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June 10, 2013

Toronto needs a new vision of the future, says Edward de Gale

By Charles Moffat - June 2013.

Local charity worker Edward de Gale says Toronto needs a new vision of the future. And Torontonians need to be thinking both realistically and boldly about the future of Toronto as a city of the 21st century.

Now if you've never heard of Edward de Gale, don't feel alone. He isn't a celebrity or anything like that. But he does have some nice quotes on his website. Quotes like this one:

"Toronto needs a new vision of the future and we need leaders who are both bold and have realistic plans for the future." - Edward de Gale.

And he isn't alone. Many Torontonians feel the same. Myself included.

We have been bogged down with incompetent mayors like Rob Ford (the epitome of incompetence and corruption) and community leaders who are unwilling to invest in Toronto's future in a fashion which is both bold and realistic.

The problem is what is Toronto's future? What do we see it as being?

A financial centre? It already is that.

A manufacturing metropolis? Doubtful. Toronto isn't exactly known for manufacturing.

A tourist attraction. Yes, but our attractions are museums, art galleries, the CN tower (no longer the tallest free-standing building) and shopping... We have rejected the idea of a casino because they do more damage to the local economy than actually bringing in more tourists.

What we could use is a large convention centre - something that can host thousands of people coming to Toronto for business conventions, social events, home and gardening conventions, fishing and hunting conventions, etc. We already do host similar events, but ticket sales are limited because the Metro Toronto Convention Centre at 255 Front St West, Toronto is TOO SMALL.

The problem is finding funding for a new convention centre.

Well, I have a solution. Building a new convention centre is largely going to benefit the hotel and restaurant industry in downtown Toronto. Why not create a Temporary Occupancy Tax on hotels in downtown Toronto (closest to where the new convention centre would be built on the waterfront) and for restaurants downtown raise the cost of various permits and fees.

That was the cost of the convention centre is offset by fees being paid by the people in the industry, the tax is removed after a period of 5 years, the city coffers shoulders part of costs of building the new convention centre.

See. That is a realistic plan for boosting tourism to Toronto. It is just the right amount of boldness too.

An unrealistic plan would be building an underwater hotel, casino, restaurants and shopping mall. Such places already exist around the world - but is Lake Ontario an ideal location for an underwater hotel / casino / mall? Not really.

So yeah, completely unrealistic.

Underwater hotels and restaurants are pretty amazing - I have to admit that.

But this is Lake Ontario.

The lake isn't exactly sparkling clear blue waters.

It is true that Toronto needs to do something bold with its waterfront - and it is equally true that we need a new convention centre because the MTCC is maxed out to capacity. The waterfront has already been touted as a possible location for the new convention centre.

But we need it to be a bit bolder in its approach in attracting tourists. So again, here is another solution.

Build the convention centre on the waterfront, yes. But add a few underwater restaurants as part of the architecture of the building, and make the underwater section a pool, not part of the lake itself - that way the water will be clean and certain safety measures can also be put in place. That is much more realistic and still has the right combination of boldness.

Add in lots of water features to the structure of the building, so its like a giant water fountain, and we might even capitalize on the Bilbao Effect (if you build something truly awesome, the tourists will come).

June 6, 2013

What would you do with $200,000 to help drug addicts in Toronto?

If you had obtained $200,000 from an Indiegogo campaign dedicated towards buying the Rob Ford crack video (which we all know exists, because even Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted to his staff that it does, he just denies that it is crack that he is smoking in the crackpipe) and had failed to get the actual video... what would you spend the $200,000 on instead?

The website Gawker raised the money weeks ago in their attempt to buy the video. But the large scale media attention caused the men who were trying to sell the video to think twice about their personal safety and the video and the men have since disappeared.

Copies of the video were made, and they may eventually get released to the public, but for now Gawker has roughly $200,000 ... and no video.

And so, as promised by their Indiegogo campaign, if they failed to obtain the video the money would go to a Toronto charity of some kind which helps people with drug addiction.

But which charity? How does one choose which charity to give $200,000 to?

I personally would try to aim for a charity which gets homeless drug addicts off the street - and into a rehab clinic.

A place like...

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
250 College St, Toronto
(416) 595-6000

There are other places and other charities, but CAMH has the best reputation of actually helping people combat their addiction.

And Rob Ford? Well... Nobody can help that guy. Everybody already knew he was on crack even before the news of the video came out. So it isn't really a surprise. And you can't really help someone who's political career is toast.

June 4, 2013

Quotes about Homelessness in Toronto

I found these quotes about homelessness in Toronto. They really hammer home the concept that affordable housing is the big issue when it comes to homelessness. (Real estate prices and rental rates in Toronto are way too high.)

And combined with that, the cost of heating and electricity.

Learn more about this topic by visiting Solving Toronto's Homeless Problem.

"Canada is the second coldest country on earth and with a climate like Canada’s, energy, like food and housing is a necessity of life." - Edward de Gale.
"It is a little known fact that the inability to pay basic utilities/energy is the second leading economic cause of homelessness in this country." - Edward de Gale.
"Over 50,000 households a year have their power disconnected in Ontario while thousands of others struggle to provide the necessary energy to stay warm and cook meals. That’s one household with their power cut every 10 minutes, every hour, of every day, for a year." - Edward de Gale.
"Many Ontario households must choose between eating and heating, and seniors and those with special needs must choose between medication and heating." - Edward de Gale.
"Families, with minor children, unable to provide basic utilities/energy for their children are vulnerable to child protection orders because they are unable to provide the necessities of life." - Edward de Gale.

