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The Informer

Columns

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Fair Enough: skin-lightening is potentially hazardous, politically charged—and disturbingly popular

(Image: Getty Images)

This past winter, a subway ad for Liberty Clinic sparked much controversy when it proclaimed, “Get brighter and lighter skin!” It showed two women, one black and one South Asian, with digitally altered faces—pale on one side, dark on the other. Outrage ensued, and Liberty Clinic asked the TTC to yank the ads. They also swiftly apologized for any “concern, offence or distress the ads may have caused.”

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The Informer

Streeters

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“We’re on the bandwagon no matter what”: Leafs fans on what it would take for them to finally stop buying tickets

(Images: Giordano Ciampini)

(Images: Giordano Ciampini)

It takes a lot to get Toronto Maple Leafs fans to stop supporting their team, but they may have finally started to give up. Last week, only 18,366 paid ticket-holders showed up at the Air Canada Centre to see the Leafs lose 2–1 to the Minnesota Wild—the smallest crowd in the team’s 16 years at that venue, and one of the only times they hadn’t sold it out. Tickets that would usually be snatched up for premium prices at this time of year were listed for as low as $29 a pair on StubHub for that night’s game. But what would it finally take to get the rest of the Leafs’ loyal fans to stop buying tickets? Before Thursday night’s game against the Florida Panthers (they lost that one, too—4–1), we asked some of them.

 

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Real Estate

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Sale of the Week: the $1.85-million Lansing luxury home that proves even ’80s design can stand the test of time

Address: 12 Florence Ave.
Neighbourhood: Lansing
Agent: Liisa Arra and Beata Kosc, Right at Home Realty Inc., Brokerage

The Property: This custom-built luxury home has a whackload of windows, plenty of mirrors, hardwood floors, a large covered patio accessible from the second level and a circular staircase in the middle of it all. The home is landscaped and soundproofed for privacy, sealing it off from the neighbourhood’s bustle (and the adjacent gas station).

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The Informer

Politics

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Could the TDSB really be broken up into smaller school boards?

THE IDEA

Earlier this month, education minister Liz Sandals appointed an expert panel to troubleshoot the notoriously dysfunctional Toronto District School Board, whose many problems range from multi-million-dollar deficits, to rampant political infighting, to harassment and intimidation among trustees and senior staff. One of the options under discussion will be breaking the board into smaller pieces, to make it more agile and manageable. (Currently there are 22 board trustees, each responsible for an individual fiefdom somewhere in the city.) It’s not the first time the possibility has been considered: Kathleen Wynne, during her time as education minister, threatened to split the TDSB in 2008 if it didn’t get its act together.

idea-evaluator-orange-smallWOULD IT WORK?

Multiple school boards in Toronto were once a reality. Prior to 1998, each former municipality had its own. When the city amalgamated, so did the boards, creating the TDSB. “It’s always very disruptive to change something in that way,” says Jane Gaskell, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. “It created a board that is huge, obviously difficult to manage and that has a lot of political differences.”

While there are plenty of examples of school boards amalgamating to become more efficient and less expensive, Gaskell hasn’t heard of a single board that has de-amalgamated. In other words, if the Ontario government decided to go that route with the TDSB, it would be a pioneer. “They’d have to figure out how to devolve it, what the boundaries would be, and how it would make sense,” Gaskell says, adding that smaller boards would need to be of a certain size and include a variety of types of schools. Finding that sweet spot would be hard work, she says. “It’s going to take people’s time and energy and a lot of consulting.” And it would come with a hefty price tag. “Any institutional reorganization costs money. There’s no doubt about that.”

Bruce Sheppard, co-author of a 2013 Memorial University report on the centralization of school boards, says his work suggests de-amalgamation is a “viable option, built on sound democratic and educational principles.” But, he says, “I suspect the TDSB’s de-amalgamation is more of a fantasy than something that is likely to occur.” The trend is toward the opposite outcome. Education is becoming more standardized, more government-controlled and more centralized—not less.

