Archive for February, 2008
Monday, February 25th, 2008
||The usual roar of the Grand Prix race cars will be conspicuously absent this July. Unfortunately it is estimated that the silence will cost Toronto approximately $50 million. The Toronto Grand Prix, which started off as the Molson Indy in 1986, was a huge drawing card and a rain maker for our hospitality and tourism industries. The death knoll for the event was a deal between the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series which left the race calendar too crowded. The Toronto Grand Prix was declared expendable.
There is talk that we may get the race back in 2009, but I don’t know if that is realistic or wishful thinking. Some are even reporting that there are negotiations to keep the Grand Prix in Toronto this year, but on a different date. Unfortunately there is nothing to substantiate these reports.
Even if the Toronto Grand Prix had gone on as planned, a new sponsor would have had to be found. Steelback Breweries is no longer solvent, but has no debts with the Toronto Grand Prix. According to the organizers, there are 6 parties who have expressed interest in becoming the title sponsor.
No matter how much the loss of the Grand Prix is sugar coated, the economic reality of this loss is enormous.
• Over 3.5 million people have come to Toronto specifically for the car race since 1986
• The car race supports approximately 448 full time jobs in the GTA
• Approximately $5.1 million in tourist spending in Toronto from outside Ontario was directly attributed to the Grand Prix
Are you directly affected by the loss of the Toronto Grand Prix? Will you miss the race?
Monday, February 25th, 2008
Junior Spencer, a 30 year old pedophile, is considered a high risk to reoffend. He was part of child sex rings called The Company and The Family and was convicted of sex assaults against boys between the ages of 8 and 14 in addition to possessing and distributing child pornography between 1995 and 2005. These benevolent sounding groups helped pedophiles share images of child sex abuse and tips on luring. Mr. Spencer preyed on street kids and other children that he befriended while doing volunteer work. He forced them to have sex with other kids or adults while they were being filmed. Where is this criminal who will likely reoffend, you ask? He is free to roam the streets of Toronto because our criminal justice system has no teeth and he was only sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for his crimes, even though he was not a first time offender. In fact he has spent the better part of the last 10 years in and out of jail. Mr. Spenser was not even a model prisoner. His involvement with The Company and The Family continued during his incarceration, yet he was still out in 2 ½ years. Isn’t that an absolute outrage?
Pedophilia can’t be cured, yet we release them into society in short order, and we keep insider stock traders in prison for the rest of their lives. Where is the justice in that? According to Dr. Herbert Wagemaker, board-certified psychiatrist and renowned author, “There is no cure, but there is treatment. It has been shown that the SSRI’s, Prozac®, Zoloft®, Celexa®, Luvox®, Paxil®, and Lexapro® , in high doses are also useful in treating this illness. Treatment of pedophilia is difficult at best. Many of these men remain untreated”.
The Toronto Police were required to notify the public of Junior Spencer’s release because of his high-risk designation. He is now living at a halfway house at Keele St. and Dundas St. On the advice of the police the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) sent a letter home with students from all of its 560 schools warning parents about Mr. Spencer’s release. If he is to remain free he must abide by 27 conditions including:
• He cannot have a computer, a BlackBerry, or a camera
• He can’t make contact with his twin brother, Stephen Spencer, who lives in Ottawa and was convicted along with Junior in 2000 for operating a child pornography ring out of jail
• He must keep in close contact with Circles of Support and Accountability, an agency that helps offenders stay clean and find a job
• He must keep in close contact with a group of psychologists and physicians to ensure that he is taking medication that reduces his sex drive
• He cannot hold any job that brings him in contact with children
Monitoring will continue for 10 years. All of this is fine and good. The reality is that the public has every reason to be afraid that Junior Spence is back on the streets. The true crime is that our legal system set him free.
Monday, February 25th, 2008
A frightening 6-alarm blaze that was called in early Wednesday morning furiously tore through a strip of heritage buildings on Queen St. West between Bathurst Street and Ryerson Avenue. Four buildings were totally destroyed. The damage is estimated at $10 million dollars but to the residents and business that had inhabited those buildings, their losses are immeasurable. What price can anyone place on family heirlooms that no amount of money can ever replace?
