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Doug Ford and Kinga Surma controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sidewalk Labs launches Toronto Transit Explorer App

Sidewalk Labs continues to impress Torontonians. The company won a bid to develop Toronto’s waterfront from the eastern section of Queen’s Quay, over to Parliament, into a high- tech hub. Many have shared worries about transparency and security, because the New York-based company has promised to collect data to help improve Toronto living. They will focus data collection on aspects like housing costs, and congestion, in addition to others like safety and development.

The Google-affiliated company has now launched  apps and made them “open-source,” which means they are open to the public. The latest app is Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto Transit Explorer, which was first presented at a public roundtable back in March.

The web application is available on desktop and mobile and takes data from a variety of open data sources, then creates an interactive map of transit in Toronto. This allows users to find out how accessible each form of transit is to them, and to compare which mode of transportation is best for reaching their destination by outlining the time it will take using each option.

 The app shows different colours; anything in blue means biking in that area is the most efficient form of transportation, white means that both transit and biking take about the same amount of time and red means public transit is fastest. Software Engineer Samara Trilling developed Toronto Transit Explorer and spoke about the benefit of the application.

This tool “can be really useful if you’re looking for the most accessible new apartment or a new school or if you want to compare if it’s worth it for you to buy a bike-share membership,” said Trilling.

Although there are a number of transportation modes to choose from on the app, Toronto Transit Explorer does not add the car as a mode of transportation because Sidewalk Labs is focusing on how accessible the city is to people, without the use of a car.

The company shared that its engineering team will build in scenarios in the future to see how changes to transit infrastructure might have an impact on city accessibility.

In addition to the Toronto Transit Explorer app, Sidewalk Labs also previously launched Old Toronto, which is an application that shares the history of Toronto by pairing old photography with landmarks in the city on an interactive map. It was developed by Software Engineer Dan Vanderkam.

Despite worries about security and data sharing, it’s clear that Sidewalk Labs is helping to ease these fears by demonstrating how devoted the company is to enhancing life and experience in Toronto through technology.

Clear vision, stay in the game

Improving body and mind through working out takes dedication and time. It takes commitment to get your self in gear, speaking rhetorically and literally.  The running boom has spawned a multi-billion dollar shoe industry, whose experts will help you achieve your goals in comfort.  Our feet are taken care of but what about our eyes?  This is what Alcon DAILIES TOTAL1® contact lenses can do for your vision.  Having your eyes feeling  uncomfortable during a workout will steal your focus and drain your energy.  With high quality contacts lenses you can concentrate on the task at hand. Conversely, your focus at work or school will diminish if your eyes become dry from wearing contacts longer than normal, with no solution in sight (pun intended).
From a sunset walk along the beach, to having coffee with friends, to getting away for the weekend, there is much in life we take for granted.  You end up foregoing it all if you are battling a constant irritation of your eyes.  You may learn to cope, however, without regular eye exams which detect the onset of disease, as well as making you aware of the best eye care available, your eye health could be at risk.
There is a solution for the every-day contact wearer.  ALCON®DAILIES® are daily disposable lenses offering sharper vision.  They are the world’s first water gradient contact lens, meaning they’re designed to offer more comfort and breathability for longer.  They provide more than three hours of additional comfortable wear time per day, compared to their regular lenses.
Taking control of your vision will improve your confidence in everything you do. You will never have to quit a long run because a lens had become uncomfortable.  Athletes will apply the latest information on supplements, diet and training methods to give themselves an edge.   It’s just as important to get proper vision care, which could be a difference maker.
Are your eyes ‘performance ready’? It’s never too late to have an eye exam. It is Vision Health month in May, which is a national campaign to bring awareness to Canadians to get regular eye check ups.  According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, (CNIB) seventy-five per cent of vision loss can be prevented or treated.  Preventive measures and early detection of eye disease significantly lowers your risk of vision loss. Keep your eyes healthy by getting a regular eye exam, eating healthy and exercising. You can protect your eyes from ultra violet damage by wearing sun glasses at work or at play.
Learn about some eye conditions such as presbyopia, which is a common eye condition that often occurs around age 40 due to a gradual loss of the eye’s ability to focus on close objects, affecting nearly 1.7 billion people worldwide – a number expected to increase to 2.1 billion in the next five years.
 Alcon Multifocal lenses can treat presbyopia. There will be no squinting to read the menu or blurred vision while looking at your fitness gadget.  Accepting less than perfect vision is no longer necessary with the advanced eye care that is available.
Seeing the world up close and personal is now possible. Please visit your eye care practitioner for further information.
Twitter: @christineruns