June 1, 2013

Niagara Falls + the Niagara Wine Region

There was a time when Niagara Falls was the primary reason to travel to the Niagara region of Ontario.

There was a time when Niagara Falls ranked above Las Vegas, Hollywood, New York and other tourist locations in North America - It was even considered to be an ideal location to get married.

Tourism to Niagara Falls has dropped significantly in the last 30 years - but tourism to the Niagara region is up in recent years, not because of the waterfalls itself, but due to two factors.

1. Gambling casinos.

2. Winery and vineyard tours.

Today the biggest draws for people to visit Niagara Falls are not the falls itself, it is everything else a romantic couple or family could do in the region.

Gambling after all isn't really a family activity. So there are amusement parks, pools, arcades, things to keep the kids occupied while ma and pa gamble with their life's savings.

Or maybe ma and pa prefers to invest their life's savings in expensive wine bottles - which is arguably a very good investment as wine prices of expensive bottles always go up in value and are a more stable investment than real estate or gold futures.

It would therefore make sense for the Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce (which is basically a consortium of local businesses including Niagara Falls hotels, resorts, spas, golf clubs, restaurants, stores, etc) to continually be working together to bring in more tourists so that they can spend spend spend!

Having people come for holiday trips is the bread and butter and the backbone of the Niagara Falls economy. But what if you could get other kinds of tourists too?

For example conferences and event hosting is BIG BUSINESS and Niagara Falls already has several conference centres.

The Niagara Falls Conference and Event Centre

The Scotiabank Convention Centre

The Sheraton Niagara Falls Conference Centre

And numerous other hotels in Niagara Falls also operate smaller convention/conference halls and rooms within their buildings. The idea is to host such large scale events - and then make a bundle off everyone who stays at your hotel, eats room service, eats at the hotel owned restaurant, etc.

It really is a case of "if you build it the people will come".

And to be fair Niagara Falls is a place where there is always going to be tourists. (Unless the zombies or cyborgs rise up.) Thus it makes sense that investing in tourism in Niagara Falls is a no brainer. The Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce just needs to get investors from the local businesses to expand and buy pieces in local tourism infrastructure.

Lets says for example if they wanted to build an "underwater convention centre" downstream from the waterfalls. Well then they would just need to invest in the architecture and engineering of building such a structure, get it built and watch the tourists flood in. (Haha, flood...)

Okay so maybe an underwater convention centre might be a bad idea - especially for people afraid of drowning - but it is still an opportunity for an underwater restaurant or even small hotel rooms.

So instead what they build is places like The Tower Hotel - see photo above right - which is just as gimmicky, but apparently people are less afraid of heights than they are drowning.

The hotel business in Niagara Falls is HUGE.

Every hotel is basically trying to lure in tourists with a different gimmick (or set of gimmicks). They might simply be trying the old classics of comfort, class, service and affordability - but there is more money to be made in offering gimmicks and then over-charging people for it.

One of the biggest things is the claim that your hotel has a "view of the falls".

Which is partially true - if you have a room on the upper floors that can actually see the waterfalls. If your room is on the lower floors there will likely be another hotel standing in the way and all you will get a view of is other hotels and the hotel parking lot.

Photos of hotels near the waterfalls all like to make out that their hotel is right next to the falls, and that there is no obstructions to the view. This is done due to the miracle of photoshop.

So if you are planning a trip to Niagara Falls and want "a suite with a view of the falls" then you will need to ask for a room on an upper floor.

Otherwise what you will discover is that all the hotels near the falls itself are mashed together in a few small blocks, each one that is further away being taller than the previous one just so they can make the claim that people can get a view of the falls - but only if you pay for a luxury suite near the top.

Looking at the four photos shown here of various Niagara Falls hotels you would think they are all built on the exact same spot.

But they're not. Its just cleverly done photoshop in which the other hotels have been removed and the hotel in question is the only one in the shot.

The only true way for you to get the full picture is to see a map of the area. A Google map for example, reveals a lot more.

All the big hotels are kept further back from the waterfalls, behind a thick line of trees - and while they all have views of the falls, if you have a room near the ground floor you will see nothing but trees, if your hotel is behind another hotel, you might see just parking lot, and it is really only if you pay extra for a luxury suite near the top that you get a room with a view.

And what if your room is on the wrong side of the building??? No view worth mentioning at all. Even the Tower Hotel has only half of its rooms facing towards the waterfalls.

But enough ranting.

If I was to visit Niagara Falls myself I would spend most of my time on a bicycle going from one wine tasting to the next - and cycling half-drunk between them at a leisurely pace. Probably would spend a lot of money and time in restaurants too, as all that wine would need to be balanced with food - and I would be hungry from cycling so much.

I definitely think cycling would be the way to go. Parking there must be atrocious. That would be a whole other rant entirely...

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