A video preview of my latest writing project - “Making It: The Friendship of Craig Russell and Margaret Gibson.”
This is a video montage following Saturday’s shooting at Toronto Eaton Centre. The incident left one dead and seven injured. Twelve hours after this video was posted, the shooter turned himself in to Toronto Police.
The Toronto gay community is up in arms over Rob Ford’s decline of their invitation to attend the July 1 Pride parade. My Twitter feed is alight with comments and the words “Rob Ford” and “Pride” have been trending for the past two days. I can’t help but scratch my head at this.
Lack of Ford’s presence at this years festivities (for the second year running) is being seen as avoidance of the community, a complete lack of support for them and their place in our city, a slap in the face to every gay person, or in a stretch, a direct act of homophobia.
This has been taken too far. Step back. Take out the emotion. Look at this practically.
It is true our mayor has had some ignorant stances. His 2006 comment about the tie between homosexuals and the AIDS virus or his election-time aloof reference to support for traditional marriage come to mind. So with this latest toss up, I have to wonder, why do you want him at the party?
And likewise, why would he want to attend a party where, from a political support standpoint, he has little, if any, support? There are bound to be plenty of “left-wing pinkos,” around the neighbourhood that day, not to mention plenty of people doffing, “Our mayor embarrasses me buttons,” which have been hitting the streets this month. And we can’t forget the demonstrators last year who marched in the parade with Rob Ford masks in an attempt to mock him. Between the politically hyped individuals and the festive water-gun toting marchers, I might go as far as to feel unsafe if it were me. Not everyone knows how to play fair.
I had a conversation on Twitter yesterday with Jon Crowley, a digital strategist who I previously met at a few social media gatherings and once heard deliver a talk called, “The Internet Is Not Made of Hugs.” Crowley indicated he was disgusted by Ford’s decline to his parade invitation and his “lack of education doesn’t excuse his [lack of attendance]… a certain level of understanding / acceptance is a pre-requisite of being mayor.”
Unfortunately for Crowley’s argument, understanding and acceptance is not in our election bylaws. Ford was democratically elected. It’s up to him to now learn about the gay community. Blame him for being here for two years and not reaching out to set up a meeting, not necessarily for hitting up the parade.
Rob Ford is in need of some serious education on Toronto gay history and community issues. And yes, he needs to throw some support and dollars over to Church Street. But perhaps a group of over a million LGBTTIQQ2SA is the wrong place to start for someone so unenlightened.
I remember the first time I went to Pride. The incredible spirit and passion in the air. The elaborate floats and costumes. The spirited social groups. The jovial music. The beautiful and brave drag queens. Thousands of people in heat, basking in the spray of water guns and sprinkle of confetti around Yonge Street. It was nonetheless stimulation overload to someone who had already been to Church/Wellesley on a Saturday night, went to the shows and saw the sights. I couldn’t imagine if our record-breaking million plus in attendance Pride festivities was someone’s first experience to what the gay community is about.
This isn’t the best place to start to ask for a demonstration of support from our mayor. Pride Parade Sunday is a big day (also this year, a national holiday. Talk about bad planning). But there are another 364 days a year that also count. Invite him to community meetings, one of the multitude (of wonderful) charitable activities or smaller demonstrations. Give him a tour of the 519 Community Centre. Take him for a walk through the AIDS monument.
I like the stance of Amber Moyle, the Dyke March team leader, who indicated to Xtra, Canada’s gay and lesbian news magazine, to remember what pride is about. Ford’s attendance or lack thereof will only distract from the true celebration and demonstration of support for the community. Take the day to celebrate. Tackle the mayor after that.
We need to teach him and show him what our well-earned pride is really about. The Totally Naked Toronto group walking down Yonge Street on a hot holiday afternoon is a bit of a shell-shocking place to start.
The cost of my monthly Metropass went up another $6 this month.
While my wallet may be hurting a little, my ears certainly are relaxing in relief. Enough money in the TTC bank account means the TTC will stay on track with it’s promise to deliver the new Toronto Rockets – 70 accessible train sets (420 cars) in the next three years. And full execution of these plans just may save my hearing. Seriously.
You’ve heard the older T-1 series Bombardier subways. The loud chugging. The high pitch screaming sound of brakes. The crackling and inaudible sound system. My ears hurt daily. But on my first encounter with the next generation subway, the sleek, futuristic vehicle crawled into St. George station as quiet as a mouse. I hardly knew it was there.