That’s not to say the TDSB is eternally married to its dysfunction. Some critics say the problem could be more easily solved through better leadership. “There are a lot of other options than de-amalgamating completely,” says Gaskell. Other North American cities with dysfunctional school boards, she explains, have experimented with different governance structures with some success. Even if de-amalgamation isn’t on the horizon, “there are a lot of options out there.”

The Informer

Real Estate

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Condo of the Week: $430,000 to live in a tower designed by Daniel Libeskind

toronto-condo-of-the-week-8-the-esplanade-intro

Address: 8 The Esplanade, Unit 3501
Neighbourhood: Waterfront Communities-The Island
Agent: Cory Wong, Trustwell Realty Inc., Brokerage
Price: $429,000

The Place: A compact one-bedroom on the 35th floor of the L Tower, a massive skyscraper that’s just a few hot dog carts away from Union Station.

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Real Estate

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A first look at what Daniels Corporation wants to build where the Guvernment used to be

What it is: Four proposed waterfront towers east of Lower Jarvis Street, the tallest of which would top out at 48 storeys. (This is where the Guvernment nightclub complex used to be before it held its last party in January.) The first phase of the development—called “Daniels Waterfront: City of the Arts,” a name that reads like it was written by George Lucas—would consist of two smaller towers with offices, retail and a “creative hub” with space for arts and cultural organizations. The first commercial units are supposed to be ready in 2018. The second phase would include more than 900 condos, as well as space for a school like OCAD University to use.

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Politics

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Rob Ford has to apologize for being racist a couple times

now-what-newNext week’s city council meeting will be the setting of another classic Rob Ford forced apology, as he owns up to a few racist lowlights. The occasion is a report from the city’s integrity commissioner, who found that then-mayor Ford broke city council’s code of conduct in March 2012 during a wild St. Patrick’s Day bender, when he called a taxi driver “Paki,” then mocked him with “fake language sounds.” Ford will also be apologizing for his 2014 boast that he is “the most racist guy around,” and the language he used then to describe black people (in the commissioner’s judiciously hyphenated report, “n----ir”), Italians (“w-p” and “d-go”) and Jews (“k---e”).

The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: can I disobey the demands of sidewalk-hogging TV crews?

Dear Urban Diplomat: what can I do about dictatorial TV crews?

(Image: Alan Daly/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,

I work near Victoria and Adelaide, which is almost always occupied by TV crews. I can’t go anywhere without some dictatorial, floppy tuque–wearing third assistant in a headset ordering me to stop—walking, talking, laughing—lest his shoot be interrupted. What would or could he do if I just ignored him and walked right on through?

—Scene Disturber, Downtown

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The Informer

Features

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The Break-In Artist: the hunt for the cat burglar who terrorized Toronto’s wealthiest neighbourhoods

the-break-in-artist-01

The Fort Knox of Thornhill is a stucco mansion with a mansard roof, front-yard fountain and U-shaped driveway on the area’s most coveted street. It’s owned by a middle-aged couple named Tony and Sherry, who asked that we not publish their last name, and is equipped with every security measure on the market: eight interior and exterior video cameras, reinforced locks, motion detectors in all rooms, a siren, contacts on every window hard-wired to a central response station, glass-break sensors, a 1.8-metre-high wrought iron fence with a buzzer system at the front and a brick retaining wall at the back. In home security–speak, the place is a “hard target,” meaning most thieves will take one look and move along.

So it came as a shock when, at 6:06 on the evening of Wednesday, November 6, 2013, Sherry received a call from her alarm company, Vigilarm, informing her that the second-storey master bedroom window had been opened. At the time, Sherry was at the Richmond Hill Public Library with her 11-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter for the kids’ weekly tutoring sessions. If she were being robbed, the timing made perfect sense: every Wednesday between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., just as it was getting dark outside, the house was empty. Tony, a manufacturing executive, stayed at work on Wednesdays until 7 p.m., and the nanny always left at 5. Sherry instructed Vigilarm to dispatch the police, called Tony and then, leaving her kids with the tutor, sped the seven kilometres home, weaving through rush-hour traffic and running amber lights down Yonge Street. She didn’t know what she’d do if she encountered a burglar, but in the moment, she didn’t care.

