The Furniture Bank

This afternoon, I was given a tour of the Furniture Bank at 25 Connell Court near Kipling and Evans. It's quite remarkable what's happening there. Here's what they do in their own words, and then I'll follow that up with my own words and photos.

Furniture Bank is committed to offering a hand to the formerly homeless, women and children escaping abusive situations, and newcomer families and refugees. In fact anyone in need of a fresh start.

We work in partnership with over 90 community agencies and shelters to assist individuals who require furniture and household goods for their homes. All items selected by our clients are provided to them free of charge.

Our partner agencies play a critical role by helping to screen potential furniture recipients. This helps us focus on our commitment to ensuring those who transition out of displacement are given the best possible chance to succeed in life.

It all starts with you. Let's say you have a dining room table and chairs you no longer need, or a couch you're replacing, or a television you're upgrading, or dinnerware, or any furniture or household items you're willing to part with, you donate that to the Furniture Bank. You can drop it off, or pay a nominal fee to have it picked up. And before you squawk at having to pay a fee to get your donations picked up, just know that the bulk of their financing comes from those fees.

The Furniture Bank

Your donations arrive at the Furniture Bank and are inspected. Some may be ready for the showroom floor immediately, other items may need cleaning or some additional tlc. I saw chairs getting fresh paint, new upholstery, and other such repairs. Electrical items are tested by an electrician. Once the furniture or household items are deemed ready for primetime, they're put on display in the showroom.

The Furniture Bank

The Furniture Bank

The Furniture Bank

Here's a few pictures of the showroom. Shoutout to Endy Mattresses for donating every mattress that's returned within their 100 day window.

The Furniture Bank

The Furniture Bank

The Furniture Bank

Families in need book appointments through a partner agency and spend time in the showroom deciding what they want for their home. The chosen items are then delivered to the recipient.

The Furniture Bank

It's remarkable what's been happening a short 15 minute bike ride from my home without me realizing. If I was clueless, you may be as well. The Furniture Bank needs your furniture and housewares, but they could also use your money. To donate money, visit https://www.furniturebank.org/create-a-home/. All donations come with a tax receipt.

The Furniture Bank

If you're in the GTA and would like your donation picked up, visit https://www.furniturebank.org/furniture-pickup-request-2/. If you'd prefer to drop it off yourself, visit https://www.furniturebank.org/furniture-dropoff/.

The Furniture Bank furnished the homes of more than 10,000 marginalized neighbours in 2018 and provided meaningful work for over 20 individuals facing barriers to employment. I tip my hat to them!

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How Can Toronto Close Gender Gap in the Workforce?

Last month, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report of Canada’s 26 biggest cities, and it found that Toronto was one of the worst cities for women in the workforce.

The results confused many Toronto residents on the street as the city is known for its liberal attitudes and cosmopolitan ideals of equality and empowerment.

But the report puts Toronto as the third-worst city for women in Canada in terms of the gender employment gap.  The gap also increased from 2013 to 2017 indicating that trend is getting worse.

Researchers cite the difficulties many immigrant women face in entering the labor force as a reason for Toronto’s declining female workforce participation numbers.  According to the report, immigrants account for 47% of the greater Toronto area, and Toronto has also seen a recent influx of new immigrants. For a variety of factors, these women participate less frequently in the labor force, and more work needs to be done to provide these women with better opportunities.

Toronto has some of the highest childcare fees in Canada, and many women with partners in the labor force may not be able to get a job because of the high cost of sending their child to daycare.  The lowering rate of female workforce participation comes despite the fact that Toronto is experiencing strong economic growth, and rerouting this prosperity into childcare services could be a strong policy proposal to increase woman in the workforce.

In other areas, Toronto ranked near the middle of other Canadian cities, indicating that workforce participation is one of the city’s biggest issues when it comes to female empowerment.  Toronto ranked second in security and third for education, and women in Toronto are more highly educated than men.

However, the government has to step in to ensure that highly educated women and new immigrants to the country are able to participate in the workforce on a more level playing field to their male counterparts.

Lorena Castillo of ABOUTWOMEN argues that women are vital to the workforce especially in industries that make products for women.  Her employer reviews products for women, and she said, “it is important to have a female perspective in all industries, but especially in spaces that are for women.  If a woman wants to select a beauty product then she should hear what a woman thinks about it instead of having a man trying to describe how the product works.”

Other than government support for more women in the workforce, societal changes also need to occur before Canada reaches a more equitable working world.  According to Plan International Canada, women become less confident about their prospects as they get older. 60% of girls aged 14-17 reported that they feel they have the same opportunity to lead as men, while only 38% of women aged 18-24 say the same.

Perhaps younger generations will do more to change the stigma against women in leadership roles, and with more women in high positions, there are now role models for young women to look up to.  But Canadians need to work harder to make sure that women and young girls feel they are welcome in the workplace and can achieve the same success as men.

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Will Canadian Alcohol Brands Break Through Internationally?

