December 31, 2014

New Frontiers - 2014 Year In Review

As 2014 draws to a close, the usual year in review lists, pre-made Facebook videos, and unattainable New Year’s resolutions have been making the social media rounds. While I prepared David Letterman style top ten lists for the two previous years, the past year was one about several new frontiers, which no countdown would do justice.

December 15, 2014

The Case for Buying Local

With ten days left until Christmas and people scrambling to do their Christmas shopping, it’s time to discuss a different way of getting involved, and that involves your purchasing habits. Sure, price can play a significant role (especially for those with lower incomes), but there are other forms of decision criteria that have social, political, and environmental implications. Fair trade! Non factory farmed meat! Buy green! Boycott this company! But if there is one rule I encourage over all others, it’s to support local businesses.

Sure, buying local may mean paying a higher price than at big box stores, but there are other implications that need to be considered.

November 11, 2014

Spokes and Swapping Skills

On November 8 and 9, over 70 cyclists from all parts of Toronto (except Etobicoke) participated in Cycle Toronto’s second annual Skills Swap at City Hall. The first day consisted of speeches and advocacy workshops, while the second day was a bike plan pre-consultation with city staff.

November 03, 2014

Toronto Election Aftermath

Well well well! Last Monday’s election in Toronto was one for the record books! While my preferred mayoral candidate didn’t win, this municipal election exposed me to new roles, interesting sights, and many lessons. After recuperating for the past few days, it’s time to share these lessons.

September 26, 2014

Lessons from Canvassing in York West

Toronto’s municipal election is 30 days from today (October 27). There are the well-publicized mayoral races, but we also need to pay attention to the races for council and school trustee, given the mayor only has one vote in council. This is the first municipal election I have been involved with and it has been an eye opener in various ways. The mayoral race has been volatile with Olivia Chow losing her front runner status during the summer months and on the rebound again, John Tory being increasingly grilled over his SmartTrack transit plan, and Rob Ford withdrawing due to a cancer diagnosis while his brother Doug took his place. On a personal level, I have been asked to take on roles not encountered during previous political campaigns.

September 02, 2014

Thoughts on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

If you checked your social media feed as of late, chances are you have come across multiple videos regarding the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, as well as posts critical of this phenomenon. For the record, I was called out on this challenge last month by a fellow HEAL4Life board member, which I accepted both by dumping the ice water on my head along with making a donation. Regardless of your opinion, you cannot deny the success this has meant for ALS, in which over $100 million has been raised in the United States (press release) and $12 million in Canada.

For this post, I will discuss the three main criticisms regarding the Ice Bucket Challenge and how it applies to other recent social media stunts.

August 18, 2014

The Community Side of Cycling

There are various types of communities out there covering ethnic, political, business, and activity based interests. For cyclists, there are different organizations involved (e.g. Cycle Toronto, Share The Road, Toronto Bicycling Network) and different types of cycling (e.g. mountain, road, commuter), but the feel of being part of a community is present amongst all. This summer, I took part in two events which emphasized this community feel; those being the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer and Bike Rave.

July 30, 2014

Travel Series - Well-timed Surprises of Bordeaux

All good things must come to an end and my trip to Europe was no exception. Bordeaux was the final city I visited, which turned out to be a series of well-timed surprises. When I booked my trip, I was not aware the Bordeaux Wine Festival would be happening at the same time. The festival featured sampling of various kinds of wine, musical acts, and local cuisine. I was more interested in doing a winery tour and lucked out on getting a cancellation when I got to the tourism office. Through the tourism office, you can book tours for as little as 34 Euros ($51 Canadian), though others can be significantly higher.

July 25, 2014

Travel Series - Culture and Cuisine of Paris


While London can be overrated, given its high costs and relatively underwhelming attractions, Paris is a world class city that delivers. Not just for their attractions and history, but also for their food, outdoor cafés, and ease of getting around.

