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IN MEMORY Senior has done all 31 Terry Fox runs, most recently for his wife 4

KAREN STINTZ: Eight years on, the Ward 16 councillor and TTC head is a household name


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It’s hard and soft being a city journalist


e’ve taken heat for our political features in last month’s issue of Toronto Today — some of the criticism justified and much of it not, in my impartial opinion. The first of the two articles in question was the retrospective on the city council — “One (long, long) year later: How Ford Nation and our midtown reps have fared in their first 12 months” — written by me, though based entirely on interviews and legwork by our competent reporting staff. We could expect such a survey would annoy folks on all sides, and I did hear some complaints that we were too easy as well as too hard on our mayor and his sometimes allies. To those complaints I can handily point out the story comprised almost entirely the views of people we interviewed — namely local pundits and politicos. We wanted to report how the first year of the new city council was being perceived by others, rather than by us journalists. We also wanted to focus on how our midtown Toronto councillors had fared. Our local reps seem to have played crucial roles in moderating and sometimes even blocking implementation of the Ford agenda. Voters in our central part of the city had not been big riders of the Ford wave on election day a year earlier, although not quite as strong in opposing him as some people have assumed. Whether we as journalists or as a publishing company loved or hated Ford, we wanted to see how our councillors — ranging from left through centre to right on the spectum — had played their parts in dealing with the new political reality. For the most part, very responsibly it appears. (And, yes, you can take this as an editorial position.) We may not agree with all councillors from midtown, but for the most part they’ve worked hard to find a more moderate consensus to prevent some of the worst excesses from taking place. For this, those on both extreme ends call them wishy-washy or fence-sitters. But there are times when wishy-washy and fence-sitting works. Such as when blute political force is being used to ram through disastrous policies. In the long run — which under the current system means in another three years — our representa-

Eric McMillan Editor-in-chief tives should be judged by what they’ve created, not just by what they’ve modified. This will require bolder action in the future on transit, public services, the waterfront, poverty, and the inequality issues raised by the Occupy movement. We’ll be watching and ready to wade in with a different kind of retrospective as we get closer to that day of reckoning. Our second article in dispute was a cover story on Ward 22 representative John Matlow by associate editor Karolyn Coorsh (“Newbie Matlow trying to rise above it all”). Too soft, the leftand right-wing critics of the middle-of-the-road councillor blogged and tweeted. Maybe, but we gave Matlow the separate treatment specifically because he has so quickly made a name for himself as an upand-comer, possibly even a future mayoral contender. We wanted to find out more about how his first year in the city hall spotlight has affected his outlook. One self-criticism I would like to make though is that our feature left out one very important player: Ward 16’s councillor and TTC chair Karen Stintz, who has had a warmer relation than most midtown reps with Mayor Ford, but has also disagreed with him on crucial issues. We tried but couldn’t get her into that issue. But we are making up for it now by featuring her in a piece by writer and broadcaster Sandie Benitah. I expect some people will find it too soft, some too hard and some just right. Perfect for the continuing fairy tale of city hall. TT DECEMBER 2011 TORONTO TODAY 

News&Opinion SEEKING COUNCIL: At left, Ward 16 councillor Karen Stintz looks to Mayor Rob Ford, whom she has supported at times but also opposed. At right, Stintz is seen with her husband Daryll Parisien and son Jackson shortly after being re-elected in October 2010.

Stintz in the middle TTC chair facing both praise and criticism over midtown issues


aren Stintz has been in politics for only eight years but already she has proved to be one of the most talked about politicians on council. The story of how she came into politics is a local legend. The former journalist entered politics quietly, answering a newspaper ad that was put out by local ratepayer groups who were looking to oust Anne Johnston, a councillor who had represented the area for 30 years and was the longest-running member of council. Stintz was a relative newcomer to politics, having done occasional work for the Progressive Conservative Party. But she was articulate, knowledgeable and determined, winning the hearts not only of those who put out the ad, but the constituents who voted her into Eglinton-Lawrence overwhelmingly. Today she continues to be popular in her community though those same people who introduced her to politics are quick to point out the bumps in her political journey. “There’s a little bit of community unrest at this point” said Peter Baker, co-chair of the Federation of North Toronto Ratepayers Association, an organization representing more than three dozen residents groups in midtown Toronto. “From what I can gather there are some people in the community who are very supportive of her and others who aren’t,” he told Toronto Today. Baker doesn’t live in Stintz’s ward but as co-


By Sandie Benitah

chair of FONTRA, he has regular contact with the heads of the ratepayer groups who are situated in her ward. While Baker was quick to say he likes and appreciates Stintz’s work on council, he said some of her constituents feel like her priorities have shifted since she was appointed the head of the Toronto Transit Commission. “The work that she’s doing now at the TTC can be a little bit overwhelming at times and that may have become her prime priority,” he said. “As a result, the residents groups have become second in importance. I’m hearing that from those groups west of Yonge Street in that area.” Stintz conceded that being the chair of the TTC has made her year a lot busier but nonetheless, she insisted that she’s keeping a close eye on her ward as well. “It’s been a busy year for sure. We’ve made changes to the transit plan, we’ve begun construction on the York-University-Spadina line, we’ve started the Eglinton crosstown and approved finally a modern fare card and started a customer service panel,” she said. “We’ve done a lot and it’s been hard to juggle the ward stuff.” Besides, she charged, “I don’t believe FONTRA represents my community.” Relations between FONTRA and Stintz have noticeably cooled off in the last year.

FONTRA was one of many local groups that spoke out against a plan to revitalize an open square at the northwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton with 20,000 square-feet of additional retail space — a plan that Stintz ultimately supported. The councillor was heavily criticized for her stance on the proposal as many in the area lamented the loss of an open public space. Stintz was quick to point out she had limited powers to stop property owner RioCan from developing the site but some of her constituents argued she could have done more to fight the proposal. “They believe she is favouring developers per se as opposed to listening to residents,” Baker said. Eglinton Square was just one example where some constituents were disappointed by Stintz. The Avenue Road-Eglinton Community Association (a group that also vehemently opposed the Eglinton-Square redevelopment) expressed frustration over Stintz’s handling of another development project on Avenue Road involving St. James Bond United Church. The church amalgamated with a congregation on Fairlawn, leaving the property up for grabs. The proposal that came before council was for a seven-storey condominium on the site. Residents objected to it, pointing out that the zoning in the area allows only a four-storey structure. Stintz supported the seven-storey development

