Even more thoughts from the lockdown.

Sick Days.

From Green Party of Canada.

New word alert: presenteeism.

In a previous life I was lucky enough to occupy a job with 20 paid sick days annually. If they went unused, they accumulated. I ended up using an average of one or two a year and left the job with 300 sick days (the maximum allowable) they disappeared into thin air the day I left. I didn’t need them as it turned out but they gave me peace of mind and allowed me to stay home without penalty when suffering from contagious or other illnesses.

Most professionals in Ontario are protected from ill-health by a version of paid sick days. No doubt the Premier and MPPs don’t miss a beat if they have to take a day or two, or even a month off for illness; or a pandemic.

In contrast, most low paid workers (yes, the people who do the actual work in this province) are on the hook for their own sick days. They are torn between coming in when ill and having a big hit to the pay cheque.

Prime Minister Trudeau, for all his sins, thinks that Canadian workers should be entitled to 10 paid sick-days a year. Apparently he’s been persuaded by Jagmeet Singh that paid sick days are a good thing. Especially if there’s a second wave of the Coronavirus this winter. Premier Ford, the man who suppressed the minimum wage, says the money can be better used elsewhere. No doubt in some corporations’ offshore bank accounts.

Readers may remember that Ford eliminated paid sick-leave days back in January 2019. The Liberals had legislated only two of them but Ford thought that zero would be better. With a move worthy of Mike Harris, he replaced them with three unpaid leave days and re-introduced the requirement for a doctor’s note – when taking unpaid time off! After all, doctors have nothing better to do, right?

Ford’s actions on sick leave are dangerous, economically harmful and yes, stupidly counter-productive. Low paid workers spend their money locally. Unlike C.E.O.s, they don’t send it off to a tax haven in Aruba. When the lowest paid workers feel the pinch, so do local businesses. When ill and contagious workers are forced to work (especially health care staff), they are a danger to others. 80% of Covid-19 deaths happened in long term care and nursing homes where many such workers are employed. Even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, it’s important that workers be treated with decency so that contagious diseases can be contained and the local economy doesn’t suffer.

Let’s hope that Justin Trudeau can stop dithering and take some decisive action on this. Now is the time for strong leadership not agonizing. For example, if he had closed the borders sooner and stopped a southerly exodus in March, our Covid experience could have been a lot more benign.

Our medical officers of health need to chime in on this for the public good. Unlike their contradictory advice on face masks, this one is clear cut.

Face Masks:

Speaking of face masks, a big shout out to Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen DeVilla. When she, along with other experts, was telling us that face masks were ineffective, who knew that the good doctor was secretly signalling that a scarf could be adapted for such use. Genius!

From nationalpost.com

In On your face David Williams and Theresa Tam.

Finally…on a brighter note:

Three of the many memes and images in circulation.

Weston Pool getting ready to go but will it open?

City staff are preparing Weston’s open air pool for opening once again this year but before welcoming guests for summer 2020, its opening will need the blessing of Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health along with the MOH for Ontario.

Will the pool open this year or will the Covid-19 virus end a 61-year tradition?

The pool getting prepped for 2020.

The MOHs will decide whether chlorinated water and fresh air will diminish the Covid virus sufficiently to warrant opening once school’s out er, would have been out for the summer. They will be pondering whether swimmers and paddling pool tots can be kept a safe distance apart.

The pool could be a great place for kids to use up some of that quarantine energy that’s been building for the past few weeks.

Incidentally, I peeked into the empty pool and there is an impressive deep end edging up to the tennis courts. When the pool was built in 1959, there must have been at least one board or platform so that this wing of the pool was reserved for diving.

An impressive deep end.

Sadly, the platform(s) disappeared years ago to be replaced by a lifeguard chair in our safety-conscious times.

I think I answered my own question.

Long Term Care Homes

A few years ago my father-in-law was a resident in a local, well known long-term care home. This was when homes were better funded and unlike today (thank you Mike Harris), the home was non-profit. He was recovering from a series of minor strokes, had Parkinson’s disease, was incontinent and while he could walk around, had been reduced to a child-like state.

My elderly and disabled mother-in-law visited him daily and it was soon obvious that there was a disquieting and sinister undercurrent running through the place. Many of the residents were physically disabled – victims of strokes or accidents and they and their relatives lived in fear of retaliation by staff if they spoke out about conditions in the home. My MIL discovered that at mealtimes, residents would be served and the meal would often be untouched after 30 minutes when it would be removed. Like several others, she ended up hiring an attendant to feed her husband so that he wouldn’t die of starvation.

