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Revised SmartTrack plan a GO

Plans don’t always pan out as expected, and although less sometimes means more, disputes can arise. This is the case with Mayor John Tory’s  initial SmartTrack proposal and the plan which has passed by city council on Wednesday.

 A recent announcement was made by the council confirming an agreement to spend up to $1.46 billion on SmartTrack. The plan put forth is an improved version of the one  Mayor Tory proposed during his 2014 election campaign.

 Federal and municipal governments are collaborating to fund this project. The city will raise $878 million of the total and the remaining $585 million will come from the federal transit fund. There was opposition to funding as some councilors believe that the province should pay instead of the city,  forgetting that the funds all come from the same source-tax dollars residents from across the region pay.

Despite worries of high costs and financing the plan, the decision was made to go forward with SmartTrack in a 37 to 6 vote.

Mayor Tory’s initial plan proposed 22 new stations and a link to Pearson Airport. The new plan will see 6 new stations to be operated by Metrolinx – the provincial transit body that operated regional transit service. The plan fuses SmartTrack’s use of existing GO stations and Metrolinx’s Regional Express Rail, and proposes integrated fares.

Mayor John Tory spoke about the much needed transit:

“This is the stage at which we are moving forward to start to build transit stations within the city of Toronto…Other municipalities are not proposing to build stations that the province would not otherwise have built to suit their local needs.”

Mayor Tory has consistently defended the plan noting the  33 million trips estimated on SmartTrack by 2041. The “cheapest transit we’re ever going to get inside the city,” he said.

There is a need for these stations to be built and Toronto municipal leaders are right to move forward with the revised plan put forth by Mayor Tory. Action means results, and as TTC Chair and councillor Josh Colle points out “Toronto has taken too many years off dwelling on the best way to improve the transit system.”

Get on trend this spring

The  weather leading up to this week was terrible, and I have not had the usual inspiration to update my wardrobe because those winter blahs are still sneaking their way in. Alas, the sunshine and warmer temperatures seem to be on the horizon, which makes me want to wear brighter colours and put a bit of pizzazz in my attire. The top trends for Spring and Summer 2018 will help to do just that:

The runways were filled with sparkle and sequins at all major fashion event for this season. Glitz is not only reserved for evening wear anymore. Sequins in a light sweater, can be the perfect transitional piece from day to evening. Marc Jacobs, Dior, Gucci and Bottega Veneta all showed fantastic pieces to bring the shimmer to your spring.

I usually have reserved the checks for fall and winter clothing, but this year designers went all out with flirty spring versions and variations of this pattern. Runways were filled with this trend in light and radiant hues. Again, the checked pattern can work as a casual sweatshirt for day time and is seen in more formal jackets meant to complement evening wear. Belenciaga, Victoria Beckham, and Burberry all gave a sneak peek of this hot trend for the months ahead.

Fringing is a trend that keeps being reinvented. It returns for the season but is popping up in a more elegant and sophisticated way . Fringe is also showing up on boots again. Celine, Bottega Venetta and Loewe, demonstrated how this trend is to be worn.

#LOEWESS18 as seen in Paris Fashion Week #PFW
photography by @cris.fragkou

A post shared by LOEWE (@loewe) on

I often opt for brighter colours in the spring and summer. Although bold hues are also still on trend, pastels are huge for the seasons, too. Just like in home décor trends for spring, mixing and matching these gelato-inspired colours, is all the rage. Celine, VB and Preen mastered this trend.

Enjoy spicing up that closet this season. I know my inspiration to do that has now kicked in and I plan on heading to the shops on Queen immediately.

Woman of the Week: Katrina Turnbull

There are some women I’m quickly drawn to and I easily become friends with. Usually this has to do with their willingness to be real and open about who they are and about their own failures and successes. I immediately connected with Katrina Turnbull.

Katrina was named one of Ottawa’s “Top 25 Influencers” by Ottawa Life Magazine for good reason. Thousands of readers view her mommy blog Oui C’est Chic , for honest, clever advice from this mother-of-two. Katrina also joins the morning crew at CTV Ottawa often for live segments, where she unveils the latest trends for kids and busy women on the go. She also hosts Bell Fibe’s Capital Style Files, which showcases the fashion sense of influential figures in the nation’s capital and contributes to the Huffington Post.

Katrina gives off the sense that she has it all together – in part because of her fashionable clothing and perfectly applied makeup. Yet, Katrina is the first to admit that her busy schedule- parenting, blogging, and preparing T.V. segments- can get overwhelming. She explains how she tries through her work to assist women with their own daily struggles by offering advice.

“Working women and mothers are always taking care of other people’s needs before their own. It’s an unsustainable model, which is why so many women feel burnout and are unable to devote time to their own self-care. I want women to know that not only is it okay for them to put themselves first once in a while, but it is necessary in order to fuel their minds and soul, so that they can be more productive and nurture others.”

It’s obvious that Katrina is someone who wants to support and empower women. While grabbing a coffee, she was attentive, respectful,  and offered helpful advice to me about starting and maintaining a successful website. She demonstrated how she is doing her best to build other women up. Katrina said this is a critical goal set in her work and in her personal life, adding that she was “fortunate enough to have met strong, confident women” who wanted to help her succeed, while imparting lessons from their own lives. She is set on “paying it forward.”

