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Mayoral Transit Debate

Mayoral Transit Debate

TTCriders, an organization of transit users, and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union hosted a mayoral debate focused on transit on September 26. Three candidates took the stage at the Scarborough campus. In the middle of Climenhaga’s opening statement, protesters in the audience began shouting, “Where is Faith Goldy?” Picketers with signs that read, “Let Faith Speak,” stood in the back of the room. Faith Goldy, a controversial mayoral candidate associated with white nationalists, was not invited to speak at the event.

The vagina dialogues

One writer’s journey through the stigmas of self-pleasure

The vagina dialogues

I have a very distinct memory from when I was 17 and sitting on the couch across from my mom. She paused the Netflix show we were watching, turned to me and said, “Hey, so do you want me to buy you a vibrator?” Out of pure astonishment and, quite frankly, a lot of embarrassment, I burst out laughing.

Now I think it’s important to preface this by saying that aside from the fact that my mother has a little more grace and never showed up at any of my school functions with a video camera and a slew of embarrassing dance moves, Regina George and I basically share a mom.

Throughout my childhood and into my teens, my mom always cultivated a safe space for me where I could ask questions about my body. She never made me feel ashamed for having curiosities. But even still, I wasn’t really sure how to answer the question. And furthermore, I didn’t understand why, after 17 years of open and honest dialogue between the two of us, I still felt ashamed talking about it.

If I’m being honest — which, by the title of this article, you can probably gather that I’m going to be very honest — when I first sat down to write this piece, I was worried that I was going to be perceived as an oversharer. I mean, I am literally sitting down to write about masturbation, a topic that is still often seen as taboo in our society or too personal to write about in-depth. As a result, I became so focused on how my writing would be received that I struggled to get the piece written at all.

It took a few words from a friend, who, over hot chocolate and a bag of carrots, mentioned her passion for sparking conversations that few are brave enough to have. And it hit me as she jokingly rolled up her sleeves and said, “Alright, you want to talk about it? Let’s go.” This is one of those conversations.

So, as I sit in bed hammering away at my keyboard, I’m rolling up my sleeves myself.

Let’s go.

For the last month or so, I’ve been trying to understand why masturbation, specifically for women and queer individuals, is so frowned upon in conversation. In hindsight, I think it’s partially due to the fact that children rarely received much formal education about it.

This is especially true for me. Throughout my time navigating the Manitoba education system, masturbation was never something formally discussed. The topic was uncharted territory, something laughable and embarrassing.

At least it was for fellow female students. For boys, however, it was seen as normal — to be expected and even celebrated.

This is still the case for many young people trying to navigate today’s middle and high school systems. While these systems and their curricula have changed since the mid-to-late 2000s, young people today are still resorting to the internet to figure things out for themselves. This is especially true now, considering Premier Doug Ford’s rollback of the Ontario sexual education curriculum.

Recently, one of my friends told me that she remembers Googling “how to masturbate” at 16 years old because no one had ever told her what it was or how to do it. Instead of looking to the internet to teach us, this should have been, at the very least, talked about in school. Not only can this dependence result in an abundance of harmful misconceptions, but it can reinforce stigma surrounding masturbation as well.

Online pornography is still the primary method that teenagers resort to in order to learn about masturbation and sex. As a result, young people are being fuelled with misinformation of what ‘real’ sex looks like, only obtaining a false depiction of what it actually is. Traditional porn, so clearly designed to cater to the male gaze and experience, is not a genuine educational resource — especially for those of us who can’t identify with it.

As a queer woman, it’s always been a bit challenging to get access to accurate information when it comes to sex. I can remember still being in the closet, desperately trying to navigate the multitude of complexities that come along with suddenly realizing you’re gay at 15 years old — one of which is that you pretty much have no idea about how sex works, let alone how to be safe when having it.

Thankfully, we are living in a time and culture that is finally starting to move away from those cisgender, heteronormative conversations about what ‘real’ sex is. Dental dams and finger condoms are readily available at most Planned Parenthood locations and several medical clinics throughout the city. Contraception is available on campus, and sex is talked about in orientation events as a given fact of life.

