Monthly Archives: August 2009

Daycare, garbage, EMS essential services?

Toronto councillor wants these city services deemed essential
The issue will be up for debate at power Exec Committee Sept 8
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Aug. 7 for Town Crier.)

Enduring 39 days without trash pick-up, city-run daycare and full emergency medical service wasn’t anyone’s idea of a great way to start the summer.
While Torontonians don’t want to see another strike like it anytime soon St. Paul’s councillor Michael Walker wants to go a step further. 
He doesn’t want them to strike again … ever.
The midtown rep thinks its wrong and is advocating for essential services status for all these city programs. 
Walker brought forward three motions to city council Aug. 6 to ask that the province mandate daycare and children’s services, garbage collection and EMS as essential services, like police and fire, which would legally prohibit striking.
There was no debate on any of his recommendations, but rather these motions were referred off to the Executive Committee’s September 8 meeting.
Walker outlines his argument for each programs being declared essential. Continue reading

Women in public life

What obstacles do female politicians still face?
Panel discussion I am part of examines this very topic
(This column originally published April 23 for Town Crier.)

The Honourable Dr. Carolyn Bennett asked me to be part of a panel discussion on women in politics on March 27. 
You may know Bennett as the MP for St. Paul’s, but I use her official titles for a reason. One issue that was raised is the fact that media refer to female politicians by first names such as Belinda (Stronach), Kim (Campbell) or Sheila (Copps). And it’s less likely for a printed article to refer to a male politician by his first name only.
Keynote speaker, Sylvia Bashevkin, the principal of U of T’s University College, has written several books on women in politics. She spoke about instances in the past where female candidates have gone door knocking at dinnertime and when they presents their campaign literature, including a photo of their husband and kids, they have been asked who is feeding her family. 
The panel included another local political rep Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne who, as a lesbian, was told she could not win in North Toronto back when she ran as a school trustee. Of course she has proved them wrong and as education minister also won re-election against a formidable challenger in John Tory, the former Ontario PC leader. 
For my part, I spoke to the 70 or so female students from Northern, Rosedale and other midtown high schools about my experience as a journalist writing about politics. Continue reading

Accessibility for blind in Toronto

Area near CNIB is easy for the vision impared to navigate
But not so much for rest of the city
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally published Aug. 13 for Town Crier.)

Debbie Williams, centre, waits at an intersection until she knows it’s safe to cross. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.

Debbie Williams is luckier than most visually impaired individuals.
She lives next door to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s headquarters on Baview Ave. just north of Eglinton Ave. East. The sidewalks, businesses, signalized intersections and transit in this area is designed to be more accessible for people who are blind or have reduced vision.
So in some ways this neighbourhood is a model to copy for other communities.
At Bayview and Kilgour Rd. there are audible pedestrian signals at the traffic lights emitting a coo-coo sound to indicate when it’s safe to walk north-south and chirp noises for when pedestrians should cross east-west.
Also, if you keep your hand on the button it will vibrate for people who are deaf and blind so they know when the light is green in their direction.
The city currently has about 257 signalized intersections equipped with audio signals and another 30 will be added this year. Continue reading

Talbot Apartment OMB hearing postponed

The Ontario Municipal Board will now consider Leaside buildings’ fate in Nov.
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally published Aug. 17 for
Town Crier.)

Those wanting a swift conclusion to the long battle over preserving Leaside’s Talbot apartments will likely wait until the new year for a decision.
The Ontario Municipal Board has rescheduled the case from Aug. 24 until Nov. 2.
The municipal government sought the adjournment because during the 39-day strike city planning lawyers were redeployed to other duties and witnesses were walking the picket lines.
OMB member Marc Denhez delivered the oral decision to postpone the case at the end of a July 31 conference call with representatives from all three parties, according to Carol Burtin Fripp, a director with the Leaside Property Owners Association, which is participating in the hearings. 
“It’s given us more time to get our statements together from residents who are participants,” she said following the postponement. Continue reading

