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Ontario PCs wants to take over TTC – but only part of it

This past weekend has seen two group of people argue for provincial ownership of aspects of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives released their election platform on Saturday called “The People’s Guarantee.” In this document, the PCs say they will assume responsibility for maintenance and investments in Toronto’s subway system. Toronto would still retain control of the streetcars and busses.

“In partnership with the Mayor of Toronto, Patrick Brown and the Ontario PCs will assume responsibility for the physical subway infrastructure – tunnels, tracks, and stations. This will allow the province to amortize subway investments and costs on the province’s books over the life of the asset. The city would maintain complete control of day to-day maintenance and operations,” the document says.

The PCs will invest $5 billion in projects throughout Ontario, including the Relief Line and extension to Richmond. It also pledged to pay the city’s share of funding for the Scarborough Subway Extension, but only if Toronto makes a “significant financial contribution” to the Eglinton Crosstown West.

The PCs will not support the tolling of the Don Valley Parkway or the Gardiner Expressway to fund transit and infrastructure projects.

The political party is not the only one who thinks the province should take control of Toronto’s transit network. The Toronto Region Board of Trade released a report that calls for the consolidation of planning, construction, and operation of transit into one provincial transit agency. The idea is that politics would no longer interfere with the delivery of projects and provide extra revenue for other city issues.

This agency, dubbed “Superlinx”, would merge GO Transit and 12 different transit operators together to “provide the vision, scale and resources to finally provide the world-class transit system that the corridor needs.” Superlinx would be responsible for paying for the region’s transit operations.

As the provincial election gets closer in June, more and more of these proposals will pop up. Transit is the priority item, with almost every municipality in the province looking to expand and grow their networks. Is a provincially-run agency the best way to go about building transit? Will this reduce the bureaucracy preventing shovels from getting in the ground or will it create a whole new set of problems?

What do you think?

Sorry ladies, Prince Harry is officially off the market

Late Sunday or early Monday (depending on your time zone) it was announced that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged. The wedding is being planned for Spring 2018.

Rumours have been circulating the last few months over when the Prince would pop the question. The two have been dating for about a year and a half, and have stolen much of North America’s hearts in the process. Markle, an American actress known for her role in the television show Suits, met the Prince through friends in London. They dated quietly for a few months before the press caught wind of their romantic affairs.

The couple was first spotted together in London last Christmas when they were shopping for Christmas Trees. On numerous occasions, the Prince has made detours on his travels to visit Markle in Toronto, where she now lives. There relationship was officially announced on Nov. 8, 2016, when Kensington Palace made a statement pleading for the press to leave his girlfriend alone. The statement condemned a “eave of abuse and harassment” against Markle, going even further to say that ““Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.”

In September of this year, the couple was spotted holding hands at the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded, injured, or sick armed service personnel and veterans created by the Prince. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, usually members of the Royal Family does not engage in public acts of affection prior to their marriage.

It was the first indication this relationship was getting serious.

The couple have a lot in common, including their philanthropic ventures. Markle is a global ambassador for World Vision Canada and campaigns for gender equality as a woman advocate for the United Nations. The Prince is known for his charitable work. he has founded a number of events and charitable organizations such as the Invictus Games and Sentebale, a charity to help orphans in Lesotho, southern Africa.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh both said they were “delighted” for the couple, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said they were “very excited for Harry and Meghan. It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.” Prince Charles says he is “thrilled” and “very happy indeed”. 

While it is rare for a member of the Royal Family to marry an American and a divorcee — it is not unheard of! The last time it happened was in 1936, when Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. As the times have changed, there is no indication Prince Harry’s marriage to Markle will influence his standing within the Royal Family. In fact, the rest of the Royals seem to have welcomed Markle into the family.

Who doesn’t love a good fairy-tale ending?

Why does everything take 11 years?

This week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a National Housing Strategy. This is something Canadians have been anticipating for a few years now.

The Liberal government promised to spend $11.2 billion over the next 11 years on housing, something they say will reduce chronic homelessness by 50 per cent. The Prime Minister also pledged to use a portion of the national co-investment fund to repair Canada’s social stock. It is unclear how much funding that would equal. Other aspects of the strategy include:

  • $15.9 billion for a national co-investment fund that will build an estimated 60,000 new units and repair 240,000 others. At least 2,400 units will go to people with developmental disabilities, 12,000 units for seniors, and 7,000 for survivors of family violence.
  • $2 billion for a new Canada Housing Benefit for low-income families and individuals.
  • $2.2 billion to expand homelessness partnering strategy.
  • $4.3 billion for a Canada Community Housing Initiative partnered with provinces
  • At least 25 per cent of investments will support projects that target needs of women and girls
  • And, legislation that would require future federal governments to maintain a national housing strategy.

Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s great the government has finally created a national strategy for housing. With the cost of homes ballooning and the incredibly long wait-lists for social housing; and the city of Toronto declaring a state of emergency with the number of shelter beds available in the winter, it’s the perfect time for this housing strategy to be released.

But, why is it that every single promising investment the Canadian government makes comes with an 11-year timeline? It doesn’t matter whether the issue is transit, infrastructure, or housing, it’s always 11 years. There is probably a budgetary reason for this timeline, but for those who aren’t privy to that information, it comes across as a bit slow. Shelter beds and affordable housing is needed now, not 11 years from now. In 11 years, the people who need the housing will either a) have found a way to get themselves and their family into a housing unit, b) have come to terms with homelessness or c) have died from cold exposure after living on the street or illness from a poorly kept or cockroach-infested building. 

A few hundred protestors from big cities across Canada made this exact point this week, saying the national strategy should commit to making some changes in two years time, so that those struggling right now are helped by this strategy. They say housing is needed now to curb the crisis and get people off the street.

Yes, the government should be looking to the future. If they don’t, there will never be any progress. But, when it comes to the livelihood of its citizens — Canada can act a little faster.

Woman of the Week: Marina Arnaout

Marina Arnaout is Customer Success Director with Marin Software in London, U.K., where she helps clients transform their digital strategies and manage multi-million business plans. She previously held roles in emerging Canadian and Latin American markets, where she became Regional Head of Digital at SAS Software, a global analytics company. Arnaout was the youngest person at SAS to hold that managerial role internationally.

When she isn’t working, she is actively involved in the non-profit and mentorship sector. She helped raise over $500,000 for SickKids Hospital and helped launch a Clinton Foundation chapter in Toronto, the first of its kind outside the United States.

Arnaout was named as one of Marketing Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30, and Toronto Stock Exchange Future Leaders 150. Women’s Post sat down with her to talk about her role, her career path, and her advice for young businesswomen trying to break the mold.

Question: You went from studying communications to business in university – why the change? 

Answer: I decided to pursue a postgraduate degree in business management to enhance my real life business knowledge with critical thinking and academic frameworks, as well as to expand my knowledge of various business pillars.  

What was your first job following graduation? 

I started in tech helping a Microsoft Partner go to market with a brand new product, and have been in the industry since then. 

When you entered SAS as a manager, what was it that led to your growth and promotion to Regional Head? 

To put it into a formula  my own drive and determination paired with skills, and the guidance of a fantastic manager.  

Was it intimidating to hold a managerial role at a young age and being one of the youngest in the organization to do so? How did you overcome that? 

To be honest – no, it wasn’t. It felt like a very natural progression, and I had an amazing team. 

With such a strong position, why move on to Marin three years later? 

SAS is a fantastic organization on many levels, and my previous role helped me solidify my professional direction. That being said, I’m also a firm believer in stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking risks, so when an opportunity comes up to go to London, UK to work with enterprises across Europe, you don’t say no. 

Can you describe your role with Marin Software?  

As a Customer Success Director, I work with some of Marin Software’s biggest clients. I help them develop digital strategies and embrace the benefits of software especially those focused on customer intelligence and cross channel behaviour. 

You are finishing your Master’s part time – why return to school with such a successful career? 

If anything that’s the reason to do so! The executive global business management programme at LSE has been an amazing experience so far and I highly recommend postgraduate studies for anyone wanting to expand their horizons.  

Obviously, mentorship and community engagement is really important to you – why is that? 

Making an impact in both business and community drives my purpose and passions. I think that the more you achieve, the more responsibility there is to give back. So far, I’ve helped raise over $500 000 for a children’s hospital, helped expand the first ever Clinton Foundation 20/30 event outside the US, and currently sit on a UNICEF Next Gen committee in London. I recommend finding what you’re passionate about and dedicating time to it.  

What do you do to help women?  

Mentorship through involvement with organizations such as Tech London Advocates.  

What advice do you have to young women entering business, struggling to get noticed?  

Read – read the news, read business books, read fiction books. It will expand your vocabulary, make you more articulate, and give you confidence to not only keep up but also meaningfully contribute to conversations around you.  

What are you reading right now?  

Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson 

 

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Remembering lives lost due to anti-transgender violence

Transgender Remembrance was marked on Nov 20,  a day in which to reflect on the 325 transgender people around the world who have lost their lives between Oct 2016 and Sept 30 of this year.

Statistics Canada tracks the number of hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and in 2014 there were 155 reported cases and in 2015 there were 141 instances. This number is alarmingly high, as most transgender people suffer in silence when dealing with hate related issues.

From people using the right pronouns to challenges in school and healthcare, transgender youth face a large number of challenges. In a national survey in 2015, over one-third of transgender Canadians between ages 14-25 attempted suicide. Transgender Remembrance Day does not normally count the number of deaths by suicide ,but if it did, the number in remembrance would be even higher.

Transgender Remembrance is all about reflecting on an often bullied and low profile community. During different remembrance ceremonies around the world, the names of those who lost their lives to  anti-transgender violence are marked. Members of the trans community all pay respect and come out to attend this somber occasion.

Transrespect.org issued the full list this year of all the names of people around the world who have lost their lives. The list is a report of all transphobia issues and murders worldwide. There was one Canadian listed, Sisi Thibert, a transgender sex worker who was found stabbed in her apartment in Montreal just a mere two months ago.

Many trans-advocates do not just honour all those who have lost their lives, but as well victims and survivors of transgender targeted violence. Transgender remembrance started in 1999 in the United States by a transgender woman to mark the murder of another victim. During the reading of the names, there is often a moment of silence and a candlelight vigil. In Canada, there was a memorial held at the University of Winnipeg on Monday evening with over 100 people in attendance, and at Toronto Police Headquarters in downtown Toronto, Toronto police raised the transgender flag for the first time to mark Transgender Remembrance Day.

Andy Byford resigns to become CEO of New York City Transit

Andy Byford announced Tuesday morning that he was resigning from his role as CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). He will be leaving in mid-December, following the opening of the Yonge-Spadina Subway Extension, to take on the role of President and CEO of New York City Transit.

“My last task in Toronto will be to deliver the opening of the long-awaited, spectacular, Line 1 subway extension to Vaughan in York Region, with its 8.6-kilometres of new track and six beautiful, Wi-Fi-, cell-, PRESTO-equipped stations,” he said at a press conference Tuesday morning. “I will look back on my time at the TTC as the absolute highlight of my 28-year transit career to date.”

Byford joined the TTC in 2011 and has played an integral part in Toronto’s growth and development. He helped create and push forward a five-year modernization plan that transformed how this city designed and used public transportation. Toronto’s transit system was dirty, slow, and construction had come to a grinding stop. Byford had his work cut out for him — and he didn’t miss a beat.

His passion for customer service was what set him apart from other city staff. He had a deep desire to make Torontonians proud of their transit system. He wanted the best technology, the fastest bus routes, and the least amount of delays. At every board meeting, he would smile when presenting the CEO report, always underselling his achievements by saying staff needed to aim higher.

Byford didn’t shy away from speaking bluntly about the need to invest in transit. He used his knowledge and expertise to convince city council and private investors to spend much-needed dollars on building new subway lines and more sustainable busses. He championed the Relief Line, calling it a priority project that required investment. He pushed for the integration of the PRESTO card, the implementation of Wi-Fi at stations, the replacement of a 60-year-old signal system, the modernization of the fleet, and the creation of a new herd of streetcars, just to name a few.

Under his leadership, transit users have experienced 21 per cent fewer delays — a number he was fond of quoting. In June 2017, the TTC was named the best public transportation system in North America by the American Public Transportation Association.

And still, Byford had more ideas. At every board meeting and city council meeting he stood is ground when grilled by councillors who didn’t want to spend tax dollars on transit. He expressed the need to continue to modernize and merge new technologies into business practices. His ideas were radical for some of the more conservative city staff — a fully integrated system that was easy to use for daily commuters and tourists alike!

Byford also encouraged more diversity within the organization itself.

“I have deliberately changed the face of the TTC,” he said. “Five years ago – incredibly – there had never been a woman on the TTC Executive. Now, 50 per cent of my senior team are women, all on merit and both the Executive and the next two levels below are increasingly diverse. We have promoted talent from within and we have added bench strength where needed from outside.”

In his farewell press conference, Byford did what he always did — talked about transit, the successes of the TTC, and put the spotlight on his employees.

“But as I prepare to say goodbye in just four weeks, and before my wife, Alison, and I head to New York, I want to save my final thank you for the near 15,000 men and women of the TTC. The frontline staff of this company are the ones that really make the difference. They are the decent, loyal Canadians whose hard work has delivered the achievements of the past five years,” he said.