prompting someone to scrawl “Sell-out Stintz” on the construction hoarding. For the record, ARECA put out a statement saying that though they were upset with Stintz’s position, they don’t condone the graffiti. But while some hold Stintz responsible for the contentious developments in the ward, others are thanking her for her balanced approach. In fact, Stintz maintains she has an excellent working relationship with the Eglinton Park Ratepayers Association (EPRA), an offshoot of ARECA. Heck, she’s even managed to save a piece of the ward’s history by successfully deterring BuildTO from rezoning the Anne Johnston Health Station, a heritage building named after the very same woman she defeated in 2003. She also pointed to the recent success of the Orchard Park public square as a sign that her constituents like the work she is doing. “What are my proudest moments so far? I have a few,” she said. “I’m proud of Orchard View Square, proud of the murals at Orchard View park because they show taste and the talent of young people in the area. Proud of the relationship I have with the EPRA.” Josh Matlow, the councillor representing St. Paul’s — the ward adjacent to Stintz — agreed that a lot of good work has been happening under her watch. “I strongly disagreed with her decision to support the (Eglinton Square) application. It’s a real loss but that being said, I have a lot of respect for her initiative to create a public square on Orchard View,” he said. “I thought that was really creative. She really initiated the trial.” So far, Matlow said he’s hearing a lot of positive responses from people about the new square. “People from midtown Toronto are asking for more people-friendly places to congregate with neighbours and to have farmers markets,” he said. “I give a lot of credit to Karen for spearheading that.” Matlow also said he’s been impressed with Stintz’s work since she took the helm of the TTC and her ability to look out for her ward’s interests in the process. “As a midtown councillor I’m glad that there’s a midtown councillor as head of the TTC when we were talking about whether the Eglinton LRT would be built,” he said. “She worked hard to make sure shovels would be in the ground this year.” Construction on the Eglinton LRT has indeed started but not without some critique from supporters of the original Transit City Plan. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford scrapped that initial proposal in favour of a new plan that put the Eglinton crossway underground. Critics said the new plan rerouted the LRT away from areas in desperate need of service improvements and tied up money that could have been used for other TTC projects. But Matlow said Stintz is doing the best with what she has. “Ive never heard her say that we should either support Transit City as I would have liked to or kill it like the mayor has said,” he said. “Karen has been working as well as she can with the reality before her, trying to get rapid transit expanded and I support the approach she’s been taking because she’s been a realist and pragmatist. It’s nice to see a TTC chair work with an imperfect reality and get some work done.” Getting work done with Toronto’s contentious mayor has been easy for Stintz, as she is considered a key political ally of Ford on council. But Ford, though voted into council overwhelmingly during the election, has been under constant fire from his very vocal critics. As a result, his support has waned with the electorate but it’s unclear if that negative vibe has rubbed off on Stintz. There have been instances where Stintz’s decisions

and her support for Mayor Rob Ford has drawn criticism. “The learning curve at the TTC combined with some of the changes that the new administration has brought forward has led to some concerns in the community,” Stintz said. “Being able to address those concerns is important.” One of the changes that Ford’s administration has brought forward is asking each city department to reduce its budget by 10 percent. That has meant a lot of debate around services to cut and keep. Though she has always been known as a fiscal conservative, some of her constituents have voiced displeasure with the way she has voted recently in an attempt to cut costs at city hall. For example, Stintz voted to cut the Neighbourhoold Realm Improvement Plan — an initiative encouraging local groups to beautify their communities. Before the city would provide these groups with some funds to help the project along but cutting the program means residents will have to figure out how to enhance their communities on their own. ARECA recently sent out a newsletter once again expressing disappointment at the councillor’s decision. “ARECA believes these small funds provided to volunteers benefit our community,” the newsletter simply said.

Stintz said cutting the beautification project is not something she necessarily wants. “We need to make difficult choices,” she said. “Obviously if we could find other ways to close the budget gap, I would look to saving that first because it’s done a ton of things that we can point to and where we can see the benefit of that in the community. “I would hope that we would find other ways to make ends meet but difficult changes need to made,” she continued. Her most difficult challenge, as she herself has noted, has been taking over the TTC and forging relationships with those who represent public transit staff. She took over the commission just as customer satisfaction with public transit was at an all-time low and tensions between management and union representatives were undeniably high. Bob Kinnear, the head of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, said at first he was optimistic when he heard Stintz was appointed chair of the TTC. “I can tell you when she was initially appointed, I didn’t think it was a bad move,” he said. “I recognized that she didn’t have a lot of experience with transit but judging from her past performance on council, she seemed to always take the time to think through her position and articulate her argument legitimately and Continued on Page 9

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Remembering Helen Used to uphill battles, senior does Terry Fox runs for wife


By Omar Mosleh

n 2005, Brato Bhabok crossed the finish line at the Terry Fox Run with tears in his eyes. It’s not that it was the first time he accomplished the feat. In fact, he has run the race every year previously, dating all the way back to the first Terry Fox Run in Toronto in 1981. But this time was different. A year earlier, Bhabok’s wife of 28 years, Helen, died of colon cancer. That same year he ran the event in her name, with a portrait of her face on his t-shirt. “At the finish line they asked me why I was crying,” he recalls. “They asked me ‘Are you OK, are you sick?’ I said no I’m not sick ... I just have something on my mind.” Out of sight, but certainly not out of mind, it’s obvious Helen still lives on in 73-year-old Bhabok’s heart. You can see it in the way he admires her tranquil paintings hanging idly on the wall, or in how he smiles warmly to himself as he remembers their first meeting. Most tellingly, a black and white picture of their wedding day sits prominently in the centre of the liv-

ing room. Standing next to a picture of his late wife in his small one bedroom apartment at the Dorothy Klein Seniors Residence on Roselawn Avenue, Bhabok explains what has given him the strength and motivation to complete the Terry Fox Run every year for 31 years. “A big part is the charity,” he said. “If I give a couple hundred dollars every year, I’m very happy ... All the money goes toward something people need, something important.” At the 30-year mark, the senior runner received a congratulatory letter signed by Terry Fox’s mother, Betty. It was dated March 23, only a few months before Betty died. “When I saw the 30 years, I thought, ‘I’ve been doing this for 30 years?’ ” he said with disbelief. “My dream, if God gives me good health, is to make 40 years.” A total of 40 years completing the event would be impressive indeed, but 31 years is a feat in itself, said the Ontario Terry Fox Foundation’s provincial director, Martha McClew.

omar mosleh/toronto today

MOTIVATED: Brato Bhabok has run all 31 Terry Fox runs, which he does in memory of his wife.

“It’s incredibly rare,” she said. “It’s extraordinary to be that committed to an organization, for that length of time.” Bhabok was motivated to complete the 10-kilometre run far before his wife died of cancer. While that gave him the extra push to continue running, it was Terry Fox who originally inspired him. “I feel he’s a Canadian hero,” he said. “He opened people’s eyes and showed if you want to do someContinued on Page 9


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: I was at a shopping plaza the other day when I slipped and fell on a spill on the floor in one of the common areas. It looked like melted ice cream, maybe pistachio! I fractured my wrist and hurt my back. I am a homemaker with three toddlers. I can’t look after them or my house. I have had to hire someone to clean and to help with the kids until my husband gets home from work in the evening. Do I have any recourse?

Ask the experts A

: The operators of the plaza have an obligation to keep its premises reasonably safe for the use of its patrons. The spill you describe was likely made by another patron who will never be identified. Whether the plaza can be held liable will likely depend on whether it can show that took reasonable clean its premises on a regular Ifit you would steps like totoinspect takeandadvantage of their years timely basis. If negligence can be established on the ofandexperience, send your questions to plaza, “Askyourthe damages may include amounts for pain and suffering, Experts” and they will be happy to replyyour tomedical you inand this rehabilitation the cost of hiring a cleaner and child space. By expenses, bycare Fax: helper. Your family members may also havethe a claim for their loss your 416-488-3671 or write: Ask Experts, c/oof Town care and companionship. You should record the names of any witnesses to Crier, 101 Wingold Ave., Toronto, ON, M6B 1P8. the accident and report the incident to the mall manager. Do not sign any documents before seeking the advice of a lawyer experienced in personal injury litigation.

Please write to our experts:

Marc Linett, a partner in the personal injury law firm of Linett & Timmis, has been practicing accident and insurance litigation in Toronto for over 36 years. His firm has established a solid reputation representing thousands of injured victims and their families throughout Ontario.

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Linett & Timmis Personal Injury Lawyers 1867 Yonge St., Suite 1004, Toronto

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: I was at a shopping plaza the other day when I slipped and fell on a spill on the floor in one of the common areas. It looked like melted ice cream, maybe pistachio! I fractured my wrist and hurt my back. I am a homemaker with three toddlers. I can’t look after them or my house. I have had to hire someone to clean and to help with the kids until my husband gets home from work in the evening. Do I have any recourse?