But even so, this is still the experience for so many youths in the LGBTQ+ community, who are taught little to nothing when it comes to non-heterosexual relations. When you’re not having these conversations in school — a place which is, by design, meant to teach — how else are you supposed to learn what sex entails? And if you don’t learn about sex, how can you begin to unravel the complexities of masturbation and self-pleasure?

Until recently, I wasn’t very aware of the extent to which my friends had also been affected by the stigmas surrounding masturbation and sex. Over a night of wine-induced laughter and hors d’oeuvres, I sat with them, hoping to gain some insight on the topic. I focused my questions primarily on the taboos associated with masturbation, specifically for women and queer people. I first asked my friends what they’d been taught in school, and while the response I received was disappointing, I can’t say that I was particularly surprised.

One of my friends told me that only twice during his time in the Ontario education system did he hear about female masturbation. According to him, aside from conception and childbirth, there was an absence of information regarding the functions of the female reproductive system. He didn’t know that the female body could orgasm until he was about 16 years old.

As another friend so eloquently put it, her sexual awakening was sparked by Taylor Lautner, but she had no idea how to channel the new feelings that he awoke. She told me that throughout her teen years, she wasn’t even aware that what she was doing was considered masturbation, nor was she sure whether it was a normal thing to do. She went on to say that this was due to the fact that no one had ever actually told her what masturbation is, or that it is something that women are even capable of.

While masturbation for men is usually portrayed and talked about as a matter of course that is inherent to manhood, for women, it is centred around a sense of independence. The fact that it involves a woman having a sexuality of her own, independent of men altogether, is in many ways revolutionary. In a world that is just reaching a point where we are beginning to create space for these conversations, this idea still causes discomfort for many people — women included!

I find this fact of particular interest considering that feminism has been on the record since the mid-nineteenth century. Women across the globe have been challenging these patriarchal, misogynistic, and heteronormative perspectives of how the world should operate for over 100 years. And yet, we still struggle with the basic idea of women pleasuring themselves solely for the purpose of pleasuring themselves.

One could say that this extends doubly for queer women. This is because, when we are sexualized, it’s also in the context of interacting with each other, not just with ourselves and our own bodies. The hypersexualization of queer women in the context of masturbation is rooted in the fact that we tend to have, but are not limited to, fantasies about other women. Again, this comes back to the discomfort that people feel when considering women masturbating for their own pleasure, disconnected from men entirely.

This is why I believe it is essential to be aware of the intersecting axes of disadvantage that come into play within the settings of these conversations. This is of particular importance when looking at the experience of non-binary and trans people, because they have the added stigmas surrounding their respective identities that make their experiences unique and, in many circumstances, more challenging to those of cisgender queer women like myself.

There are feminist-inspired sex toy companies, such as KnottyVibes, Picobong, Babeland, and GoodVibrations, whose purpose is to help normalize masturbation and conversations surrounding it. We’ve also now reached an age when there are sex toys specifically designed for trans people, such as Buck-off, the first sex toy marketed for trans men on hormone replacement therapy. All of these companies are helping to develop a culture in which conversations about masturbation are not something that we have to whisper to each other in passing.

I think it’s only fair for me to say that I’m still trying to figure all this out for myself. But if I had to summarize the main realization that I’ve come to since setting out to write this piece, it’s that it’s essential to be self-aware — not just of ourselves and our own bodies, but also because it’s important to be cognizant of the variety of circumstances that come together to make each person’s experience unique and how we choose to speak of those particular experiences.

At this point, I think I should probably point out that I’m a huge advocate for personal growth through education and conversation, specifically when it comes to topics that can, at times, get rather murky. This being the case, I think it’s only fair that I bombard you with an arsenal of learning materials when it comes to the topic of masturbation and other forms of sexual health because, as my mom so bluntly puts it, “Sexual health is important — it’s a fact of life!”

Whether it is by subscribing to blogs such as PinkNews, Autostraddle, and DIVAMagazine; binge-watching YouTube videos by sexual health advocates such as Stevie Boebi and Hannah Witton; or, in my friend’s case, simply Googling “how to masturbate,” education is the first step to getting a grasp on these topics.

In writing this piece, I’m hoping to help normalize conversations surrounding masturbation and sexual education and encourage a more intersectional way of thinking about pleasure. If I’ve done what I’ve set out to do, you’ll walk away from this piece thinking about what you have yet to learn and questioning what you already do.

