Sunday September 25, 2016
Robert Morrissey was Minister of Economic Development in the Catherine Callbeck government in the early 1990s when I began work on the first website of the provincial government. As such, he was the first person I came to know as “the Minister,” and it takes every fibre of my being to call him Robert, let alone calling him “Bobby,” which is what he prefers, and what everybody else calls him.
In last year’s federal election, Robert (er, Bobby) was elected Member of Parliament for Egmont, the district on the western end of Prince Edward Island, and it was in this capacity that, through an intermediary, he reached out to me earlier this year to ask if I could help to facilitate a town hall on rural Internet access he was planning to host for his constituents. He needed someone impartial – which is to say, someone not in the Internet business themselves – to explain the basics of Internet access to those attending, and to sketch out what’s available on the ground right now, how much it costs, and, in the end, why it’s more expensive and slower than what we in urban PEI have access to.
I’m no Internet-access expert, but I know my way around the terminology, I’ve suffered from poor rural Internet myself (when I first crafted www.gov.pe.ca, it was on the end of a 14.4 Kbps modem connection), and I have some facility in explaining complicated things, so I agreed, and after some schedule juggling, this past Friday, September 23 was set as the date, and the St. Louis Community Centre, deep in the heart of West Prince, was set as the location.
St. Louis, in PEI terms, is a long drive from Charlottetown (the first time I had a meeting planning for the area, back in 1993, my coworkers were surprised to hear I wasn’t staying overnight). But it’s really not that far – 2 hours from door to door – and so I set off around 4:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon for a planned 6:00 p.m. arrival and setup and a 7:00 p.m. meeting.
The going was slow at first: torrential rain caused traffic in Charlottetown to grind to molasses, and by 4:45 p.m. I was still inside the Charlottetown city limits. But things picked up from there, and the farther I drove west the sunnier it became; by the time I got to St. Louis it was brilliant out:
I’d prepared a Keynote presentation earlier in the day, assembling all the research I’d gathered from talking to Internet service providers and scouring their websites, and Bobby’s staff had a screen projector set up at the front of the hall when I arrived, so it was quick to set up:
The plan was that Bobby would introduce me, and then I would speak for 15 or 20 minutes, and then he would take over and lead a discussion. By 7:00 p.m. there were about a dozen people in the hall (a hall, by the way, that is the envy of any community hall on PEI and has perhaps the most comfortable chairs of any hall I’ve ever been in). Bobby made a short introduction, and then I started in with my presentation.
The goal of my presentation was to define the terminology people will encounter on Internet provider websites and phone calls (“bandwidth,” “usage,” “megs”), to talk about the ways of delivering Internet (fibre, DSL, cable, wireless) and then to review what companies are providing Internet in the riding, what they charge, and what they offer. I used the St. Louis Community Centre itself as a test address, and showed how the fastest Internet available at that address was 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up from Xplornet, and how that was 1/10th of what I could get in my office in Charlottetown while paying not that much more.
My plan to speak for 20 minutes and then to cede the podium to Bobby went off the rails when those present asked a lot of very, very good questions that I tried to answer completely. We talked about things like whether fibre to the home would ever extend to rural areas (unlikely), and about what the various wireless options are, and how they might be the quickest way to more bandwidth. We talked about the ins and outs of the Province attempting to lever its way to rural Internet in 2008, and how this worked and didn’t work both. Perhaps the wisest comment came from a constituent who reasoned that if I was paying $1 per Mbps of bandwidth in Charlottetown, he should be paying $2 a month for the 2 meg DSL service he’s getting at his house. I found it hard to argue with his logic.
The constituents who attended were wise, full of valuable insights, and made a clear case to Bobby about how lack of affordable, reliable bandwidth was holding back both economic development and education in the district. Bobby, to his credit, agreed this was the case – he has to drive in to Summerside to get the kind of Internet he needs to do business as an MP – and he genuinely seemed willing to listen to the solutions proposed, and to advocate for them.
I finally sat down about 8:30 p.m., and Bobby took the floor to summarize things and to close the discussion. We didn’t leave the hall with a plan, but I hope that everyone left a little wiser, and with a sense that the only things standing between West Prince and bandwidth are money and the will.
I headed out into the clear, dark night at 9:00 p.m., stopped at my friend John Cousins’s house in Bloomfield for a cup of tea and a chat before heading back to town. I rolled into my driveway back in Charlottetown near 1:00 p.m., 9 hours after leaving, satisfied and exhausted.
