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GTHA Transit Wants & Woes

A transit strike is looming that may impact the GTHA. Metrolinx shared that the strike involves CP labour unions and may commence as early as Monday. The action by the union may impact GO Transit rail services.

Metrolinx made a statement on the impending transit troubles promising that services will not be disrupted:

“While we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached, we have plans in place to ensure customers can continue to travel safely and as easily as possible if a strike occurs. Our plans have been adjusted since our last communication to customers in April and no train services need to be cancelled. In the event of a CP labour disruption, we are now able to operate trains into Hamilton GO Centre.”

The reason that a CP strike may still impact GO Transit service is that many tracks that are used by Metrolinx for these services, are owned by alternate rail companies, such as CP. A strike means less CP staff available to operate the traffic switches and signals, leading to delays and suspended services.

The unions, which include the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, have carried on talks with railway management.

A spokesperson for Teamsters Canada stated that the union would likely reject any offer and that they will request immediate resuming of negotiation to reach a deal before a strike ensues.

If the unions decide to strike, members must give 72 hours notice, as CBC indicates.

GTHA Transit efficiency is always a focus, whether good or bad, in this city. Even without a looming strike posing a threat to service, it’s clear that Toronto and GTA transit could be made more efficient. The upcoming election has the big four political parties making promises to do just that. The PC, Liberal and NDP parties are all pro-relief line plan. The line is to be built from the Danforth directly to downtown and relieve overcrowding on the Yonge/University Line. The Green Party is also making transit a focus, but in Scarborough.

Strike or not, Canada’s most densely populated region needs politicians and transit services always looking to the future for betterment of the transit network already in place. Hopefully negotiations and elections lead to reaching this common goal quicker.

Doug Ford and Kinga Surma controversy

The Ontario provincial campaign is well underway.  It seems there really isn’t a clear leader. Although the Conservatives initially appeared to be leading the pack in the early stages, controversy has shaken Doug Ford’s platform.

Ford was under attack last week after allegations surfaced that Tory candidates may have used stolen customer information obtained as part of a data breach from a toll highway operator.

The Liberals have shared evidence discovered in a recording that implicates Ford  involving membership and nomination of local Etobicoke conservative  candidate Kinga Surma.  Wynne’s party has released a tape of Doug Ford asking people to sign nomination papers for Kinga Surma and telling them that they don’t have to pay for them. This is illegal and something he, himself, has said he’ll put a stop to. He recently blamed  Patrick Brown for PC candidates accessing 407 data, but now it seems more likely that Mr. Ford may have had more involvement.

Ford reportedly paid for memberships of new Tories and indicated that memberships were “free”. This is illegal and goes against the PC party bylaws. The National Post indicates that a former top Conservative official who was at the 2016 vote, has confirmed this.

The Liberals have released a statement about the recording that implicates Doug Ford. The anonymous source  recorded Ford and Kinga Surma at a Tim Horton’s, offering free memberships.

The candidate who lost the Etobicoke nomination, Pina Martino, has since filed a complaint, that consists of  an email to then party lawyer Mike Richmond that Ford used “intimidation” tactics against her that included following her home. the National Post relays. The party allowed Kinga Surma to continue as the Etobicoke candidate, despite the complaint.

Surma began her career in politics in 2010 by working on Sarah Thomson’s Toronto mayoral election. She moved on to help George Smitherman’s race against Rob Ford and was then hired by Peter Milczyn who was a councillor in Etobicoke.

Kinga Surma has refrained from commenting on the latest controversy surrounding her and Doug Ford. The question is, why was membership stacked in favour of Ms. Surma by Doug Ford? Could there possibly be more to the relationship between Ford and Surma than politics?

 

 

Green Party set on tolls

The provincial election has kicked off and party leaders are doing their best to sway voters with promises and by calling out opponents.  There is no clear front-runner at this point either, which makes for an exciting campaign

Ahead of last week’s debate, the Tories were holding steady as the favored party. Andrea Horvath of the NDP, seems to be closing the gap since she impressed during the debate while joining Premier Wynne by taking aim at Doug Ford.

Most recently, it’s the Green Party that has earned the attention of voters after unveiling a tiered platform consisting of 9 parts.  Leader Mike Schreiner has high hopes that the platform will lead to the Green Party’s first seats in legislature.

On Monday, Schreiner shared the 9-part plan, named “People Powered Change.”  The platform focuses on the environment, transit, affordable housing and the expansion of health care, while also including the implementation of province-wide basic income.

