A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[ISL] Marion Reid, “When the well goes dry”

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Former Prince Edward Island Lieutenant-Governor Marion reid writes in The Guardian of Charlottetown about the Island’s serious water issues, including water quality problems and outright shortages. This is alarming.

I will never forget the day, January 8, 1956, when I turned on the tap and no water came. Just below the house was a well about 50 feet deep encased with smooth stones, and for over 100 years it supplied all the water for the family, and barns full of livestock. Then nothing! Suddenly we understood in a whole new way that old saying about not missing the water until the well runs dry.

Islanders today need to ponder that.

My husband, Lea, was a mechanic and fashioned a rig to plow the snow and smooth it for the cattle to go to the brook below our house. The ice was broken and the animals were glad to get their water. Buckets of water were carried on the tractor to water the horses and other stock.

Once the animals were fed and the bawling stopped, large cream cans were filled with water from our neighbors. Things were looking up, and within three days a well digging company from Charlottetown had a new well, 165 feet deep, in operation; however, it had been a disturbing experience, and I think of it often these days as the demand for our water increases, and its quality deteriorates.

And I know it firsthand. Years ago, I would watch the tide and go down to the river and dig a bucket of clams for chowder. Our children fished there as well. They caught trout, often with just a bent pin and worms, the fish were so plentiful. Nothing better than the first pan trout, rolled in flour and fried in butter. As well there were smelts, eels and salmon in the river. But no more. The river is anoxic. The fish cannot live there. And I grieve for that river, and others like it across the Island.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2016 at 7:15 pm

[ISL] “Meet Amybeth McNulty, star of new Anne of Green Gables series for CBC, Netflix”

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CBC News’ Deana Sumanac-Johnson reports on the selection of Irish-Canadian actor Anne McNulty as Anne in the upcoming CBC/Netflix series version of Anne of Green Gables.

For 14-year-old Amybeth McNulty, it’s the role of a lifetime. She beat more than 1,800 girls from Canada and abroad to land the starring turn as Anne in the new CBC adaptation of Anne of Green Gables.

“She’s riveting on screen, she’s translucent. You can see every thought and every emotion,” says writer and show-runner Moira Walley-Beckett of her show’s star, who initially auditioned online from her home in Donegal, Ireland (McNulty’s mother is Canadian).

McNulty, a self-described “bookworm” who read the Anne of Green Gables books when she was nine, says she shares many traits with Montgomery’s feisty heroine.

“She has so much love for the world, which I think I share with her. And her curiosity about everything, how she can be so fierce and so bold but so gentle and so loving.”

Her new role is also giving McNulty, who lives in Ireland, an opportunity to discover her mother’s homeland. Accompanied by her grandparents, she filmed a portion of the series in Prince Edward Island, the epicentre of all things Anne.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2016 at 7:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Northbound celebrates 30 years of kink, play and leather”

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NOW Toronto‘s Miles Kenyon reports on the 30th anniversary of Northbound Leather. As I noted earlier this week, Jane Jacobs would be proud at how this local business thrives.

For a self-described pervert, George Giaouris doesn’t look the part. Wearing a sensible polo shirt and translucent, wide frame glasses, the owner of the longest-running leather shop in Canada looks more dad than deviant.

“I kind of always knew that this it; that this is my calling in a sense because I was born into the family business,” says Giaouris. But his passion for leather, kink and fetish goes beyond mere vocation.

Northbound Leather, which is celebrating its 30-year anniversary this Saturday with a fashion show and fetish party at the Phoenix, has its legs in a family affair that started in Yorkville in 1969. After the store moved to its current Yonge Street location in the ‘70s, it officially became known as Northbound in 1987.

“Ear-to-the-ground is what my father taught me,” Giaouris says of his approach to business. “So instead of trying to force something on someone, ask them what they want.”

From bustiers and boleros to collars and cockrings, Northbound caters to anyone wishing to explore their wild side. For some, a simple leather vest is enough to satiate that tactile want; for others, it might be dressing your partner up as a puppy, complete with full leather mask, paws, tail and leash.

“There are as many variations on what [leather] means as there are people practicing it,” he says. “The only question we’ve ever asked is: ‘Is it legal?’”

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2016 at 6:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] On the naming of a Toronto park after black city councillor William Peyton Hubbard

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The Globe and Mail‘s Jeff Gray reports on how Toronto’s first black city councilor is finally going to be honoured with a park.

Between 1893 and 1913, Mr. Hubbard – a child of freed slaves who fled Virginia to farm in Upper Canada in 1837 – would serve the city as an alderman (what we now call city councillors), and also vice-chairman of a powerful cabinet-like body called the board of control, a position second only to the mayor. He also served as acting mayor.

Revered as council’s “Cicero” for his speeches, he became a leading civic figure, representing a white, wealthy ward. He was also a successful businessman in the city, at a time when black people were banned from many restaurants. But his skin colour was barely given a mention in The Globe’s accounts of the time.

