In Photos: A Raptors retrospective

From celebration to disarray

In Photos: A Raptors retrospective

As the final buzzer sounded in the Oracle Arena, signalling the first NBA championship of a Canadian team, waves of people flooded the streets of Toronto. Despite the scattered shattered glass and even the police horse excrement, the crowds continued to celebrate the historic night throughout the city. People danced, cheered, and climbed anything that they could just to show their enthusiasm for the Toronto team.

ON THE WAY TO UNION (KING STREET)

UNION STATION (FRONT STREET)


DUNDAS SQUARE (YONGE STREET)

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

The Parade

The Raptors’ parade seemed to mirror the night of their victory: the streets, scaffolds, signs, bus stops, and monuments were once again covered with people. Under the glaring sun, the crowd grew restless as the parade continued to delay. Families had been waiting since early morning and others camped out the night before. However, the spirit was still strong and Toronto was ready to welcome their team back home.

NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUARE (BAY AND QUEEN)


The celebrations were cut short after multiple shots were fired during the victory speeches. The crowds in the south half of Nathan Phillips Square dissipated and people were in disarray as they struggled to put distance between themselves and the shooters. Lost belongings, mismatched shoes, sprained ankles, and people in shock — the parade was over for those who were stampeded in the back. Almost three hours behind schedule, the crowds at the front continued the celebration as those in the rear tried to recollect their belongings and call their friends and families who they lost in the scramble.

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

U of T not targeted in bomb threats to Ontario colleges, universities

OCAD University, Ryerson University, George Brown College, Humber College are being investigated by Toronto Police.

U of T not targeted in bomb threats to Ontario colleges, universities

Multiple Ontario postsecondary institutions are being investigated by Toronto Police after receiving bomb threats this morning, though U of T was not among the schools. Convocation is continuing as scheduled.

After the first call was made at 8:54 am, OCAD University, Ryerson University, George Brown College, and Humber College all received threats similar in nature, Toronto Police Services report.

The Chang School at Ryerson University, George Brown College, and Humber College all received an all-clear from Toronto Police and have since resumed regular operation. OCAD will remain closed for the day.

Editor’s Note (June 18, 3:40 pm): Article has been updated to reflect the campus statuses of Ryerson University, George Brown College, and Humber College 

Book Club: Ben Ghan’s upcoming novel, What We See in the Smoke

A new novel by a U of T alum on Torontonian apocalypses at the intersection of Bradbury and Bloor

Book Club: Ben Ghan’s upcoming novel, <i>What We See in the Smoke</i>

You would be hard-pressed to find a U of T student who is not painfully aware of the catalogue of accomplishments that the Office of the President shills for the now-retired Boundless campaign: our nine Nobel Prize laureates, our four Prime Ministers, and our engineering and medical marvels.

But our less marketable assets conveniently slip through the cracks of campaigns, newsletters, and student awareness. Not as many students can list the accomplishments of Marshall McLuhan, Northrop Frye, and the other name-droppable contributors to Canadian culture as easily as they can recite the now-trite laundry list of accomplishments from the campaign.

This familiar cultural issue forms the core of one motifs explored by the hand-stitched literary debut of Ben Berman Ghan: What We See in the Smoke. The book, a self-described “patchwork” of interrelated, but ultimately not codependent, stories, leads the reader through increasingly fictional and farfetched plots with the city of Toronto at its center. It is a Bradbury-esque adventure that takes its reader across time and space at the intersection of science fiction and the yearning for a better home.

The vector for each of these Torontonian escapades? Apocalypses. Big and small; banal and fundamental; at times familiar yet oftentimes not.  

The destruction of a standard becomes Ghan’s mandate. True to form, each of the seventeen ‘patches’ that form his quilted narrative eventually destroys themselves. The earlier stories, ones both chronologically and thematically closer to our present time, destruct in forms that are quite familiar to denizens of a city built upon seemingly-constant renewal and construction.

