January 2016


Should you look into an electric car? Yes!

Cutting down on carbon emissions is an important issue on Ontario’s environmental agenda, and electric vehicles are considered as a great long-term solution.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining popularity, with 5,400 EVs registered in Ontario to date, according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO). Though public transportation, biking, and walking are the most sustainable forms of travel, people who choose to drive are being offered a green alternative that has great perks.

The initial cost for an electric vehicle can be daunting, ranging from the Fortwo Electric Drive at $26,990 to the BMW i8 at $150,000. The top selling electric car in Canada is the Tesla Model S, which costs $107,000.

Fortunately, Ontario provides an incentive to help people purchase these pricey vehicles. Up to a $8,500 rebate is provided to customers that have a qualifiable EV. The MTO provides a list of battery electric cars and plug-in Hybrid cars that are applicable for the rebate on their website.

Furthermore, the province is providing up to $1000 in rebates for a home-powered charging stations. An approved EV motorist will also receive a green plate that allows them to travel in HOV lanes as an added bonus.

There are currently two types of EVs  offered in Canada; battery electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric cars. Battery electric cars are powered 100 per cent by electricity. They have large battery packs that need to be charged at various charging stations. Plug-in hybrid electric cars are also charged by being plugged in but have smaller battery packs for shorter electric drives. A gas engine or generator will start to run on longer trips when the electric battery runs out.

Though EVs can be pricey initially, they are have great long-term cost savings because electricity is much cheaper than fuel. Emissions are relative to the specific EV that is purchased and Plug N’ Drive, a not-for-profit organization committed to accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles, provides a cost comparison chart that shows how much carbon each vehicle would produce and what the equates to in dollar form. For example, the Tesla Model S creates  1.9 kg of carbon per 100 km, which costs $3.14. Comparatively, if the Tesla was a full gas vehicle, it would create 17.8 kg of carbon per 100 km and cost $9.86.

Electric cars also need less overall maintenance. “Electric cars use an electric motor, a durable technology with one moving part. In addition, electric cars don’t require oil changes, coolant flushes, mufflers or exhaust systems,” the Plug N’ Drive explains. “Bottom line… less money spent on maintenance means more money in your pocket.”

Currently, transportation is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the province. GHGs account for more carbon emissions than iron, steel, cement, and chemical industries combined.

Ontario is embracing the revolution of the electric car as a part of their new Green Investment Fund. Ever since the climate change conference in 2015, protecting the environment has become a priority for the country. The province has invested $20 million into building EV charging stations across Ontario.

“Ontario’s new Green Investment Fund offers exciting opportunities to revolutionize how we live, work, move and play as we fight climate change,” Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen R. Murray, said in a statement. “This initial investment is just the start of many more bold steps we’ll be taking to promote electric cars as a sustainable transportation choice and to reduce greenhouse gas pollution in other sectors.”

Because #Femlitcan can change the world

Inanna Publications firmly believes that feminist literature can change the world and enhance the lives of women everywhere:

“As we continue the ongoing work to defend equal political, economic and social rights for women globally, it is important to promote Canadian feminist literature that explores these themes from diverse women’s perspectives and sites of struggle; to elucidate what it means to be a woman living in  Canada today, and how we, in turn, relate to the world.”

To change attitudes and sexist reading habits, it is necessary for visionary pieces of literature written, and about, women to become common thread. Inanna Publications and Education Inc. is a Canadian independent feminist press, one of the few in the country committed to publishing fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction by and about women. They were founded in 1978 and were housed at York University until 1984. They publish one of Canada’s oldest feminist journalist, Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme.

Their website explains that their priorities “are to publish literary books, in particularly by fresh, new Canadian voices, that are intellectually rigorous, speak to women’s hearts, and tell truths about the lives of the broad diversity of Canadian women—smart books for people who want to read and think about real women’s lives.”

In addition to acting as a publishing agency, Inanna is taking the world by force with their new campaign: #femlitcan. The initiative began in 2015 and builds off of the #ReadWomen hashtag established by the Guardian‘s Joanna Walsh in 2014 — what’s different is that #femlitcan is bringing attention to Canadian feminist writers and literature, specifically with the hope that it informs ongoing political and conversations conversations about women. Users who read or have interactions with feminist literature should feel free to tweet about their experiences or observations using this hashtag — spreading the word is the only way to create change.