Good thing. The sound of older subway cars weren’t just uncomfortable. It was actually a serious hazard.
The Toronto Star’s Joe Fiorito told you first. A few years ago, before our new silver rockets hit the rails, the smart and pragmatic columnist hit the streets with a hearing-loss specialist and took measurements of sound levels downtown. They hit busy corners and food courts. But the worst offender in their inquiry? You guessed it – the subway.
Noise levels from a subway train rolling in to a station and braking to a stop hit between 80 to 100 decibels. Noise from on board a car wasn’t much better. Decibels hit between 82 to 88 as a train rolled through Union Station and up to King.
According to provincial guidelines, comfortable noise levels in Toronto should be 55. If sound reaches 85 or above, it can cause permanent damage to hair cells in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss.
In reading Fiorito’s story, I decided to get some more numbers. Stop watch in hand, I measured the length of time a train was in station and the noise was uncomfortable to me. The average length of time I’d hear the loud chugging, piercing screech and occasional horn was 20 seconds.
At that rate of exposure to increased sound pressure, it added up to 40 seconds a day, 200 seconds (3.3 minutes) a week to 173 minutes (2.88 hours) a year. That is like 3 hours standing at a construction site or sitting on an idling bulldozer without protection.
I don’t think I am being a baby about it either. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) says noise-induced hearing loss is the number one cause of workplace claims.
Just another bonus to the new sexy, albeit expensive subway cars. I may be paying $6 more a month, or $17 more than I did five years ago. I still have a subway system that doesn’t cause permanent damage to my hearing. With continued service cuts and cost increases from City Hall, it’s nice to say I’m somehow getting my money’s worth.
There may be some hope for city several social and arts programs living under the shadow of Mayor Rob Ford’s controversial budget cuts after an executive committee meeting Thursday.
Councillors on the executive voted to eliminate cuts to arts grants ($1.9 million), the library system ($3.1 million), snow removal ($928,000) and the city Hardship Fund. In total, over $6 million in cuts was saved under the new plan.
As reported in the Toronto Star, the plan “also endorsed previous proposals to avoid cuts to student nutrition programs, two school pools and 12 community centres.”
These funds will now be paid from dollars made in property assessment growth, without having to touch the 2011 $154 million operating surplus Ford has fiercely protected.
“We are not going under $154 (million), we didn’t, we kept the surplus,” Ford said to reporters after Thursday’s meeting. “I’m very proud of my executive, I’m very, very, very confident this is getting through council… We’re going to keep our surplus at $154 (million) and taxes aren’t going to be increased more than 2.5 per cent.”
Ford called the executive committee approved budget “reasonable, responsible” and reiterated his support of the plan, shrugging off a suggestion that he has “lost control,” of the city executive.
Council will vote to approve the budget plan next week, when further cuts may letter be reversed. Councillor Michelle Berardinetti said she would motion to stop a $50,000 cut to the city Immigrant Women’s Health Centre, a health service for migrant women. Councillor Adam Vaughan said council might also move to save cuts to TTC service.
Councillor Shelley Carroll told reporters councillors might still have a lot of problems with the budget.
“It doesn’t mean it’s a perfect budget,” she said. “The saddest part is that the unemployment rate that has been rising for the last six months in this city rises further still. We’re still sending 2,000 home that won’t have jobs with the City of Toronto.”
When I was just a young lad, I looked forward to meeting my Mom on Thursdays after school.
We didn’t have a play date. We weren’t going out for dinner or going to Grandma’s.
Thursday’s were Bookmobile days when the local library rolled a Ford E450-sized RV to a stop in front of our school and us kids could parade through, from the back door through the front, nab the best titles we could off the shelves and have a pile of reading to bring home for the weekend.
Ramona Quimby, Choose Your Own Adventure and Fear Street were all the rage then and kids in my class used to practically fight to get them. But I was all about anything to do with Charlie Bucket or Henry Green, the characters of authors Roald Dahl and Robert Kimmel Smith in their novels Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Chocolate Fever.
I loved to get lost in the pages, imagining Willy Wonka’s factory with its strange and wonderful rooms where anything could happen. Likewise, I loved reading about Henry who ate so much chocolate, in every form for every meal, he eventually finds himself breaking out in strange brown bumps that can only be the mysterious Chocolate Fever.
I still remember the joy of finding just the right book. I couldn’t wait to bound off the bus and show my Mom so we could go home and read them.