Beach water safe for swimming Aug 16

Water tests show positive results at ten Toronto beaches
Marie Curtis the only beach unsafe to swim today: city
By Kris Scheuer

I went for a 3.5 hour walk in the hot sun today that took me right down to Sunnyside Beach.
It is one of eleven beaches the city tests daily and results posted today show it was safe for splashing about.
I saw lot of people tanning on the beach, on the grass in the park and also cooling off in the lake water at Sunnyside. Not only were they in the beach water, but kids were at the splash pad and the outdoor pool was packed.
I did not make it to the other beaches today, but I am sure people were having just as much fun at them. Continue reading

Politician’s tale of son she gave up

Churley, right, with son Billy she gave up for adoption. Churely's daughter Astra.

Marilyn Churley relives son’s adoption in tell-all book
Former NDP pol helped create laws so it’s easier to reunite post adoption
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally published April 28/07 for Town Crier.)

In her first interview about her upcoming book, Marilyn Churley speaks about her personal journey of being a teen mother and re-uniting with the son she gave up for adoption in 1968.
The as-yet untitled book, which is scheduled to be released sometime this year by McClelland & Stewart, is a story about the former Toronto-Danforth MPP’s personal journey to find her son and about her political journey to make it easier for birth mothers and their adopted children to reconnect.
To understand Churley’s story, you have to journey back nearly 40 years. Churley, who was raised in Happy Valley, Labrador was attending university in Ottawa when she became pregnant at age 18. Continue reading

Using the city services you pay for

Many city services are free or subsidized by taxpayers’ dollars
Why not use the programs you pay to provide
By Kris Scheuer
(Column originally published March 19 for Town Crier.)

With the city poised to increase taxes and user fees in these tough economic times, why not take advantage of all the free and subsidized public programs you already pay for.
You can do more than borrow books and movies for free at Toronto’s 99 library branches.
There are free adult literacy programs at nine branches including the Don Mills Library where tutors will work one on one with people over 16 to improve basic reading, math and writing. Call 416-395-5555 for more info. 
Computer literacy is also important when so much information is accessible via the Internet these days. The Toronto Reference Library, just north of Yonge and Bloor Sts., is one of 14 locations that offer individual tutorials. Call 416-393-7209 for other locations. Continue reading

Yes to worker pay cut, no council cut

Non-union employees get pay freeze, councillors keep their own wage hike
Mayor Miller and some councillors give back their pay increase to city
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally published April 27/09 for Town Crier.)

Members of the city’s Executive Committee froze inflationary pay hikes for non-union employees but voted not to do the same for themselves.
By rejecting a motion put forward by councillors Case Ootes and Karen Stintz to freeze all city politicians salaries for 2009, the issue won’t go on to city council for a vote. 
“We asked for a salary freeze and Executive Committee did not take that position,” said Stintz after committee’s vote on April 7. “The issue is dead.” 
Nonetheless, council members can still voluntarily donate their 2.42-percent cost of living increase to the city. 
As of April 8, Mayor David Miller and 16 councillors have agreed to do just that, said Celine Chiovitti, acting director of pensions, payroll and employee benefits at city hall. Continue reading

Poor in Toronto getting poorer still

United Way report tracks where poorest live and what’s needed to help
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally published May 13/04 for Town Crier.)

Regent Park is home to two of the very poorest of Toronto’s 522 neighbourhoods. 
This may not be a surprise, but what is disheartening is a higher percentage of the community is poor compared to 10 and 20 years ago and of those, who are poor, their level of poverty is more severe. 
Poverty levels are defined, in this case, using Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-offs (LICO). A two-parent family with two kids living on a combined income of $36,247 or less is considered poor. 
In the United Way’s ‘Poverty by Postal Code’ report released on April 5, it defines four levels of poverty from lower, moderate, high (2x national 1981 average) and very high (more than 3x the national average). It compared 1981, 1991 and 2001 levels of poverty. 
In one of Regent Park’s communities, 72.8 per cent of families are living in very high poverty.
But unfortunately, this is not an anomaly. Continue reading

Toronto social housing in disrepair