Inanna publishes about 16-20 pieces of literature a year and only chooses work of the highest calibre. Here are some of the newest arrivals from their forthcoming spring 2016 collection:


The Dead Man, written by prize-winning author Nora Gold, tells the story of Eve, a music composer who is compelled to return to Israel to get over a brief relationship she had with world-famous music critic, and old beau, Jake. Throughout her travels, she stuggles to understand their complex relationship and complete a song cycle she started and hasn’t been able to finish.  Gold tells a story of loss, love, grief, and the power of art in this compelling novel.



All of my Fallen Angelas is a collection of stories inspired by the lives of Italian-Canadian women living in Toronto from the 1960s to the present. These stories, which were written by Gianna Patriarca, don’t simply tell the stories of Italian-Canadian women — they are also exceptional pieces of literature that tell humourous, sometimes tragic, tales reflecting the pure essence of humanity.



What Happened to Tom is a psychologically and philosophical thriller that finds the main character, Tom, stuck in a situation analogous to an unwanted pregnancy. His body has been hijacked and turned into a human kidney dialysis machine. The author, feminist, writer, and philosopher Peg Tittle, uses Tom’s unique predicament as the ultimate allegory about women’s reproductive rights.



One Bead at a Time is the oral memoir of Beverly Little Thunder, a two-spirit Lakota Elder from Standing Rock, who has lived most of her life in service to Indigenous and non-indigenous women throughout North America. Little Thunder’s narrative is told verbatim by Sharron Proulx-Turner, a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta and two-spirit nokomis, mom, writer and community worker.


Rescue final2

Eva Tihanyi tells the story of birth, death, and everything in between in her eighth volume of poetry The Largeness of Rescue. This piece of literature helps us travel along our own storyline by engaging with ourselves, the world, and taking the time to come to terms with our own humanity.



Inanna is currently offering a special promotion: 30 per cent off books on the website, using the promo code #femlitcan. Take advantage of this promo before it ends on June 30, 2016. The spring collection becomes available in April and May 2016. Want to know more about the books published by Inanna, check out their trade and academic catalogues.

Net Zero: The sustainable building solution

Could you imagine all of the buildings in Canada producing as much energy as they create? It might yet be possible with the net zero building strategy gaining ground.

Net zero buildings are gaining worldwide attention in the face of the blatant climate crisis. The ideas is that a house or building would produce as much energy as it uses over the course of one year. This is a rigorous and difficult standard to meet; but it does pose an important challenge to developers and architects.

The challenge: to transform how we think about design and construction. Net zero requires the building produces as much as it uses in a year through renewable energy resources without the use of on-site combustion, or any carbon-creating materials. Developers looking to adhere to net zero standards must look towards the International Living Future Institute, who created the Net Zero Energy Building Certification (NZEP), the worldwide standard for sustainable building. Their report, Living Building Challenge 3.0, explains, “the challenge aims to transform how we think about every single act of design and construction as an opportunity to positively impact the greater community of life and the cultural fabric of our human communities.”

There are many ways for buildings to reach net zero standards through heating, cooling, electrical needs, energy conservation, and on-site renewable generation. Some examples of net zero resources include solar panels, wind energy, geothermal technologies, and adjustable windows for natural cooling.

Energy consumption of commercial and institutional buildings in Canada accounts for 12 per cent of the country’s secondary energy use and produces 11 per cent of the national Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Without a dedication to producing sustainable buildings, these numbers will only increase. The challenge remains how to create net zero infrastructure that will keep Canadians warm during the sometimes harsh winters they face. The Canadian government has funded a strategic research network that gathers 29 researchers from 15 universities nation-wide to look into how to implement net zero infrastructure in a country where the climate is so precarious.

Photovoltaics has emerged as a potential heating source for residential and commercial net zero buildings. This energy source converts solar energy into direct current electricity and produces a photovoltaic effect.  The first commercial net zero building in Canada, the Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce, used this energy source to heat their state-of-the-art commercial building successfully in chilly Edmonton. The first residential net zero building was established in Guelph, Ont. with the grand opening in September 2015.

