Archive for July, 2011

July 29, 2011

Gang of five at Toronto City Hall

I’m talking here about five CIty of Toronto Councillors.

What do these people have in common? They are all sitting on the fence when it comes to representing their constituents and opposing Rob Ford’s steamrolling of our City.
Each of these people are too afraid of a bully to use their brains and stand up for their constituents.

They are:
Josh Matlow–Ward 22: St Paul’s councillor_matlow@toronto.ca @JoshMatlow
Josh Colle–Ward 15: Eglinton-Lawrence Colle–councillor_colle@toronto.ca  @JoshColle
Lee Chin–Ward 41: Scarborough-Rouge councillor_lee@toronto.ca
Mary-Margaret McMahon: Ward 32: Beaches-East York councillor_mcmahon@toronto.ca
Ana Bailao: Ward 18: Davenport councillor_bailao@toronto.ca

The point here isn’t that these people swing vote. It’s the disingenuous nature of their votes.
Councillors like Mammoliti or Minnan-Wong are known troglodytes. We expect them to shit where the Ford family directs them to. If they were told to drops their pants in council they would do it.

No, the councillors I have pointed out are guilty of pretending to know better but being too afraid to do what’s right. These are the Councillors who I would hope still have some semblance of a couscience that could possibly be moved.

As I see it, and as has been pointed out elsewhere (http://mobile.torontoist.com/2011/07/ford_thing.php), Robdoug are not approachable. Neither of these guys are ever going to change their minds on any issues. They are, quite frankly, fanatics who, according to them, take their marching orders ‘directly from the taxpayer’. This would be the ‘taxpayer’ that speaks directly to them, and them only, directly inside their own heads.

The only way we can expect reason to come forward at City Hall is to reach those ‘independent’ Councillors who like to pretend they are the thoughtful centre but often support Robdoug’s agenda. Take a Josh Matlow. Here is a guy who claims to be of ‘the centre’ but when Robdoug blusters he votes with him as often as not.

Robdoug have removed sources of revenue from the City by canceling some taxes.

They have spent millions on consultants to look for areas of savings. They cancelled the deal with the Province on light rail that incurred a penalty of millions of dollars. They have decided to proceed with subways that we cannot afford. In other words, they have spent like drunken sailors…on nothing that actually provides any benefits to residents.

Having created a fiscal crisis they now insist the City services must be gutted. Some people think this was their plan from the beginning: create a crisis and use that as an excuse to slash government.

Having proceeded with their agenda, they refuse to listen to reason. Council is run as a private club for only their supporters. Questioning of the powers that now run the City are ruled out of order. Debate is stifled when it is allowed at all.

Council is split fairly evenly between Right and Left. The Right leaning Councillors are determined to do anything Robdoug asks of them in order to remain at the public teat.

Only the 5 or so Councillors in the ‘middle’ can tip the balance back to a more reasoned and democratic Council. That doesn’t mean always voting with the Left. But it does mean standing up for and supporting a clear airing of ideas and a meaningful public debate. Yet, much of the time, these five Councillors refuse to see their role in a democracy and whether because of fear of the bully, self interest or simple stupidity they allow themselves to get caught up in the whirlwind of irrationality that is now City Hall.

We need to make clear to the Josh Matlows (and other such Councillors) that there are political consequences to their obsequious behaviour. We need to make clear to them that we are watching. And when the next election comes along we will inform the people just what their Councillors have been up to.

July 26, 2011

Road rage/cyclist rage

Ok. You’ve just got to let me vent here.

But first I have to start off by saying that between two drivers in my family, we put on only about 5000km annually on our car. I cycle almost everywhere across Toronto. In fact I rarely take the TTC because I cycle so much. I even have a ‘Share the Road’ bumper sticker on my car. I’ve got the credentials to write this column.

So when I get mad at cyclists, I’m serious about it.

I’m not into ‘blaming the victim’. You know, it’s when the cops get upset about the road carnage of cyclists and so they clamp down on cyclists rather than work with drivers and bicycle friendly infrastructure to makes streets safer for everyone.

No, that’s not what this is about.

But these are times when cycling is under attack by the right wing on City Council. And, I think, it behooves us cyclists to behave responsibly. I jay walk all the time. I walk through red lights when there is no traffic and it’s not a major intersection. I don’t stop at stop signs on my bike and I cycle the wrong way on one-way streets–all provided it’s safe.

