Preserved Stories Blog

Sugar is the scourge, not fat, according to several, converging lines of evidence

An April 7, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “The sugar conspiracy.”

“In 1972,” the article notes, “a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long?”

I found the story of what happened to the British scientist John Yudkin, as described in the April 7, 2016 Guardian article, of much interest. Equally of interest was the reference to a leading postwar American nutritionist, Ancel Keys, who denigrated and ridiculed Yudkin at every opportunity. Keys played a key role in the destruction of Yudkin’s career.

Ancel Keys, before I learned more about him, has in years past been among my heroes; in fact, some years ago I tracked down two of his out-of-print books, just so I could follow his recipes for cooking beans. Keys was a cult-like, self-assured figure with a forceful personality – and a powerfully misleading scientist, as it has (or as it has appeared to have) turned out, these many years later.

The sugar wars

A January/February 2017 Atlantic article is entitled: “The Sugar Wars: Science can’t prove it and the industry denies it, but Gary Taubes is convinced that the sweet stuff kills.”

The article, which reviews a book entitled The Case Against Sugar (2016), covers the same ground as the above-noted Guardian article.

From a practical point of view, I’ve made some progress (less so, over the holidays but still, doing much better than before) in keeping my sugar intake to no more than 25 grams per day, as recommended by the World Health Organization:

World Health Organization recommends that no more than 5 percent of your caloric intake – that is, 25 grams – should come from sugar

At first I found it a challenge, to cut down on sugar, but having read the above-noted Guardian and Atlantic articles among others, the going is getting easier.

A corollary to the story is: Eat your fruits and vegetables:

Eat your vegetables; the research is persuasive

Updates

An Oct. 13, 2016 undark.org article is entitled: “In the Fight Against Obesity, the Real Enemy Is Oversimplification: Fat used to be Dietary Enemy No. 1. Today, it’s sugar. But reductions in the consumption of both have done little to curb obesity rates. Why?”

A Dec. 30, 2016 New York Times article is entitled: “How Much Sugar Can You Avoid Today? The typical American diet includes far too much added sugar. Can you stay under a healthy limit?”

A Jan. 12, 2017 CBC article is entitled: Added sugar often found in Canadian products marketed as ‘healthy,’ researchers find: Why ‘you really need to be a detective’ when reading food labels.”

A Jan. 16, 2017) CBC The Current podcast, entitled “Is sugar killing us? Author Gary Taubes makes his case,” provides a great overview of the distinction between evidence (that is, the facts of the matter, in this case related to the science related to nutrition) and the frame within which scientific facts are positioned.

 

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Crimes, terror, & repression in Russia, China, & Tibet – with additional thoughts on true beliefs

Boat on which my father and grandfather and other refugees crossed the Baltic Sea from Estonia to Sweden in September 1944 during the Second World War

Boat on which my father and grandfather and other refugees crossed the Baltic Sea to Sweden from Estonia in September 1944 during the Second World War. Other family members travelled across the Baltic on a larger boat. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Stereotypes have a powerful effect in organizing our thinking and behaviour, as I’ve noted in a series of posts including one entitled:

Perceptions of warmth and competence drive our stereotypes: Cuddy et al. (2008)

Labels are a matter of life and death.

Estonia

My parents fled Estonia as refugees in 1944. This fact provides a context for my comments.

Tibet

For many years, I’ve had an interest in the history of Tibet, which serves as a case study (one among many) of terror, surveillance, and repression as central strategies of Communist governance.

A Dec. 25, 2016 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Tibet: Behind the looking glass.”

The Great Transformation (1944)

Two studies that provide backstories related to the topics at hand include:

The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, 2nd Beacon Paperback Ed. (2001; originally published 1944)

The above-noted book offers a context for understanding many of the events that have occurred during the twentieth century, and that are occurring now.

Author Notes (from the Toronto Public Library website) for the above-noted study read:

Karl Polanyi (1886-1964) is considered one of the twentieth century’s most discerning economic historians. He left his position as senior editor of Vienna’s leading financial and economic weekly in 1933, became a British citizen, taught adult extension programs for Oxford and London Universities, and held visiting chairs at Bennington College and Columbia University. He is co-author of Christianity and the Social Revolution; author of The Great Transformation; Trade and Market in Early Empires (with C.Arnsberg and H.Pearson) and posthumously, Dahomey and the Slave Trade (with A.Rotstein).

Joseph E. Stiglitz was formerly chair of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors, and chief economist of the World Bank. He is professor of economics at Stanford University, and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Boat on which my father and grandfather made it across the Baltic Sea in September 1944.

Boat on which my father and grandfather crossed the Baltic Sea from Estonia to Sweden in September 1944. My grandfather is furthest on the right. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Fred Block is professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis.

[End]

Recently opened archives

A second book that interests me is entitled:

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (1999)

A blurb for the latter study, at the Toronto Public Library website, reads:

Already famous throughout Europe, this international bestseller plumbs recently opened archives in the former Soviet bloc to reveal the actual, practical accomplishments of Communism around the world: terror, torture, famine, mass deportations, and massacres. Astonishing in the sheer detail it amasses, the book is the first comprehensive attempt to catalogue and analyze the crimes of Communism over seventy years.

“Revolutions, like trees, must be judged by their fruit,” Ignazio Silone wrote, and this is the standard the authors apply to the Communist experience – in the China of “the Great Helmsman,” Kim Il Sung’s Korea, Vietnam under “Uncle Ho” and Cuba under Castro, Ethiopia under Mengistu, Angola under Neto, and Afghanistan under Najibullah. The authors, all distinguished scholars based in Europe, document Communist crimes against humanity, but also crimes against national and universal culture, from Stalin’s destruction of hundreds of churches in Moscow to Ceausescu’s leveling of the historic heart of Bucharest to the widescale devastation visited on Chinese culture by Mao’s Red Guards.

As the death toll mount – as many as 25 million in the former Soviet Union, 65 million in China, 1.7 million in Cambodia, and on and on – the authors systematically show how and why, wherever the millenarian ideology of Communism was established, it quickly led to crime, terror, and repression. An extraordinary accounting, this book amply documents the unparalleled position and significance of Communism in the hierarchy of violence that is the history of the twentieth century.

[End]

Tibet: Behind the looking glass: Dec. 25, 2016 Globe and Mail article

The above text serves as an introduction to the following passage from the above-noted Dec. 25, 2016 Globe and Mail article:

On this claim hinge the full ambitions of Communist China in Tibet, from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping. But it’s at best a disputed reading of history. Even setting aside the strong military might wielded by Tibet in centuries past, the invasion of Tibet by Communist forces in the early 1950s provoked strong local political resistance. A Tibetan delegation to the United Nations pleaded that Tibetans were being “compelled by force to become a part of China against their will.”

“The decades that have followed were frequently marked by violence as China quashed local revolts, while Beijing-led development schemes imposed Chinese order on the local economy. In 1960, the International Commission of Jurists accused China of “genocidal” acts “to destroy Buddhism in Tibet.” Only 13 of Tibet’s hundreds of monasteries were still standing by the end of the turbulence and anti-religious fervour of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, scholars say. Tibet was hit hard: Lamas and other religious leaders were marched in public wearing dunce’s hats, labourers who were branded “demons and monsters,” were fed human excrement, and families were told to destroy their religious artifacts. “The effect was to destroy Tibet’s separate identity,” Prof. Shakya writes in his book Dragon in the Land of Snows.

[End]

A blurb at the Toronto Public Library website, for the above-noted, 1999 study by Tsering Shakya, reads:

Based entirely on unpublished primary sources, this remarkable book – the first authoritative history of modern Tibet – is also the first to provide detailed accounts of:

  • The covert political manoeuverings in Tibet and the role of the Tibetan, Chinese and British governments;
  • The Dalai Lama’s escape in 1959;
  • The CIA’s involvement and the establishment of a secret military base in the Nepalese Himalayas;
  • The British government lying to the UN and Douglas Hurd’s role in that process;
  • The power struggles during th Cultural Revolution and the mass uprising against the Chinese that has remained secret until now.