Canadian drinking enthusiasts may be dismayed at rising taxes on alcohol and spirits, but Canadian alcohol brands may be looking to grow business abroad for a multitude of reasons.

Canada is now known as one of the countries with the laxest laws on marijuana after the federal Cannabis Act came into law on October 17, 2018.  Thus, the country is growing a reputation in the marijuana industries as one of the most important countries for developing products and brands related to cannabis.

On the other hand, Canadian alcohol has yet to break through into the international market.  A quick look at the highest grossing alcohol companies shows that Western Europe, the United States, and Japan dominate a large portion of the global market.

According to research, the most popular beer in Canada is even an American product, Budweiser.  Big American beer companies have also announced plans to further enter the Canadian market after the ruling on cannabis in hopes of selling alcohol products infused with cannabis.

But, are there Canadian companies attempting to break through and break this global dominance?

Unfortunately for Canada, much of the beer market has been swallowed up by large American companies and other multinational corporations.  But that does leave room for Canadian companies in other markets.

Perhaps Canada’s biggest hope to break through in the world of alcohol is in whiskey.  One of the top whiskey critics in the world crowned Canada's Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye the World Whisky of The Year, earning a record-high score.

Canadian whiskeys are becoming more popular and several are produced by multinational corporations such as Japanese company Suntory Beverage & Food and England’s Diageo.  These companies rely on Canadian distilleries to produce top quality whiskey.

Also, smaller distilleries are popping up around Canada similar to the trend of beer’s microbreweries.  These smaller establishments typically have less desire to become a massive worldwide name, but they still can produce high-quality products that may soon become popular in America.

Jannik Lindner of canadiangentleman.ca commented on the future of Canadian whiskey, “the new emphasis on whiskey in Canada indicates that foreign companies and consumers are catching on to the popularity of Canadian whiskey.  With whiskey, it is often about presentation, and if companies begin designing their own glasses and accompanying products, these new up-and-comers can really build a strong Canadian brand.”

Canadian whiskey brands will also have to differentiate themselves from American bourbon in order to better infiltrate foreign markets.  The product has to be distilled, fermented and aged in Canada, and it has to contain at least 40% alcohol.

Marketing Canada as a center of whiskey production may seem like a punt, but it would be easier than fighting with the massive corporations in control of much of the beer market.

Toronto has its own quirks when it comes to beer and alcohol, but could the next big drink come out of our city?  It might be wishful thinking, but there might be an enterprising Canadian whiskey seller out there looking to change how the product is viewed on the world stage.

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Federal Agency Researches Tracking Employees Health with Watches

According to reporting from CBC, a federal agency is doing exploratory research into tracking public employees with smartwatches in order to lower healthcare costs.

The Impact and Innovation Unit is doing the research, and it is part of Prime Minister Trudeau’s Privy Council Office.

In West Virginia, a teachers’ strike was in part mobilized by the state’s plan to track teacher’s health with smartwatches and adjust health care costs levied against their employers accordingly.  The plan caused a fervor, and the state was forced to scrap the plan along with offering the teachers’ union more concessions on pay and healthcare.

Fortunately for Canadian, the standard and cost of healthcare is much better than their American counterparts.

Fitbits, Apple watches, and other smartwatches are able to collect health data ranging from heartbeat, steps and general exercise down by the user.  Several American insurance companies are offering incentives for customers to share their healthcare data with them.

In the case of Canada, researchers are looking if implementing a smartwatch policy for public employees would reduce healthcare premiums for active and healthy employees.  The Impact and Innovation Unit lists several drawbacks to having smartwatches on public employees, including pushback from employees about their privacy being breached.

The research unit is also looking at other incentive programs to make employees eat and live healthier.  This could take the form of a mobile app or website that offers discounts on products and other bonuses for making health-conscious choices.

This incentive-based system contrasts with other policy solutions such as making it more affordable to eat healthily or providing more health education.  Nudging is another somewhat controversial policy solution where policymakers design laws based on creating psychological nudges that increase outcomes without offering any incentive.

Many Canadians are likely to be wary about any sort of program that tracks health data through smartwatches, and if the policy was implemented it might face harsh pushback.  And in terms of improving health and fitness, there are likely better options.

Alexander Eser of FITBOOK remarked that increasing fitness is often personal, “someone has to have the desire to improve their health in order to see real results.  No one will make massive life changes and buy into a healthier lifestyle if they receive small or negative incentive to do so.”

Policymakers are often attempting to change bad habits of citizens either through increasing taxes on unhealthy products or subsidizing public transport.  While the smartwatch policy is still in the exploratory phase, and it may never see the light of day, Canadian politicians will continue to look at how they can improve their citizens’ health.  So far, the committee has only done initial research on the fitness tracking policy, but they will continue to look for solutions.

Eser added, “I would advise more of a focus on education if people know more about the health impacts of different products and foods that are available to them, then they can make more informed decisions.”

Canadian employees are unlikely to be forced to wear a smartwatch to work any time soon, but the public will have to hold their policymakers accountable for providing better alternatives than tracking their every move.

