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A little Stars Hallow in Toronto – Pop-Up Luke’s Diner

I left my house at 6:30 in the morning excited and ready to experience something I’ve only ever dreamed of — getting coffee from Luke’s Diner, a staple set on the comedy-drama TV show, Gilmore Girls.

I’ve followed the escapades of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore for most of my life. I laughed when Rory stole a box of cornstarch after her first kiss; cringed whenever Taylor Doosey led a town meeting; swooned when Sookie and Jackson finally went on a date; and cried my eyes out when Lorelai broke up with Luke (both times), leading to a recovery Gilmore-esque feast of pop-tarts and marshmallows.

Not only was the show full of quick-witted dialogue and loveable characters, but it showed a side of teen drama that wasn’t boy-obsessed or filled with unnecessary dating triangles.

While Gilmore Girls did touch on relationships, it also showcased developed characters who cared more about their ambitions than who they were going out with at night. In fact, no Gilmore girl would ever settle or change their lifestyle for a guy, and that’s something I really respected and learned from as a young girl.

And then there was Rory Gilmore. She was a bookworm — smart, academically driven, and completely comfortable with who she was. As she struggled to figure out what it meant to be a teen, a university student, and then an adult, so did I. I watched as she pursued journalism in high school and university, struggling to befriend her nemesis Paris Geller, and fought for her perfect study tree. In the end, she succeeded in getting a job in journalism, something that gave me hope as I ventured out into a similar profession.

After years of watching this show over and over again (thanks Netflix), I was ecstatic to hear there would be four pop-up “Luke’s Diners” in Toronto. I knew I had to go, even if it would mean being slightly late for work. The line was already around the corner when I arrived around 7:15 a.m. and took my place among a sea of plaid, flannel, and backwards baseball hats. While I waited for my free coffee, I chatted with the group of women around me, discussing our favourite episodes and arguing about whether Rory should have married Logan, or stayed with Jesse or Dean.

As the line unravelled and I got closer to the storefront, I saw the sign. Luke’s Diner, just like the show. I snapped a photo and moved inside the independent coffee shop The Rolling Pin, near Lawrence and Yonge. After a bit of a wait got a coffee with a sleeve that said Luke’s Diner. The cup itself had one of my favourite quotes on them (Coffee please and a shot of cynicism).

And then…I left. That was it. I stood in line for one and a half hours for a picture of a sign and a cup of coffee with a marketing sleeve.

20161005_084332_hdrI’m not sure what I was expecting, but I know it was more than that. I thought the music of Carol King, the singer of the infamous theme song “Where You Lead”, would be playing in the background. I thought there would be cut out of the characters and a list of Luke’s diner rules plastered in large print on the wall (it was there, but it was typed on regular printing paper and tapped messily on the wall). I also thought they would be selling some cool Gilmore Girl merchandise — which was honestly a lost opportunity because the group I was with would have purchased anything after that wait! Baseball hats, tshirts, even roasted coffee with the words “Luke’s Diner” would have sold like, well, Luke’s coffee!

 

I know these pop-ups are marketing ploys, but a little more effort could have been made to make the experience more complete. Netflix could have provided a lot more in terms of supplies. I don’t think the coffee shops had enough time to do any sort of re-decorating and some of them struggled with the mass amount of people waiting to enter their storefront.

Suffice to say, it was a great idea, but it was all poorly executed. With the Gilmore Girl revival coming to Netflix in November, you would think there would be more of a fanfare. You know, Lorelai Gilmore style?

But, I got my picture with a Luke’s Diner sign. So, I guess that’s okay.

Oy with the poodles already — am I right?

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What the hell happened to Nuit Blanche?

I remember the first time I went to Nuit Blanche. My sister and I headed out around 10 p.m. and stayed out until 2 a.m. wandering the streets of Toronto, taking a look and even taking part in some of the art. University Ave. was completely closed off and all of the exhibitions were placed on platforms outdoors. There were performance pieces, sculptures, photography galleries, and some really neat interactive installations. A few of the pieces were inside a few select buildings, but the majority was outside. Enjoying art under the stars — there is really nothing better.

As we made our way through the intense crowds, we were handed free samples of coffee or hot chocolate, pamphlets from sponsors, and a bunch of other goodies. There was live music and a few DJs, but mostly it was the atmosphere. All together, it seemed like an incredibly late night festival celebrating Toronto’s art community.

