Category Archives: Toronto

Reflections on Parental Leave

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Note:  The following is a preview of my post on the Big Daddy Kreativ Blog

Paid parental leave for men – it’s a concept that blows some people away. Daddy gets to stay home with the baby for months while the job waits for him to return. It is a blessed concept that we are lucky to have here in Canada: After an initial 17 week Maternity leave, 35 weeks of paid parental benefits are available between both parents as long as they paid into EI during their employment.

I know that, if I lived in most other countries, including the US, I wouldn’t have parental leave. I would look back on my life and regret not getting more baby time. Thankfully though, I will view my life with two daughters under the age of 2 as having been a great balance of work and family.  I regularly work long hours, so my commitment to my family was that I would take parental leave with each child.  As I tell everyone who asks me about why I took parental leave, “No one really looks back on their life wishing that they had spent more time working, but a lot of people do wish that they had spent more time with their family”   …..  to read the rest of this post please visit –  http://www.bigdaddykreativ.ca/reflections-on-parental-leave/

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GIANT PANDAS coming to the Toronto Zoo this May.

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With summer around the corner, I’ve been trying to convince my wife that we should take a family trip to the Toronto Zoo. Our oldest daughter Amina is 21 months old which is old enough to enjoy looking at the animals from her picture books. Last year we went to African Lion Safari when she was under one but at the time she didn’t really understand what was going on.  It’ll be interesting to see what her reactions to real live animals will be like this time.

Toronto-Zoo_canadian_design

This summer the Toronto Zoo has an exhibit featuring two new Pandas: Er Shun and Da Mao and their exhibit opens May 18. Did you know that Pandas are carnivores?  Most people think they only eat Bamboo, but their diet consists of 90% bamboo and 10% other food items including meat like birds and rodents. These two pandas won’t be short on bamboo since FedEx is delivering 600-900 kilograms from the Memphis Zoo in the United States two to three times per week, to keep them well fed.  Pandas are very picky eaters. They will take a stalk of bamboo, smell it, and decide if they like it or not. If it doesn’t appeal to them, they will just toss it. I bet Amina wishes she could do that when we feed her blended Broccoli.

The pandas are only 1 of 500 species and there are over 5000 animals at the Toronto Zoo, being one of the biggest zoos in the world. We are pretty lucky to have it right in our backyard given that Pandas are an endangered species.    To find out more about the Toronto Zoo and its pandas check out this link.

Mayor Ford & Torontos Fast Food Obsession

Why are we obsessed with his eating habits? 

Fast food has been in the news lately. This Tuesday a Torontonian filmed our Mayor Ford entering a KFC on Jane St. near Wilson Ave and mocked him for eating there. The video was feature prominently on http://www.thestar.com. The video was rude and The Star was being TMZ like in its promotion of the video … but it did make me reflect on the prominent role that fast food plays in our lives.

A recent study looked at six major fast food chains, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway, operating in 6 different countries, Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.  The study found that Canada is one of the countries that serves the saltiest food, United States being the first and the worst.  Research indicates that too much salt intake leads to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.  If other countries can serve food with less salt, then what is wrong with our country?

Popeyes deep fried chicken – a Toronto favourite

I propose that our government collect studies  comparing levels of blood pressure in countries and it’s correlation with Fast Food consumption. Then I propose that a tax be levied on fast food and foods with trans fats to discourage consumption. In the long term it may even help reduce health care costs … and it may motivate me to curb my own cravings of Hero Burgers (one of the few halal burger joints in the GTA).

A Toronto landmark takes a break – Ontario Place shutting down until 2017.

Toronto - Ontario Place

Ontario Place is temporarily closing until its expected revitalization in 2017.  Some areas of Ontario Place will be ready for the 2015 Pan Am Games, and privately run attractions (Atlantis, the Molson Amphitheatre and marina) will remain open throughout the redevelopment.  Ontario Place was opened on Victoria Day in 1971 and was welcomed as a ‘beacon of the future’, an achievement which represented Ontario’s richness and untouched potential. Four decades ago, newspapers acclaimed the ‘futuristic playground’ made into Lake Ontario on manmade islands and creative pods.  Its closure and revitalization is due to its inability to make a profit since its opening year when 2.5 million people visited the attraction.  Last year,  Ontario Place saw about 1 million visitors and half that number only walk through it to get to the Molson Amphitheatre.

