Archive for June, 2008
Monday, June 30th, 2008
||Come out to Queens Park on July 5th & July 6th for a fabulous FREE celebration of African music and culture in Toronto. From 12:00 PM – 10:30 PM on both days Canadian and international groups will be performing African music in both traditional and contemporary styles on 3 stages. International artists include Dobet Gnahore from the Ivory Coast, Fallou Dieng from Senegal, and Mayra Andrade from Cape Verde. Canadian artists include Alpha Yaya Diallo from Vancouver, Mighty Popo from Ottawa, and Toronto’s own Nakupenda.
Afrofest is Canada’s largest annual African music festival, with 80,000 expected to attend this year. This is a great event for the whole family with plenty of activities for the kids - arts and crafts, drumming and dance, face-painting, stilt workshops, clay, storytelling, and free music workshops. Don’t forget to stop in at the African Marketplace where you will have the opportunity to sample some very delicious and exotic food, and do some shopping. There will be crafts and clothing available for sale.
Drumming is becoming very popular and very mainstream. It is even being used with great success at corporate team building events and at private parties. Teachers are available for instruction and there will be drumming ensembles and drum circles. The Babatunde Olatunji Drum Stage will feature Samba Squad, Maracatu Nunca Antes, Sani Abu & Ijovudu Dance Company, the Southern Volta Cultural Performers, and more.
Come out and celebrate Afrofest. Explore African music and the beauty of the culture.
Monday, June 30th, 2008
I’m already salivating at the thought of Summerlicious. From July 4th – July 20th Toronto’s foodies will be in wining and dining heaven. Over 130 fantastic Toronto restaurants offer prix fixe menus available at lunch and/or at dinner for absolutely amazing prices. Some of Toronto’s finest and priciest restaurants, that most of us mere mortals just can’t afford, actually have 3-course dinners for a maximum of $35.00!
For those of you who are uninitiated a prix fixe menu is one that has a fixed price. Lunches are either $15.00 or $20.00. Dinners are either $25.00 or $35.00. These prices are all-inclusive except for beverages, tax, and gratuities which are extra. The participating restaurants have each created a special 3-course meal with an appetizer, main course, and dessert for the occasion.
Make your reservations now! Some of the restaurants in Yorkville and in the financial district are booked out almost immediately. There are so many marvelous places to choose from that there is no need to get fixated on one or two. Explore the possibilities and you may discover some hidden gems right in your own neighbourhood.
Search by neighbourhood:
The restaurants participating in Summerlicious are also showcasing some award-winning, limited edition wines. Two of these wineries are right here in our own fabulous wine country in the Niagara Peninsula – Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin. Wines will also be featured from RH Phillips of California and Goundrey Homestead of Australia.
Summerlicious is a great way to try out new restaurants or revisit some of your old favourites. You never know which one will become your new favourite restaurant.
Monday, June 30th, 2008
Have you been issued a $30.00 Toronto parking ticket and requested a court date in order to contest? If so, chances are that you never heard back from Toronto court services with a date and you feel like you’ve won the lottery. In fact this is not a random isolated incident and you are not alone.
According to Toronto court services:
• since January 2006 it accepted 250,000 requests from drivers to contest a $30.00 parking ticket
• to date only 4,300 trial dates were issued
• since January 2008 it has accepted 37,000 requests from drivers to contest a $30.00 parking ticket
• to date 0 trial dates have been issued
• 600,000 charges are heard annually in the city courts that include everything from municipal bylaw infractions, workplace safety violations, and speeding tickets
• there are a shortage of courtrooms
• there are a shortage of justices of the peace who preside over the parking ticket trials
A $30.00 Toronto parking ticket is usually issued for overtime parking and in the grand scheme of things it is a very low priority in terms of scheduling trial dates. Parking tickets are very lucrative for the city of Toronto. Last year alone the city collected $79 million from parking tickets. From purely a dollar and cents perspective it has been suggested that would cost the city more money to issue the trial dates and proceed with each one than to stop holding trials for $30.00 parking tickets. Chances are that if you are issued a $30.00 Toronto parking tickets and you request a trail date, you will never have to pay the ticket. However that is not a certainty and your requests will remain in the system and could come back to haunt you at a later date. Are you waiting for a trail date for your $30.00 parking ticket? Did you know that you had a good chance of not having to pay before you requested your trial date?
Monday, June 23rd, 2008
The Toronto Fringe Festival, one of the best in the world and Toronto’s largest theatre festival, will host over 800 local and international artists performing in over 135 unique productions – dramas, musicals, and improvisations - in more than 25 venues. This fabulous festival is not just for adults, it is for the entire family. Take your kids to KidsVenuewhich will be hosting 8 plays just for kids and their families.