So I’ll leave you with one final piece of advice: be curious, ask questions, and learn.

Introducing comment reports

Introducing comment reports

This year, contributors are encouraged to make the best of both news reporting and opinion writing through the new subsection of comment reports. These are full-page, opinion feature pieces that provide an in-depth investigation into issues that matter for the U of T community. Not only can contributors cover original stories and conduct interviews, as reporters are expected to do, but they will offer a layer of analysis and slant that makes their bias clear to the reader. This year, you might see comment reports in a variety of forms, such as profiles of public figures, a breakdown of highly salient controversies, or a deep dive into a question that’s on everyone’s mind.

In this week’s section, you will see two comment report profiles on candidates in the Toronto municipal elections. While they are both young U of T alumni, their political trajectories could not be further: one is a progressive committed to anti-racism, who hopes to be a city councillor; the other is a fringe white nationalist candidate, who is running for mayor. Perhaps this is a stark reminder that, despite the formative years that we share at U of T together, the characters that we become may be radically divergent, to say the least.

The Faith Goldy effect

Uncovering the manipulative politics of the U of T alum who became the far-right, white nationalist Toronto mayoral candidate

The Faith Goldy effect

Faith Goldy is not your average U of T alum. In 2012, she received the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award, which recognizes “graduating students for making outstanding contributions to improving the world around them and inspiring others to do the same.”

In March, a petition calling for her award to be rescinded was signed by scores of fellow recipients, claiming that her views are not representative of the university. This request was surprisingly denied by the U of T Alumni Association.

After all, in the six years since receiving the award, Goldy emerged as a white nationalist and online media personality. Today, she’s using that image to run for mayor of Toronto. It’s difficult to imagine how the views of a potential Mayor Goldy would honour the award’s call to “improve the world.”

Against all odds

Goldy’s core public views are unambiguously hateful. She promotes protecting the white majority, ending a so-called “white genocide,” and closing Canada’s borders. She has also uttered the Fourteen Words, a white supremacist creed about protecting the white majority.

Her views are so extreme that even the controversial Rebel Media, for which she worked as a correspondent, let her go following her attendance at the violent Charlottesville Unite the Right rally and her subsequent interview on a neo-Nazi affiliated podcast.

The passion that fuels Goldy’s mayoral campaign has mobilized Toronto’s far right. Indeed, her fanbase has grown during her campaign, particularly in the online world, with thousands of devoted admirers retweeting and regurgitating her messages. However, she is overwhelmingly dismissed as a fringe candidate by mainstream Toronto media and politicians, polling very weakly throughout the campaign. It’s plausible that much of her support online comes from people living outside of Toronto. Whatever the case, this contradiction puzzled me, and I set out to explore it.

The person and the persona

Having researched her online extensively, I reached out to Goldy directly for an interview. I was nervous to meet her. When she finally arrived at our decided location, Robarts Library, she drew stares. She shook my hand and her face was engulfed with a bright smile. Her energy was infectious, and I could immediately feel myself being pulled in.

She spoke of how her grandfather was a carpenter who worked on the steps of Robarts and about the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. We chatted about its history, and she complimented my knowledge. She has charisma and charm, and she expertly dodged every question that addressed her more extreme views. She was polite, engaged, and moderate in all her responses.

Following the meeting, I felt very conflicted — feeling that I had been bamboozled in some way. I returned to her online feed and scrolled through her Reddit Ask Me Anything to discover her new Islamophobic messages. Other journalists have experienced this very same chicanery from Goldy and other far-right figures.

Her online presence leads down a dark rabbit hole. From seemingly harmless videos about conservative values to tweets about an ethnic genocide of white people, Goldy’s messages are filled with coded language that appeals to loyal, more integrated members of the far-right and white nationalist community.

The contradiction between the considerate person at Robarts and the racist, online persona who spews messages implying that nothing is stronger than ethnic bonds seemed like two different identities. It became clearer that the growing popularity of figures like Goldy relies on a charisma that makes hatred palatable.

Normalizing extremeness

Goldy claimed that her interactions with the public are mostly very positive. She campaigns at subway stops and shares her message by pounding the pavement and knocking on doors. Goldy knows her audience. On one hand, she presents common sense ideas like fixing Toronto’s roads, working toward affordable housing, and creating new architectural standards for city buildings.

