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Eviction Prevention Programs a Vital but Limited Service

Here's why tenant representation matters.

Eviction is the sword hanging over every renter’s head. Whether someone struggles to pay their rent each month or not, every renter knows his or her landlord possesses the capacity to put them out of their home. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen often. And eviction prevention programs are vital in ensuring that not all of the people who go before the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) end up evicted. Whether it’s the Tenant Duty Counsel Program (TDCP) or the city’s emergency fund for rent and other urgent housing costs, eviction prevention programs offer a range of services intended to keep people in their homes.

For those comparatively few tenants who end up before the LTB, the majority are there because they’ve failed to pay some amount of rent. In 2013-14, the total number of landlord applications to the LTB was 81,748; rent non-payment was the issue in 64.6 per cent of those cases.

That so many cases are tied to a failure to pay rent points to a close relationship between eviction and poverty.

Keep reading: Eviction Prevention Programs a Vital but Limited Service



A Beginner’s Guide to Electoral Reform

So many options: the Thunderdome, a staring contest, picking a name out of a hat.

Relief Line is your not-so-serious glance at the city we love.

Electoral reform has been dominating headlines lately. From the recent vote in favour of proportional representation in PEI to the Trudeau government’s campaign promise to consider alternative voting methods, it’s all anyone is talking about.

It’s even come up here in Toronto. Just last week, a blow for democracy was struck when our executive committee decided against convening an independent panel on ranked ballots.

It’s all very exciting, but what exactly is electoral reform? And what does it mean for democracy?

The basic idea is simple: Reform the current voting system so that it better represents the views of Canadians and restores faith in the democratic process. Of course, it is a little more complicated than that. There still no consensus on the best way to achieve electoral reform. So far, most discussions have revolved around ranked ballots and proportional representation, but these are not the only options.

To help keep you informed, we have come up with a comprehensive list of the pros and cons of all the potential electoral systems. Which is the best one? Well, that’s for you—the Canadian voter—to decide.

Keep reading: A Beginner’s Guide to Electoral Reform



Why Imposing Tolls on the Gardiner and DVP is a Terrible Idea

This is not a serious plan for raising revenue or fighting congestion.

Photo by -liyen- from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

The Don Valley Parkway. Photo by -liyen- from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Road tolls. At first glance, it looks like we’re finally getting serious about generating revenue for transit. Alas, this is not the adult conversation you are looking for.

Road tolls can have more than one purpose. What is our goal—raising money or changing behaviour? Or both?

These questions might suggest that road tolls are suitable to one but not the other. The answer is they’re suited to neither. They’re a bad idea. They’re not the worst idea circulating in Toronto (the Gardiner rebuild probably takes that prize), but they’re still bad.

Sure, I’ll take road tolls over cutting services, but why should anyone make such a choice?

Keep reading: Why Imposing Tolls on the Gardiner and DVP is a Terrible Idea



How Christmas Markets Have Gone Global

Is there such a thing as too much holiday cheer?

Public Works looks at public space, urban design, and city-building innovations from around the world, and considers what Toronto might learn from them.

Photo courtesy of Welcome to Sapporo.

Photo courtesy of Welcome to Sapporo.

In a city known for snow, skiing, and hearty cuisine, wooden stalls fill a downtown park to create an annual Christmas market. The scene is Sapporo, Japan, which has hosted a German Christmas Market since 2002.

Japan’s fourth-largest city might seem like an unlikely place to find Bavarian specialties, like pretzels, each December, but the event is a result of Sapporo’s relationship with its sister city, Munich.

Christmas markets have a long history in Germany, dating back to the Middle Ages, with the first written records of the winter festivals appearing in the mid-1600s. Today, there are some 2,500 markets in Germany, and similar practices are found in neighbouring countries.

As anyone who’s wandered through the Distillery District’s Christmas Market can attest, vendors typically sell crafts and other gifts alongside warming food and drink. From glogg (mulled wine) in Denmark to grzane piwo (mulled beer) in Poland, there is no shortage of festive beverages, and Canadian gamay may soon join the ranks of holiday icons.

Keep reading: How Christmas Markets Have Gone Global