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5 places to dine in Toronto this winter

Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean the fun has to end. A friend of mine said that her favourite thing to do is dress up and go out for dinner, a casual lunch or even an early morning breakfast. So here are five recommended spots by Women’s Post to dine this winter in Toronto.

Copacabana Brazilian Rodizio

You don’t have to go all they way to Brazil to experience an authentic way of cooking grilled Brazilian foods. Copacabana has four locations in Canada and two are based in downtown Toronto. This unique style of serving food is similar to many rodizio’s around the world. Rodizio refers to an all you can eat style Brazilian steakhouse, where servers bring large skewers of meats and grilled vegetables ( but mostly meat) around to your table and they carve off slices. The servers keep coming until you over indicate with a card you wish not to be served. Copacabana Toronto also adds lively Brazilian flair to their atmosphere by having samba dancers performing on Fridays and Saturdays as well as an aerial silk performer.

Blu Ristorante

As the name may suggest, this restaurant is self-proclaimed as the number one Italian restaurant in Toronto. It has actually been the recipient of Open Table’s Diner’s Choice for the past seven years in a row. This Yorkville-based restaurant offers an intimate and formal dining space with the ambiance of live music. Expect menu choices such as braised octopus with black kale pesto and fettuccine with Nova Scotia lobster tail, calamari and tiger prawn. Blu is the place to enjoy great Italian food and a wide selection of wine in a warm and inviting space.

Cactus Club Cafe

This trendy Adelaide West restaurant,located in the heart of the financial district is a personal favourite, no matter the season, Cactus Club Cafe will give you a lively and upbeat atmosphere even on a dreary Monday night. There are three levels to choose from, and a heated rooftop for those milder winter nights featuring a live DJ. With prompt and friendly service, you will certainly enjoy this restaurant as you dine on the creations of culinary masters and specially crafted cocktails for each season. This winter, bar operations manager Kris Jensen introduced two new seasonal creations, the Whiskey Ginger Smash and the LateHarvest Daiquiri with hints of Saskatoon berry and elderflower.

La Banane

Voted as one of the best new restaurants of 2017 by Toronto Life, La Banane offers eclectic french cuisine to the streets of Toronto. Located on Ossington Avenue, this stunning spot offers a fresh raw bar with mussels, oysters, shrimp, crab, lobster, and scallops. Obviously, all that seafood pairs will the abundance of wine that this french bistro has to offer. La Banane is led by Chef Brandon Olsen, who has curated the menu consisting of his personal french inspired food passions.

Cacao 70

One of the key points of going out to eat in the winter is that you want to feel comfortable and cozy. Cacao 70 is located in the Distillery District and offers a Queen W. location as well. This popular chocolate drinking bar, originated in Montreal, but has slowly spread all over Canada. It is not just all about their speciality of Chocolate, but the restaurant offers the experience of using Chocolate in different flavour adventures. Enjoy drinks like Black Sesame hot cocoa and Champurrado, which features  hot chocolate with spicy cinnamon and whipped cream.

What’s your favourite Toronto restaurant?

Toronto Transit Commission approves time-based transfer

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has approved a two-hour time-based transfer for PRESTO card users, to start August 2018.

As the system is now, TTC riders have to pay a second fare when they get back on a bus, streetcar, or subway, regardless of how long they have been off the network. This new system will allow riders to run short errands such as drop kids off at school or go grocery shopping without being penalized for a second fare, as long as the errand fits within a two-hour window.

The idea has been floating around since 2005, but on Nov. 28th the board finally voted to approve city staff recommendations.

The net cost of this change will be $11.1 million, which will increase to $20.9 million after full implementation in 2020. The cost would have been higher if it wasn’t for the projected five million riders that will now be able to ride the TTC thanks to the time-based transfer.

“The greatest benefit from this policy change stems from reducing the cost of transit, making it more affordable for multiple short distance trips, thereby giving TTC customers the flexibility they require to carry out everyday activities,” the report reads. “Allowing a two-hour re-entry may benefit customers who need to exit the system to use restroom or restaurant facilities, including seniors and customers with disabilities or health needs requiring more flexibility in travel.”

Time-based transfers were publicly supported by Toronto Mayor John Tory and TTC Chair Josh Colle a few weeks ago.

“Time-based transfers would allow people on transit the flexibility to hop on and off to run errands or make stops along their way to work, school, or home.” said Colle in a statement. “This would continue the modernization of our services, and further demonstrate the TTC’s ongoing commitment to improving the customer experience.”

The request is part of both the modernization and fare integration process between the TTC and Metrolinx.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle set to marry next May

As news broke early yesterday morning of Prince Harry’s royal engagement to American actress, Meghan Markle, hearts of girls around the world broke as they realized they had minuscule hope of becoming the next princess. Personally, I was rooting for Prince Harry and Meghan since the media started speculating about their relationship in 2015.

The two have been dating for a year and a half and it was announced Tuesday morning they are set to marry next May at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The two are reportedly planning the ceremony themselves. Prince Harry has always been the more ‘bad-boy royal’ so to say, especially compared to his older brother, Prince William. Harry was known for his bachelor’s lifestyle, dating a string of beautiful women when he was younger and often getting in trouble with the press.

Eventually, Prince Harry matured and paid keen attention to his charitable work, including the support of 22 different charities and over 25 different causes worldwide. Before settling down with Meghan Markle, the prince’s long time on and off girlfriend of seven years was Chelsy Davy. Davy reportedly ended their relationship after she allegedly struggled with the pressure of dating a royal. Davy was last seen publically with Harry as she attended Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton back in 2011.

It has been reported by Harry and Meghan that the pair met through a female friend that set them up on a blind date. In fact, Harry claims to have never seen Markle on her most known television role in the show, Suits, before meeting. The two sat down for an intimate interview with a BBC reporter shortly after announcing to the public their official engagement. They giggled behind the scenes and acted very much like a couple that’s down to earth and in love. As Prince Harry remarked in the interview, Meghan Markle was ‘the one” from the very first time they met.

It sounds like the story of fairy-tales. Markle remarked that she excitedly replied yes to Harry’s proposal before he could even put the ring on her finger, as they spent a cozy evening at home roasting chicken. I am beyond thrilled for this next royal couple and considering these two have a lot in common, including their love for charity, it is hopeful they can live a relatively normal life, at least as normal as it can get for for such a well-known member of the Royal Family.

The British family has changed quite a lot over the years, but Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ignored any negative feedback from the public. As Harry is fifth in line to the crown, it doesn’t seem there is any rush for him to conform to the pressure of being a ‘King’, while living in such a modern society. Markle, who is a divorced, American actress, will now allegedly become HRH Duchess of Sussex, or as she will be in our hearts: Princess Meghan, the one that stole Harry’s heart.

Congratulations to this happy and beautiful couple.

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.