The good and bad of an otherwise great summer 2015


We are gathered here today to mourn the passing of the summer of 2015. The demarcation line for maximum daylight has now been crossed. It occurred sometime before dawn yesterday. As we bid farewell to temperatures soaring to 30 degrees Celsius for another year, it is fitting that we reflect on the warm glow that was the summer of 2015, although it was not without moments that left us either enthralled or appalled.

It was, for instance, the summer that the egotistical act by an American dentist of killing a lion in Zimbabwe – that would be Cecil – received more global emotion and compassion than the plight of more than 1.5 million South Sudanese refugees experiencing internal displacement.

At the same time, this was the summer that the photograph of the lifeless body of a three-year-old Syrian boy that had washed up on the Turkey seashore galvanized the world and brought home the horror of Syrians fleeing warfare in their homeland.

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Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens.


Subsidized Housing task force response lipstick on a crumbling pig

TCHC task force response lipstick on a crumbling pig


Have you ever sat in an exam, written what you thought was a really good response to an essay question, only to find out that you did not read the directions for the question properly? No matter how well you wrote the paper, you then get a failing grade. In some sense, that is what we could make of the recent announcement from the executive at Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) regarding how they plan to improve the portfolio.

The plan of action sounds rosy, but does it truly answer the key problem, which is the model of public housing that now burdens the city? That burden includes a growing $1.7 billion backlog of repairs on a heap of crumbling bricks and mortar that houses more than 50,000 people in 2,200 TCHC buildings.

The promises for improvement follow the interim report put out in July as part of Toronto Mayor John Tory’s Task Force on Toronto Community Housing. Tory has made some comments about what needs to be done to improve safety and security within TCHC sites, among them evicting residents involved in criminal activity. For most TCHC residents, this latter is a pointless argument, as they are being wrongly characterized in this matter. Many who use TCHC property as sites for doing illegal business are not residents.

The report coming from TCHC Chair Bud Purves and interim CEO Greg Spearn places a good deal of emphasis on increasing security as well as providing information to residents about how to anonymously report crimes. Crime, including bodily harm and murder, occur more often per capita in and near TCHC property than in other parts of the city. Safety and security will always be an important concern, but to overlook the environmental design and social components that would allow for a higher rate of occurrence is to write the wrong answer to the question.

However, to show they mean business, the city plans to re-mortgage the properties in order to finance the $400 million they plan to spend over two years, starting almost immediately, to carry out such initiatives as pest control, job creation and increased security features.

But picture TCHC workers putting security cameras on the side of a building only to have them fall off along with bricks a few days later. It could happen. An entire four floors of brick facing fell from a TCHC building in Scarborough back in April, just as the spring thaw was setting in. Imagine if it was only the cold that had been holding those bricks in place.

No. Putting lipstick on a pig is not the best answer that could have come out of this task force. How about…

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When things began



Everything in the universe has a beginning. Here are some of those things that are still with us and when they began, listed by year:

  • -13,700,000,000 the universe, time, space, matter, energy
  • -13,300,000,000 stars
  • -12,600,000,000 Milky Way Galaxy
  • -4,570,000,000 Sun (but 30% dimmer than it is now)
  • -4,540,000,000 Earth
  • -4,500,000,000 Moon
  • -4,400,000,000 clouds, rain, the oceans begin to fill
  • -4,031,000,000 rocks (oldest known)
  • -4,000,000,000 life, DNA
  • -2,500,000,000 breathing oxygen
  • -1,200,000,000 sex
  • -900,000,000 swimming
  • -580,000,000 eyes, animals with bilateral symmetry
  • -550,000,000 brains
  • -540,000,000 hearts
  • -480,000,000 fish
  • -450,000,000 Appalachian Mountains
  • -425,000,000 land plants
  • -385,000,000 trees
  • -365,000,000 legs, lungs
  • -220,000,000 lizards
  • -164,000,000 hair
  • -160,000,000 birds, feathers
  • -150,000,000 North America as a continent
  • -125,000,000 flowers
  • -100,000,000 South America and Africa as continents
  • -92,000,000 ants
  • -80,000,000 Rocky Mountains
  • -66,000,000 grass
  • -55,000,000 Australia as a continent
  • -25,000,000 seeing in colour (among our ancestors)
  • -3,500,000 hands, technology, walking on two feet, eating meat (among our ancestors)
  • -1,200,000 black skin…

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