Imagine a city full of buildings that create their own energy! Of course, this dream won’t become a reality for at least a decade, but we can at least start to work towards it. How else are we going to reduce our carbon footprint enough to actually make a difference?

The journey of the tarot

When people think of a tarot reading, it often conjures up an image of a gypsy in colourful garb, laying out cards with gnarled hands, telling a future of forbidding elements.

In actuality, tarot has a complex and meaningful history, and can be a helpful means to gaining personal insight into the unconscious mind. Tarot is divided into two categories; the Major Arcana, which consists of 22 cards, and the Minor Arcana, which has 56 cards, creating a full set of 78 cards.

History of the tarot

The first tarot card decks can be traced as far back as the sixth century B.C in Persia. According to a study written by Helen Farley, a lecturer in Studies in Religion and Estoricism at the University of Queenland, tarot was “incorporated into Islamic heraldry and also among those Shi’ah Muslims that came to be known as Sufis.” Farley explains that Arifi of Heart, a fifteenth century Sufi poet, described the practice of tarot in his poetry, even so far as passionately exclaiming: “He knows about it all – He knows – HE knows!”.

Tarot cards steadily made their way north into Europe through trade routes and were popularized in Italy in the fifteenth century. The earliest well-known tarot deck from this era is called the Visconti-Sforza and was created for Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan in 1450. The 22 Major Arcana was created at this time and, with slight variations, has subsisted throughout the ages.

In the eighteenth century, France experienced the French Occult Revival due to increasing doubt in standard Christian practices. Interestingly, most tarot decks have elements of Christian mysticism. The tarot de Marseilles was created by Pierre Madenie of Dihon in 1709 and became immensely popular in France.

In 1909, A.E Waite and Pamela Colman Smith created the Rider-Waite-Smith Deck in Britain, arguably the most significant deck of tarot cards in the world today. Both were members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a popular Christian cult at the time. Many of their decks are used worldwide today, but the number of Major and Minor arcana remain consistent across geographical boundaries.

The true meaning of tarot

Tarot is often mislabeled as a hoax because it is misused as a way of telling the future. Tarot is not a tool of foretelling what is to come, but is instead a method of understanding the unconscious realities of the present moment.

Psychologist, film maker and artist, Alejandro Jodorowsky is the creator of a modern doctrine called psychomagic that helps people use creative methods to access their subconscious mind as a source of healing. Tarot is an essential part of psychomagic, because it allows people to understand themselves and their present lives through the context of esoteric symbols.

“You must not talk about the future, the future is a con,” Jodorowsky says in one of his films. “The tarot is a language that talks about the present. If you use it to read the future, you become a conman”.

Edusemiotics is the intersection of educational philosophy and the science of signs. Tarot is a popular example of edusemiotics because it uses an encyclopedia of symbols to understand life. It is an objective method of discovering your subconscious because the cards within the deck are universal; however, the unique combination of cards create an individual subjective experience.

Arcana is a derivative of “Arcane meaning “mysterious or secret, understood by few” and compliments the major and minor arcana in the tarot. The cards collectively help people to understand their lives in context, but the symbols in the cards are often rejected because of their multiplicity in meaning.

“The symbolic journey through Arcana includes multiple life-lessons that need to be learned so that the traveler – a learner – can achieve individuation,” writes Inna Semetsky, author of The Edusemiotics of Images Essays on the Art-Science of Tarot.  “The images denote archetypes of the universal memory pool shared by humankind, their messages would have the same significance cross-culturally, at different times and in different places.”

The major arcana begins with the Fool, a childlike figure who naively ventures into the world. The deck concludes with the World as the final card. Each of the elements in-between are characteristics of life itself, ranging from Strength, to the Lovers, to Temperance, and Justice. We all collectively experience the same emotions, challenges, and trials, though they present themselves in different forms. Tarot allows our stories to be told and shared with ourselves. Even more so, it allows people to collectively see their experiences as communal, while understanding the personalized elements that arises from the card they face in that moment. Ultimately, tarot is a map of human experience, standing the test of time.