And I have to say I enjoyed it immensely.

This year, I left my house late at night hoping to experience something similar. And boy, was I disappointed.

I’m not sure if lack of funding was a factor, but there was very little that was good about this year’s Nuit Blanche. First of all, there was very little organization or signage. I managed to grab a map from a lone volunteer standing on a street by herself downtown, but aside from the rare volunteer and the odd Nuit Blanche square (it was an actual lighted square with a map and nothing else), there were no directions, arrows, or instructions as to how to find and/or enter each instalment.

Second of all — the lines!! If the point is to present art for the masses, this year’s Nuit Blanche failed. Most of the artwork was held inside, and therefore people had to line up to simply enter the building. Some of the interactive installations only let a dozen or so people in at a time.

The lines extended a few blocks and by the time I walked to the front to read the vague and artistic sign that explained what I would see if I decided to wait 45 min. outside in the cold, my mind was already made up. Like most people, I’m not willing to wait in line that long to see a few lights projected against a wall, no matter how modern it is.

The advantage of having art on the street rather than inside a building is that people can actually see it. There are no lines necessary. It also doesn’t make you feel as though you have to rush when you finally enter the building. I think in my total three hour Nuit Blanche experience, I only truly witnessed four or five installations.

And finally, there was no sense of community. Previous years, there were conversations about art, people spoke to one another, discussed what they were seeing, danced to the music, and celebrated Toronto’s culture.

The music, the atmosphere, it was all missing. Most of the time, I was left wondering: is this art or is this just a random group of people playing music dressed up as deer?

Sure, there were some really cool exhibits. “Pneuma” by Floria Sigismondi, a series of projections onto a steady stream of water being sprayed from the pool at Nathan Phillips Square, for example, was truly beautiful and mesmerizing Luzinterruptus’s Literature vs. Traffic was a treat for us book lovers and was quite the compelling installation.

But it wasn’t enough to warrant a whole night out. And by the end, I felt more exhausted than enlightened.

I realize that Nuit Blanche lost a significant amount of funding when Scotiabank pulled out, but if you are going to do it, make sure it is worth seeing. Because next year, some of us may not bother to show up.

GTA pipeline outside our front doors, and nobody seems to care

Did you know a natural gas pipeline is being placed in the ground right outside of our front doors — and it is using your money to do so?

Enbridge, a gas distribution company, is building a pipeline in the GTHA that will cost taxpayers $900 million and will run natural gas through Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham and Toronto. The GTHA project consists of two new natural gas pipelines and adds 50 km of new pipeline into the Toronto. It will run along the Highway 407 corridor, with 23 km alongside Keele St. E to Scarborough and then south to an existing line near Sheppard Ave E.

The project was approved by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) on January 30, 2014. It is a part of Enbridge’s largest upgrade to their natural gas distribution system in 20 years. Enbridge claims that if the pipeline wasn’t approved and built, the current station in Toronto’s Port Lands in the downtown core could run out of gas in the winter of 2016. This would mean 270,000 customers would run out of gas in Toronto.

On the other hand, the pipeline came under fire by many green groups. Enbridge was criticized because they kept trying to obtain more customers though they would not be able to support the level of gas needed come 2015-2016. Natural gas accounts for 35 per cent of Ontario’s energy, and instead of offering alternatives, the OMB decided to build more pipeline and continue to grow gas output in the province.

Ontario has set a greenhouse gas target to cut emissions by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050, but they still supported the Enbridge project, which will charge taxpayers to build more natural gas pipelines.

Ontario recently cut $3.8 billion in renewable energy contracts, claiming it will help Ontarians save money on their electricity bills. The province may save money in the short-run, but is being short-sighted when looking at the long term impact of trying to build and support green energy in the future. An investment in renewable energy needs to happen now in order to meet emissions targets by 2050 and the continued support for natural gas in place of renewable energy contracts demonstrates a lack of green leadership on the part of the Ontario government.

Taxpayer’s dollars are being wasted and the press has been silent about the pipeline project. The pipeline is due to be complete this year and will continue to use natural gas, a source of energy that is not sustainable or environmental in any way. We need to put more pressure the government to choose alternatives and not remain silent over the continued use of natural gas. Clearly the government has two very different objectives; to publicly support green projects and to privately fund unsustainable and very powerful natural gas companies.

