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Early data shows King St. pilot a success

The first month of the King Street Pilot program was a success — the transit corridor has seen improved service during rush hours and drivers were only affected by a few minutes.

The first set of transit and traffic data was released Tuesday by the city. Over the next year, the City of Toronto will be analyzing the impact on transit service, flow of traffic on parallel streets, and the effects on cyclists, pedestrians, and local businesses. The statistics provided Tuesday only represent the first two weeks of the study.

The data found that transit service during the afternoon rush hour has already significantly improved. Travel time has reduced from 25 minutes to 22 minutes eastbound, and 24 minutes to 19.7 minutes westbound.

Drivers have seen variations of a plus or minus one minute, which is impressive considering the first two weeks resulted in a big learning curve for drivers, who were no longer allowed to drive straight through an intersection along the stretch of the pilot. The data also looked at streets parallel to King St., as drivers are forced to turn right  at each respective intersection. So far, those corridors are not being clogged with cars.

“Measurement is vital to the King Street pilot, and will ensure we can make any necessary adjustments so the street and surrounding area works for transit customers, cyclists, pedestrians, drivers and business owners as well as local residents,” said Mayor John Tory in a statement. “We also appreciate the feedback of local businesses, transit users, and the taxi industry and will continue to address any concerns as quickly as possible.”

The King Street pilot runs from Jarvis to Bathurst. The corridor funnels drivers to parallel east-west routes like Queen St., Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, or Front, while still allowing local drivers to access the street for short periods of time. It began on Nov. 12.

Data will be released every month on that same date.

New Airbnb regulations for the City of Toronto

A new set of regulations for short term rental spaces, such as Airbnb, has been approved by Toronto’s city council.

One of the biggest changes is that basement apartments have now been banned from use as a rental space, leaving many potential landlords who use Airbnb to make some extra cash out in the cold. By limiting guests to people’s primary residences, the city hopes to have better insight into the current housing situation in the city. It also allows more of these suites to be available for long-term contract rentals. One of the new regulations states that only long-term tenants of secondary suites, not the owner, could offer up space for nightly rental.

This step will mean that families who take part in home sharing will now be regulated and formally recognized. Alex Dagg, the policy director for Airbnb Canada said, “This is truly a big step forward for the City of Toronto, in terms of supporting the fact that we have thousands of families in Toronto who have been home-sharing and are now going to be formally recognized and regulated. We look forward to working with the city on the next steps.”

Short term home-sharing hosts will now pay the city $50 per-year for a rental maximum of three rooms, which will be rented for no more than 180 nights per year. The unpredictability of the current housing market in Toronto, along with fluctuating costs, could mean there will be more short-term rentals and less room for long- term tenants.

Those fighting to include secondary suites argued these rules put many homeowners at a disadvantage and they should be allowed flexibility in the choice of renting out spaces they choose. Toronto Mayor John Tory voted in support of the regulations, saying that City Council had the responsibility to put reasonable limits on property use.

Airbnb, which is a San-Francisco-based company that allows users to book home-sharing services online, said that in the past year there were over four million Canadians that have used this service to travel domestically. Earlier this year as part of the government’s pre-budget process, Airbnb sent a letter to the House of Commons finance committee asking the government not to over regulate. This request was unrelated to Toronto’s new regulatory process. So far, the regulations seem to be pleasing to both the government and Airbnb.

The government is set to revisit the rules in 2019 as this will provide a timeline in order to observe any major changes to Toronto housing.

What do you think about these new regulations? Comment below.

Top 10 charities to donate to this holiday season

The holiday season can bring out the best in all of us — but there is always more people can do. Sure, you can give your friend another pair of socks or a book they probably won’t read. But, this year why not make a real difference in someone else’s life?