On the other hand, she makes the sensationalist call to evacuate all “illegal immigrants” to Justin Trudeau’s official residence. She proposes to reinstate the controversial Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy, which allows police to investigate anyone whom they feel is suspicious and which has a history of targeting racialized youth. She also wields Islamophobia as a powerful tool, calling for a “Special Research Desk on Islamic Extremism” to “monitor finances in and out of Toronto Islamic centres.” These policies target marginalized communities and not individuals guilty of a crime.

This is strategic. Goldy’s target audience is the ‘Joe Six-pack,’ the average blue-collar white male in Toronto, and she works to make them believe that they are disadvantaged in this city — which they are not. Her use of fear is a consistent tactic throughout her campaign, using “make Toronto safe again” to evoke a sense of purpose and paranoia in her fanbase. She wants voters to think that she is the only candidate with the will to protect them. Thus, she needs to present enemies to protect them from.

While she knows when to stoke the flames, she also knows when to veil her views as non-threateningly conservative. Goldy’s slogan, “Tough on Crime, Easy on Taxpayers,” could appeal to any Torontonian. She argues that everyone in the city wants money back in their pocket. By mixing legitimate policies into her platform, she aims to normalize her candidacy and, by extension, her extremist, racist rhetoric.

This ostensibly makes it possible to explain away being her supporter without being discredited as a white nationalist. Goldy’s auxiliary promises to fix roads and host tailgating parties are her Trojan horse, allowing her to wheel into the minds of moderates without setting off major alarms. This is not very original: far-right movements elsewhere, such as US President Donald Trump’s, have succeeded by this very careful mix of legitimate and extreme policies.

Resorting to the ‘free speech’ argument

When far-right figures like Goldy face criticism, opposition, and de-platforming because of their oppressive views, they are quick to deflect the conversation from the content of their speech to the freedom of their speech. The discussion changes from the underlying racism of their views — a debate they would not be able to win — to one about an abstract right to speak their mind.

Consider the blackout of Goldy’s campaign by mainstream politics. She has not been invited to the mayoral debates; Mayor John Tory has refused to debate her; and, following deserved pressure from the opposition at Queen’s Park, but after posing in a photo with her, Premier Doug Ford condemned Goldy’s views.

Goldy, like many other far-right figures, is a master of self-victimization. When she is shut down and excluded from the news cycle, she portrays herself as a martyr of political correctness — and her followers agree. She tweeted recently that three of her top Twitter supporters had their accounts suspended by the platform. According to Goldy, the evil ‘alt-left’ are the real oppressors and authoritarians, not her. This effectively confuses oppressor and victim.

She even stormed the stage of an arts debate, flashing a petition with 5,000 signatures calling to let her debate. She later berated the moderator, calling her a “leprechaun troll.” She was reportedly not invited because she did not meet the qualifications, which required her to fill out the candidate’s survey and provide an arts policy. Yet she still filed this experience away in her long narrative of perceived censorship.

Goldy is also turning the rejection of her radio ads by Bell Media into a courtroom circus, arguing that her rights are being infringed upon — taking the onus off of the content of her character and instead villainizing her opponents.

I understand why mainstream politicians and media are refusing to engage with Goldy. However, as her self-victimization comes from a place of privilege and her continued ‘censorship’ only invigorates her fan base, silencing the far right has never felt like more of a bandaid tactic.

A forbidden message has power and allure. She has said, “The more they try to silence us, the more people are starting to pay attention.” For once, I have to say that I agree with her. Silencing Goldy only empowers and reassures her followers that there truly is an assault on free speech in this country.

Her supporters band together across her social media, calling for the downfall of the mainstream media and “fellowship” among Toronto’s “political elite.” This anti-establishment rhetoric is becoming more and more familiar with the infusion of unabashed far-right figures clawing their way into the mainstream consciousness.

Confronting the far-right on campus

U of T has a comprehensive free speech policy, acknowledging that debate and freedom of speech are key in the pursuit of truth and the dissemination of knowledge. The university also explains that “every member should be able to work, live, teach and learn in a University free from discrimination.” It is within these seemingly contrasting principles that we are left to find the balance.

When Goldy was invited to speak at Wilfrid Laurier University, a student activist pulled the fire alarm. No professors from the university had agreed to debate her. Despite Goldy’s talk ending before it began, she has not been deterred whatsoever. During our interview, she expressed her plans to return to Laurier and finally give her presentation.

