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Women getting promotions comparable to men but at a price: report

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 23rd, 2017

A recently released report reveals women are asking for raises and promotions at rates comparable to their male counterparts, however, it comes with a price.

The Women in the Workplace 2017 report surveyed over 70,000 employees and their experiences with gender, opportunity, career and work life issues. The authors of the survey, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, call this “the largest study of its kind”, as 222 companies employing over 12-million people submitted data and participated in the report.

Though the study reveals women of all colours are just as likely as men to ask for raises and promotions, they are also more likely to pay a “social penalty.” Women are more likely to be told they are intimidating, too aggressive or bossy.

The findings also revealed on average women are 18 per cent less likely to be promoted early on in their career, compared to their male peers.

“At every subsequent step, the representation of women further declines, and women of colour face an even more dramatic drop-off at senior levels,” the report reads.

“Even in industries where there’s a lot of women in lower ranks, the higher you go, you end up with a male leadership,” said Stephania Varalli, co-CEO at Women of Influence. “If it’s only men at the top, without their action and cooperation and them trying to solve a problem, we’re never going to get anywhere.”

Though there’s been progress in recent years, there’s still a wage gap that exists in the workplace. Varalli says there aren’t only gender differences, but race plays a role and that’s sometimes influenced by biases.

The results show women of colour face more obstacles as they advance in their careers, receiving less support from upper management and fewer promotions.

“Overall, two patterns are clear: compared to white women, things are worse for women of color, and they are particularly difficult for black women,” the report said.

“People don’t really recognize that they have those biases within them, so they act a certain way thinking they’re being fair. Really what they’re doing is picking people that look like them and moving them up in the organization,” said Varalli.


Women are less likely to think they have an opportunity to adance

– 37 per cent of women say they believe gender play a role in missing out on a raise, promotion or chance to get ahead, compared to 8 per cent of men.

– 39 per cent of women believe gender makes it harder to get a raise, promotion or an advancement. While only 15 per cent of men held that same belief.

– 57 per cent of women and 62 per cent of men say they have same equal opportunity for growth as their peers though.

Respondents on their companies treating people fairly

– Compared to 47 per cent of male respondents, 39 per cent of women say the best opportunities go to the most deserving employees

– 40 per cent of women and 48 per cent of  men believe promotions at their company is based on criteria that’s fair and objective.

The study also advises companies to understand and address the gender and racial gaps in the work place.

“A Road Map to Gender Equality”

The authors say the companies need a plan towards supporting and advancing women in the work place, and recommend organizations to do the following:

• Make a compelling case for gender diversity

• Invest in more employee training

• Give managers the means to drive change

• Ensure that hiring, promotions, and reviews are fair

• Give employees the flexibility to fit work into their lives

• Focus on accountability and results

Other tips: organizations urged to invest more resources in more employee training, provide a work-life balance for workers, allow for managers to play a more critical role in gender diversity efforts, and make more of an effort to ensure hiring, promotions and reviews are fair.

“You really need to have leadership on board, in order to be able to move the needle, and it can’t be just seen as a women’s equality problem,” said Vararalli. “It has to be seen as an issue that impacts everybody, your bottom line, and your ability to innovate. This is something that can really change our economy for the better, if you can figure out how to get everyone involved.”

Liberals accused of diabetes tax grab with apparent benefit clawback

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 23rd, 2017

Soila Solano prepares to inject herself with insulin (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Health groups joined forces on Sunday with the Conservative opposition to accuse the Liberal government of trying to raise tax revenue on the backs of vulnerable diabetics.

The accusation opened a new front in the ongoing opposition waged war on government taxation policy, amid the backdrop of the conflict-of-interest controversy dogging Finance Minister Bill Morneau over whether he’s properly distanced himself from millions of dollars of private sector assets.

