Archive for May, 2009
Monday, May 25th, 2009
If not and you are planning to travel to the U.S., you have a problem. As of June 1, 2009 citizens of Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the 17 nations of the Caribbean Region are now required to have passports or other approved secure documents when entering the United States by ground, air, or sea. This is certainly a change from the days that Canadians could travel to the U.S. with a birth certificate or any form of picture identification. Passports have been required for entry into the U.S. by air for the last year with photo identification valid for ground entry points, but, those days are over. Why? According the U.S. Department of State “The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is a result of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), requiring all travelers to present a passport or other document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the United States. The goal of WHTI is to strengthen U.S. border security while facilitating entry for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors by providing standardized documentation that enables the Department of Homeland Security to quickly and reliably identify a traveler”.
The only forms of approved secure documents that will allow you to enter the United States are:
• Valid passport
• NEXUS card
• Free and Secure Trade (FAST) card
• Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL)/Enhanced Identification card
What is a NEXUS card?
NEXUS is designed to expedite the border clearance process for low-risk, pre-approved travelers into Canada and the United States. The fee is $50.00 Canadian. Apply for NEXUS here . The NEXUS card is a cheaper alternative to a passport for Canadians who are certain that they won’t be traveling to the U.S. by air. In addition, there are dedicated NEXUS lanes at ground border crossings, greatly reducing your wait times.
What is a Free and Secure Trade (FAST) card?
The FAST program is available for drivers, carriers, importers who are identified as low risk. The fee is $50.00 Canadian. Apply here.
What is an Enhance Driver’s License (EDL)/Enhanced Identification Card?
It is an acceptable document to present when entering the United States by land and water only. Apply for an EDL here. The fee is $40.00 plus the cost of a driver’s license, making the cost of a Canadian Passport cheaper and a better deal.
Apply for a Canadian Passport here. The fees are $87.00 Canadian for a 24 page passport and $92.00 Canadian for a 48 page passport.
Monday, May 25th, 2009
Toronto’s festival of arts and creativity is back from June 5 – 14 showcasing a magnificent selection of music, dance, theatre, film, literature, and visual arts and design. This unique festival features local, national, and international artists in some of Toronto’s fantastic indoor and outdoor venues. Over 1,000,000 discovered the magic of Luminato last year. Yonge-Dundas Square is the hub of Luminato’s activity and the scene of many exciting programs.
This is truly an event for the entire city to enjoy with amazing free events including:
• Luminato First Night with Randy Bachman at Yonge-Dundas Square
• The Traveling Blues at Metro Square
• Closing Weekend Celebrations Featuring Cirque du Soleil at the Waterfront
• Brazilian Guitar Marathon at the Village of Yorkville Park
• 1,000 Tastes of Toronto at the Central Waterfront
• Family Dance Party at Yonge-Dundas Square
• Animated Films Based on Children’s Books at National Film Board Mediatheque
Here is a complete list of festival events, free and ticketed. Buy tickets at the Yonge-Dundas Square T.O. Tix Booth or online. Don’t delay! Some events are already sold out. Free events are available on a first come, first serve basis and admission may be limited in some venues. It is best to arrive early and avoid disappointment.
Luminato is for everyone – young and old – and the venues provide barrier-free access. Please advise the ticket agent at the time of purchase if you require wheelchair seating. Listening devises are available at many venues. Please contact the Luminato offices at email@example.com or call 416-368-3100 for more information.
Monday, May 25th, 2009
It appears that two enterprising fellows in Montreal have found a way to ease the pain of finding parking in Montreal, so why can’t it be done in Toronto? Philippe Guevremont and Dominic Chartrand founded Ma Place, a website that finds and reserves a parking space for you in downtown Montreal and near Metro Longueuil. It’s a very simple process. You sign up and enter where and when you need a parking space. The computer finds the parking space, reserves it, and takes your payment by credit card. So far approximately 700 people have signed up for the service.
Why don’t we have anything like this in Toronto? The closest is http://www.parkingspots.com/ which doesn’t help in your daily quest to find a parking space. What it does is help you find long term monthly parking, rent out your monthly parking space, and locate event parking.
Ma Place sounds like a great idea that could really work in Toronto. The amount of time wasted looking for a parking space, not to mention the frustration level, continues to escalate. In spite of the fact that the Mayor of Toronto and the current city council would like to see cars banished from our fair city that is not going to happen. Making the parking process more efficient would benefit the drivers, the city, and the environment. There would be much less gridlock and less idling, therefore less pollution. It seems that this type of parking system is a win-win for everyone. Why doesn’t the City of Toronto get behind a project like this and do something useful for a change?
Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
The residents of Toronto are not heartless, nor are they unsympathetic to the cause of the Tamils. The truth is that most Torontonians don’t know what is going on in Sri Lanka and have little to no understanding of the plight of the Tamils. They are however more than a bit bewildered about what the constant disruptions by protesters in downtown Toronto is going to accomplish.
The reality is that although Toronto is the financial capital of Canada, no foreign policy is made here. In spite of the fact that the GTA is home to 200,000 Tamils, the largest Tamil community outside Sri Lanka, protesting in Toronto will do nothing to further their cause. Dalton McGuinty is powerless on the foreign stage, as are all provincial premiers. Requests for government intervention in foreign affairs must be taken to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, not in the streets of Toronto. Protesting in front of the U.S. Embassy on University Avenue will accomplish nothing except to cause chaos for Torontonians and block access to hospital row. Closing the Gardiner Expressway with children in tow was unconscionable. Arrange for busses for the Tamil protesters and take them to Ottawa and Washington where their voices will be heard and hopefully make a difference in their homeland.
The plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka has been compared to the genocide in Rwanda. The world shamelessly stood by and did nothing. Let’s hope that we have learned from that lesson and that the major powers in the world play an active role in preventing history from repeating itself. That being said, I am not in favour of protests that continuously disrupt the city when there is no part that the Ontario provincial government or Toronto city government can play or assist in the cause of the Tamils. Take the protests to Ottawa and Washington where you have a hope to effect change instead of the streets of Toronto when with each disruption you lose public sympathy for your cause.
Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
How on earth can cigarette companies pretend to be concerned about the environment when they produce a product that kills? Each day 123 Canadians die from tobacco related causes. Is greener packaging going to change that statistic? Does anyone really care that Imperial Tobacco has replaced foil wrapping with paper and uses external cardboard packaging that meets standards supporting sustainable forest management?
Aside from the health risks associated with cigarette smoke and second hand smoke, the foil paper is the least of the environmental problems related to cigarettes. Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world. It is estimated that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered annually. Although you may have been led to believe that cigarette butts are biodegradable, the reality is that it may take 25 years, or they may never degrade. No one knows for sure. The only certainty is that cigarettes are definitely not a green product. Now, take into consideration that every cigarette contains over 4,000 chemicals. What do you think happens to these chemicals when you toss a butt? The chemicals get into the soil or are washed into lakes, rivers, and oceans, causing damage. Animals, fish, and birds can die from eating cigarette butts. And what are issues being tackled by the cigarette manufacturers? Foil paper!
Attention all cigarette manufacturers! There are many problems related to cigarettes that can cause serious damage to the environment, and cause death in animals, fish, birds, and humans. Foil paper is the least of our problems. Please devote yourself to something more constructive.
Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
Doors Open Toronto is returning from May 23 – 24 for its 10th year and it is bigger and better than ever with 175 buildings participating. Each of these buildings has architectural, historic, cultural and/or social significance. Admission is FREE in all participating buildings. Here is a list of the buildings that will be open to the public and the days and hours of availability. Be sure to check carefully as not all buildings are open on both days and the hours of availability may vary. The buildings are spread out all over the GTA so try to plan strategically in order to see as many as possible. The TTC is a much better option than trying to drive from building to building and locating parking each time.
New additions to Doors Open Toronto include the Albany Club, the Artscape Wynchwood Barns, Centre for Iranian Studies, the Deaf Culture Centre, Don Jail, the Wind Turbine Generator at Exhibition Place, the Factory Theatre, Fire Halls 423 & 425, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship York, Islamic Information & Dawah Centre International, Scarborough Masonic Temple, Shamrock Bowl, Textile Museum of Canada, Tollkeeper’s Cottage, TTC Greenwood Maintenance Shop, Variety Village, and the Westwood Sailing Club.
There are no tickets or pre-registration required. Make sure that you wear comfortable shoes, have sunblock, a hat, and water with you. It is not uncommon for some buildings to have long lines. Program guides will be available as inserts in the Thursday, May 21 edition of the Toronto Star, City Hall Doors Open Toronto Headquarters at 100 Queen Street West from Thursday, May 21, at the Royal Ontario Museum Friday night kick-off party from 4:30 - 9:30 PM., Access Toronto desks in all Toronto Civic Centres, and at All Doors Open Toronto buildings on the event weekend.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
Why are President Obama and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty suddenly talking about regulating the credit card industry? Simply put, we are all getting taken advantage of – retailers and consumers alike. The bank interest rates keep going down and the credit card interest rates keep going up. There is no regulation and the credit card companies are free to do what ever they want to. It’s about time someone did something about it.
According to Stop Sticking It To Us, a group of Canadian associations led by Retail Council of Canada and backed by over 200,000 businesses from coast-to-coast, Canadian consumers paid over $4.5 billion in hidden credit card fees last year. What can you do about it? Contact your Member of Parliament and sign the Stop Sticking It To Us petition.