[End]

Black Book of Communism (1999)

The following excerpt is from p. 478 of The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (1999):

[I have broken the original paragraph into shorter ones, for ease of online reading:]

The agitators began by dividing the peasantry into four group – poor, semipoor, average, and rich. Anyone outside these categories was decreed a landowner and thus became a marked man. Sometimes, in the absence of clear distinguishing factors and because it pleased the poorest villagers, the rich peasants were added to the list of landowners.

Although the destiny of small rural landowners was henceforth mapped out quite clearly, the path toward it was somewhat tortuous, though usually politically effective. It was simply a matter of ensuring the participation of the “great masses” so that they would fear the consequences of the failure of Communism; and if it was possible to give them the illusion that they had some sort of free will, too, then the government happily cooperated with their decisions. There is no doubt that it was an illusion, for everywhere, almost simultaneously, the process and the results were identical, despite the enormous variation in conditions from region to region. It is now known exactly what sort of effort was required of the activists to give the illusion that the peasant revolution was a spontaneous movement, and how they constantly had to refrain from using their basic mechanism, which of course was terror, to achieve their ends most effectively.

During the war, many young people preferred to flee to the zones held by the Japanese rather than enroll in the PLA [Peoples’ Liberation Army]. The peasants, who generally formed an apathetic mass, were ideologically quite distant from the ideals of the Communist Party and were often so in thrall to the landowners that they continued secretly to work on the landowners’ farms even after the government had reduced their size as a prologue to agrarian reform.

Among themselves, the agitators classed peasants according to their political position as activists, ordi­nary peasants, reactionaries, or supporters of the landowners. They then attempted to transfer these categories onto actual social groups; the result was a sort of Frankenstein sociology that allowed old grudges and private quarrels, such as the desire to get rid of a troublesome husband, to resurface. [48] The classification could be revised at will; to complete the redistribution of land, the authorities in Long Bow swiftly changed the number of peasants who fell into the poor category from 95 to 28 (out of 240). [49] Among the Communist cadres, civilians were generally classed as “workers,” and soldiers as “poor peasants” or “medium peasants,” despite their actual origins among the more privileged social classes. [50]

[End]

Afghan resistance

Events that occurred in Cuba, Afghanistan, and elsewhere are described in detail, in The Black Book of Communism (1999). 

Page 716 of the book, by way of example, highlights the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which began in 1979:

The atrocities committed were those to be found in all large-scale wars, and the violence born of total war and constant attrition spread throughout the country. [42] The Afghan resistance also carried out atrocities, likewise barbaric and inexcusable. Unlike other conflicts, notably the war in Vietnam, to which Afghanistan was often compared, the war received very little attention from the world press, and very few pictures of the conflict were ever released. The Afghan resistance was in fact waging a general insurrection in response to both the Communist coup d’etat and the invasion from abroad. The powers who supported the resistance fighters paid scant attention to the extent of their respect for human rights and on occasion supported some extremely unsavory groups. But on the whole, responsibility for the origins of the conflict must rest with the Communists and their Soviet allies. Government by mass terror and the system of coercion established by the Communists in Afghanistan were constants in the history of the Communist movement.”

[End]

Refugees

Passages on pages 716-717 of the book highlight the refugee crisis occasioned by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan: 

The number of refugees grew constantly. At the end of 1980, it was estimated that more than 1 million refugees had fled Afghanistan. Eighty percent of the intellectuals had left by mid-1982. Early in 1983 there were more than 3 mil­lion refugees out of a total prewar population of 15.5 million . In 1984 the number passed 4 million, [43] and it reached 5 million in the early 1990s. In addition to those who had left the country, there were 2 million internal refu­gees who were forced to leave their villages to escape the war and repression. According to Amnesty International, the refugees who left Afghanistan were “the largest refugee group in the world.” [44]

More than two-thirds of all refugees fled to Pakistan; most of the rest went to Iran; a tiny number reached Western Europe or the United States. Michael Barry recalled that “in the autumn of 1985, during a secret mission on horseback in four provinces in eastern and central Afghanistan on behalf of the International Federation for the Rights of Man, the Swedish doctor Johann Lagerfelt and I made a survey of twenty­ three villages and found that 56.3 percent of the population had been dis­placed. ” [45] Over the whole territory, more than half the population was forced to move as a direct consequence of the politics of terror deployed by the Soviet Army and its Afghan assistants.”

[End]

Totalitarianism

The Black Book of Communism (1999), originally published in France, argues that Nazism and Communism have much in common.

Current realities

A Jan.1, 2016 Politico article is entitled: “Putin’s Real Long Game: The world order we know is already over, and Russia is moving fast to grab the advantage. Can Trump figure out the new war in time to win it?”

A excerpt reads: “Months later, on a different porch thousands of miles away, an Estonian filmmaker casually explained to me that he was buying a boat to get his family out when the Russians came, so he could focus on the resistance. In between were a hundred other exchanges — with Balts and Ukrainians, Georgians and Moldovans — that answered my question and exposed the new reality on the Russian frontier: the belief that, ultimately, everyone would be left to fend for themselves. Increasingly, people in Russia’s sphere of influence were deciding that the values that were supposed to bind the West together could no longer hold. That the world order Americans depend on had already come apart.”

[End]

Russian security state

The article also refers to the legacy of the Soviet security state:

“To understand the shift underway in the world, and to stop being outmaneuvered, we first need to see the Russian state for what it really is. Twenty-five years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed. This freed the Russian security state from its last constraints. In 1991, there were around 800,000 official KGB agents in Russia. They spent a decade reorganizing themselves into the newly-minted FSB, expanding and absorbing other instruments of power, including criminal networks, other security services, economic interests, and parts of the political elite. They rejected the liberal, democratic Russia that President Boris Yeltsin was trying to build.

“Following the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings that the FSB almost certainly planned, former FSB director Vladimir Putin was installed as President. We should not ignore the significance of these events. An internal operation planned by the security services killed hundreds of Russian citizens. It was used as the pretext to re-launch a bloody, devastating internal war led by emergent strongman Putin. Tens of thousands of Chechen civilians and fighters and Russian conscripts died. The narrative was controlled to make the enemy clear and Putin victorious. This information environment forced a specific political objective: Yeltsin resigned and handed power to Putin on New Year’s Eve 1999.”

[End]

Everyday life

An Oct. 9, 2003 London Review of Books article is entitled: “The Good Old Days.”

The opening paragraph reads:

“Who could ever forget everyday life in the old Soviet Union? The sheer oddness of the way the place functioned, the incongruity between functioning and pretension. The discomfort and inconvenience, the drabness, the constant shortages and roundabout ways of getting things, the ubiquity of pull and patronage, the insignificance of money, the awfulness of officials, the splendid company of friends talking philosophy around kitchen tables, the sense of being caught in a time warp that was supposed to be the future but felt like the past. When I first went to the Soviet Union as a British Council exchange student in 1966, I thought it was only foreigners who noticed the oddness of Soviet life. But it turned out that the locals, or at least the local intelligentsia, felt it too. ‘If only we could have a normal life!’ they would sigh, not just in Moscow but in Budapest and Prague as well. ‘Normal’ had once referred to the way things were before the Revolution, or in Eastern Europe before Sovietisation. By the 1970s, however, most people didn’t know what that ‘normal’ was like and redefined it in terms of a Western lifestyle and culture that was not only unattainable but also hazily understood. Normality itself became a utopian concept.”

[End]

The Transformation of the World (2014)

A Dec. 29, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Angela Merkel and the history book that helped inform her worldview: Jürgen Osterhammel’s The Transformation of the World left its mark on the German chancellor, judging by her recent decisions.”

The title of the book brings to mind a previously mentioned text, namely The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, 2nd Beacon Paperback Ed. (2001; originally published 1944)

A key point in the latter study is that “lassie faire” is a “produced,” or “manufactured” state of affairs. It also underlines the fact that anti-Communism need not be invariably equated with a neoliberal worldview. A good study of the similarities, between a Soviet mindset and the mindset, by way of example, of Ayn Rand, is provided by Darryl Cunningham:

The Age of Selfishness (2015)

A graphic storytelling book, available at the Toronto Public Library, entitled: The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis (2015), warrants a close read.