Royal & rebels, can’t get enough

The day that royal enthusiasts have waited for over the past months has finally arrived. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are tying the knot today in Windsor. This Royal Wedding seems to have people even more excited than the masses were for Harry’s brother and the Duchess of Cambridge’s big day back in 2011. But why?

Perhaps it’s because Prince Harry is known as the more rebellious royal. Let’s face it, drama did surround Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s youngest for a number of years. For some reason, everyone loves a bit of a rebel. I know I do.

It’s also undeniable that Meghan Markle’s own family drama makes the former Suits star much more identifiable to commoners like me.  She was born into a middle class American family and is a divorcee. The royal family previously would have had an issue allowing a divorcee to marry into the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II bent the rules for her own son, when he married Camilla Bowles and that trend is carrying on for her grandson. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that it’s fantastic to see a more modern attitude from the long-reigning Queen.

Meghan’s drama and intrigue does not only come down to a divorce and her middle -class upbringing. She also has a half sister threatening to write an unflattering tell-all book about her and her father, sadly, was caught up in a staged paparazzi scandal, which means he has opted out of attending the royal occasion. As heartbreaking as that all sounds, it somehow amplifies Markle’s likeability.

She’s stunning, has a strong tie to Toronto, has a fashion sense that begs to be showcased, has ongoing drama in her life like everyone else, AND she snagged one of the most eligible bachelors on the planet while inspiring the royal family to be more open-minded? No wonder everyone is getting fascinators adjusted and tea parties organized, ready to tune in for today’s big event and to celebrate these two!

Here at Women’s Post, we are just as excited about the wedding of the year, and, dare I say, the Royal Wedding of the decade, as everyone else seems to be. Just the other day, I was talking to my lovely colleague about Meghan and how she used to wander the streets of Toronto as a relative unknown and frequent a favourite restaurant of mine on College Street. Now the stunner has gone and become royalty, covering pretty well every magazine around the globe. Ladies and gentlemen, fairy tales really can come true.

Don’t forget to follow @womenspost on social media for updates about Meghan and Harry’s big day today!

 

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Huggins

“Defeat is not an option,” reads the bold tagline for Jennifer Huggins’ business, and the mantra for her life’s journey.

I first met Jennifer a few years ago at her gym, Kingsway Boxing Club, tucked away in the sprawling industrial streets of West Toronto. I was immediately amazed by her determined spirit and dynamic success. As well as being an established owner of two locations in the GTA, she is a boxing coach, an official AIBA referee, a travelling magician’s assistant and the creator of the Fight To End Cancer annual fundraiser.

Although now heavily immersed in the boxing world, Jennifer’s eclectic odyssey didn’t begin in the ring. Rather, it began in the rink. At age 14, she was training as a national figure skater when an unfortunate neck injury put her in recovery for over a year. During this time, she stumbled upon a nearby boxing gym. “I realized…I wasn’t in love with the sport of figure skating. I was in love with the competition,” she said.

Off came the skates and on went the gloves as she worked her way through a world that was permeated by an old-school mentality. For Jennifer, this both attracted and challenged her, as she tried to find a footing in the industry. “I found myself going from a female-dominated sport where I couldn’t get any attention, to being in a male-dominated world where I got a lot of attention for the wrong reasons- being a female, being in a male-dominated sport, being, quote unquote, ‘too pretty’ to be a boxer,” she told me.

