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Facebook: a politician’s best friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTC walks from union negotiations

TTC is a part of my every day journey  and it would definitely mess up  my mornings if workers were to strike. Fortunately for transit-users of Toronto, that won’t happen because TTC is considered an essential service and striking isn’t possible.

This past week TTC union and management were in negotiations over a new collective agreement. As usual, the union has called out management for “walking away” from talks. TTC has responded assuring that its commitment to an agreement has not wavered. The game of union negotiations is riddled with one side blaming the other publicly in a dance that is growing stale.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 released a statement this week slamming TTC for halting contract negotiations to wait for the Ontario Ministry of Labour to “appoint a conciliator.”

The statement reads:

“The union will continue its fight to protect pensions and benefits, while saving Toronto’s public transit system from privatization, which cost taxpayers more money in the end,” the release states. “Toronto’s transit union invites the TTC to return to negotiations and bargain in good faith.”

If a collective agreement is not reached, the issue will go to arbitration. But TTC says this is still possible and that negotiations can still happen:

“The TTC believes a conciliator can help reach a negotiated agreement with Local 113 and remains committed to productive good faith bargaining, The TTC negotiated contracts in 2014 with all of its unions, without arbitration. The TTC remains committed to doing the same in 2018.”

In a continued statement, TTC said that it has negotiated contracts with other unions which represent machinists-AMW Lodge 235 and CUPE Local 5089.

The collective agreement that existed between the union and TTC expired last month.

But let’s make no mistake- a provincial election is about to be called and both TTC management and the union know the public will be revved up about taxes and public spending especially given Doug Ford’s agenda to align himself with a “cut the fat” mentality. Politically the union isn’t in a good position if it has to fight public opinion and TTC management knows it. Waiting for a conciliator will allow the “cut the waste” propaganda that Doug Ford is spreading to take hold making it  publicly much harder for a union to ask for more. It is a clever tactic on behalf of TTC management, and the union can’t do much about it

Transit is an essential service. But what is fair? The TTC is bringing n a conciliator to make that decision because they don’t agree with the union and they know that they can’t make it either.

Is Ford a fudger?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Ford’s campaign officials responded to the new ads:

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

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

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

Benefits when building with natural materials

 

Farm to Building

Several years ago, I worked in some of Toronto’s most innovative kitchens. Certainly, in my youth I was captivated by the culinary arts and have since wondered how it informed my interest and subsequent career in architecture. The past year has revealed to me an obvious thread: the transformation of materials.

In both cuisine and architecture ingredients are transformed. In both professions there is an understanding about materials used   where they come from, how they can be transformed, and how they must be appreciated. There are parallels between sustainable architecture and sustainable food.

Where materials come from: local or organic?

Farm-to-table is a social movement with which many are all familiar, characterized as serving local food through direct acquisition from the producer, incorporating food traceability. There’s a strong environmental case for food traceability.

Few materials are created equal, and when it comes to food, “food miles” actually make up just a small portion of an ingredient’s carbon footprint – just 11% according to the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF). How the food grows comprises roughly 83% of its carbon footprint. To summarize the DSF’s research, the ideal choice seems to be food that is organically (responsibly) grown, and the benefit of local ingredients is simply a bonus.

The same may be true for building materials; let’s look at wood as an example. Wood is a fantastic material. It is renewable, can be sourced sustainably, and actually sequesters carbon. But not all wood is as environmentally-friendly as you may think. If sustainability is important to you look for wood products with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. FSC is an indication that the wood has met stringent harvesting and environmental standards. It prohibits illegal logging, forest degradation, and deforestation in protected areas, and is the only framework supported by NGO’s such as Greenpeace and WWF.

How materials can be transformed: embodied energy

When it comes to buildings, significant amounts of energy are required to process raw materials. Embodied energy is the energy consumed by all of the material processing required for the production of a building, including mining, processing, manufacturing, and transportation. Every building is made of a complex list of processed ingredients, all of which contribute to its total embodied energy.

A great practical example is to strip back the layers of a typical house and look only at its structure: steel studs versus wood studs. The University of Bath has concluded that the embodied energy and embodied carbon of steel are more than three times that of sawn softwood. Therefore, responsibly-harvested wood studs can be much less demanding in embodied energy levels. When you add up all the structure, insulation, finishes, and itty-bitty components of a house, choosing the right materials goes a long way in reducing your carbon footprint- those materials also need to perform well, be durable, and non-toxic.

How materials must be appreciated: high-performance, healthy, and beautiful

Nutrition is 99% invisible. We don’t need a nutritional breakdown of a Big Mac to know the value of its contents. The same is true in buildings: the products you can’t see usually provide the most value.