A blurb for the book at the Toronto Public Library website notes:

“Tracing the emergence of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism in the 1940s to her present-day influence, Darryl Cunningham’s latest work of graphic-nonfiction investigation leads readers to the heart of the global financial crisis of 2008. Cunningham uses Rand’s biography to illuminate the policies that led to the economic crash in the U.S. and in Europe, and how her philosophy continues to affect today’s politics and policies, starting with her most noted disciple, economist Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the Federal Reserve). Cunningham also shows how right-wing conservatives, libertarians, and the Tea Party movement have co-opted Rand’s teachings (and inherent contradictions) to promote personal gain and profit at the expense of the middle class. Tackling the complexities of economics by distilling them down to a series of concepts accessible to all age groups, Cunningham ultimately delivers a devastating analysis of our current economic world.”

[End of text]

A previous post, touching upon related themes, is entitled:

Masters of the Universe (2012) focuses upon the analysis of neoliberalism, from the perspective of historical research

Of relevance regarding related themes is a post entitled:

We have a white extremism problem, Doug Saunders argues – Globe and Mail, Nov. 12, 2016

Life (to the extent it is possible) beyond labels and “true beliefs”

A Jan. 4, 2017 Guardian article is entitled: “The Canada experiment: is this the world’s first ‘postnational’ country?: When Justin Trudeau said ‘there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada’, he was articulating a uniquely Canadian philosophy that some find bewildering, even reckless – but could represent a radical new model of nationhood.”

With regard to the “true believer,” I think in particular of a book by Eric Hoffer originally published in 1951:

The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951, 1989)

I’m pleased to end this post with the same comment that I began it with:

Stereotypes have a powerful effect in organizing our thinking and behaviour, as I’ve noted in a series of posts including one that is entitled:

Perceptions of warmth and competence drive our stereotypes: Cuddy et al. (2008)

Labels are a matter of life and death.

Update

A Jan. 14, 2017 Guardian article is entitled: “Nobel prize winner Svetlana Alexievich quits ‘shameful’ Russian PEN: Author of acclaimed reportage joins 30 other writers leaving after expulsion of jailed journalist Sergey Parkhomenko in ‘craven violation of PEN’s founding ideals’ “.

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City of Mississauga demonstrates a good sense of scale, in its decision-making processes

Updates:

A Jan. 1, 2017 Toronto Star article is entitled: “19 years ago, Toronto’s six boroughs amalgamated: 19 years ago today, Toronto’s surrounding communities amalgamated in one of the most controversial moves in Toronto’s municipal government history.”

A Jan. 3, 2017 Toronto Star article is entitled: In 2017, Mississauga will have to decide how it grows up: Mississauga’s recent booming growth will continue, but will growth be sustainable and will it be what residents want?”

[End]

 

Three previous posts in this series are:

Mississauga’s approach to civic engagement stands in stark contrast to the track record for Toronto

Land sale brings Mississauga closer to a waterfront that avoids Toronto’s mistakes – Dec. 22, 2016 Globe and Mail

Culture of COA and OMB decision-making has changed dramatically in 25 years: MPP Peter Milczyn

One of the features of coming up with generalizations, about the differences between Mississauga and Toronto, is that there is little written about this topic, that I know about in in mainstream media, or in academic studies. Please send me a message, if you know of sources that I can refer to, in this regard.

Put simply, exploring the differences between the two cities is a creative endeavour, using primary resources; a person must rely on their own reporting, their own fact-finding. This is an activity, involving an opportunity for some original research, that appeals to me.

Sense of scale

My sense, from what I have picked up, as a Toronto resident active in volunteer work in Mississauga over the past several years, is that the political and governance leaders in Mississauga know each other well, and work together well. I like to think that part of the reason for this is the scale of the City of Mississauga. It’s a big city, but not too big.

In my volunteer work in Toronto, I know next to nothing, in comparison to Mississauga, about how the political and governance leaders in Toronto work together. There isn’t the same sense of scale, and there isn’t a sense that people know each other well, and work together well.

The City of Toronto is too big, and the Amalgamation process of some years ago has not worked well, so far as development of a sense of purpose, and a capacity to work together, is concerned, at a city-wide scale.

Social media

My work as a blogger has opened doors, both in Toronto and Mississauga, that would not have been opened up as readily, otherwise. By way of example, the fact I have a good-quality website, that focuses on local news and history, has been a factor in my involvement in media interviews with Toronto TV stations in recent years.

I’ve also become involved, from time to time, in community-oriented projects, in Toronto, where I’ve been asked to help out, on the basis of my online presence.

In Mississauga, my involvement with a wide range of community projects has also arisen in cases where I’ve been invited to help out, first of all because people know about the Preserved Stories website. The volunteer work that I’ve been doing in Mississauga, however, has been more focused than the volunteer, community-oriented projects that I’ve been involved with in Toronto.

I believe the reason for this has to do with strategic plans, and with communications strategies.

The people that I help out with, in Mississauga, tend to have strategic plans where it’s evident, to people involved with strategy, that I can be a good resource, as a blogger and as a generally knowledgeable person, in helping to move projects forward.

The people I work with in Mississauga, in a volunteer capacity, also tend to have good communications strategies in place. When I see that such a strategy is in place, I pay attention. I know what an organization looks like, when it’s good at communications. Given my own interest in communications, I am keen to work closely with such organizations, especially when my expertise can make a difference.

This ties in with a sense of scale, and a unity of purpose. Mississauga is large, but not too large. As a city, it has a strategic plan, developed with input from its citizens. Toronto is large, to the point of being too large. It’s too much cobbled together, as a result of the Amalgamation process of many years ago. If it has a strategic plan, as a city, I would not know.

I am reminded of news reports over the past decade concerning patterns of dysfunction, part of them associated with its unwieldy size, at the Toronto District School Board. The amalgamation of the school boards, of the former components of what is now the City of Toronto, has given rise to a zoo, by way of school-board structures of governance, and decision-making. To that I can add that, based on my limited anecdotal evidence, largely these days at the high school level, the frontline staff – the teachers – are doing a great job.

I am pleased that, as a result of a recent comment at the Long Branch Development Facebook Page, I’ve had the opportunity to explore these topics.

 

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Mississauga’s approach to civic engagement stands in stark contrast to the track record for Toronto

I’ve recently posted a link to a Globe and Mail story about positive trends in urban development at the City of Mississauga:

Land sale brings Mississauga closer to a waterfront that avoids Toronto’s mistakes – Dec. 22, 2016 Globe and Mail

Anecdotes shared by fellow walkers, on Jane’s Walk at Mississauga-Toronto border

Room setup for Nov. 9, 2016 Inspiration Lakeview public consultation. I did not have time to stat for the full meeting as I also attended a public consultation, on Nov. 9, 2016 in Etobicoke, related to public consultations related to a recent, Province-wise OMB Review project. Jaan Pill photo

Room setup for Nov. 9, 2016 Inspiration Lakeview public consultation. I did not have time to stay for the full meeting as I also attended a public consultation, on Nov. 9, 2016 in Etobicoke, related to public input concerning a recent, Province-wide OMB Review project. Jaan Pill photo

The urban trends, that I refer to, are things that I first began to think about some years ago, in May 2014, on the occasion of a Jane’s Walk at the Toronto-Mississauga border:

Anecdotes Shared by Fellow Walkers – May 5, 2014 post by Jaan Pill at Jane’s Walk websitePosted on May 11, 2014 by Jaan Pill

Mississauga’s vision

Some previous items, that I’ve been pleased to post at the Preserved Stories website, include:

Mississauga’s vision: A city where the waterfront is beautiful, transit is seamless, and residents celebrate and share their cultures

The “3P” Strategy in Lakeview: Proactive, Persistent, and Positive

May 28, 2016 Small Arms Jane’s Walk (and the only @Doors_OpenTO in @citymississauga) went beautifully

Thanks from Jim Tovey for volunteers who made May 28, 2016 Small Arms Jane’s Walk a terrific event

May 3, 2015 Jane’s Walk in Mississauga at Small Arms Building focused on the past, and the future

Also on Nov. 9, 2016, I attended an OMB review meeting in Etobicoke, across from the Mississauga-Toronto border. I have highlighted the meeting in a post entitled:

Also on Nov. 9, 2016, I attended an OMB Review meeting in Etobicoke just east of  the Mississauga-Toronto border. I have highlighted the meeting at a post entitled: Culture of COA and OMB decision-making has changed dramatically in 25 years: MPP Peter Milczyn.