I understand why students would want to preserve safe spaces and protect each other from hateful rhetoric. However, by silencing Goldy, we seem to be pumping her campaign with fuel.

The way to challenge far-right figures like Goldy is not to provide them with free rein to deliver long speeches and present their views as fact, which almost occurred at Laurier. Rather, they must be challenged and debated in controlled forums with fact-checking and knowledgeable opponents — ideally professors. This would not only easily reveal the baselessness of their arguments, but also revoke their ability to brand themselves as martyrs and their experience as censorship.

On October 22, Toronto will have its say at the polling stations, and I am confident that Goldy has no chance of victory. However, by silencing figures like Goldy or pretending like they don’t exist, we allow them to continue to assemble underground — unchallenged. I fear that in time, they will only become more united and, as we’ve seen south of the border, real political contenders.

Anastasia Pitcher is a second-year Biodiversity and Conservation Biology and Genome Biology student at New College.

An invitation to readers

Introducing Morag McGreevey as The Varsity’s new Public Editor

An invitation to readers

In her inaugural column as The Varsity’s first Public Editor, Sophie Borwein wrote that “if there was ever a golden era of newspaper journalism, this isn’t it.” Her words still ring true. And so, readers of The Varsity, this is your invitation: to write, challenge, and engage with our campus newspaper this year. To enable me, as your new Public Editor, to advocate for better, more transparent, more ethical journalism.

The concept of a public editor isn’t a new one. In Canada, the role dates back to 1972, when The Toronto Star appointed an ombudsman to arbitrate between the newspaper and its readers. Although the position is more recent at The Varsity, my predecessor Borwein made great strides toward modelling what thoughtful public editing looks like on a university campus.

Despite this precedent, the role of a public editor continues to feel fresh, urgent, even slightly undefined. The function of a public editor has remained constant over the years: to advocate for readers, hold newspapers accountable, and promote the public interest. But the challenges facing newsrooms, and the concerns articulated by audiences, have undergone a fundamental change. How can campus journalists present news accurately and impartially in the age of social media? What is the most responsible way of addressing reader concerns in an increasingly polarized political landscape? And when readers’ interests come into conflict with traditional journalistic practices, who should be privileged? By answering these questions, publicly and critically, I hope to narrow the distance between readers and reporters, and increase The Varsity’s credibility through accountability.

As an ex-journalist and third-year law student, I am aware that law and journalism don’t share the same procedural and substantive mechanisms for arriving at the truth. In journalism, the body politic — you, the reader — plays a much more critical role in demanding fair, accurate reporting. The standard of balanced reporting that we require of The Varsity emerges from our shared expectations of journalistic integrity. But this relationship cuts both ways. Just as its readers shape The Varsity, our campus newspaper provides an identity for the University of Toronto community. Where words have real power, The Varsity must be conscientious about the narratives it puts into the world and be aware of the stories it leaves out. As Public Editor, I can’t make every private concern public, but I can help steer the larger conversation to the things that matter most to our community.

My voice, on these pages, reflects an aspirational journalism in which ethics, facts, and balanced critical analysis are always at the forefront. I am, of course, aware of my own fallibility. That is why I invite you to reach out to me at [email protected] with your questions, comments, and criticisms. My hope is that, together, we might hold each other accountable in a democratic exchange of news, opinions, and ideas.

Waging war

Ford’s drive to repeal Bill 148 is an assault on fair pay and work practices for Ontario workers, including students

Waging war

On October 2, Premier Doug Ford took to the floor of Queen’s Park to make an announcement: “We’re going to make sure we tell the world Ontario is open for business,” and in order to make the province “competitive around the world,” it is time to get rid of Bill 148. This decision is a massive coup by greedy employers and a blow to the rights of Ontario’s workers, including students.

Bill 148, also known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, was passed in November 2017 by the recently ousted Liberal government. Notably, it increased the minimum wage in Ontario to $14 per hour — with a further increase to $15 per hour set for January 2019.

The act established an ‘equal pay for equal work’ clause, by which part-time employees performing the same tasks as full-time employees would be paid the same wage. It also standardized the potential of a full 10 days of leave a year, whereas previously, some workplaces had no obligation to give their employees any leave. Finally, it gave workers the right to refuse last-minute shift changes without the risk of being fired.