But I resent cyclists on the side walks weaving between pedestrians and scaring them or running them off the sidewalks. I am tired of getting the finger from cyclists when I exercise my right of way either as a driver or a pedestrian at a light or a stop sign.

When I cycle through a stop sign, I know I am in the wrong should anything untoward happen. I only do so if it will not inconvenience a pedestrian or a driver. If I am breaking the rules (which I do gladly) I only do so when some one else doesn’t have to pay for my decision.

So, by what god-given (because that is the religious fervor of some cyclists) right does a cyclist give me the finger when I enter an intersection in my car following traffic rules? Why do I get yelled at by a woman on her cycle when I proceed down a street when she is coming the wrong way up a one-way street on the other side to what she is supposed to be on (and, I might add, not wearing a helmet or with a light at night)?

And just today I was the recipient of road rage from an idiot on a bike who took offence at something I apparently did wrong (I have no idea what it was) and caught up with me at the next light, leaned on my car and proceeded to shower me with verbal abuse. It was all I could do to not get out of my car and start a brawl with him.

I know drivers do this as well. And it is only a percentage of cyclists who behave this way. But it appears to be a growing percentage and it is all the more distressing when I feel like I am doing my best to accommodate my fellow cyclists.

If you are on a cycle and that pissed off at the world, go home and leave the rest of us in peace. I enjoy cycling. I hate arguing.

July 25, 2011

Splurging on dinner

Ok, so sometimes I need to step out a bit and do dinner in style. When that time comes, I often go to my favourite Portuguese restaurant in the College/Dufferin area. It’s at the higher end of my spending regime, but sometimes I feel I’ve been a good boy and I deserve it.

This place is staffed by professional waiters who know what they are doing. The service is pretty quick and happily appropriate to the cuisine. That cuisine is quintessentially Portuguese–the barbeque.

They barbeque bare steaks, that old time specialty, steak with an egg on it, all kinds of chicken and the real reason to go for Portuguese–fish. You can get grilled salmon, halibut, bream and, of course, cod. And with each of these fish you will get a couple of boiled potatoes (why do Portuguese potatoes taste so much better than my mother’s) and about a pound of steamed broccoli. Oh, and if you order the salmon, bring your appetite or plan on lunch the next day with the doggy bag you are going to take home. They don’t fool around here when it comes to portion size.

The salmon is going to cost you $13 (plus tax/tip).

The  large portion of chicken kabob comes with a great rice side dish (not just rice but with some kind of tomato sauce mixed in), a large salad and will set  you back $11.

Yeah, I know, I’ve gone over the top on my budget. But, really, this place is worth it.

In the summer time the real value comes to the fore. This might be the best patio restaurant in the city. It’s huge and treed and bustling with family activity. And if you hit it on a Wednesday, you will be treated to free portions of roast pig fresh off the turning spit. Vegetarians need not apply.

The icing on the cake? After 6 pm, on street parking is free… unless of course the weather is nice and you don’t need parking because you cycled over.

This place is great and I highly recommend it. Too bad, though, that Matt Galloway outed in during the World Cup of Soccer last year as the best patio in the City at which to watch the games. As a result I found it hard to get a seat in prime time. So I am not going to Galloway it to another audience.

Just rest assured that if you don’t know where I am talking about, you are really missing a great deal and a great experience.

July 24, 2011

Eating my way across the West Annex, and beyond

If there is one thing I really like to do (not unlike all of you as well) is eat. And I admit to a proclivity for eating out.
Bloor St between Bathurst and Spadina has an excellent selection of eateries. It is missing a good Italian place…ever since the $10 all you can eat Tres Fontaine disappeared several years ago we have been left with no representatives of the world’s greatest cuisine…except for decent pizza slices at Pizzaiola.

So, lets embrace our inner Asian selves and enjoy some good Japanese (and some Asian fusion) food.
I admit to a very strong initial reluctance to eat raw fish. I wasn’t going to let a sushi dish leave me with a metre long fish tapeworm. And I’ve seen them alive and up close.  But, although I still occasionally find myself wondering about diphyllobothrium infestation I have, nevertheless, given in to my inner need for fish in any form.
Since we have no Portuguese restaurants in the neighbourhood, we cannot immediately avail ourselves of the planet’s best prepared fish. Instead, we can still have very good fish on Bloor St.
After literally trying every Japanese sushi place on the strip, I initially settled on Sushi on Bloor (515 Bloor St W) as the best. It’s atmosphere is quite young, mainly students. It can be quite hectic. The noise level is loud, the lineups can be long. If you are there after about 6:45 you can expect to wait a while to get seated.