Women’s Post spoke with Greg Thomson, director of research for Charity Intelligence, an organization that analyzes charitable investments and provides donors with information about their return. This essentially means they do the work for you — they review each charity and find out which one makes the most positive change for their clients. “There are over 86,000 registered charities in Canada. Some of them are doing an excellent job at helping people, helping society, and changing lives.  However, some charities are not,” Thomson says. “Some charities provide programs that are costly and accomplish very little in terms of making change occur in the lives of the people they work with. If donors do not want to have their donations wasted, they should do a little research to understand just how the charities they are working with are changing lives.”

Thomson also wanted to remind holiday shoppers that gift giving is a very personal experience. If you donate in someone else’s name, make sure it is a charity or social organization that does work they care about.

“It can certainly be a good thing to give a small gift in the name of a child and provide some background information to the child to get them to think about charity. But if you’re giving to an adult, I would recommend a CanadaHelps gift card so that the person can choose their own charity and make it more personal,” he said.

If you are looking for some options, here are the top 10 charities in Canada, according to Charity Intelligence, to give to this holiday season.

Aunt Leah’s Place: This BC-based organizations helps children in foster care and mother’s at risk of losing custody. Over 700 young people in British Columbia “age out” of the foster care system when they turn 19. These people don’t get any social or financial support from the government and often are forced to live on the street. Aunt Leah’s offers support housing as well as programs for mothers and people who have been left behind by the foster care system.

Calgary Urban Project Society: This charity helps people overcome poverty through a variety of education, health, and housing services. The educational services are especially important for children, who enter the program about 1.5 grade levels behind their peers.

Doctors without Borders: This charity is probably the most well known disaster response organization specializing in medical care It is a “first in” and “first out” response team that provides medical assistance to those injured in war or natural disasters.

Eva’s Initiative: Eva’s provides shelter and programs for at-risk youth. They have three shelters that can each host 123 young people a night. They also host training and education programs that help youth complete high school credits and gain access to post-secondary institutions. They also offer mental health services.

Food for Life: This organization, based out of Burlington, is distributing fresh and nutritional foods to to local agencies. Staff collect extra perishable goods from grocery stores and food agencies to donate to those in need. Food for Life helps over 4,000 people in Toronto, most of whom live on $4 a day.

Fresh Start Recovery Program: This agency helps treat men with alcohol and drug addictions. Fresh Start offers temporary housing during the 12-week abstinence-based program as well as counselling and financial support.

Indspire: Indspire helps Indigenous students across Canada complete their post-secondary education by providing financial support and education mentorship programs. Only 10 per cent of Indigenous students complete university degrees. Indspire is hoping to change that.

Jump Math: This organization runs math programs for children and elementary school students (up until grade 8) with the goal of encouraging more young people to love science and math. It also provides coaching and professional development programs for teachers and educators.

Moisson Montreal: Moisson Montreal is the largest food bank in Canada. It collects food donations and distributes it to local charities throughout the city. It also runs a food recovery program in which excess food supplies is collected from supermarkets.

At the end of the day, remember that giving is not restricted to the holiday season. Often charities experience a lull in donations in the New Year, making it difficult to maintain service quality year-round. If you are able, instead of making a one-time donation, make a smaller, but monthly donation.

Toronto’s Rita Skeeter is after TTC CEO Andy Byford

Why are certain journalists given leeway to sensationalize issues that are in fact non-issues? They twist words to create “a trap for fools” hoping to slingshot their career to international heights. Sensationalists get forgotten over time, while journalists dedicated to the truth, who don’t deal in opinion but report fact, always seem to survive the test of time. They don’t give in to the lure of fame by twisting words and creating controversy.

The latest witch hunt has been led by Jennifer Pagliaro at the Star – she’s determined to find scandal to build her name and slingshot into international fame, and now that the Toronto Transit Commission’s CEO Andy Byford is heading to New York, she has found the perfect opportunity to get recognition south of the border.

Pagliaro has taken a line that Byford quickly sent in a text message and twisted it out of context to such a degree it would make even the trashiest tabloid journalist squirm.