Urban planning: Mississauga and Toronto

As a rule, as a blogger I’ve stayed away from generalizations, regarding comparisons between cities. However, it has occurred to me that it would be useful to articulate my thoughts, regarding the distinct urban planning cultures that appear to be at play, in Mississauga as compared to Toronto. Such generalizations are subject to error; I look forward to learning of contrary views, that would persuade me to modify my perspective, regarding some key differences between the two cities.

Comments from Long Branch Development Facebook Page

I’ve shared the following comments at the Long Branch Development Facebook Page, and am pleased to share the comments as a separate Preserved Stories post as well:

I draw inspiration from the fact that, because I live close to the Mississauga-Toronto border, I have the opportunity to compare how development patterns are evolving in the two communities (Mississauga and Toronto).

Image from Inspiration Lakeview public consultation meeting, Nov. 9, 2016 in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

Image from Inspiration Lakeview public consultation meeting, Nov. 9, 2016 in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

As a blogger, I have been writing about development patterns in both cities for several years, reporting on urban planning and public consultation events in each of them. The positive trends that I see in Mississauga make the city a source of inspiration for places around the world, with the exception perhaps of Toronto, which tends to be blinded by arrogance about where to look for inspiration.

I sometimes ponder what historical trends, dating back many years, have given rise to such divergent paths, of the two cities.

Click on photos to enlarge them; click again to enlarge them further

To my previous comment (above) I can add that the divergence, that I describe, is particularly evident with regard to public consultations and the concept of civic engagement. In official communications, both cities peak of the value of civic engagement. The difference arises, however, when we look at the match between the rhetoric and the reality.

Image from Inspiration Lakeview public consultation meeting, Nov. 9, 2016 in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

Image from Inspiration Lakeview public consultation meeting, Nov. 9, 2016 in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

In Mississauga, from what I have closely observed, as a blogger focusing on accuracy and balance in my reporting, the match between the rhetoric and the reality tends to be very close, with the exception, perhaps, of its Police Service. My sense is that Police Services in Toronto and Mississauga are very similar, and demonstrate the same problems, in particular with regard to the distinction between rhetoric and reality, with regard to providing fair and equitable service to all members of the community.

In Toronto, with regard to the public consultation process, the contrast between rhetoric and reality is stark; in practice, the views of residents tend to be disregarded and the residents who speak out, for example at Committee of Adjustment meetings, are routinely denigrated and insulted. I look forward to seeing whether any of the problems, that are evident as long-term trends in Toronto, can be addressed at the Provincial level. A recent post outlining the trends in this area is entitled:

Culture of COA and OMB decision-making has changed dramatically in 25 years: MPP Peter Milczyn

Image from Inspiration Lakeview public consultation meeting, Nov. 9, 2016 in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

Image from Inspiration Lakeview public consultation meeting, Nov. 9, 2016 in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

Image from Inspiration Lakeview public consultation meeting, Nov. 9, 2016 in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

Image from Inspiration Lakeview public consultation meeting, Nov. 9, 2016 in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

A previous post regarding Police Services is entitled:

Peel Regional Police Service has problems similar to what is evident at Toronto Police Service

I can add the following comment, from a previous post regarding differences between Mississauga and Toronto:

The City of Mississauga has a clearly defined Strategic Plan that is – amazing as this may sound – actually developed with broad input from Mississauga residents, and from what I can see (as a blogger, I make a point of observing such things as closely as I can), the Strategic Plan is actually in the process of being implemented.

Image from Inspiration Lakeview public consultation meeting, Nov. 9, 2016 in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

Image from Inspiration Lakeview public consultation meeting, Nov. 9, 2016 in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

As well, the governance and communications structures at the City of Mississauga appear to me to be of the highest quality. In fact, it has been the quality of the communications related to the Lakeview Waterfront Connection Project, the Small Arms Building re-purposing project, the TRCA/Sawmill Sid ash tree repurposing project, Inspiration Lakeview, and similar projects that originally alerted me to the great projects, with a great deal of citizen input, going on right now at the City of Mississauga.

Updates

I’ve discussed these topics further, in a post entitled:

City of Mississauga demonstrates a good sense of scale, in its decision-making processes

A Jan. 1, 2017 Toronto Star article is entitled: “19 years ago, Toronto’s six boroughs amalgamated: 19 years ago today, Toronto’s surrounding communities amalgamated in one of the most controversial moves in Toronto’s municipal government history.”

A Jan. 3, 2017 Toronto Star article is entitled: In 2017, Mississauga will have to decide how it grows up: Mississauga’s recent booming growth will continue, but will growth be sustainable and will it be what residents want?”

 

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Posted in Long Branch, Mississauga, Newsletter, Toronto | 4 Comments

Land sale brings Mississauga closer to a waterfront that avoids Toronto’s mistakes – Dec. 22, 2016 Globe and Mail

A Dec. 22, 2016 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Land sale brings Mississauga closer to a waterfront that avoids Toronto’s mistakes.”

Click here for previous posts about Inspiration Lakeview >

Click here for previous posts about Mississauga >

A previous post is entitled:

Lakeview in Mississauga looks like a good place to move to, if you’re looking

A subsequent post is entitled:

Mississauga’s approach to civic engagement stands in stark contrast to the track record for Toronto

Updates

A Jan. 1, 2017 Toronto Star article is entitled: “19 years ago, Toronto’s six boroughs amalgamated: 19 years ago today, Toronto’s surrounding communities amalgamated in one of the most controversial moves in Toronto’s municipal government history.”

A Jan. 3, 2017 Toronto Star article is entitled: In 2017, Mississauga will have to decide how it grows up: Mississauga’s recent booming growth will continue, but will growth be sustainable and will it be what residents want?”

 

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Culture of COA and OMB decision-making has changed dramatically in 25 years: MPP Peter Milczyn

Update:

A recent post is entitled:

Mississauga’s approach to civic engagement stands in stark contrast to the track record for Toronto

[end]

 

MPP Peter Milczyn outlines OMB Review at November 6, 2016 meeting at Long Branch Legion. Jaan Pill photo

MPP Peter Milczyn outlines OMB Review at November 9, 2016 meeting at Long Branch Legion Hall. Jaan Pill photo. Click on the image to enlarge it.

A key quote, from Peter Milczyn, Member of the Provincial Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, speaking on November 9, 2016:

“And, over the period of 25 years, the laws didn’t change very much, but the culture and the attitude changed dramatically. So, now it’s almost the reverse: ‘Somebody wants to build something. Why should we stop them? Convince us we should stop them. If you can’t convince us, we’re gonna let it go.’

“That’s an oversimplification, but I just want to make that point, that the culture of Committees of Adjustment, and the Ontario Municipal Board, changed in a number of ways. And that could be the topic of a whole other evening, as to why that happened.”

What follows are some back stories related to the OMB Review

On November 9, 2016 I attended a Town Hall Meeting at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall in Long Branch regarding the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) Review:

final-public-consultation-document-1

The deadline for comments from Ontarians was December 19, 2016. I’m pleased to say that I met the deadline, by sending in my own comments just in time.

In the first 20 minutes of the above-noted Town Hall event, MPP Peter Milczyn outlined the OMB Review.

Conversations, before the meeting begins

I learned much of value at the November 9, 2016 OMB Review Town Hall in Long Branch. I recorded the entire event; the current post focuses on the first part of the evening, during which Peter Milczyn provided a great overview of land use planning policies in Ontario. Reading the transcript of his talk has served really well, to refresh my memory of his talk, and to reflect upon its contents.

