Saturday, 1 October 2011


I'm currently working (slowly) through Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" (, which I am thoroughly loving so far!  Knowledge about decisions aside, I will be adding below some of its more amusing quotes as I come across them ...

"Anyone who has ever scanned the bookshelves of a new girlfriend or boyfriend - or peeked inside his or her medicine cabinet - understands this implicitly: you can learn as much - or more - from one glance at a private space as you can from hours of exposure to a public face."

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Quotes & Eulogies from Jack Layton's State Funeral at Roy Thomson Hall

The video tribute/montage ... 

"Jack was so alive. So much fun. So engaged in daily life with so much gusto. So unpretentious, that it was hard while he lived to focus on how incredibly important that was to us ... Jack simply radiated an authenticity and honesty and a commitment to his ideals that we now realize we've been thirsting for."

"You could wait forever for perfect conditions, or you can make the best of what you've got"

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.  On a quiet day I can hear her breathing." - Arundhati Roy

"Always have a dream that is longer than a lifetime" - Jack Layton

Monday, 22 August 2011

RIP Jack Layton

It says something about a man when you rack your brain thinking about the things they said, and all you come back to is "I won't stop until the job is done".

A common thread among leaders in any field is that they are never, ever, satisfied.  Complacency & the status quo are not in their psyche because things can be better, things can be different - if we have the courage to put ourselves forward and work at them.  Jack embodied these values of courage, hard work and optimism better than any leader I have seen in Canadian politics in my 31 years.  As the NDP, Liberals, and probably even the Conservatives all engage in hotly contested leadership races in the coming years - let us hope that they each look beyond the specific issues of the day and choose a leader who share these values too. 

The best obit of the day so far is by Joanna Smith in The Toronto Star, at:  Jack Layton Dead at 61

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Mt Everest in 1996

Fully addicted to this story and the various accounts & characters involved, I've now read three of the autobiographical books on the 1996 disaster upon Mt Everest, that from Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air); Anatoli Boukreev (The Climb); and Beck Weathers (Left for Dead). 

Next up on the list:  High Exposure by high altitude mountaineering legend David Breashears.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


Please return to this page after September 1st, 2011

Left for Dead

Some of my favourite quotes from Beck Weathers' account of the infamous 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in his book Left For Dead:

"Our pace was that slow, rhythmic, metronome-like gait ingrained in the frame of my being through years of climbing."  -p37

"You travel in a private bubble of light from your headlamp, the rest of the world as lost to you as if you were alone on the face of the moon." -p38

"In that moment, by saving those three people who otherwise surely would have died, Anatoli Boukreev became a hero.  Let that be the way Anatoli is remembered."  -p52

"Both of them knew exactly what lay ahead.  When those moments had passed and Rob no longer had to be strong, you could hear him quietly weeping as he faced his own death.  He didn't know the radio was still on." -p57

"You cannot sweat that small stuff, I said to myself.  You have to focus on that which must be done, and do that thing." -p62

"The three of them - David, Ed and Robert - are elite mountaineers, among the most famous and accomplished mountain climbers in the world.  It wasn't lost on me that I, the ultimate grunt at the end of his climbing career, suddenly was surrounded by a dream team of mountaineering.  Another of life's little ironies."  -p71

"I know a man who believes he has a brave heart, but he's never been sufficiently challenged to know if this is true.  I will ask him."  -p74

"Madan is to me the most extraordinary person in this story, because he didn't know me at all. He didn't know my family, and he has his own family, for which he is the sole provider. We were separated by language, by culture, by religion, by the entire breadth of this world, but bound together by a bond of common humanity." -p81

"I felt compelled to go to him.  I didn't care where he was.  I didn't really know where I was going, or how I would get there.  But I figured I was going to find him."  -p96

"At no point had this been a pretty or even interesting climb, but when we finally reached the Canelleta, I understood why Trevanian so fiercely loathes Aconcagua.  The Canelleta may be the most miserable natural incline on Earth.  You can't go up it quickly, because you can't get enough breath.  But if you go too slowly it slides out from under you."  -p242

Monday, 18 July 2011

Priority Neighbourhoods: A letter from John Tory to Community Development and Recreation Committee

I've always felt John Tory was far better in municipal politics than on the provincial stage.  I am in lockstep with his position on the current priority neighbourhood debate working its way through Toronto City Council, and I hope the Community Development and Recreation Committee considers his words below before making up their minds on this one.  For the full link on Civic Action's website, check out:

July 12, 2011

Community Development and Recreation Committee
Toronto City Council
10th floor, West Tower, City Hall
100 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Dear Community Development and Recreation Committee Members,

I am writing to you in my capacity as Chair of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance concerning the proposal to rename and review the programs put in place to improve our Priority Neighbourhoods.

Since its original inception as the Toronto City Summit Alliance, one of CivicAction’s principal concerns has been to identify measures we can undertake together, the results of which will be a healthy, prosperous and inclusive city region.