“When the Fool spontaneously “decides” to jump into the abyss, he is bound to create novelty and become the other by virtue of embodied experiences,” Semetsky says. “Where the human mind comes in contact with the world … When the new is created, the far and strange become the most natural inevitable things in the world.”

Villa Arches in Sint. Maarten

St. Martin or Sint. Maarten is the smallest island in the world to have two different countries each governing one half. The north side of the island is French, while the south side is Dutch. Our villa, Villa Arches, is on the Dutch side,  just south of the French border in Dawn Beach.

The villa is perched on the east side of a mountain and has a wonderful view of dawn beach and the morning sunrise. With warm red italian tiles and wide doors open to let in the cool breezes from the ocean, it is a terrific spot to watch the large boats come in to anchor in the protected cove far below, and also take in some sun and a swim in a good-sized pool.

The villa is well stocked with pots and pans, a coffee maker, and utensils and, unlike a lot of islands, the wifi and electricity was reliable and never went out during our stay.

We had dinner at “Big Fish” a fantastic seafood restaurant in Oyster Pond right beside Dawn Beach. The restaurant is owned by Teresa and Mike Wilson, a terrific couple from Toronto – who started the Fox and Fiddle chain of restaurants. Their sushi chef was terrific, but so too was the snapper, shrimp dinner and passionfruit sorbet. It’s a must visit when in St. Martin.

We drove around the island and stopped at a couple of beaches – Friars Bay, Le Gallion – which were too crowded for our liking. We read about Happy Bay beach, which is a short hike north of Friars bay, and were delighted to find it after a wonderful walk along the coast.

We had lunch in Grand Case and ate at a beach bar with an amazing chef. The beach is narrow with restaurants built right up against it. The only drawback was that it lacked beach chairs, so it is not a great place to take elderly visitors – although the kids enjoyed it.

The butterfly farm is a great place to visit on a sunny day and the market in Marigot (French side) and Phillipsburg (Dutch)- filled with colourful wraps, bags and jewelry were filled with activity.

Photo by Sarah Thomson
Photo by Sarah Thomson

Villa Arches is conveniently located so that excursions around the island didn’t take more than 30 minutes and it was nice leave the bustle of Marigot and come home to a quiet villa with the sound of waves breaking on the shore far below.

The only negative draw back is for those who must get sun –  the villa is tucked onto the east side of the mountain so by 4 p.m. the sun is blocked by the mountain, making late afternoon sun tanning impossible. But, we found that by that time in the day we’d had enough sun that it was rarely missed and the warm breezes with a cocktail sitting out on the deck more than made up for the lack of sun.

Wherever we go, I find it is the people who make or break a vacation. We rented a car from Dollar-Thrifty SXM and unfortunately had a tire blow out on the road. They were terrific people and delivered a new car to our villa. While we waited on the side of the road for our taxi to arrive – numerous locals stopped to make sure we were okay and offer help. The locals are terrific.

The only negative attitudes we experienced during our trip came from the people representing the Westin Resort at Dawn Beach. We were flagged down by two of their sales people – they were friendly but wanted us to scratch some tickets to win a prize once we had taken a 90 minute tour of the Westin Dawn Beach and learned about their fractional ownership units. The sales people warned us that other staff might try to take their commission so we should hold on to our scratch tickets and we could win a stay at the resort, an Ipad, or a$1000. We received two sets of cards – two weren’t winners and two were. But the prize was a stay for four at the Westin Dawn beach that could not be used in the week that they are issued. They were also non-transferrable.

The Westin Resort at Dawn Beach is just down the hill from Villa Arches and I wanted to check out their beach to see if my mother could swim there. I also wanted to check out their service, thinking that if they had to sell fractional ownership it might be abysmal. Customer service is so easy, but can be completely messed up if the staff don’t feel encouraged or supported. We poked around and found the restaurant and beach practically empty. I decided to talk to a supervisor about getting a day pass to review the resort.  When I spoke to him to see if we might purchase a day pass in order to review the resort, he claimed they were completely sold out. I told him the place was practically empty, but all he did was shrug. So we decided to ignore him and use the beach facilities anyway.