It is upon this concept of familiarity that Ghan seems to base his most successful heel-turns in character development and plot. He wields What We See’s dramatic irony so aptly that the reader rarely expects the destruction wrought in his stories. The later, more futuristic, and certainly more science-fiction-like stories, transition slowly from the familiar bounds of the city we all know, yet remain consistent in motif, providing the reader with a sense of recognizability, despite constant content shifts.

Truly, the whole novel feels like Toronto — all of its tragic and painful moments, which happen more often than expected — are caught up in cherry blossoms, major intersections, and, of course, the unassailable CN Tower.

When the reader begins the novel, Ghan seems to sell his stories short, making them almost too recognizable, too familiar. Certainly, in my first read-through of the novel, I questioned what interest I had in reading realistic stories of Toronto’s grittiness when I was faced with them in one way or another almost every day. I live here.

But that familiarity deceives. Ghan allows you to become comfortable in a surrounding you feel like you know, before making you believe that you never knew it in the first place. This happens to the point of uncanniness, where the feeling of Toronto, despite all the changes each story makes in plot and content, begin to signal something uneasy. For Ghan, there are only two certainties in Toronto: a mild-yet-still-somehow-debilitating winter and similarly enduring business development.

Despite its unique motley demeanour, What We See ends up being a novel rich in motifs that the average Torontonian can recognize and understand. A mixture of the heinous and the righteous, and a spark of constant renewal that keeps it all in flux, Ben Ghan’s debut is a solid underscoring of the Torontonian ethos.

Ghan seems to ask each of his stories, and the reader as well, what Toronto they would like to see. How would you give Toronto the identity it so desperately aches to discover?  

The only way for you to know is to pick up the book yourself.

What We See in the Smoke is set to release on June 6, 2019.

You can pre-order the novel on amazon.

Saving and skimping in Toronto this summer

Using Ka Wei, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Caffiends to your advantage

Saving and skimping in Toronto this summer

Toronto is a city of opportunity, and with opportunity comes temptation. A 15-minute walk anywhere south of Bloor will lead you past fine dining and food trucks, cafes and bars, book stores and record shops — all of which will tax your willpower, strain your attention, and ultimately drain your wallet.

It’s a battle I know all too well; after popping off in the early days of September like some sort of pudgy, pretentious Drake, my lifestyle caught up with me, and I was forced to reform. I sought out the advice of my smarter, thriftier friends, and scraped by for the next five months on eggs, sriracha, cheap coffee, and handouts.  

That episode let me in on one of Toronto’s best-kept secrets: with some luck and resourcefulness, the city can be liveable — you just have to know the right spots.

For food, fifth-year Clara Rutherford recommends Chinatown’s big-time produce vendors: Ka Wei, Hua Sheng, and Lucky Moose. Stocking up on cheap, nutritious grub like kale, beans, and rice will keep you full throughout the day, while dashing into a hole-in-the-wall bakery, like Mashion Bakery on Baldwin and Spadina, is great for loading up on banana bread or pork buns, says Rutherford.

However, flying around these crazy, mosh-pit produce markets can be stressful. The employees blur past you, prefer cash, and have no time to chit-chat. But when you can find a kilogram of quick oats for $3, it’s a trip worth taking.  

On your way back from Hua Sheng, scoop these up and throw ‘em in the freezer: meats, bread, produce, sriracha, whatever. Each are savoury, cheap, and will let you save up some money for your nights out.  

Another food tip: after 3:00 pm, the CityMarkets across town sell ‘enjoy tonight’ products; food that they’re forced to sell because it will ‘expire tomorrow.’

If you’re planning on hitting the town, fourth-year architecture student David Suskin recommends pre-gaming with some cheap alcohol. Pabst Blue Ribbon is always in vogue, while some of the grimier Ontarian wines are sold for around $7. After loosening up, Suskin and I recommend storming into Wide Open, Sneaky Dee’s, the Madison Pub, or Ein-Stein — of meme page fame. All boast cheap beer, and the latter has free cover on Friday and Saturday.

