have an obligation to one another. Education is a tool. Political knowledge is another tool. Both are needed to affect change. I have been very lucky to have both in my toolkit.

What advice do you have to women interested in politics?

Do it. Get support from family and friends. Be prepared to exhaust yourself. But I promise you this: it will be an experience like no other. You will potentially impact the lives of thousands of your constituents and if get into cabinet, millions of citizens. It will shock you. Next to being a mother, it is the best decision I have ever made. It was truly an honour.

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Never have the Ontario PCs needed a woman leader like they do today!

The need for change within the Ontario PC party is hitting them hard today as news that allegations of sexual misconduct have pushed Patrick Brown to step down as leader.

Many of the party faithful are wishing they had elected Christine Elliott, who challenged Patrick Brown in the 2015 leadership race. There is no doubt the party will have a tough time in the coming election. If they elect a man, the cloud of scandal won’t dissipate quickly and voters will go to the polls questioning his propriety no matter how clean his reputation.  So, they must find a strong woman willing to lead them out of the scandal, someone willing to challenge Premier Kathleen Wynne.

It’s not a job many woman would want. Chances of actually winning the election are much lower today than they were yesterday.  But, this morning Christine Elliott is probably giving it a lot of thought. Leadership candidates who don’t win are usually pushed out of the party by leaders who don’t like to be challenged. Patrick Brown didn’t like to be challenged, and Christine Elliott was pushed out of the party.

She has to know the chances of winning the election with just five months to go with the Patrick Brown scandal hanging over them are low.

Whomever steps up will have to work hard to build their recognition and public trust.

If Christine Elliott doesn’t step up, the party will have to think outside their conservative scope to find a woman with a voice big enough and strong enough to convince female voters that she is bringing big change to the party.

As I muse over who might be a strong candidate, some are suggesting Caroline Mulroney as a possible leadership candidate. She has a pretty terrific resume – a working mother of four, she has a degree from Harvard and a law degree from New York University. And she has experience in politics. She, like Justin Trudeau, will be accused of riding on her fathers coat tails when in fact she has a very strong resume and could make a very good leader. The only issue is that she may not have enough recognition to build the public trust the PC party needs to get out of mess they are in and actually win the election.  But recognition can be earned quickly if she comes out with strong ideas that earn her support in the urban markets  – like supporting dedicated transit funding.

Today I have no doubt that Ontario PC decision makers are frantically searching for the right leader – they’ll have to find someone with enough public recognition and trust to challenge Premier Wynne.

An out of the box idea might be to look further than the tip of their shoes to someone like Jenniefer Keesmaat. She has a solid reputation in urban centres. She has experience being under fire, and she understands the importance of building strong communities. And she is a woman who would give Premier Wynne some strong competition with her core supporters.  That kind of out of the box thinking is what the PC party needs to show voters they are committed to changing the old boys club image that is haunting them today.

There is no doubt the party must find a woman leader. Whomever steps up to the challenge will be doing the Ontario PC party a huge service – I just hope the old boys recognize it.

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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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.

What is the deal with eco-tourism?

It’s a term being thrown around a lot within the tourism industry — eco-tourism. But, what exactly does that mean?

In the simplest terms, eco-tourism is the idea that your travel will not impact the environment. Instead, it will actually contributes to the local community.

When people travel, they tend to bring a lot of their baggage with them. And no, I’m not talking about emotional baggage or your carry-on.

Tourists tend to focus on only one thing. Sightseeing. They want to hit the most popular destinations, take perfectly filtered images for their Instagram account at the nicest restaurants, or visit franchise stores to do some shopping. These tourists take taxis, trains, and planes, and sometimes even use products with dangerous chemicals that could contaminate oceans. Don’t even get me started on the number of plastic straws used in beverages.

Most tourists create a carbon footprint that has the potential to damage a community, especially in remote locations or islands that depend on their natural beauty to attract revenue. While there isn’t much that can be done about completely eliminating this footprint, there is a way to reduce it. The answer is, obviously, eco-tourism.

According to the International Ecotourism Society, for an activity to be a part of “eco-tourism”, it has to have an educational aspect. It should promote conservation and community, while trying to adopt sustainable practices. Guides and participants must recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People There should also be some financial benefit towards these practices. 

The activities must also operate within low-impact facilities.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) describes eco-tourism as “environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.”

The definitions are still open to interpretation. Some agencies choose to describe any nature-related activity or tour as eco-tourism. For example, whale watching in Hawaii is described as an eco-tourist activity. However, the cruise boat itself could be impacting the ecosystem below the surface of the water. A more ecologically-friendly activity would be to kayak or canoe the waters with a guide who talks about the wildlife or the conservation techniques in place to protect the natural beauty of an area.