Diabetes Canada was among the groups that joined Conservative politicians to publicly denounce what they say is a clawback of a long-standing disability tax credit to help them manage a disease that can cost the average sufferer $15,000 annually.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre branded it as one more example of an out-of-touch Liberal government that he characterized as unfairly targeting the hardworking middle class people it claims to support.

“His tax department tried to tax the employee discounts of waitresses and cashiers. Now his government is targeting vulnerable people suffering with diabetes with thousands of dollars in tax increases,” Poilievre said on Sunday at a Parliament Hill news conference flanked by fellow Conservative critics, a young diabetic constituent and a top official with a leading diabetes advocacy organization.

In May, the revenue department stopped approving a disability tax credit for people with Type 1 diabetes for those who had previously claimed it, he said.

People who need more than 14 hours per week for insulin therapy, and had a doctor’s certification previously qualified. But other than citing a spike in applications for the benefit, the government offered no explanation for the change during initial interactions earlier this spring, said Kimberley Hanson of Diabetes Canada.

Thousands of claimants from across Canada who had previously been given the $1,500 annual benefit have been rejected in recent months, but Hanson said she can’t get an exact number from Canadian Revenue Agency and has had to file an Access to Information request to find out.

In recent months, the agency officials and Minister Diane Lebouthillier have for the most part rebuffed their overtures.

“Over the past two months, she’s stopped responding to my messages and answering some of my questions,” Hanson said, referring to one senior department official.

On Saturday, a senior department official reached out to her to reopen dialogue, she said. Poilievre said that only happened because the matter was raised briefly on Friday by the Conservatives during Question Period.

“Applicants are now being denied on the basis that ‘the type of therapy indicated does not meet the 14 hour per week criteria.’ These denials are in contradiction of the certifications provided by licensed medical practitioners and do not appear to be based on evidence,” says an Oct. 3 letter to Lebouthillier, signed by Diabetes Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism and two other organizations.

In an emailed response to The Canadian Press on Sunday evening, a spokesman for Lebouthillier writes that the “concerns brought up by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and other groups, are worrisome.”

It says the minister has initiated a “five-point plan” that included numerous consultations with “stakeholders” to better understand how the benefit is administered.

It says she wants the agency to improve its data collection and is planning to hire more nurses to work in processing centers to evaluate the claims.

This would help “to ensure that a medical professional is involved in the reviewing of individual’s applications,” said the emailed statement.

This latest complaint about the government’s tax policy comes after the Liberals were forced to reset proposed tax measures after weeks of vocal opposition from small business owners, doctors, farmers and backbench Liberal MPs.

The Canada Revenue Agency was also recently forced to withdraw a notice that targeted employee discounts after it caused an uproar.

“It’s not like I can snap a finger and this disease turns off,” said Madison Ferguson, a constituent of Poilievre’s who first raised it with her MP this summer after her claim was rejected.

She said she has to constantly calculate the effect of what she eats, while monitoring her blood sugar levels as much as four to 10 times a day, using test strips that cost $1.50 to $2 each time.

“It’s quite expensive but it’s needed because without this I wouldn’t be here,” said Ferguson. “So every moment of every day has to be calculated.”

Busy weekend in Toronto with Waterfront Marathon, TTC closures

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 20th, 2017

Runners taking part in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Photo credit: canadarunningseries.com

The weather is expected to be just perfect for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday, with temperatures in the low 20s forecasted for this weekend.

If you are taking part in the race or cheering on the runners, and plan to take transit there, a portion of Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) and Queen Station will be closed.


Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon
Runners will be everywhere you look in the city this weekend as the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon takes to the streets on Sunday. Around 25,000 people from around the world are taking part in the marathon, half-marathon and 5k. The marathon and half-marathon start at 8:45 a.m., while the 5K starts at 8 a.m. Click here for an interactive route map. Runners will be taking over several streets including Lake Shore Boulevard, Queens Quay, University Avenue, and Queen Street.