: The operators of the plaza have an obligation to keep its premises reasonably safe for the use of its patrons. The spill you describe was likely made by another patron who will never be identified. Whether the plaza can be held liable will likely depend on whether it can show that it took reasonable steps to inspect and clean its premises on a regular and timely basis. If negligence can be established on the plaza, your damages may include amounts for pain and suffering, your medical and rehabilitation expenses and the cost of hiring a cleaner and child care helper. Your family members may also have a claim for their loss of your care and companionship. You should record the names of any witnesses to the accident and report the incident to the mall manager. Do not sign any documents before seeking the advice of a lawyer experienced in personal injury litigation.

Linett, a partner in the personal injury law firm of Linett & Marc TORONTO TODAY DECEMBER 2011insurance litigation in Timmis, has been practicing accident and Toronto for over 36 years. His firm has established a solid reputation representing thousands of injured victims and their families throughout Ontario.

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By Ann Ruppenstein The proof attached has been read very carefully; every effort has been made to make it correct in every detail, but we do not Dixon says her friend’s brother learned years, which she says made them realize the assumealerie any responsibility the hard way what can happen when you don’t importance of confidentiality and timeliness, for errors . and will also sign confidentiality agreements check the mail. Please read the proof carefully, especially names, Suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome to alleviate any concerns clients may have. addresses, andthe figures . Dixon says her goal is for her clients to feel he let envelopes pile up, unaware of the



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paper work he needed Proofimportant OKhis❏disability about pension.

to fill out 101 Wingold Ave “He got himself into deep trouble — they Toronto, Ontario Signature: cut _____________ him off,” Dixon says from her home in Ph: 416-488-4779 north Rosedale. “He was out $237,600 and if Fx: 416-488-3671 he’d opened the mail it wouldn’t have happened.” This inspired Dixon to expand the focus of her business, Here to Help, from helping people move or downsize to managing mail for busy or housebound people with physical or mental illnesses like depression or agoraphobia. Issue: Nov 2011 “I sort it, I organize it, I say the gas bill has to be 6paid on the 12th, the hydro has to be paid Date: Oct on the 15th, whatever is necessary,” she says. Attention: “All I’m caring about is making sure their bills get paid.” In addition to sorting mail and prioritizAd will be as she also ensures medical or ingpublished payments, shown if no correction by income-related get completed fax or phone is receivedquestionnaires by: in a timely manner so none of her clients get ASAP cut off. Dixon and her business partner Penny *Note:McClure have worked as paralegals for many


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comfortable and have peace of mind knowing they don’t have to worry about impending bills if they’ve been injured in a car accident for example. “I can take that worry away from them so that if they’re ill they can concentrate on getting better,” she says. She says her average clients are between the ages of 30 and 60 — not seniors as they already have care services. She believes there isn’t a similar service for younger people but many people need the help. In the coming months she plans on aligning herself with psychiatrists, psychologists and medical professionals whose patients may require her services. “If you have a patient who has chronic depression, as a therapist you know that this person doesn’t have the energy to deal with this day-to-day stuff,” she says. “And if you don’t deal with it, you risk losing utility services, you risk losing phone, you have collection agencies pestering you, you can even become homeless if you don’t look after the mail.” TT

thing, then do it.� Bhabok is not one to let his age, health or circumstances hold him back. In his 73 years, he has lived an extraordinarily life. Bhabok has traveled to 27 countries, speaks four languages and was formerly an avid mountaineer. He once saved a woman’s life in the Lower Himalayas, at an altitude of more than 5,000 metres. “She slipped, she was holding onto my hand for her life,� he said. “I grabbed the rope, talked to her, and slowly she found a place to come up ... It was a good experience.� In appreciation of his efforts, the Himalayan Association of Mountain Climbing awarded him with a scholarship and free mountain training. You could say Bhabok has lofty goals — he evenCont. from Page 5

with justification. “Since she’s been appointed however, only the opposite could be said,� he continued. “She’s unwilling to talk to the people — namely us — that could enlighten her about our operations and the transit system,� he said. Kinnear, who has been at the head of the union for nine years, said he used to meet “regularly� with former TTC chairs Adam Giambrone and Howard Moscoe. The union rep said he’s never had a one-on-one meeting with Stintz and that their longest conversation outside of a formal deputation was “Hello.� “With the other chairs, we may not have always agreed but at least they were receptive to what we were saying. At the very least, we had the opportunity to convey a message.� But Stintz said her job is to set policy, not to play a role in bargaining negotiations. “We have a respectful relationship but he has expectations of a chair that I don’t share,� she said of Kinnear. “He’s constantly suggesting that I call him and discuss labour issues but that’s not something that I do. I don’t negotiate. It’s not the role of the chair to be at the bargaining table.� Defining the role of a chair, Stintz said she believes “it’s the role of the chair to set the policy for the commission and to set the direction and measure of performance and hold the organization accountable to those measures.� But Kinnear countered that assertion, saying if she “is going to run a successful business, then she has to meet those who run the business.� Kinnear said one of the biggest frustrations has been dealing with proposed cuts to service, especially since the TTC had a surplus last year. That money was put back into the city’s coffers instead of into TTC operations — a move that Kinnear says wouldn’t have happened under the previous administration. “That money should have been reinvested into the TTC as they knew only

tually hoped to climb Mount Everest. Instead, he fulfilled another dream. In the ’70s, he moved overseas from his native India, first to Germany and then to Canada. He met Helen at the Montreal Summer Olympics in 1976. She was a two-time Canadian kayaking champion. They soon bonded over their love of athletics — Bhabok enjoys soccer and cricket in addition to running — and married in 1977. Bhabok remembers their marriage fondly. Though they did not have kids, Helen had three children from a previous marriage. They traveled extensively. Helen painted and Bhabok took up photography. But their union was cut short when Helen was diagnosed with colon cancer. The doctor told Bhabok she had approximately three to five years to live. Following unsuccessful chemotherapy, she died three years

too well that in the years to come, there would have been deficiencies and deficits,� he said. Despite the controversial decisions she has made and the criticisms some might have of her, everyone agrees that Stintz has a long career ahead of her as a politician. “Karen is well respected by her colleagues,� Matlow said. “I think that we’ll continue to hear her name in political circles for years to come. I have no idea what she’ll want to do in the future or if she’ll run in other levels of government but she’s shown great leadership.� For now, Stintz said she’s keen on working for the city. She immediately rejected any suggestion that she is contemplating a run for mayor in 2014. “Not at all,� she said. “I’m glad I was re-elected and I want to continue to do the job and do it well.� After the Eglinton Square controversy, political pundits wondered aloud during the 2010 municipal election campaign if Stintz’s local support would be strong enough to carry her through to a third term. And though her support dropped slightly from the 2006 election where she managed 64 percent of the vote, the councillor handily reclaimed her seat in 2010 with 60 percent. Some would call that a vote of confidence. Baker called it a vote for prudence. “I think she’s providing a good voice for midtown. I won’t say it’s a great voice but it’s a good voice,� he said. “She could be an up-and-comer politician as far as I’m concerned. I think there could be a very good future for her as a politician but she has to look for both sides. She can’t have them turn against her the way they did to her predecessor.� TT

later in 2004. Bhabok was devastated. “It’s like losing a part of your life, your best friend,� he said. “That’s why I moved out of the old building, I couldn’t go inside anymore ... It was too sad.� It took courage, but he knew he wanted to run again, even though his wife would not be there to cheer him on at the finish line. He still thinks of her every time he dons his shoes, shorts and the t-shirt dedicated to her. Bhabok is unsure how much money he’s raised over the years, but estimates it’s in the thousands. He hopes his story will inspire others to run or donate money toward finding a cure for this deadly disease. “Canadians should open their eyes and help each other,� he said. “This may not solve cancer, but it helps.� TT

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Cont. from Page 7




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By Eric McMillan


St. Clair Ave. W.