Tourists can take tours of plantations or farms; but they can also participate for a day, learning hands on how food grows and gets to their plate. Visit an indigenous settlement and listen to stories from the community. If you go on a nature walk, stick to trails — don’t wander into a natural environment without a guide. Remember, the purpose of eco-tourism is to learn and give back to the community.

Here are three eco-tourism activities you can do in Ontario:

  • Redwing Institute Culture and Nature Discovery Walk: Take this 3-hour journey and learn about the Indigenous people of Humber Valley. Participants will explore the river valley, participate in a traditional ceremony, sample food and music, and explore history through oral storytelling. Part of the fees go towards a skill-development program for women from the Indigenous community living in Toronto.
  • Visit a Biosphere Reserve: Wilderness Eco-Adventures offers half and full day guided excursions of the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Reserve. Climb cliffs, explore caves, and see rare wildlife. They also offer more intensive workshops where you can learn a new skill like geology or bushcraft. Looking for a challenge? Spend three nights under the stars this winter. Proceeds support the Biosphere Association’s environmental projects.
  • EcoCab through Toronto: Instead of taking a bus or renting a car, see downtown Toronto up close with a pedal-powered bicycle. Don’t worry about the physical activity as each tour guide will also be your navigator and official pedal-er). There are four routes to choose from.

Have you participated in eco-tourism? Let us know what your experience was like in the comments below!

Weather bomb brings out the Canadian wimps

I am a Canadian. I live in the North. Therefore, I should expect it to be a little cold in the winter.

That’s the theory at least.

This is what I don’t understand. Those living in Florida have a slight right to freak out at the sight of a small flurry, but those in Canada? They have no excuse! Winter is something people should be preparing for in September, especially with the impact of global warming!

The fact is, it is cold in Canada. It snows in Canada. There are storms that hit every year in Canada. And yet — no one is ever prepared for them. These storms shut down subways, cause car accidents, and down hydro lines. Politicians seem shocked when suddenly they have to deal with homeless shelters at capacity, as if this is something that has never happened before. And this is just a regular Canadian winter.

So, imagine the panic when a meteorologist says a storm called a “bomb cyclone” was about to hit the East Coast.

A bomb cyclone was a term created more for social media than anything else. The actual term for a storm like this one is cyclogenesis or bombogenisis, and refers to a low pressure cold front that falls “24 millibars in 24 hours or less”. In simple terms, it means a cyclone in which the air moves up into the atmosphere to create precipitation. Due to the cold weather, this precipitation falls in the form of snow or hail.

Millibars measures the pressure of a cyclone. The standard pressure on Earth is 1013.2 millibars, so dropping to 24 millibars would indicate an incredibly “explosive” storm; hence the term bomb cyclone.

The so-called bomb cyclone dropped about 60 cm of snow to parts of New Brunswick over a period of 24 hours. The winds were a hurricane force of 170 km/h in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.The power is out for tens of thousands of residents and certain regions are still under blizzard warnings.

While the storm did result in some crazy photographs and video on social media, there were no deaths.

This is what irks me. Storms like these, albeit a bit frightening, happen every year. Maritimers survived, just like they always do. But, the Maritimes are different from the rest of the country. When a storm hits, they stand strong. They know it is coming and they work double-time to make sure neighbours are safe and infrastructure is repaired. The rest of the country? Big wimps!

With weather reaching -30 degrees with windchill, Ontario is freaking out. Politicians and news anchors are pleading residents to stay indoors. Events are being cancelled. All because of a little cold weather.

Sure, you can argue that -30 degrees is incredibly chilly. I would agree with that statement; however, this doesn’t just happen when the temperature drops below 30. The first snowfall in Toronto is hell! It’s like everyone forgets how to drive or dress for the winter. During the first snowstorm, it took me two hours to get home. It is usually a 30 minute commute. I look out my window and see teenage girls wandering around in short dresses and heels, and then complaining about frostbite!

Can the rest of Canada pull itself together and act…well, Canadian? Winter is not going anywhere, and you can’t hibernate for the next three months!

And if you do decide to hibernate, here is a tip: Next January, it may also be a bit nippy.

5 yurts that offer idyllic winter escapes

Winter’s harsh elements may drive plenty of North Americans inside the house and under the covers. This is the season where homebodies take refuge and more travel-savvy folks might head south of the equator. But, in the snow-covered territory of the great white north lies quiet, wintery lands to be explored — and there’s perhaps no better way to go about it than by booking a yurt-style retreat. From toasty lodges in northern Ontario, to rustic cottages in the Alaskan woods, to remote cabins in a most idyllic pocket of Vermont, AirBnB’s grand selection of winter yurts is bound to appeal to travellers of all sorts. These Instagram-worthy lodgings beckon both the woman in need of a cozy weekend escape as well as the seasoned outdoor adventurer looking for a new experience in nature.