The text she is trying to make into a scandal was written in haste by Byford as he was preparing for his usual grilling at city council. Note the word preparing and think about how challenging it would be to face 40 councillors all with extensive questions (some whose lips move when they read, and others who grandstand on anything that could turn into an issue). Remember that Byford has to give council a full accounting of every decision he makes. His staff prepare briefing notes to help him prepare for committee and council meetings. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be consumed with “preparing” prior to such a grilling!

The text that Pagliaro and Councillor Matlow are trying to build into a scandal was sent by Byford to Matlow over a year ago as he was preparing for a council meeting. It reads “We have prepared a BN (briefing note) at the Chairs request and for the Mayors office.” This was an obvious mistake, and most at city hall knows the TTC does not prepare briefing notes for the mayor. In fact, it likely was meant to say “We have sent a BN at the Chairs request to the Mayors office.” If one were in the middle of preparing for a large council debate, it is easy to see how the word “prepared” might slip into a text sent in haste. But, it is also common knowledge that TTC staff prepare briefing notes for their CEO. Anyone who’s spent time at city hall knows the TTC does not prepare briefing notes for the Mayor!

I find it impossible to believe that Matlow would not have realized Byford’s text message had errors in it. It’s no secret that Councillor Matlow has yearned to be on the board of the TTC. I’m sure the man salivates over the sensitive information he’d have access to if he had a board position, and dreams of ways he could twist and sensationalize it. Instead of questioning Byford on the obvious mistake in his text message – which most councillors would have done, Matlow hid the text message, putting it into his arsenal to be used at a later date. (Who would save a text message for over a year if they didn’t want to use it for something devious?)

But, let me take this back to journalistic integrity – because the real issue is apparent on any given day at city hall. Those of us in the media cringe when we see Councillor Matlow and reporter Jennifer Pagliaro whispering and snickering together in council chambers. Don’t get me wrong, councillors and reporters talk all the time, but to see the two of them together constantly sends off warning bells. And to read an article today by Pagliaro that so obviously props up Matlow by sensationalizing this ridiculous text message has me shaking my head.

Many of us in the media have watched Matlow try to stir up controversy over the Scarborough subway, he’s suggested scandal and corruption since he first realized it would get him on the news. I wouldn’t doubt he’s behind those who pushed for an Auditor General investigation – but that issue backfired on him! The auditors report clearly states that there was no evidence that the TTC CEO Andy Byford or his staff deliberately misled council, or were influenced in any way by the Mayors office. It found that in fact there was no political interference at all.

Instead of chalking Byford’s text up to a typo, Pagliaro has become enthralled by Matlow’s grandstanding … like a hen attracted to a peacock. Determined to create scandal out of an error in a text message, she has never questioned why Councillor Matlow did not clarify the text message with Byford, or why he held on to it for so long, or the fact that this typo led to a witch hunt that proved completely vacuous. I’ve seen her at city hall whispering to Matlow too many times to count, so I know that she’s had plenty of time to question him. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if the real scandal at city hall may lie between this councillor and reporter!

But what bothers me most is that one of the best CEO’s of the TTC that Toronto has had is leaving our city with very little recognition of the fantastic job he has done in improving our transit system. From timing to signalling, efficiency to improving overall customer service, Andy Byford moved the TTC ahead decades.

He was accessible and responsive to a fault, and I think he trusted that any typo he might make in a text message sent in haste would not be secreted away and used to create a scandal. That Jennifer Pagliaro and Councillor Matlow are trying to use Byford’s good reputation to slingshot their own careers is beyond pathetic.

What you need to know about net neutrality

Net neutrality is all over the news. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with the support of U.S. President Donald Trump, wants to repeal the net neutrality laws put in place to create a more equal and open Internet. People gathered in 700 different cities across the United States (mostly outside Verizon stores) to protest these changes.

But, what exactly does this mean and why are people so upset? Women’s Post has you covered with this super easy to understand (and perhaps overly simplistic) primer:

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is essentially equality on the Internet — all data must be treated the same by all providers, browsers, and platforms. It prevents these companies from slowing down service (or preventing access entirely) to website, applications, and other features from competitors. Internet providers can deny access to certain sites either because you don’t pay enough or because they have their own service they would rather customers use.