At the home, staff had somehow persuaded management that uniforms were authoritarian and intimidating, so they wandered around indistinguishable from visitors. Residents would be left in soiled diapers for hours and changed grudgingly as if it was a great favour. Many residents were tied to their chairs so they wouldn’t be a nuisance between mealtimes. I was drafted to write letters, put on a suit and do battle with management (several times) and things slowly improved for my FIL. Sadly, few others had relatives who could or would do this. In those days, the only alternative, home care, was even less adequate than it is today.

Fast forward to the pandemic of 2020 and behold the sight of Premier Ford blinking  with emotion and surprise that the Canadian Armed Forces had reported squalid conditions and seemingly criminal neglect in the care homes where they had been assigned.

Long Term Care Minister Dr. Merrilee Fullerton seems equally bemused but that’s better than admitting that the reason might be that the Ford government reduced funding and inspections (an average home can now expect a full inspection once every 100 years). Add to that years of neglect by governments of all parties and long term care residents were sitting targets. Upwards of 80% of Ontario Covid-19 deaths have been in care homes. The highest rates have been in homes that were for profit. This was largely due to a lack of direction from Minister Fullerton and the systemic exploitation of low-paid agency workers, forced  to work in several locations in order to make a living.

Health Minister (and former Long Term Health Care Minister) Christine Elliott claims to know nothing about long term care home conditions but she may have a short memory.

The Feds no doubt are secretly pleased that the Army embarrassed Ford but they’ve got skin in the game.

There’s no shortage of blame to go round. Read about the Armed Forces report here and the actual document here.

Ford will resist holding an inquiry or changing the legislation. He’ll hope that the heat will die down and the public will be satisfied with a few dramatic band-aid gestures.

That won’t cut it.

If we’re stuck with private companies running long term care homes for a profit, there should be strong legislation to safeguard residents including standards of care, staffing levels, supervisory community involvement and rigorous, frequent, meaningful inspections.

Let’s see if Premier Ford’s tears are real or theatrical.

ActiveTO Quiet Streets launch dead on arrival.

Toronto the Careful™ has struck again.

Call me jaded but the plan to open up Toronto’s streets to pedestrians and cyclists seems to be (like most council actions in our fair city) massively underwhelming and certainly in Ward 5 the selection of streets doesn’t seem to address the spirit of the initiative. The idea was to ensure that, “people have space to get around on sidewalks while respecting physical distancing“. 

57 km or a minuscule 1.7% of Toronto’s 3,322 km of neighbourhood streets (excludes expressways, arterial and collector roads) will be temporarily signed and barricaded off to all but local traffic. York South-Weston is giving this treatment to 3.7 kilometres of its streets. Sadly none are in Weston or Mount Dennis.

The Ward 5 closed off streets will be:

StreetFromToLength
Bicknell AveRogers RdEglinton Ave 0.9 km
Silverthorn AveSt. Clair Ave WDonald Ave 

Total of 2.8 km

Donald AveSilverthorn AveHaverson Blvd
Haverson BlvdDonald AveCameron Ave
Blackthorn AveCameron AveEglinton Ave W

Source: Councillor Nunziata’s May 13 COVID Update.

Council felt the need to do something, and something, albeit timid and careful has been done. At least they restrained themselves from calling it a pilot. Additional streets will be considered ‘thereafter’.

The affected streets are shown with red dotted lines. Click to enlarge. Adapted from Google Maps.

According to Councillor Nunziata’s update, the criteria for selection of these streets was, “…several factors including, but not limited to, population density, equity, access to greenspace, car ownership rates, and traffic volumes.“. The councillor’s selection appears to be entirely inside her newly acquired constituency – Frank DiGiorgio’s  former Ward 12 so perhaps this is a little nod to them.

Incidentally, all but one of the selected streets have sidewalks on both sides so it’s hard to imagine crowds of people jostling for space.

Looking south from where Blackthorn Ave and Haverson Blvd meet at Cameron Ave. From Google Maps.

Readers are invited to suggest locations in Weston and Mount Dennis that might be more suitable. We will forward them to the councillor for future consideration.

Update: The city has published their list of ‘Quiet Streets’ and the Ward 5 selections are nowhere to be seen.

