WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, November 27th

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.



A Political Perspective with Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam

Part of an ongoing series profiling women in Toronto politics, community-building, activism, and other aspects of municipal or political life.

By Julia Chew

When Kristyn Wong-Tam chose to run for office in 2009, she surprised herself. As a tireless community advocate, Councillor Wong-Tam was alerted early on to societal injustices as a child of immigrant parents and as a racial minority. Five years after her first election, Councillor Wong-Tam can now look back and see political life as a natural evolution for her lifelong advocacy work and passions. We spoke to her to discuss political life, community engagement, and what the women of Toronto need.


Q: From your point-of-view, how do we build a truly equitable Toronto? What do the women of Toronto need?

A: Women in this city need policies and decision-making that is women-centered. If you start to build communities for women, you build communities for everyone. Women aren’t just 52% of the population, there’s an intersection to womanhood that brings together women with disabilities, immigrants, young/old, vulnerable, racialized populations and many more.

In order to have gender-informed decision-making, we need to build a gender equity lens over all of policy-making. When you create budgets in the city that are women-focused, you start to re-evaluate your spending. For example, women are the majority users of public transit. Women also work in areas that aren’t in the financial district. So would we build transit lines that primarily facilitate travel to the financial district? If we were building transit with women in mind, we would build transportation that allow for greater connectivity, flexibility, and affordability.

To build a more compassionate, more inclusive Toronto, we need to start by recognizing that misogyny and sexism exists, and that decision –making has not traditionally reflected the real life experience of women. We need to acknowledge that the political and policy tools we have right now don’t address the needs of women, simply because they were developed by men for their own needs within a framework of patriarchy.

Q: How has political life shaped your advocacy work and activist roots?

A: It makes perfect sense now that what I wanted to do as a private citizen, I am just now doing in a position of power at City Hall. I am the same person, informed by the same principles, objectives, and values, but am now more aware of the political processes of policy-making.

Not every activist needs to run for office, but the activist within me was -limited to a certain extent and could not reach the next level of engagement and execution. We need to respect people for where they are. Often times, especially for progressive work, there is a level of impatience as the injustice affecting the many is so great But the struggle for equality and inclusion is not necessarily stagnant. We must build political support and awareness at every opportunity and never stop.
Q: How do you communicate and engage with the community?

A: I developed a simple process that involves the acronym C-E-P. “C” stands for communication. It is important to be clear in communications and not to insult people with heavy academic language because we are competing with other interests for people’s time and attention. It is crucial that a message have easy access points to communicate in a way that people will accept.

Communications leads to “E” for Engagement. By providing the community with greater opportunities to engage whether it is through a film, art, etc., there has to be an opportunity to respond through engagement or two way dialogue or interaction. This flow of information or a transfer of knowledge and creativity sparks “P” which stands for Participation. Now that you are keenly engaged, what is the physical action we will take? Shall we call our elected officials? Create a pop-up urban design project? How do we execute? What does participation look like for each unique individual? And how do we leverage and respect that participation will mean different things to different people.


WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, November 20

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, November 13

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, November 6

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed 31 new cabinet members, 15 of whom are women. This will be Canada’s first gender-balanced cabinet (see the full list here). Plus, check out the TVO blog for some thoughts from WiTOpoli’s Alejandra Ortiz and others on gender parity in the cabinet.
  • Trudeau also announced that the long-form census will be reinstated, a key tool for researchers and city planners.
  • All 40 Toronto councillors endorsed TO Prosperity: Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy, marking a commitment to reducing poverty in 20 years. However, councillors largely disagree on how to fund the strategy.
  • Ontario elementary school teachers (ETFO) signed a tentative agreement with the province, avoiding a legal strike which would have included an extracurricular withdrawn. Secondary school teachers (OSSTF) employed by the Toronto District School Board, however, are engaging in a local legal strike action, as local issues remain unresolved, but extracurricular activities will not be affected by this job action.
  • Following a Toronto Board of Health report, Toronto councillors vote 34-3 in favour of a motion banning the use of hookah pipes in restaurants.
  • On November 5, Hydro One Ltd. hit the Toronto Stock Exchange with 15% up for sale. The sale of Hydro One shares is the first step in privatizing 60% of the electrical utility organization.
  • Auditor General will release a report by next spring reviewing the $3.75 million given by the Ontario government to three teachers unions for bargaining costs.

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, October 30

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • Ontario drafts new rules for carding and sets the parameters for certain forms of street checks to continue. Here is how the provincial regulations differ from the Toronto Police Services Board’s carding policy.
  • Stephen LeClair, Ontario’s new Financial Accountability Officer, calls into question to partial sale of Hydro One in his report.  The Report claims that Ontario’s debt would initially decrease, but will increase to amounts higher than it would have been without the sale.
  • Ontario aims to end chronic homelessness in 10 years. The province has a $50 million poverty reduction fund, $10 million of which will be spent over the next two years on initiatives to eradicate poverty. The Ontario government is set to hold hearings to get feedback to address the persistent wage gap.
  • On October 27, Tracey MacCharles, Ontario Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, introduced a new legislation that targets sexual violence, workplace harassment and will increase support for survivors. This legislation proceeds the Ontario government’s anti-sexual violence campaign.
  • A Toronto resident recorded a video of TAVIS officers trying to block his camera as she tried to film an arrest happening at Jane and Lawrence.

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, October 23

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • Justin Trudeau’s Liberty Party won a majority government on Monday, winning 39.5 percent of Canada’s votes and 184 seats in the House of Commons. Find a detailed breakdown of the 2015 federal election results here.
  • Take a look at how the 2015 federal election would have looked with proportional representation. Was this the last first-past-the-post election in Canada?
  • Sticking to his election promise, Prime Minister elect Justin Trudeau will appoint new cabinet with equal gender balance, which would be a federal first. Mr. Trudeau also proposed a new parental work plan, allowing new parents to take leaves up to 18 months combined with maternity benefits.
  • A record 88 female MPs were elected to Ottawa among 338 MPs, 50 of those women are Liberals. This is a 1% percent increase from the last federal election, for a total of 26%  women in the House of Commons. While the progress is good, more needs to be done to get women into politics.
  • MPP Yasir Naqvi announced Thursday that street checks will be eliminated in Ontario by the end of the Fall but details are still unclear.
  • The TO Prosperity plan, Toronto’s landmark Poverty Reduction Strategy took another step forward this week and the report will be sent to council for approval next month.
  • Bombardier informed TTC that it would be able to only provide 16 of the 23 new streetcars by the end of the year. TTC is getting increasingly frustrated with Bombardier and its inability to meet production deadlines, which may impact Bombardier’s ability to bid on future TTC contracts.