This past weekend February 25th, and 26th the Bloor-Yorkville community was host to the 2017 version of Ice Fest. It was meant to be a celebration of Canada's 150th birthday. Maybe I am expecting a bit much (as always) but couldn't we have included some other stereotypical Canadian images like igloos [seems an appropriate choice given the material being used].
With all that the Canadian landscape has to offer a single lighthouse, Inukshuk, and the falls with a barrel seems rather bare bones essential for describing what our country has to offer.
If all else failed couldn't someone have Googled "Canadian Inventions" and chosen to sculpt any number of objects. Certainly a gigantic Wonderbra sculpted out of ice would have created a titillating addition,
Seriously, I would have been blown away if someone had of carved a Canadian version of Mount Rushmore. This is the year for making statements. This is the year for teaching ourselves and others about what it means to be truly Canadian.
TORONTO, ON - The Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) is pleased to announce Big Sugar, Jesse Cook, Terra Lightfoot and The Sheepdogs are the latest recipients of CIMA's prestigious Road Gold certification. CIMA's Road Gold is awarded to those Canadian artists who have sold at least 25,000 tickets during their Canadian tour (s) over the course of any 12-month period, recognizing the hard work and dedication it takes to be a touring band or artist.
For Toronto fans Midnight Oil will be performing at Danforth Music Hall on Saturday May 20th, 2017. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster. Direct link - https://www.ticketmaster.ca/event/1000524FDCC4D3A2?dma_id=527
Update (March 6th, 2017) - Due to overwhelming demand Midnight Oil's show at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on June 2 has been moved to the Malkin Bowl In Stanley Park on the same night.
This is a very personal project. I have lived in Toronto Community Housing for the last thirty years. I have been able to take advantage of many opportunities in large part because I didn't have to flip a coin between paying the rent and putting food on the table. I am grateful for this experience. In all likelihood that's not exactly a claim that many people living in Toronto Community Housing would make.
Since I have moved into subsidized housing I have raised my two children, They are now grown and raising my grandchildren outside of TCH. When I arrived I had a single grade nine credit. Now I have a B.A from the University of Toronto and a certificate in Human RIghts from OISE. As you can tell from this website I have explored my creative potential through poetry, and photography. In addition, I have been involved in some advocacy work around poverty, homelessness, and food security,
By no means have I been slacking on my advocacy closer to home. It took a while to introduce the inner advocate to my neighbors. Now they know. I made a successful bid at the Participatory Budget Meeting a few years ago. That resulted in my community receiving $200,000 (final cost). That is definitely equal to the lions share of an annual budget of $260,000 to be split between at least ten communities. Then the year before last I took the lead on writing a grant proposal (and almost lost my mind in the process) to the Partnerships Opportunities Legacy Fund which resulted in a further $450,000 for my community. That amount was the highest granted in our area - despite not meeting the "partnership" requirement..
Why am I bothering to tell you this? When an opportunity came up to apply to the Tenants First Advisory Panel I jumped at the chance. The requirements were:
From the discussion at the Information Session at City Hall the Mayor now wants TCH tenant input on the implementation of the five "transformative ideas" listed in the Transformative Change for TCHC report. As someone with an appreciation of the opportunities a Toronto Community Housing tenant can take advantage of, someone with an ability to translate issues into words or images that people understand, and a proven ability to attract funding for my TCH community I thought I would be a shoe in.
Well ... not so much.
Pride goeth before the fall. At least I have something to fall back on. As part of the application process I submitted comments related to the "transformative ideas" outlined in the Mayor's Task Force's "Transformative Changes for TCHC" report. It will provide an excellent baseline for this document.
Welcome to Toronto Community Housing. Hope lives here.
The first "transformative" idea listed in the final report from the Mayor's Task Force on TCH(C) is to "(t)ransition to a new community-based non-profit housing corporation."
This option is not something that should be given serious consideration knowing that additional revenues are based on the fact that they would “probably be able to increase borrowing capacity.” Most people in the room at the Tenants First Advisory Panel information session were wondering how much more that might mean for Toronto Community Housing. One gentleman in the group asked if it could be billions of dollars expected as a result of distancing Toronto Community Housing from the city coffers.