Before the meeting got underway, I listened in on conversations. I asked permission, to record what residents were talking about. In the following quotations, where residents are speaking, I’ve paraphrased some of the content.

dsc_0015

Dorothy, who appeared at the Committee of Adjustment on November 3, 2016, lives just east of 14 Villa Road. She has lived at her house for 74 years – three-quarters of a century – as she has explained in a widely viewed online video entitled: Message from Dorothy, age 97, to the Etobicoke-York Committee of Adjustment, October 2016. Jaan Pill photo. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Changes

One Long Branch resident (a retired commercial real estate developer) was explaining, to another resident, that at a previous time, if you got enough people to show up, the Committee of Adjustment would be persuaded to focus, in its deliberations, on the Official Plan. Now, he said, it’s completely different. Now, you can’t tell which way it’s going to go. There could be a ruling, favourable to residents, where the Committee of Adjustment follows the Official Plan. Or there could be a ruling, where the Official Plan is ignored.

Winging it

“Now, they just seem to wing it, and whatever on that day they feel like, that’s the way they’re going.”

That is to say, rather than following the Official Plan, the Committee of Adjustment, in accordance with its own interpretation of its mandate, is making things up as it goes, without reference to the Official Plan or the relevant City By-Laws.

It has, as I understand, not always been thus.

A previous post of relevance, regarding this topic, is entitled:

As chair has acknowledged (Sept. 29, 2016 meeting), Committee of Adjustment subjectively decides what is Minor, what is Major

In the past, the Long Branch resident commented, the Official Plan was a three-way plan involving the residents, the developers, and the different levels of government. The other two are still involved, the resident said, but “the ratepayers are kind of pushed aside, because they [from the perspective of the Committee of Adjustment] know nothing, or are just a nuisance.”

Ontario Highway Act c.f. Committee of Adjustment

The resident drew upon an analogy with the Ontario Highway Act. “You have to obey the law,” he said. “If you’re speeding, you may get stopped. If you’re at 120, you may be required to explain your actions. If you’re stopped at 220, you car’s going to be taken away.”

At the Committee of adjustment, he noted, “We’re getting variances for 100, 200 percent, and they’re being approved.” This is not Minor, he said. ‘Compare that to speeding with your vehicle.’

“The rule of thumb for 50 years was that, if it’s 10 percent over, ‘We’ll discuss it.’ But if you took in the drawings, and it was more than that, you were told to work on it. They used political language. They’d say, ‘Could you get it a little more presentable?’

3D rendering of Mike Smith showing view of proposed houses as they would appear at 10:00 am in the month of March.

3D rendering by Mike Smith of Gateway Data and Surveillance Systems, Inc. showing a General Visual Representation of the proposed 14 Villa houses as they would appear at 10:00 am in the month of March. Dorothy’s house is to the right of the two houses that are proposed in the severance application that was approved by the Committee of Adjustment on November 3, 2016. The decision has been appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. Click on the image to enlarge it.

“But that is no longer done. They accept any application, no matter how ludicrous it seems to be. It’s completely changed in the last few years.”

The resident assumes it’s going to continue. “It’s a very stressful thing to go up there, especially for elderly people. And if you don’t go and defend yourself, you’ll get run over.”

Will amendments to the Planning Act define “Minor”?

Another resident had a brief conversation with MPP Peter Milczyn, regarding possible amendments to the Planning Act, that would present a definition of what “Minor” means, in terms of land use planning in Ontario.

“I’m told,” said MPP Milczyn, “that the Regs [that is, Regulations] for that, and for some other issues, should be posted in the New Year.”

The resident though the limit for what is defined as “Minor” should be 20 percent. Under such a definition, he said, a proposal to go beyond 20 percent “would have to go through Zoning, and get proper public input.”

In response to the resident’s comments, Peter Milczyn noted that it may be the case, once a definition is in place, then if a Municipality does, indeed, wish to allow for bigger houses in a neighbourhood, it can update the Zoning By-Law.

Nov. 6, 2016 OMB Review Town Hall at Long Branch Legion Hall. Jaan Pill photo

November 6, 2016 OMB Review Town Hall at Long Branch Legion Hall. Jaan Pill photo. Click on the image to enlarge it.

A related topic concerned whether the Committee of Adjustment could, in future, be limited to Variances of no more than, say, 20 percent. Peter Milczyn noted, in this regard, that “it isn’t going to be so prescriptive.”

The Municipality would likely be able to make decisions, he added, with regard to such matters, for the whole Municipality, or neighbourhood by neighbourhood. What the implications of the conversation are, I do not know. I look forward to details about the new Regulations.

The topic, of changes in the recent pattern of decisions at the Etobicoke-York Committee of Adjustment, also came up in the conversation between Peter Milczyn and the second resident. The resident remarked: “The Committee of Adjustment approved four buildings at double the density.” A discussion followed, regarding the possible explanation for a change of this magnitude.

What accounts for pattern of recent decisions at Committee of Adjustment?

Editorial comment: When we observe the pattern of recent decisions at the Etobicoke-York Committee of Adjustment, we are in the presence of a genre of storytelling. We all love a good story. We all want to know what happens next. The genre, in this case, has elements of a whodunit, and the exciting, engaging elements of investigative journalism.

First, there is the quest to uncover some key element, in a situation, that commands widespread public and media attention. Secondly, there follows a quest to find the requisite puzzle-pieces, which enable the story to unfold. Third, the attempt to fit the pieces together. Fourth, the requisite characters, the larger setting, the past history, which together give rise to a series of engaging conflicts (without which there is no story).

Fifth, comes the resolution – which often involves a twist, something unexpected and surprising – which makes for a satisfying conclusion, to the story. When a problem leads at once to a solution, that makes for a dull and boring story. Instead, to build up suspense, you need two or three attempted solutions before the one great solution, that works, emerges.

In a whodunit, a typical attempted solution, to the problem presented in the story as it unfolds, is the false lead. With regard to development issues in Long Branch, by way of example, the false lead is that we are discussing the stereotypes associated with the Preserve or Progress story line. The counter-narrative, to the latter story line, is that residents are, in fact, strongly in favour of development – provided it follows the Official Plan.

[end of editorial comment]

Peter Milczyn, MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, outlines OMB Review process

The presentation was accompanied by PowerPoint slides.

Peter Milczyn: Good evening, everybody. Thank-you very much for coming out this evening. My name is Peter Milczyn, I’m the Member of the Provincial Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

This evening’s meeting is a Town Hall on reform of the Ontario Municipal Board.

The Government of Ontario recently launched a formal public consultation process, across the Province, asking Ontarians:

  • what their experiences with the Ontario Municipal Board are,
  • what they see as the issues and potential solutions to improve it: what you think some of those things are.

I’d also like to point out that I’m very pleased to be joined by one of my colleagues from Queen’s Park today, MPP Sue Wong from Scarborough-Agincourt. So, from the diametrically opposite parts of the City. And MPP Wong is also very interested in this, and she also wants to see how this consultation meeting is going, here in Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

Changes at Committee of Adjustment and the OMB, over the past 25 years

So, many of you might know that I did serve on City Council, for a number of years. So, for better or for worse, I’m a little bit of a subject-matter expert in this, having lived it in different ways, at City Council. And, also, a very, very long time ago, when I first graduated from university, I actually represented private-sector clients at Committee of Adjustment and the OMB. So I understand that side of it, too.

I just want to tell you about that, before we get into the presentation. So, 25 years ago, when I used to go to Committee of Adjustment and OMB, it was a very intimidating process. Because, you were expected to go there and prove, to them, why you can’t comply with the By-Laws, or the Official Plan.

And, over the period of 25 years, the laws didn’t change very much, but the culture and the attitude changed dramatically. So, now it’s almost the reverse: “Somebody wants to build something. Why should we stop them? Convince us we should stop them. If you can’t convince us, we’re gonna let it go.”