The beach chairs were mostly empty and the waves were pretty rough, but we had a nice swim and left without anyone the wiser. What irked me most was that the supervisor refused us access to review the resort while, at the same time, they are paying people to go out and lure possible customers into the resort. Terrible management and customer service. If a resort like the Westin at Dawn Beach has to sell fractional ownership  then they obviously aren’t providing the highest possible service at the best possible price.

Instead of luring people to the resort with “scratch tickets,” simply try welcoming everyone who walks through the door, offering them a free drink at the beach bar, and enticing them to come back everyday and spend money at the restaurants, on beach chairs, and towels — giving them great service the entire time. It’s much more likely their next stay will be with you. Instead the Westin Dawn Beach gave the impression they were trying to be an “elite” club while behind the doors the room was empty.

I highly recommend spending $3500 and renting Villa Arches for a week – where the customer service from the owner far exceeded anything the Westin Dawn Beach can offer!


An introvert takes pole fitness

It was just starting to get dark as I walked into Seduction, a boutique sex shop. As I weaved through the rows of bustiers and various frilled and laced lingerie, I couldn’t help but think “what did I get myself in to.” On the third floor of Seduction on Yonge and Wellesly is the Brass Vixens studio, where a group of women were getting changed to participate in a beginner level pole fitness class.


I was about to become one of those women.

Before saying much more, I have to explain something. I’m an introvert — I don’t often think of myself as sexy and I certainly wouldn’t wear anything that could be found at Seduction. My idea of a workout is going for a run or doing some yoga in my living room. Solitary activities mostly.

I’m also a short, overweight woman with large arms, chubby thighs, and a bit of a tummy. I’m not ashamed of how I’m built, but it did make me a bit self-conscious when I walked into the class and say the other women wearing booty shorts and shirts showing their midriff. (For those interested, I wore tights that went to my ankles and a long, loose sleeveless shirt.)

The studio was dimly lit, with about a dozen metal poles evenly spread throughout the room. Music was lightly playing in the background as our instructor, Lady Kori, walked to the centre of the room. I slowly raised my hands when she asked if there were any newbies to pole fitness, and she smiled when I expressed concern regarding my upper body strength. “Not to worry,” she said. “We will do some exercises that will help build that muscle.”

The class begins with a few simple stretching exercises and a sexy saunter around the pole. Arms outstretched, we were encouraged to strut on our toes as if in heels (for those of us not quite comfortable enough to already be wearing them). We would switch directions with a squat/dip, pushing out our bums and rounding our hips. Every once in a while she would tell us to drop and spread our legs, flashing our partners. I avoided all eye contact with both my partner and the giant mirror on the wall, which instead of making me feel sexy, made me ever so aware of how foreign those body movements were to me. During one round, Lady Kori said to toss our hair and give our bums a slap. I burst into a giggle fit. Suffice to say, I felt a bit ridiculous — I also may have skipped the slap.

We then moved on to try some spins, which I loved! Something about the speed of the turn was exhilarating. It also felt good to do a move that felt a bit more athletic and not particularly “sexy”.  Then, we tried to lift ourselves off the floor. That was a bit more challenging. I would tighten my grip, curl my biceps into the pole, jump …. then sink slowly down to the floor, my hands squeaking against the metal. I felt more like a fireman than a pole dancer.

We then combined all of the moves — the walk, the dip, and the jump. Sultry music played in the background as we whipped our hair, stuck out our hips, and twisted around the pole, sliding up and down as if a we were a bear trying to scratch its back. It may have all felt a little awkward, foreign, and downright weird, but I am proud to say that by the end of the class, I was able to lift myself off the ground for at least a few seconds, spin around the pole, and land in a semi-perfect squat position.

Despite the physical setbacks, it was a fun evening. Lady Kori was an excellent instructor. She would circle around the room and give advice to each person individually.  She knew which muscles were being used and was able to explain exactly how to move your body so that the lifts and spins worked your core and biceps properly.