And it wasn’t just her gender that turned heads, but her age as well. Working with veterans in the ring, Jennifer often felt that she was looked at as inexperienced or undeserving of her achievements. The lack of support was only exasperated when the Hollywood flick, Million Dollar Baby was released, she told  me, prompting many to question whether boxing was a suitable path for a young woman—or, really, for anyone. What they didn’t realize, she says, is that, no matter who the athlete, boxing is actually a very safe and technical sport.

It was at this point that Jennifer used her rivalrous attitude to power a journey of education. Supporting herself and working out of her apartment studio as a personal trainer, she offered free boxing lessons to newcomers, hoping they would walk away with a new appreciation of the commonly misunderstood sport and its participants. And, luckily, it worked.

Within a few years, her business was booming, which led to the opening of not one, but two boxing gyms in her west end neighbourhood. The rapid success, however, also spurred an unexpected sense of guilt. Her community had offered her so much support, she recalls, that it was now time to give something back.

Partnering with Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation in 2011, she founded the Fight To End Cancer (FTEC) annual charity event. FTEC invites CEOs, executives and leading corporate players to step into the boxing ring- many of them for their first time. After six months of intense training, the contenders go head-to-head in Olympic-style boxing bouts at the charity’s annual black-tie gala. Since its inception, FTEC has donated over $850,000 to cancer research and is gunning for a $1 million goal at the 2018 gala this June.

Nodding back to the slogan that’s defined her journey, Jennifer hopes that in illness, and in life, “defeat” is a word that will one day be abolished. “In sports, for example, you’ll hear, ‘Canada was defeated by Russia,’ or ‘Canada defeats Germany,’…“That’s one thing I’d love to see people fix the definition of, or not use it anymore, because it’s such a finishing term,” she said. “I think what we need to learn is that defeat is not an option…you always have something to fight for.”

A true fighter, day in and day out, Jennifer has become somewhat of a trailblazer in Toronto’s female boxing scene. When I ask about her thoughts on the #MeToo movement, she tells me that it’s this same sense of fearlessness that’s been the movement’s greatest triumph. “It’s definitely made way for more open dialogue for people, and for women especially, who didn’t feel comfortable with certain things, to actually bring them to the forefront,” she said. “Where this movement is really helping is allowing people to feel confident in letting others know, you know what, this is not OK for me, and I think that’s what was lacking before.” Matching the re-ignition of confidence that this movement has sparked, Jennifer too hopes to inspire courage in every person that walks through her gym doors.

“I guess the common theme is that there’s so much we’re capable of,” she concluded. “Watching people empower themselves, and being a part of that process, is something that will always keep me going.”

Photography by Vincent Dayrit

 

 

Green Party set on tolls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

To be, or not to be

To study Shakespeare or not to study Shakespeare: can we just not?

During the marital combining of the book collection, I had a Norton and the Mr. had a Broadview copy of collected works of Shakespeare, and neither of us would budge, so we ended up keeping both. I’m not sure why entirely, because I flat out don’t like Shakespeare.

My book came from the most torturous university class I ever had, a summer school Shakespeare course.  I had to read a new play every two or three days for the whole month of July. Despite a well-meaning professor trying to walk us through the Bard’s genius, the plays never came alive.

In a first-year English class I studied Taming of the Shrew and the professor convinced us that it wasn’t misogynistic at all, that it was actually very winking and clever and Katherine was in on the joke.

Maybe? Who knows. Even Shakespeare scholars don’t know much. Is there even any definitive proof he wrote all those plays? And besides are plays even meant to be read in the first place?

It’s also a real slog for students to learn iambic pentameter, putting stressed and unstressed marks over all those syllables, trying to understand the convoluted plots, and identifying all the poetic devices, while deciphering ancient wordplay.

It’s  additionally unsettling that women kill themselves all the time in Shakespeare plays and that there is so much gloom and doom. Aside from the questionable treatment of women in many of these plays, it’s also a heartbreaking and real problem when students start to hate English class and consider it an obstacle to their future. I’ve worked with kids whose grades in math and the sciences are in the 90s but are freaking out that their English grade will drag down their average and limit their university prospects.

There is beauty in the language of Shakespeare, and universal themes in his stories, but maybe we could limit the intake to some sonnets, studying one or two plays, one unit on Elizabethan England, or perhaps a  field trip to Stratford.