5 must-read books set in Toronto

Toronto is a beautiful city and sets the perfect stage for a novel. From the downtown cityscape to the heritage buildings that seem to emit stories from their very foundations, it is easy to imagine a tale of romance taking place or the plot of a horror story being set in a dark subway tunnel. Many famous authors have used Toronto as the setting of their novels. Here are a few of my favourites.

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

In the Skin of a Lion is by the renowned Canadian-Sri Lankan Michael Ondaatje and is one of the most famous novels set in Toronto. The storyline takes readers back in time to Toronto in the 1930’s and focuses on key themes of that era. The separation of immigrants in Cabbagetown was considered normal at the time, and Ondaatje uses the novel as a way of showing how immigrants are mostly left out of Toronto’s history.

A fictional story develops around R.C Harris, Toronto’s commissioner of Public Works. Harris built several of the city’s most important landmarks, most noticeably the water treatment plant and the Bloor Street Viaduct. In the Skin of a Lion is a story that converges two storylines, between immigrants who built the structures and Harris who commissioned them, leading to a shocking conclusion. Upon moving to Toronto, I read this book and it helped me to understand the true history of this city. Furthermore, Ondaatje captures a sentiment that permeates through Toronto to this day, and it lends a new perspective to living and surviving in the Big Smoke.

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

Cat’s Eye is set in Toronto and follows the life of fictional artist Elaine Risley through her childhood in Toronto to her eventual return to her hometown. The novel begins with Risley riding on a streetcar, or the “the iron lung” as Atwood describes it, with two friends. Risley ends up getting bullied by her friends, and almost freezes to death in a ravine mid-way through the book. The setting of the ravine is a common theme in novels set in Toronto because of the recognizable topography in the city. When the artist returns to the city of her birth, she realizes integral things about her past. Atwood really sets the scene of the non-linear relationship all of us have with life. Cat’s Eye discusses a child’s perspective of growing up in Toronto and paints a special picture of the large metropolitan area.

Headhunter by Timothy Findley

Timothy Finley’s Headhunter is a dystopian novel set in Toronto at a time when a disease called sturusemia has swept through the city. The disease is carried by birds and, as a result, the city decides to kill them off.  The storyline is focused around a schizophrenic librarian named Lilah Kemp and two psychiatrists named Kurtz and Marlow, drawing a parallel with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Mental illness is rampant and Kurtz uses his wealthy patients to his own ends,

The novel is set around Rosedale and the Parkin Psychiatric Institute based on the Clark Institute of Psychiatry located at University of Toronto’s College St. location. Findley’s perspective of Toronto paints a frightening and fascinating picture of downtown Toronto and its surrounding neighbourhoods.

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies begins in a small town near Toronto known as Deptford, Ont. The central character is Dunstan Ramsay and the novel follows his life from small-town Ontario to big-city Toronto. Ramsay stays in contact with friends from his childhood and always plays a supporting role in their lives instead of taking charge of his own — known as the “fifth business”, a term coined by Davies.

After a series of tragedies occurring in WWI and WWII, Ramsay finds his destiny and his own sense of self. This novel discusses wealth and how dangerous it is in the hands of people who don’t deserve it. Davies draws an interesting connection between academia and capitalism, which is relevant to Toronto’s culture even today. Davies is one of the great Toronto writers in the last century and most of his novels bring in Canadian themes. This book is a great read and every Canadian should be familiar with Davies’ works.

Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig

Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig is a relatively new novel, released in 2008. It is a dystopian novel set in the underground subway tunnels as a disease spreads throughout the city. The setting scene describes Toronto as a cold place, with subway tunnels and ravines that “slice around and under the streets, where the rivers, the Don and the Humber and their tributaries, carve into the heart of the city.” The storyline focuses around a group of girls that contract this disease, and the subsequent result of everyone beginning to die. One of the characters also becomes obsessed with capturing the devastation on film, which is quite fitting considering Toronto is the center of Canadian film. This is a great novel to read on the subway and was even nominated as a must-read by the TTC Toronto book club.

