WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, January 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.

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, October 31

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.

  • This week, stories surfaced of 9 women who were assaulted by CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi. As the public continues to learn more about the situation, it’s important to consider how these stories relate to public discourse on sexual assault. and the circumstances that discourage women from speaking out on these issues.
  • Toronto’s newly elected council fails to represent the city’s diversity. On the bright side, shout out to Ausma Malik who won her spot as TDSB School Trustee in spite of the Islamophobic attacks launched against her.
  • Harper unveiled his income-splitting package this week, which has been criticized by his opponents for only benefitting “a small minority of people at a time when inequality in our society is increasing.” 
  • NDP Status of Women critic Niki Ashton hosted the Women’s Forum des Femmes in Ottawa on Thursday to “build a feminist agenda. You can follow along with the conversation here and at #WFDF14. 
  • And of course, a friendly reminder that Halloween is not for slut-shaming.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, October 24

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.

  • Anonymous flyers were distributed in Trinity-Spadina this week attacking TDSB Trustee candidate Ausma Malik, claiming that she supports terrorist organizations along with other unfounded claims. Unfortunately, this is not the first instance in which Malik has been confronted with this hatred. She released a statement addressing the issue several weeks ago.
  • A study on voter turnout in Toronto municipal elections sheds light on how immigration or visible minority status may impact citizens’ likelihood to vote.
  • John Tory and Olivia Chow called on Doug Ford to apologize to Jennifer Pagliario after reports surfaced that he called the Toronto Star reporter “a little bitch”. Though Ford denies the incident, several confirmed the claim including CTV news VP Joanne MacDonald. Also, it should be noted that this is not the first time Ford has offended a female reporter.
  • A group of students addressed a TDSB committee meeting on Wednesday to raise their concerns regarding homophobic and transphobic tweets published by Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos. Over 200 students signed the petition presented at the meeting, arguing that Sotiropoulus has violated Ontario’s Accepting Schools act and the TDSB’s code of conduct.
  • In light of Harper’s failure to launch an inquiry on missing and murdered Aboriginal women, Aboriginal women’s leaders have begun developing new strategies to address gendered violence in their communities
  • After Toronto poet Emma Healey published a piece about an abusive relationship she endured with a professional colleague, author Stacey May Fowles elaborated on the backchannels that exist within the Canadian literary community as women try to warn each other about potentially threatening male writers. Toronto blogger Neville Park echoed a similar sentiment, describing how these backchannels operate in different tight-knit communities, including #TOpoli circles.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, October 17

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.

  • This week, the Toronto municipal election was marred by yet another disturbing instance of racism on the campaign trail. City Council candidate Munira Abukar found her campaign signs defaced with hateful messages over the weekend, and again on Thursday. Abukar has been extremely vocal in calling out the acts of bigotry, inspiring the hashtag #IStandWithMunira.
  • As the election countdown continues, Torontonians turned out to advance polls in record breaking numbers this week.
  • After receiving a death threat directed at feminist Anita Sarkeesian, Utah State University refused to perform weapon searches at Sarkeesian’s upcoming speaking event, forcing her to cancel her USU appearance. The threat specifically referenced the Montreal Massacre in which 14 women were killed, promising “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if Sarkessian spoke at USU.
  • NDP leader Thomas Mulcair announced his proposal to create 1 million new childcare spaces nationwide for $15 per day. Many were excited to see affordable childcare raised as a key issue for the upcoming election – one that deserves more attention on a municipal level as well.

Ask Your Candidate: Accessibility

by Cherise Seucharan

Many people are unaware of the often invisible barriers that contribute to making Toronto less accessible. In many ways, accessibility is a “lens in which to view the city”, highlighting how issues within our policies and programs impact marginalized groups. Ask if your candidates are knowledgeable about these key accessibility issues, so that they can help to make much-needed improvements that can benefit everyone.

How will you support continued accessibility improvements to the TTC?

With the new accessible streetcars rolling out slowly over the next few years, Toronto is set to significantly increase the overall accessibility of its transit system. However, improvements to other transit programs are needed for the system to be fully accessible. The Wheel-Trans system, which is a door to door transit service for those who can’t use the TTC, is in need of a budget overhaul and more vehicles to accommodate the growing numbers of people who depend on the service. Additionally, the TTC’s commitment to making all stations accessible has been pushed back until 2025, several years after it was originally promised. Ask your council candidates if they will support continued improvements to TTC accessibility.

Do you support reduced TTC fares for the disabled?

The TTC and the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT) have been debating the implementation of reduced TTC fares for those who receive Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works funding, or those who use Wheel-Trans. However, since 201,3 the discussion on this issue has not moved forward. Other Canadian cities like Ottawa, Vancouver and Calgary already have reduced fares in place for the disabled. Ask if your candidates will add Toronto to that list.