Bay Street, from Queen Street West to Dundas Street West, will be closed from 11 a.m. on Saturday to 8 p.m. on Sunday. A series of road closures will also take place from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, in the area bounded by Bloor Street West, Victoria Park Avenue, Lake Shore Boulevard and Windermere Avenue. Click here for a list of road closures.

Happy Diwali
The Hindu festival of lights was celebrated Thursday, but the party continues in Brampton this weekend. The Bramalea City Centre will be home to a large, free indoor celebration both Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The mall will be filled with the sights and sounds of Diwali, including music performances by Jassi Sidhu and Mickey Singh, dance workshops, and a Miss India-Canada show. The event runs from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.1019-diwali

Howling Hootenanny
The Black Creek Pioneer Village is getting into the Halloween spirit with a Howling Hootenanny. The event – which runs both this weekend and next weekend from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – will give children a chance to trick-or-treat around the village, explore a haunted maze, and listen in on some spooky pioneer superstitions. There will even be a pumpkin decorating station. There will be a limited number of pumpkins each day, so make sure you get there early to secure one.


Boo at the Zoo
If your kids want to dress up as their favourite animal this Halloween, why not take them to the zoo to see them in person? Both this weekend and next weekend, the Toronto Zoo will be hosting Boo at the Zoo. All children in costume, ages 12 and under, will be able to get into the zoo for free. And there will be Halloween photo opportunities at the park, so don’t forget your camera.

Fall Cottage Life Show
The summer season has long gone, but you wouldn’t know it with summer-like temperatures in the forecast this weekend. If you have already closed up your cottage for the year, you can get a head start on your cottage plans for next summer. The Fall Cottage Life Show, which takes place at the International Centre from Friday to Sunday, features renovation and decor tips, and other wants you need for your space.

TTC closures

Subways won’t be running on Line 1 between Sheppard West and St. George stations this weekend due to signal upgrades. Shuttle buses will run between Sheppard West and Lawrence West stations. Extra service will run along the bus and streetcar routes to the Yonge portion of Line 1 and the bus routes to Line 2. Wheel-Trans buses will run between Sheppard West and St. George stations upon request. Regular service resumes at 6 a.m. on Monday.

Queen Station will be closed and trains will not be stopping at the station from 11 p.m. on Friday to 6 a.m. on Monday The closure is so for fare gate construction.


Amazon HQ2 would ‘fundamentally alter’ potential Canadian city candidates

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 20th, 2017

An Amazon Echo Dot is displayed during a program announcing several new Amazon products by the company, Sept. 27, 2017 in Seattle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Elaine Thompson

It’s like a technology-themed reality TV dating show.

Suitor Amazon is on the hunt for a North American city to house what it calls HQ2: a second headquarters. The ideal match will tick off most of a wide-ranging list of requirements that covers practical matters, like available buildings and green space, as well as a certain je ne sais quoi that, for example, helps it attract tech talent.

Many Canadian cities consider Amazon a catch. After all, the tech titan is promising up to 50,000 high-paying jobs and a US$5-billion investment. Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary have all promised to submit proposals by Thursday, the deadline for those looking to woo the firm into their regions.

But while the possibility of a Canadian city turning into the next Seattle — Amazon’s existing home — is tempting, experts say it’s a risky proposition that comes with some drawbacks, like making operations more challenging for local technology companies.

“An investment this large would fundamentally alter a town,” said Dan Shaw, a lecturer at Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business in Halifax.

Other businesses, including local startups, that employ highly-skilled technology workers may struggle to compete, he said.

A company may have relied on hiring new graduates from the local university for starting salaries of $60,000, Shaw explained, but Amazon has deep pockets and could push the bar for salaries higher by offering closer to $90,000 for entry-level jobs.

Canada is already facing a tech talent shortage, partially due to a brain drain as desirable candidates are lured to Silicon Valley. By 2020, there’ll be a lack of qualified workers to fill about 218,000 positions, according to the Information and Communications Technology Council’s projections.