Building to high performance standards with natural materials will always satisfy your appetite. In a cold climate (like Toronto) this means using above-Building Code levels of insulation, airtight, high-performance windows, and efficient mechanical systems. Making it look appetizing is simply the dressing on the salad.

This article was contributed by Mike Mazurkiewicz for Sustainable TO

 

 

Weather and mood: ready to sing in the rain

This dreary weather has a way of playing on my mood, and based on the expressions on the faces of those I walked past on my way to work this morning, I’m not the only one to be affected.  Nobody was smiling and no one interacting. It’s a gray and gloomy day and the commute to work among hundreds of other public transit users, was one of the quietest and most lifeless journeys yet.
I wanted to take a picture- I didn’t get a seat and began noticing the scowls. I thought about how I could change this. By starting to dance in the packed subway car, or making eye contact with a commuter and smiling in their direction? Perhaps plastering a false smile to my face until I feel it would spark a chain reaction.
I’ve also noticed that my less cheerful mood brought on by rainy weather, causes me to be less friendly to others.. I wonder if this causes a chain reaction of less positive interactions. The gloom has a strange hold, just as warm sunshine on a cold  day can liven my spirits and put an extra bounce in my step that sets my pace over the rest of the day.
It’s amazing how much more cheerful I feel when I can reach for my sunglasses and immediately put them on,  as opposed to grabbing them with the hope that the clouds will part and the streets will dry. I actually still put my shades over my eyes during the rainy weather, not just for style, but as a way to coax a change in weather and to bring on the sunshine.
This extended winter seems to be paired with cloudy and damp weather. As Canadians we have a short window to enjoy warmer temperatures and patio weather. I’ll bask in the sun as much as I can when these days do finally arrive.
Despite knowing that sunshine and warmth will arrive soon, I still wish I could climb out from under the negative cloud that hovers when it’s gloomy outside. I know it’s human nature to be affected by the weather, but I’m set on attempting to bring sunshine to dreary days as best as I can. I need to learn how to sing.

Disconnected: What I learned from 24 hours without my smartphone

How often do you find yourself scrolling through your news feeds instead of observing the world around you? It’s a common scenario, you walk into a room and everyone is looking at their phones, so you get yours out as well. There is time to kill so why not take care of a few emails, catch up with family and friends, or simply keep yourself entertained while waiting for whatever it is you are waiting for. Smart phones give us the freedom to take care of business and socialize (digitally at least) wherever we are.

It has the guise of multi-tasking, however I’ve recently realized what it really is: habit. A habit that keeps us attached to our phones, and just might be causing us more stress than it takes away.

The other day my phone stopped working. It didn’t completely black out, but I couldn’t view any news feeds, it wouldn’t let me read my emails, and the screen saver kept flashing on and off. It was no longer useable.

I remember the panic creeping up; this is how I communicate with clients, my kids’ teachers, it is the device I use to do a significant amount of my work. Luckily, my photos, files and contacts are all backed up so that wasn’t an issue. But being disconnected was. There was a fear of being needed, notifications piling up and not being able to respond.

And there it was. The fear of missing out.

Isn’t that why so many of us are guilty of checking our phones as often as we do? It is the reason our phones are kept within reach; so that we are ready to take photos of the kids, respond to work emails, get in on the group chat, and keep on top of appointments, school reminders, and family schedules as they are happening.

While we are busy doing all these things, it is easy to lose track of the world around us.

I was stressed without my phone, particularly with regards to work (there also happened to be a power outage that day so I didn’t have my computer either). I was trying everything I could to get my phone to function just enough to ease my mind. Were there any new emails or missed phone calls? Those were my main priorities.

Later that evening, once the power was restored and I was able to get on the computer, I realized I hadn’t missed anything urgent. There were emails and notifications, but nothing that would cost me work or that couldn’t be dealt with later.

The realization hit hard. I spent the entire day stressing over a situation I had no control over, and honestly didn’t really matter. I could have enjoyed time playing board games, doing puzzles and reading with the kids. Instead, I was frantically trying to fix a phone. That was my focus.

Admittedly, I spend too much time on my phone, I think most of us probably do. But the twenty-four hours I spent without one provided a necessary reminder; that it’s important to disconnect every so often and allow yourself to be one-hundred percent present in the moment.

Ontario government announces upcoming fare reductions on public transit

Getting around Toronto with ease is often an impossibility. I’ve used both public transit and driven for over a decade I’ve lived in Toronto. I prefer transit because I feel I’m doing my part to conserve energy.

his past week, Kathleen Wynne  has announced the province is lowering the cost of transit in the province and moving towards regional fare integrations that will link all systems, and make them easier and more convenient to use.

In 2019, the province is slated to reduce the cost of the GO Transit trips to only $3, when a commuter uses a PRESTO card and travels less than 10 kilometres, meaning that all GO Transit trips and those on Union-Pearson Express, within the City of Toronto, will be reduced to $3.