Some school boards have made waves by discontinuing the tradition of teaching Shakespeare. Will more follow?  Yes please!

 

Reflection: I love you Mom

Four years ago, I wrote the blog post below celebrating my mother, when she was almost taken from me:

It’s unfortunate that we never truly know how much a loved one means to us until we’re faced with the risk of losing them. I of course love my mother beyond words, but it wasn’t until a few days ago while driving home from work and I received a text from my  dad that read “Call me A.S.A.P on my cell or at home” that the reasons I love her flashed through my mind. My blood ran cold. First of all, my father is a hard working man who would not be at home at 4:30 p.m. on a Monday afternoon. He works until 8 on Mondays. Secondly, he rarely texts and never asks to be contacted on his cell. He only ever uses it for outgoing calls. I knew something was wrong.

I parked in my condo’s parking garage, raced to the elevator forgetting half of my belongings in my car trying to get to an area that had full phone service.  I took a deep breath while attempting to push the negative from my mind, then dialed.

“Jess”, he said as soon as he picked up, “You’ve got to book that flight. That one Mom talked to you about last night. The deal ends today and she wanted me to remind you.”

“OK” I replied, feeling a bit relieved that this was all he was calling about, but something in the back of my mind told me there was more. See my mom is an angel who does everything to help others before even giving a thought to herself. If she wanted me to book that flight and was able to call she would have called me herself.

“You have to do it, Jess,” he said again. “Mom’s in intensive care. She’s very sick.” My heart felt like it had been ripped out. I couldn’t understand. I had just talked to her the night before. She was fine aside from what sounded like a chest cold. “The Doctors say they are hopeful they can reverse it. She’s gonna be fine but she needs our prayers.”

Naturally I crumbled.  My dad said, “Don’t do this. She’s going to get through this. You go book that flight.”

“Tell her I love her,” I said through heaving sobs while moments spent hearing her over Skype the night before when she told me how proud she was of me, replayed in my mind. All I wanted was to be next to her. Her, the woman who does for others before she ever gives a second thought about herself. All those reasons that I love her beyond words began flooding my mind and I became completely undone at the thought of a world and a life without her in it.

 Dad said to book the flight for my trip home  to Ottawa at Christmas and say prayers. I did. But the feelings bouncing around my core, like electricity attempting to escape with no outlet, drove me nutty all night. I felt completely helpless, not knowing the true scenario and what sort of chances she had of recovering. I got the feeling that my dad was in a bit of shock and perhaps was doing his best not to divulge full details to avoid me becoming frantic. I later found out both were true.

Had my doting father, also a wonderful and loving husband, not had his late start day that morning, my mother would have died. An extreme and vicious case of pneumonia that went septic, poisoning her blood and threatening her vital organs, almost took her from us. But she’s a fighter. She pulled through.

My mom, is such an incredible woman  in so many ways and is an amazing support to me and my brothers. She steadies me,  knocks sense into me with her wise advice,  encourages me in all that I do, and motivates me to be the best woman I can be while reminding me that there truly are no limits.  My mother is a wonderful and talented person with a beautiful soul and the most giving nature. I only hope that one day I’ll be half the woman she is.

I always reflect on Mother’s Day. I give thanks to my mother for all of the ways she brightens my life. This year, more than any other, when I say “I love you Mom” it will be more than an acknowledgement of her success in fulfilling the role of mother to perfection, it will be a reminder to me that without her in my life, there would be a gaping void in my heart and soul.

She’s getting a bit stronger every day, and I have complete faith that she will be back to her cheerful self in no time. She’s receiving wonderful care while in hospital and the doctors and nurses have been unbelievable to both her and my father throughout this hardship.

****

She pulled through, but this experience and horrendous ordeal reminds me about how lucky I am to have my parents. It’s easy to forget the impact family and loved ones have and to take for granted the place they hold in your heart, when so consumed with the busy day-to-day. I vow to remember and appreciate every day, not just on Mother’s and Father’s Day.

Woman of the Week: Li Koo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ontario election: Gloves are off!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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