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Flying Drones in Canada Legally and Safely

There are new rules for flying drones in Canada. These come into effect on June 1, 2019. Before we look into these new rules, let's understand that "drone" is a term used to refer to any type of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS).

You're not going to be able to legally fly your drone without a drone pilot certificate. it's just a question of whether you need advanced training or basic training. You need advanced drone training if:

  • You are 16 years old or older;
  • Your drone weighs between 0.25 – 25 kg;
  • You want to fly in controlled airspace;
  • You always stay under 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level;
  • You want to fly within 30 metres (100 feet) horizontally from bystanders or fly over them; and
  • You will always keep your drone in sight.

Find a dependable drone training expert and learn to fly your done safely and legally.

Drone pilots must follow the rules in the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs). Part IX – Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems contains most of the rules that apply to drones. You should read these regulations in full before you fly your drone for the first time.

Drone pilots must carry a valid drone pilot certificate and only fly drones that are marked and registered.


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Mimico Mountaineers vs. St. Michael's College Kerry Blues

In my hood, many kids grow up playing lacrosse. It's not uncommon to spot automobiles sporting a Mimico Mountaineers bumper sticker.

Forever I've seen the St. Michael's College Kerry Blues logo. I just assume these cars belong to the proud parent of a St. Mike's student athlete.

Only recently did I realize how similar these two logos are, and that I often don't really know which one I'm seeing. Here's a quick comparison.

Mimico Mountaineers Logo


St. Michael's College Logo


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I Choo-Choo-Choose You

HeartHappy Valentine's Day. I choo-choo-choose you.

I Choo-Choo-Choose You

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The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good

2018 was a year of personal growth, and as it comes to a close, I'm awfully proud of where I'm at heading into 2019. I have four healthy, smart and sweet kids, a strong and healthy marriage, a personal best for KMs biked and I'm feeling great physically and psychologically.

It wasn't all wine and roses, however... here's the good, the bad, and the ugly, but to end on a positive note, it's the ugly, the bad, and the good.

The Ugly

The last thing I expected heading into 2018 is that I'd be unfairly shit on by Dean Blundell. That was ugly. I plan to leave that garbage in 2018.

With that Blundell crap came trolling, but not from Blundell supporters. It's coming from Doug Thompson and his "yellow board" friends and I'm not quite sure why. Luckily, I have industrial strength scrub brushes and am determined to persevere.

The Bad

The Molly Johnson episode was bad. Her attitude threw me off my game and I wasn't able to do my thing. At least I learned a great deal from it and am a better host today because of what happened in episode 368.

The Mike Stafford incident was unfortunate, because I thoroughly enjoyed both his visits and have always been a fan. The question I asked Lou Schizas that set Stafford off is a question I'd ask him again, so I'm not sure I could have avoided this conflict. It was pretty innocuous, and not worthy of my new "turd in a basement" moniker.

I was restructured out of a full time gig I'd had for seven years. I received a stellar review just a week before hearing the news and was literally told my job was moving to Atlanta. That made it easy to not take it personally, but it still sucked.

The Good

There was plenty of good in 2018. As mentioned, my family is healthy and well-adjusted, I'm feeling good and the aforementioned restructuring led me to begin the next chapter in my life.

I launched my own digital services company. TMDS has been my sole source of income for four months now and it's been a wonderfully rewarding experience. I'm learning so much as I build this business from scratch, and I'm incredibly optimistic about what's in store for 2019. I'm striving to continuously improve Toronto Mike'd, passionate about helping others podcast, and continuing to provide digital marketing services and content to a variety of different businesses. And most importantly, I'm responsible for my own calendar and betting on myself.

That's a quick summary of the good, bad and ugly I experienced in 2018, but I'm jazzed about what's around the corner in 2019. Happy new year to each and every one of you, and thanks for your continued support!

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Happy Birthday, Cheryl!

Happy Birthday, Cheryl!The first comment left on this blog by Cheryl was "I want to say I am happy. I live in Toronto, but am a Habs fan. That's just the way it is. I love my Habs and I also like the Phoenix Coyotes. I hate the Leafs." That was November 1, 2009, and little has changed.

Cheryl still lives in Toronto, is still a Habs fan, still hates the Leafs, and I hope she's having a happy birthday today.

happy birthday cheryl

For the visually impaired, the image above is a birthday message for Cheryl from her teams:

  • Phoenix Coyotes
  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Arizona Cardinals
  • Montreal Canadiens
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Cleveland's baseball team

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Oldest Tee Shirt I Still Wear Regularly Turns 20

I'm a big fan of tee shirts. I wear a tee shirt or two just about every day of the year. Even in the dead of winter I'll wear a tee shirt under my jacket.

I'm guessing I have about twenty tees in my current rotation. The oldest one I still wear regularly is now twenty years old. It's a Pearl Jam shirt I bought when I saw them at Molson Park in Barrie back in '98.

My Concert Going Shirt

Not surprisingly, I love getting free tee shirts. Send me a tee (medium, please!) and I'll probably wear it. Is there anything better than a free tee?

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