Do you have  a plan to increase accessibility before the 2015 Pan Am and ParaPan Am Games?

Millions of dollars have been invested in Toronto in preparation for the Pan Am /Para Pan Am Games. Accessibility will be essential for those coming from around the world to attend this inclusive event.  However, despite the prominence of the ParaPan Am portion of the event, there has been little discussion on how to accommodate athletes and fans with disabilities. The AODA Alliance argues that the Games should help Toronto build an “accessibility legacy” with improvements to accessible tourist attractions and investment into accessible athletic programs.

Will you support improvements and funding for the TCHC?

Finding affordable and accessible housing is another major challenge that people with disabilities face. Working with the Responsible Personal Accessibility in Toronto Housing (R-Path) committee, the TCHC supports those in need of accessible housing. However,  as we have already covered in this series, the organization is in dire need of improvement. Ask if your candidate will fight for better TCHC funding and management, particularly for those with disabilities.

Ask Your Candidate: Tourism and Festivals

By: Lauryn Kronick

Toronto is known as a city of festivals. Whether it’s TIFF and Pride attracting tourists from all over the world or neighbourhood celebrations such as Dundas West Fest and Taste of the Danforth that unite residents and curious locals, there is a festival that caters to most Torontonians each weekend when the weather is on our side (or, ticks us off with the many street closures throughout the year). The following questions will help you figure out if the candidates in your ward support their neighbourhood’s and the city’s festivals, and if tourism is on their agenda:

Where do your ward candidate’s priorities stand with neighbourhood festivals?

Every spring through fall, hundreds of neighbourhood festivals take over the streets, shut them down and bring a community to life. Roncesvalles Village Polish Festival, Albion’s Fusion of Taste, Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sundays are just a few of the many community events that drive traffic to an area, build neighbourhood cohesion and also stimulate local economies. If your ward has an annual festivals, are the residents engaged in the programming and generally excited and supportive about the events? How are businesses being encouraged to participate? If there is currently no street party or neighbourhood festival, does your ward candidate want to make this happen? What is your ward candidate’s relationship with the area’s Business Improvement Association? Do they find closing off streets disruptive or welcome the idea of bringing people out to liven up their area?

How enthusiastic is your ward candidate about attracting tourists to your area? Does tourism play a big role in your ward candidate’s platform?

With the Pan Am Games quickly approaching in 2015, Toronto is gearing up for a large influx of tourists, which will likely mean another busy summer of road closures and transit woes but also a large economic impact, and neighbourhoods playing host to new faces on their sidewalks. Do your ward candidates have an interest in attracting tourists to your neighbourhood? If you live in a central area that has been affected by construction because of the Games or will be in the coming months, how will your ward candidates keep in touch with city planners, contractors and other parties to minimize the impact on businesses.

In the event that your ward candidates do not support the idea of building community through neighbourhood celebrations, these feelings shouldn’t hinder a festival that already exists or create a barrier to starting one on your street or in your area. If your candidate is on board with a project like this and is committed to promoting your neighbourhood to the rest of the city and beyond, it sounds like you have someone who is passionate about keeping your fellow residents engaged and excited about the community they live in.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, September 5

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.

  • Polls are showing that Olivia Chow has fallen to third place in the Toronto mayoral race, behind John Tory and Rob Ford. The Toronto Star argues that this may be due to the falling popularity of the NDP and the rise in Liberal support in Toronto. Although Chow has tried to make her campaign “free of party politics,” she will be hoping for a large NDP turnout on election day.
  • Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she has not heard from or spoken with PM Harper since March, even with her re-election more than two months ago. She admits that she has not “specifically asked for a conversation,” but that she hopes to create a good working relationship between the provincial and federal government. Premier Wynne also stated that she will be supporting Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, during the upcoming federal election.
  • Olivia Chow has announced that, if elected as Toronto mayor, she would raise the land-transfer tax on high-end homes. Chow argues that raising the land-transfer fees by one per cent on homes worth more than $2-million would create an extra $20-million to fund school nutrition programs, as well as engineering studies to improve the TTC.
  • This week, Ontario students returned to school and full-day kindergarten programs are already facing difficulties. Educators and parents have already filed many complaints with the Ministry of Education about the large class sizes. While Ontario daycares must limit sizes to only eight children per one educator, and primary school classes can only have 23 students, there is currently no set limit for students in kindergarten classes.
  • After being treated for tongue and throat cancers which doctors say were caused by HPV, Conservative MP Peter Kent is now speaking out in favour of funding HPV vaccines for boys. Some provinces already vaccinate girls for free, but there is no funding at the moment to vaccinate boys. Kent says that he will speak to Health Minister Rona Ambrose about this idea, and will continued to do what he can to raise awareness of HPV and its links to cancer amongst men and women.
  • On Thursdaythe top four mayoral candidates met for a lunch debate organized by the Toronto Region Board of Trade and the Globe and Mail. Gathered in front of a sold-out crowd of business leaders, candidates used the opportunity to challenge each other on their respective funding proposals for transit, while also discussing youth unemployment and affordable housing.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, August 29

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.