That’s an oversimplification, but I just want to make that point, that the culture of Committees of Adjustment, and the Ontario Municipal Board, changed in a number of ways. And that could be the topic of a whole other evening, as to why that happened.

So, as I mentioned, we initiated this consultation process, to gather your views, on the OMB.

OMB will not be abolished

I do want to tell you, up front, that it is not the Government’s intention to abolish the Ontario Municipal Board. There is a need to have some kind of appeal mechanism in place, in the land use planning process.

Many jurisdictions have one. It might be different from the OMB. Those jurisdictions that don’t have it, the court system ends up being the appeal mechanism – and that could be far worse, and certainly far more expensive and more inefficient.

So, some of the things that we’re looking at, that we know are issues with the OMB, is finding ways to allow residents to be more engaged and be able to participate better, in hearings, if they have to go to the OMB, making sure that the Ontario Municipal Board gives real weight to the local decision-making process, and not just choose to completely ignore what went on at City Council and Community Council.

One of the things is to have far fewer things go to the OMB. And, that’s being achieved in different ways. I’ll run through some of the Planning Act changes that we made, that restricts the type of appeals that can go to the OMB, some things that we’ve already done, to give the City some more decision-making power.

But, we also want to set up a process, where the OMB really would be the last resort, and people would really hopefully think twice about going there.

And, all of that’s in support of having more predictable decision-making, for everybody in the process.

Quick rundown: Ontario Municipal Board  statistics

So, quick rundown. The OMB is an independent tribunal. It’s arm’s length from government.

I, as a City Councillor, routinely wrote the Committee of Adjustment, my opinion on different issues, that were before it. As an MPP, I am forbidden from writing to the Ontario Municipal Board, about what goes on.

I can sometimes offer my advice to residents about what they might want to do, but I cannot intervene, in any formal way, on the OMB.

A couple of statistics, that might be interesting. Two years ago, there was 1,600 appeals, went to the OMB, across the Province, 39 percent of them from the City of Toronto.

And, of that 39 percent, a very significant portion would have been for Committee of Adjustment Minor Variance matters. And, we’ll talk about that, as well.

So, I mentioned that we have already made a number of changes to the planning process, to try to strengthen the role of the Municipalities, as the decision-makers, and to limit the role of the Ontario Municipal Board. And, some of that is related to how we’ve done Provincial Policy Statements, but there’s some more specific things.

So, when – a bit of an infomercial for myself – when I was first elected, one of the first things I did at Queen’s Park was introduce a Private Member’s bill, to change the Planning Act, do Inclusionary Zoning, and limit the types of issues that can go to the OMB.

So, I was a very strong advocate about that. I knew the Government had some interest in doing planning reforms, and much of what I put in my Private Member’s bill, in the following year and a half to two years, has actually made its way into Government bills.

So, I’m very pleased about that, and we will start seeing some definitive improvements to how we do planning in Toronto, from that.

So, just to [refer to] some of the things that have already been done, over the last 10 years or so, a lot of these came as requests from the City of Toronto, to the Province.

So, if the City refuses to convert Employment Lands to Residential, there is no appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Official Plan

There was a requirement, that every five years, the whole Official Plan was up for review. And, we’ve now changed that to once every 10 years. So, again, gives more final decision-making to the City, and more ability to just say No, with no right of appeal, to developers.

We’ve given Municipalities more time to review applications, before they can be appealed.

We’ve prohibited appeals of Comprehensive Zoning By-Laws for two years after they’re promulgated, so you can’t go through a process of putting into place a By-Law for the City, and then the next week, somebody says, “Well I don’t like that, I want something else.”

For two years, you can’t do that.

You cannot appeal an entire Official Plan. You cannot waste everybody’s time and money for years.

If you are proposing a condo, on a parking lot down the street, and you go through Re-Zoning, and get everything approved, and that’s fine, and then six months later, you want to go to Committee of Adjustment, to get extra floors for something, for two years after that kind of Site-Specific Zoning, you are prohibited from going to the Committee of Adjustment. You cannot go, unless City Council says OK. But you cannot go on your own.

We’ve given Municipalities the ability to put in place more definitions of what constitutes a Minor Variance. The legislation was brought in last December [2015]. The Minister is drafting some Regulations on how that would actually be implemented, but in the case of the City of Toronto, as an example, once that’s in place, the City could – City-wide or neighbourhood by neighbourhood – put in additional criteria: What defines a Minor Variance.

And, that is a very necessary and strong additional tool, which I think cities need.

Local Appeal Body

In 2006, the Province allowed the City of Toronto, and later all Ontario Municipalities, to establish a Local Appeal Body, to Committee of Adjustment decisions.

Between 2006 and 2010, when I was on Council, Council steadfastly refused to even deal with the issue.

After 2010, there was a big push, and actually it was one of the last things that I voted on, on City Council; Council finally agreed, in principle, to implement a Local Appeal Body. That’ll start up in 2017, and that means Committees of Adjustment matters, next year, would no longer go the the OMB. They would go to the City of Toronto [Local] Appeal Body, accountable to Toronto City Council, and to all of you.

So that, that again, major improvement.

Another thing that we’ve put in place is what’s called a Community Planning Permit System, which is comparable to a Secondary Plan, in a way, but it has much more teeth, and it cannot be appealed for five years, after it’s been put in place.

So, again, provides certainly about what the vision for a neighbourhood is, and, hopefully, makes sure the developers follow that.

We’ve allowed Municipalities to charge much higher development charges, particularly for public transit, [and] put the onus on Municipalities to actually acquire land as opposed to cash in lieu of parkland, through redevelopment.

Section 37 Agreements, and citizen engagement

We’ve required a lot more accountability and transparency about Section 37 Agreements, under the Planning Act. [and] put in place a push to get more mediation, as opposed to full OMB hearings and [rest of sentence is unclear, from the recording].

And, we’re also directing for more citizen engagement in the planning process. That might not be so much of an issue in Toronto. At [least (?)] I think in Toronto we do it fairly well, but in other Municipalities across Ontario, not so much. So, that’s why that was put in – changes to the Act.

Current Consultation process

So, in terms of what we’re here to discuss this evening: We’ve heard, for many years, from Ontarians, the OMB wasn’t working, the way one would hope, or, in some cases, at all. People aren’t happy that it can overturn local Council decisions, that it often completely disregards local community interests, and views.

It’s very complex and costly. You need lawyers and planners and all kinds of experts. It’s not realistic for most individuals, or residents, to really be involved.

There needs to be more ability, built into the system, to try to negotiate, discuss, mediate, instead of, you know, pulling the trigger and going to hearings.

And, sometimes, some people do feel that the OMB is actually necessary, in some cases, to protect the public interest when, maybe, they feel Councils aren’t protecting the public interest.

So, we do sometimes hear from people that they want the OMB to be able to intervene.

So, the Consultation that we’ve initiated, and that we’re going to be discussing this evening, is about a couple of things.

It’s about the scope of what the OMB can deal with. So, is the OMB dealing with too many things? Does it have too much authority? Should the City just say No, no further appeal on certain issues?

You can go where you like, with the Review

And, also the effectiveness of the OMB: Does it actually work for everybody? Not just the developers, but does it work for residents, for community groups, for Municipalities?

So, we’ve put some principles, on paper, to guide our Review. But, you can go where you like, with it.

We do want to have a system that allows for the protection of public interest. We do want to ensure that there’s a good mechanism for resolving disputes between parties, whether it’s the City and a landowner, or a community and a landowner, or you and your neighbour.

Five broad areas of reform

We want to make sure it’s really transparent. So, some of you may be aware of the backroom deals that get done. And, you show up at a hearing just to find out that the City and developer already settled, and you don’t know what they discussed, or what they agreed to.

And, we don’t want to end up with a system that ends up relying on the courts to deal with this, because that will actually make it worse, than it already is.