For example, in 2014, Comcast got caught slowing down streaming on Netflix, and AT&T started a program that required apps to pay more money in order to ensure they used less data. All of these things gave certain platforms and applications an advantage over others.

What happened in 2015?

In 2015, President Barack Obama encouraged the FCC to regulate broadband Internet providers as a public utility, recognizing the Internet as a service necessary for economic and social growth, as well as a tool for innovation. Internet was reclassified as a telecommunications service in order to justify the change. Telecommunication companies are exempt from any kind of price control. It also led to more government control over broadband traffic.

In short: companies were not allowed to block or slow down the content of their rivals.

What is happening now?

Trump was elected and wants to overturn everything Obama has done. This includes net neutrality. What are the arguments for net neutrality? Republicans believe the government oversight associated with Open Internet was slowing investment in the technology.

Without net neutrality, it would also allow carriers like Verizon and AT&T to offer tiered pricing for Internet access — the more a person pays, the faster they get their Internet. Those who agree with the appeal say this will create a more stable marketplace and remove barriers for investment.

However, without net neutrality it becomes difficult for emerging technology companies or startups to get the same amount of speed as other sites. There will be no guarantee your site wouldn’t be blocked or that it won’t lag when potential customers come to use your product. There is also a socio-economic concern — if you have to pay more for Internet access that works; what will this mean for those who can’t afford it?

The new rules are scheduled to be voted on next Thursday, December 14.

What do you think? Should the U.S. repeal net neutrality? Let us know in the comments below!

What’s in the title “First Lady”?

The title of First Lady is widely recognized around the world as the descriptor of the wife of the President of the United States. But, what do you call the partner of the Prime Minister of Canada? This question actually popped into my head when editing a piece for Women’s Post. When addressing Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau do you use a title or do you just call her by her name?

In Canada, the spouse of the Prime Minister has no title. While some have mistakingly referred toSophie Grégoire-Trudeau as the “First Lady of Canada”, the fact of the matter is that the partner of the leader of this country has no official responsibilities in parliament. They can be as active as they want to be.

I have to wonder if the title of First Lady creates an image that American’s can’t shake — that the role of a woman is to be sitting at the side of her man. That there is a President, and there is a First Lady. The First Lady has a very specific role within the White House, to be involved in political campaigns, to manage the White House, to champion social causes, and to represent the president at official events and ceremonies. This is an important job to be sure, but it also creates a dangerous association between women and the role of managing a household and representing your spouse’s interests.

Whenever a woman gets close to running for president, there is always discussion about what her husband would be called. Is it First Gentleman, First Man, First Husband? It boggles everyones mind. People become consumed with this idea – of what that man’s title would be and what his role would be, as if it would be different than that of a woman.

In Canada, this association is non-existent. There is the Prime Minister, and then there is his or her spouse. This person does not receive special standing simply because of who he or she married. Most choose to take up social causes and to attend events, but it is not mandatory. And there is no gender-association with the role.

I guess to answer my first question — it’s simply Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, no title, no fuss.

Why you should make Bermuda your next travel destination

Bermuda is a tiny island paradise located in the north atlantic ocean closer to the outer regions of North Carolina and near the north-east of Miami, Florida — or more famously north of the Bermuda Triangle. This British overseas territory is home to only roughly 65,000 people, and while it is viewed as a single country, it actually consists of 181 small islands, with two main areas being St George’s and the capital Hamilton. Bermuda was discovered in 1508 by a Spanish explorer, Juan de Bermudez.