July 21, 2014

Travel Series - Cycling (and Vices) of the Netherlands

After visiting London, I took my first high speed train ride heading to Amsterdam. Not only do such trains travel at least 300 km/h, the ride is smooth and the trains stop at urban downtowns. This saves the need to travel to airports usually located at the edges of cities. Combined with their smaller ecological footprint, high speed trains make air travel unnecessary for trips of 500 km or less. Unfortunately, Canada is the only G8 country without high speed rail, which they should adopt as soon as possible. Especially along the Québec City – Windsor corridor, where roughly half of Canada’s population resides.
This TGV in Paris is similar to the trains I used to get to Amsterdam

July 17, 2014

Travel Series - Chaos Theory of London

While Portugal can be referred to as an under-appreciated gem, laid back, friendly, and affordable; the opposite can be said about London, England. London tends to be a fast paced city with people addressing each other in a more formal manner by always using sir or madam. While there is no shortage of things to do, many of their tourist attractions are not that great. Before leaving for Europe, I was told by several friends London is an expensive city and they were not kidding!

July 14, 2014

Travel Series - Under-appreciated Gems of Portugal

When you think of traveling to Europe, chances you are more likely to think of big ticket places such as London, Paris, and Rome. However, it is sometimes the less popular destinations that are more enjoyable. Thanks to a suggestion from a friend (Amanda) and a very good flight deal from Air Canada, the first European city I visited was one such under-appreciated gem called Lisbon.

July 07, 2014

Pack your bags and travel!

If there is one thing I can suggest to improve your political (and civic) health, it's to take every chance you can get to travel! Especially when you are in your twenties and do not have as many obligations to attend to! Not only does it allow you to see new places, learn new languages, or try new things; it's a good way to meet new people and learn from their experiences. Personally, I recently returned from my first ever trip to Europe for two weeks.

June 03, 2014

Is Cycling Becoming An Election Issue?

After decades of urban planning being primarily oriented towards automobiles in North America, various signs are pointing towards that model becoming obsolete.
  1. When adjusted for population growth, driving in the United States peaked in 2005 and is currently at its lowest level in 20 years.[1]
  2. Younger people are deferring or abandoning vehicle purchases for reasons ranging from the persisting difficulty in finding work to a preference for living in bike and transit friendly urban areas.
  3. Cycling has increased in popularity to a point where cyclists now outnumber cars on College Street in Toronto.[2]
Elected officials are starting to take note with varying degrees of commitment. Does this mean cycling is finally getting heard as a legitimate election issue? Let’s explore what is being done at all three levels of government.
A bidirectional cycle track on Burrard Street (Vancouver)

May 23, 2014

Not Your Traditional New Democrat

Earlier today, over 30 “high profile” New Democrats sent an open letter to Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Andrea Horwath criticizing her populist policies and her opposition to the Liberals’ budget.[1] While I have had my reservations about Andrea Horwath – specifically her lack of proper communication on certain issues – to warrant her changes as a reason to give up on the NDP is taking things too far. For this blog post, I would like to describe how I ended up supporting the NDP and why Horwath’s new style is not as unorthodox as it appears.
Me with the late Jack Layton - May 1, 2011

April 22, 2014

How does urban planning affect city residents?

Something that makes me go ballistic about Canadian society today is our dependence on automobiles. If that wasn’t outlandish enough, this is coming from someone who has to drive to work. Driving is the unfortunate reality for 70% of Toronto commuters and for over 90% of commuters in certain parts of Canada.[1] This post will explore how we got into this situation from a personal and a societal perspective.

March 31, 2014

Covering Both Sides of the Camera

Dealing with the various types of media such as print, radio, television, and social media become inevitable when it comes to politics. Candidates for office use media to promote their campaigns to voters, while reporters cover and scrutinize campaign content. For some people such as Jennifer Hollett, whom I interviewed for this post, she has been on both sides of the camera, given her journalist career and her past candidacy for the NDP nomination in Toronto Centre.

March 21, 2014

Getting the Tools to Improve Cycling Infrastructure

Getting around has consistently been one Toronto’s most hotly debated topics. However, there is one component of transportation where Toronto has been falling behind other world class cities, and that involves cycling infrastructure.