It took more than 150 firefighters and 40 pumper and ladder trucks to subdue the fire. The cause of the blaze remains unknown and the investigation is expected to take 10 days to complete. Although there had been rumours that the fire was caused by a drug lab, there is no evidence to support that allegation. It is estimated that 60 people lost their homes and businesses, including landmark bike shop, Duke’s Cycle, but miraculously no lives were lost. In fact, no one was injured. A trust fund for those who lost their possessions has been established and some hotels have put up residents for free. Cash donations to the Queen Street Fire Fund can be made at Scotiabank locations throughout the city. Businesses in the area are pitching in and collecting new toiletries as well as used clothing and toys for the displaced residents. A fundraising concert is already in the works for one musician who lost all his equipment in the fire.
If anyone has any information regarding the fire, please contact the police at 416-808-1400 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.
Monday, February 25th, 2008
It seems to me that there is something seriously wrong with our immigration process if 70% of all refugees to Canada are making their homes in Toronto. Canada is an enormous country with opportunities for new comers in all of our provinces and territories. Unfortunately Toronto’s desirability is costing us a fortune in welfare claims. There are approximately 14,600 refugee claimants on welfare. The Province of Ontario contributes 108 million dollars to the cause and Toronto kicks in an additional 27 million dollars. Although the City of Toronto budgets for 20% of the refugee welfare claimants, the budget is being strained and there is talk of cutting back on some of the programs due to rising costs.
Of course everyone is looking to the Feds for financial help regarding the refugees’ welfare claims. And although that may be the short-term solution, is that really the answer? Shouldn’t we be reexamining our whole immigration process from selection to relocation? Surely there are cities and towns in Canada that are in greater need of immigrants than Toronto is. Shouldn’t we be trying to determine in advance what skills the immigrants have and relocate them in an area where those skills would be in the greatest demand? If our immigration system was operating properly I don’t believe that we would have 14,600 refugees on welfare. Our newcomers would be working, tax paying members of society who would be contributing to the system, not taking from it.
I am not making disparaging remarks about people who want to come to Canada and make a better life for themselves and for their families. Who could blame them? I applaud them for having the courage to leave everything behind and start anew. But I think that our processes are in serious need of a revamping so that we can ensure the happiest possible outcome for all concerned.
Monday, February 25th, 2008
||If you are like most Torontonians, you don’t necessarily get the warm and fuzzies when you think of taxi drivers. We all have our own stories about being overcharged, being driven on round about routes, rude taxi drivers…… And sympathy for Toronto taxi drivers doesn’t run very high. But if you accept as fact the results of study that was done by University of Toronto sociology professor Sara Abraham, Ryerson politics professor Aparna Sundar, and Osgoode Hall law student Dale Whitmore, then they are to be pitied, not scorned.
Deena Ladd of the Workers’ Action Centre supported the study’s findings. Even though the report is highly controversial and some of the findings are in dispute, it is very clear that something must be done to reform the taxi industry, immediately if not sooner.
The report called “Toronto Taxi Drivers: Ambassadors of the City” detailed the exploitation and substandard hourly wages earned by many Toronto taxi drivers. At the heart of the problem seems to be the small license plates that you see at the back of the taxi. They are a legal requirement and they are worth a king’s ransom in the taxi world – anywhere from $140,000 - $175,000. Needless to say many taxi drivers can’t afford to own a plate, so they lease instead on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Prior to 1998 anyone could own a taxi plate. Although the law now requires the owner to be a licensed taxi driver, there are many permits still in existence prior to 1998.
According to Richard Mucha, Licensing Manager of Municipal Licensing and Standards:
• There are 3,480 standard plates in Toronto
• There are 1,403 Ambassador plates in Toronto - These plates were given to the drivers by the city. They do not pay a leasing fee and cannot rent out their cars.