If you’re feeling some cheap coffee after your night out, avoid hitting the more bougie Toronto areas, like Yorkville, Queen West, and King Street. Instead, slip into Caffiends. This tiny, student-run cafe, based out of a shoe closet in Old Vic, sells coffee at a dollar per mug, and offers up one of the best atmospheres in Toronto.

There are other great, inexpensive dives on campus, too. Recent graduate Arielle Mantes recommends Trinity’s The Buttery or Victoria’s Ned’s, but with a few caveats. The drinks there can be pricey, Mantes says, so make sure to bring a reusable mug and tea bag with you to skip the line and cut costs.

If you’re really down and out —think early April, trapped at Robarts, snow on the ground — you can always go to Starbucks. If you’re a Starbucks Gold member, you get a free drink on your birthday. The good news is all it takes to become a member is an email and a few spare minutes to sign up, so make sure to pop by on your birthday for that free drink.

Everyone has their own strategies on how to get by in Toronto. Maybe you sniff out free food on campus: college societies and Frosh week are especially known for this. Perhaps you budget, prep meals, and fast through breakfast. Safe to say, there are hundreds of things you can do, and even more waiting to be discovered.

Theatre Review: Hart House’s Hair

As their 2018–2019 season comes to a close, Hair graces the stage

Theatre Review: Hart House’s <i>Hair</i>

In 1968, the musical Hair took the Broadway stage by storm with its representation of the counter-cultural, anti-war, hippie movement. Featuring powerful rock anthems, crude language, fluid sexuality, and of course, the infamous nude scene at the end of “Where Do I Go?”, it seemed to be almost as controversial as it was likeable. Now, on its 50th anniversary, Julie Tomaino’s directorial take on the show is as moving today as it was back then.

Hair, written by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, music by Galt MacDermont, takes the audience into the “Age of Aquarius,” following a group of long-haired, love-loving, drug-consuming teenagers in their fight against the rising political conservatism of their time. As high-school dropouts, these teens fight against conscription into the Vietnam War — joining the resistance through the anti-war peace movement of the 1960s. The central conflict of the show follows Claude (Christian Hodge) as he wrestles with the decision of whether or not to resist the draft as his fellow hippie friends have.

Though tentative at first, Hodge’s depiction of Claude was breathtaking; Claude transformed from a young, selfish boy to a complex man before our very eyes. His goofy movements in “Manchester England” vastly differ from the contemplative young man questioning “Where Do I Go?” by the end of the first act.

There truly was not a weak member of this cast. Berger (Andrew Perry) hilariously kicked us off with “Donna” removing his pants and breaking the fourth wall, making the audience feel strangely comfortable in an otherwise uncomfortable scenario of being seen in a crowd full of people. Marisa Dashney’s portrayal of Sheila, a political activist and lover to Berger, was beautiful and heartbreaking. Her moving performance of “Easy to Be Hard” resonated with the audience on a whole other level in the shadow of the #metoo movement.

But what makes this show stand apart were the smaller pieces of the puzzle; the ensemble. This “tribe” brought the energy of the room up with their colourful costuming, hilarious depiction of drug use, and their nailing of intricate harmonies in songs like “Aquarius” and “Hair”—  I have to take a moment to mention Kevin James Doe’s show-stealing depiction of old woman, Margaret Mead in one of the most memorable scenes of the show — the audience will be thinking about his long note in “My Conviction” until the end of time. Although the content of this show is inherently political, it is also jam-packed with comedic moments thanks to the supporting characters’ high energy, literally.

Thinking about the message of the show, it’s strange how a show about hippies and the Vietnam war can speak to a contemporary audience. Hair stripped all of the modern fear of offensiveness away — again literally — to say something unfiltered. With songs like “Coloured Spade,” “I’m Black/Ain’t Got No,” and “Three-Five-Zero-Zero,” this show speaks to the realities of its time period in the most authentic way it can – proclaiming “I’m black,” “I’m pink,” and “I’m rinso white” in an entirely unapologetic manner.

The audience literally jumped when Claude made his pivotal entrance in full army getup and short hair, and when he is repeatedly shot by a gun on stage. Hair is striking in the risks that it takes, but I think those risks paid off. I know they did.