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Guide yourself in this traditionally non-walking season

Space provided through a partnership between industry and Ontario municipalities to support waste diversion programs




Mt. Pleasant Rd.



Yonge St.



Oriole Pkway.


Merton St.


Get walking

You can start anywhere, but we’ll outline the route as if you’re beginning at the Davisville subway (1) on Yonge Street and facing east. From there, you can walk along Davisville Avenue through this community of mixed housing — or alternatively to view more residential neighbourhoods, you can take Millwood Road one block north or Balliol Street a block south — to end up on Mount Pleasant Road. The Mount Pleasant shopping strip (2) of boutiques, antique shops and interesting restaurants are immediately

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north, in case you’re already in the mood for some browsing and snacking. Right at the corner of Davisville and Mount Pleasant is the busy Davisville Park (3), but turn south for a different kind of park. Just south of Merton Street on the west side of Mount Pleasant is the Mud Creek entrance (4) to the famed Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Be careful not to get run over by joggers and cyclists on the paved pathway cutting across the top of the cemetery (5). This is part of the Kay Gardner Beltline. (If you’ve never explored it before, you should drop out of this tour and take the Beltline right now.) Follow the trail’s yellow dotted line as it turns south from the Beltline toward the crematorium and mausoleum (6), where you can admire the beautiful copper beech trees that frame the entrance. Read the dedication to Canada’s most decorated war hero, William Barker, who is entombed there. Then venture inside. From there, follow the solid yellow line west, viewing the private mausoleums and more elaborate tombstones along the way toward the Yonge Street entrance at the southwest corner (7). Back to the land of the living, just south on Yonge you’ll pass between

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ome warm weather, you can find plenty of guided walks — historical, cultural and commercial — around Toronto. In the colder months, however, you’re expected to prefer curling up at home to schlepping through the potentially icy or slushy streets. But on a clear, cool day, nothing’s more invigorating or educational than a trek through our neighbourhoods. So here’s a self-guided walk to take you through a swath of midtown Toronto. We’ve devised it to fit in the widest possible sights, sounds and tastes of the area, all on one hike: different kinds of residential streets, various shopping strips, historical sites, cultural relics and a cemetery jog. When we were trying out the route, we saw homeowners putting up Christmas lights, so we made sure the trail leads though some of the areas that should be presenting a colourful spectacle in and around the holiday season. If you do it all at once, expect to get about seven kilometres and three hours of exercise, depending on exactly how briskly you walk and how often you stop for those sights and tastes. Don’t despair if that sounds like too much. This walk is designed so you can go in either direction, or can take smaller portions of the tour at a time, even starting and stopping at different subways stations if you wish.

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across midtown

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Cont. from Page 11

two of our prominent midtown churches, Yorkminster Park Baptist Church (8) on the east side with its huge park and Christ Church Deer Park Anglican Church (9) on the west. Both houses of worship are also popular as venues for concerts and other secular community activities. Pause to reflect on your sins here or at one of the several coffee shops and eateries on this lively part of Yonge near St. Clair Avenue, where you can also hop back onto the subway (10) if you’ve already had enough excitement for one day. Or keep moving, turning on Heath Street West. In case you haven’t guessed yet, you are now entering the Deer Park neighbourhood (11), with its mix of stately old homes, townhouses and low-rise apartment buildings. But at one of the next two intersections, let’s dip south to St. Clair for a different side of Deer Park. Cross over St. Clair and on the south side get a last glimpse of Deer Park United Church (12), as it is making way for a high-rise and townhouse development. But just south of it on Foxbar Road is a site commemorating a more enduring cultural artefact. Beside the Bradgate Arms building you’ll discover one of Toronto’s cutest and least known corners for reflection: Sunrise Park (13). It is named for the song “The World is Waiting for a Sunrise,” whose melody was written in 1919 by Bradgate resident Ernest Seitz. Words were added by Hollywood actor Gene Lockhart and the song was recorded over the next century by everyone including Louis Armstrong, Les Paul and the Beatles. Back to St. Clair, cross back over at the Avenue Road intersection into Amsterdam Park (14). It’s a diplomatic corner, with the park being named in 1974 in recognition of the twinning of the Netherlands capital and Toronto. The fountain, created by sculptor Willem C. Brouwer in 1929, is a replica of the Van Karnebeck Fountain at The Hague in the Netherlands. Now try the companion park on the northwest corner, Glenn Gould Park (15), named for Canada’s most acclaimed musician who lived just east of here on St. Clair. The prominent statue of Peter Pan is also a replica — of an original by Sir George Frampton in 12 TORONTO TODAY DECEMBER 2011

England’s Kensington Gardens. It was unveiled to great local excitement on the same day in 1929 as the Van Karnebeck Fountain. Hike a little farther along St. Clair and head up Forest Hill Road (16), the spine of the affluent community of the same name. Here’s where your serious and envious home gazing begins. At the corner of Lonsdale Road, you get a sideways view of the 177-year-old boys school Upper Canada College (17). We won’t go onto the extensive UCC grounds today, but note the famous clock tower of the main building. Two blocks west on Lonsdale is the distaff equivalent, Bishop Strachan School for girls (18), also huge. At Russell Hill Road, across from BSS, is Grace Church On-theHill (19), also a cultural centre for the community. If you need a break keep going on Lonsdale a couple of blocks until you hit Spadina Road and find yourself in the middle of Forest Hill Village (20). Restaurants, cafés and interesting shops abound. Otherwise, turn north on Russell Hill and enjoy the residen tial sites along the way —

especially as you get into the area of Old Forest Hill Road, Dunvegan Road, and the north end of Forest Hill Road (21). If you enjoy seeing houses of the rich and famous — at least from the outside — this is an area you’ll want to wander in. Can you guess which home sold for upward of $11 million not too long ago? Can you find one of our oldest surviving houses built in 1840? (Hint: it’s on Old Forest Hill). Can you spot the former home of Maple Leafs great Mats Sundin and the humble abodes of the Rogers, Eatons and other leading Toronto clans? A more unusual site though is at the meeting of Old Forest Hill, Dunvegan and Kilbarry Road. Actually it is the meeting of those roads: Toronto’s only five-way inter-

section (22), as far as we know. Just glad we’re not driving. When you’re done with the rubbernecking, head back east on Kilbarry, behind the playing fields of UCC, across Oriole Parkway to Lascelles Boulevard (23). You’re no longer in Forest Hill now, Toto. Pass the more modest houses and apartments and turn north on Lascelles, past the Beltline again and into Oriole Park (24), a small oasis featuring one of the best kids’ playgrounds around. Take the northeast-heading path past the playground and you’ll eventually emerge onto Chaplin Crescent (25), which will lead you back to Davisville Avenue and Yonge Street (1), which has three coffee shops at which to recover. TT

Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t shrug off this Atlas Liz Campbell


hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a lot to like about the new incarnation of Atlas One. While the name hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t changed, the menu has moved on from Egyptian to an eclectic mix of European with the occasional nod to North America. The mezze has been replaced by a curious selection of tapas that includes sliders, barbecued chicken wings, and tostones rellenos (plantains stuffed with avocado and scallop ceviche). Alas, the last is not available the evening we visit. I was looking forward to trying them. The chef explains later that the plantains were too soft when he shopped. From the starters menu, one guest orders mussels done in wine and butter in the classic marinière way ($7). The mussels are tender and delicious. Despite the spoon and crusty slice provided to sop it up, there is little broth in the bowl, which is a pity â&#x20AC;&#x201D; this last action is half the pleasure in a bowl of moules. A salad of spinach and pickled beets is colourful with dark red and orange heirloom beets on a bed of baby spinach, topped with chevre and walnuts ($8). Although the dressing is a little oily, we all approve of the flavour so this gets a definite thumbs up. The hit of the evening is my own choice of wild B.C. scallops ($13) which have been seared, then served in a creamy puree of cauliflower thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s picked up some of the smokiness of the chorizo sausage served with it. The final touch is a sprinkling of

capers. To me, this dish is beautifully balanced. A main course of pan seared Atlantic salmon comes with a healthy portion of sautĂŠed beet greens along with more of the pickled beets and some minted lemon yogurt ($18). My guest comments she has never had salmon skin so crisp that she could eat it, and from the way she tucks in, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s apparent sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a fan. The citrusy yogurt and pickled beets make a refreshing contrast to a fish that could be fairly bland. From the menu of Piadinas â&#x20AC;&#x201D; basically grilled wraps in pita-style bread â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the Atlas Club ($11) proves to be another hit. Fat slices of chicken, with tomato, avocado and crisp, double-smoked bacon, are topped with a zesty pico de gallo and cilantro mayonnaise in a combination that, while messy to eat, gets the taste buds singing. It comes with a small side salad or fries. This may not be quite the filling Italians put in their piadinas, but my guest approves heartily. My own choice of spinach and ricotta ravioli is topped with herbed butter, caramelized onions and shaved parmesan. I love the fact that I can choose a small portion ($6) or a large one ($11). In general, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not a fan of stuffed pasta, which tends to be more dough than filling and often a little tough around the edges. These little dumplings are fat, full of spinach and ricotta, and the dough delicate enough to melt

in the mouth. The caramelized onions, shaved parmesan and butter (thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a lot of butter) add a nice zing to a simple filling. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gorgeous and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d go so far as to say that this is some of the best ravioli Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve ever eaten. The dessert list has four homemade items ($8$9). You can order a dessert platter with a taste of any three ($16). In the interests of ensuring we had covered all the bases (the things we do for our readers!), we ordered all four. Two emerged as clear favourites: a Grand Marnier-flavoured crème brulĂŠe with a perfect golden crust and creamy custard well laced with liqueur; and mini chocolate soufflĂŠ, hot from the oven with a rich chocolate heart. The tiramisu was good, but not particularly unique. And Bocco notto, a strawberry jam custard tart, just didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t win raves. Anthony Figliano, the young chef at Atlas One, has his heart in the right place. Using mostly sustainable seafood, local ingredients, stretching the season with pickling, etc., his enthusiasm for his craft shows. And while the menu may seem somewhat haphazard in bouncing around different cuisines, I suspect it reflects some of his favourite foods. It certainly reflects the happy, eclectic cultural mix that is Toronto today. Atlas One is well worth a visit. Atlas One, 820 St. Clair Ave. W. 416-656-4817. Website: Reservations are recommended as itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a small restaurant. TT

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Wrapping about the holidays By Mary Fran McQuade


t’s the most wonderful time of the year — or the craziest. Food, gifts, decorations, more food, parties, gifts, visitors, cards and — oh my! — wrapping all those gifts. Except for kids, presentation counts when you’re gift-wrapping. You’ve gone to the trouble of choosing something personal, pricey, clever or even handmade. So wrap it in a way that announces its importance. Be creative and your gift wrap will become a mark of your personal style. How cool is that? Follow these steps to becoming a superstar wrapper. Step 1: Set up the space

Set aside a room, or a corner of a room, as your gift-wrapping station. Put all your supplies in this one space: • Wrapping paper • Boxes of all sizes • Gift bags • Sticky tape • Scissors • Tags and pens • Stickers • Ribbon • Ornaments/tie-ons Step 2: Boxes and wrap This is the fun part. You can begin with stan-

dard rolls of gift wrap and pre-printed gift boxes, but don’t stop there. Let your imagination go, and wrapping gifts will become fun, rather than a chore. In a time crunch? Bright paper gift bags and lots of tissue paper are your best friends. Wrap tissue around the gift, pop it in the bag and tuck loose puffs of tissue paper on top, leaving a little sticking out for show. Most bags come with their own tags, so you’re done in no time. Cloth gift bags are even better, because you can skip the puffy tissue paper step. Slip a DVD, jewellery box, pen or whatever inside, tie the bag closed and you’re ready to move on. Stitch them up yourself from fabric remnants, with a length of real ribbon tacked on, or have them made to your



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Step 4: Tie one on Tags can be the most fiddly bit of the gift-wrapping process. Buying stick-on “To:/From:” tags is the easy route. But it’s more satisfying, and not at all difficult, to personalize your gift tags. It’s also a great art project for kids — something to quiet them in the holiday madness. You’ll need: • Heavy, good-quality paper or poster board • Old greeting cards (optional) • Scissors • Rubber stamps, ink, and stickers (optional) • Markers or crayons (optional) • Single-hole punch • Skinny ribbon or embroidery floss Now follow your artsy instincts. Cut out the best bits of old greeting cards, punch a hole in the corner and add a loop of ribbon to tie on. Or cut shapes from plain poster board/cardstock and decorate with rubber stamps or stickers. If your kids are feeling creative, encourage them to draw their own holiday designs on plain tags. The tags can be used as bookmarks after the holidays — you can bet doting grandparents, aunts and uncles will treasure them.




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Skip those bags of ready-made bows. Like anything else that’s onesize-fits-all, they almost never really fit any gift. And forget about mailing them. A squished pointy bow is not festive. Stock up on real ribbon from a fabric store for a luxurious look. Buy several metres of red, green and blue, and cut them to fit your gifts. Wrap around all four sides, pastry-box style, and tie the ends in a bow. Pretty and practical, real ribbon can be reused for years. For a more rustic look, get a selection of balls of heavy knitting yarn. Colours and textures are fantastic. Yarn is also flexible enough to wrap just about any package, no matter how many lumps and bumps it has. Tie it the same way as fabric ribbon, making the two loose ends into a bow. Perfect for kids and for gifts to be mailed. Ecofriendly, too, because it’s reusable. Inexpensive ribbed ribbon on rolls that you cut ‘n’ curl is fun and fast. If

making ribbon curls is a mystery to you, here’s how to do it: Pull about 15 cm of ribbon loose from the roll. (Don’t cut it.) Take a dullish knife or scissor blade, press the attached end of the ribbon between the sharp blade edge and your thumb, and pull the blade outwards with a fast, steady pressure. With the right combo of speed and pressure, you’ll have great curls that you just bunch up and tie on your package.


specifications. If you’re really into fabric, you can use scarves or big squares of fancy cloth as gift wrapping. No ribbon necessary, just tie on a tag. Sometimes the gift’s box is itself nice enough not to need wrapping. Cover tell-tale store names with colourful stickers, if you want. Use stickers or glitter to dress up plain white boxes, too. Scout around for fancy holiday tins that double as both gift box and wrapping. They’re great for food gifts like candies and cookies. And if all the holiday colour and commotion gets on your nerves, get back to the pure and simple. Pristine white tissue paper wrapped around a box and tied with shiny satin ribbon can become your signature gift wrap.

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ARTISTIC X-RAY VISION: From left, illustrator Marvin Law, George Zotti, co-owner of comic book store Silver Snail, and Conor McCreery, co-creator of graphic novel Kill Shakespeare, say the arts community is prejudiced toward graphic novels and comic books, even though many famous films were based off of them.