To me, and to most if not all of all of the thousands of people involved in CivicAction’s work, this has meant that addressing the special and often acute needs of some of our neighbourhoods stands high on the priority list. As a result, we have been very supportive of, and have in some instances partnered with the United Way, governments and other non-profit organizations, in efforts like the Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force to help the residents of those neighbourhoods overcome some of the unique challenges they face in trying to build up their lives and build up their neighbourhoods.

As you know, my long history with the United Way predates my return to a leadership role in CivicAction. In all of that time, and in visits to every one of the 13 Priority Neighbourhoods, never once has anyone mentioned to me any feeling of stigmatization as a result of this designation. I recognize that some residents may be concerned about labels, but the many I have met have told me that the Priority Neighbourhood designation gives them a sense of hope, because maybe, just maybe, it will encourage some focus on these areas with their special needs, and might in turn lead to crucial public and private investment. I have often said in my own speeches that the “Priority Neighbourhood” designation may in fact be too polite in that it doesn’t really seem as urgent as is the actual need to help some of our fellow citizens who are struggling the most.

My experience in public life has taught me to be very wary anytime I see people proposing a name change for a government program. I have learned that such a change is often proposed when the real intent is to downsize or eliminate the program. In the case of Priority Neighbourhoods, there are only success stories to tell, many of them modest, but representing a beginning. There have, however, been mentions of these programs being “handouts”, and of making programs available to an even broader range of neighbourhoods. These words seem to hint at the possibility that the real result of a name change would be to see some of these initiatives spread thinner, diminished or abolished and, notwithstanding the city’s financial difficulties, this would be a grave mistake.

None of the programs initiated under the Priority Neighbourhood heading amount to “handouts” as most people would understand that term. In many cases they do indeed represent a hand up: a small homework club here to keep kids in school, a recreation program there to give kids something to do. And far from chasing private investment away, the Priority Neighbourhoods program has attracted MILLIONS of dollars of investment, through generous donations to the United Way which have created Neighbourhood Hubs, to corporate sponsorship of new recreational facilities and the beginnings of some business investment.

There is indeed a spending problem at City Hall, but it does not lie in the programs like this which offer modest help to some of our citizens who are most in need. In my view, the Priority Neighbourhood programs may well offer the best rate of return of almost any dollars spent. While I’m sure we can find ways to deliver these programs more efficiently, just like all of the others, I would hope we will protect these initiatives as we go forward since the need is increasing, not diminishing.

One of the other things I have learned in my time in public life is that having a debate about a name change is much easier than actually addressing the real issue itself, whatever that may be. If you think about it for a moment, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever of any feeling of stigmatization, what possible benefit will come from spending even five minutes debating the name, as opposed to addressing the real issues facing these neighbourhoods, whether the dilapidated state of our public housing, the substandard recreation facilities, the much higher school dropout rate or the lack of access to economic opportunity?

I would respectfully advise your committee, and indeed all members of Council, to dispense with the name review and, if there is to be any review of the Priority Neighbourhood initiatives, to do it clearly and unequivocally with a view to maintain and make more effective the current programs, and to continue to treat this as a high priority of the Toronto city government. 

We at CivicAction stand ready to offer any assistance we can in addressing this most important of challenges.


John Tory

Thursday, 7 July 2011

(not so) funny debt language

Something just doesn't seem right about the Globe's analysis of our debt in today's business section.  A line from page B7 reads: 

"While Canada's total debt is around $560 billion (higher if the provinces are included), we are in good shape relative to most other countries ..." 

Now I'm no economist, but given this particular usage of the word 'relative' I'm not sure those other countries represent a standard we want to be measured by!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The 10 Commandments of How to Get Along with People

For the amusement of some of the Heal's out there, I recently stumbled upon our 96 years in Canada Cookbook that was published for the 1999 reunion (by the 1988 committee).  To even greater amusement, there is a page that's dedicated to THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF HOW TO GET ALONG WITH PEOPLE, which I really needed to share=).  My fav's might be bullets 3, 5 & 6 ...

  • Keep skid chains on your tongue; always say less than you think.  Cultivate a low, persuasive voice.  How you say it often counts more than what you say.
  • Make promises sparingly, and keep them faithfully, no matter what it costs.
  • Never let an opportunity pass to say a kind and encouraging word to or about somebody.  Praise good work, regardless of who did it.  If criticism is needed, criticize helpfully, never spitefully.
  • Be interested in others, their pursuits, their work, their homes and families.  Make merry with those who rejoice; with those who weep, mourn.  Let everyone you meet, however humble, feel that you regard him as a person of importance.
  • Be cheerful. Don't burden or depress t hose around you by dwelling on your minor aches and pains and small disappoinments.  Remember, everyone is carrying some kind of load.
  • Keep an open mind. Discuss but don't argue.  It is a mark of a superior mind to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.
  • Let your virtues, if you have any, speak fo rthemselves.  Refuse to talk of another's vices.  Discourage gossip.  It is a waste of valuable time and can be extremely destructive. 
  • Be careful of another's feelings. Wit and humour at the other person's expense are rarely worth it and may hurt when least expected.
  • Pay no attention to ill-natured remarks about you. Remember, the person who carried the message may not be the most accurate reporter in the world.  Simply live so that nobody will believe them.  Disordered nerves and bad digestion are a common cause of back-biting. 
  • Don't be too anxious about the credit due you. Do your best, and be patient. Forget about yourself, and let others "remember." Success is much sweeter that way. 