 Katrina  admires a number of high profile business women who have inspired her. Designer,  Diane Von Furstenberg is at the top of her list of women she most wants to meet, because “she is a champion of women and believing that women are allowed to shape themselves into the type of person they want to be.” Katrina admires her because the designer came from humble beginnings and “hustled her way into a dream career by” carving out her own spot in an industry that was  male-dominated.

Despite her success, Katrina admits that roadblocks and challenges are a part of her journey. She is all too aware about how some women can be more focused on competing than supporting and empowering one another.  She also shared how the MeToo movement couldn’t come at a better time. Despite not feeling there is a clear answer to fixing the issue of harassment in the workplace, Katrina spoke about feeling undervalued simply based on the fact that she is a woman and not a man.

Katrina was the victim of harassment  as a young server in Ottawa and she shared her #MeToo story with me:

“We were forced to wear skimpy uniforms, flirt with customers to get bigger tabs and tips, etc. Complaining about a customer grabbing or propositioning you led to the bar managers taking away our best tables and punishing us by giving  bad shifts for the next few weeks.”

The overall mentality passed down from the head honcho at the nightspot was that women working at the establishment, were mainly there to look good- Katrina added that when such sexist rules come from the top, it’s very difficult to stand up for yourself and change the setting. She eventually had enough and quit.

Her belief now is that Canadians will continue to make a societal change because of the nation’s progressive nature.

Katrina has her sights set on continuing to be a positive influence on women by way of her entrepreneurial projects. For more about Katrina, visit her site.

Photography provided by Valerie Keeler

G7 meetings make women’s rights a focus

Sunday is definitely the day of the week that I love to head to my favourite brunch spot with friends and family.  It seems that world foreign affairs ministers are of the same mindset. G7 representatives gathered for a meeting at Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Sunday, after she invited the counterparts to her home for brunch.

The meeting was apparently relaxed and informal  ahead of their upcoming agenda that will be quite the opposite. Over the next few days, they will carry on with closed-door meetings at the University of Toronto. On the list of issues to discuss is the ongoing war in the Ukraine and conflicts  in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Palestine.

The meetings this week will lay the groundwork for the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, slated for June. U.S. Secretary Rex Tilerson, Is not taking part in this week’s meetings after recently engaging in direct talks with the North Koreans. North Koreans surprised the world when their radical leader Kim Jong-un announced he is suspending ballistic missile testing.

Talks this week will also focus on cyber threats and combating violent extremists. Another major subject on the agenda is determining ways to curb human trafficking, mainly involving women.

Most victims of human trafficking are women and girls,” said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Friday. “The government of Canada is committed to fighting this abhorrent attack on basic human rights and dignity.”

The topic of human trafficking falls under the Liberal government’s agenda for international feminism and the push for gender equality. Liberal’s have taken a stand in support of women and the agenda represents the shift that is taking place internationally, when it comes to the rights of women.

The focus on fair treatment towards women in the workplace and various societal circumstances is proof that the #MeToo movement is bringing changes on all levels- as slow moving as they may seem to be. Top levels of government making feminism and rights of women a top priority, demonstrates that voices are being heard.

 

GTA Electric buses set for 2019 launch

Everyday I see the signs of global warming and climate change. The extended cold weather this season, and the record breaking hurricanes last fall  have me wanting to do my part to try to reverse these effects. In the day-to -day hustle it’s easy to ignore the environment and forget to conserve water and electricity. It’s easy to leave the car idling in frigid weather or forget to recycle a coffee cup- believe me, I am guilty of all of the above.

The Ontario government is planning to do more to reduce greenhouse emissions produced by municipal transit systems in the GTA.  A new pilot program will be launched to test electric battery-powered buses in Brampton and the York Region.

The program is part of the Ontario Climate Change Action Plan, and is funded by proceeds from the cap on pollution and carbon market.

Steven Del Duca, minister of Economic Development and Growth, was in Newmarket earlier this week, to make the announcement:

“Our investment in York Region and Brampton demonstrates how we are helping our municipal transit systems reduce their carbon footprint. Reducing greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles is one of the most important actions we can take to fight climate change.”

The province is investing $13 million and purchasing 14 electric buses and four charging stations for the York and Brampton transit systems. The projects will be coordinated by the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortum – a green transportation group.

Chris Ballard, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, spoke about the benefits of the new initiative:

“Investing in municipal electric buses will help us significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution from transportation, a sector that contributes more than one-third of the province’s emissions. Buses are an energy efficient way to move a large number of people. Making them an even cleaner option is a great example of how our carbon market and Climate Change Action Plan are investing in innovative actions to move us towards a healthier, low-carbon future.”

Service of the new electric buses will begin in 2019. It’s wonderful that the Liberals are determined to cut greenhouse gas pollution by 37% as of 2030 and 80% before 2050. The commitment to improving  quality of life and the health of the planet must be made by everyone.

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.