• There are 105 wheelchair-accessible plates in Toronto
• Of the 3,480 standard plates, 1,335 are owned by 556 corporate entities
• 1,080 plates are currently being leased by drivers who rent
• The average fee to lease a plate is $1,150/month
According to the study there are taxi drivers leasing plates who are earning $2.00/hour. And, if these drivers didn’t work marathon hours, they could actually end up losing money. In addition, many taxi drivers also say that they are victims of racism perpetrated upon them by their customers. Jim Bell, President of the Toronto Taxi Alliance and General Manager of Diamond Taxi, doesn’t believe that drivers are earning so low an hourly wage and states that in his experience drivers are making on average $12.00 - $15.00 per hour. His theory on the low hourly earnings is that drivers are under reporting. What ever you believe or disbelieve, it seems quite apparent that the taxi industry in Toronto merits further investigation and reform.
Monday, February 25th, 2008
Toronto commuters have become increasingly disenchanted with the TTC due to massive overcrowding, constantly changing routes, and equipment failures. Help is on the way! The Toronto Transit Commission has announced that starting this week they will begin implementing 21 million dollars worth of service improvements for buses and streetcars.
• Beginning next week 30 new buses will be added to the morning rush hour
• Beginning next week 40 new buses will be added to the afternoon rush hour
• The bus fleet will be increased by 125
• 500 new buses will be added over the next year
• 400 new drivers will be added over the next year
The magnitude of these changes is widespread – 77 routes will be affected. Although the entire GTA should notice the improvements, the increase in buses should have the greatest impact on the northwest and northeast routes which traditionally have been the most under serviced. At the moment, buses carry as many as 65 passengers during rush hour, and in some cases it is reported that 80 people are actually squashed like sardines on a bus. The goal is to reduce that number to 54. There are also major improvements planned for the fall when rush hour routes will be extended to all day service and there is a plan in place to match the bus service route hours to the subway schedule.
The money for the improvements came from 2 sources – increased Toronto Transit ticket prices and increased municipal taxes. Even so, for every fare the TTC requires a $0.62 subsidy. The TTC believes that the planned changes are enough to increase TTC ridership by 15,000,000 – 20,000,000? It seems like a lofty goal to me.
Friday, February 15th, 2008
The puritanical attitude of Toronto School Boards quite frankly boggles the mind. Instead of facing the realities of youth today and taking the opportunity to open a dialogue about the issues, they have chosen to shut down the process and pretend that the problems don’t exist.
The Toronto Boards have taken issue with a play called “Born Ready”, written by Joseph Jomo Pierre who grew up in Toronto. The play, which debuted in 2005, is being presented this month at the Theatre Passe Muraille as part of a double bill with a play called “Smokescreen” by David S. Craig. Both of these plays have themes which unfortunately resonate with today’s youth. Born Ready deals with today’s urban gun culture and Smokescreen speaks to drug abuse. Anyone who reads a Toronto newspaper or watches the news can’t deny how much these 2 issues have profoundly affected our youth. The beauty of Born Ready is that it emphasizes the need to speak honestly about the causes of youth violence within our communities. As such it is targeted to school audiences. In an effort to reach our youth and to open an honest dialogue, the Theatre Passe Muraille is promoting this double bill to students in addition to holding forums and question/answer periods.
Instead of embracing this opportunity the Toronto District School Board has not fully endorsed it. This is however better than the reaction of the Toronto Catholic District School Board who sent a memo to all its principals informing them that they do not recommend the show.
When will the Boards wake up and admit that guns and drugs are a part of today’s urban culture and need to be dealt with - not ignored. Perhaps these are the types of play that families with teenagers should go and see together. To purchase tickets go to their website. http://www.passemuraille.on.ca/
Friday, February 15th, 2008
Here is the shocking statistic - 3,000 people die in crashes in Canada each year, and about 1/3, or 1,000, of those deaths can be linked to medically unfit drivers. This is according to Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a senior scientist with the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences in Toronto. He has been involved in a study that has proven that 1/3 of drivers involved in serious car accidents were suffering from a chronic medical condition that contributed to the crashes.
