Category Archives: AS21stC 2018

Queen St East streetscape…

My years with the Beach Village BIA (2010-2016) were my first foray into volunteering, lobbying, and advocacy, and my first time on a board of directors.  The board has changed over the years, but regardless of the board’s membership I was frequently the sole voice of opposition to many ill-considered policies and plans, and found myself often discriminated against because I was the young guy who didn’t actually own a business on Queen.  Which was actually my strength, as being in my 30s I represented our main demographic of shoppers (most board members had 20+ years on me), and not owning a business (and not having my livelihood on the line) my perspective was much more macro and saw the entire strip as a whole (unlike a few myopic board members who could only see through the lens of their own business).

However, over time I earned more respect and my ideas FINALLY started to take hold.  It culminated with my becoming chair of the streescaping committee where I brought back our hanging baskets of flowers, brought Christmas decor to a new level, and started the painting of the tree planters, many of which are my designs.

My first obsession upon joining the board in 2010 was with wayfinding and business directories.  I was always devising ways to get all our businesses displayed on a map that also included landmarks and other points of interest for visitors.

It started with lobbying to replace our incredibly aging and decrepit (and now defunct) Discovery Walk signs (at one point I wanted to simply cover them over with our own design as they were so ugly and worn down).

As I got deeper involved eventually the 360 project came to light and I was at most of the stakeholder meetings.  After one meeting I even mocked up and submitted wayfinder designs that gave more focus to transit routes, just for extra ideas on how to display as much transit info for users as possible.

Until of course this year, the most crucial for our area as the program is finally being rolled out.  As a brief context, this year my firstborn turned 1, my family moved houses, and then I ran for city council.  Suffice to say I’ve had little time and 360 slipped through the cracks of my busy schedule.  Then I went to the BIA streetscaping meeting last night to find out 360 is coming soon!  Which pleased me very much, LONG overdue.

Before I knew the BIA was working with 360 I was under the false impression they were finally going to create some of their own wayfinders (something I had been exploring in my last months of being chair of streetscaping).  I mocked up some designs, but more importantly, in doing so I also created a full business directory with map that also includes points of interest and landmarks, and all in a 16″ x 48″ image.

Another idea I floated to the BIA was the opportunity to use our banners as either wayfinding, or to put local artists’ work on them, but I had left by the time the new banners came and did not have any input.  A missed opportunity for the BIA, as while campaigning I discovered the current  banners are of such little impact most people don’t even realize they are there.

Back to the new wayfinders, I have some issues with the proposed placement of some of the 360 totems.  To properly devise wayfinding one must put themselves in the shoes of pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and tourists.  I’ve attached the map from last night’s presentation with the following feedback:

1) Lee Avenue is no longer a good location for a totem since the streetcar stop moved, now it’s just a corner like any other.

2) Move the totem from Lee Ave to Wineva.  First and foremost, this is where the 64 bus route ends, it’s one of the transit gateways to the Beach.  You don’t want people getting off the the last stop of the bus and then have no idea where to turn.  A totem is crucial at this intersection, and it’s perfect as the intersection is slated for a curb bumpout which has the potential to hold the totem.  Also, at Lee it was too close to the one at Bellefair and too far from the one at Glen Manor, this spreads them out nicely.

3) It’s hard to tell from the map what corner many of these totems are planned for, but this one should be well displayed in front of Ivan Forrest Gardens.

4) Again, hard to tell where it’s planned, but I’m sure it goes without saying the northeast corner of Beech and Queen is best.

5) Don’t know why a totem would be placed here, it’s not on a streetcar stop nor any other significant landmark or route and it’s too close to the one at Silver Birch

6) The totem at Munro Park should be at Neville Park, it’s the end of the streetcar line and is the eastern gateway into the Beach.  The perfect spot (attached photo) is right by the new Bike Share station so it can integrate with both cycling and transit routes and is highly visible to pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and even cars entering from the east.

And it is things like cycling routes, bike share stations, and transit routes and stops I want to ensure are on the totems (I’m also a local transportation expert, having run the Ward 32 Transportation Committee for 8 years).

I don’t know why there wasn’t more fulsome local consultation on the wayfinders, maybe there wasn’t time or maybe there was an assumption the BIA’s input would suffice, but I want to ensure this opportunity isn’t squandered.  I invite everyone to contact the BIA and the 360 project to ask for more public consultation to ensure our area is being captured properly.


This is what I like to call “auto-waste”, and it’s a policy of FAR too many businesses, organizations, and charities in the Western world.

Basically it means that no matter how you sign up for something, for example entirely online, the entity you signed up with will automatically send you a bunch of wasteful paper mail you never wanted nor needed.

I used Canada Post direct mail service for my campaign to mail out flyers. The ENTIRE process was done online, and I never opted for any extra info or mailout. What I got a few weeks later AFTER THE CAMPAIGN WAS OVER was THREE separate mailouts, one expensive looking spiral bound booklet mailed in a bloody bubble envelope (most wasteful part), and TWO separate paper mailouts, one which contained a useless plastic membership card for a campaign that no longer exists (and the card isn’t even necessary, it’s just for show, you don’t need it for direct mail drop offs). I’m pretty livid they would do this without any consent on my part, the waste is staggering.  Most ironic, it’s all explaining and detailing the process I’VE ALREADY BEEN THROUGH, so they’re telling me something I already know.

I donate to the CNIB Ontario, and also recently received their pointless waste of paper newsletter, which I could easily read online, but more to the point, WHEN I SIGNED UP I MADE IT CLEAR I NEVER WANTED PAPER MAIL. Like ever, to the point the first time they mailed me I wrote to them and said don’t ever mail me again, clearly they didn’t get the message.

Same issue with the Green Party of Ontario and Green Party of Canada – Parti vert du Canada, told them multiple times I would cease donating if they kept sending me unwanted paper mail, took them a couple years but it seems they may have finally got the hint.

Worst of all however was when I first donated to a dubious charity a few years ago “Friends” of the CBC which is an offshoot of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting // Les Amis de la radiodiffusion. Well, some friend, they sold my name and address to a bunch of other charities and for almost three years I received numerous expensive mailings with unwanted swag (bags, stickers, keychains), many from charities and foundations I’ve never heard of nor would ever donate to. At one point I was going to start putting it all in a pile to make a complaint to show how many pounds of useless waste one donation had resulted in, but at that point the bulk of it had passed. Charities should not be allowed under law to sell your name to other charities, if I’d know that was legit I would have thought twice. The amount of mail I received over the next three years cost FAR more than my donation.

It’s this kind of “auto-waste” our economy needs to ban, it’s based on unproven and obsolete assumptions about what will attract more business and money. The biggest irony is that I contacted ALL of these orgs via the internet, and yet ALL thought it necessary to send me wasteful paper. Why? Because it’s just something they do automatically without thought or question. Which is why I call it auto-waste and it needs to be banned. It’s an anachronism from a time before online, we have evolved, their policies need to as well. Any online donor that needs to feel special being mailed something physical in exchange for their donation doesn’t really get the point. Our planet has enough strain with the waste created from everyday life, we don’t need to add to it waste no one asked for or needs.

Lessons from the campaign trail…

I learned ALOT from my campaign: about running a campaign but also about the community. Knocking on doors and meeting people you’d otherwise never have occasion to meet really gets one in tune with their neighbourhood. Here are some of the lessons I learned, split into community and personal:

Community lessons:

– the Beach is an affordable food desert. We have TCHC buildings scattered throughout the Beach but residents have to take multiple transit routes to hit either Price Chopper on Lakeshore or Fresh Co at Vic Park and Gerrard to find any affordable groceries. Not only does this mean more time lost travelling via transit but also the cost of TTC fare, double if you weren’t able to do it in less than 2 hours to enjoy the 2 hour transfer. If we’re putting in affordable housing we need to match it with other affordable necessities of life.

– they need to lift the ridiculous moratorium on front lawn parking pads (albeit with a green standard that sees just two strips of permeable material tire width apart) if for no other reason than there are residents who want to buy electric cars but can’t plug them in with only street parking

– Vic Park south of Kingston is still considered a major connector route, even though it’s entirely wall-to-wall residential, mostly detached homes. Heavy trucks frequently use it illegally.

– someone needs to question the cost-benefit analysis of the new wooden hydro poles replacing concrete ones in the Triangle and other areas

– for some unknown reason the TTC moved the stop at Kingston and Malvern to the former Sundays-only stop in front of the church, causing all the seniors in 828 to walk an extra block to catch the TTC

– RC Harris is a bit out of control with illegal parking and dogs offleash

– the party machine is alive and well at the municipal level in our ward. I spoke of this already, but I really did not expect partisan politics to have been such a crucial element to this election.

Personal lessons:

– years of encouraging words from friends and family does not necessarily translate into boots on the ground come campaign time. And even when willing to help, most people would rather not canvas. Most of my friends are not nearly as political or activist as I am, and I realized quite soon that the people who were more willing to step up are the people I know through politics or activism. And I did have non-political friends step up, but not in the numbers I had hoped.

– the environment is not a very high concern for the majority of people (I’m not saying that just because I was the most environmental candidate and still lost). While there were some VERY environmental people, most did not ask about it or talk about it and of the hundreds of doors I personally hit, only one mentioned climate change.  Also, the VAST majority of people leave many lights on in their house when not home, creating what I call “false demand”.

– I need to learn to recruit and delegate more. I have trouble asking for help, preferring to handle things on my own, so my campaign was very DIY. Designed my own flyers and ads, did all my own video work (except for holding the camera), spent a long time perfecting my website, did all my own data entry and responding to emails and phone calls. In the process I learned Paypal and Mail Chimp and some new WordPress skills, but all at the expense of getting out on the streets more.

– canvassing is KEY. I had such great responses at the door, I’d say 80% of people I got face time with loved what I had to say. But I didn’t get to nearly enough doors, not by a long shot. Part of that blame lies with Ford doubling the ward, but I didn’t have enough canvassers, and spent time on other things that in the end may have been less worthwhile.

– someone helping full-time is pretty much a necessity. To seriously campaign someone dedicated needs to be by your side 24-7 until the campaign is over. If for no other reason than it gets very tough to keep track of all the moving parts. I made the decision not to hire anyone, in keeping with my grassroots campaign that kept costs down, but it lost alot of efficiency.

– you can do without a campaign office, but then you’d best have some other space in which to meet and eat. Eating out too much at restaurants (instead of buying groceries and having a variety available at your house) cost quite a bit more money than anticipated. It’s hard though when your house is occupied by a very precocious toddler who wants to get into EVERYTHING.

And of course there’s a bunch of minute detail lessons I won’t bother to go into, but these are the major ones. I still feel satisfied by the process and all I have gained, especially a deeper more intimate knowledge of my ward. This will only serve to better inform my actions moving forward, and has given me new things to strive for to improve our area.

Running an environmental campaign…

As I clean up and sort out the mess in my office post-campaign I am appalled by all the waste. Hundreds of unused flyers, dozens of unused window signs, leftover buttons, stacks of paper from canvassing. So much paper and ink for such short use to be disposed of.

It was tough running an environmental campaign while still being a serious contender. I may have had the most eco-friendly 100% reclaimed wood lawn signs, but I still felt guilty with every can of spray paint I had to use (thankfully I only went through about 4 or 5 total). I said it many times throughout the campaign, I could not live with myself printing hundreds of plastic signs just to dispose of them three weeks later. Reusing them another election does not negate the new plastic created, nor the energy and emissions expended to produce and distribute the signs, nor that it will still end up disposed of eventually.

Toronto as a whole has created millions of pounds of waste from this election, I feel a bit ill when I think of it. Other candidates had ongoing releases of newer bigger versions of their flyers as the campaign went on, none of which were on recycled paper. For my part I printed exactly 30,500 flyers on 4×6 100% recycled paper, and was loathe to print that last 500 but was worried about running out (in the end I should have stuck with 30K).

And the lawn signs, so much new plastic, and candidates order more than they need and litter the excess along right-of-ways, in some kind of ironically colourful plastic waste parade. Worst part is, empirically speaking, there is ZERO evidence having more lawn signs means you will fare better at the polls. It’s just the way things are done.

Well it’s time we start questioning the way things are done, and asking ourselves if we are serious about the environment or not? It is unacceptable to me that every election that comes along we are creating massive amounts of waste from short-use election items that will be tossed soon after issuance.

For one, we should ban plastic lawn signs, if not all lawn signs. The city does not allow advertising in many public spaces, why should we be subjected to it just because it’s an election? Especially considering every candidate could have the same number of signs visible and yet will not garner the same number of votes and so clearly signs are not the deciding factor in people’s minds. If people are eager to show their support visually they can put up a window sign or some other overt symbol of their candidate other than a plastic lawn sign. They can wear a headband or plastic-free button and show their support everywhere they go.

Any candidate in this city who followed the classic campaign playbook and does not feel incredibly guilty about the amount of waste created either doesn’t really understand the environmental impacts, or is simply a political psychopath more interested in power than the health of the planet.

We must do better, and we must start throwing out obsolete anachronistic unquestioned evidence-less methods built entirely on unproven assumptions that are destroying the planet. This goes for many things beyond just elections, but elections are an easy one to regulate and change.

Come next year’s federal election, I urge everyone to demand your chosen candidate forgo plastic lawn signs and show their true mettle as an unironic champion of the environment.

My thoughts post election…

First of all, congrats to all the candidates, for having the courage to put themselves out there and making an effort to reach out to the community. We had a slate of incredible and dedicated people, the ward was going to be in good hands no matter what.

And kudos to Brad Bradford, he certainly worked hard for it. I told more than a few of my friends and family throughout the election I would feel kinda bad if Brad didn’t win considering the herculean effort and amount of money spent. As stated, my ONLY beef with Brad’s campaign was the hypocrisy of calling for getting rid of single-use plastics and then printing hundreds of plastic signs (and using them twice doesn’t count because it was still producing new plastic that will never biodegrade, they will still be disposed of eventually, and can’t be recycled into what they once were).

Now, all that said, while no one could have predicted Ford’s meddling throwing a monkey wrench into everyone’s plans, I also did not expect the level of hyper-partisanship that came out. I knew Kellway would have the might of a party machine behind him, but I did not expect the anti-NDP to come out in force to thwart Kellway. Both Councillor McMahon and former MPP Arthur Potts were super invested in ensuring Kellway didn’t win, and I’d bet any money they helped convince Tory to back Brad to clinch the win. Which was a bit odd considering the conflict between Brad having both an endorsement from Keesmat earlier in his run, to be backed by Tory later. Strange politics indeed. It is my suspicion that in his heart of hearts Brad would love to have supported his former boss, but politically the way forward was to accept Tory’s support. I hope this does not mean he will become a yes man on Tory’s executive committee, and that he will stand for the ward’s residents.

My greatest concern after seeing the results however is that with the megaward structure, unless you have Big Money, Big Media, or Big Politics behind you there is little chance of a local grassroots candidate winning. I don’t know if such a consequence was intended by Ford, but it pretty much means municipal politics moved closer to the dynamic of the province and feds and is alot less about local support and more about external supports from politically connected or deep pocketed individuals. I really want to know the legalities of a mayoral candidate spending money on robo calls for their favoured councillor candidates. The huge size of the wards also means if you can’t afford to take the maximum amount of time off you are not likely to win because you will never get around to enough doors.

As for the results, 708 votes for me, I had hoped to do a little better, but knew when the big guns came out I was not a likely winner. I also know my biggest shortcoming was not getting to enough doors. When Ford first made his announcement on July 28 I was supposed to work all weekend on my website but instead took the time off to wrap my head around what I wanted to do, putting me behind right from the start. And then I got a throat infection a couple weeks ago whereby I had completely lost my voice for two days, and was out of commission for almost 4 days, which translates to a couple hundred doors I never got around to seeing. Really though, I just needed to start the whole process at least a month earlier.

All in all it was a very positive experience from which I learned alot. And not just about running a campaign, but about the neighbourhood. Talking to people you would not have met otherwise, learning their stories and struggles. I will follow-up this post with some of those lessons learned. And my community work will continue unabated, however I will likely alter my focus a bit, shifting towards more green and environmental initiatives.

This page and my website will continue to exist, mainly as a blog of sorts, detailing my various works in the community and calling on people to do the same. Thank you Ward 19, I look forward to doing my best for all of us.

Improving Small Business

For years people have been talking about the state of Queen St in the Beach, with our empty storefronts looking derelict and decrepit and dragging down the whole strip.  But this is not unique to Queen, it’s a problem across the city.  Danforth was very lucky to have DECA, who made a concerted effort to fill their stores.  We can do better for our small businesses, and I have a plan.

  1. Keep empty storefronts to a minimum standard of upkeep.  We all know there are bylaws about keeping your lawn too long or full of weeds, but there is no equivalent for empty storefronts.  We need to create a minimum standard that does not allow facades to appear crumbling and derelict, forces building owners to sweep away trash that has collected, and requires a more presentable window covering than craft paper or newsprint.  Perhaps it should even go so far as to require old signs and obsolete awnings to be covered in some way until a new business moves in.

2.  Gather economic information about businesses.  Information is power, and without it we cannot tell exactly what the problem is or where we have levers to relieve pressure.  For example, we should know what is base rent, vs property taxes, vs utilities, vs maintenance, vs the BIA levy for our businesses so we can properly identify where the burden is greatest and where it can be relieved.  Many businesses on Queen don’t even know they’re part of a BIA because the levy is not broken down on their lease.

3.  Survey residents to find out what the gaps in business are.  If we want retail strips that truly serve the community and thrive, we need to ensure they are filled with the kind of businesses residents want to see.  With surveying of shoppers we can identify these gaps and encourage certain desired businesses to fill them.

4.  Advertise vacant spaces.  Along with knowing what types of businesses are missing from the mix, we should be advertising all our empty spaces to attract new business thinking of moving to the area.  Combine this information with the economic information and a possible business will have alot of insight into the business dynamic of an area to really make an informed decision on whether or not to open a business there.