The executive committee pushed forward the proposed 2017 $10.5 billion budget on Tuesday, and leaves many in Toronto divided on how satisfied they are with the results.
Here are the highlights:
The budget includes a two per cent increase in residential property taxes, will allocate $80 million more to TTC, and $37 million to Toronto Community Housing. The city will also be providing 200 more shelter beds this year and Mayor John Tory has thrown his support behind supporting more daycare subsidy spots — there are currently 18,000 children on the daycare subsidy waitlist— though provincial aid is needed to help foot the bill. Unfortunately, recreation fees will still be increasing.
Other revenue tools that have been approved include a hotel tax of four per cent (10 per cent for short-term rentals) that is expected to bring in an extra $5.5 million in revenue. There is also a plan to harmonize the Ontario Land Transfer Tax with the Municipal Land Transfer Tax, which is estimated to raise $77 million.
The city will have to use $87.8 million from reserves to make up the rest of the budget.
The property tax hike, hotel, and municipal land-transfer tax were met with criticism by many Toronto citizens because these revenue tools put even more pressure on locals to meet the budget needs of the city. Relying so heavily on the inflated housing market is also an unstable revenue measure because if the housing bubble pops, the municipal land transfer tax and property tax rates could financially destroy homeowners.
Instead of consistently relying on property owners to pay for Toronto’s services year after year, more creative revenue tools need to be adopted in future city budgets. Road tolls, recently shot down by Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals, is a solution that would directly fund transit by charging not only the 905 commuters coming into the city for work every day, but all Torontonian downtown drivers a small fee. Using road tolls as a revenue tool would relieve pressure on property tax hikes and raise much needed funds for transit and community housing that desperately need to be built.
The budget fills gaps on some city services, but falls short of adequately shortening the affordable housing waitlist, not to mention many other items on the agenda that desperately need funding.
The election of U.S. President Donald Trump has sparked anger, resentment, and hate — and people aren’t standing for it. In fact, they are doing even more. They are marching.
While 2017 is proving to be even worse than 2016, at least one good thing has sprung from it all. The continuous bigotry fuelled by American politics is bringing about a new age of activism.
As a millennial, I’ve never truly experienced the power of global activism. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve witnessed some powerful demonstrations over the last two decades. There was the Arab Spring, the lesser but effective Maple Spring and, of course, the Occupy movement. But, I’ve never seen so many people, from all walks of life — ethnicities, religious affiliations, and economic statuses — come together to condemn such a wide array of issues on a global scale.
On Feb. 4, over 5,000 people gathered in front of the United States Consulate in Toronto to protest the American immigration ban and Islamophobia. At the same time, thousands of people got together across Canada and overseas, all marching and chanting in unison: “No Muslim ban on stolen land.”
There were families with their children, students and seniors standing hand in hand, sharing samosas and taking photos of each other’s carefully crafted signs. When organizers asked the crowd to part so that the Muslim participants could be closer to the stage for a prayer, everyone did it. People smiled and opened their arms, leading their allies and fellow Canadians (or Canadian hopefuls) to the front, remaining silent while they prayed for those fallen in the Quebec mosque shootings a few weeks ago.
Above everything else, people were polite, inclusive, and tolerant — but also strong, powerful, and loud. It was truly something to witness.
In January, more than 60,000 people marched in Toronto — along with millions in the United States and throughout Europe — for women’s rights and to protest the inauguration of Trump, a man who has repeatedly used sexist remarks in speeches and disregarded the rights of women on the political stage. The march may have been the biggest demonstration in U.S. history.
I know what you are thinking. These are people who are just marching because “it’s cool”, right? They won’t actually work to enact change.
But this new age of activism is not limited to marching. Within hours of an executive order signed by President Trump, there are over a dozen Facebook events created for smaller, more pointed demonstrations indicating their displeasure over his political actions. American citizens are calling their representatives at every level of government, telling them what they think of the cabinet confirmations or a political document that was released. When the telephone voice mailboxes are full, people start using the fax machines to reach their political offices. A few people even tried to send their representatives pizzas with notes attached to them.