“Greens are showing people that we can do politics differently,” he said. “Greens in Ontario are ready. We are ready to lead, we are ready to elect our first MPP. We believe it is time to end red tape for the most vulnerable in Ontario and ensure that everyone has a basic income guarantee,” he said.

One inclusion in the platform is to implement road tolls on all 400-series highways. Schreiner insists that tolling could raise over $1.4 billion for the province. He also intends to raise over $100 million in land value taxes and expand transit across the GTA

The 9- tier plan includes developing a clean economy, making homes and business more energy efficient, lowering payroll taxes on small businesses and non-profits, requiring all new developments include a minimum of 20 per cent affordable housing, putting mental health services under OHIP, implementing a basic income guarantee province-wide, protecting the environment, moving Ontario toward 100 per cent renewable energy, and expanding transit across the GTA.

Although the Green Party is focused on making big moves this election, Schreiner was left out of the recent debate between NDP, Conservative and Liberal leaders. The election is on June 7. Until voters take to the polls, it’s anyone’s game.

 

Woman of the Week: Li Koo

There need to be more women in politics.  Li Koo is one woman in Toronto working hard to change this reality and level the playing field. She is in the running to be the Toronto-Danforth’s next MPP. When I met Li, I immediately was drawn in by her charisma, humour and warmth. She shook my hand and chatted  with me as if we were old pals and I felt comfortable to ask for an interview right away.

Li explained what first drew her to politics, stating that experience is what shapes us, and adding that she has known from a young age that it’s “not a level playing field, even in a great province like Ontario.” She shared how her parents arrived in Canada with only $8 in their pocket and that “they worked twice as hard as everyone else around them to get half as far.” Admitting that she was once an underdog, Koo now vows to make a positive change through politics by creating a more “open, inclusive and fairer society.”

“Fighting for positive change that will make other people’s lives better is what this is all about for me,” she said.

 Politicians by times seem out of reach and disconnected from the public they are representingThis is not the case with Li. She admits that the best part of campaigning as a candidate is knocking on doors of people in her community and learning about the issues of most importance to them. Li even admits that she wishes she had the superpower of time travel to help her meet more people from her community, ahead of election day.

“It’s incredible what we learn by listening to our neighbours,” she said. Li was raised to be conscientious to others around her and to give a voice to those who may not have the benefit of a platform. Her parents instilled a strong work ethic in her and taught Li to always hold the door open for others and assist in anyway she can.

She is clearly quite close to her family and wishes that more time with loved ones could come along with achieving her goals. “I’m so fortunate to have such a supportive partner and such strong support from my extended family and friends. I could not do this without them. “

As a young Chinese mother, Li has faced roadblocks. She admits that women have made strides and shifted workplace cultures, but  adds that barriers are still there, keeping women from getting ahead.

“We need to shift what qualities are valued in our workplaces to create spaces that are creative, collaborative and kind. And most importantly – fair,” she stated.

Li recognizes that women often let competition get in the way, and that this needs to be replaced with collaboration and kindness, reminding that “together we stand, divided we fall.”

Despite her success so far, Li has experienced challenges in both her personal and professional life. She shared these and about how she moves forward and pushes past them daily.

“I’m a woman, I’m Chinese, I’m gay, I’m a parent. I’m a new candidate. As a result of this, I’ve never taken anything for granted and have always worked hard to overcome many systemic barriers. I also recognize that the sacrifices my parents made and the education and experiences that I have gained is a privilege that I hold now and it’s my duty to pay it forward to my community.”

She says Joan of Arc and Hua Mulan are two women in history who inspire her.  Her own fighting spirit is reminiscent of these figures’ strength that saw both women rise up courageously for their ideals and values.

The MeToo movement has swept across North America, uniting women on the issue of harassment. Every woman has experienced a #MeToo moment and Li shared that each of her own moments are a reminder and a “wake-up call” that change must happen in the workplace and beyond, to make ours a nation that is safer for girls who are growing up. Li reminds that Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals have given full support to the movement

She is a person for the people and may soon be a Member of Parliament. For more about Li Koo, visit hello@LiKoo.ca .

Ontario election: Gloves are off!

The gloves are off in Ontario politics. Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath seemed to be a joint force while individually taking aim at Conservative leader Doug Ford  this week as the three leaders participated in a heated debate.

 

Horvath and Wynne both warned the public about what a Ford provincial government would result in. Horvath questioned Ford about his promises and how he plans to cut taxes and to be transparent, like former Conservative leaders.