My wife and I enjoyed the attraction in 2010 and we had quite an adventure that saw a bag I was carrying with food and my glasses drop into the propeller of a bumper boat. The food was lost, the glasses got scratched and the boat’s motor started releasing smoke … good times. I’m  looking forward to going back in 2017 when Ontario Place becomes a futuristic Toronto attraction again.

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Construction underway for 2015 Toronto Pan AM games

Athletes Village Toronto Pan AM games

After some inactivity due to the birth of our baby and some crazy times at work, I’m back in the blogosphere! I recently spent a great weekend with a group of bloggers I took down to the Detroit auto show and their enthusiasm and dedication shamed me into reviving my own blog.  So here we go:

Infrastructure Ontario and Waterfront Toronto announced today that they have signed a $514 million  contract for the development of the Athletes’ Village during the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games. The village is set to be built on the West Don Lands — an area triangulated by  the Port Lands, Corktown and the southern terminus of the Don Valley Parkway.

The project is expected to create and support 5,200 jobs, including employment of approximately 700 workers on the construction site.

I’m excited by any activity that brings more visibility to Toronto within the international community and cultivates Tourism. What do you think?

Toronto City Hall – Please Don’t screw up our libraries. Cut the hourly rate for big businesses.

I have to admit that growing up I barely made use of libraries. I grew up in a francophone suburb of Montreal and the library there didn’t carry a good selection of English books.  Being an avid reader I just used to buy all my books at Indigo/ Chapters … which was quite an expensive habit.

After moving to Toronto my wife introduced me to the Toronto Public Library system and I was blown away. They had pretty much every popular book and movie I was interested in.  I think the Library system is one of the few things out there that work smoothly and make me  glad to pay my taxes.

Recently, the city called for an assessment of all city services to make strategic budget cuts.  As a result, our City Council wants to privatize some or all of Toronto Public Libraries’ (TPL) operations and close down branches.   The private operator would decrease the degree of public funding that currently aids our libraries, but in order to make a profit, would make some changes that would make library access difficult for many.  We would have higher user fees, fewer books, less access to the libraries because of local branches closing or hours of operation being limited, and more staff cuts. This type of cut would be a blow to many, especially lower income families who use the library system as their only means of internet access.

If the city wants to cut expenses they should look at the hourly rates they are paying to big businesses and the expensive contracts they have out there.  I suggest that instead of cutting jobs and services they analyze the $100+ / hour they pay to external vendors and control costs that way. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hadn’t payed KPMG over $140 /hour to help them strategize on how to cut costs.

I encourage you to reach out to  City Council and politely inform them that we want to continue enjoying what TPL offers us today and not to privatize. A list of your local city councillors can be found at: http://app.toronto.ca/im/council/councillors.jsp  

Vitaminwater 10 – One of the Best Non-alcoholic Drinks Known to Man

vitaminwater has a sense of humor 🙂 ... That eyemask in the package is lol worthy

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting the super-cool Lauren O’Nizzle while spending a day with some of Toronto’s biggest bloggers  as part of a  media event for Ford where I work.   Turns out that besides running a popular Blog, she’s a community manager for Glaceau vitaminwater.

I told her how much I love the taste of vitaminwater and she sent over a whole case  of it for me to try out. To my surprise there’s a new type of vitaminwater out there that only has 10 calories per 591 ml bottle. That’s a huge benefit! I’ve been cutting calories recently ahead of my yearly physical (ugh) by dropping sodas and juice which have more than 100 calories per glass.

With vitaminwater 10, you have almost no excess calories plus the added goodness of a whole slew of vitamins.    It’s going to be a staple at my home bbq’s from now on … I don’t drink since I’m Muslim and neither do most of my friends and family. Our usual drinks at parties are vast amounts of soda’s and juice but this is bound to become a new staple for us once more people hear about it!

Taking into account the variety of flavors and the nutritional value of vitamins without a caloric hit, I am going to go out on a limb and declare it my favorite low calorie drink out there besides water. 

Standard Disclaimer:  I was  not paid nor asked to write this product review and all opinions are my own.