For example, so many people called their Senators regarding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, the candidate for Secretary of Education, that she almost wasn’t confirmed. Two Republications changed their votes and the Vice President had to be the tiebreaker, a first in American history.
People are fired up. Normal citizens who never would have considered becoming politically active are making signs and marching to Capitol Hill. They are listening and they are informed. For the first time in my lifetime, people actually care. And not just specific groups of people — all people.
The west has forgotten the true meaning and functionality of democracy. Politicians are supposed to fight for their constituents, not for their own self-interest. If their constituents say they want them to vote against their party, technically, they should do it. That is how representative democracy works. A politician must represent the views of their constituents.
This concept has been lost, fuelled by the complacency and ignorance of a population willing to let other people run their country. But, with the rise of this new age of activism, that can change.
The Republicans (under the leadership of Trump) are forcing citizens to reconsider their own beliefs and be more aware of what they want of their country. Without meaning too, they are inspiring real democracy, a system in which the people decide what they want their politicians to do.
All I can say is this: stay strong my fellow democratic participants! Change will not happen over night. It will be a long process, and it will take a lot of screaming, chanting, marching, and phone calls to make our politicians remember that we, the people they serve, have a voice too.
In addition to being the publisher of Women’s Post, Sarah Thomson is also the volunteer CEO of the Transit Alliance. The Transit Alliance is a non-profit that is dedicated towards making the golden horseshoe area as green and pedestrian/transit-friendly as possible. In January, she hosted Green Cities 2017, a breakfast attended by over 300 business, community, and political leaders.
Attendees got to listen to two panels of experts discussing sustainable options for transit and building.
I became a Liberal advocate in 2011 because they were the only party honest enough to admit that both Ontario and Toronto have huge revenue problems. Services like healthcare and education suck up all the tax dollars collected by the province and, as our population grows, there is an even greater need for more funding options. Few politicians have the guts to stand up for increasing taxes or implementing tolls because they risk their chances of re-election. But Toronto Mayor John Tory did. He stood up for tolls despite the risk of losing support in the suburbs because he, like many of us, understands that dedicated funding for transit has to come from somewhere.
I met Kathleen Wynne and others in the Liberal party who said they were willing to admit that Ontario didn’t collect enough revenue to pay for the services residents want — services like transit and housing that cities desperately need. I became a Liberal because of these facts. I believed the Premier would stand up and do the right thing, and not cave to low-polling numbers or pressure from cabinet members desperate to get re-elected. She once believed that tolls were a necessary tool to get the dedicated transit funding Toronto needs.
Tolls on Toronto highways are just as important as tolls on provincially-owned highways. Not allowing Toronto to access this funding tool will simply push the cost of transit expansion and other services on to future generations. From health care, to education, to efficient transit, we don’t have enough funding to pay for everything. But today, Premier Wynne has decided to ignore that problem and gamble that economic growth and low gas prices will last forever.
Relying on our current gas taxes for the billions of dollars needed over the next decade for transit expansion in Toronto is the same “do nothing” approach that has caused the growth of gridlock in the city. Gridlock is costing residents over $13 billion per year in time and lost revenues. A slight slip in economic growth, or increase in gas prices will lower the amount of revenue Ontario collects, meaning we’ll be financing all this transit expansion through debt.
So, why would Premier Wynne go against everything she stood for? Rumours of internal “poli-tricking” swirl with cabinet ministers outside Toronto apparently demanding she stop her support of Mayor Tory’s plan. The Premier should remember how flip flopping on the gas plant in Mississauga almost cost Liberals the 2011 election and this huge change in her position on Toronto tolls may very well lose her the liberal base of support in 2018. This kind of internal poli-tricking is why voters lose faith in politicians, and will choose an honest buffoon over a smart, intelligent, candidate.
On Jan. 25, over 300 people entered the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library to discuss and debate this question: How do we design, plan, and build a green city?
The Transit Alliance, a non-political organization that works with those in the transit and infrastructure industry, hosted its first Green Cities breakfast Wednesday to discuss the need for greater transit, greener building, and an overall more liveable city design. Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat was the keynote speaker. “As humans, we have the ability to shape our habitat,” she said. “The model is not sustainable.”