More thoughts from the lockdown.

It’s hard to get our heads around this pandemic. Let’s start with the important stuff instead of (note to self) watching the gong of doom all day.

How to avoid catching Covid-19.
Knowledge is power. For starters read this excellent blog post from an epidemiologist, it’s well worth the investment of your time as well as this article by Jonathan Kay that inspired it.

Bottom line: “Any environment that is enclosed, with poor air circulation and high density of people, spells trouble.”

Wrong advice:
We were first told that face-masks were ineffective. Canadian medical officers of health are still tepid as to their protection value. Despite that, it appears that masks are very effective in containing the spread of Covid. Look at this comparison of jurisdictions and their use of masks along with testing and contact tracing.

from #Masks4all. Click to enlarge.
From #Masks4all.com
Frequent wearing of masks and better masks drives virus transmission towards zero (blue zone). From Researchgate.net.

Despite the evidence, health experts continue to twist themselves into pretzels and argue that their conflicting advice was correct each time.

Long term care homes:
The infection and death rate in profit-making homes is significantly higher than in non-profits  and it’s even lower in civic-run homes.  Legislation from an earlier P.C. government and low funding from Liberals along with decreased inspections has cost lives. Legislated staffing ratios and more frequent inspections are needed for all facilities. This is something that the Ford government doesn’t seem interested in. All Personal Support Workers – even those from agencies – should be paid well with benefits and restricted to one location only. Do we want anything less for the most vulnerable members of our society? (ambiguity intentional)

Paradox:
Isn’t it odd that many of our (now) most important workers were stiffed by Premier Ford when he blocked a minimum wage rise back in 2018. Now he’s offering some of them a temporary (4 month) $4 an hour raise, no doubt until it’s safe to ignore these essential workers once more.

B.S. O-Meter:
We’re hearing a lot more from politicians and health officials these days. The B.S. alarms should go off when any public figure says:

  • …thoughts and prayers…
  • You won’t believe…
  • We’ve made historic investments…
  • Each and every…
  • Let me be clear…
  • We’re gonna be laser focussed…
  • We’ll put an iron ring around our seniors…
  • Don’t go to your cottage to check on the plumbing…
  • …my career
  • Sentences using the first person pronoun (I).
  • No-one likes _____ more than I do…

Things that will never be the same again:

Office work:
Many office-based businesses have discovered that work can carry on from home quite efficiently with the added bonus of employees ponying up the accommodation and utility costs. Will we need as much office space in the future? Probably not. It’s not all sunshine and roses. Some friends work from home and hate the lack of social contact with colleagues along with the intrusion of work tasks into all hours of the day and night. If business can solve these issues, there will be a lot fewer commuters and less need to live in the city.

Spitting athletes:
The act of spitting can carry huge virus loads. If basketball, golf and tennis players can go a whole game without spitting or firing snot rockets, hockey and baseball players, cyclists (and everyone else) can and must.

Handshakes and hugs:
The ancient custom of bowing or the namaste hand clasp is looking better and better. “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.” – Dr. Anthony Fauci.

From Osho News

Transportation:
TTC ridership is down 80%. Many people are fearful of travelling on any form of transit. Projections are that when numbers recover after the pandemic subsides, they will climb to less than 50% of pre-pandemic levels. This includes airplane and cruise line traffic.

We need more:

Pedestrian and park space:
We need more and it seems that Toronto is cautiously (what else) moving to improve pedestrian space so that people are able to occupy more of the road space since they are now in the majority in many parts of Toronto. How great would it be if Toronto restaurants could occupy patios outside their establishments with a minimum of red tape? Then again we live in Toronto the Careful™.

Cycling expansion:
When Toronto Council right-winger Denzil Minnan-Wong proposed to “…direct the General Manager, Transportation Services to explore the feasibility of implementing new technology including heated pavement to promote year-round cycling., our own Councillor Nunziata voted to defeat the motion. Doncha know there’s a pandemic on?

Oddly Mr. Minnan-Wong voted against his own motion. Toronto Council never fails to entertain.