Books about Toronto shed light into various themes and imaginings that plague this city. It is a metropolis that creates endless opportunities for settings in novels that embrace the history of the city and its future. Reading all of these novels often makes me think what I would write? Which setting would I use for my Toronto story? In Canada’s largest city, the options seem endless.

What is your favourite novel about Toronto? Let Women’s Post know in our comments below.

Sarah Hall: making art out of renewable energy

In an age where technology seems to be getting smaller and sleeker, renewable energy is lagging behind. Even though people are constantly encouraged to live green, no one wants to see giant windmills in their parks or have metal panels on top of their roofs.

Limited resources and cost restraints in North America have created challenges for architects, engineers, and even artists in the design of sustainable buildings.

“Solar in North America often looks ugly, and then people reject renewable energy,” Toronto artist Sarah Hall says. “We have to start using as many renewables as possible, and I thought ‘well, if it’s beautiful, we can change people’s minds and help transform the industry as well’.”

Hall is one of the few innovators  incorporating renewable energy into artwork. One of her most notable pieces is “Waterglass”, a stained glass piece that can be found wrapped around the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront in Toronto. While seemingly unnoticeable during the day, the piece comes alive at night. LED lights powered by the sun reveal 360 archived photographs of Lake Ontario, all stunningly preserved on di-chroic glass, the most expensive glass in the world at $1,000 per square foot.

The piece will create 1,750 kilowatt hours worth of electricity annually, enough to power the plug outlets within the building, according to Livio Nichilo, an engineering manager at Interenat Energy Solutions Canada. Nichilo consulted on “Waterglass” and analyzed the environmental impact of the project. He said that one of the biggest challenges was not to compromise artistic vision or technical efficiencies.

“The glass we designed for this project is the first of its kind in the world and we had to incorporate many technologies at once,” Nichilo says. “From my knowledge it hasn’t been done yet.”

“Waterglass” is one of six pieces Hall has created in North America using photovoltaic cells, which convert the sun’s rays into electric voltage. Each piece is connected into the power distribution of the building. For example, her piece “Leaves of Light” can be found outside the Life Sciences Building at York University illuminating the entranceway. Solar panels allow energy to be collected from the sun, which powers the LED lights that were placed between two beautifully painted pieces of glass.

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“Leaves of Light”, by Sarah Hall, lights up the entranceway of the Life Sciences Building at York.

Hall is also experimenting with bird-friendly glass that, in addition to collecting solar energy, will alter the reflections on large buildings in an effort to decrease the number of bird deaths in Canada.

About 10 million birds die in Toronto because they fly into glass buildings, particularly high-rise condominiums that are reflective and transparent. “I was astounded by that information and thought I may be able to do something in that direction and began thinking of al the technologies I’ve worked in and I knew these organic solar things were being done in the labs and I’ve never thought of using them”

The challenge is to make the glass transparent enough for people to see out of, but still opaque enough that birds won’t be tricked into flying towards it. Hall will be using organic photovoltaic cells used for this project — a relatively new technology developed by Oxford Photovoltaics in London. Once the prototype is complete, it will be tested at the American Bird Conservancy in New York before Hall can start to create proposals; although she has already provided a few sample designs.

A sample design of TD Tower in Toronto, provided by Sarah Hall.
A sample design of TD Tower in Toronto, provided by Sarah Hall.

Hall fell in love with glasswork at the age of nine. She studied in Canada, as well as in the United Kingdom and Jerusalem, and ended up opening a studio in Germany. It was there that an engineer named Christof Erban approached her with a way to integrate photovoltaic cells into glasswork. While other artists in the studio believed this would hinder their artistic abilities, Hall saw it as a challenge.

“All those guys said no. They said it would be an imposition to have a grid on their work, but I liked the idea of trying to work with that grid of technology in art and trying to change people’s mind about solar,” Hall says.

The challenge with using photovoltaic cells in art is that the designs have to be geometrical. Solar cells are square and require the use of wiring, which can hinder creative freedom.

“My artwork for many years was always geometry and organic, naturalistic work. To combine this geometry wasn’t as hard as another artist.”

Before she begins a design, Hall has to consult engineers and ensure that the electrical wires are properly introduced into the building’s systems and that they adhere to city codes. The traveling can also be tedious, as most of the work has to be done overseas. Hall’s main studio is in Germany. She had to move from Toronto because her studio on Dupont St. just wasn’t big enough for the scale of glasswork she wanted to complete.