“The other Conservative leaders, Mr. (Tim) Hudak, Mr. (Mike) Harris — they were very upfront about what their cuts are going to look like,” Horwath said.

“Why don’t you have the guts to tell people what your cuts are going to look like? What is in store for the people of Ontario?”

To this Ford simply stated that he was on the side of the taxpayers, also vowing to not be the cause of any layoffs if elected.

Horvath went on to describe a decision made between her rivals, Ford and Wynne, is like choosing between “bad” and “worse,” insistent on showing why she Is the best choice out of the three”

“She will now be the centre of interest “CBC reports the words of Geneviève Tellier, a political studies professor at the University of Ottawa. “Even if you didn’t think you wanted to vote for her, you’re more likely to pay more attention to her now.”

The consensus from political enthusiasts was that Doug Ford played the election debate safe yet raised eyebrows when he stated he would not support safe injection sites.

 Wynne shared her expertise on policy and her intentions to put them to use. She spoke about “inclusionary zoning” and were in a sparring match with Ford over affordable housing for young people.

Each candidate, all in the running for the provincial election on June 7th, revealed how they plan to win the election.

The provincial election debate kicks of the on Wednesday, despite the feeling that it began weeks ago, due to candidates speaking regularly to the media about their party platforms and intentions. All contenders are solid competition and it will be interesting to see how the remainder of the election unfolds.

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.

Revised SmartTrack plan a GO

Plans don’t always pan out as expected, and although less sometimes means more, disputes can arise. This is the case with Mayor John Tory’s  initial SmartTrack proposal and the plan which has passed by city council on Wednesday.

 A recent announcement was made by the council confirming an agreement to spend up to $1.46 billion on SmartTrack. The plan put forth is an improved version of the one  Mayor Tory proposed during his 2014 election campaign.

 Federal and municipal governments are collaborating to fund this project. The city will raise $878 million of the total and the remaining $585 million will come from the federal transit fund. There was opposition to funding as some councilors believe that the province should pay instead of the city,  forgetting that the funds all come from the same source-tax dollars residents from across the region pay.

Despite worries of high costs and financing the plan, the decision was made to go forward with SmartTrack in a 37 to 6 vote.

Mayor Tory’s initial plan proposed 22 new stations and a link to Pearson Airport. The new plan will see 6 new stations to be operated by Metrolinx – the provincial transit body that operated regional transit service. The plan fuses SmartTrack’s use of existing GO stations and Metrolinx’s Regional Express Rail, and proposes integrated fares.

Mayor John Tory spoke about the much needed transit:

“This is the stage at which we are moving forward to start to build transit stations within the city of Toronto…Other municipalities are not proposing to build stations that the province would not otherwise have built to suit their local needs.”

Mayor Tory has consistently defended the plan noting the  33 million trips estimated on SmartTrack by 2041. The “cheapest transit we’re ever going to get inside the city,” he said.

There is a need for these stations to be built and Toronto municipal leaders are right to move forward with the revised plan put forth by Mayor Tory. Action means results, and as TTC Chair and councillor Josh Colle points out “Toronto has taken too many years off dwelling on the best way to improve the transit system.”

Facebook: a politician’s best friend

Gone are the days when Facebook was simply used to reconnect with old pals and to stay updated.  I’ll admit that sometimes I do still get sidetracked scrolling through old photos , but the platform functions have certainly changed.

The social platform is about far more than staying in touch with friends and creeping on old flames. Many businesses use it to promote their products and services. When poll time rolls around, politicians turn to Facebook to build their following.

Ontario residents are preparing to cast ballots in  the provincial election this year, and as June 7th approaches, many politicians are relying on Facebook, by posting ads that cater to individual interests of voters.

The platform now allows campaigns to micro-target voters based on age, location, interests, gender and political positions. This tactic is helpful to  parties because it targets a more widespread audience.

Facebook stores such a massive amount of data that outlines users’ interests and the new techniques used by politicians to capitalize on it. It’s for this reason that one person might see an ad from a political party about slashing taxes, and someone else, might see an ad from the same party focusing on health care.

Although political ads on Facebook were used by Canadian parties for a number of years, it is the variation and intricate targeting that has now reached a new level. The ads are much more sophisticated.

They are not only far-reaching, but are also extremely low in cost, which makes it an even more effective campaigning tool for politicians.

