WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, October 2

 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 Toronto police officer pleaded not guiltyto the fatal shooting of 18-year old Sammy Yatim on a Dundas Streetcar in 2013. The trial is expected to last at least 8 weeks.
  • Tension rose during the Munk leaders’ debateon Canadian foreign policy when the three main party leaders debated over citizenship, refugees, security and the Keystone pipeline. Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director pointed out that women’s issues were excluded from the foreign policy discussion.
  • Excluded from another federal election debate, Green Party leader Elizabeth May uses Twitterto participate in the Munk foreign policy debate.
  • woman wearing a hijab was harassed in Montreal this week and reported in to police as a hate crime. In last week’s French language debate, Harper repeated his refrain that women should not be allowed to wear a niqabduring citizenship ceremonies, even though the courts have already contested his stance.
  • The Ontario government is seeking to appeal property tax assessments. Mayor John Tory responds with the threat of increasing the rent on properties the city leases to the province.
  • City councillors voted on regulating Uberunder city by-laws. Proposals include that the starting fare for taxis be reduced by $1 and that Uber refrain from operating until the regulations are amended. A report is expected this spring.

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, September 25

Anastasia Kuzyk, 36. Nathalie Warmerdam, 48. Carol Culleton, 66.
On Tuesday, three women were killed in a rural Ontario town called Renfrew Country. Friends of the victims shared memories on As It Happens. It was a traumatic event for such a small community, and clearly illustrates how women in rural areas are uniquely vulnerable to violence where access to services is few and far between. An Ottawa Citizen report has also detailed how local police failed to protect these women, who were all known to the perpetrator.

It took almost a day for the story to gain mainstream media coverage, which still remains sparse. Every week, when we assemble these news round-ups, there is inevitably a story to cover on violence against women. It’s become a numbing reminder of just how prevalent these stories are, but we do need to be reminded. We can’t let these stories become a blip on the radar. We will continue to work with our members to address these issues in whatever way we can, and will challenge our leaders to confront the systemic barriers that allows violence like this to persist.

More news from this week:

#elxn42: Let’s talk HOUSING

By: Krista Robinson

In 1998, Toronto’s then-mayor, Mel Lastman declared homelessness a national disaster in our city. He called on federal and provincial governments to take action and support those experiencing homelessness. This was a direct result of the nation-wide affordable housing crisis that began in the 1970s when new building permits became difficult to obtain and zoning laws disrupted the potential supply of new housing. Fast-forward to 2015, where there are over 5,000 people experiencing homelessness in Toronto on any given night. An exact estimate is difficult to produce because there are not only those living on the streets or in shelters, but the “hidden-homeless,” those who live out-of-sight, for example on a friend or relative’s couch.

This past winter alone, three homeless men died in Toronto due to frigid temperatures. Recently, incumbent mayor John Tory said he feels “embarrassed” by the number of people sleeping on the streets but says that at the municipal level, there is little he can do. He has called on help from the provincial and federal government to address this ever-growing problem.

Unfortunately, housing has not been a hot-topic in this year’s federal election, being trumped by the economy, energy and immigration. But at WiTOpoli, we feel it’s an issue that deserves as much attention as any other. We sat down with social activist, Cathy Crowe, to talk about our city’s struggles with affordable housing, and to name a few solutions. Crowe’s current project is a petition for a new national housing strategy that will hopefully entice city hall to prioritize the funding of social housing in Toronto.

“It’s been really hard, historically, to have affordable housing and homelessness in an election platform,” said Crowe. Shelter closures and housing shortages rarely make front page news, especially during an election campaign, however, the closing of many long-standing homeless shelters in Toronto has been covered in the media as of late after vocal criticism and public outcry from advocates.

Some of these shelters include Beatrice House, a transitional house for women and children, that closed at the end of August after the land was bought by developer Urbancorp. Second Base is a youth shelter that has been in operation since 1993, and is the city’s second largest and only youth shelter east of the Don River. It is set to close in October, due to lack of funds. The 50-bed men’s shelter, Cornerstone, closed its St. Clair Ave. W. location, but has plans to relocate to the Oakwood Village area despite community backlash and the opposition of local councillor Josh Colle. The Red Door Family Shelter, that has been running since 1982 on Queen St. E, faced the possibility of closure last year due to a private property deal, however, through the loyalty of the community and the efforts of activists, they were able to persuade the developer rebuild the shelter as part of a new condo project. These are only a few examples of the hardships local shelters have faced in recent months.