We may very well see higher debit card changes very soon. Interac is talking with the Competition Bureau of Canada about changing from a not-for-profit to a for-profit company and both Visa and MasterCard are planning to enter the Canadian debit card market soon. This will cost both consumers and merchants dearly. A Bank of Canada survey reported on the current cost of processing a transaction. On a $36.50 transaction the costs are:
• Debit card - 19 cents.
• Cash - 25 cents.
• Credit card - 82 cents.
It’s no wonder that a Bank of Canada study from August 2008 found that 53% of merchants preferred debit cards, 30% preferred cash, and only 5% preferred credit cards.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty isn’t saying much about what we can expect in the form of regulations for the credit card industry. In all likelihood Canada will wait and see what the Americans are doing and then follow suit.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
Is Twitter much ado about nothing – the pet rock of the Internet world? In case you have been living under your pet rock, Twitter is a free online social messaging service that connects people in real time. It asks one question – “What are you doing?” The answers, called “tweets” must be under 140 characters in length. Tweets can be sent via mobile texting, instant message, or the web to your friends who are referred to as followers.
Twitter has been described in many different ways, depending on who you ask – micro-blogging and social messaging are the two most common descriptors. Personally I just find it a take off of IM (instant message). The fact that a tweet can only contain a maximum of 140 characters is what the pundits are attributing to its vast amount of followers. People are reportedly fatigued by email and IM. Tweets can be sent using the Twitter website directly, as a single SMS alert, or via a third-party application such as Twirl, Snitter, or the Twitterfox add-on for Firefox, making it an attractive option to as many people as possible. Everyone is getting into the act including Oprah and some heads of state, but now they are finding out that many of the rich and famous who are reportedly tweeting are not tweeting at all. They are far too busy for such mundane activities and have hired personal assistants to tweet for them. So much for the personal touch!
From a personal perspective, I don’t understand the appeal. I feel connected enough without Twitter. It’s just another distraction and another network that needs to be tended. I find that we spend way too much time and effort trying to connect online in real time when the old fashioned telephone has always given us the ability to connect in real time in a way that I find much more human and meaningful.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
As of yet nothing has been carved in stone but Toronto traffic officials say that they will experiment with banning right turns on red lights at 10 intersections next year in an effort to make the streets safer for pedestrians. According to a City of Toronto study, in 2002 and 2003 drivers turning right on red lights hit 422 pedestrians trying to cross a Toronto intersection with the right-of-way. As a pedestrian who has almost been mowed down on numerous occasions by careless drivers turning on a red light I applaud the move. As a driver, I loathe the idea of sitting at a red light waiting for the light to change before I can turn.
The intersections under consideration for the experiment will be high foot traffic intersections. However, opponents of the idea say that this is just an underhanded way of introducing the ban on right turns on red lights, and that once this comes into effect it will spread. You may not be aware but there are already 98 places in Toronto where you can’t turn right on a red light including the scramble intersection at Yonge and Dundas Streets.
Most cities in Canada and the United States permit making right turns on red lights. Montreal and New York City are the two notable exceptions and if you ever experienced the drivers in those cities first hand, you would be very grateful for the ban. If indeed the ban would just effect intersections with high foot traffic, then I support it, but if slowly but surely Torontonians are going to lose their ability to make right hand turns on red lights, then I am against the idea. How do you feel about it?
Monday, May 4th, 2009
It’s humiliating that Canada has now joined Algeria, China, Russia, Pakistan, Indonesia and Venezuela on the U.S. blacklist of countries that does not take action against Internet piracy. Canada now has the dubious honour of being the only Western democracy on the list. The reasons cited are that we are a hub for bootleg movies, pirated software, and the use of chips that bypass copyright protections. No one is denying that it exists, but is it worst at the Pacific Mall in Markham than on Canal Street in Manhattan?
It appears that Canada has not implemented the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Internet treaties which we signed in 1997, nor have we enacted our own laws governing intellectual property. President Obama has certainly taken a touch position on this issue. Perhaps because he appears to be the most technologically savvy of the presidents, or because he has started the rallying cry “Buy American”, he has become a crusader for the protection of intellectual property. Calling on Canada to stop pirated and counterfeit movies and DVDs from crossing into the U.S., Washington is also requesting that Canadian customs officers have the authority to seize pirated materials. At the moment they have to seek a court order each time they suspect a shipment.
What I don’t understand is that it is reported that the International Intellectual Property Alliance which is a group that includes Microsoft, Apple, and Paramount pressed the Bush administration to get Canada to enforce intellectual property laws. Now apparently the Obama administration is doing what the Bush administrations wouldn’t. Why wouldn’t they have pressed Canada themselves? And why aren’t we doing more to protect intellectual property?