 I do find the pooling of information worrisome, especially after the Cambridge Analytica issue that brought Zuckerberg to a formal inquiry. The Cambridge firm had access to  private information of more than 600,000 Canadians, and over 80 million Facebook users globally while execs of the social media platform sat on the information knowingly until outed by a whistleblower.

I  am not a fan of the platform currently, because the ads and sponsored posts that are meant to target my interests, seem to have taken over my homepage. I miss the days when Facebook was for catching up and daydreaming over my friends’ travel photos and becoming nostalgic over relatives’ family photos. But the business and entrepreneurial  side of me gets it.

Is Ford a fudger?

Doug Ford  is telling people exactly what they want to hear. They want lower taxes- he claims he’ll give them lower taxes. They want rich guys out of Toronto Hydro- he claims he’ll fire all the rich guys. The promises of this politician are luring people into supporting him and polling has the Tories in the lead. Ford has made promises that many people across Ontario have wanted to hear, but the question is will he actually follow through?

Liberals have announced they will launch a new ad campaign to share all the ways Ford will fall short; with the party’s campaign team pledging to expose Doug Ford’s fake promises, and show what they believe he might actually do if elected. Critics are drawing comparisons between President Donald Trump and Ford- specifically the character attacks directed at Trump during his 2016 campaign.

The Liberals have said that attacks on Trump focused too much on his personality, and it is a mistake to take the same route with Doug Ford. They see many similarities between the two politicians and are hoping to learn from what they observed.

One ad that is to air on TV, online and radio, claims under Ford’s leadership corporate taxes will be lowered, minimum wage will go down and 40,000 public sector jobs will be slashed.


Other ads will show old footage of Doug Ford from 2014, including when he talked about a Rexdale Group  home for children with developmental challenges as “ruining the neighbourhood.”

Liberal campaign co-chair Deb Matthews said  “We think it’s really important that when people make the choice — and it’s going to be the starkest choice they’ve had to make provincially for a long time — that they have the full facts on who Doug Ford really is.”

Liberals have admitted that their decision to take this step does have to do with polling that has Tories in the lead.

Ford’s campaign officials responded to the new ads:

“[Liberals] have nothing left to offer other than fear and smear. We will keep campaigning for the people, and against Kathleen Wynne’s 15-year record of waste, corruption, abuse and mismanagement.”

The move by Liberals  to educate people on the emptiness of Ford’s promises, could entirely backfire if people see these ads as an attack on Ford’s character.

As the election approaches the attacks from each party will likely get more intense. It will be interesting to see if the Liberals manage to accomplish the education they hope for, or if their ads simply end up being the typical attack ads that so often drive voters away.

Minister Rochelle Squires’ #MeToo Moment, advocates protecting victim’s identity

The platform is changing for women when it comes to speaking up about moments in their lives when harassed, assaulted or demeaned by men they cross paths with. I’m thrilled about this, as many women across North America are, but also saddened that there are still negative repercussions that exist when women come forward on men with influence.

As someone who has experienced #MeToo moments, and spoken openly about them to friends and relatives, who are supportive, my wish is for every woman to be able to step forward in unity to gain the same support, without worrying about these negative repercussions that shouldn’t exist.

Politician and Minister Rochelle Squires, 47, is a woman who is truly inspirational, and recently made her #MeToo moment public.  She spoke with the Canadian Press about her story, after decades of bottling the experience up, because she blamed herself and was fearful.

Squires was raped at 13 and felt that she could tell no one.

“In the 34 years since then, every day of my life has been a journey towards recovery; sometimes a journey back into darkness,” Squires said Tuesday in a statement, marking Sexual Assault Awareness month.

“I have gone back in my mind…hundreds of thousands of times and talked to that 13-year-old girl and said to her ‘It’s not your fault, and you’re going to be OK. I don’t need to tell that 13-year-old girl anymore, and so I want to use my voice to help others.”

Rochelle explains that she waited until she was in her 30s before she told anyone and went to the police. She also discussed it with her therapist and stated that she felt completely at fault even at such a young age. She asks herself still “Why did I feel to blame?”

Why do victims of sexual assault, harassment, abuse etc.  respond, initially, similarly to Squires? Is it because of the fear that the perpetrator’s life will be ruined, or that the victim has somehow brought on the behavior?

Women self-blame because our male dominated society continually questions women; this need to change, society needs to promote, support and unite when victims do come forward.

Squires is advocating third-party reporting which allows a complainant to come forward and talk with victim support services, without having to be identified. The government programs work with women who step forward – buffering them from the often male-dominated police interactions.