During her speech, Keesmaat announced the King Street Pilot Project, which hopes to help unlock gridlock in a particularly messy and busy corridor. This is the first time Keesmaat has, in an official capacity, mentioned the project. Further details will be released on Feb. 13.
While guests enjoyed their coffee and muffins, Bruce McGuaig, CEO of Metrolinx; Dr. Dianne Saxe, Ontario Environment Commissioner; David Paterson, VP Corporate and Environmental Affairs for GM Canada; and, Mary Margaret McMahon, Toronto City Councillor walked on stage to take part in a panel discussion on transit. While a variety of topics were introduced, the common denominator seemed to be this: the Golden Horseshoe needs more. The city needs more transit, more funding, and more emphasis on liveability in design.
The second panel of the morning focused on green building, both commercial and residential. The panel consisted of Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Ontario Green Party; Amy Erixon, Principal and Managing Director Investments at Avison Young; Christopher Wein, President of Great Gulf; and, Andrew Bowerbank, Global Director, Sustainable Building Services at EllisDon. Education was a big topic of interest. Building green is only slightly more expensive, but the benefits and the return to the homebuyer is much greater. Everyone agreed that educating the public as to the real costs of building green is critical to a low-carbon community. The question of the panel: Why would we ever NOT build a LEED-certified or Net-Zero home anymore?
Last weekend, the world watched in awe as women around the globe marched in support of gender equality.
But, change begins on a local level, and requires leaders, real decision-makers and politicians, to step up. Cue: Ward 23 Councillor Wong-Tam. She recently led a motion that was passed at Toronto city council to embrace gender equity perspective tools in their budget process. Wong-Tam also contributed to educating women at a gender equity town hall last week, and spoke at the Women’s March in Toronto on Saturday, attended by over 50,000 women.
“The march was much larger than anyone anticipated and it was very peaceful,” Wong-Tam says. “I thought the focus was going to be on the U.S., but clearly Canadian women wanted to be heard and seen here as well.” Wong-Tam spoke up on Saturday about how $91 million worth of budget cuts have impacted women specifically in Toronto, ranging from shelters to childcare subsidies.
With 18,000 women and children currently sitting on the housing waitlist, Wong-Tam points out that women are disproportionately affected by the annual budget process when it comes to transit, housing, and daycare subsidies. “We already have women’s shelters at capacity, not just in Toronto but across the country,” Wong-Tam says. “Women and children that are trying to flee violent households are turned away. Where are they going to go?”
Luckily, a gender equity perspective as a part of the annual budget-making process would help ensure that women received more support and protection. “The proposition to create a gender responsive budget is not to create a separate budget for women, but to create a budget that has equal benefit to men and women,” Wong-Tam says. “We achieve that by creating a set of questions that policymakers would use.”
Creating a gender responsive budget is a concept that is already being used by over 150 cities around the world. According to Wong-Tam, creating a gender equity tool in Toronto would begin by developing a complex series of questions for policymakers. “We need to start off by compiling aggregated data to understand who uses what services and budget allocations,” Wong-Tam says. “We would then ask service users if their needs are being met. If most are women using that particular service, we then recognize that.”
Creating a gender equity tool for the budget process is a dynamic solution to include people with various intersecting identities. “Women also come from a range of groups and vulnerable populations facing equity issues of their own, including racialized women, women with disabilities, women who are seniors,” Wong-Tam says. “The intersectional lens allows us to look at the full picture. We want to create a single budget that encompasses everyone.”
Toronto city staff is not prepared to enact gender equity tools within the 2017 budget, but Wong-Tam has hope for the following year. The councillor has created a task force full of service providers and female economists to help financial city staff create a gender equity tool for 2018 — and she vows to make it happen.
“I’m encouraged because there are so many young women who were energized around this issue. What I want to say to them is that we need to find a path from protest to power. The march on Washington has been ongoing asking and demanding for certain rights. The energy that I personally witnessed can fizzle out if we don’t keep organizing. We can be active around protests, but the only way to change the system is to hold the government accountable and keep organizing.”