4 1 6







2 2 6









4 1 4 0

Toronto a hotbed for graphic novel and comic book talent


By Brian Baker

onor McCreery, co-creator of graphic novel Kill Shakespeare, says he senses a slight prejudice floating beneath the surface of the arts community. In a previous interview, he alluded to how comic book artists, writers and other imaginative inkwells are ostracized by the fact their illustrated stories are considered child’s play by those outside the “fanboy ghetto”. “It always frustrates me a little bit, especially here in Canada where we do such a good job of bemoaning our lack of world leaders that we actually have, quietly in our midst, a golden age of talent that may not be seen again,” he said. “Part of it is because of the prejudice against the medium itself.” When approached again to explain his frustration, McCreery is candid, sharing his thoughts on a mainstream misunderstanding that all of comics are one tight-clad genre. “Part of the issue comes from the industry’s outreach,” he said. “Publishers don’t advertise like books do.” Still, once graphic novels like History of Violence, Road to Perdition and Watchmen get adapted to the big screen, the interest in the comic book world jumps out of those aforementioned ghettos. McCreery started on his way into the comic book world with his own Kill Shakespeare story in 2007, but before that time he worked with George Zotti at one of Toronto’s more popular comic book shops, Silver Snail. Zotti admits there’s some apathy, pointing to the absence of well-known artist David Finch at Toronto comicons. “It’s just because there’s no draw,” he said, adding there is a plethora of Canadian talent in the ranks of Marvel and DC that call Toronto home. Including current Flash lead, Francis Manapul, Animal Man relauncher Jeff Lemire,

Eisner-award winner Darwyn Cooke and artist Marcus To. “Slowly over years and years, you know something like the Watchmen, brings people who are literary into the comic book world,” Zotti said, adding he always gets a raised eyebrow when he mentions movies’ graphic novel origins. “I’ve told tons of people, ‘You know (Road to Perdition) was a comic,’ and they’re like, ‘What? I though comic books were only superheroes.’ ” Comic book artist Marvin Law isn’t fazed by Toronto not getting it’s proper dues to artists, or whether the mainstream artists still look down on comic books as being either for children, or men drawing pictures of their perfect woman. “It’s a weird thing because Toronto isn’t as big as being California and New York,” Law said. “It doesn’t get the press because, I don’t know, either we’re too humble or people don’t recognize Toronto is such a hotbed or has such great talent up here.” Though Hogtown is coming into its own as Zotti admitted, Law said it never left. “For a while there, Toronto used to be the beating heart of comics,” he said. “We used to have compa-

nies like Dreamwave Productions, Udon Entertainment, Bright Anvil Studios. “We had all these different places with different groups of people who were producing good quality stuff,” he added. “I’ve seen any number of names come through the door at Bright Anvil Studios.” Still, whether or not the city’s artists who flood the AGO for gala events pay credence to the graphic novel world, or until the Canadian literati nominate a comic book for a Giller, means nothing to Zotti, Law and McCreery. “Recently talking with our main distributor, Diamond Comics, they told us Toronto is number 2 when it comes to the most comic book stores in a given geographical area, outside of New York,” Zotti said. “So, whether or not there’s a level of respect or not, obviously there’s lots of people buying comics. “That’s always encouraging.” TT

“Toronto used to be the beating heart of comics.”

November 11 2011

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he vehicle-buying public is being warned about the risks and pitfalls of buying from private sellers. “If you’ve done your homework and you watch for a few key warning signs, by all means buy privately—just be aware of the risks,” says Carey Smith, director of investigations for provincial regulator Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council. Ontario-registered dealers, regulated by provincial legislation, are your best bet, says Smith, since they’re required by law to provide specific vehicle information to buyers. Buying from a curbsider is risky, he says. A curbsider is someone who poses as a private seller and pushes misrepresented, damaged or even stolen vehicles. “Consumers need to make sure they do their research when buying privately. By law, private sellers must provide buyers with a Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP), so make sure the seller provides you with one when you’re looking at the vehicle. Vehicle buyers should also confirm the seller’s identity,” adds Smith. Before finalizing a transaction, vehicle buyers should also have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle to ensure there are no problems. “We see cases all the time where consumers who think they are getting a great deal privately end up getting ripped off by curbsiders. In many of these cases, vehicles are priced well below market value,” says Smith. —

By Mathieu Yuill

ombining the nimbleness experienced only behind the wheel of a go-kart and the beefiness of a heavy-weight would make for either the best ninja of all time or the 2012 Honda Accord Coupe. Long a favourite of auto journalists and consumers alike, the 2012 Accord Coupe has simplified its offering from past years where it used to offer several trim levels in different combinations of engine types to just three options.. The entry-level Accord, priced at $26,790 (add $1,200 for automatic) includes a 190hp, 2.4-litre four-cylinder comes in two trim levels: the EX and the EX-L Navi. The EX is favourably equipped with a 270-watt, 7speaker audio system and all the usual trimmings including remote locks, Bluetooth and chrome exhaust finishes. The EX-L Navi adds heated front seats, power adjustable driver’s seat and leather on the seats, wheel and manual shifter knob. The four-cylinder drives and handles superbly and it achieves fuel economy of 9.2 L/100 kms in the city and 6.2 L/100 kms on the highway. There was a time a four-cylinder car would be lucky to have 140-hp and break

the 10 L/100 kms mark but the fact that the Accord Coupe can produce almost 200 ponies for such reasonable fuel economy begs the question why anyone would consider the V-6. Not that the V-6 is horrible at the pumps. City fuel economy is rated at 10.6 L/100 kms with the city rating hovering around the mid 9s. Unlike past years there is only one trim level with a V-6 engine for the Accord Coupe: the EX-L V6 with Navi. Priced at $35,890 in addition to an increase of 101horsepower over the four-cylinder you’re also getting a voice recognition navigation system, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, dual exhausts, fog lights and a spoiler. Priced at $35,890, about $4,500 over the four-cylinder, the value play is still with the entry-level EX model. For about a $10,000 savings you’re not sacrificing an incredible amount of power and you still have a vehicle that looks slick when put up against others in its category and will save you some dollars at the pump every month. TT

Save money at the pump with Honda Accord



Mark Your Calendar Thurs., Dec. 1 Diabetes Awareness, St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church, 1847 Bayview Ave., 1:30 p.m. The Anne Johnston Health Station will cover: What is Diabetes? Myths and Truths, Information about Ministry of Health Programs, Q&A. For diabetics or those whose family members are diabetic. Free. Mon., Dec. 5 Free Bridge Lessons, Central Eglinton Community Centre, 160 Eglinton Ave. East, 1 p.m. A volunteer instructor will be teaching free bridge lessons on Mondays in the movie room. Please sign up at the front desk. Membership not required. Must be 50+. Wed., Dec. 7 The Three Cantors at Grace Church on-the-Hill, 300 Lonsdale Rd., 7:30 p.m. Evening features ancient & contemporary music of the church/new compositions/spirituals/the best of Broadway. $20 advance; $25 at the door. For more information please phone 416-488-7884 ext. 113 or email to Fri., Dec. 9 Autumn and Winter Underground Path Strolls, Central Eglinton Community Centre, 160 Eglinton Ave. East, 2:30 p.m. Join us for guided tours through the Underground PATH System. Call 416-392-0511 for more info, including meeting place. Must be 50+. Must register in advance. Free. Wed., Dec. 14 Movie Matinee, Central Eglinton Community Centre, 160 Eglinton Ave. East, 1:30 p.m. Why stay home and watch alone? Bring a friend or meet new ones. We watch new releases as well as older movies several times a month. Call us at 416-392-0511 or go to www.centraleglinton. com for more info. $2 for refreshments. Fri., Dec. 16 Doc Fest, Central Eglinton Community Centre, 160 Eglinton Ave. East, 2 p.m. Raise your awareness in the world around you and watch a doc. We show documentaries a few times a month. Call us at 416-392-0511 or go to for more info. $2 for refreshments.