The law is summarized on the Ontario government’s website: “Many workers struggle to support their families on part-time, contract or minimum-wage work, and many more don’t have access to time off due to illness.” It is specifically geared toward punishing predatory employers who exploit gaps in existing legislation and changes in the job market.

Students often take up part-time employment during the semester to pay their bills. Those who work in industries like retail and services — as a customer sales representative or barista, for example — stand to lose the most from the act being repealed.

Chris Buckley, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, explained that Bill 148 addressed “shamefully outdated labour and employment laws.” For example, before the introduction of Bill 148, workplaces with under 50 employees were able to refuse giving sick leave. They could also label some part-time employees as ‘independent contractors,’ exempting them from being paid as much as full-time employees.

The push for repeal has been led in part by the Retail Council of Canada (RCC). In a letter dated September 24, it argued that Bill 148 had directly led to the loss of over 46,000 jobs in Ontario’s retail and wholesale sector, with the biggest factor being the increase in the minimum wage from $11.40 to $14, forcing layoffs and increasing prices of goods.

The RCC has grossly mischaracterized this loss. The Ontario labour market has gained almost 83,000 jobs in the public sector since September 2017, despite a sharp decline in January this year. The retail industry lost only 14,500 jobs, of which over 5,000 came from the shuttering of retail giant Sears.

The RCC also said that the use of the two new days of paid leave is disproportionately higher than unpaid leave and thus shows that employees are misusing them. Its position is that, rather than amending the bill to address their concerns, the province should just start over with a repeal.

According to the RCC, worker’s rights were implemented too quickly, and the minimum wage was raised too fast for businesses to cope — a convenient stance that would let employers continue underpaying workers while stonewalling any meaningful replacement legislation.

It’s not just retail; the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released a statement on August 30 with a quote from its president and CEO, Rocco Rossi: “Premier Ford pledged to make Ontario ‘Open for Business’… this begins with the reversal of Bill 148.” The OCC released its statement within a day of the Ford government’s meeting with top Canadian banks.

This was no coincidence. By opening himself up to the advice of ‘experts,’ Ford was inviting big business interests and lobbying. While the Ford government has yet to introduce legislation to repeal Bill 148, it seems that the move to repeal it is almost a foregone conclusion.

The arguments for repealing this act are misleading. Part-time employment takes a natural dip in the summer. Before the implementation of two paid sick days with Bill 148, sick leave was rarely taken because employees could not afford to miss work, even for the benefit of their own health. The province is labelling this as a victory for Ontario’s economy, when it disenfranchises workers who were already being treated cynically by service and retail industries.

Ford’s eagerness to accept lobbyists into Queen’s Park betrays how willing he is to deal with moneyed interests in even the early stages of his premiership. Furthermore, aiming to repeal Bill 148 shows his disregard for poverty-stricken and student workers and how the province is clueless, or at least willfully ignorant, about the state of Toronto’s job market.

The introduction of Bill 148 was a step toward fairer work practices in a province lagging behind in terms of workers’ rights. If Ford repeals the bill, the employees of Ontario will know that he does not have all of their best interests in mind.

William Cuddy is a fifth-year Political Science and History student at Victoria College.

TD commits $6.7 million to Rotman initiatives

Bank funds research in data analytics, health care, behavioural economics

TD commits $6.7 million to Rotman initiatives

TD has announced three financial contributions to U of T’s Rotman School of Management. The donations consist of $4 million to establish the TD Management Data and Analytics Lab, $2.5 million to become a founding member of the Creative Destruction Lab’s (CDL) Health stream, and approximately $200,000 toward the Behavioural Economics in Action at Rotman (BEAR) centre.

Speaking of donations generally, Ken McGuffin, Rotman’s Media Relations Manager, wrote in an email to The Varsity that this type of support allows Rotman “to invest in innovative academic and experiential programs, provide door-opening scholarships to students in need, support research by our faculty and much more.”

TD Management Data and Analytics Lab

The bulk of TD’s financial contributions will be used to fund the establishment and staffing of a new data analytics lab at Rotman. This lab will provide Rotman students with a greater range of resources for research in data and analytics, including funding workshops, hackathons, and guest lectures.