“Germany and Austria was where the work had to be done,” Nichilo explains. “The biggest challenge was that what we were asking to do in terms of design couldn’t be completed here locally. We didn’t have the skill or equipment needed to do it.”

Unfortunately, it’s been up to artists like Sarah Hall to ensure that the architectural field is aware of its options and doesn’t shy away from using renewable energy for fear it will interfere with the functionality of a building. But at the same time, Hall is simply an artist, and above else she just wants to be creative and

“At first, there was quite a bit of scepticism taking something traditional like stained glass and moving it into an environmental positioning,” Hall says. “I also hope that other companies will get interested and figure this stuff out for themselves. As an artist … the commercial aspect isn’t the reason why I do it, but I hope that others will do it commercially — and I think they will.”

Would you hang a Canadian flag in front of your mosque?

What does the Canadian flag mean to you? For Jawad Rathore, it represents all things Canadiana — and he thinks it should be flown in front every mosque in Toronto.

“We see Muslims right now being subjected to harassment. Hate crimes are up, [and] rhetoric publicly and privately is up. There are terrible things happening around the world in the name of Islam,” Rathore said in an interview. “[Putting up Canadian flags is] a wonderful way to remind our neighbours that we are Canadian. There is nothing to fear.”

Rathore, who is also president and CEO of Fortress Real Development, presented the idea to the Canadian Muslim Vote last week and received an overwhelmingly positive response. Rathore says he has already received funding from the community for over 50 flags and he has received messages from mosques across Canada asking to participate.

The Canadian Muslim Vote is a non-partisan organization whose objective is to promote greater community engagement among the Muslim-Canadian population. It was founded last year as a response to low voter turnout with a goal to increase attendance and engagement during the 2015 federal elections. And they did the job. According to Rathore, turnout was close to 79 per cent.

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Jawad Rathore

Now, the organization is focusing on integrating communities through a “very simple” campaign. At its core, the campaign is about unity and pride during a time in which people are being marginalized. Hate speech is rampant, even in Canada, a country whose foundation is based on religious freedom. As Rathore says, there is a lot of fear among those who don’t understand the Islam faith and putting up a Canadian flag symbolizes unity in a time of uncertainty.

“It’s a way to let our community know we are their neighbours,” he said.

Rathore may be spearheading this campaign through Canadian Muslim Vote, but he says every corporation and community member should be giving back.

“Give what you can afford — give a little, give often, give once a year,” he said. “Many of us in the corporate world are incredibly blessed and if we turn our minds over to the community. Whether initiative like this or any other benefits – the world would be a better place.”

Rathore is confirming a list of mosques that are willing to participate in the campaign and is working out the physical details for installation. He has also committed to do the first 10 flags himself.

The first flag should be installed by the end of September and, if the campaign goes well, Rathore hopes to be able to install flagpoles in front of mosques across Canada.

If you are interested in contributing to the campaign, email canadaflag@canadianmuslimvote.ca.

Where can Pokemon Go from here?

I got into a rather heated argument with my family last weekend over Pokemon Go. They had been reading the headlines about the terrible consequences of the app — the stampedes around Central Park, the guy who accidentally shot at two kids who were hanging out near his car, and the theft sprees that have occurred throughout the United States.

All I could say was that despite all of the glitches, I thought the app was a work of genius. And I haven’t even played it yet.

There are a number of reasons why I haven’t downloaded the app yet — a) I think it will take up more data than I can muster and b) I don’t think I’ll sleep for a week if I get it — but, that doesn’t mean I don’t think the technology is absolutely brilliant.

Pokemon Go inserts the game into the real-world, allowing players to walk around neighbourhoods and “catch” or “battle” Pokemon on the streets. Pokestops can be found at public art installations, tourist attractions and historical markers. Players will be allowed to join teams, battle other players, and train their Pokemon based on physical challenges. Eggs can only be hatched if a certain distance or number of steps is achieved. This has spurred a number of hilarious digs on social media about a sedentary generation finally having to move in order to play the game.

Sure, there are a few glitches — some of the Pokemon are hidden on private property and in commercial buildings — but it encourages people of all ages to explore neighbourhoods, play outdoors, and get nerdy. Is this really that terrible?