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Get into the spirit francis crescia/town crier

Sat., Nov. 5–Mon., Jan 31 Winter Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls, Ontario. This festival fills the streets of Niagara Falls with ambient, festive decor and offers a range of activities for every member of the family. In addition to the 100 lighting displays, there are fireworks shows, live music, activities, parties and theatre performances. Price varies by event. www.wfol. com. Mon., Nov. 14–Fri., Dec. 23 Sherway Gardens is offering children from ages 2–6, 30 minutes of face time with Santa where they’ll be entertained by the big man and his elves. At the end of each session parents are invited to take their own photos. All proceeds go toward the charity Sleeping Children Around the World. Register and purchase tickets in advance at the holiday information booth in the mall. $5. Fri., Nov. 25–Fri., Jan. 6 The Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre Centre presents Ross Petty’s The Wizard of Oz — the Wickedly Wacky Family Musical. Ross Petty’s comic twist on the classic tale is filled with music, wit and

plenty of laughs. This year, the tornado transports Dorothy and Toto to a wickedly wacky new world. Elicia MacKenzie and Yvan Pedneault star as Dorothy and the Tin man, with Ross Petty as the Wicked witch of the west. Let the booing begin. Adults $27–85. Children (12 and under) $ 27–59. Family four-pack $235. Fri., Nov. 25–Sun., Jan. 1 Niagara Holiday Market, Old Falls Street, Niagara Falls, New York. The largest European-style holiday market and festival in America. Featuring holiday shopping, from national retailers to local boutiques, showing their unique artisans, crafts, gifts, apparel and specialty foods, as well as 20+ extraordinary events and special experiences in a family-friendly environment, including a tree-lighting ceremony, ice rink, Santa’s workshop, tournament of song and Holiday Concert Series featuring The Canadian Tenors, Elizabeth Von Trapp, Aaron Neville and the Buffalo Philharmonic. Sat., Nov. 26 The Cavalcade of Lights is celebrating

its 45th year with an opening celebration featuring a live outdoor concert and a fireworks display. Jarvis Church, Kellylee Evans, JRDN, rising star Justin Hines and singer Victoria Duffield. The concert will be hosted by CityTV’s very own Ken Frankish and Flow 93.5’s Jeni, culminating with a spectacular fireworks display at 8 p.m., followed by a skating party sponsored by Timothy’s World Coffee on the Nathan Phillips Square rink. It’s a weekend of free fun for families at Yonge-Dundas Square. 11 a.m.–5 p.m. The 4th annual Kidzfest event, part of Winter Magic, invites children and their parents to enjoy Toronto’s city-centre through youth-focused entertainment, rides and activities for children Sun., Nov. 27–Sat., Dec. 24 Once again Santa appears at Casa Loma to greet children and hear their holiday wishes. This season, jolly old Saint Nick takes over the castle’s billiard room and transforms it into a toy workshop. 9:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m. During the weekends, there’s an opportunity to get

photos with Santa. Nov. 30–Dec. 17 White Christmas, The Civic Light-Opera Company, Fairview Library Theatre, 35 Fairview Mall Dr. Based on the Paramount Pictures film. Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Tickets: $25. Box Office: 416755-1717 or online at Sat., Dec 3 Cantores Celestes Women’s Choir, 432 Runnymede Rd., 8 p.m. A Hands Across the Border Christmas Cantores Celestes Women’s Choir under the direction of founder Kelly Galbraith, perform two Christmas classics from both sides of the 49th parallel — ‘Sir Christmas’. $20 general admission. Candy Cane Tea and Bazaar, Presteign Woodbine United Church, 2538 St. Clair Ave. East, 11 a.m. Bring the whole family, have tea and goodies and get some holiday shopping done. Includes tearoom, bake sale, craft and gift sale. For more holiday events in and around our area visit our online TownCalendar at www.mytowncrier. ca. TT


Lastminute gift ideas A look at this list will give you the gist


WHAT A WIKKI IDEA: One suggestion for a last-minute gift is the After School Fun Kit from Wikki Stix, which are wax-infused strips of yarn that can stick to almost anything and are easily removed.

By Liz Campbell

ooking for some last-minute cool gift ideas? Here are some things you may not have come across in the average shopping mall: When I fist lay down on a TheraMat, I wondered if this is what Indian yogis experience. This acupressure mat has dozens of tiny spikes that require some getting used to. But after a couple of minutes, there is no discomfort at all, just relaxation. It’s a fascinating phenomenon and according to the makers, the effect is the result of endorphins triggered by the pain. These create a sense of well-being. A Swedish innovation, the TheraMat is constructed from memory foam covered with flax fabric — and then there are the spiky flowers. Recommended for back pain, migraine, stress, and believe it or not, sleep. It is remarkably relaxing so I could see it being sleep inducing. But don’t fall asleep on it. $69. Visit In 2006, Blake Mycoskie was shocked to find children in Argentina had no shoes to protect their feet from cuts and soil-transmitted diseases. So he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need; he calls the program One for One. Later that year, he returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers. More than one million pairs have been distributed throughout the Developing World. But we wouldn’t suggest you give these if they weren’t super comfortable and chic. In 2007, TOMS Shoes won the prestigious People’s Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution. They’re made of colourful canvas in elegant designs and prices start at just $55 a pair at major retailers or at Don’t want to miss the latest episode of your favourite TV show while you’re traveling? Want to watch at the beach or the cottage...or anywhere in the world? Monsoon’s Vulkano Flow is one

cool device. It lets you watch your own television anywhere! With a cable or satellite set-top box and a home network, all you need is a wi-fi or 3G connection and you can watch TV on your PC or Mac, or even on your iPhone, iPad or Android. The Flow connects to your home network wirelessly and seamlessly, letting you control your home TV or watch the shows recorded on your PVR. With 4G of memory, it can actually store programs as well. And you can mark your ‘favourite’ channels for quick access on your mobile phone. For the techies, high-quality video streams at H.264 standards at 150kbps. It also features a place shifter to access TV anywhere. $99 for the basic Flow model (you can also get models with more memory). Visit www. I just watched six children play contentedly for two hours with Wikki Stix. Win-

ner of the Parents’ Choice Classic Toy Award, Wikkis are colourful, self-sticking strips of waxinfused yarn. They can be twisted and coiled and will stick to almost any surface, but are easily removed. They come in play sets that include cut outs to decorate. The kids I was watching created three-dimensional animals by wrapping rocks with wikis and sticking them together. Cleaning up took five minutes — everything just gets collected in the little carry case and can be re-used again and again. Best of all, these are imagination powered. No batteries required. Kits start as low as $14.95 and are available at most large retailers. Visit TT




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CONNECTING WITH THE COMMUNITY: Shankar Bala chats up Anson Anton Philip who plays for Rexdale Renegades at Stephen Leacock Collegiate Institute. Though Philip plays for Rexdale the Toronto Tamil Basketball Association drafts members of the South Asian community and spreads them throughout the GTA.