The one thing I didn’t like about the class was that you had to share a pole. You can get quite close to your partner, flashing them during the dips and touching each others hands during the turns. This would be a perfect class to go to with a friend — it would avoid the awkward eye content and nods of approval you felt like giving your partner. The pole sharing also cut into the class time. During jumps and lifts, only one person could use the pole at a time, which meant that an hour class was actually 40 minutes of fitness. When we weren’t working the pole, we just stood to the side of the room. It felt like a bit of a waste.

The first-timers were also not told of the fact there were different sizes of poles until the end of the class. Once I tried a thiner pole, I realized how much easier it was to use. I didn’t have to stretch my palms to get a grip on the slippery metal.

At the end of the class, a friend of mine texted me: “So, did you feel sexy?” I answered: “no, not really.” But, I don’t think that was the class’ fault. It’s hard to make someone “feel sexy” in the span of 60 minutes, especially if they didn’t walk into the class feeling that way.

After saying that, the class did make me feel more confident in my skin. It made me feel like it was okay to move sensually — and that I was actually capable of doing it! Who knows? Maybe the next step is to pick up one of those laced bustiers.

…On second thought, maybe not.

5 Easter crafts made of recycled materials

Easter is a great time to make crafts and enjoy spring festivities. Many Easter crafts can be quite wasteful so why not enjoy the festivities by recycling products and having fun at the same time?

Here are great recycled Easter crafts for ages young and old.

Image credit:
Image credit:

Recycled Juice Carton Easter Basket

Have you polished off that OJ and are now left with an empty juice carton? Why not turn it into an Easter basket? Make sure the carton has been rinsed out and dried. Remove the spout from the carton and wrap it in colourful paper that is either glued or taped. Use another piece of paper and cut it into a strip and then attach it to the box. If desired, use extra decorations such as flowers or sparkles to make characterize the basket. This is a great option for children and is an opportunity to teach them about re-using items for craft projects.

Taken from


A Watering Can Centerpiece

Instead of buying fresh decorations for a weekend celebration, why not use items you already have to make your house more festive? Find an old watering can, preferably tin, and put in a variety of flowers and branches to celebrate the spring season. If you use sage and rosemary, it also adds a festive spring scent to the dinner table.

Inspired by

By Jodimichelle
By Jodimichelle

Egg carton flowers

Egg carton flowers are a great craft for kids and are a lot of fun to make. Cut up an egg carton into individual containers and paint each one any colour you prefer. Glue a pompom into the center to give it some texture. Next, poke a hole in the bottom of the carton piece and feed a green pipe cleaner through the hole. To add an additional flare, fan out the green pipe cleaners to make it look more like leaves.

Taken from

chicksCardboard Tube Chicks

What to do with the dozens of toilet paper rolls you’re left with at the end of the week? Make little chicks of course! Take a toilet paper roll and cut it in half, then paint it yellow on the outside and inside. Take three yellow pipe cleaners and trim it to just over the size of the roll, and glue it in so it goes over the top edge of the roll to make three fuzzy hairs. Attach two orange pipe cleaners on the bottom for feet and two more orange cleaners in the sides for arms. Paint a face and a beak and enjoy your new recycled chick.

Taken from

Easter Garland

A colourful and easy Easter garland can be created by cutting out paint swatches into egg shapes and attaching them in a chain using string or ribbon. They can then be hung to create a festive and fun Easter decoration that has no cost and re-uses the paint chips.

Taken from

Do you have any favourite Easter crafts? Let us know in the comments below!


Woman of the Week: Beatrix Dart

Beatrix Dart believes that women are the better innovators, even though they’ve been cultivated to remain in the shadows.

“They are more creative in their thinking, but they are also more detail-oriented and willing to follow up on the smaller components, and that makes or breaks a good project idea,” Dart explained. “Women also have the advantage of being better in collaboration and not being afraid to raise their hands and say they need help. There is not as much pride or ego involved.”

Dart is a professor of strategy and executive director of the Initiative for Women in Business at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. She exudes passion for her field and her energy is contagious. Speaking with her in her office at U of T, her mid-morning snack — yogurt from the cafe downstairs — remained untouched as she spoke with great animation about the future of women in business.

Dart’s list of academia accomplishments is impressive: She has a degree in physics and quantitative economics, a degree in information sciences, and a PhD in Economics and statistics. “I was a very quantitative person by background. I felt very comfortable in that environment because it was really logical.”