Adding Amazon’s demand for tens of thousands of full-time workers would put further pressure on the industry, said Kyle Murray, vice-dean of the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

While that’s a concern for any local companies trying to attract workers from an insufficient talent pool, he said it’s good for society to have increased competition.

Some Canadian tech leaders have grumbled about the incentives Amazon’s asking for and city proposals are likely to include.

The proposals are private and many competitors haven’t disclosed the incentives they’ll offer, if any. The city of Toronto said the day before the deadline it wouldn’t offer any new financial incentives, but it’s clear they’re a big factor in Amazon’s choice.

The tech giant — which has a market value of nearly half a billion dollars — asks for incentives, including tax credits and/or exemptions, and various grants, in its request for proposals. Initial and ongoing business costs “are critical decision drivers,” the company said.

“The concern, of course, is that it becomes a race to the bottom,” said Sherena Hussain, an assistant professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto.

The successful city could also find itself in a situation in which the company makes up such a large portion of its economy that it must continue giving it preferential treatment so it doesn’t leave town, said Shaw.

Though, he noted that “massively scalable organizations don’t grow on trees,” so Amazon does present an exciting opportunity.

Businesses aside, the advent of an Amazon headquarters could also create problems for local citizens.

Tens of thousands of new workers earning an average of more than US$100,000 would substantially raise housing prices and the overall cost of living, Shaw said. It could also create transportation problems as the employees increase the number of people commuting via public transit and roads.

These issues presented themselves in Seattle after Amazon built its headquarters there in 2010. Still, former mayor Greg Nickels has said he considers the growth Amazon brought worthwhile and a better alternative to being a Detroit or Cleveland.

GTA woman says her information was compromised by Equifax hack

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 20th, 2017


Thousands of Canadians across the country, including GTA residents, are finding out their most intimate financial details have been compromised by Equifax.

It was on Sept. 7 when the massive global consumer credit reporting company announced a massive breach in its system. But it took until last Friday for the company to get a handle on just how many Canadians have been affected. Notices are going out now.

Toronto law firm Sotos LLP, which is spearheading a $500-million class action lawsuit, said it’s a financial disaster for anyone who has been affected.

“A class action lawsuit has the potential to get you money down the road, but as far as getting you an iron clad solution for down the road I don’t have answers for that,” said Sotos lawyer Jean-Marc Leclerc.

A GTA woman who wished to remain anonymous told CityNews she was concerned about how the breach could affect her privacy in the future.

“First of all, you’re shocked that, yes, your information is out there, your entire life, your credit card transactions, your addresses, your social insurance number,” she said.

“So many things are going through my head right now. First of all, how I’m going to live moving forward knowing my information is out there and something may happen — maybe not this year, maybe next year, maybe even five years, 10 years from now. This will (follow me) until the end of my life.”

Ironically, she had been paying Equifax $20 a month to protect her from financial fraud.

Equifax now says 8,000 Canadians have been affected; an earlier estimate put the number closer to 100,000.

Massey Hall makeover: big changes coming to the iconic concert venue

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 20th, 2017

An artist's rendering of a revitalization planned at Massey Hall. MASSEYHALL.COM

One of Toronto’s historic music venues is currently undergoing a seven-year facelift. And music fans are now getting a sneak peak at what a revitalized Massey Hall will look like.

Flexibility will be a key aspect of the new space. Retractable seats will be installed that can be rolled away to create an open space on the floor during concerts and other events.

“They will fold up and slide underneath the stage on rails in a very short period of time. And that opens it up for general admission,” explained Marianne McKenna, who is heading up the redesign project.

An adjoining seven-storey tower will also be built along Victoria Street. Once the dust has settled, the city will have two additional, intimate performance spaces.

A 500-capacity venue will be built on the fourth floor of the new tower. A smaller space will also be created in the existing lower level Centuries Bar and Lounge, which will be overhauled and expanded.