This short escape into the “Age of Aquarius” may be just what we all were looking for: a little more peace and some good old fashioned legal marijuana.

Housing in Toronto: report shows grim rental market

Rent continues to rise, building of expensive condos favoured over cheaper rental units

Housing in Toronto: report shows grim rental market

The rental market in Toronto remains dismal, with a recent report from Rentals.ca showing that Toronto rents are the highest in the country, especially in the heavily student populated areas around UTSG.

As of October 24, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom was $2,166, and a two-bedroom was $2,589.

Rentals.ca, a popular website for apartment hunters across the country, also reported that the Ontario average asking rent per square foot was $2.76. Vacancy rates in the city are below two per cent, creating a competitive housing climate among Torontonians.

Being in the centre of downtown, UTSG is surrounded by some of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Toronto, such as Yorkville and the Entertainment District. Average rent in Yorkville, which surrounds most of the northeast corner of campus, was $3,468 a month.

However, escaping downtown isn’t a solution to the rising rents, as the top eight most expensive cities in the country are all part of the GTA, including Richmond Hill, Mississauga, and North York.

Rental prices are being pushed up by the unwillingness to buy, according to the website’s report. Toronto has experienced a housing bubble in the past year or so, therefore making people more hesitant to buy.

In addition, high mortgage credit requirements — along with the recently increased interest rate — is “reducing the credits available, reducing the ability for people to buy. So they’re choosing to rent for longer, so that’s certainly increasing demands in the rental market, which would have gone into the ownership market,” according to Ben Myers, who runs the consulting firm that analyzes the data for Rentals.ca’s housing report.

The problem of rising housing costs is compounded with the issue of minimal options for on-campus housing at UTSG. During the 2017–2018 school year, only 6,616 students were able to live on campus, spread out over 11 residences. U of T boasts a total enrolment of 90,077 students.

Most of the students living on campus are in first year, leaving a vast majority of St. George’s 43,820 undergraduate students to find housing elsewhere. However, it is difficult to pinpoint how many students are renters, since U of T does not release statistics on the number of commuters.

A plan to build a new residence at Sussex Avenue and Spadina Avenue was recently approved by the city, but it will not be completed until 2021.

A new residence is also in the works at Trinity College, tentatively located next to the Gerald Larkin Building. However, it is only in the earliest stages of planning and there is no set timeline yet.

Outside of U of T, the willingness of developers to build condominiums, which create more revenue, is not being met by the same demand. According to Rentals.ca, there simply isn’t enough rental housing being built.

Rentals.ca found that while condos comprised nearly 20 per cent of the listings on the site, they made up only six per cent of page views. Due in part to the prevalence of condos, Toronto is comprised of half owners and half renters, as opposed to the national average of two-thirds owners and one-third renters, said Professor David Hulchanski of the Department of Urban Studies.

Hulchanski also commented on the aging of Toronto’s rental buildings, noting that “existing rental stock is about 40 or 50 years old and getting older. In Toronto, almost half of rental stock is in the form of those clusters of 20-storey high rises that were built in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.”

The most recent complication to the housing situation is the provincial government’s plan to end rent control for new buildings. Current rent-controlled apartments are safe, but there will be no new supply of them. This could cause rents to rise even further, as proprietors of new housing will have no obligation to provide rent-controlled housing.

The myriad of factors that contribute to Toronto’s rising rents, such as immigration and low unemployment, are not likely to dissipate while the city continues to prosper. Toronto is currently experiencing low unemployment at 5.6 per cent. “We’ve really grown dynamically and we are a very successful, desirable city to live in, but we haven’t maintained a fair housing system,” said Hulchanski.

On October 22, let’s change the millennial voter turnout

Young voters are least likely to vote but have the highest stake in our political future

On October 22, let’s change the millennial voter turnout

As millennials have demographically surpassed the baby boomers, young people have the most political power of any other voting bloc for the first time. And according to Elections Canada, their participation is improving. About 57.1 per cent of those eligible to vote aged 18 to 24 took the time to do so for the 2015 general election, up from 38.8 per cent in 2011.