This fascinating mixture of augmented reality, geocached data of objects and locations, and Google Maps has the potential to revolutionize the way apps are developed in the future. Not only that, but it has the potential to change the way society as a whole uses this technology.

First of all, it’s a great marketing tool. Already, institutions like Toronto Tourism are asking residents to tweet pictures of Pokemon at historical sites for promotion. Imagine you are hosting an event and you want attendees to really engage with your company. Simply create an app that encourages participants to visit each table, station, or area of the event and collect points for a draw. Already, businesses can purchase a “lure” or “incense”,which attracts Pokemon to their area.

Now, let’s take this to the next step. How about using it for public good? Maybe a municipality can use it to encourage residents to pick up garbage or use public transportation? How great would it be to use this technology to host a neighbourhood-or city-wide scavenger hunt, highlighting government buildings, public monuments, and community centres?

There is so much potential with Pokemon Go and I can’t wait to see how it’s used next. Who knows, maybe this will be the week I give in to the Pokemon Go crave? I’ll let you know if I catch em’ all!

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Motion for gender disparity pushed until October at City Council

City Council has promised to address greater gender diversity on the boards of directors of public and private corporations in October.

Councillor Michelle Holland presented a motion to City Council that would see new appointments for women on public boards to start as soon as fall 2016. The motion further directs that all public appointments on boards in Toronto be made up of 50 per cent women by 2019. Unfortunately, the motion was deferred until October because of a heavy agenda at this month’s meeting.

Women in Canada only represent 15.9 per cent of board positions in large corporations and public companies only have 12.1 per cent women. Crown corporations have the highest representation in public office with 30 per cent, but this still falls well below the 50 per cent mark.

This motion is influenced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to have 50 per cent representation in his federal cabinet, which has arguably renewed the work equality debate in Canada. Ontario has also promised to have 40 per cent women representation on their boards by 2019. Involving Toronto in the gender parity goal makes sense alongside the other levels of government so that women can have better representation in positions of power too.

Private FP500 companies have increased their gender parity on boards in their companies to 19.5 per cent in 2015, according to a report by the Canadian Board Diversity Council. Ontario Securities Commission rose the bar when they created new disclosure criteria for gender diversity in Dec. 2014.  Public boards have a lower percentage of equal representation compared to private corporations in Canada.

In a country that advocates on behalf on gender equality, I wonder when the employment sector will embrace gender parity entirely. Both public and private institutions need equal representation on their boards, and it is interesting to see that private companies are leading the way. The fact that the motion was pushed to executive council in October indicates the issue was dismissed in the wake of an important time for gender equality in politics. Toronto needs to join the movement and take women’s rights seriously at City Council.

Women’s Post will be watching to see how seriously the motion is taken in October.

TTC to tackle safety using ‘gender-specific lens’

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) discussed safety at Monday’s board meeting, with a special focus on women.

City Council requested that the TTC “apply a full safety audit using a gender-specific lens…to address safety concerns of women and women with disabilities.” Suggestions included adequate lighting, clear sightline design for stations, more security, and more women employed in the transit process.

The board, however, chose to focus on an app that would allow a TTC rider to take a photo of a person who is harassing or assaulting someone and report it. The hope is that it will draw less attention than pushing the yellow emergency strip and stopping traffic. The app should be ready to launch by the end of the year.

As a woman who takes public transportation at least twice a day — if not more — I understand the type harassment that can take place on an enclosed streetcar or subway car. But, I’m not sure this app is the solution.

As with a lot of Toronto’s safety plans, it puts the onus on bystanders to help out. Bystanders are notorious for…well…being bystanders. There is no guarantee that someone will capture the moment on film, and if that person did take time to take a photo of the harassment, I hope they would also step up and stop it.

The idea is that the app will automatically turn off flash and sound so that those making the report won’t have to worry about drawing attention to themselves. But, with the size of cell phones nowadays, it’s almost impossible to be conspicuous when taking a photograph in a small space. And has anyone thought about the many false accusations that will have to be filtered through to find the legitimate complaints?