The food is generally very good and the prices are great. You can eat well for under $10. As with most of these sushi places salad and soup are included, as is a scoop of ice cream for desert.

If you don’t catch a line up and want a quick, good and cheap meal, you cannot beat Sushi on Bloor.

However, and it took me a couple of years of devoted loyalty to Sushi on Bloor before I was able to accept this, for about $1 more per entree, my current favourite restaurant has even better food and the decor is a bit nicer. But I am not going to name this eating establishment because I don’t wish to Galloway it (*def. `To Galloway`: To announce to a large audience a herebefore hidden treasure of a restaurant, which then becomes so overcrowded you can no longer get in. Named after Matt Galloway, after he outed the patio of Bairrada Churasqueira on the air during the summer 2010 World Cup.)

What I really like is that it is less crazy and busy than across the street. It is better suited to a more leisurely meal. And the fish on the rainbow rolls seems just a bit fresher here. But I think the teryaki meals are better at Sushi on Bloor as it comes with more, and better, vegetables.

My current fave is indeed one of the best prepared and best value restaurants in Toronto.

There are other good Asian and sushi places on the strip that I will speak of in future articles.

I want to give a notable mention here to a couple of other places worthy of some consideration. I really like the potato pizza slices that Enzo prepares Pizzaiola. Thats the Pizzaola near Howland and not the newer usurper closer to Spadina.

And now that Ghazale (beside the Bloor Cinema) has fish as part of their $6.99 dinner plate, they are a value, taste and heath oriented pit stop for a quick take out. You can eat there but it isn’t the most pleasant place to sit with only 2 seats and a line up of people. But, just to repeat myself, there is not a better value for a good solid meal than Ghazale’s.

July 13, 2011

Health: It’s not always about the money

There are many places where money would make a difference. However for many of the problems in the health care system it’s about organization, not money.

It seems that health care is the last hiding place of old fashioned, non creative thinkers. On the right we have those who feel only privatization can solve issues, an approach proven elsewhere to be expensive and, yes, inefficient.

On the left are those who feel any suggestion of change is an attack on the public nature of medicare. To them the words ‘competition’ or ‘efficiency’ smack of privatization. They often do. But not always. One can have competition for models of service delivery within a public system and still be fully compatible with, and even advance, the public system. I myself called for such an approach almost twenty years ago in a paper submitted to The Premier’s Council.

In my dealings with many levels of bureaucrats at the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care in Ontario over many years and in many capacities I have become dismayed by the level of understanding of the issues and the unwillingness to look at creative solutions. I say this from a sympathetic point of view. I support the general conceptualization of the Ministry bureaucracy and its attempts to control and administer a complex care system.

But, wow, some of the minds there just defy reason.

I’m thinking about writing a series of articles on health. More about that later.

Right now I would just like to recount a story that exemplifies the issues I am talking about.

Last Friday my father developed some pain in his leg. He called me and, because I don’t like to manage my parents’ medical conditions, I told him to call his family doctor and get in to see him. He called. His physician is on holidays with a message on his machine advising patients to go to the Emergency Department (ER) if they have a problem. Very helpful.

So, reluctantly, I told my father to go to the ER. He went to Sunnybrook ER at about 2:30 Friday afternoon. Friday afternoons are always busy because doctors leave their offices early and people worry about conditions that have festered for days but suddenly they realize a weekend is upon them and their doctor won’t be available.

When he was finally admitted, past midnight, I wasn’t too surprised. But some of the details are interesting.

First, they found a slightly abnormal kidney test. They didn’t know if it was a new issue or a longstanding one. Well, after all the hype about Electronic Medical Records, one might think they could retrieve previous results to compare. Nope.

They had the same question about an abnormal heart rhythm they discovered. Was it new? Can’t check.

So, they admitted him for some minor tweaking of his medication and for observation. Needless to say, they also spent money repeating tests he has recently had done as an outpatient. He was released on Monday.

I spoke to the physician looking after him. Had they called CCAC (Community Care Access Centre) to arrange for some in-home help for him and his frail wife (both of whom are 91 yr old)? No. Why? Well he is going home today and there isn’t time to arrange it before he leaves hospital. Why did they not look after it on the weekend? Social Services division doesn’t work on the weekend!