Bermuda is often confused with Barbuda, which is a part of Antigua and Barbuda in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. During Hurricane Irma, the island of Barbuda was completely ruined and almost all the residents evacuated. Many people who were unaware of the difference and kept confusing the two islands, though they are completely different and miles apart. This makes sense why Bermuda, which depends heavily on tourism, has boosted their tourism efforts by use of an ad campaign and a deal with Air Canada. Travellers can save 20 per cent if they book a flight by Dec 12 2017. If you are willing to take advantage of this deal, here are five things Women’s Post suggest you do in Bermuda

Horseshoe Bay Beach

One of the most popular places to go in Bermuda is Horseshoe Bay beach, known for its pinkish and smooth sand in juxtaposition to bright blue crystal waters. As the name suggests, this beach has a curved stretch similar to a horseshoe. It is located in the parish of Southampton and is one of the hottest tourist spots.

Crystal Caves

if you’re in the mood for exploring caves lined with heart stopping stalactite formations that look like droplets of crystals, Crystal Cave is the place to go. Travel underground to admire the natural beauty of these crystal straws. The formations are delicate and it’s a rare occurrence where water seeps through the cracks in rocks. The water, when combined with minerals overtime, hardens as each droplet expands. The result is the stunning clusters of natural crystal chandeliers hovering above light blue waters. The Crystal Caves are referred to as Bermuda’s true hidden treasure.

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse

Build in 1844, this lighthouse is one of the first in the world to be made with cast iron. It takes 185 steps to get to the top. This lighthouse was originally operated by the British army. The stunning structure stand 245 feet high and offers stunning views of Fairmont Southampton. The foot of the former lighthouse keepers cottage is now a restaurant that draws many tourists wishing to look out onto the sea as they have lunch.

Royal Naval Dockyard

If you are interested in exploring one of the more historic parts of Bermuda, consider visiting the Royal Naval Dockyard located on Ireland island. This base served as the site for the British royal navy during American independence and the cold war. The dockyard is a popular port for cruise ships well as the home of various sporting events, including the America’s cup which is won for yacht sailing races and this event was held in June of this year

Any Water/Outdoor activity

While Bermuda has a subtropical climate, these milder conditions make it comforting to take part in many activities while outside without fear of overheating. Water sports are big in Bermuda. You can try sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, scuba diving or a long list of boat tours offered on the island. The main thing is to get out there and have fun while exploring this unique and picturesque country.

Get out there and explore ! Comment below if you will make Bermuda your next destination

Toronto mayor moves to create 400 new shelter spaces

Toronto Mayor John Tory announced over the weekend his desire to create 400 new spaces within existing shelters for the city’s homeless “as soon as possible.” This statement was made at the tip of Toronto’s homelessness crisis, in which one of four children live in poverty.

As of October 30, 2017, 70 homeless people have died on the streets. Over 5,400 people on average used a shelter night in the month of November.

“We’re already underway, talking to each of the shelters that exists in the city of Toronto, asking them to add capacity wherever they possibly can,” he said. These new spaces would include motels, shelters and drop-in centres.

It was previously suggested that Toronto open up armouries at Fort York and Moss Park to use as shelters, but that idea has been dismissed as they are under federal jurisdiction. The mayor also said he would not be declaring an official emergency. The plan would cost about $10 million from the city’s reserves.

Housing advocates have said this plan will put a strain on facilities already suffering from overcrowding. Most shelters are 96 to 100 per cent at capacity, especially during the winter months. Statistics also show that 95 per cent of motel beds in Toronto are used to house homeless people. Advocates say it would be easier and cheaper to open up the armouries.

This response caused a little bit of a stir at city council on Tuesday, with the mayor coming forward with facts from staff that say opening the armouries would be expensive and problematic.

“I will be bringing together private and non-profit housing providers to work with staff and the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness to rapidly house as many people as possible,” he said in a statement. “Homelessness is a complex issue that we cannot ignore. While I know for some, our concrete solutions will never be enough – I know we can’t simply do nothing, we must take decisive action and I’m confident Council will join me in taking decisive action.”

Under the mayor’s plan, the city hopes to find space for 200 people by January.

This announcement is the first of a number of steps the City of Toronto is going to take to combat poverty. City council has also pledged to create more low-income and social housing, and hopes to get funding and support from the federal government under the new National Housing Strategy.