“So it is to TTC employees that I dedicate the final achievement of our Five-Year Plan.. That we achieved our objective of getting back to being number one by winning the 2017 APTA Outstanding Transit System of the Year, in spite of myriad challenges, is testament to the hard work, dedication to duty and passion of my colleagues and for that, they should hold their heads very high indeed.”

Byford will start his new job at the New York City Transit in mid-January of next year, and called it “arguably the toughest job in transit right now.” Sounds like it is just up Byford’s ally!

Deputy CEO Rick Leary will take over as acting CEO.

Featured Image courtesy of the TTC.

SmartTrack could be operational by 2024

Toronto’s Executive Committee will discuss and debate the concepts for the SmartTrack stations next week.

SmartTrack will use existing rail to shuttle residents from the further neighbourhoods and areas of the Greater Toronto Area into the downtown core for the cost of a TTC fare. There will be 14 stations built and trains will run every six to 10 minutes. The plan also includes an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown from Mount Dennis to Pearson Airport with an approximate additional 10 stations.

“The people of Toronto want choice and convenience when it comes to their commute. SmartTrack takes the concept of local rail travel to a whole new level,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement. “SmartTrack is an important part of the city’s transit network plan that also includes the relief line, the Eglinton East LRT and waterfront transit.”

The executive committee will review the concepts for stations at St. Clair-Old Weston, King-Liberty, East Harbour, Gerrard-Carlaw, Lawrence-Kennedy, and Finch-Kennedy. Each station has been designed to serve the specific neighbourhood, with King-Liberty station including strong connections for pedestrians and cyclists, East Harbour station integrating with a high-employment area, and Gerrard-Carlaw optimizing connections with the planned Relief Line station.

City staff are also requesting that Metrolinx, a provincial transportation agency, consider pedestrian and cycling pathways when connecting GO corridors to Bloor St. and that they work in partnership with the city to push forward the Spadina-Front GO Regional Express Rail station and the Rail Deck Park proposal. The Rail Deck Park will also be discussed next Tuesday, with city staff recommending council move forward and that all rail projects should keep the park in mind during design.

“Rail Deck Park will be the largest downtown park outside of the Don Valley,” the report reads. “The proposed decking structure will support a fully functional park that, at full build-out, will comprise a total area of approximately 8.3 hectares or 20 acres, excluding the Metrolinx property at the corner of Front Street and Spadina Avenue.”

The cost estimation is $1.665 billion.

If these reports are approved, they will be sent to city council in December. Metrolinx estimates that service along SmartTrack will be available in 2024.

How to make your own Instagram-worthy ice cream

Fancy ice cream sandwiches or crazy cones are all the rage, but the wait to get one of these trendy desserts can sometimes take all the fun out of eating them. Instead, try to make your own at home. Dust with fun ingredients and make these desserts as Instagram-worthy as those $20 cones from downtown Toronto!

The first step is, obviously, to create the ice cream. If you have an ice cream maker…well, you shouldn’t need to go out for ice cream to begin with. If you don’t, it’s quite easy to make using some items you find around the house.

First, stir together two cups of heavy cream and one can of condensed milk. Whip it until the cream creates peaks. Add in a flavour (cocoa powder, vanilla, strawberries, ect.) and fold in to the cream mixture. Put it in a freezer-safe container and freeze overnight. Use an ice cream scoop to get circular scoops.

If you want to go the old fashioned route, you can also make ice cream with Ziploc freezer bags. Fill one with half and half cream as well as a few tablespoons of sugar. Mix in your flavours and put these items in a medium size bag. Place the bag in the larger bag and fill the large bag with ice and table salt. Shake until it creates a ice cream consistency.

This process can take a while and is better performed with groups so that everyone has a turn shaking!

If you want to make a vegan alternative, try using coconut milk or almond milk as the base and add your sweetener. You can also create an ice cream by using puree banana and swirling in peanut butter and chocolate chips! No milk-base required.

Top your ice cream with chocolate sauce and fruit. If you want, you can melt chocolate chips in the microwave (or in a glass bowl on top of a pot on the stove) and dip your ice cream in it. Make sure your ice cream is really frozen so nothing slides off. Then, top with sprinkles, marshmallows, or cookies. Get creative and use whatever you have in the cupboard!

If you want to use a cone, make sure to do any “fancy-ing” to it before putting the ice cream on top. Fill the inside with melted chocolate and dip the ring in white chocolate. Stick some sprinkles, cotton candy, chopped nuts, or any other toping on the chocolate. Let dry – this only should take a few minutes.