  • Etobicoke Centre councillor Glora Lindsay Luby announced she will not be seeking re-election, surprising council in a farewell speech on Thursday. Luby was frequently at odds with Mayor Rob Ford, who called her a “waste of skin” in 2005, and was one of the early voices calling for Mayor Ford’s resignation after his crack-cocaine scandal.
  • Canada’s premiers and aboriginal leaders are calling on the federal government to have key ministers meet with them for a roundtable discussion on the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women, after Prime Minister Stephen Harper ruled out a national public inquiry last week. Michèle Audette, the president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, welcomed calls for the roundtable as a first step in “a new chapter.”
  • After new data was released by a coalition of community activists and social agencies revealing that child poverty in Toronto has reached “epidemic” levels with 29 per cent of children — almost 149,000 — living in low-income families, three mayoral candidates spoke out on plans to combat child poverty, at a forum organized by local advocacy groups.
  • After the integrity commissioner found that Toronto City Councillor Maria Augimeri violated the code of conduct by calling political rival Gus Cusimano a “criminale,” Mayor Rob Ford expressed outrage that Torontonians would be footing the $5,000 bill to cover the cost of processing the complaint.
  • Playboy Magazine published a flow-chart that asks the question: when it is appropriate to catcall a woman in public? (Their answer: when she has consented the catcalling beforehand, or when she is literally a cat.)

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, August 8

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.

  • The Metro’s Matt Elliot has updated his colour-coded scorecard on Toronto city councillors’ voting records. Though the gist of the scorecard is to to illustrate which councillors vote more or less consistently with the mayor, it’s also a helpful overview of recent council issues.
  • Following a court hearing this week, two class-action lawsuits will move forward concerning the mistreatment of detainees during the Toronto G20.
  • A new pilot program aims to deliver health care services to Torontonians in multiple languages.
  • Brampton residents were appalled to find anti-immigration flyers in their mailboxes this week targeting the town’s Sikh community. The police are investigating but the flyers likely do not qualify as hate speech.
  • The Conservatives have been criticized for for appointing Dennis Savoie as the Canadian envoy to Vatican City, because of Savoie’s controversial comments about abortion, in which he compared abortion to the 9/11 tragedy. Despite the NDP’s request to withdraw the appointment, the Conservatives maintain that Savoie is entitled to his personal beliefs and promise not to open the abortion debate.

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, July 25

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.

  • Earlier this week, the City of Toronto called off plans to allow disabled citizens to vote online or by phone in the 2014 election, citing a lack of time to build and test the system. Council voted 29-1 to approve the cancellation, but did give preliminary authorization for online and phone voting by all voters, disabled and non-disabled, in future elections.
  • Bylaw enforcement officers will be at the controversial Ford Fest this Friday, ready to stop Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford from engaging in any politically motivated activities in the city-owned Thomson Memorial Park. More than 100 Torontonians have complained to city ombudsman Fiona Crean, and at least another 100 directly to city hall since the uproar over the Fords’ annual barbeque began.
  • The Toronto mayoral race continues to heat up, with a recent Forum Research survey indicating a statistical three-way tie between the top candidates. Olivia Chow had the support of 29 per cent of survey respondents, John Tory boasted 28 per cent, while Rob Ford’s approval held steady 27 per cent. Karen Stintz and David Soknacki lag behind with 6 and 5 per cent, respectively.
  • Vancouver Parks Board candidate Trish Kelly has been forced to abandon her campaign following the emergence of an online video she filmed about masturbation eight years ago, and in doing so has opened up a debate surrounding the significance of political candidates’ online activities. “There will always be some boundaries of what we’ll accept in terms of someone who wants to take a leadership role,” says Kelly. “But we need to have those conversations.” Had Kelly won, she would have been the first aboriginal member of Vancouver’s Park Board.
  • Research and policy institute Guttmacher has challenged the recent US Supreme Court decision surrounding birth control – which allows employers to opt-out of paying for health insurance for contraceptive coverage – by providing a comprehensive list of studies that  find that in addition to the health benefits for women and families, all contraceptive methods save insurers money.
  • Saudi women will be allowed to vote and stand as candidates in the upcoming municipal council elections expected to take place next year. Women were not allowed to participate in the 2011 elections. While female candidates will now have the rights to address their voters in a manner similar to their male competitors, gender segregation in the polling centers will still be enforced.