Bonding through hoops


By Brian Baker

hen it comes to grassroots initiatives that drive the paint, the Toronto Tamil Basketball Association is an example of a winning hook. Seven years ago, Shankar Bala found there were no sports leagues to keep post-university, post-high school kids active, in particular for the Tamil community. In an attempt to stop gang violence, Bala founded the basketball league to unify the South Asian community from all corners of the GTA. “I realized coming back home from university there was a disconnect between members of the community from the west end to the east end,” he said. “We felt the only way to bridge this is through sports. “You come as an individual to this league, you get selected on a team, so you can be with somebody from all four corners of Toronto and you can become friends with them,” he added. “This is a way of eliminating violence, which kind of helps out through the years.” But after year one, the objective changed for Bala, and his approach became more of a big brother role to the young men in his community. “That was a fundamental principle, and after year one we said let’s add the educational aspect,” he said. “We want to make sure our guys finish school, high school and go on to university or college.” There’s more than just outreach when it comes to the TTBA though. The level of competition is high, players are scouted from high schools, and every year a threeround draft occurs introducing new members of the Tamil community to the association. Plenty of opportunity to grow, but Bala doesn’t want to over-saturate the talent pool. “The thing is, there’s more growth, but we’re holding back because there are no gymnasiums in Toronto because most of them are booked through the school board and the second thing is we wanted to keep the competition level pretty high,” he said. “That means we can give a challenge

to the guys playing in the league.” The season is in full swing with 12 teams split into two divisions. Toronto squads include Etobicoke, Rexdale, Lansdowne, St. Jamestown, North York and Scarborough. Even though the draft is long since past, coaches are still allowed to trade players. “It gives the coaches focus during the year,” Bala said. With the seven-year success of the basketball association, Bala and volunteers from the South Asian community have created a co-ed volleyball league as well as a women’s softball association during the summer. “It kind of gives us more exposure, which we have never had as a community and we don’t have a professional athlete in North America that could represent our community,” he said. “Our guys do play sports, and we do good at it too if given the right training and exposure.” Bala, who works full-time in the banking world, takes time out to give back to his community because he remembers how hard it was to balance sport with academics when first coming to Canada. “When I came here at the age of five or six, my parents were old school, and they were more focused on education,” he said. “With me being an athlete I always wanted to play sports. “I played on all the high school teams and I felt when I was done there was nothing else to do when I came out of university so I started this.” Now he’s passing on his dreams to the next core of cagers. This year’s tryouts proved to have one of the youngest turnouts Bala has seen. A majority of the 88 entrants vying for 35 spots were between the ages of 14–18. “Usually it’s a bit scattered but a lot of the younger kids want to get more involved now,” he said, adding with a laugh, “more than half of them are 16 years younger than me and it feels like I’m in a totally different environment.” TT

New field a TD for Norsemen E

very morning I see the bright crest of red pop from the new turf at North Toronto CI as I walk by. It makes me smile. Finally there’s something the student body can get happy about, and it’s observed when talking with the schools president of the Boys Athletic Association, Jack Hall. He is a second generation Norseman. Both his parents are alum, and in his final year he gets the chance to practise on home field instead of journeying 10 minutes down the road to Eglinton Park. It’s not just the practices, the games that have him happy. It’s the chance to just chuck the ball around with his friends. “At lunch time I can go outside and throw the football around,” he said. “It will just relax me and get my head off marks. I didn’t really have that luxury when there was no field.” In a city so pocked with fields fit for a meerkat kingdom, or gymnasiums so dimly lit the Vampire Basketball League could hold their games inside, it’s good to see a little more rejuvenation in the school’s athletic facilities. North Toronto head of phys. ed. Lorne Smith echoes that sentiment. “There is a sense of relief that the project is done and it’s now ours,” he said. “There’s nothing left to do but enjoy it.” Both Smith and I were playing phone tag, so in an effort to let me know his élan he left a message. North Toronto CI is in the throes of exams and report cards, so understandably the venerable Continued Page 26 DECEMBER 2011 TORONTO TODAY 25

Cont. from Page 25

sports guru is tied up grading his students. But he admits, in his message that getting used to the extra space, both in new gym and field, has him disoriented. “At times I’m not used to the big field,” he said. “I’m used to such a small facility, I have to get used to teaching in a real good, educational environment. But it’s a nice dilemma to have.” For years the student body has had to borrow the services of Northern, the neighbouring and rival school, to hold the Norsemen’s annual Red and Grey spirit event. Hall and his friends can now enjoy school pride on school property. It also resurrects another rivalry with Lawrence Park CI. Hall has high hopes the Parn-Reynolds Cup, a single football match in honour of two former coaches, will commence after a two-year hiatus. “I think it will renew the rivalry and have that tradition again,” he said. Add lights to the equation and it might just become another Friday Night Lights that fellow South Region schools Leaside and East York hold in the fall. Seeing kids excited about sports, in particular an artificial turf with the yard lines marked at intervals of 10, bright red end zones and canary yellow goal posts, is a good thing. “I can only use superlatives,” Smith admits. “It’s been a very long process and though we never got our pool, the facilities that we have we’re very appreciative. It means a great deal to us.” It could also mean a big boost to the gridiron, soccer, field hockey and possibly lacrosse teams in the future. “Our numbers on the football field have been struggling a bit but this year I’ve had many kids who weren’t on the football team say to me, ‘I wish I was on the football team’ when they saw us out on the football field practising,” Hall said. “The new field makes our school look a lot better, and it makes the students a lot happier, and more excited to play sports for the school.” With Northern re-doing their own field, and Leaside fixing up their cratered grassland, it’s a sign that sports hold as much precedence as academia. I couldn’t be happier. TT

“There is a sense of relief that the project is done.”


The tasty treat of municipal politics 1 1





By Shawn Star



14 18


21 24






40 45







57 64











1. Remove filling, as from a tire 6. Betty Ford focus 11. Belonging to a gender-neutral object 14. Gold-yellow colour 15. Goodbye, in Paris 16. Gangster’s definitive 17. Slice of fish in the Ward 23 seat? 19. Water snake 20. Tijuana greeting 21. US rep. 22. He never gets 24. Letter from a lender? 26. Hawaiian strings 28. Ward 28’s chicken pasta dish? 34. Buddhist monument 35. Prov. group of fishers and game-chasers 36. German article 39. Train stop, abbr. 40. Rack snack in the mayor’s chair? 43. ___ Angeles 44. Canadian sculptor, McKenzie 46. Layered cookie 47. ___-Unis 49. Salad in Ward 17? 52. Muhammad and Laila 53. Teency amount









52 55




























54. Garlic mayo 57. Our star’s name 59. Pub brew 62. Heart research tool (acr.) 63. Ward 22’s nice slab? 68. Family mem. 69. Non-existent strait in the Northwest Passage 70. Nephew’s sister 71. Song of praise 72. Photojournalist Cartier-Bresson 73. Design

DOWN 1. Martial arts space 2. Earthy sci. 3. “Eureka!” 4. Code for Ahmadinejad’s land 5. The hockey version of 24D 6. Crackle sound in the lungs 7. Where the best fruit grows? 8. Success 9. Pop. clothing brand 10. Daredevil jump 11. Topic at city council 12. Those against us 13. Figure skater Jamie 18. Worldwide student ID 23. ___ of Man 24. The baseball version of 5D


25. Actor Sharif 26. Remove rings from 27. Wood knot 28. “Hey! You!” 29. “___ Boy!” 30. Relating to the Viking alphabet 31. Venomous snakes 32. Present 33. Easter flower 37. Common response to the Little Red Hen 38. Major gas station 41. Author Havilio 42. Sandwich shop 45. Philippine volcano in a lake of the same name 48. Ink 50. LOTR actor Wood 51. Can 54. Nestle chocolate bar 55. Decorated a cake 56. Eye 57. ___-Pei 58. Multicultural television 59. Baldwin brother 60. Crazy in Madrid 61. Water jug 64. Any number divided by itself 65. Break God’s rules 66. Sarcastic question when one doesn’t care 67. An impossibility in the NHL as of 2005

Note: The circled letters will form common election-related abbreviations

Check for the answers.

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Toronto Today - December 2011  

The December 2011 issue of Toronto Today, the Town Crier Group of Community Newspapers' Midtown edition, a fresh news and lifestyle magazine...