Her first job after graduation was with McKinsey & Company, an international management consulting firm. Dart fell in love with the job, but she found it challenging to move from the intensive, solitary lifestyle of PhD research to a more active role in public relations.

“That changed my perspective — I went from thinking that being brilliant means being logical, analytical, and smart, to being brilliant actually means being a person people can trust, want to work with, and who will take the recommendation and move forward.”

Dart’s first introduction into gender politics was when she became pregnant with her first child. She was approached by McKinsey & Company and asked to participate in an internal project about how to keep female consultants once they become mothers. The results showed a definite bias towards women after pregnancy.

“Suddenly people make assumptions about you and suddenly all these gender barriers you’ve heard about kick in. They really exist,” Dart said. “Who is taking care of the child? Who is taking time off to go to the doctor? The assumptions are always made for you. They think: ‘Oh, I don’t think she will be ready to take on this project because now she has a newborn at home.’ They will not even ask you.”

This internal project kickstarted a deeper passion within Dart for gender studies. When she returned to academia at Rotman, she noticed a lack of women in the program. This spurred the Initiative for Women in Business, a set of programs that Dart helped found in 2008 specifically tailored to advance the career of women in business. The initiative now has 1,500-2000 professional women within their network. The most popular program is the back to work course, which helps women who have been out of the industry for three to eight years return to the market.

Dart also chairs the steering committee for the 30% Club in Canada, an organization that works to help women get on corporate boards.

One of the biggest challenges for women in the workforce is salary negotiation, ensuring they receive fair compensation for the work they produce. The wage discrepancies we hear about on a daily bases do exist, and lack of negotiations is one of the reasons why.

“It’s true, unfortunately, that women are not as strong at negotiating on their own behalf in particular,” she said. “We are not cultivated to market ourselves and toot our own horn.”

Dart cited a study conducted by Catalyst Canada that reviewed the salaries of MBA graduates. It was found that women, on average, received anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000 less as a starting salary, simply because of a lack of negotiating.

“The worst part of that, if you think of how a salary develops over years, you get a percentage increase,” Dart said. “So if you don’t negotiate the same starting salary, it goes up! Your salary gap gets bigger and bigger over the years.”

Dart offered up some tips for women who don’t feel comfortable with salary negotiations. The first is to change your mindset — pretend you are negotiating on behalf of someone you love or someone who is dependent on you. An example is a child or a senior parent. “We are actually viciously good negotiators if we negotiate on behalf of our kids. We will ask for the world.”

Another is to always ask “what else can you do for me.” Those seven words can open up the conversation and the employer may offer a salary increase, extended vacation days, or maybe an allowance for transportation. The biggest challenge, according to Dart, is who puts out the first number, something that is called setting the ceiling. Dart suggests allowing the employer to do so by asking what the typical range of pay is for the position. If that doesn’t work, make sure to do your research. Find out what people are making in comparable positions. Dart suggestions the website, which offers standard salary ranges for various positions in different companies. And finally, always suggest the higher range and have an argument to back up why you are worth it.

For Dart, equality in salary and within the workforce isn’t the only thing she is fighting for. “If I had a magic wand and I could change one thing, I probably would try to create more equality for men and women at the home front.” She is currently reading “Unfinished Business” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a book that offers up a solution found in Denmark and Sweden, a solution Dart firmly believes Canada should implement — mandatory paid parental leave for both parents in exchange for government subsidy.

When she isn’t working, Dart loves to travel and explore different cultures. Her favourite place to visit, to date, is India.

Mayor Tory creates a win for Scarborough transit

When it comes to transit in Toronto the Scarborough subway line has been the most contentious issue over the past decade. Ridership numbers barely supported the need for a four stop subway, and the lack of transit further west left a gap in the transit map that shamed many.

The plan brought forward today by Mayor Tory and Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat is one that will fill in the transit gap west of McCowan. Not only does it rely on well thought out research by transit experts in the form of the Eglinton LRT extension east to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, but it also allows a high-speed subway extension from Kennedy to the Scarborough Town Centre.