Ontario Place opened to much fanfare in 1971, hailed as an icon of the province’s progress. Decades later, its stature in the city’s consciousness has since faded. In/Future, the much-hyped arts and music festival, hopes to bring Ontario Place back onto the public’s radar after a long hiatus.
More than four years ago, Ontario Place temporarily shuttered its doors with an eye to recasting itself as a multi-purpose site. It will reopen in 2017.
Rui Pimenta and Layne Hinton are the creative conspirators behind In/Future, which sets the stage for the park’s return from irrelevance. The festival opens the grounds to artists and musicians to project their take on how the site might appeal to a broader audience—beyond those prone to fits of nostalgia.
As much as it reimagines Ontario Place’s potential, In/Future also takes a retrospective gaze through several site-specific installations. With “Still,” artist Max Dean’s photographic installations offer up a narrative constructed with the props and mannequins salvaged from the out-of-commission Wilderness Adventure Ride. The inanimate objects—moose, bears, and miners—reassemble themselves into a tableau, continuing to take up residency in the deserted complex.
More futuristic is Laura Millard’s “Recursive Traces,” which displays images of snowmobile-etched circles, captured using a drone. Against the backdrop of her illuminated sketches and Styrofoam icebergs, Philip Glass’s “Étude No. 1” is played on loop. The piece is performed by Millard’s collaborator, Simone Jones.
What we choose to build, what we choose to demolish and what we choose to save tells us a lot about dominant human values: social, cultural, environmental, economic and political. Buildings and landscapes embody these values and reveal information about the people who designed them, the people who inhabit them and the geographic, cultural or historic moments or movements that inspired them. Our built environment and landscapes tell stories, and they reveal and illustrate our many histories, both the illustrious and the otherwise invisible.
Toronto’s diverse cultural heritage is reflected in the built form and landscapes of its neighbourhoods, main streets, commercial areas, ravines and parks, as well as in the traditions and cultural spaces of its over 2.5 million residents. Cultural heritage is widely understood to be an important component of sustainable development and place-making and, as Toronto’s growth intensifies, Toronto City Planning is acting to ensure that intensification is reconciled with the ongoing conservation of significant heritage areas. To this end, the City is using a suite of policy tools and processes to create a culture of conservation and context sensitive design, recognizing that, as Canada’s largest city, Toronto faces both unique challenges and opportunities in conserving and benefiting from heritage conservation districts (HCDs).
In his September 15, 2016, opinion piece on HCDs, Michael McClelland asserts the City of Toronto is looking for a “silver bullet” to control development in the downtown core; neither are HCDs a “blunt tool.” On the contrary, the identification, evaluation and designation of HCDs across the entire City have been made a planning priority because HCDs are valued for their ability to provide contextual, place-based policies and guidelines. HCDs are also valued for their ability to strengthen business areas; leverage economic development; positively influence conservation and planning outcomes; enhance civic engagement; protect the public interest, and demonstrate compliance with provincial planning policy and the City’s own Official Plan.
Many Toronto neighbourhoods are in the midst of transformation via the rise of condo developments that bring with them a huge influx of new residents. West Queen West and Liberty Village are good examples of places where this process has already taken place, and over the next half decade Yorkville is about to experience profound intensification.
But condos aren't the only driving force of change in Toronto, even if it often seems like that's the case. Take, for instance, the Junction Triangle. This wedge-shaped west side neighbourhood is about to undergo a series of transformations that will alter its identity completely.
Condos are a part of the changes taking place here, but some of the biggest developments on the horizon related to the feature after which the neighbourhood is named: the railway tracks. This area is bounded by some of Toronto's busiest rail corridors, and it's the traffic on these tracks that will be a major factor in the transformation here.
The most controversial development on the way for the Junction Triangle is the Davenport Diamond Grade Separation, which will put a massive rail overpass through the heart of the neighbourhood. There was significant community pushback on this project but it's going ahead as of early August.
If there's a silver lining for residents, it's that the overpass poses some novel options for public space and a possible connection to West Toronto Rail Path. That won't be much consolation for residents whose homes back onto the project, but it might help to establish a stronger relationship to Bloor St., which is currently cut-off on the north side of the area.
On a golden early-autumn day, under flawless blue skies, local residents took to the streets Saturday to celebrate fresh starts and brighter futures in the downtown neighbourhood of Alexandra Park.
The 18-acre tract — originally built in the 1960s as public housing, squeezed between the bustle of Kensington Market, Chinatown and Queen St. W. — has long been terra incognita to many in Toronto, and regarded by some who did know it as a no-go zone of gangs and hidey-holes.