Vote (Adopt Item)Apr-30-2020
Result: LostMajority Required – IE12.8 – Infrastructure and Environment Committee Recommendation 9 only
Yes: 8Brad Bradford, Joe Cressy, Paula Fletcher, Mike Layton, Jennifer McKelvie, Gord Perks, Anthony Perruzza, Kristyn Wong-Tam
No: 16Paul Ainslie, Ana Bailão, Mike Colle, Gary Crawford, John Filion, Michael Ford, Mark Grimes, Stephen Holyday, Jim Karygiannis, Cynthia Lai, Josh Matlow, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Frances Nunziata (Chair), James Pasternak, Michael Thompson, John Tory
Absent: 2Shelley Carroll, Jaye Robinson

Bless the Diavolitsis family although it’s sad that we need to raise charitable donations for our hospitals.

Local Weston and Mount Dennis business needs our patronage more than ever.

Canadian inventiveness and ‘Made In Canada’ labels may become a more common sight as we realize the sense of supporting local industry.

Education:
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has got his wish of increased distance learning and almost every student in the province is taking part in a giant online / distant learning experiment. The original goal of the Ford government was to cut education costs by requiring high school students to take four online credits. After an outcry the number was reduced to two credits but the pandemic may make online learning a necessity.

Lastly, universities coining gazillions of dollars from overseas students are learning that their golden goose has been cooked by Covid-19. In early 2020, more than 600,000 foreign students made Canada their learning playground. There’s simply no point in overseas students paying top dollar for courses at U of T or McGill if they can’t have the physical student experience of skipping classes and getting shitfaced, which is after all a major point of the exercise. No doubt accommodation and other repercussions will echo across the land when the students’ $22 billion and 170,000 related jobs disappear.

Crazy idea: chickens!

Brace yourself: I have an idea.

Chicken
From Wikipedia

With the apocalypse around the corner, I think yard owners should be allowed to raise chickens in Weston and Mount Dennis. The city already allows chickens in several other wards, but not here. I think we should change that.

There are many reasons to raise chickens. First, they’re hilariously cute. My mum had some for many years, and they were adorable.

In part they were hilarious because she didn’t raise any old tin-shed chickens; she raised heritage poultry. You can’t buy those eggs from a grocer, either because the egg cartel controls the market. Raising chickens  could help maintain the market for endangered breeds.

Urban chickens produce eggs and fertilizer—and though I’m not going to tell you that you’ll save money, they are uniquely well suited to our neighbourhood because our large trees shade other food crops. We’re also quite safe from the scourge of my mum’s roost: foxes (though we do have the occasional coyote).

Of course, there’s a hurdle: we’re not one of  the wards in which chickens are permitted. In the past, Frances Nunziata has been a vocal opponent, saying:

“If you want to have chickens, then buy a farm, go to a farm. You can’t have chickens in your backyard. Do we have to retrain our police officers to catch the chicken thieves that you’re going to have in the middle of the night? … We have enough to worry about.”

The city  allows chickens in neighbouring wards, though, and they have extensive bylaws to ensure the birds aren’t disruptive to neighbours or inhumanely kept.

Some closure for the Ogba family.

Readers may remember the brutal, random killing of Brampton electrical engineer Nnamdi Ogba after he visited a friend from his soccer team in Scarlettwood Court back in March 2018. Mr. Ogba had a fiancée and was about to be married. His murder was carried out by three men who decided that someone from the public housing neighbourhood should die because of gang rivalry. In other words it was a cold-blooded act designed to intimidate and repress a community. Mr Ogba’s killing was one in a series that had plagued the people of Scarlettwood Court.

This Toronto Star article outlines the process by which Toronto Police tracked down the three killers (two gunmen and a driver) and brought them to justice. It demonstrates the value of good surveillance video along with determined and expert detective work as well as support from the community.

Yesterday, an automatic sentence of 25 years with no parole eligibility was rendered for the three who were found guilty by a jury last month. Sentencing was done via video link. The judge had harsh words for the killers, calling people who engage in gang rivalries, ‘fools’.

Only one of the three murderers expressed remorse.

Mayor Tory speaks to Nnamdi Ogba’s parents, Margaret Nwsou and Sylva Okzie at a memorial held in Scarlettwood Court in March 2018. (file)

Nothing can bring back Mr. Ogba, however his killing triggered widespread outrage in Toronto. Mayor John Tory attended a memorial held at Scarlettwood in the days after the murder, putting the full weight of his office behind bringing the killers to justice and ending the terror that such crimes inflict on public housing communities.

Let’s hope that Mr. Ogba’s family can take one small shred of comfort that the reaction to Nnamdi’s death may have been a turning point that will prevent the senseless deaths of others.