This past week,however, Kathleen Wynne has given me new hope, by announcing the ways that Ontario is seeking to lower the cost of transit in the province and moving towards regional fare integrations to make the linked systems, easier and more convenient to use.

In 2019, the province is slated to reduce the cost of the GO Transit trips to only $3, when a commuter uses a PRESTO card and travels less than 10 kilometres, meaning that all GO Transit trips and those on Union-Pearson Express, within the City of Toronto, will be reduced to $3.

Proceeds gained from Ontario’s cap on pollution will allow fare integration discounts of up to $1.50, for those who travel beyond the city of Toronto, to regions such as York, Durham, Bramptom and Mississauga.

In addition, adult fares for GO Transit trips that are between 10 km and 20 km, will be reduced to between $3 and $6.

Ontario is reportedly investing $21.3 billion to overhaul GO Transit from a commuter system servicing the GTA to a regional rapid transit system.

The decision by the province to make transit more affordable is directly linked to the government’s Climate Change Action Plan, which caps pollution and reinvests the proceeds into those programs that fight climate change.

Previous proceeds from the initiative have gone towards the Line 1 Extension/Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE). The TYSSE is the largest expansion of Toronto’s subway system in nearly 40 years, and will add an estimated 36 million transit trips, as well as eliminate 30 million car trips per year, helping to ease traffic congestion, improve air quality and fight climate change.

Thanks to lower fares, and potentially increased rapid transit in the near future, the hope is that more drivers will opt to cut down on driving time and pollution by jumping on the GO.

Ontario Government Announces Plans To Expand GO Transit

Due to increasing congestion on roadways and expenses of owning a car making public transit a more viable option for commuters, I always take it as welcome news when the government announces its plans for expansion and improvements that will further connect me to outlying regions with greater efficiency.

Kathryn McGarry, Ontario’s transportation minister, has said that the provincial government has now set plans to expand GO Transit in Greater Toronto and the Hamilton region.

McGarry has shared the news about the GO Transit expansion while appearing at Union Station on Monday, when she indicated that the government has issued a request to begin selecting companies to initiate the designing, building and financing, in addition to operating and maintaining the GO Regional Express Rail network.

“Today, I am pleased to announce that we are on track to deliver the next stage in GO Transit’s evolution — Regional Express Rail,” McGarry said. This includes new trains, refurbished vehicles, infrastructure for electrifying the entire GO corridor, and improvements such as bridges, tracks and noise walls to make travel seamless. This also includes improvements right here at Union Station to its tracks as well as its platforms to make room for more train service and electrification across the entire network.”

The process is therefore underway, ahead of any contracts being offered for GO Transit expansion. Ontario will issue a request for qualifications.

Six new Toronto Smart Track stations will also be built, and there will be upgrades made to 22 current GO stations that will involve renovations to stations, digital signage and new bus loops.

Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said the request for qualifications is a “big milestone” and the transit projects are “hugely exciting” for the provincial agency. “In many transit jurisdictions, these are the biggest projects out there today,” Verster said. “For our customers, this is really exciting.”

Regional Express Rail is also to include more than 400 projects across 40 municipalities, which is being financed with the city of Toronto.

The project Mayor John Tory initiated during the 2014 municipal election, SmartTrack, will include integrated services via rail on the Stouffville, Lakeshore East and Kitchener GO lines, as well as on the Eglinton West Light Rail Transit extension, between Mount Dennis and Renforth.

Spokesperson for Metrolinx, Anne Marie Aikins, says that this is “another step closer to building the transit people need.”

 

 

Woman of the Week: Laurie Young

Caring is the word that first comes to mind when reflecting on my meeting with Laurie Young, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather. She has a strong handshake and a big smile. Not pretentious, rather a combination of thoughtful and spirited.

We met to discuss the #MeToo campaign in Canada and the role women leaders must take to bring about social change.

Young’s office is orderly and functional. In jeans and a blouse, she is relaxed and open. She told me about her family – two kids, aged 24 and 28, and her husband of 30 years (a rarity in the media industry). She describes him as “amazing” and explains that his hero status comes from his consistent and unwavering support through all the ups and downs in her career – “the cancelled vacations and 2 am talks.”

Laurie graduated with an Arts degree and was immediately attracted to a job in advertising, where she found the commercial and creative successes appealing. “I could use my creative side but it also fed my competitive side. And I was constantly meeting interesting people.” The advertising industry is all about building relationships and it is obvious that she enjoys getting to know people, but this isn’t what drives her.  “Others would say I am driven by success, and I am competitive, so I’d have to say they are right.”