So, there are five broad areas of reform:

  • The Jurisdiction and Powers
  • How to ensure Citizen Participation and Local Perspectives
  • Predictability around Decision-Making
  • Modern Procedures and Faster Decisions, and
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution

So, I’m not going to run through all of this right now, unless you really want me to. What I was thinking we would do, this evening, is we’ve set up the tables. There’s some materials, on each table. The Consultation Guide, which the Province has produced, is there. And we have questionnaires, for you to fill out.

And, so, what I think we would do: It’s already 7:20, so I’ve spent about 20 minutes talking to you. There’s a couple more things I’ll say. But after this, I’d like you, at your tables, to spend the next 40, 45 minutes talking to each other, following the Consultation Guide, and the Questionnaire that we’ve laid out, and come up with your ideas.

[End of transcript of MPP Milczyn’s remarks, November 9, 2016]

Update

With regard to land use planning, a December 20, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Wanted: New home for an old Legion war memorial: But not in front of a restaurant or bar, president of closing Etobicoke branch says.”

 

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Mississauga’s vision: A city where the waterfront is beautiful, transit is seamless, and residents celebrate and share their cultures

A December 18, 2016 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Hazel who? It’s Bonnie Crombie’s Mississauga: Mayor Bonnie Crombie has learned from Hazel McCallion and got her support. Yet her approach to running the city is a stark change.”

A related post is entitled:

Land sale brings Mississauga closer to a waterfront that avoids Toronto’s mistakes – Dec. 22, 2016 Globe and Mail

Updates

A Jan. 1, 2017 Toronto Star article is entitled: “19 years ago, Toronto’s six boroughs amalgamated: 19 years ago today, Toronto’s surrounding communities amalgamated in one of the most controversial moves in Toronto’s municipal government history.”

A Jan. 3, 2017 Toronto Star article is entitled: In 2017, Mississauga will have to decide how it grows up: Mississauga’s recent booming growth will continue, but will growth be sustainable and will it be what residents want?”

 

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Please adapt or copy this OMB Review message, and send it in to OMBReview@ontario.ca by December 19, 2016

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Dorothy, who appeared at the Committee of Adjustment on November 3, 2016, lives just east of 14 Villa Road. She has lived at her house for 74 years – three-quarters of a century – as she has explained in a widely viewed online video entitled: Message from Dorothy, age 97, to the Etobicoke-York Committee of Adjustment, October 2016. Jaan Pill photo. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Details about the OMB Review are available at this link:

final-public-consultation-document-1

Click here to access the Feedback Form for the OMB Review >

1) Tomorrow, December 19, 2016 is the deadline for comments from Ontario residents regarding the OMB Review.

Please make an effort to send some comments in, whatever comments occur to you, by the deadline. In volunteer work, as in most aspects of life, we follow the 20-80 rule. That is, 20 percent of the people, in pretty well any group of volunteers, do 80 percent of the work. It’s my hope that you will be among the 20 percent. This is a general law of life: 20 percent of research papers account for 80 percent of citations. And so on.

2) Where to send your comments? You can send comments, regarding the OMB Review that the Ontario Government has initiated, to OMBReview@ontario.ca as an email.

Your best option is to go online and fill out the online webform

There’s a suggested format – a series of about five topics – that residents can address, or they can simply choose their own format. You can find details about the OMB Review here:

OMB Review – How to Participate

3) I’ve included at this post a link to our Dorothy video, that we made regarding Villa Road, as I think it’s a fun thing to focus upon, from time to time. Dorothy has been a key player in getting City TV interested in the Long Branch story, and I’m hoping we can get other media involved in this great story in the future, as well. We owe thanks to Laura, another active, communbity-minded Villa Road resident, for initiating the contact with City TV. Laura, we owe you many thanks!

As a volunteer, I’ve been involved in media relations for 30 years. I love this aspect of volunteer work. In this case, with Dorothy’s (and Laura’s) help we have a great story, and our media strategy is an ongoing focus of my own, small contribution to the volunteer work, that we’re all doing together. In media work, we have what I would call the 2-98 rule: For a given media campaign, 2 percent of the media contacts, that we establish, account for 98 percent of the media coverage. Which is another way of saying: Be persistent, have a focused strategy to guide your way.

4) If you can’t formulate, at this point, any OMB Review comments in particular, one way you can, if you wish, help us out tremendously is by taking the following text, which I have prepared for a draft of my own comments. That is, if you don’t have time to fill out the online survey, you can always send in an email.

My own message, or the gist of it

My key message (which you may wish to adapt and then send in as an email) is roughly along the following lines:

1) I support the concept that, if residents are involved in consultations leading to a new Secondary Plan for their community, that Secondary Plan should stand. It should not be possible for developers to appeal the Secondary Plan to the OMB, where they can bring to bear resources that create a high likelihood that the Secondary Plan will be overturned.

2) I support the concept that Minor Variances should be clearly defined, in numerical terms. In that way, what constitutes Minor would not be a subjective matter, for Committee of Adjustment and OMB to decide, on a whim, that is, on subjective terms, in which the decision-makers appear to be winging it, rather than following some understandable logical procedure.

3) I support the recording, by residents, of OMB hearings.

One of the things I’m really interested in, and that a number of people have mentioned with regard to OMB, is that it would be great for residents to have the option of openly recording (that is to making digital audio recordings of) OMB hearings.

It would be great if the same recording option would be available at Committee of Adjustment and Local Appeal Board meetings.

Posting, at community websites, of the transcripts of such hearings – or accurate and balanced news reports based on such hearings – on the part of residents with skills in such a time-intensive form of volunteer work, would be very helpful.

As things currently stand, what actually occurs at such meetings, minute by minute, remains unknown to the wider public, and can generally only be shared by way of anecdotal evidence.

There is much to be said for an evidence-based approach to what actually occurs at these meetings.

Some of what gets said at the Committee of Adjustment and the Ontario Municipal Board is truly unexpected and not what a person would expect to be hearing, at such a meeting. Among other things, residents are habitually subjected to insults.

The details of what occurs are typically not reported by regular news media, as there is not a business model in place for regular media that would make such detailed reporting economically viable.

Volunteers in the wider community could readily work together, as volunteers, to report on such meetings. All that’s required is a coordinator and a good supply of volunteer labour.

In a nutshell: As citizens, we are both consumers and producers of news. News is too important to be left solely to traditional news media.

 

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Lobbying by food industry means Canada food labels won’t list ‘added sugar’ – Dec. 16, 2016 CBC article

A Dec. 16, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Sugar’s on the food label, but you’ll have to guess how much has been ‘added’: Lobbying by food industry means Canada food labels won’t list ‘added sugar'”.

A Dec. 16, 2016 ‘Second Opinion’ newsletter by Kelly Crowe and Darryl Hol from CBC Health notes:

How many ways can you say ‘sugar’?

Did you know there are 152 ways to say “sugar” on a food label? That includes mysterious ingredients like potato syrup solids, agave and isomaltulose — all code names for sugar in processed food.

Under new food label rules announced this week, Health Canada is demanding that all sweetening ingredients be grouped together under the heading “sugar.” It’s part of a series of label changes intended to prompt healthier food choices and save an estimated $275 million dollars a year in the economic cost of disease. But there’s no apparent urgency, even with so many health benefits at stake. Health Canada has delayed the label change until the year 2021, to give the food industry time to use up the old labels and save money.

And Big Food won another victory in the great Canadian food label fight. They won’t have to disclose how much extra sugar they’re adding to processed food, even though consumers, health professionals and even the provinces and territories all wanted a separate category on the label for “added sugar.”

The food industry argued against it. And they won.

[end]

World Health Organization recommends no more than 25 grams of sugar a day

Click here for previous posts about sugar >

I’ve made it a point (and increasingly, have been succeeding) to make a real effort to keep sugar under 25 grams per day, in line with the World Health Organization recommendation that I posted on March 16, 2014:

World Health Organization recommends that no more than 5 percent of your caloric intake – that is, 25 grams – should come from sugar

The role of lobbying in keeping sugar intake at a high level brings to mind a previous post:

Backstories related to public relations in the United States and China

In particular, the following passage resonates, at least for me, based on my years of experience with public relations, and media relations, in my volunteer work:

Backstories related to The Government Next Door (2015)

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Backstory No. 1: Public relations

A backstory related to Tomba’s research is provided by Evan Osnos at an interview entitled: A ‘New Yorker’ Writer’s Take On China’s ‘Age Of Ambition’

An excerpt reads:

“And what they said was, we need to become much more sophisticated about how we conduct what’s known as Chinese as thought work. And so they began to study the masters, really. They began to study the United States and the origins of public relations culture. So they went back and they actually – if you look in the textbooks for Chinese propaganda officials today, some of the things that they cite are the success of Coca-Cola. They say, if you can sell sugar water in effect to people, well, then we can sell anything at all.