My only question (which I yelled out during that session) was “How are we going to pay it back?”
That was spoken from the perspective of someone who has recently received a copy of their Certificate/Order of Discharge for personal bankruptcy. It's fiscally irresponsible to borrow money without any method or means of settling our debts. I have learned my lesson. Toronto Community Housing, nor it's tenants, can afford to learn this lesson the hard way.
I'm surprised, that as an accountant by a profession, the former mayor, Art Eggleton, didn't red flag this idea,
The second "transformative" idea was to "[c]reate mixed-income communities."
This is a great idea in theory. Personally, I don't believe that the 70-30% (R.G.I [Rent Geared to Income] to non R.G.I.) goes far enough. It should be more of an equal representation between R.G.I and non R.G.I. tenants. It should also be considered in the context of the larger national affordable housing strategy. This strategy should include the proposed development of abandoned properties and the ideas around setting aside a percentage of units constructed by private or non profit entities for R.G.I. tenants.
If Mayor Tory was serious about creating mixed income communities there needs to be a focus on "community building" not just the construction of new units. The Regent Park rejuvenation project is already 108 million in the hole and nowhere near completion. Part of the reason is because of "delays in timing of sales of market housing resulted in [SURPRISE!!!] delays in the social housing redevelopment." (Torontoist - Why Regent Park's Revitalization Needs !108 Million More to Keep Going - February 6th, 2017)
The main reason people are likely hesitating with making purchases of units in that area are quite clear. The Toronto Community Housing tenants that were in that area before have first pick at returning to the same size unit they had when they left ... Subsidized of course. So what guarantees do the purchasers have that the same criminal elements won't be returning? None. What powers do the new owners have when they do return? None.
You can flush billions of dollars down that hole. All you will be doing is making it more appealing for the criminal element to crawl back into.
There needs to be some significant structural/systemic change. I believe that we should start at the top. The TCH Board of Directors should have equal representation of TCH tenants, citizen members (that could include property owners), and city councilor members.
Currently, the board consists of twelve members only two of whom are tenants. So, technically, that means that only two people on that board have lived experience. That's not even remotely empowering to the 164 000 Toronto Community Housing tenants. If, TCH tenants don't have any real say at the Board with only two members, how are the new owners going to feel with no say with no members on Board?
Unfortunately, equal representation at the Board level is not listed among the recommendations. Instead, Recommendation 4 of the TCH Task Force Final Report indicated that the "Corporate Board of Directors of TCHC/NewHome, should be reduced to 7-9 citizen members and should be more appropriately compensated for their commitment and adequately supported." Sounds a tad backwards to me,
Technically, there would have been no need to appoint TCH(C) tenants to become members of the Tenants First Advisory Panel if the Board of Directors had equal representation. It also would have had a much longer and more effective mandate. Based on information gathered online the Tenants First Advisory Panel is meeting for 7 - 10 times over the next year. Honestly, this is the Tenants Last Advisory Panel. They just wanna find out from us how best to stuff their ideas down our throats without us spewing it all back at them. Just sayin'.
The third item on the list for Transformative Change for TCHC was "[b]etter buildings and more of them".
If, by better buildings, the City of Toronto means the same thing as it does when it is referring to its own Better Buildings Partnership. " A City of Toronto initiative that works with building owners, managers and builders to ensure that buildings achieve high energy performance and low environmental impact. We provide knowledge, resources and financial assistance to maximize the outcomes of a wide range of energy efficiency projects." I'm all in!
On the one hand, there is only an honorable mention for decreasing Toronto Community Housing's ecological foot print. Yet, unbeknownst to outsiders there needs to be a back to basics approach to TCH(C)'s environmental impact. Superintendents have been threatened with fines if their buildings don't increase the recycled materials weight and decrease the trash weight that the recycling/garbage trucks pick up.