March 11, 2014

Becoming Someone They Were Fighting Against

At one point does someone who constantly fought against a negative image becomes that very image? This description applies to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. While in opposition before the 2006 election, he called out the Liberals under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin for scandals involving the federal sponsorship program. He campaigned on transparency and accountability, which lead him to introduce the Accountability Act and the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer soon after taking office. Given these measures, one may think Harper would be on his way to cleaning up Ottawa.

February 25, 2014

Making Life More Affordable

While major media outlets were busy covering the federal Liberal policy convention in Montréal on February 22, 2014, there was another significant political development that day which needs to be heard. In 141 ridings across Canada, a total of 2,172 volunteers mobilized for the NDP’s first National Day of Action to promote their affordability campaign. I was part of this campaign with MP Peggy Nash and fellow members of the Parkdale High Park NDP riding association. While canvassing, I found most of those who answered the door expressed their support and signed the petition, which Peggy confirmed in an earlier blog post.

February 17, 2014

Why the Electoral System Matters

One issue that is getting considerable media attention as of late is the electoral system, which is the way people vote. At all three levels of government in Canada, the current electoral system is called first past the post, in which the candidate with the most votes wins the position he/she is running for. While simplicity may be the primary advantage of the current system, there are many drawbacks.

February 03, 2014

Observations from the Council Chamber

On Monday, January 27, I entered Toronto City Hall’s Council Chamber for the first time ever in order to attend a consultation regarding Porter Plans. For those not familiar what this is, Porter Airlines is currently seeking to extend the runway at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport by 200 metres in each direction in order to accommodate the Bombardier CS100 jet aircraft. The Tripartite Agreement governing Billy Bishop Airport – signed by the City of Toronto, the Toronto Port Authority (the airport’s managing body), and Transport Canada – currently does not allow jet aircraft to fly there. As one of the three signatories, Toronto city council would have to approve the amendment of this agreement in order for Porter Plans to proceed, along with subsequent approval by Transport Canada. The latest city staff report on Porter Plans can be found at

January 27, 2014

Opening Toronto's Streets

On November 16, 2013, I attended an Open Streets Summit at Ryerson University which was hosted by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. The summit featured two guest speakers – Gil Penalosa (Executive Director of 8-80 Cities) and Dani Simons (Creator of Summer Streets) – both of whom discussed open streets initiatives in Bogota, Colombia and New York City respectively. The summit concluded with a 30-45 minute panel discussion featuring Curt Harnett (Chef de mission for the Pan Am Games), Dr. McKeown (Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health), and Jacqueline White (Toronto’s Director of Transportation).

January 20, 2014

Making Government Budgets Better

By the end of January, the City of Toronto will finish this year’s budget process. It is one of the most important government processes, but also one of the least understood. To reflect on the budget process and how to improve it, I interviewed Alex Mazer, co-founder of Better Budget TO and councillor candidate for Ward 18 (

January 13, 2014

Time to Ask the Tough Questions
Amanda Lang’s book, “The Power of Why,” was written to demonstrate the role curiosity plays in fostering innovation in business and our everyday lives. Innovation is not necessarily about coming up with big, revolutionary ideas. Instead, it can arise from small improvements, the combination of existing ideas, and continuously asking questions. For instance, the Four Seasons hotel chain was based on founder Izzy Sharp’s question of why hotels were discomforting and customers were considered temporary and anonymous. Instead, he felt customers should be treated as honoured guests and the rooms should be equipped as if it was what he wanted in his own home. He was also known for adopting McDonald’s idea of consistent service, though certain employees ridiculed the idea of a luxury hotel chain learning from McDonald’s.

January 06, 2014

Combining Cycling with Political Advocacy

Happy New Year, Heal4Life!

If there is one organization which combines two of my favourite activities, those being political advocacy and cycling, it’s Cycle Toronto. It’s a membership driven organization with over 2300 members advocating for a healthy, safe, bike friendly community. On September 4, 2013, I interviewed Laura Pin, who has volunteered with Cycle Toronto’s Street Smarts Program for two and a half years and is the captain of the Ward 14 Advocacy Group in Parkdale High Park, which she helped reinstate. She was named Ward Advocate of the Year at the Toronto Bike Awards on November 26, 2013.