Studies have shown that it’s cheaper to take steps to eliminate homelessness than it is to ignore it. On April 1, 2014, the Conservative Government initiated the Housing First approach, to come into effect over the following two years, as a cornerstone of the Government’s renewed Homelessness Partnering Strategy. A Canadian Government press release stated that the method has proven to be a “sound investment,” by way of saving the government $21.72 for every $10 invested in those who more often sought emergency and social services. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “participants in the Housing First group spent an average of 73 percent of their time in stable housing, compared to 32 percent for the group receiving usual care.”

Crowe, who has worked as a street nurse for over two decades, remains critical of the Housing First approach because she believes it benefits homeless men first, often leaving behind women and children.

“When Housing First became national policy, it meant housing the most visible,” which in turn meant benefitting those living permanently on the streets, the majority being men.

“This means it’s not housing first for women and children, it’s not housing first for seniors, and it’s not housing first for someone with a severe disability or palliative need,” she said. “It’s just being used to clear the streets.”

Keeping shelters open and services available is needed to support those experiencing homelessness in Toronto. Crowe believes that pressure needs to be put on city hall, the principle funder of shelters, in order to keep these services afloat. The city, in turn, will need the support and assistance of the provincial and federal government.

Though the issue has not been given sufficient attention on the campaign trail, here’s a breakdown on what the parties have to say on housing.

CONSERVATIVE: Stephen Harper

In last week’s federal debate, Harper said he believes “the housing story is a very positive story in this country.” He points to homeownership growth as a result of lower interest rates and the home renovation tax credit.

According the Harper’s platform, over the next four years, the Conservative government will commit $2.3 billion per year to give Canadians access to affordable housing. In addition, his Home Buyer’s Plan will “allow aspiring homeowners to make tax-free withdrawals from their Registered Retirement Savings Plans to finance the purchase or construction of their first home.” The Conservatives would increase the allowable RRSP withdrawal from $25,000 to $35,000.

Over the next five years, Harper has committed over $86,000,000 in funding to the City of Toronto for projects in the community that prevent and reduce homelessness.

LIBERAL: Justin Trudeau

Earlier this month at Alexandra Park Community Centre in Toronto, Trudeau said, “Investing in social housing is much more than putting a roof over people’s heads. It also creates stable, well-paid jobs that families can rely on.” The Liberal leader continued on to say, “We know that access to affordable and safe housing is part of the solution to many social issues, such as child poverty, student debt and our ability to help people with serious mental health issues and addiction.”

If the Liberals are elected on Oct. 19, Trudeau has pledged to commit $20 billion over 10 years to “social infrastructure.” Despite his party having cancelled the country’s National Housing Strategy last time they were in power, the Liberal Party wants to create a national housing action plan that would theoretically provide affordable housing for Canadians at all income levels. His party has committed to providing “$125 million per year in tax incentives for developers and landlords to build and renovate rental units.”

Trudeau would relax some regulations on accessing RRSPs to put a downpayment on a house, however, unlike Harper, he would keep the withdrawal limit at $25,000.


If elected, Mulcair has promised to make affordable housing a national priority. He notes that “the last time the Liberal Party was in power, they cancelled Canada’s National Housing Strategy. It’s also worth noting there are 35,000 homeless people in Canada right now,” said Mulcair during last week’s leaders’ debate. “We would put more money in people’s pockets with quality, affordable child care and to the hundred thousand people that we would give a raise with a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour. Somebody who works full-time shouldn’t be living in poverty.”

Mulcair plans to build 10,000 affordable housing units across the country and maintain and strengthen social housing.

GREEN PARTY: Elizabeth May

In August, Green Party leader Elizabeth May laid out her plan to end homelessness.

“It’s no longer acceptable for Canadians, that any of us, should live without adequate housing. Housing is a human right, and in Canada, as a wealthy country, we simply have no more excuses for our failure to ensure housing,” said May at a press conference. It may be important to note that May was the only candidate to hold a press conference on the issue of housing.