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Real Estate

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House of the Week: $550,000 for a condo-sized home in the Junction Triangle

toronto-house-of-the-week-98-edwin-avenue-intro

Address: 98 Edwin Avenue
Neighbourhood: Dovercourt-Wallace-Emerson-Junction
Agent: Holly Chandler and Julie Kinnear, Keller Williams Neighbourhood Realty, Brokerage
Price: $549,900

The Place: An updated two bedroom semi just off Dupont in the Junction Triangle.

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The Informer

People

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Q&A: David Hulchanski, the U of T professor sounding the alarm on income inequality

(Image: Claire Foster)

(Image: Claire Foster)

David Hulchanski has been thinking about affordability and cities ever since he moved here from upstate New York in the late ’60s (tuition was cheaper in Canada). After decades of research, the University of Toronto professor is currently best known for his series of “Three Cities” reports, which detail the steady disappearance of middle-income neighbourhoods in Toronto and other Canadian cities. Over the years, Hulchanski has emerged as the voice of scientific inquiry into income polarization in Canada, his name regularly invoked in legislative chambers and in the media. We asked him about growing inequality in Toronto, what the loss of the mandatory long-form census means for his research, and making $1.25 an hour at his first job.

How did you become so invested in the idea of inequality?
I was always involved in issues like this, right from high school, and I just continued. As a professor, part of my job is research. In the past ten years we’ve had a couple of very large social science research grants focused on income inequality, income polarization, and how cities and neighbourhoods are changing. This is during a period where income inequality and income polarization are dramatically growing.

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The Informer

Events

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See Shad before he becomes a CBC star, hang out with Laverne Cox and eight other things to do this week

(Image, clockwise from top left: Laverne Cox, by Luke Fontana; Disabled Theatre, by Michael Bause; Will Butler, self portrait; painting by Gertrude Kearns)

(Images, clockwise from top left: Laverne Cox, by Luke Fontana; Disabled Theatre, by Michael Bause; Will Butler, self portrait; painting by Gertrude Kearns)

Watch the new host of CBC’s Q in his natural element
Two weeks ago, Shad was selected as the new host of Q on CBC Radio. Before he takes over, he’s finishing a victory-lap concert tour for his 2013 album, Flying Colours, which earned a Juno nomination and a spot on the Polaris Prize short list. It’s a collection of freewheeling, retro rap tracks about the immigrant experience, race and colonialism under a cloak of fast rhymes and electro beats. March 27. $19. Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., 416-872-4255, masseyhall.com.

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Real Estate

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Sale of the Week: the $640,000 unit that proves condo living in St. James Town isn’t only for the young

toronto-sale-of-the-week-28-linden-street-intro

Address: 28 Linden Street, Unit 303
Neighbourhood: St. James Town
Agent: Erica Anne Cook, Royal LePage, Johnston and Daniel Division, Brokerage

The Property: This modern corner-suite condo has an open concept design with new hardwood floors and an upgraded kitchen. A television and custom fireplace are built into a feature wall in the living room.

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The Informer

Politics

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Doug Ford is peeved that John Tory won’t help pay off his campaign debt

doug-ford-now-whatDoug Ford told the Sun that he’s very, very disappointed by John Tory’s decision not to attend a $300-a-ticket fundraiser, the proceeds of which will help retire about $900,000 in Ford-for-mayor-related campaign debt. It’s not uncommon for mayoral competitors to raise money for one another after an election is over (in fact, Tory is doing exactly that for David Soknacki), but the Fords have remained openly hostile toward Tory during the first few months of his mayoralty, which makes Doug’s complaint a little puzzling. “Mr. Tory doesn’t want to help, but that’s his choice….I don’t know what his problem is, to be honest with you,” Ford told reporters. Tory, for his part, denies he was even invited to the fundraiser.