Check out the play listings and the venues. Advance tickets can be purchased up to 3 hours prior to the start of a performance. Tickets are amazingly cheap – cheaper than going to a movie. Advance Tickets are only $10 each. Children’s Advance tickets for the KidsVenue are $5 each. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone and in person.
Stop in at the Fringe Club located at 292 Brunswick Avenue, just south of Bloor Street. It’s open to everyone and a great chance to mix and mingle with the artists until 2:00 AM. The McAuslan Beer Tent is open until 11:30 PM nightly.
The Toronto Fringe Festival is such a great event and you never know what play will go on to great heights! Remember the Drowsy Chaperone? Before it went on to be a multiple Tony Award winner it premiered at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 1999. Have you decided what you’re going to see? I’m going to see http://www.inspirationstump.com/
Monday, June 23rd, 2008
In case you’re one of the only people who doesn’t know that the CBC lost the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song, let me recap for you. Dolores Claman owns the right to the theme song which has been used on Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts since 1968. In order to continue to use the theme Dolores Claman was reported to have asked the CBC for between $2.5 and $3 million for its use in perpetuity. The CBC confirmed on June 6th that they were no longer in negotiations for the theme because the price was too high. As a result CTV acquired the rights to the song on June 9th, which now will be heard before NHL games airing on TSN. No financial details of the deal have been released.
A CP/Decima poll conducted from June 12 to June 15 produced the following results:
• the majority of Canadians feel the CBC did the right thing when it bowed out of bidding for the Hockey Night in Canada theme song
• 56% of Canadians said the CBC shouldn’t have paid more than $1 million
• 27% of Canadians said the CBC should have paid more than $1 million
• 59% said that they weren’t bothered about the CBC’s loss of the theme song
• 62% supported CBC’s plan to stage a nationwide contest for a new song
• 14% think that the CBC will lose viewers without the song
The CBC has launched Canada’s Hockey Anthem Challenge, a national contest to find a new song for its weekly hockey broadcast and Canadians have until August 31st to submit their musical entries. The prize is $100,000 and 50% of royalty fees with the other 50% going to minor hockey. Follow the link below for contest details and to enter.
Monday, June 23rd, 2008
It looks like the high flying Toronto City Councillors will finally get their wings clipped after years of ludicrous spending sprees. The councillors’ budgets which are capped at $53,100 per year have been used for exorbitant restaurant bills, copious amounts of alcohol, limos, and the like. These expenses hardly sound like the necessities of the day to day running of an office, yet nothing has been done to put an end to this abuse of budgetary discretion – until now.
A new proposed policy has been presented that would:
• cap claims for business meals at $500.00/year
• prohibit charging the city for alcohol consumed at business meetings
• prohibit councillors from giving donations and sponsorships to community events
• only allow councillors to expense legal fees after first consulting the city solicitor
• require councillors who pay for office expenses out of their own pockets to provide receipts
• have the city add details of councillors’ spending to its website
This proposed policy requires council approval next month before it can be enforced and it will be interesting to see how the council votes. The reality is that the public no longer has any trust for the councillors who have been abusing the system for years for their personal gain. Their budgets are meant to give them the necessary funds required to run a council office. They were never meant to give carte blanche to civil servants who want to live the high life. Are the councillors who have been abusing the system just going to be permitted to carry on as though no wrong doing has been committed? There should be some penalty imposed including paying back funds that were used inappropriately. What do you think should be done?
Thursday, June 19th, 2008
Toronto Hydro is selling off its telecommunications unit – Toronto Hydro Telecom owns 450 kilometres of fibre-optic cable across the city as well as a Wi-Fi network – to Cogeco Cable Inc. for $200 million. With the proceeds of the sale Toronto Hydro will conduct a major upgrade of its distribution system and pay the City of Toronto a $75 million special dividend.
This $75 million will hopefully be invested by the city into improving its pathetic and often sub-human public housing which for years has been plagued (pun intended) with rodent and insect infestations, water damage, electrical problems, crumbling walls and balconies, mould, and the list goes on. Currently there are over 160,000 people living in pubic housing. The money is earmarked for use by Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) to refurbish 5,000 of its 58,000 units, retrofit 10 buildings with energy efficient systems, and to repair and bring back up to code 250 buildings that have been standing empty and derelict.