Wong-Tam believes the way to finding equality for women is to act, and Women’s Post agrees. Vote for women, vote for gender equity, and fight for women’s rights using the power of the law and political will. If anything, the women’s march on Saturday showed that the world is on the precipice of change, so engage! Follow Councillor Wong-Tam’s lead and make Toronto a better place for future women and girls.
You would think the politics of the last week would divide people. Instead, it brought over a million of women, men, and children of all ethnicities, religions, and economic statuses, together. No matter how I think of it, the feeling of awe is absolutely overwhelming. Did anyone else expect the movement to be this big? I knew it would be impressive, but the turnout blew my mind. I couldn’t remember when a group of people this large marched down the streets of Toronto with a simple purpose: gender equality and women’s rights.
Think about it: Millions of people got together to walk through their city of choice, protesting a government that doesn’t respect their bodies or their rights as a basic human being. That, my dear readers, is a beautiful thing.
In Toronto over 60,000 people marched through the downtown core, surprising skaters at Nathan Phillips square. Photos lit up social media using hashtags #womensmarch and #womensmarchTO, to spread messages of love and resistance. There were participants of all age groups, skin colours, and religious affiliations — all with their own independent voices. But, no matter the cause or the reason why someone joined the march, the overarching message was quite clear: “Love Trumps Hate” — and it always will.
Here are some of the highlights from the march in Toronto:
In Washington, people marched not only in support of women’s rights, but also to protest the new president Donald Trump. Over 200,000 of people attended (although numbers haven’t been officially confirmed), in addition to the slew of celebrity speakers. Here are some of the highlights:
Angela Davis, political activist: “The freedom and struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this country’s history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history of the United States is a history of immigration and enslavement. Spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history.”
Kerry Washington, Actress: “When you go back home tonight… and you feel like ‘Wow, there is an agenda at work to make me feel like I don’t matter, because I’m a woman my voice doesn’t matter, because I’m a person of colour my voice doesn’t matter, because I’m an immigrant, because I’m a member of the LGBTQ community, because I’m an old person, because I’m a young person… because I have a fucking voice, I don’t matter.’ You matter.”
Elizabeth Warren, Senator: “Yesterday, Donald Trump was sworn in as president. That sight is now burned into my eyes forever. And I hope the same is true for you, because we will not forget. We do not want to forget. We will use that vision to make sure that we fight harder, we fight tougher, and we fight more passionately than ever — not just for the people whom Donald Trump supports, but for all of America.”
“We can whimper. We can whine. Or we can fight back! We come here to stand shoulder to shoulder to make clear: We are here! We will not be silent! We will not play dead! We will fight for what we believe in!”
Natalie Portman, Actress: “[Women] must seek leadership positions, and support other women who do the same. Until we make it normal to have at least half, if not more, of our leaders be female, we will be serving, and with our taxes financing, a government that believes it’s within their domain to make decisions for our future.”
America Ferrera, Actress: “The president is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America. And we are here to stay. We will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance. We march today for our families and our neighbours, for our future, for the causes we claim and for the causes that claim us. We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war. He would like us to forget the words, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,’ and instead, take up a credo of hatred.”
Scarlett Johansson, Actress: “President Trump, I did not vote for you. That said, I respect that you are you our President-elect and I want to be able to support you. But first I ask that you support me, support my sister, support my mother, support my best friends and all of all girlfriends. Support the men and women here today that are anxiously awaiting to see how your next moves may drastically affect their lives. Support my daughter who may actually, as a result of the appointments you have made, grow up in a county that is moving backwards, not forward, and who may potentially not have the right to make choices for her body and her future that your daughter Ivanka has been privileged to have.”
Bernie Sanders, Senator: “President Trump, you have made a big mistake. By trying to divide us up by race, religion, gender and nationality you have actually brought us closer together. Black, white, Latino, Native American and Asian American, gay or straight, male or female, native born or immigrant we will fight bigotry and create a government based on love and compassion, not hatred and divisiveness.”
Did you go to one of the Women’s Marches? Let us know how it went in the comment below!
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has been working tirelessly to create and grow the transit system in Toronto, no easy feat when considering delays, traffic, and a constant stream of people trying to go from place to place.