However, compare that to the 78.8 per cent of voters aged 65 to 74 who came out to the polls in 2015, and Canada’s youngest voters appear to be the least interested in engaging in the democratic process. Young people’s interests are effectively underrepresented in the dominant political discourse. This is most clearly reflected in the direction that current provincial policy is taking.

According to the Canadian Millennials Report conducted by Abacus Data, young people are more comfortable with interventionist government action, believing that corporations should pay more taxes and that the government should be more responsible for redistributing wealth. In general, they prioritize spending over balancing the budget in order to alleviate systemic issues like income inequality, and are skeptical of free market fundamentalism.

When asked to choose, 54 per cent suggest that Canada would benefit from a more socialist system. These views are quite inconsistent with the fiscal conservatism touted by the current provincial government.

Perhaps youth voter turnout is relatively low because millennials feel like they have less of a stake in today’s society. Today, people get married, have children, and buy homes much later on in their lives, if they choose to at all.

According to the 2016 Census, millennials aged 20 to 34 are less likely to be homeowners and more likely to still live with their parents, compared to baby boomers in 1981. By comparison, older homeowners and parents may be more concerned with political affairs because of policies that directly affect them, such as property taxes and child care.

Additionally, the transient lifestyles of some millennials may also lead to lower voter turnout, as proof of their current residential address is required to vote. Since people are settling down later on in life, a growing number of people have relatively temporary addresses.

For example, when I was living in residence during my first year at U of T, I assumed that I would not be able to vote in my first election because I did not have any mail to use as my proof of current address. I could have voted in my parent’s ward, where my mail was sent, but that was far away and inconvenient.

I later discovered that if you do not have a permanent residential address, your building administrator can fill out a form called a Certificate of Identity and Residence that will suffice in getting you a ballot, in lieu of mailed documents.  On quite short notice, I was happy to vote in my first ever election after a quick visit to my registrar. Now, the myvote.toronto.ca website makes it simpler to find out what ward you live in, who is running in your ward, and what identification is needed to cast a ballot.

The municipal elections are taking place on October 22, and millennials deserve to have their voices heard and more of a say in the policies shaping our incredible and unique city. An uptick in voter turnout during the last general election shows that young adults are starting to pay more attention to politics.

This may be because stakes are perceived to be higher in today’s political climate. With a culture war quietly raging in the south and populism trickling into Canadian politics, the climate crisis becoming ever more apparent with increasingly intense extreme weather events, and the economy being never too far away from a recession, young people may become more motivated to participate in the democratic process. And so they should be.

We are the ones that will have to deal with the increasingly concerning impacts of climate change, globalization, and neoliberalism. We are the ones that will be affected for decades to come by the short-sighted and unsustainable decisions of antiquated policymakers today. We are the least likely to vote. But the ones that need to vote the most are us.

Madeleine Kelly is a fifth-year Ethics, Society, and Law and Environmental Studies student at New College.

Ford’s handling of Toronto city politics, while reckless, is justified

The premier’s determination reflects a new approach to governance which should not be prematurely dismissed

Ford’s handling of Toronto city politics, while reckless, is justified

Premier Doug Ford’s government has proven to be unusual in the tradition of Ontarian politics. Past premiers have tended to err on the side of caution, operating on a moderate, consensus-based program. They have typically prioritized competent and pragmatic governance over grand ideals and purposes. Ford’s firm, populist, “for the people” style, in contrast, translates to an aggressive, uncompromising decision-making process.

Ford’s decision to cut the size of Toronto City Council — and invoke the notwithstanding clause to defend it — is the most recent example of this novel approach to governance. Objectively, the proposal is a justified one: City Council is far from the most efficient and agile institution it could be. While his headstrong pursuit of this quest is reckless, he is fully exercising the government’s legal rights. He is simply pushing the boundaries that no premier has ever thought to go near.