In case you think that the $75 million will fix public housing, think again. The estimated repairs 3 years ago were $225 million. Today the costs are estimated at $300 million. The estimates keep going up as the conditions in public housing continue to deteriorate while the city and the province continue to fight about who is responsible for repairing and maintaining these units. In the meantime the public housing residents have had enough and one resident launched a class-action lawsuit against the Toronto Community Housing Corporation last September, citing substandard conditions and an inability to get repairs completed promptly when required. The number of people who have signed onto the lawsuit has grown exponentially.
The $75 million is only a start and it is not yet a fait accompli - the decision to spend the $75 million dividend on public housing will now go before city council for approval and not everyone is happy about it. Perhaps the dissenters should spend some time in a public housing unit.
Thursday, June 19th, 2008
The TTC wants to replace all adult tickets with tokens by the end of September. Apparently since the last fare hike there has been an increase in counterfeited tickets and replacing them with tokens seems to be the only option. If the TTC proposal is accepted:
• adult tickets will no longer be accepted as of September 28th
• in mid-September you will be able to exchange your adult tickets for tokens at the Yonge-Bloor subway station or at TTC headquarters at Yonge and Davisville
• student and senior tickets will not be effected and will remain in use
The TTC reports that the loss of revenue due to counterfeiting is now 1.5% which translates to between $300,000 and $400,000 per month. Quite frankly that boggles my mind and I wouldn’t mind seeing a little proof of these figures. However if these figures are correct the projected revenue losses for 2008 at $5 million. In 2007 65 million adult tickets or 15% of TTC fares were used. In order to replace this many tickets the TTC will have to ramp up its production of tokens to the tune of $2 million.
There are a lot of counterfeit tickets currently in circulation. And although I recognize that this is a problem I am loathe to change from tickets to tokens. Perhaps it is a function of age, but the tokens blend in too easily with other coins and frequently appear to disappear while my old standby tickets are easy to find. Are you a ticket person, a token person, or is it all the same for you?
Thursday, June 19th, 2008
The high price of gas seems to be permeating every part of our lives and driving prices up across the board. It has been estimated that the increase in the prices at the pump is costing taxi drivers an extra $20.00 to $30.00 per day. In order to offset the increase in gas prices, an increase in taxi fares should be approved by city council in the next few weeks and it is substantial. The starting price (drop rate) on the meter is going up by $1.00 – increasing from $3.00 - $4.00 and the mileage charge will be increasing by $0.15. A 5 kilometre ride would increase from $10.00 to $11.75, a 10 kilometre ride would increase from $17.50 to $20.00 and a 25 kilometre ride would increase from $39.50 to $44.00. This is the first rate hike since 2005 and it should be in effect by mid-July. However if some changes aren’t made, and quickly, there will be more to come.
One of the proposed changes is that taxi drivers should be permitted to use smaller cars and hybrid vehicles that burn less fuel. At the moment hybrid vehicles are only permitted to remain in service for 5 years. It is also proposed that they be allowed to be on the road for a longer period of time. Some taxi drivers suggested that the drop rate be increased by $2.00 in lieu of increasing the mileage charge. They are worried that the public will note tolerate the increase in the drop rate and the mileage rate and use the TTC more frequently.
I’m sure that there will be people that take the TTC more often. But I would suggest that if taxi drivers would change their attitudes – be pleasant to your fares, don’t talk on your cell phones incessantly when you have passengers in the car, and don’t drive like crazed lunatics – the public would be less inclined to jump ship, even with a rate hike.
Thursday, June 19th, 2008
The Ontario Legislature has now banned smoking in a vehicle if a child under 16 years of age is present. The proposed law applies to all motor vehicles, both moving and stationary, and it doesn’t matter whether the windows, doors, sunroofs, etc are open. It has not yet been determined what the fine will be if caught, but it is thought that each offense will carry a $250 fine. Lt.-Gov. David Onley must give the bill royal assent for the law to take effect and there is no word on when that will happen. Nova Scotia and British Columbia already have a similar law in place. Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are also considering a similar ban.
This is a blow for smokers who are already banned from smoking in the workplace and in all public areas. However this ban is designed to protect our children rather than be punitive to smokers. According to recent studies, second-hand smoke in motor vehicles can be up to 27 times more concentrated than in your house. There is also research to show that children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to suffer Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and severe asthma.
This would certainly seem to trump the smoker’s right to smoke in their vehicles. Not so says www.mychoice.ca, a non-profit organization funded by the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council. This is a membership-driven association designed to allow Canada’s adult smokers have their say about how smokers are being treated. Their concern is that the government will eventually extend the smoking ban to private homes.
Do you think that it is more important to protect the rights of smokers or the health of children?