Lately, TTC has been emphasizing their dedication to customer service — and guess what? Women’s Post is one of the groups noticing! It started with the little things, telling customers over the PA system to ‘have a nice day’ and giving consistent updates if there is a delay. Their efforts make the end-of-day commute just a little bit better. By communicating why a delay is happening and providing updates when the train suddenly stops or is slow, it lowers the rate of frustration for everyone and makes the commute much easier. Customer service is clearly a priority for the TTC and it makes a big difference when riding on the subway, or taking a bus or streetcar.
The positivity on the part of TTC staff could be, in part, due to the fact that the transit union was recognized with an award as one of Greater Toronto’s top employers. TTC CEO Andy Byford accepted the award, which was well-deserved. What makes the TTC such a great employer it their focus on service as their core objectives of their five-year plan. This service concentrates on their 14,000 employees, as well as their customers. Being part of the TTC union is one of the better jobs to have in Toronto and it is positive to see the transit company awarded for their efforts.
The TTC is moving ahead with construction plans to build more transit in as part of their five-year plan and has almost completed the Spadina extension. Amidst City of Toronto budget cuts, TTC works very hard to avoid being seriously affected by the reductions and continues to pursue their plan to make a better transit system in Toronto. It is not easy to maintain the current subway system, continue construction on various transit projects in the city, and keep the trains running smoothly — all the while being asked to reduce their budget by 2.6 per cent. The TTC achieves this goal though with careful planning and strong communication with their customer base. The Relief Line project is in its planning stages and officials are working hard to manage a host of public complaints while pushing forward to get to the next stages of actually building the downtown line. This project has been on the back-burner for several years and it is hopeful to see the TTC pushing through the red tape and working to get the blueprints approved for future construction.
Despite dealing with daily complaints, the TTC does achieve a lot of difficult goals and is on its way to building an efficient and intricate transit network in Toronto. Next time you want to whine about how slow the streetcar or bus is, remember those times when it is extremely cold and snowing heavily, yet the bus and subway still manages to deliver you home safely. Instead, why not try being grateful for how hard the TTC is working to make sure Toronto gets the transit system it deserves!
Sometimes an idea just comes to you. In fact, it calls to you — and it can’t go unanswered.
That’s what Emily Ridout said when Women’s Post asked her why she started 889Yoga, a yoga and wellness studio on Yonge Street in Toronto. For her, it was about bringing the practices she learned during her travels to the city she loved.
“Toronto didn’t have that yet. It was missing and we wanted to create that in our own city. A place where people could feel very comfortable to go on this path to healing and returning to who they really are, in a space that was clean, beautiful, and accessible”
889 is a quaint little studio located near Rosedale. The storefront is full of essential oils, juices, journals, candles and teas, in addition to props used for yoga, pilates, and meditation. As you head upstairs to the studio, the smell of white tea is unmistakeable. Class participants are free to enjoy a glass of water or cup of tea before and after their session. The studio itself is bright with lots of windows that allow the sun to shine in. It’s the kind of place that automatically relaxes you and breaks down barriers.
The studio has a very loyal following. As one member said, once you take a class at 889, “you’ll fall in love with it”. Newcomers are welcomed with a smile and instructors are patient with everyone, no matter their skill level. The ultimate goal is for people to feel comfortable and at peace — and in that, 889 is very successful.
“We are a beginner/intermediate studio,” Ridout said. “If you haven’t tried it, it’s very welcoming, kind, forgiving, and that is what we set out for. “
Ridout comes from a family of entrepreneurs, but decided to venture into academics instead. She studied commerce with a minor in French. Eventually, she dropped commerce and focused all her energy on linguistics.
Her first job following her graduate degree was with Butterfield and Robinson, a company that designs and runs tourist expeditions, mainly involving hiking and biking around the world. Ridout started as a receptionist, eventually applying for a temp job in operations working on trips outside of Europe. Shortly after she became Expeditions Trip Manager, helping plan and coordinate trips, as well as acting as communication liaison with the guides overseas.
Ridout loves to travel herself. She spent a year in Spain learning the language and culture. It was actually in Barcelona where she took her first official yoga class, mostly as a way to make friends and use her beginner Spanish. At the same time, her sister Christine was also introduced to yoga during her travels to California and Los Angeles. They eventually got together and realized a passion had been ignited.