To eliminate homelessness, May stressed that we need to recognize that there’s the issue of homelessness and social housing, as well as the separate issue of affordable housing within the marketplace. She blames foreign investment for skewing housing prices and leaving younger Canadians without many options.

Her national housing strategy would “ensure every Canadian has access to affordable, safe, and secure housing. A Green government will increase social housing transfers to provincial, territorial, and municipal governments through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). They would also call for the appointment of a Minister of Housing to oversee the development and implementation of the the affordable housing strategy, which would see 20,000 new and 10,000 rehabilitated affordable housing units built each year for the next decade.”


Housing should be a top priority in this federal election because it affects the wellbeing of all Canadians. Despite this, the federal candidates have simply voiced their support for the Housing First approach, which despite its benefits, may exclude certain homeless populations. A National Housing Strategy needs to be expanded in order to provide support to renters, buyers and all those in need – including women and children, seniors, people with disabilities and Aboriginals – if any progress is going to be made in solving the nation’s housing crisis.
For a comprehensive look at where the #canpoli parties stand on housing and homelessness, check out The Homeless Hub, where you can research even more in-depth comparisons and get informed!

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, September 18

 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’s Guide to Voting

On October 19, Canadians will cast their vote in Canada’s 42nd federal election. No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, WiTOpoli is here to help you get informed by highlighting issues that matter. Over the next month, we’ll be providing information on where the major parties stand on issues like housing, transportation, childcare and employment. But first, here’s the WiTOpoli Guide to Voting:


Check out the Elections Canada website to see if you are already registered to vote. If not, register now! It’s not essential to register in advance, because you can also register at the polls when you vote, but registering beforehand speeds up the process. It ensures that you are on the official voter’s list and that you’ll receive a Voter Information Card in the mail, telling you the location of your polling station, as well as advance polling stations. Advance polling stations will be open October 9-12 from 12-8 PM. If you are or will be abroad on election day, you must apply to vote by mail. In addition to the regular polling stations in your riding, you can vote at any Elections Canada office up until October 13.


To vote in a Canadian election, you must prove your identity and current address. There are three different methods of doing this. You do not need your Voter Information Card on-hand to vote, but bringing it with you to the polling station speeds up the process. However, this card does not qualify as a form of ID.

  1. provide one of the following: driver’s licence, province/territories identification card, or any government issued identification with your name, picture and current address
  2. provide any two pieces of ID (one must show your current address)
  3. provide two pieces of ID (without address) and bring someone who can take an oath on your behalf of your residence

ABORIGINAL VOTERS: More information here.

STUDENT VOTERS: Do you live in two different ridings while attending post-secondary? Pick the one you consider home and register there. There will also be advance polling stations at many postsecondary institutions from Oct. 5-8. For the full list check here.

ACCESSIBLE VOTING: Need accommodation on voting day? Elections Canada has put together a list of tools to assist you.

INCARCERATED VOTERS: If you are serving a sentence in a correctional facility on Election Day, you can still exercise your right to vote. See instructions here.

HOMELESS VOTERS: If you have no fixed address, you can find more information here on how to vote.

LONG-TERM CARE: If you are residing in a hospital or long-term care facility, Elections Canada will be offering mobile polling stations at many locations. For more information ask the administrator or contact Elections Canada directly at 1-800-463-6868.


Riding boundaries have changed since the last federal election. Find your riding and a list of confirmed candidates here.


At WiTOpoli, we’d like to provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision on Election Day, so check back soon for information on where the major parties stand on issues like housing, transportation, childcare and employment. Until then, be sure to browse your local candidates’ websites, along with their affiliated parties. The five major parties and their leaders are listed below.

Elizabeth May, Green Party

Stephen Harper, Conservative

Justin Trudeau, Liberal

Tom Mulcair, New Democratic Party

Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois

In addition, make sure to check out websites like Pollenize.org and iCanParty.ca for user-friendly, up-to-date and non-partisan information on all the candidates. The CBC has also come out with a Vote Compass to help you better understand where you fit on the political spectrum.


Mark your calendars and go vote on election day, Oct. 19, or on the Advance Poll days. Don’t forget: your employer is required by law to allow you three hours of paid leave to vote.

Keep your eyes peeled for more #elxn42 coverage from WiTOpoli in the coming weeks!

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, September 11

 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, September 4

 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.