But first I had to check out — an equally awesome part. I took my books and went right to Allison, the library clerk, who sat at a small desk tucked behind the driver’s seat where she wielded her silver light pen, scanning first my card, then my books, almost like magic to sign the books out to me. And when doing so, just for me, little Brian Bradley, she’d recite a few verses of Three Billy Goat’s Gruff, the classic Norwegian fairy tale about the three small billy goats who outsmart a hungry troll.
I can still hear her in an animated voice reciting, “Drip, drap, drip drap, I am coming to eat you up!” She was so entertaining and I felt so special that she did that. I looked just as forward to seeing her as much as I look forward to getting my books.
You can say that my trips to the Bookmobile were a huge factor in developing my adult passion for reading, maybe even for my career as a writer, and I have thought of it fondly in the years long after I put down the books with the likes of Charlie and Henry.
It was nonetheless with a heavy to heart to read Toronto libraries will take a major hit to hours and services, potentially including its Bookmobile service, this year. It’s in response to Mayor Rob Ford’s demands for several city entities to slash their budges by 10 per cent.
The library board executed a 5.9 per cent cut to it’s budget last fall in response to Ford’s plan, but the time has come to for more cuts to meet that expectations. The cities budget committee met Monday to discuss a plan and bring them to council.
As reported in The Toronto Star, Toronto Public Library Chief Librarian Jane Pyper says, “the only realistic options are cutting branch hours and the collections budget, or eliminating services such as literacy programs and the Bookmobile.”
The library system operates two Bookmobile units, which travel to 32 different destinations across the city each week.
The likelihood of approval on the plan appears pretty good, as several members of Ford’s closest allies on council have openly balked at the library system being a priority for Toronto residents.
“If I had to look at a choice between police officers and libraries having longer hours, I think most people would say to you they would rather have more police on the street,” Councillor Paul Ainslie said to reporters Monday.
Toronto Police Service was exempt from Mayor Ford’s 10 per cent budget cut expectation, the same year it’s officers saw a 3.2 per cent pay increase as part of a plan for an 11.5 per cent pay increase by 2014.
And who could forget Councillor Doug Ford’s public remarks against the library system. It was just last year when he pointed out, “We have more libraries per person than any other cities in the entire world,” he said, almost aghast, on CFRB radio last February. “I have more libraries in my area than I have Tim Hortons.”
Despite a passionate outcry against library cuts from citizens through last summer and fall, 5.9 per cent still came off the budget. The library system will have to cough up the remaining 4.1 and significant programs in our library system will just have to go.
Pyper indicated that significant dollars can be saved cutting operating hours, but as The Star reported, it is the programs and services like the Bookmobile that will most likely take the hit.
Today’s little kids with a love of Charlie Bucket and Henry Green, or maybe now it’s Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, won’t be able to go to a Bookmobile armed with library cards to get books from a magic-light-pen-wielding-clerk reciting Norwegian fairy tales.
They will have to go elsewhere to feed their imaginations with words. Toronto’s Bookmobiles may be rolling to a stop.
The Canadian Press got it right when they said the death of Jack Layton leaves a gaping hole in the Canadian political landscape.
Layton’s leadership brought the New Democrat Party to incredible heights. They rallied never before seen support in Quebec. They regained trust in Ontario after unsettling provincial leadership in the early-90s. Years of Layton’s leadership would culminate with forming an official minority government after the 2011 federal election. He found the dream of the parties founding leader, Tommy Douglas, to bring the party to the forefront of the government of Canada.
But what CP and many other news outlets have omitted is that the loss is even more personal for Toronto. He was one of our own.
Layton was a staple of the community. More than a representative for a large federal riding, he shared and pushed values tied to our cities largest problems and biggest dreams. Homelessness. Social equality. Environmental awareness. Even the now controversial rights for cyclists. Much of his work kept issues key to the heartbeat of Toronto on the national agenda.
He built the majority of his life in Hogtown. Although born in Quebec, he lived in here since 1970. He would get his graduate degree at York, teach at Ryerson and eventually earn his first representative seat with an election to Toronto City Council in 1982.
Layton would jump to federal politics two decades later and take the leadership of the NDP in January 2003 with 53.5 percent of the vote.
He would later marry Olivia Chow another Torontonian and city councilor, who also made the jump to federal politics and became elected representative for Trinity-Spadina. Together they manned two high profile Toronto ridings that accounted for over 219,000 people.
