Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Better Ballots

The Better Ballots initiative for electoral reform wraps up tonight with its last of four town halls across Toronto. What’s great about this effort is that they are not pushing any one single idea, but are educating Torontonians on a range of practical (tested and working in other cities) ideas for how to improve civic engagement and voter turnout. And then it’s up to us to carry the conversation forward, get involved with the ideas that we think are best, and work our butts off to get one or two improvements passed and in place for 2014!

So here are the 14 Better Ballot ideas currently being discussed (click on the image to make it bigger). Some I’m quite familiar with, others not as much – but I’ve checked off where I currently stand beside each of the ideas being discussed. These are my Better Ballots ... what are yours?


For more information on the Better Ballots initiative, detailed descriptions of each idea, and next steps in this campaign for electoral reform, please visit www.betterballots.to

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

From town hall to town hall

I’ve been to two town halls in two days, and going to another tonight.

Comparing the Let’s Talk event with TTC riders & workers to The Scarborough Hospital town hall is an interesting study in process.

Sunday’s Let’s Talk event was big, had the resources to promote it well, and post town hall news coverage in all the major networks and papers was just about guaranteed. And the turnout was a couple hundred strong, although a solid half the room were journalists, bloggers, candidates or campaign staff of some kind. But while a lot of good issues were shared and covered, the theme that permeated the whole event was how much customer service is a system-wide issue and that a more meaningful exchange would have been possible had all levels of the TTC been represented on the panel. As an evaluator, my favourite recommendation was by a woman named Vanesse, who said that we should use this as a starting point and come together a year from now to monitor what (if any) improvements have been made. I’ll endorse that plan wholeheartedly, with the suggestion that we all spend some time nudging both the union and the management to share a stage and take our questions together.

Monday’s Scarborough Hospital event was of a different nature entirely. Minimal PR budget; no enraged residents driving the conversation; smaller audience; part of a more traditional strategic planning process. It’s the process that’s worthy of mention, in that this was clearly one step in a well thought out plan to engage a community around a goal. Indeed, no need is the suggestion of a follow up town hall required – they’re already planning one for next year after a series of additional engagement opportunities, accountabilities and benchmarks along the way. As a member of the public, I didn’t learn as much from the other side as I did at Let’s Talk, but connected with some committed people and left confident that this was part of a process where an actual change was going to be made and that a year from now it’ll look a lot different.

Now let’s see what Dave Meslin has in store for us tonight with Better Ballots ... I can’t wait!


Monday, 12 April 2010

Remembering Terry Fox

April 12th, 1980, exactly thirty years ago. I was less than one year old when Terry Fox dipped his leg into the Atlantic before departing St John’s for his marathon of hope. I was too young to follow his journey, I didn’t watch his famous double hop-step every Kilometre on TV, and I don’t have the images of his youthful energy and passion entrenched in my psyche like so many Canadians.

But I remain in awe of him in more ways than one. As a runner who once spent seven months training for a single marathon, I am dumbfounded by what this 22 year old was able to accomplish every day for 143 days. As a public health advocate, I have seen how his legacy has left a pioneering mark on cancer research that will continue to help so many in need for generations. As a human, his spirit and story is as inspiring as any I have every heard.

In honour of this 30th anniversary, the Terry Fox foundation is planning remembrances on the every one of the 143 days that he ran. If you happen to have memories or reflections on Terry (including dates if possible!) please share them with the foundation at www.terryfox.org/shareyourstories.

If you don’t, then sometime between now and June, try and take a few minutes and google Terry, the marathon of hope and its continued legacy – and you just might learn that he has impacted you too.


Saturday, 10 April 2010

A Food Strategy for Toronto

Dear Friends

From loving to eat, to needing to eat, affording to eat, and choosing how and what to eat – food is an undeniable pillar of our health, our cultures, and our communities. On a broader scale, the systems, jobs and education that go in to supporting how and what we eat are inextricably linked to the health, environment and prosperity of our city.

In taking a hard look at the Toronto we have, and in imagining the Toronto we want, a city-wide Food Strategy has been under development by a passionate ensemble of hard working individuals and groups. Recently endorsed by our Board of Health, the strategy project will be going to City Council this summer, and Toronto Food Connections is looking for all of our ideas on how best to shape the specific recommendations it will make.

A consultation report is available at www.toronto.ca/foodconnections , and calls for an initial focus on 6 priority areas:

1. Have high quality and culturally appropriate food options accessible in every neighbourhood
2. Eliminate hunger and reduce the one in ten Toronto households who cannot regularely afford enough nutritious food for their family
3. Empower residents with food skills and information, so that it is easy to learn about where food comes from, and to know how to cook and shop for healthy and affordable meals
4. Making Food and its systems and jobs a cornerstone of Toronto’s new green economy
5. Connecting our city and countryside, so that the GTA’s world class agricultural land and the cities it surrounds can grow in tandem and support each other
6. Embed food system thinking in city government, and help our leaders understand how improving our food systems from farm to fork, can help meet Toronto’s larger goals of being a city that is healthy, prosperous, and green.

As the specific plans on how to achieve these goals are under development – this is the time for all of us to weigh in and ensure that all geographic, demographic, economic, and cultural perspectives are appropriately considered. If you have a few moments, please take the time to review the report and/or send your questions or thoughts on the food issues most important to you and your communities to:


This is an exciting initiative for Toronto – let’s help our leaders get it right!

Local Health Committee member