Out of the business after 125 years: Ontario municipalities no longer sharing costs of public assistance to the poor

  In 1793, no poor law was introduced into Upper Canada with the settlement of Muddy York. After all, it was supposed to be a Utopia. Forty Four years later in 1836, two years after the reform of the British Poor Law, the first declaration of public responsibility for poverty was made, 2 years after the incorporation of Toronto as a city. Toronto continued to pay for relief but only by subsidizing charities. The façade of Lachlan Lodge at 87 Elm Street (now the YWCA) records the date of the establishment of the first large Poor House in the City: 1837. In 1848, it was re-branded as a House of Industry or “Work House” also recorded on the façade. Nineteen years later, Confederation clarified nothing for municipalities on the social welfare…
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A better way to save 2.6%

Late last year, some colleagues and I released a report on called ‘The Cost of Poverty in Toronto’. We found that poverty costs the Toronto economy between $4.4 and $5.5 billion per year. For this discussion, I will use a figure of $5 billion. Since Toronto has never been poverty-free and there is no comparable city that has ever eradicated poverty, it is a difficult figure to calculate. In the absence of hard evidence, we looked at poverty-related costs incurred by the poorest 20 per cent of people in Toronto (the lowest quintile) compared to the cost profile of the next quintile of people (the second lowest quintile). The second lowest quintile pays higher taxes while incurring far fewer costs related to healthcare, the courts and justice system. If the…
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A briefing note for progressive thinkers on the celebrity bombast of the political right

I’m often tempted to weigh in on the popular appeal of bombastic, right-wing celebrity politicians, yet I hesitate when smart commentators say exactly what I was thinking – people like the brilliant Rick Salutin of the Toronto Star, Marcus Gee in the Globe and Mail, or Charles Blow in the New York Times. They always nail it. But recently, I started to have thoughts that may not have been covered in the relentless carpet-bombing of Donald Trump and before him, Toronto’s notorious mayor Rob Ford, not to mention Boris Johnston, the demagogue behind the ‘Brexit’ referendum. ROFO, BOJO, and Trump are the heralds of new kind of leadership in this millennium. It’s become clear to progressive thinkers that we need to take the appeal of right wing buffoonery more seriously.…
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Hit over the head and blamed for falling? The curious case of Scarborough and the Toronto media

When Canada first built its railways, forever remembered in the sepia photograph of the last spike, the idea was that railways spawn communities, commerce, and population growth. It was the undisputed economic model. It is precisely why, along with connecting communities, that both Canada and the United States built their railways in the first place. But when it comes to the Scarborough subway 130 years later, we have thrown that model into reverse:  we won’t lay the rails down until the communities, commerce and population growth are already in place. Although we are looking at a similar mode of transport, we are treated to a 180 turn of the lens. And if you agree with the premise that Scarborough doesn’t deserve the Subway because it is not a growth community,…
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A ‘Robin Hood’ Budget for 2016 in Ontario

“Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men Feared by the bad, loved by the good Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood.” In the Budget lockup yesterday, I started to silently sing the Robin Hood song that I learned back in the 1950’s as a kid. Robin Hood was the mediaeval archer who took from the rich and gave to the poor. Robin Hood was brave and Kathleen Wynne may be even braver. There are lots of new sin taxes and levies on the better off that became the fodder for 680 News over the evening and morning hours. There were some great interviews with ‘objective’ listeners who were “unhappy” or who thought the Budget was “ridiculous”. Cigarettes up by three…
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On self exemption, framing and location: a meditation on race and other elements of personal biography that cannot be changed

What can we not change? I want to use the word ‘racism’ in its broadest sense – much broader than it is currently used. The reason is that race is only one aspect of our humanity that no one can change. We can’t change our place of origin. All of us were born in one of about 200 nations on earth. We can however, change our nationality through immigration. We can renounce our place of origin. We can’t change our ethnicity. Ethnicity is a part of our personal biography that none of us can change. We can change our proclivities, however. Each of us can orient ourselves towards other ethnicities through dress, the food we eat, and social behaviour. We can’t change our race. Race is also an element of…
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Two belt tightening families: Which one looks most like government?

Families, it is said, have to tighten their belts in tough times. Some think that government should do the same. Countries like Canada and the United States, like almost all rich countries, borrow money. In some ways, the lure of being able to raise capital is why they became countries in the first place. Once a land becomes a legal entity, it creates a currency and it is able to invest in its future. Growth begins with new investment. People do the same thing - they borrow to buy a home and to become educated to make the money that they intend to pay back. Once repaid and the family realizes its potential, a family becomes prosperous. It owes little or nothing and uses its resources to loan to others:…
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Flying into Neverland: The precious and vacuous world of In-flight Magazines

Flying into Neverland: The precious and vacuous world of In-flight Magazines "Toronto is embracing its gritty history with a new affection, a nostalgia that trumps even Trump and the other glittering downtown gems that thumb their noses at the – recession? What recession?" Toronto the Great From Parkdale to the Park Hyatt, Toronto embraces both its glittery and gritty sides. By Charlene Rooke En Route Magazine September 2010   As airlines try to inject fun into flying again, nine years after 9-11, it is interesting to reflect on what you have to pay for as part of in-flight service in Canada. Meals, drinks, seat selection, frequent flyer points, rebooking missed flights and even the lowly headset have all been reconstructed as extras in the price structure of the modern airline…
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Be Careful what you wish for….Conrad Black should keep his Order of Canada

After following the debate closely, I do not believe that Conrad Black should be divested of the Order of Canada. The temptation to remove  him from the Order is palpable. He is a convicted felon in the US. He renounced his Canadian citizenship. And now, he has written yet another tome where his self-serving weaknesses are bared for all to inspect. He is not a very likeable fellow when viewed from afar. His personal history reads like the prayer book in the church of bombast. His language is circumlocutory and tortuous. While the rest of us move from the dining room to the parlour, Mr. Black “repairs”. He is not the same as you and I. Worse, he appears to think that he is better than us....clearly no plan to…
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