“They also looked very admiringly at the way that the Bush administration dealt with the press in the run-up to the war in Iraq. They think this is an example of a successful relationship with the press. They also look at the way that Tony Blair’s government in Britain handled the media around the issue of mad cow disease. And so there’s been this real effort to study what’s been done in the West and to take from it the best attributes – or at least the most efficient and effective attributes of the free-market public relations industry.”

[End of excerpt]

Backstory No. 2: Soft drinks

A Jan. 6, 2015 CBC article, is entitled: “Taxing sugary drinks could help cut consumption, researchers say.”

A Jan. 17, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Sweet nightmares: a guide to cutting down on sugar: Sugar is making us fatter and sicker. Yet we still don’t realise how much we’re eating. As the government considers imposing a tax, we look at how to cut down without missing out. Plus: alternative recipes.”

A March 5, 2016 CBC article is entitled; A Canada’s Food Guide should seek inspiration from Brazil: researcher: New Senate obesity report suggests introducing a sugar tax in Canada.”

[end]

Updates

An Oct. 13, 2016 undark.org article is entitled: “In the Fight Against Obesity, the Real Enemy Is Oversimplification: Fat used to be Dietary Enemy No. 1. Today, it’s sugar. But reductions in the consumption of both have done little to curb obesity rates. Why?”

A Dec. 26, 2017 Guardian article is entitled: “Protein hype: shoppers flushing money down the toilet, say experts: Consumers fuelling demand for high-protein products unlikely to see any benefits as people already eat more protein than they need, say dietitians.”

A January/February 2017 Atlantic article is entitled: “The Sugar Wars: Science can’t prove it and the industry denies it, but Gary Taubes is convinced that the sweet stuff kills.”

A Jan. 12, 2017 CBC article is entitled: Added sugar often found in Canadian products marketed as ‘healthy,’ researchers find: Why ‘you really need to be a detective’ when reading food labels.”

A Jan. 16, 2017) CBC The Current podcast, entitled “Is sugar killing us? Author Gary Taubes makes his case,” provides a great overview of the distinction between evidence (that is, the facts of the matter, in this case related to the science related to nutrition) and the frame within which scientific facts are positioned.

 

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As chair has acknowledged (Sept. 29, 2016 meeting), Committee of Adjustment subjectively decides what is Minor, what is Major

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Dorothy lives just east of 14 Villa Road, which was the topic of a Nov. 3, 2016 COA hearing. She has lived at her house for 74 years, as she has explained in a brief video entitled: Message from Dorothy, age 97, to the Etobicoke-York Committee of Adjustment, October 2016. Click on the image to enlarge it.

I was at a Committee of Adjustment (COA) at the Etobicoke Civic Centre from 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Sept. 29, 2016. Many severances were accepted, some were rejected.

Of all of the COA meetings I’ve attended in 2016, this meeting was a particularly memorable one. I’m pleased to share some highlights from the meeting.

As chair has acknowledged at this meeting, the Etobicoke-York Committee of Adjustment subjectively decides what is Minor, and what is Major. Numbers, as the chair helpfully explained at the Sept. 29, 2016 meeting, have nothing to do with COA decisions.

It may be added that the Official Plan is routinely ignored at COA meetings, and residents are habitually insulted.

A severance application for 101 Government Road in Ward 5 was rejected, at the Sept. 29, 2016 meeting.

The 20 Elton severance was rejected but the 9 Meaford severance was accepted.

The 20 Elton severance was rejected because the committee felt a severance at the location in question was premature. 9 Meaford was accepted because the City of Toronto Planning Department had accepted it. The Committee of Adjustment member, who made the motion to accept the proposal, said that if the City Planner on the file “has no concerns” about the application then it makes sense to go along with the application.

He added that otherwise it would be accepted at OMB anyway, given the Planning Department’s acceptance. During discussions about 9 Meaford, the sense was that the Planner really didn’t have a clear reason for accepting the proposal.

Role of City Planner

Members of the committee emphasized that it’s incumbent upon residents to find out what the City Planner, assigned to a given severance, has to say about an application. In the case of 9 Meaford, the residents made the effort to understand the Planer’s reasoning, but were unable, as I understand, to get a cogent statement from the Planner, indicating what he was thinking when he made his recommendation.

The chair of the committee at one point said, to a Ward 5 or 6 resident who was presenting, that the economics of how developers work is no concern of the committee. Later, quite a bit later, with regard to another severance application, he said that developers have to keep economics in mind when they go about their work. Not much later, a resident of Long Branch had the opportunity to take the floor at the mic and point out the contradiction. The chair indicated that the point was well taken, if I recall.

The chair also pointed out, to many residents who were presenting, that the committee does not deal with water drainage and flooding issues related to severances. That’s for the building department people, not the planners to deal with, he said.

Deferrals

In cases where a deferral had previously been granted, the committee often asked for updates from residents and developers, regarding what had transpired in the period of  time subsequent to the deferral. Thats is, had any purpose been served by the deferral?

This is a sample of work by Michael D. Smith. It's an example of effective 3D modelling in connection with a Committee of Adjustment case near Islington Ave, and Bloor St. West some time back.

This is a sample of work by Michael D. Smith. It’s an example of effective 3D modelling in connection with a Committee of Adjustment case near Islington Ave, and Bloor St. West some time back. Click on the image to enlarge it; click again to enlarge it further.

If there had been a plan to set up a community meeting for a given application, the committee typically wanted to know if the meeting had been held, if residents making presentations had been at the meeting, and whether or not any outcomes were evident as a result of the event.

Visualizations

As well, the chair indicated that he would look closely at a professionally prepared visualization of the look of a proposed set of buildings, where it was clear that the metrics of the photo and the drawings were exactly to scale. He indicated that a simple Photoshop overlay would not have much impact. So I would say that, in the circumstances, it makes sense to arrange for suitably sophisticated 3D modelling, with the metrics nailed firmly into place.

If a house on the street is on a City of Toronto heritage properties list, that may carry some weight.

Committee decides what is Minor, what is Major

The committee chair also made it clear that the question of Minor or Major is not based in any way on numbers – the knowledge and judgement of the Committee of Adjustment is what counts, in other words. That is, whether or not something is Minor or Major is, in the circumstances, up to the Committee of Adjustment to decide, as the chair of the Committee noted on a number of occasions.

3D rendering of Mike Smith showing view of proposed houses as they would appear at 10:00 am in the month of March.

3D rendering by Mike Smith of Gateway Data and Surveillance Systems, Inc. showing a General Visual Representation of the proposed 14 Villa houses as they would appear at 10:00 am in the month of March. Dorothy’s house is located to the right of the two houses that are proposed in the severance application that was approved by the Committee of Adjustment on Nov. 3, 2016. The decision has been appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Among other things, if I understand correctly, the dictionary definition of words and the standard usage of words, connected with these matters, are nor primary considerations for the Committee of Adjustment, any more than numbers are.

The chair also said, more than once, that residents should push to have the Long Branch Urban Planning Guidelines project completed. He conveyed the sense that the guidelines would in fact help the committee in its future decision making.

As well, the Committee claimed, at the Sept. 29, 2016 that there is nothing in the bylaws that says anything about sunlight or shadows falling on your property, or about whether or not your neighbour can look into your window.

In a future post, I will present a more complete overview of the six hours of hearings, at the Committee of Adjustment, that I attended on Sept. 29, 2016.

This post will serve as a warm-up.

 

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