Here are five winter-yurts that will have travellers saying yes to a winter getaway:

Stowe, Vermont

Skiers and beer connoisseurs alike have reason to escape to this Stowe, Vermont dwelling. The area is famous for its multitude of powder-covered mountains and The Alchemist brewery is one of the most sought after in the United States. (don’t leave the state without sipping its infamous Heady Topper double IPA!). As for the yurt itself, it’s a rustic one with no electricity where visitors can enjoy the views of the Nebraska Valley while sipping hot chocolate by the wood stove. This is certainly the ideal spot for those in need of a tech-break.

The Buffalo Farm: Mattawa, Ontario.

This yurt looks like a scene taken straight out of Pinterest and it happens to have all the makings of a perfect wintery escape: hiking trails nearby, the sparkle of the Amable du Fond River, an animal sanctuary with horses and buffalo and a wood-burning stove for snug winter nights. Going with a large group? This two-storey accommodation in Ontario’s coveted Algonquin region can sleep 12. With the owners having more than one property, there’s no reason not to book a stay in this beautiful part of Ontario.

Bolton, Quebec

A weekend in Quebec will feel like being plopped down somewhere in the middle of Europe and yet this yurt is just an hour outside of Montreal. After a good snowfall, this lodging looks like a scene straight out of a fairytale. One thing that makes this adorable abode stand out: it’s near to Quebec’s wine route. So make sure to stock up on local wines, jams, and cheese during the stay.

Talkeetna, Alaska

This yurt is so picturesque it barely seems real. Situated in the midst of a forest in rural Alaska, this cottagey yurt is intended for the traveller with a strong set of outdoor skills who doesn’t shy away from vacationing in rustic settings. Those who stay here can expect to be wowed by views of the northern lights through the skydome. In the morning, the local coffee shop is within walking distance. Talkeetna attracts other outdoor adventurer types and visitors are most likely to bump into like-minded folks at the Talkeetna Roadhouse – a one-stop shop for a shower, satisfying breakfast, and warm, homemade pies. When staying here, strap on a pair of cross-country skis and check out the local trails to get the full experience.

Maple City, Michigan  

Experience farm life while staying on this Maple City property that’s home to pigs, ducks and goats. If contemplating a winter escape, consider that this quaint lodging is so idyllic it even has its own sugar shack for homemade maple syrup. The owners also make their own cheese (yum!). The yurt itself has everything a visitor needs – if roughing it in a yurt without running water or electricity is a no-go, this one with its modern bathroom and private bedroom will make visitors feel a little more pampered.  

Where are you heading this winter? Let us know in the comments below!

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.

Hey Toronto, the minimum wage is going up

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

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

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

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

Toronto: Metrolinx reaches new contract with Bombardier for Crosstown

Over the holidays, Metrolinx negotiated new contract terms with Bombardier, the transit agency responsible for producing light rail vehicles for Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) system. According to a press statement, these new terms offer “significant financial penalties for Bombardier if they fail to deliver quality vehicles on-time.”

“This clearly resets the relationship with Metrolinx under its new leadership, and provides a clear path forward to ensure certainty on the technical and financial obligations of both partners,” a Bombardier press statement said.

Bombardier is contracted to manufacture 76 light rail vehicles, which is 106 less than the original contract for 182.

“We want our suppliers to succeed,” Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said in a statement. “The new agreement provides compelling incentives for Bombardier to allocate the right resources and attention to the production of our Eglinton vehicles.”

The new agreement includes performance deadlines and a new late delivery penalty. Bombardier has also committed to be more transparent when it comes to production plans and progress, which means that Metrolinx will have the opportunity to address progress on a regular basis. Bombardier will ensure vehicle quality is sustained throughout the lifespan of the vehicles.

The GO Transit Operations and Maintenance contract was extended by 18-month.

In May, the provincial government signed a new agreement with Alstom Canada to provide vehicles that would be used on the Eglinton Crosstown. Alstom is still contracted to manufacture 61 cars, but they will be used on other transit lines such as Finch West LRT.

“We have always been resolved to find a clear negotiated path forward, one that delivers value to all parties, and foremost to the people of Ontario. Bombardier is fully committed to the Metrolinx project and to the people of the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA),” said Benoit Brossoit, President, Americas Region at Bombardier Transport. “I look forward to working with Metrolinx’s CEO, Phil Verster’s, to advance this project and ensure that riders have the most efficient, comfortable and reliable transit system in the world.”