The best part — once you have the ingredients, you can indulge in much more than a single ice cream cone!

Don’t let fear stop you from seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris

While at a recent dinner party, I was asked an interesting question: what’s your favourite city to visit and why do you have a connection with that place? I thought about it for a while and decided on London, which has always felt like home to me. It’s probably my obsession with British fashion and even the depressing weather. I heard other guests reply with places like Manhattan, New York, Tokyo, Japan, and other destinations. I got to thinking to what my answer might have been a few years ago—Paris, France.

France is one of the most popular European countries, with the City of Paris attracting a lot of attention. However, in 2016, the French Tourism Board reported a dip in tourists in the city, with the industry losing almost £644M. This sharp decline was mainly caused by terrorism fears and concerns. France is a country that relies heavily on tourism, with seven per cent of the country’s GDP  generated from those sales. Even the Eiffel Tower had about 1 million less visitors last year.

 

Paris is known as the city of love and, before terrorism became an active concern, it was seen as a peaceful and romantic destination with odd crimes and pick-pockets. French tourism does not look so positive, as a few weeks ago, in the City of Nice, nine people were arrested after a thwarted terror attack.

However, one of the worst things you can do is let fear restrict you from travelling to the places you dream of. We are living in an unpredictable world, but that shouldn’t prevent someone from experiencing other cultures or relaxing with friends and family. Here are four small tips to travel without fear.

  • Consider your anxiety and don’t let proposed fear outweigh actual concerns. As a tip, maybe stay away from overly populated tourists spots or make sure your valuables are kept safe. Try getting a small lock for your backpack to deter pickpockets.
  • Know where you’re going. Research the neighbourhoods and know roughly how to get to your destination. Don’t wander down dark streets on your own.
  • Don’t let regret plague you from missing out on a good trip. At the end of the day, you don’t want to think “Oh, I wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower, but I was too worried about pickpockets”. You will always regret not going to see this iconic and historic marvel. Just do it!
  • Stop worrying about something that is out of your control. Sometimes, shit happens. Just take every minute as it comes and remember that as long as you are safe, everything else is small potatoes.

Try to venture off the beaten track a bit and explore less popular neighbourhoods in Paris, including Quartier Chinois (Chinatown), Bastille, Canal Saint Martin or Saint-Germain-des-Pres. This way you can soak up all the food, culture, fashion and romance the city has to offer without having to line up for hours with hundreds and thousands of other tourists like you.

Will you be planning you next trip to Paris? Comment below.

Soccer players and distance runners share similar training

Over 28,000 fans attended the Canada vs. USA Women’s soccer game held at BC Place, Vancouver, BC. It was the largest crowd ever at a national women’s match.

After watching the game, I decided to revisit the similarities between soccer players and runners, specifically the need for athletes in both sports to move for long periods of time without rest. It could be argued that soccer requires more stamina than other team sports because 120 minutes of play, including overtime, is common before a shootout decides the winner.  By comparison, a regular season NHL hockey game is 65 minutes, including five minutes of O.T. before the shootout, and NBA basketball games are 48 minutes before unlimited mini-halves of overtime – rare in basketball – decide the outcome.  MLB baseball, with its superb athletes, does not operate on the clock at all, though a typical nine-inning game takes about two hours and 30 minutes to play, with mega-stops and delays added in.  Even the tiring effects of physical contact from football, hockey and basketball don’t balance because of rest time that’s built into the stoppages.  Soccer, which has its own share of contact, rarely stops play.

Runners, like soccer players, are challenged by speed and the need for stamina and endurance. A world class runner can complete a marathon between 125 to 130 minutes — roughly the time it takes to play a soccer match.

Soccer players do a lot of sprinting in addition to their constant running back and forth on the field. Overall, to be competitive and on top of their game, they need both speed and endurance.

Interval training for marathoners and running drills for soccer players helps increases speed and can benefit both athletes. Running downhill is good for developing strong quads.  Running uphill will increase lung capacity and stamina.  When you add strength, focus, and mental toughness to the mix, you get a clear picture of what soccer players and runners share every day.  All athletes need to stretch every muscle group before and after a workout or match.

As for where the similarities end, soccer players explode for bursts of speed, which requires balance, control, and strength. These factors are what separate the soccer platers from runners, who simply have to focus on a singular task. It’s a sport that is up tempo and uses considerable physical and mental reflexes…and lots and lots of running. I was incredibly impressed.

Photo credit:  D. Laird Allan