The study involved 1,605 drivers that were taken to Sunnybrook Hospital after they had been involved in a car accident from June 30, 1996 – June 30, 2001. If the attending physician determined that alcohol abuse, neurological disorders such as dementia, and/or certain cardiovascular conditions or procedures may have contributed to the accident, then that patient’s medical records were studied to determine whether the patient had previously been diagnosed with the aforementioned conditions and to make note of his previous visits to the doctor. Although it is extremely difficult to believe, almost all of these patients had seen a doctor within the previous 12 months and their doctors were clearly aware of their conditions. But, almost none of them had been reported as required by law. What is not surprising is that 72% of those with a reportable condition suffered from alcohol abuse.
We have laws in place that require doctors to notify the licensing authorities of anyone that has developed a condition or conditions that would make then unfit to drive. The Ontario Highway Safety Act defines this as any person who “is suffering from a condition that may make it dangerous for the person to operate a motor vehicle.” After the person is reported by a doctor, some conditions require the immediate suspension of their driver’s license, while others may require the driver to be retested.
Since the medical profession is clearly not obeying the law and serving the public’s best interests, Dr. Redelmeier is suggesting that the law be expanded to require that family members, insurance companies, and even mechanics be required to report a medically unsafe driver. This is not about being unkind. It’s about saving lives! What do you think about expanding the law beyond the medical profession?
Friday, February 15th, 2008
||I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to wonder if all of the talk about global warming is just an elaborate hoax. Toronto’s weather has been just brutal with temperatures that could make a penguin shiver. And the snow appears to be never-ending.
In case you think that we’re done, check the City News 7-day forecast by following the link and weep! City News Weather.
We have now had more snow in Toronto than in the 2 previous winters combined. At the moment we are experiencing the second snowiest winter on record. But, hey, it’s only mid-February. We still have plenty of time to snatch first place honours from the winter of 1937 - 1938. The snowiest February on record belongs to the year 1846 when 117 cms of snow fell in 28 days. It will be interesting to see how we fare when February is done.
Snow removal has been abysmal! Many streets are yet uncleared. Some streets look like a ski slalom course with big mounds of snow that grow taller every day. Driving is impossible on some streets and walking can be even more treacherous. Believe it or not there is a City of Toronto phone number to call where you can report the following snow related issues:
• Uncleared streets
• Dangerous snow banks
• Dangerous sidewalks
• Report your neighbours anonymously for not clearing their sidewalks within 12 hours. This infraction merits a $125.00 fine.
• Seniors and the disabled may apply to have the snow removed from their sidewalks at no charge as long as there is no one residing in their home under the age of 65 that can shovel snow.
Feel free to call the city for any of the above mentioned issues at
416-392-7768. Just be aware that although each call will be investigated that the City of Toronto only has 7 bylaw officers that are currently dealing with hundreds of calls every day. The reality is that spring may come before the city gets around to dealing with your snow related issues. Where is global warming when you need it?
Monday, February 11th, 2008
||Whether you love it or hate it, a recent poll shows that 74% of all Canadians celebrate Valentine’s Day. It puts a lot of pressure – emotionally and financially on couples – and sends many unattached singles into a downward spiral. Why not throw convention to the wind and do something different this year? Who knows, you may even start to enjoy it!
Instead of spending money on decadent indulgences, the Sick Kids Foundation has wonderful Valentine cards and gifts that are not just beautiful, but will truly make a difference. Follow the link below for the details.
For sports minded couples, why not take in a hockey game? The New York Islanders will be in town taking on the Leafs on Valentine’s Day. Follow the link below for more information.
Do you have marriage on y our mind? There is no time like Valentine’s Day to tie the knot! The Toronto Wedding Chapel is offering an all-inclusive Valentine’s Day Wedding Special. Follow the link below for more information.
Valentine’s Day is not just for couples. It’s a wonderful time for families to celebrate too. The Montgomery Inn is hosting a St. Valentine’s Day Tea on February 14th from 1:00 PM – 4:30 PM. And, it’s affordable for the whole family - Adults: $3.77 Children: $0.94 Seniors/Student: $1.89 Family Pass: $9.43 plus GST. For more information on the Montgomery Inn follow the link below.
For singles who feel that Valentine’s Day holds no appeal for them, Meet Market Adventures is hosting a Toronto Singles Anti-Valentine’s Day Party at Shmooze located at 15 Mercer St. For all of the details follow the link below.
Singles Anti-Valentine’s Day