The research output coming from this partnership will remain in the public domain. The partnership is “about the general public good and [TD’s] ability to work with students,” according to Christian Nelissen, TD’s Head of Enterprise Data and Analytics. Nelissen added that Rotman “has a terrific brand reputation” and that it is “very much aligned into what [TD is] trying to do and how we think about future of data and analytics and the respective roles in that.”

“Rotman is a great partner because… their job is to build the managers of the future and to broaden out people’s horizons and… the broader capability around data analytics,” said Nelissen.

Toronto ranked as the fourth best North American city in CBRE’s 2018 tech talent markets report, and Rotman’s increased research funding is expected to add to the city’s growing tech sector.

TD further hopes that fostering this strong partnership with Rotman will encourage more graduates to work for the bank. This is an equally valuable outcome for Rotman. “The support of TD and our other partners… in providing internship, employment, and other learning opportunities is tremendous. Experiential learning is a key part of many of our programs,” said McGuffin.

The partnership is for an initial five-year period. Nelissen described it as “more than just a commercial relationship,” and as one that will continue to develop over time. “We also have to make sure that Rotman grows and develops and gets to do what it wants to do,” he said.

The $4 million contribution follows TD’s $1 million donation to the Rotman Financial Innovation Hub in Advanced Analytics last year, which helped develop new classes and learning opportunities in financial innovation, including workshops and scholarships.

CDL Health stream

TD’s $2.5 million pledge to the CDL makes it a Corporate Founding Member of the CDL Health stream, which focuses on biotechnology, bioinformatics, diagnostics, and digital care. The CDL “merges science-based projects with business expertise to help young companies scale-up into creators of new jobs, processes, and services,” according to its website.

In March, TD launched the Ready Commitment, which sets a $1 billion target for philanthropy by 2030 to “support change, nurture progress, and contribute to making the world a better, more inclusive place.”

Andrea Barrack, TD’s Vice-President of Global Corporate Citizenship, considers work with the CDL as important to fulfilling the Ready Commitment. “We’re a large bank… but we don’t have enough money to actually solve all of the health care issues that are out there. And so what we’re looking for is, what can we fund that would be catalytic in its impact?” she said. “What can we do in health care to actually make it more accessible to the patient and make it easier to access? And so I think that was the CDL.”

Startups in the Health stream will attend five in-person objective-setting sessions between October 2018 and June 2019. Startups that address health-related issues at any level of development will be considered for inclusion in the stream. The Health stream currently operates at two of the CDL’s six locations: one at U of T, and the other in Vancouver. Barrack added that there is a “huge growth plan and certainly massive interest,” and that TD wants “to be able to significantly contribute to [the CDL] being able to scale and meet the demand [for health startup incubators].”

Artificial intelligence (AI) developments and startups flourish within the CDL because it provides a longer incubation period, according to Tomi Poutanen, TD’s Chief AI Officer and a founding fellow of the CDL. Unlike “incubators that you race to create a pitch… [at the CDL], over a nine-month period, you get coached and find a market and are able to build a business,” he said, Poutanen noted that with over 100 AI companies operating through the CDL, it is recognized as the largest AI venture accelerator.

This partnership is also for an initial five-year period. “We want to contribute in the way that we can, but it’s not a quid pro quo for us, right? When we use our philanthropy, we believe in the potential impact of that project. We want to be able to be helpful to that, but we don’t ever put ourselves in a decisioning role around what goes forward or not,” said Barrack.

BEAR centre

TD has been working informally with Rotman in the development of its Discovery Tool, a survey that identifies an investor’s ‘Wealth Personality.’ Investors answer a survey relating to their personality and preferences, as well as their financial plans, to allow TD advisors to identify financial blind spots.

The survey is an example of behavioural economics, and it is used to “further examine and research the underlying emotions and behaviours that drive financial decision making,” according to Rotman’s press release.

David Terry, TD’s Vice-President of Wealth Segment Strategy, said that TD Wealth identified Rotman as a top school focusing on behavioural economics in Canada. “[BEAR] has some of the best minds as it relates to behavioral economics and behavioral finance in Canada. We value that expertise, academic research, the approach to parsing through data.”