The new additions come at a time when numerous concert venues across the city are shutting down.

“In light of some of the issues around music venues in the city and the future of music, what Massey’s proposing is so important,” said Councillor Josh Colle, the chair of Toronto’s Music Advisory Council.

“It will create these incubation spaces where younger, emerging artists can also hone their craft so that one day they might play on the main stage at Massey Hall,” Colle adds.

Massey Hall will close down next year, allowing the $139 million dollar renovation to kick into overdrive. If all goes according to plan, the new-look venue should be open in 2020.


Final liquidation sales begin at Sears Canada but deals underwhelming

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 20th, 2017

A Sears Canada outlet is seen Tuesday, June 13, 2017 in Saint-Eustache, Que. Sears Canada Inc. is applying for court approval to liquidate all of its remaining stores and assets after failing to find a buyer that would allow it to continue as a going concern. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Sears Canada began its liquidation sales at its remaining stores across the country Thursday, but many shoppers found the deals to be underwhelming.

While signs suggest discounts of 20 to 50 per cent off – with a note that exceptions apply – relatively few items at a Toronto store appeared to be offered at half off.

Some big ticket items such as snowblowers and treadmills were only 10 per cent off.

But dozens of shoppers still braved long check-out lines to make their purchases as Sears prepares to shut its doors for good after 65 years in business.

A joint-venture group – which includes Hilco Global, Gordon Brothers Canada, Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group – is running the liquidation sales at 74 remaining department stores and eight Home stores.

Discounts are available on all Sears’s own brands, including Kenmore, as well as brand name men’s and women’s apparel, and a variety of other categories including home decor, toys, furniture, and major appliances.

“Selected fixtures, furnishings and equipment in the closing stores will also be for sale,” said the joint-venture group.

Sears Canada gift cards will be honoured throughout the sale as well, the group said. However, Sears Canada stopped honouring extended warranties as of Wednesday.

Liquidation sales at 49 Sears Hometown stores were expected to start Thursday, or sometime soon, but discounts there will vary, according to Sears Canada spokesman Joel Shaffer.

Some items are also listed for clearance on the Sears Canada website, including a four-piece outdoor furniture set discounted from $499.99 to $299.95. However, not everything online has been marked down just yet.

The sales are expected to last between 10 to 14 weeks. Sears Canada timed its liquidation sales to take advantage of the busy holiday shopping season to maximize the value it could attain for the inventory.

The retailer has been in creditor protection since June, but was unable to find a buyer which would allow it to keep operating.

Sears Canada received court approval to proceed with its liquidation sales last week. A group led by its executive chairman Brandon Stranzl had been in weeks-long discussions with Sears Canada to purchase the retailer and continue to operate it. However, no deal was reached.

Stranzl resigned from Sears Canada’s board of directors on Monday.

Bayview extension speed limit could return to 60 km/h

CityNews | posted Thursday, Oct 19th, 2017

The intersection of Bayview Avenue and Pottery Road. GOOGLE MAPS

Debate is about to begin again over a stretch of road notorious for speeding.

Just over a year ago city council agreed to lower the speed limit on Bayview Avenue from Pottery Road to the River Street ramp from 60 km/h to 50 km/h. That decision went into effect this summer.

However, it seems drivers aren’t getting the message and a new report from the general manager for Transportation Services is suggesting the limit return to its original speed.

“Following installation of 50 km/h speed limit signs on June 6, 2017, concerns have been expressed about the disparity between the speed limit and the speeds at which drivers are travelling,” the item on the Public Works agenda reads.

“Based on a speed study and a review of the design of the roadway, collision history, and the existing road environment, staff have determined that a speed limit of 60 km/h is more appropriate for Bayview Avenue from Pottery Road to River Street ramp.”

The cost to change the speed limit back is estimated at $3,000.

The report will be presented to the Public Works Committee on Wednesday.

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