I also don’t think that silent reporting is enough — anyone who assaults or harasses another person should be afraid to do it again. They should be worried they won’t get away with it. They should be made to seriously consider their actions. Pushing the yellow emergency strip and forcing them to wait for the authorities is exactly what people should be doing, and encouraging them to do otherwise is just another way to say “don’t worry about it, the authorities will deal with it the situation…maybe.”

If someone is harassing a woman (or a man for that matter), someone should speak up and tell them to get lost. People should rally around victims of assault and let it be known that it’s not okay. Women should also feel comfortable telling the driver of the bus or streetcar about the incident, which means that all drivers, toll operators, and TTC workers should be trained on how to deal with harassment and assault.

It is imperative that future designs of stations, streetcars, and subways take public safety into account — better lighting, a more secure waiting area, and a bigger authority presence after sunset are all integral to the safety of women and women with disabilities. But, let’s not diminish this importance by creating silly apps that allow us to spy and report people to authorities.

Let’s focus on what really matters: making people safe and training staff do handle numerous types of emergency scenarios, including harassment and assault. If you have to make an app, I would rather an app that allows me to reload my PRESTO card on my phone – thank you very much!

Inflated Toronto housing market prevents buyers from going green

High housing prices in Toronto are affecting homebuyer’s pockets and effectively preventing them from investing money in building sustainably instead.

The real estate market has skyrocketed, with expensive homes and low availability for people looking to buy. A detached single-family home in the GTA costing between $2 million and $4 million rose 77 per cent compared to 2015. Single detached homes in the GTA between $1 million and $2 million rose 64 per cent compared to the prior year. Homes have become unaffordable and are causing homebuyers to pool all of their available funds into buying a house at an extremely inflated price.

When homebuyers use every penny to invest in their home and begin paying their mortgage, much needed sustainable building practices such as solar panels or geothermal energy are cast by the wayside. Homebuyers often view sustainable practices as expensive and not worthy in the long-term. Though sustainable energy can be expensive initially, the long term investment is actually less expensive. However, many people aren’t even considering green energy investment because of current astronomical costs of housing.

Solutions are being discussed though to remedy the inflated real estate market and assuage the housing issues at hand. The federal government is discussing a speculative tax targeted at foreign investors. Many properties in Toronto and Vancouver — the two Canadian housing markets that have increased — are owned by absentee owners. The Canadian government has made it fairly easy for foreign investors to purchase property without paying taxes as a local citizen and it has helped inflate the market significantly.

One idea that has been presented to help Vancouver’s housing market is the B.C Housing Affordability fund. House owners would be charged a 1.5 per cent property surcharge on residential real estate, which would amount to $15,000 on a $1 million property. If the homeowner paid over $15,000 in income taxes though, they would be exempt from the surcharge.

Another issue that is driving housing prices upwards is a loophole in the real estate board that allows investors to flip properties without being taxed, which drives up the property value at a fast rate without repercussions. In Vancouver, the provincial government has promised to intervene in the real estate board to ensure they are following fair practices, but Toronto has not moved forward with any commitments of their own.

The federal government is also discussing forcibly cooling the housing market by increasing the mandatory down payment for houses under $1 million to 10 per cent. This would dissuade most first-time buyers from purchasing a house and decrease competition in the Toronto and Vancouver markets. At the same time, measures need to be taken to ensure that the rental market doesn’t accidentally drive prices up. There is also a fear that cooling the market would harm Calgary and Montreal’s housing markets, which aren’t doing as well as Toronto and Vancouver.

Preventing first-time buyers from purchasing homes to cool the market has been criticized as an unfair practice, and another option might be more profitable for everyone. Creating affordable housing in key areas would allow first-time buyers to purchase homes and wouldn’t continue to increase current house prices. Calgary launched a program called “Attainable Homes” that allowed buyers to purchase a home for $2000 as long as they could manage the mortgage. These homeowners were required to take financial training to properly understand the market and to pay the organization a certain amount of the property value increase when they sold the house. People are also prevented from flipping their house because if they try to sell too quickly, they would owe “Attainable Homes” a higher percentage of their property value increase.

The housing market has been a popular topic of conversation at the dinner table and the chosen solutions don’t seems to be working. It will be interesting to see how government intervention will cool the market, and if affordable housing becomes a priority. No matter what, cheaper housing prices will allow people to focus on sustainable building practices and invest in the future of green living.