But all that’s changing under a revitalization plan that began in 2008 with not much more than dreams and determination and, eight years on, celebrated the official opening Saturday of its first 40 new townhomes.
The party brought drum bands and bouncy castles and ice-cream trucks and smoking barbecues onto the sunny streets, along with delighted residents like Hamza Waseem.
Waseem, 21, came to Canada from Pakistan at age 5 and has lived in Alexandra Park since 2004.
“As a community we were known for drugs, violence, crime,” he told the Star. “But now it’s bringing more safety, and we feel better for sure. We were closed off, we were isolated from the community,” he said. “This is opening us up and making it safer.”
Waterfront piazzas, a 1.5 kilometre beach, new lakefront land the size of 48 football fields and mixed-use neighbourhoods housing 20,000 people on 250 acres of reclaimed industrial land — Mississauga is set to kick off a project on the shores of Lake Ontario that promises to be the envy of the world.
On Saturday, Ontario's finance minister will realize a dream that has driven him for more than a decade, as he and other dignitaries announce the “ground making” of new waterfront land and islands next to where a colossal power plant formed a barrier between the city and nature for almost 50 years.
The grand undertaking — involving the city, the province and Credit Valley Conservation — is part of a major reclamation of Mississauga’s waterfront called Inspiration Lakeview.
“There probably isn’t another city in the world that has this much space on the waterfront to do what we’re going to do here,” says Finance Minister Charles Sousa, also the local MPP.
The planned 300-acre development will feature boardwalks, canals lined with restaurants and boutiques, wetland trails, commercial and residential space, buildings to house cultural events and possibly even a Great Lakes research facility.
I want to fall in love with this thing because I imagine in my mind’s eye what it could be, in a dead zone of the city right now, in the heart of a growing central area, and think: “What a kick-ass awesome thing that would be to have in the city.”
I want to live in the city that says it is worth it, because we are a wealthy and growing city, and because it would belong to all of us, and because it would be awesome.
…and yet I know this is a city that already has a much larger downtown park — on the Toronto Islands, roughly the size of New York’s Central Park — and chokes off access to it on aging ferry boats, so that a family of four wanting to visit must pay more than $22 to access the park, and must line up for a long time, crowded into a pen in the hot sun, waiting to board.
…and yet I know this a city in which the man who is now deputy mayor launched a crusade to protest the cost of pink umbrella lighting installations in a new waterfront park just a few years ago, and ramped up the outrage over new washrooms at Cherry Beach.
When I first moved to Toronto in 2000 I spent a lot of time at the Reference Library, ostensibly looking for a job on their computers and in their newspapers. Job-hunting is no fun so there was lots of motivation to procrastinate, and the library is a good place to do that. One of the things I picked up was John Bentley Mays’ 1994 book Emerald City. The subtitle was “Toronto visited” and this book certainly did that.
Divided into sections with titles like “Thinking Places”, “Shopping”, and “Suburban Idylls”, Mays wandered through the well known and less well known parts of the city, visiting the Port Lands, Garrison Creek, Don Mills, Mississauga and dozens of other places, many of them on the edge of things or peripheral places. He starts off with his first walk through the city when he arrived here in 1969, zigzagging from Deer Park down to Exhibition Place. Then he makes the case why this is a city worthy of a second thought and some deeper contemplation. Then goes on to deeply explore it in the book.
Mays had an eye for the overlooked details and weaved Toronto observations and history with his deep understanding of literature and art. Toronto was placed among other world cities and metropolitan cultural movements, a context that foresaw the kind of city Toronto has continued to grow into over the next two decades. He dedicated the book to his daughter, Erin, calling her a “city kid,” something I had always wanted to be, and perhaps now that I had moved to Toronto, was becoming myself. As a newcomer to this place, Emerald City was providing some of the back-story and identity I needed to become that.
- blogTO notes that Muji is opening up a second location.
- James Bow writes about how voicing complaints can make things better for transit riders.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes the detection of ice in the disk of HD 142527.
- The Dragon's Tales links to a paper speculating on the origins of rings like Saturn's in the disruption of dwarf planets.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes Rich Lowry's low bar for Donald Trump.
- The LRB Blog notes that refugees are not going to get into the European Union.
- Marginal Revolution is rightly appalled by a journalist who argues against research in longevity.
- Understanding Society's Daniel Little announces his new book, New Directions in the Philosophy of Social Science.