The Better Local Government Act, also known as Bill 5, which passed in August, began the process to cut City Council from 47 members to 25. Ford argues that the measure sought to end the “culture of waste and mismanagement” around the council. He believes that the high number of members entails a redundant and ineffective process, and by reducing its size, it will be “easier to get things done.”

As an idea, this claim is inherently reasonable. City Council is notorious for its inefficiencies. There is an inherent difficulty in having an efficient decision-making process with 47 independent, outspoken voices. When Toronto is compared with other major cities, the council’s size seems excessive. Los Angeles, for instance, has only 15. Philadelphia has 17, Houston has 16, and Vancouver has 10. These cities have established that effective, capable, and democratic local governments can exist in smaller sizes.

Critics argue that the decision is, at best, reckless and, at worst, anti-democratic. Although less efficient, more voices may be more effective in providing representation. For the average citizen, it is much easier to influence a representative of 60,000 than one of 100,000 people.

The strongest critics challenge the legality of the law, accusing Ford of having sinister intentions. In this view, the decision is an autocratic intervention into Toronto’s affairs that compromises the city’s democracy and silences its citizens, and it is also a vendetta against the council for his own negative experiences as a councillor.

These concerns about effective representation come down to a matter of balance. Of course, the city needs several councillors to ensure representation. But with that being said, it surely should not have too many. The claims about Ford’s intentions seem somewhat far-fetched. This decision is simply the result of Ford’s long-held values of smaller and less costly government.

It would also be an exaggeration to call the general proposal an attack on democracy. Municipal governments are well understood to be under the ‘constitutional authority’ of the provinces, thereby justifying provincial jurisdiction over municipal functions, finance, and governing structure.

Critics, however, are right in pointing out that the particular timing and conduct of the decision is reckless. With the municipal election coming up in October, this decision throws the process into a chaotic situation. There is no reason why the decision had to be made now. The move was also done in a very top-down and unrespectable fashion. Mayor John Tory and the council were given no consultation, let alone any warning, that this was coming. It would have been better to propose this policy first as part of a broader, public consultation with the municipality on the various ways City Council could be improved.

This quick, reckless decision also overlooked the potential illegality of the decision, made clear by the Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba’s ruling, which found that Ford’s decision to “suddenly and in the middle of this electoral process impose new rules” compromised both candidates’ and citizens’ freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, Belobaba bases his ruling only on the timing of Ford’s decision, therefore leaving open the possibility that, if done at a latter and more reasonable point, the cuts to the council would be legal and receive no objection from the judiciary.

Ford’s response was unprecedented: the invocation of the notwithstanding clause. As Section 33 of the Charter, this allows the provincial government to overrule certain portions of the Charter. This initially seems to be an overreaction. Although the courts have brought all governments grief, no previous premier has felt Section 33 to be necessary. The clause does have negative connotations, suggesting a disdain for the judicial system and for the Charter itself. The fact that it could be theoretically used to compromise various rights and freedoms has made premiers regard it as too dangerous.

Regardless of the unorthodoxy and recklessness of Ford’s approach, he has the full legal right to follow his course. Section 33 of the Charter was put in place for the exact situation Ford is claiming this to be. The clause, as requested by several provinces, was designed to be an accountability mechanism to the substantial amount of power granted to the courts by the Charter. It also ensures that the legislature, as a democratic and representative assembly, had the final say. Regardless of whether or not this is actually an overreach, the clause allows the Progessive Conservative government to make that determination.

This ability to shrug off convention is consistent with Ford’s ideology and aggressive, populist style — the very thing he promised he would bring to Queen’s Park. Ford is claiming that the good of ‘the people,’ from whom he has, in his own view, received a universal mandate, justifies an aggressive push to get things done regardless of the obstacles in the way. Thus, it is likely that we will continue to see more convention-breaking actions in the future. 

Given that the Ontario Court of Appeal has recently overturned Belobaba’s ruling, the notwithstanding clause has not been used. Nevertheless, the premier’s willingness to do so indicates a new approach to governance in Ontario. 

Sam Routley is a fourth-year Political Science, Philosophy, and History student at St. Michael’s College.