Friday, 24 June 2011

YouthLink-Pathways to Education celebrates 2nd year in Scarborough Village

I had the pleasure of attending last night's year 2 celebration for YouthLink's Scarborough Village Pathways to Education program.  Here is a pic of a mural that many of the youth painted that now hangs in the local Pathways office.   

Gorgeous!  It really is incredible how Pathways has become a blue-chip charity and how quickly it has grown since first launching in Regent Park in 2001.   With 11 sites currently in operation with others surely being planned for roll out across Canada through their "Graduation Nation" campaign, they are in the middle of the kind of scaling up effort unheard of in the non profit world.  

And the best part about it for a public health guy like me:  It goes beyond the usual theorizing and is a practical example of how support around determinants of health can lead to real life objective outcomes that people of all political stripes can see.

For more info on YouthLink & Pathways to Education in Scarborough Village, please visit: or

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Tip of the hat to 3 people from 3 parties

        Although it never received the hype of poverty reduction or other high profile parliamentary committees - the Select Committee on Mental Heath has probably been the most functional one of all during this government, no doubt in part due to members of all 3 elected parties working together. 

        With reasoned debate, a respected consultation process and evidence-guided recommendations - they seemed, at least from an outsider's perspective, to have worked as a committee should.  While the debate will carry on as to how exactly the initiative will roll out and what the specific priorities will be - yesterday's announcement of a new 3 year $257 million strategy to support children's mental health (story at ) is an important product of their work, will help thousands of children youth and families, and is a committment that has a decent chance of surviving an election due to the multi-partisan approach in which it was developed.

        Big congrats are in order to Liberal MPP Kevin Flynn, PC MPP Christine Elliot, NDP MPP France GĂ©linas, and all others who worked hard on this one!

Friday, 13 May 2011

BEATFACE - "We Don't Need to Pretend"

The Toronto based group, BEATFACE (, aka my cousin's band just released their first single "We Don't Need to Pretend" off their long awaited debut EP, "Amy". 

Check out the single on 1loveTO's site at: ... leave a friendly shout out on the comment board if you like!


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Virtual Wards - the next innovation in health care delivery?

What a fantastic description of the piloting of 'virtual' patient wards by a unique clinical partnership of Toronto Hospitals in the below article ...

I love the ambitiously creativity in this initiative.  Obviously we must wait until late 2012 to see if the clinical and economic data ultimately decides how successful this initiative has been.  However, if the assumptions are proven true that this improves patient health, reduces costly readmissions, and is more economically efficient than traditional services - then is could not be more timely, and is exactly the kind of  health care innovation we need to scale up!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Want to be a Director of Toronto Community Housing?

The Toronto Community Housing Corp (TCHC) is still recruiting a full Board of Directors.  Applications are due this Friday for all interested in helping lead a period of phenemenol change for Canadia's largest landlord and social housing provider. 

Check out the city's public appointments page for detailed info, how to apply, etc at:

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A racoon filled flight

I Flew out of Billy Bishop airport this past week, and couldn't help but be reminded of how much of a nicer experience it is than flying in or out of Pearson!  

Fast shuttle from downtown to airport dock: No extra charge

Tiny wait to check in on a rush hour flight: No extra charge

Yummy in flight sandwich along with a Steamwhistle, served in an actual glass: No extra charge

Leaving your home/office and arriving at your destination in the time it would take you to board your plane at Pearson: Priceless

Oh ... and if you find yourself in Ottawa and enjoy a good microbrew - the 7 three ounce samplers for $8 at the Wellington Gastropub is hard to beat!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Trustee Laskin hits the right tone

Kudos to Shelley Laskin, local School Board Trustee for St Paul's on her reasoned response to the controversial TDSB proposal to launch an Africentric high school program at Oakwood this fall.  

In her words:

"I will not support this report. I will support referring this back to staff to answer the actual board recommendation (for a feasibility study to include options and recommendations, e.g. school within a school, specialized programs, etc.) and that would include a full consultation process with potential communities (including feeder schools) and recommendations for the timing of implementation that will ensure community consultation and necessary committee and board discussions."

Decisions about big and sensitive changes need to be studied thoroughly, communicated within an appropriate context, and be supported by real community engagement.  Token consultations will not do.  If you agree, then join me in calling or writing the two Trustees who represent most of Oakwood's catchment area with a quick message to urge their colleagues to do the same and ensure a full & inclusive consultation process.

Trustee Shelley Laskin: 416-397-3094 or  
Trustee Maria Rodrigues 416-397-3069 or

Some links to media reports on the issue:
March 30, in The Star:
March 28, in The Sun: