Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Little Good News (for a change)

Are you sick and tired of all the bad news out there?  Do you want a break from reading about terrorism, racial strife, bigotry, gun violence, war, environmental degradation and Donald Trump?  You can't ignore the bad news forever, but you can escape it for a time.

Conventional wisdom says that bad news sells.  The old newspaper adage is "If it bleeds, it leads."  However, I have a hunch that many people would like a respite from all the doom and gloom right now.  So, for today, I have written a good news post.  Here are five good news items from around the world.


1.  Despite Donald Trump's pull out form the Paris climate deal last June, many of the largest corporations in the United States have said they intend to honour the agreement anyway.  They have vowed to pursue cleaner energy and reduce emissions on their own.  Fortune 500 companies such as Apple, Google and General Motors are voluntarily investing billions of dollars in renewable energy.  They are investing in new wind and solar projects to fuel their operations.  They are becoming major contributors to renewable electricity growth. 

(Information taken from a New York Times article by Brad Plumer (August 4-5, 2018)

2.  New Zealand is scheduled to ban single-use plastic bags by next year.  This is excellent news because single-use plastic bags are one of the most common items found in coastal litter in New Zealand.


3.  Older people in Thailand are going back to school in order to order to combat loneliness.  Groups of people in their 60s and 70s are returning to school at a time when changing demographics mean that more seniors live by themselves.

(Information taken from August 3, 2018 article by Lucy Purdy on the Postive.News website).

4.  A homeless man in Mountainview, California, USA has reportedly received hundreds of job offers.  The man, David Casarez, stood on a highway medium, holding a sign that read "HOMELESS HUNGRY 4 SUCCESS. TAKE A RESUME."  He arrived in the Bay Area in September of 2017, with a college degree and three years of experience as a software developer.  Unfortunately, he underestimated the high cost of living and was unable to find work in Slicon Valley.  He lived in his van until he could no longer afford payments.  He was then forced to sleep in a park.

Someone snapped a photo of the 26-year-old  Casarez and posted it on Twitter on July 27, 2018. It immediately went viral.  Since then, Casarez has been inundated with offers of employment.


5.  Doctors in Vancouver, Canada have unveiled a procedure that could change the face of heart surgery.  Cardiologist Dr. David Wood, of Vancouver General Hospital,  has studied over 400 patients and provided the results to doctors at the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Conference in Denver, Colorado.  The procedure, called 3M transcatheter aortic valve replacement and is for treating aortic heart valve disease,  It  has taken place at 13 centres across North America, 11 in Canada.  It is an alternative to open heart surgery and usually takes about 45 minutes.  Instead of cutting into a patient's heart, a small tube is placed into the leg, which sends a balloon into the heart valve.  The new valve starts working immediately and you get twice as much blood flowing into your head, your lungs and your body.  According to Dr. Wood, the patient "is walking four hours later and is discharged the next day."

(Information taken from News 1130 Denver, Colorado website, posted October 30, 2017

- Joanne

Friday, August 10, 2018

An Open Letter to John Tory, Mayor of Toronto #3

This is is the third in a series of open letters to Mayor John Tory regarding the serious issues facing the city of Toronto. until this fall's municipal election.  The election will be held on Monday, October 22, 2018.

Dear Mayor Tory,

There have been three major developments since I last wrote to you on May 18th.

1. On June 7, 2018, the Conservatives, led by Doug Ford, came to power in Ontario.  On June 29th, Mr. Ford was sworn in as premier of the province.  

2. On July 27th, Premier Ford confirmed his government's intention to cut Toronto City Council from 47 members to 25 for the October 22nd election.

3. That same day,,in response to Ford's announcement, Jennifer Keesmaat, City Planner of Toronto from 2012 to 2017, announced her candidacy for mayor.

Jennifer Keesmaat
Finally, we have a race!  At the 11th hour, you were challenged by a high profile candidate.  That's good for Toronto and it's good for you, Mr. Mayor.  Did you really want to sleepwalk your way to victory?  Any worthy leader should welcome such a challenge.  If you win, you will be benefit from it.  Your performance during your second term in office will be much better than if you had cakewalked to victory.

This is a win-win situation for everybody.  Toronto will have an engaging mayoralty race.  Voters will be much more involved and voter turnout will be higher.  More issues will be debated and brought to the forefront, especially since Toronto's future is at stake.  Furthermore, someone will have to stand up to Premier Ford.  You and Jennifer Keesmaat both oppose his ill-timed plan to reduce the size of Toronto City Council without public consultation and debate.

In a letter to Queen's Park, you urged Ford to reconsider his plan to have fewer Toronto councillors.  You wrote: Something as fundamentally important as an election - a primary mechanism of civic democracy - should not be changed without public impacts or costs.  You exhorted the premier to "put the process on hold to allow for a referendum so we can let the people speak."

Toronto is facing many issues that must be discussed during this campaign.  This summer, there has been a tragic spate of gun violence in our city.  I hope it was an aberration.  Unfortunately, it has harmed Toronto's reputation as a safe city.  Spending more money on policing is not enough.  More preventive action must be taken.  Stronger gun control is needed as well as more programs for youths.

Unfortunately, the gun violence has diverted attention from some other serious issues, such as poverty, affordable housing and the environment.  Those three topics should be major issues in the coming election.  There are too many people living in poverty in this city.  There is also a lack of affordable housing.  It is too expensive for many people to live in Toronto.  Renting or owning a home is beyond thair reach.

Furthermore, Doug Ford's government is environmentally unfriendly.  The premier has vowed to scrap Ontario's cap-and-trade program, a program that serves this province well.  His party has budgeted $30 million over four years for a legal challenge against the federal government's ability to impose a carbon price upon the provinces.  What a waste of taxpayer's money!

Ford's government has claimed that removing cap and trade would save each Onario household an average of $260 in 2019.  However, it acknowledged that the saving would largely be cancelled out by the federal carbon tax, which will increase over time.  Moreover, on July 25th,Ontario's fiscal watchdog, Financial Accountability Officer Peter Wellman said he will review the cancellation of the cap-and-trade to determine how that decision will end up costing the province.

Ford's decision has already led to the cancellation of a number of green initiatives that were funded through cap-and-trade initiatives.  For example, the GreenOn program that provided rebates for energy-conscious homeowners has been axed, as well as a fund for school repairs.  The mayor or Toronto must speak up and protect the environment of the province's most populous city.

So, let the race for mayor begin in earnest.  It should be fascinating.  May the best man or woman win!