In between their political work, Layton and Chow were active in the city. They could be seen shopping in Chinatown, catching the Stanley Cup final at Gretzky’s, skating at city hall and marching in the annual Toronto Pride parade.
In an era where appreciation for our mayor ebbs, the city still had one man on its side. Yesterday he would be mourned from Lakeshore to Steeles.
As news of his passing spread, hundreds gathered for an impromptu memorial at Nathan Phillips Square. A condolence book was set up. Signs were displayed. Candles lit. Memories shared. Crowds would eventually chant a quote from Layton’s final letter: “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. We’ll carry your dream. The change begins here.”
Further moving was the gesture of leaving memorial messages to Layton on the cement walls and ground around the square. Space filled up rapidly with simple, spiritual and encouraging messages, all in pretty pastel chalk.
Jack Layton RIP. Thank you for standing up for us. We will miss you.
By nightfall space was covered and Torontonians ambled through well into the night reading the messages as a Canadian flag flew still at half-mast above the scene.
I visited last night and spent a long time reading the carefully inscribed messages. People were still taking pictures. One couple embraced and quietly cried. As I left, walking east from the Square to Bay Street, I spotted a
final inscribed message that was particularly moving. It was a quote from Hamlet, who like Layton, was charged with duty and dedicated his life to fight for justice.
“Now cracks a noble heart,” it read. “Goodnight, sweet prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
A new business is going in to the old Dollar & Bargain store location in Bloor West Village this week.
I am not sure what it is yet, but the sight of the drywall, plaster, ladders, sounds of tools and a Coming Soon sign brought back memories of the small shop’s former tenant. The Dollar & Bargain saw me through the start of my life in Toronto when I had a budget of peanuts to set up my first apartment. I couldn’t help but feel a pang of grief when it was closed without notice last year.
Tucked between a bakery and a clothing store, the aging thrift shop operated for years on Bloor Street, just west of Runnymede Road. It wasn’t much to look at with it’s aging sign, windows covered by products hanging from string, baskets of goodies stretching out to the street. It always seemed to be open and at my disposal for a bottle of crazy glue here, a pack of batteries there.
I had not been in for a while and came to expect that it would always be there when I needed the odd knick knack (and needed them cheap). Until one day it was gone. There was no warning, sign or indication that the business was struggling or in trouble with the bank or city. Almost overnight, the operation became a hollowed out shell of a store that was once so full, shoppers could only walk through in single file walking sideways.
I was sad to see it go, imagining the owner closing the doors and carrying his baskets of house wares, steak spice, dish towels and greetings cards out the back door.
Where did it go?
I was a naive and clueless when I moved to Toronto just after university. Moving to the big city seemed like the fun thing to do even though I knew nothing about setting up my own apartment.
I first came upon it on a snowy January night when I was looking for a place to buy a phone card to call home. It was well after 9 p.m. and everything else was closed. The clerk was pleasant and waived the fee for needing to use my debit card below the minimum.
From there, they had my loyalty.
Need a plug for the kitchen sink? There was a basket of them.
Padlock for work locker? There were three choices.
Can’t hang the shower curtain? It was the first place to go for hooks.
Prices were always a steal. I probably spent under $30 there in my first six months in Toronto and was completely set up in my apartment will all the things I didn’t think to consider before I moved out on my own.
When I decided to get a cat, I got the litter box, brush and collar for under $10. And Dollar & Bargain was there for the cleaning supplies when the cat went to another home six months later.
And when I decided to try making my first turkey, I bought the baking pan, string, tin foil and baster there. And it was back there I headed for material to clean up the oven when the cooking didn’t go so well.
I hadn’t taken much notice to the owner, who he was or where he came from. What made him want to go into the thrift store business and set up shop in this neighbourhood? Where did he get the myriad of different products? How did he afford rent in this popular shopping district?
The Dollar & Bargain could be another token part of the big city lost to the usual fighters. Recession. Big box conglomerates. Shopping trends.
It’s unfortunate that it won’t be there for the next clueless early-20s male wanting to set up a life in the neighbourhood on a tight budget. He’ll have to turn to Wal Mart or Metro and won’t be the wiser that there was once a place out there that could have helped him.
As for me, I’m looking to move on from my bachelor apartment in Bloor West. Time to grow up and get a mortgage. There is a condo I like in Cabbagetown. And lucky for me, there is a discount store right across the street.