Have a Caribbean inspired Christmas in Toronto

What’s Christmas like in your home country ? I recently started thinking about the way people hold different Christmas traditions close to their heart. Some people dream of snow on Christmas and look forward to icy winters and warm hot chocolate. Christmas for me, however, has been different, growing up in a tropical country. If you can’t physically go to the Caribbean and experience the holiday season for yourself, here are some ways to have an island-inspired Christmas.

Caribbean Foods

Everyone loves good food — it’s one of the driving factors at every holiday celebration, no matter the culture. One of the more popular Christmas dishes you can expect to find in mostly all the islands is Christmas rum cake. This is a sponge cake with various dried fruits that has been soaked in rum, after baking. Splash more rum on the cake to add delicious flavour as well as preserve the cake for almost up to a year. Just don’t go too heavy on the rum or you’ll  become intoxicated from eating to much cake. Also, try Caribbean classics like sorrel punch and ginger beer.

Caribbean Decor

When you think of the islands, you think of warm sunshine and lots of palm trees! Palm trees are an amazing way to add a tropical touch to any room. Certain design ideas include making a Christmas wreath out of palm leaves or the funniest one that’s been circulating  on social media is a Christmas pineapple. For people that don’t want, or have time for a tree, a pineapple can easily be decorated to invoke that Christmas island feel. For the record, I have never done this and I don’t believe this is a Caribbean tradition, but its certainly festive and island-like.

Caribbean Music

Just like for any other season of the year, the creative geniuses and musical talents originating from Trinidad and Tobago know how to make Christmas in the Caribbean lively. There is a special genre of music called Parang that originated in Venezuela and Trinidad. The music revolves around an island christmas. Soca-Parang is a mixture of Soca beats and traditional Christmas songs. Similar to carolling , in some places in Trinidad people go home to home singing parang music in exchange for treats of sorrel drink or rum punch.

Caribbean Christmas Pop-up

If you’re considering what it would be like to experience a Caribbean island Christmas, there is a special Christmas pop up market coming to Toronto on Dec 16. The pop-up market is presented by Jamaican Eats Magazine and inspires  the taste, shop and style of the Caribbean. The event will be held at the Ralph Thornton Community Centre on Queen Street East. Expect to find more rum cake, a special treasure hunt and Caribbean inspired greeting cards.

Australian MP proposes to partner on House floor

Be prepared to tear up!

As Australia’s Parliament debated a bill that would legalize same sex marriage, conservative MP Tim Wilson proposed to his partner on the House floor.

“”In my first speech I defined our bond by the ring that sits on both of our left hands, and they are the answer to a question we cannot ask. There’s only one thing left to do: Ryan Patrick Bolger, will you marry me?”

His partner, a primary school teacher, sat in the public gallery and mouthed the word “yes” to the applause of other members of the House. He was grinning from ear to ear while Wilson, still trying to remain professional on the floor, tried to keep it together, albeit unsuccessfully. The proposal was recorded in the official parliamentary record.

“I should let Hansard note to record that that was a ‘yes’ — a resounding yes,” said the deputy speaker. “Congratulations.”

Wilson and Bolger have been partners for a long time, but did not want to get officially engaged until it was legal for them to get married. Wilson was one of the first lawmakers to support the bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

The bill is expected to pass based on a non-binary referendum took place in which 61.6 per cent of respondents voted to approve the legislation by Christmas. However, the Senate is fighting to include amendments to the bill that would allow those affiliated with the church, including wedding celebrants, to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages.

Surprisingly, the Australian Prime Minister is supporting these amendments under the coin of religious freedom If the amendments aren’t approved, the bill could be delayed further.

Same-sex marriage was banned in Australia in 2004 when the Marriage Act was amended to define the union as being between a man and a woman. The government has received a lot of pressure to change the Act, especially after Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015.

While couples throughout Australia wait to find out of they can finally marry the people they love, lets take the time to congratulate Wilson and Bolger on their engagement! And for making history as the first person ever to propose on Australia’s Parliament floor!