TCH(C) staff, tenant reps, and a large majority of residents simply can't be bothered to recycled. In some cases, it's a distance issue. The garbage room on each floor is closer than the recycling bin at the outside edge of the parking lot.. In others, it's an accessibility issue. They can't be expected to pitch their recycling into a dumpster that is six feet high from a wheel chair/scooter or as they are leaning on their walker.
As far as I'm concerned Toronto Community Housing should be leading the city in waste diversion.
On the other hand, the report is very detailed when they describe wanting the ability to put more sardines (intensification on some sites) into more cans (through rejuvenation projects) on the same size of platter (lot size). In addition, they want the ability to have preferential consideration when it comes to the sale of surplus public land. Sprinkle on some capital grants, low or zero interest loans, tax/fee waivers, and debt guarantees. For dessert, they even want to have final say (never mind the "review opportunities" phrasing) when it comes to which units are renovated, demolished, replaced, or sold.
If individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments are being asked to invest in the future of TCH(C) then there needs to be a broader focus. Not only should they work on constructing "better buildings" they should also work on "community development" (below) and make a sincere effort at "tenant engagement" (next section).
For now, it's still called Toronto “Community” Housing. The first step in developing a healthy community is getting rid of the riff raff. Nobody wants to live next door to a drug dealer.
Housing has been declared a human right. Subsidized housing should be considered a privilege. The City of Toronto has gone above and beyond by providing persons with a subsidized unit. If it is proven that they have abuse that privilege then they are entitled to seek a market rental unit somewhere outside of Toronto Community Housing. It's not TCH's, or the Mayor's, responsibility to make sure serial criminals have a roof over their heads. Here's your eviction notice. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. End of story.
Unfortunately, it's not that simple. We'll discuss why in the next section.
The fourth item on the list was to "[d]ecentralize [o]perations/[s]trengthen [p]artnerships". For your sake I will deal with these two issues separately. This section will deal with the decentralization issues. Strengthening partnerships will be dealt with in Part Five.
When we discuss decentralization issues we need to discuss the current level of performance. Based on personal experience it is very clear that there is a systemic issue involving Toronto Community Housing (Corporation) staff members following up with tenants ... at all. Never mind, in a timely manner.
A TCH(C) staffer in Stakeholder Relations has yet to respond to a detail outline that a city councilor forwarded to him. Other than promising (via email) to get back to me "in ten days or so" on December 7th, 2016. He even cc'd that promise to the city councilor's office.
Considering, the city councilor forwarded my email to TCH(C)'s Stakeholder Relations, in the first place, should give you some clear indication as to the sheer lack of response from other Toronto Community Housing staffers prior to that point.
During an Operational Assessment Group Meeting in 2015 it was revealed that Toronto Community Housing security does not necessarily respond after a call to their call center. Instead, they wait until they receive a second call about the same incident. Even then, chances are, there was no record made of the first call. SMH Maybe they should be required to supply incident report numbers so that TCH residents have something to refer to when they do call back.
Once Toronto Community Housing staffers have been taught how to properly follow up with tenants (whether that be in person, by phone, or by email) it would be wise to discuss decentralizing both the maintenance and security call center operations during business hours. Within the nine to five time frame calls should be handled by TCH(C) Operating Unit management offices.
This will effectively remove the plausible deniability factor that permeates Toronto Community Housing when it comes to what is happening within those Operating Units. No longer will they say they didn't know about a specific units repeated anti-social or criminal behaviors. Unless of course, it is Toronto Police Services that responds instead of TCH(C) security. (To be discussed in Part Five.)
Once an organizational structure has been defined it would seem advantageous to educate the tenants on each TCH(C) staffer's position, and their respective responsibilities. There has to be at least the illusion of transparency.
Above all there needs to be accountability. Give us some way within the Toronto Community Housing organizational system to lodge complaints. The sooner a person feels heard, the sooner they can move on with their life.
At any point during this time there should also be a recommendation made for either a flexible work schedule or a limitation put on the amount of time an employee can serve in each position. It is believed that burn out is a chronic issue among Toronto Community Housing employees. Take a page from the tech industry. No employee stays at a tech company until they retire. Innovation breeds change. Change breeds innovation.