The goal wasn’t just to create a yoga studio, but rather a place of wellness, where Torontonians could experience what the Ridout sisters experienced during their travels. What’s unique about this venture was that neither sister was a trained instructor — just entrepreneurs with a vision.
“We wanted to own a business, run the business, and create a space where people can heal, do yoga and be at peace. Look at themselves from an internal point,” she said. “And we did it! We hired teachers. We hired healing professionals. We had no experience at all. It was just a calling. “
And that was about 10 years ago. Since then, 889 has grown immensely, while still maintaining its foundation — to inspire happy, healthy, and peaceful lives. Ridout likes to say the studio is a reflection of how both sisters have evolved. They helped create and plan a 200-hour Living Yoga School, a program that transforms yoga lovers into capable instructors. Both sisters have taken this course and are now able to teach yoga as well as meditation classes.
They have also added a storefront that sells environmentally-conscious and Canadian-focused products and are teaching a number of private classes for moms andother women that combine essential oils with meditation and breathing work. Ridout is also designing a digital platform for these programs, especially for working moms with little time to come to the studio.
Her biggest piece of advice to women entrepreneurs is to simplify, and then simplify some more. “Keep the offer as simple and clear as you can. If you think its simple enough, break it down again. It makes it simpler for people to understand and get on board.”
Ridout also wants women to focus on something they are passionate about, something that lights you up when you talk about it. “There is enough room in the world for us all to do what we believe in and do what we love. If someone else is doing it, or doing something similar, there will always be your authentic version of it.”
“If you believe in something, create it and sell it. Don’t get discouraged by people who are already “doing” your idea, or something similar, or by a fear that you’re not good enough.”
Ridout has three children, who she says help keep her present and joyful. She is currently working through “May Cause Miracles”, a 40-day guide to reflection, change, and happiness by Gabrielle Bernstein, for the second time.
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“You rarely have to ask permission to do the right thing.”
This quote comes from an open letter released Tuesday morning, with the signature of five different Canadian mayors attached to it. The letter calls for more municipal power to create city revenue, so that municipal leaders can match infrastructure funding provided by the provincial and federal governments.
In essence, Canada’s biggest cities, including Toronto, were asking for the power to do their part to expand and grow.
This sentiment was much needed prior to the city council meeting Tuesday, where councillors discussed how they would be paying for city services for the foreseeable future.
After much debate, city council approved staff recommendations by staff to generate revenue by using various taxes and tolls. The implementation of tolls is a brave new step for the city – proof that politicians understand the need to create revenue and alleviate congestion on city roads.
Toronto Mayor John Tory proposed the use of tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Express over a month ago, and since then it has received a mostly positive response. The money would be directly funnelled into maintaining and funding transit-related projects, which works to both alleviate congestion on roadways and expand Toronto’s transit network.
City council ultimately voted in support of the mayor’s proposal. Nine councillors opposed the motion.
These tolls, which could be implemented as early as 2020, would affectively alleviate congestion, unlock gridlock, and help pay for the much-needed transit network being built throughout Toronto. A win-win scenario.
Council also agreed to look into a 0.5 per cent levy on property taxes, a four per cent tax on hotels, up to a 10 per cent tax on short-term rentals like Airbnb, and harmonizing and/or increasing land transfer taxes. The city will also be asking the province for a share of the harmonized sales tax.
The debate on tolls will continue in the new year, when city staff will present options for implementation, including cost.
City Manager Peter Wallace made it clear in his presentation on the city budget that council had to approve of some of the proposed revenue tools — if they didn’t, they should be prepared to provide solutions to the $33 billion in unfunded projects the city is undergoing.
“I think it comes down to what level of public service does city council want to endorse,” Wallace said bluntly. He also made it clear that by voting to take tolls to the next level, council can rest assured that city staff will proved thoughtfully.
Other councillors were not so thoughtful. Many ignored the fact that people pay for the use of public transportation and that user fees are popularly used in large cities. However, at the end of the day, even the wary councillors understood the need to make a firm decision or risk being left with a large revenue gap to fill.