The partnership, which covers an initial two-year period, will specifically allow TD to adapt BEAR’s behavioral economics research and apply it to benefit TD clients and advisors. “There will be probably some areas where [TD] will want some exclusivity for a period of time, but the reality is, a lot of this should benefit Rotman’s future thinking in terms of how they can apply this across industries, let alone financial services,” said Terry.

Editor’s Note (October 21): This article has been updated to clarify a quote from Ken McGuffin.

Business Board releases reports on investments, endowment, capital projects

Investment returns fall short of targets, endowment increases $124 million from last year

Business Board releases reports on investments, endowment, capital projects

The Business Board of U of T’s Governing Council held its first meeting of the 2018–2019 academic year on October 9. Among the 18 items discussed at Simcoe Hall were a semi-annual update on investment performance, the annual endowment financial report for the previous academic year, and the status of capital projects costing over $2 million.

Comprised of 41 members, the Business Board is responsible for monitoring the cost-effectiveness of the university’s investments and for approving its business policies.

Semi-annual report on investment performance

The semi-annual report on investment performance was presented by Darren Smith, the President and Chief Investment Officer of the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM). UTAM is responsible for managing the university’s pension funds, endowment pool, and Expendable Funds Investment Pool (EFIP). The assets in these profiles total just under $10 billion.

All three portfolios’ actual returns have underperformed against the university’s targets since the start of 2018. The actual returns for pension and endowment portfolios were 2.2 per cent each, against their 3.1 per cent targets. The actual return for the EFIP was 0.9 per cent against a 1.1 per cent target. Smith attributed this to “an unfavourable capital market environment.”

Over a one-year basis and a five-year basis, UTAM’s actual returns for all three portfolios have outperformed target returns.

Smith believes that in the next five to 10 years, outperforming targets will be more challenging. “We’re very thoughtful about the current market environment,” he said. “Frankly, we’ve been surprised over the incredible run we’ve seen over the last couple of years. We keep expecting that markets will cool off, and that will happen at some point.”

Sheila Brown, U of T’s Chief Financial Officer and a UTAM board member, added, “It is our expectation that when the markets go down, we will go down with them.” She said that the Business Board should focus on UTAM’s long-term assets and positions when the markets go down. “[This is] an important lesson for us to keep in mind collectively as we go through what will inevitably be a downturn in the market that I think everyone is sitting waiting for.”

Annual endowment financial report

U of T currently has over 6,260 individual endowment funds totalling $2.5 billion market value, an increase of $124 million from the 2017 report. Of the $124 million increase, $39 million is from endowed donations, $14 million is from the university’s unrestricted funds, and $181 million is from investment income. There is a $25 million deduction for fees and expenses and an $85 million allocation for spending.

Each endowment has its own terms and conditions, which define the parameters of how the funds should be allocated and/or invested, as well as how the investment returns may be spent. For “the donated funds themselves and the funds that are designated as endowments, we cannot spend that original capital — we can only spend the investment return,” said Brown.

Scholarships constitute a large portion of the endowment funds, but in some cases, particularly due to tuition rates rising faster than the inflation rate, they may no longer able to provide adequate financial support. According to David Palmer, U of T’s Vice-President of Advancement, U of T’s “policies preserve purchasing power of endowments relative to the original gift, not to the purpose.”

Capital projects

There are currently 95 buildings across all three campuses under design and construction, totalling over $1.4 billion in costs. The 88 UTSG projects total $823,882,204; the four UTSC projects $279,563,702; and the three UTM projects $300,757,155.

Scott Mabury, U of T’s Vice-President of Operations, highlighted U of T’s commitment to increased energy efficiency. “We’ve made a pledge to be 37 per cent below our 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2030. When we did that, there was a thing called cap and trade in Ontario that said that was the law. It seemed like a safe commitment for the president to make. You understand how that has changed.”

Mabury said that seeking more energy efficient projects is “the right thing to do from a philosophical, from a practical, from an environment, and from an energy cost perspective… we don’t pay as much, so there’s an economic return.”

In camera items discussed include labour agreements between the university and both the Carpenters and Allied Workers, Local 27 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 353. Mabury also updated the board on a “forthcoming capital initiative at the Toronto Waterfront,” which may refer to the university’s partnership with MaRS to lease 24,000 square feet of the Waterfront Innovation Centre.

— With files from Matias Gutierrez