This weekend, politicians, community groups and Hubbard descendants from across Canada and the United States will christen Hubbard Park, a green space in front of the old Don Jail that is now part of Bridgepoint hospital, at Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street East. The park’s name was voted on by local residents, and it is not far from where Mr. Hubbard lived in a grand home on Broadview Avenue.

His memory was neglected for years. When the city government abandoned Old City Hall for New City Hall in 1965, a grand portrait of Mr. Hubbard that had graced the walls of the old building for years was left in a storage room until 1976, when a new interest in black history was emerging. (Since the late 1980s, the city has also issued an award for activists in his name.)

That portrait hangs in the office of Toronto’s only sitting black councillor, Scarborough’s Michael Thompson, but even he had never heard of Mr. Hubbard until he began researching his story while working as a political aide at city hall in the late 1990s.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2016 at 6:15 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Vancouver-area renters being pushed away from transit corridors”

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In The Globe and Mail, Kerry Gold reports on the pressures that are pushing renters away from the rapid transit networks that they use so regularly. At this rate, who will be able to afford to live in Vancouver but the rich?

Since the majority of transit users are renters and low-income earners, building low-cost housing around transit would seem obvious.

But overwhelmingly, dense, free-market condo developments have been the priority around transit stations. The result is an increase of property values that have displaced the renters that need transit the most. In the Metrotown area of Burnaby, and near the Evergreen Line in Burquitlam, old rental buildings are being torn down to make way for pricier condos.

It’s a state of affairs that has exasperated housing advocates like Kishone Roy, chief executive officer of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association. Mr. Roy, like a growing number of others who’ve studied the issue, says that no transit plan should go forward without a plan for affordable housing. The housing crisis simply can’t be fixed without the transit piece.

“It is extremely backward public policy that the only people that can afford to live along transit lines in Metro Vancouver are people who can afford a car – and the people who need transit can’t afford to live along those transit lines,” says Mr. Roy. “It’s happened for an array of reasons, including lack of government participation in the affordable housing market. There’s been an abdication of the government’s role in housing that’s created mass homelessness, a rental housing crisis, and this weird development problem we have in Vancouver, where we have transit investments, but no housing investments at the same time.”

That means building dense, affordable housing around transit lines that are already in the works.

“It’s a game of diminishing returns, because when you lose that housing along the transit line, then you have to build somewhere else, and then they will need more transit out there. You can spend less and get more, if you plan these things together.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2016 at 5:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Affordable Housing Incentives Encourage Development, But Still Fall Short”

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Torontoist’s Tannara Yelland reports on a good idea re: Toronto’s housing crisis that needs more thorough implementation.

With a dearth of affordable housing options in the city, municipal administrators have long known they need to do more to ensure that Toronto residents can actually afford to be Toronto residents. In 2009, City Council adopted Housing Opportunities Toronto—An Affordable Housing Action Plan 2010-2020 [PDF]. The ambitious plan called for the creation of 10,000 new affordable rental homes and 2,800 affordable ownership homes. The City has since fallen short of yearly targets several times and looks like to fall far short of its final targets as well.

When the City falls behind on its affordable housing policies, there are serious consequences for thousands of Torontonians. Around 88,000 households are on the waitlist for affordable housing right now, and with rents and property values only going up each year, that number is likely to continue growing.

The City felt it needed to encourage developers to create more affordable housing, and so the Open Door Program was launched in April 2015 to help address the policy challenge. The three “prongs” of the program, according to Erik Hunter, manager of policy and partnerships with Toronto’s Affordable Housing Office, are:
•Making city lands available for development;
•Fast-tracking the planning and approval process for developers creating affordable housing;
•“increasing the city’s supports and mainlining access to them for affordable housing developers.”

The program includes municipal tax breaks and breaks on fees to developers, which developers can take advantage of for as long as they agree to keep some units affordable (the minimum is 20 years).

It’s a pretty sweet deal for developers, who are already enjoying the benefits of a real-estate market that’s so red-hot it’s been the subject of repeated warnings, but that hasn’t yet driven people into cheaper nearby cities en masse. Of course, the City can’t force developers to build anything they don’t want to build. An inclusionary zoning bill is before the Ontario legislature; if passed, it could allow cities to require that affordable housing units be included in new developments, but for now cities are restricted in what they can tell developers. Toronto Community Housing is dealing with a $3.6 billion repair backlog that has people already in social housing living in sometimes unsafe conditions; thousands of units could be condemned within the next few years if additional funding isn’t secured.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2016 at 5:30 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • The Boston Globe‘s Big Picture shares photos of Massachusetts’ Mattapan trolley.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at Planet Nine’s effects and examines the weather of Titan.
  • Both The Dragon’s Tales and the Planetary Society Weblog react to the loss of the Schiaparelli lander.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks for brown dwarf exoplanets.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reports on the sheer scale of the Australian real estate boom.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the beginning of an antiwar movement among Russian Orthodox faithful.
  • Arnold Zwicky shares a photo of a flowering tree in a Kyoto garden.