I asked Young about the gender balance in the advertising industry.  She explained that the industry still has men dominating board positions, but she’s hopeful it will change as more women gain leadership roles.  Laurie spoke about a week-long conference Ogilvy held in Saville – their “creative cadre” – a meeting for their top offices from around the world to share their current campaigns. Each office presented their campaigns on stage and when it was Young’s turn to present, she decided to go off script… and focus on the fact that it was International Women’s Day. Her speech began “What has struck me today is the number of campaigns about domestic violence, sexual harassment and gender equality that have been presented from around the world, but especially from India, South Africa and Indonesia. On the eve of International Women’s Day, we should not only celebrate great work, but we should strive to ensure that these campaigns make it to market and that they change attitudes and behaviours, so that fewer of these are needed in the future.” The room was silent for a few very long seconds, but then one woman, followed by another began to clap and then the entire room suddenly broke out in applause.

Young isn’t afraid to lead on tough issues like sexual harassment and gender equality. She acknowledged that her industry still has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality and admits her desire to break down the barriers. As CEO of Ogilvy she hosts networking events for her women clients that are specifically designed to help them develop leadership skills.

We talked about how society still expects women to dismiss sexual harassment and assault, how women are still blamed if they speak out about it.  I asked Laurie to tell me about some of her #MeToo experiences. She remembered a time she was sitting in a boardroom full of her colleagues (mostly men). She had just landed a big client and was excited to share the news with them until one man joked that her male client signed on because he “wanted” her. Laurie remembered her raw anger and the snickering from all of her colleagues.

When I asked her if she had ever been groped, Young remembered a time years ago when she was 16 and backpacking. She was travelling by bus and had picked out a window seat. As she settled in a hand from behind her slipped in between the window and her body, grabbing her breast. She remembered her anger, jumping up and yelling at the man while people tried to calm her down. She remembered that the colour of the seats on the bus were blue. Our conversation touched on emotional moments and how they seem to embed themselves into your memory. To what extent do these embedded memories of harassment or assault cause women to lose confidence, hesitate, or pull back from experiencing the world fully? Young didn’t view her sexual assault as a #MeToo moment because she didn’t hide the experience, rather she had the courage to turn on the man and expose his actions. And that is what the #MeToo movement is about – women finding courage to expose men who behave badly.

Laurie Young has the courage to face adversity with confidence and grace. And whatever her next challenge might be, I know she will rise to it with a twinkle in her eye.

 

Revitalize your space: Out with the old, in with the new spring design trends

As the warmer weather approaches and we all prepare to shed the layers and clunky boots, opting for brighter and lighter colours in our wardrobes, I often look for ways to make necessary changes in my home as well, by shedding the dull, then bringing in the lively and new. Spring is often associated with new beginnings and a fresh start after enduring the Canadian winter blahs for so many seemingly endless months. Reinventing your space and wardrobe can assist in resetting your mind to switch things up and achieve a new focus or mindset, which in turn benefits health.

When it comes to my home, it’s not always possible to exchange whole furniture sets to overhaul a space, but there are small additions and alterations that can be made to make it feel as though you are arriving home to a whole new retreat each evening.

The styles of 2018 make it easy to infuse abodes with colour, brightness and lightness, in addition to comfort and chic appeal.

Colours of the season:

Gelato-inspired hues are huge for Spring & Summer 2018.  Complement your space with the tastiest options from your local gelato shop, many of which have pastel and neutral tones.  Often mixing and matching flavours while topping up your cone or dish is the outcome of a visit to the gelato shop, so go all out when it comes to home décor and select a variety of colours to liven your space as well.

Make ultra violet ultra cool.

A post shared by Jonathan Adler (@jonathanadler) on

In addition to pastels and Gelato hues, indigo blue is a hot colour for home décor over the upcoming spring and summer months. Whether indoor overhaul is needed or the objective is to spruce up your outdoor space, this striking blue hue will bring a punch of pizzazz.

The perfect complement to indigo blue is glittering gold. Although gold is often associated with the holiday season, the glittery trend can be found in many accessories for the warmer months’ décor selections. Vases, artwork, mirrors and hanging pendants, are all the perfect accessories to accent a space in this hue.

Accents and Accessories

Geometrics are still big this season and can be found in artwork, wallpaper, rugs and on statement pieces.  Feathers, fringe and tufted cushions are also very much on the hot list. This season homeowners can find these accents on everything from duvets to throw pillows, adding texture and an original appeal.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bf8proVhmMh/?tagged=featherdecor

Flooring

Often shimmer is reserved for artwork, fabrics and wall-coverings, but this year, that subtle shimmer is making its way into various flooring materials, including carpets! Grey and pale blue flooring matched with the said shimmer and complemented by soft shimmering wall paper and art work, is a trend of the upcoming months. The trend opens up any space, and the suggested hues bring a serene atmosphere to the home.

Be inspired by the trends of the season and have fun revitalizing your space. I know I will!