- Window on Eurasia argues that Huntington's description of Ukraine's divisions is incorrect, and warns about the strength of Putin.
The work of the mid-20th century architectural photography firm Panda Associates feature at The Idea of North, for their documentation of what was in the autumn of 1961 the future home of the futuristic Toronto City Hall.
The Daily Specials at Casa Mia Restaurant for Sunday, September 25, 2016 are:
- Apple Maple Pecan French Toast $13.99 Our stuffed french toast with apple slices, and maple pecans served with bacon and whipped cream.
- Sweet Potato Soup $4.99
Saturday September 24, 2016
There are not many ruins around me in Toronto or elsewhere in my haunts, but I have taken advantage of the temporarily abandoned or the questionably isolated for photographic purposes. The abandoned can be scenic. Perhaps my uncaring approach has much to do with my certainty that, in Toronto, nothing is going to be abandoned for long.
In an international context, however, the objectifying gaze of the ruin photographer can be revealing. Although the rhetorics of Cold Wars past and present would emphasise their difference, the gaze of the photographer helps to demonstrate the inherent kinship between the ruins of the US and those of the former USSR. In both countries, at around the same time, giant factory cities emerged, with the same purpose and with similar architectures and philosophies (Taylorism, Fordism, technological positivism); in both countries, industrial progress went hand-in-hand with extravagant defence spending, scattering expendable outposts of a vast military-industrial complex around a continent. In the ruin, subtleties of dogma are forgotten: when we look at the snapped pillars of a Greek temple, we don’t care whether it was dedicated to Apollo or Dionysus.
In the Russian context, this sense of serendipity is redoubled because the established western stereotype of communist Russia for so long excluded this personal aspect. In fact, ruin photography can be seen as a factor in a general shift in the perception of Russia and the Soviet Union: the superpower has not lost its reputation for strictness and inhuman grandeur, but now this — for better and for worse — is combined with a sense that the Soviet world is, from an aesthetic point of view, ready to be mined for content by the contemporary culture industry.
Soviet communism always had, in contemporary branding speak, “a great corporate aesthetic”: strong use of colour, an accessible visual grammar and eye-catching, easily reproducible logos. This branding recurs again and again in books like Soviet Ghosts (it is, to be fair, hard to avoid). This can be seen as part of a broader reassessment of the iconography of communism, one begun long ago. Once the symbols of the Soviet Union have been shifted into the world of ruins they becomes reusable as purely aesthetic objects. This is not unprecedented: the Renaissance world could “discover” and exploit the art and design of pagan antiquity precisely because its connection with ruination neutered the potential danger posed by its non-Christian origins. Once Venus de Milo has stumps for arms, she can be a symbol of secular beauty rather than, as she once was, a revered devotional figure. Likewise, a faded red star on a rusting missile is no longer a threat, but a mood board waiting to happen.
As many have observed, the nostalgic aspect of ruin photography is connected to a certain post-modern alienation: the ruins of the 20th century seem to conjure a lost, longed-for time of ideological self-confidence and practical purpose. The physicality evoked by these photos contrasts with the way they are consumed in the virtual world of the internet. Moreover, one of the reasons, I suggest, that ghost-city, ruin-porn photography is so popular is that its engagement with the physical offers the promise of serendipity. Photographers often juxtapose images of hulking buildings with quiet human moments — a girl’s doll, a faded poster, a family photo. The implicit message of the genre is “look what you can discover if you go through the locked door”. This makes it perfect for an information marketplace dominated by the peepshow principles of clickbait headlines: ruins offer a valuable online commodity — the possibility of a chance encounter with a sense of our own humanity.
People living in neighborhoods affected by the expansion of urban construction suffer a “double displacement”, with changes in their habitat and the driving up of prices in the area, in a process in which “we are not taken into account,” said Natalia Lara, a member of an assembly of local residents in the south of Mexico City.
Lara, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public policies at the Latin American School of Social Sciences (Flacso), told IPS that in her neighborhood people are outraged because of the irrational way the construction has been carried out there.
The member of the assembly of local residents of Santa Úrsula Coapa, a lower middle-class neighborhood, complains that urban decision-makers build more houses and buildings but “don’t think about how to provide services. They make arbitrary land-use changes.”
Lara lives near the Mexico City asphalt plant owned by the city’s Ministry of Public Works, which has been operating since 1956 and has become asource of conflict between the residents of the southern neighbourhoods and the administration of leftist Mayor Miguel Mancera of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, which has governed the capital since 1997.
In mid-2014, Mancera’s government announced its intention to donate the asphalt plant’s land to Mexico City’s Investment Promotion Agency, which would build the Coyoacán Economic and Social Development Area there.
Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi rejected the city’s bid for the 2024 Olympics on Wednesday, effectively dooming the capital’s candidacy for the second time in four years.
If approved by Rome’s city assembly, Raggi’s motion to withdraw the bid would leave only Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest, Hungary, in the running for the 2024 Games. The International Olympic Committee will decide on the host city in September 2017.
At a news conference in city hall, Raggi said it would be financially “irresponsible” to pursue the bid any further given the city is barely able to get its trash picked up. She highlighted the debts that previous Olympic host cities have incurred and the unfinished infrastructure already dotting Rome from previous sporting bids as reasons to justify the withdrawal.
“In light of the data we have, these Olympics are not sustainable. They will bring only debt,” she said. “We don’t want sports to become another pretext for more cement foundations in the city. We won’t allow it.”
Raggi drew up a motion to withdraw the bid Wednesday and put it before the city assembly, which has the final say. There was no immediate word if and when the council would take it up.
It was only a shopping mall, but when the Parkway Plaza opened at Ellesmere Road and Victoria Park Avenue in 1958, it signalled the arrival of space age in the Toronto’s eastern suburbs.
Just five years earlier the site was in the middle of Maryvale, a swathe farms and fields on the borderlands of the Toronto urban area named for the nearby country estate of Senator Frank O’Connor.
A short distance south, over the Canadian Pacific tracks near Lawrence Avenue, the first suburban culs-de-sac and commercial developments were rising from the cornfields.
Modernity arrived quickly in Maryvale. Highway 401 opened just to the north in 1956, and housing subdivisions sprouted from the agricultural landscape with astonishing speed.
To service these new homes, the Cadillac Development Corporation purchased the lots at the southeast corner of Ellesmere and Victoria Park for a shopping centre and hired Bregman and Hamann architects to draw up the blueprints.
A couple of blocks can make a $41,000 difference on the price of a condo in Toronto.
That’s how much more it cost on average to buy a condo near Bay St., compared to the Yonge St. corridor in the last year, according to number-crunching by online brokerage TheRedPin.
It looked at 24 major downtown intersections and found the Yorkville area owned the high end of highrise in Toronto between Aug. 2015 and Aug. 2016.
The average price of a two-bedroom unit within about a five-minute walk of Bloor St. and Avenue Rd. was about $1.4 million — the highest among the 24 intersections in the analysis.
It was followed by an average $1 million for condos near the intersections of Bay and Bloor streets and Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave.
Starting next week, WestJet will no longer be offering direct service between Brandon, Man., and Toronto.
The airline says as of Sept. 26, it will remove the run from its schedule because demand for seats has not met expectations.
The four-times-a-week flights began at the end of June to test response to the route.
WestJet then announced in July that it would offer the service on a year-round basis starting late next month.
People who have booked flights on the route will be contacted by WestJet directly to make alternate travel arrangements or to offer refunds.
Conservative leadership hopeful Brad Trost raised some eyebrows Wednesday when he compared Ontario’s new sex-education curriculum to residential schools.
Trost joined a couple hundred parents gathered outside the provincial legislature to protest Liberal changes to the way sex education is taught in the province.
[. . .]
“You have a responsibility, a responsibility that you take very seriously, a sacred responsibility to do what is right for your children,” the Saskatchewan MP told the crowd.
“We in Canada, when we have taken away those rights from parents we have had a disaster each and every time. The most tragic incident in our history was the residential schools and that was the underlying problem: parental rights were not respected.”
About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were taken from their families and forced to attend government schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard graphic testimony from survivors who detailed physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the schools.
Trost said after his speech that the Ontario sex-ed curriculum is “not nearly” the same level of seriousness as residential schools, but “the underlying principle is the same.”
Though summer is officially over as of Thursday, Toronto’s lingering warmth weather likely isn’t.
Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips says southern Ontario can expect temperatures in the 20s through November.
“We shouldn’t write the obituary on summer-like weather yet,” he said.
But even if those temperatures don’t materialize, Phillips said the extreme heat of this summer will probably be enough to make 2016 Toronto’s hottest year ever.
“We’ve seen that globally, but my gosh, not always in Toronto,” Phillips said.
A farmer harvests pumpkins in a field outside Stratford, P.E.I., Saturday, September 24, 2016. Nathan Rochford/The Canadian Press
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