Creating a one-stop subway line will free up funds (subway stations cost approximately $200 million) to allow the addition of a 17-stop extension of the Eglinton LRT east to connect five high-priority neighbourhoods in Scarborough.

The new plan will bring rail transit to 64,000 people in Scarborough who currently aren’t using it. And the plan unites those wanting subway with those wanting LRT on council. It is a transit plan founded on informed, good judgement from transit experts that was designed to build consensus rather than create division at city hall.
With this plan for Scarborough transit, Mayor Tory might accomplish what no other mayor in the past few decades has — unite the city around a transit plan that everyone can support. His plan is the right, reasonable, and responsible approach to building the transit Toronto so desperately needs.

Phantom of the Opera, or Phantom of the Eeeek

EEEEEK! That’s all I can say about director Laurence Connor’s version of the Phantom of the Opera, performed at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.

The musical is a favourite of mine, touching on the power of music, love, and passion. It mocks the prima donnas and those attracted to the phoniness that exists in the world of opera.

I’ve seen the Phantom of the Opera more then a dozen times, and while I can usually get through a poor singer or muddled dance performance, tonight was painful. This time the dancers and singers were not to blame, it was the choreography and the interpretation of the musical. The production was so shallow it left me feeling as if director Laurence Connor and cheoreographer Scott Ambler had no depth in their understanding of the relationship between a man and a woman. The attraction the character of Christine should have had to genius and teacher the Phantom didn’t exist. Her ability to sing with passion and authenticity when she drops the operatic pretense was gone. Instead, Christine came across more as the prima donna devoid of depth, clinging to her falseness.

The main point of the musical is to show the opposition between the Phantom’s ugly disfigurement and the beauty he and Christine are able to produce together through song.  That beauty is in contrast to the fake quality of the opera singer — a quality the young dancer is supposed to replace with her authentic voice.

Instead, the performance simply substituted one prima donna for another.  The opera never ended and the scenes that required the opera voice to be replaced by an authentic voice filled with passion and beauty never happened. I found myself longing for the first prima donna, because at least she was being authentic to her role.

The only good parts came when the Phantom, played by Chris Mann, had a chance to sing with passion, but having him crawl around on the floor, bum in the air to the audience, destroyed any true feeling he might have garnered.

In the original musical there is a passionate scene when the Phantom takes Christine to his lair for the first time. In the original musical, it is a passionate love scene, but not so in this version. Instead the director has the Phantom put a blindfold on Christine and has the actress stumble around the stage. The blindfold takes away any possibility of passion, turning it into more of a scene of power. The erotic tension and feelings that Christine is supposed to have towards the Phantom are gone, replaced by pin the tail on the donkey. It so obviously misunderstands the strength of her passion and the power she holds over the Phantom, I can only guess that the director has no understanding of women.

The focus of this performance seemed to be on the inner turmoil of the Phantom and the heroic quality of Raoul, but in doing so the director sacrificed the depth of character the original musical gave to Christine. Lost was the mockery of opera life, lost was the struggle to choose between her passion and the need to conform, lost was the passion that drove the Phantom to place his one love on a stage at all cost — even the cost human life. Instead of feeling as if the Phantom was consumed by his passion and the music, I left thinking the guy could sing. No depth, no feeling.

Another disappointing scene was when Christine is supposed to be searching for guidance at her father’s grave. Her true voice free from the operatic nonsense of stage is supposed to shine through, but instead she sang it with the pomp of full operatic style — missing on any chance of authenticity. It didn’t help having the stage hands messing about behind the props, taking away the stillness that the graveyard scene was supposed to have had.

My guess is that the director is enthralled with opera and has no knowledge of the passion, power and beauty that can exist between a man and woman. He seems to mock that power held by women, making the lead female role into a shallow character whose only talent is that she can sing opera.

The performance left me angry. Angry that such talented singers and dancers were made to destroy the message of a musical I adored. Devoid of erotic tension, bereft of a beautiful voice, the Phantom of the Opera was little but a bad play with some good dancers. A love story without love is quite empty, and this performance of the Phantom was just that. My heart goes out to the dancers and actors who lacked the strength of a good director.