Here’s another example. About four years ago I cut my hand in a bicycle accident. So I wrapped it in a towel and had my son drop me off at Toronto Western Hospital ER. I walked in and went to what appeared to be the check in window. No one was there. I wandered around for a little while and then decided I had the right spot. So I sat down to wait.

After about 20 to 30 minutes I noticed someone had returned to the kiosk. So I went over to ‘sign in’. I showed my bandaged hand and told them that I was going to need stitching up.

They took my name, address, OHIP number, etc and told me to sit and wait.

And so I did for a couple of hours. I’m not complaining about the waiting… I expected that.

What happened next is the issue. They took me into a cubicle, unwrapped my hand, pronounced that stitches were necessary and that I needed to soak my hand in antiseptic for 20 minutes.

If you were running an Emergency department, don’t you think you might deal with this first? I mean….laceration, soak in antiseptic, suture. So wouldn’t you have the person sitting waiting with their hand in antiseptic rather than stop and have to do it later?

This is what I mean when I talk about organizational skills rather than money.

Not only is it better medical care and kinder to the patient, but it is also MORE EFFICIENT to properly triage, to think ahead and to prepare your care in an insightful and orderly fashion.

There are but trivial examples.

Now don’t get me wrong. If you gave me money to spend on the health care system, I would find places to spend it. And I really should say that there are a lot of good and caring people in health care. And some of them are really smart and are making a difference in the provision of services.

But with some of the people running things right now, I’m not so sure money would make as much of a difference as it should. I don’t think I have met a more uptight, unwilling to change, watch my backside group of people anywhere like some of those in administrative positions in health care.

July 7, 2011

Eating Matt Galloway

Well, he’s done it again. Matt Galloway of Metro Morning on CBC Radio I mean.

He lives in downtown Toronto and I am convinced he’s out to ruin my leisure life. During the FIFA World Cup he talked about a certain Portuguese restaurant on College St as having the best patio in Toronto at which to watch soccer.

Well that did it for me getting a table on the patio last summer.

Now he has a schtick where he is asking people to out their best kept secret places to take out of town visitors to see the real Toronto. This week someone from the Cookbook Store spoke about the great sandwiches at a little place that I frequent on the way back from a long bicycle ride. It only has about four outdoor tables and cannot handle a crowd. I haven’t been there since the program but I presume that’s been ruined as well.

So what’s with that, Matt? Are you out to ruin my life?

I’m going to have to start following Matt around so I can out his favourite places so he can see how it feels.

July 2, 2011

Maple Leafs of America

As a die hard Leafs fan I am totally dismayed by recent moves. I’m not one to jump on or off the bandwagon. No, I have slogged it out seemingly forever.

I think some of the moves that Brian Burke has made will move the team forward.

James Reimer may have a slump next season. That can happen to any goalie. But he is a pretty steady kid and played well post season in Europe representing Canada. I think that whether he becomes a ‘great’ goalie or not, he will be better than anything we’ve had for a few years. Remember, this past season the Leafs missed the playoffs by only a couple of games. How Reimer does playing a full season with the physical strain and emotional ups and downs remains to be seen.

But I think Reimer gives us those couple of games and I will say here and now for that reason alone I feel pretty good that Toronto will make the playoffs next year.

Gustaffson remains a problematic project. Again, I cannot fault Burke for going out and getting him 2 years ago. That’s how you find the next ‘great thing’…by sometimes taking a chance. So I commend Burke for doing that. Unfortunately, so far at least, it hasn’t been a success but perhaps next year (and what Leaf fan hasn’t said that a few hundred times?).

What does disturb me, however, is the growing Americanization of this team. I know Burke is American. But this is one time when he is not thinking outside the box. Rather, he is being very, very conservative. He is constantly going to the same well (the U.S.) for talent because that is what he knows best.

Toronto is a Canadian team and I don’t think you win a Stanley Cup without strong Canadian players.

Burke has just brought in more American coaching (now all the important coaches are Yanks). Our top sniper is American (Kessel) and Burke just picked up Tim Connolly as a free agent, another American.

Frankly, when the chips are up I really don’t think these are the players that are going to carry us to the podium. I think this team under Burke started to look creative but has now become wounded.

Jingoistic? Perhaps. But I was truly thinking next year would give us a round or two into the playoffs. Now, I’m not so sure.

Is there no respite for a Leaf’s fan?

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