Here we are again Toronto. It feels like just yesterday I was writing a summary of 2013, lamenting about our crack-addled mayor and trying to keep the positivity of life in the big city from being sucked out of every pore. Et voilà! Along comes 2014 and all the great moments that came with it. True we were stuck with the Ford brothers until the October election at which time we saddled ourselves with yet another conservative mayor, albeit one with better suits and great hair. At least John Tory is less likely to be found lying wasted in a gutter with indescribable stains on his clothes. While we all collectively held our breaths waiting for the municipal election, the city excelled in the arts, pushed harder for social justice, advocated for the environment, showed our love for some Toronto institutions and hosted the most kick ass World Pride party on the planet. This was the year when it all got better.
Despite wearing a comically over-sized green bow tie, Rob Ford got equally heckled and applauded as he swaggered through the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Many in the crowd ran up to the mayor for a shot at a selfie with the man who two years earlier went on a now notorious St. Paddy’s Day binge with his friends Iceberg Vodka and Cocaine. With big brother/chaperone Doug in tow for this year’s parade, Rob’s Irish eyes were still smiling as he ignored the jeers and reveled in the cheers.
Signing Off at Honest Ed’s
Toronto history was up for grabs when Honest Ed’s announced it’d be selling off thousands of its iconic hand-painted signs at rock bottom prices. The lineup started in the wee hours of the morning and stretched around the block until the street lights came on that night. It seemed that everyone wanted to own a tiny piece of the historically tacky and well-loved discount store before it’s doors close in 2016. The sale created a frenzy of nostalgia and painters Dougie Kerr and Wayne Reuben were on hand to autograph and authenticate each sign.
Cycle TO’s Minimum Grid
Local cycling advocacy group Cycle Toronto proved to be the outspoken power horse for city biking in 2014. The group connects Toronto cyclists to the upper echelons of City Hall and the people that can make infrastructure happen. They organize and provide support for bike events such as Bike to Work Day and the very cool vinyl bike tour for local indie band The Wooden Sky (pictured above). This year they spearheaded the idealistic initiative Minimum Grid that would see a minimum of 100km of protected bike lanes added to city streets.
The Stop’s Night Market: Come Hell and High Water
You can’t keep a good Toronto foodie down. They’ll drop $65 for an all-you-can-eat/drink festival and they’re going to show up regardless of the typhoon that decides to blow through. That’s exactly what happened at the start of The Stop’s Night Market fundraiser held in the Honest Ed’s alley. Gale force winds, foreboding skies and then a deluge of sideways rain blew tents over and sent participants scrambling for the Amsterdam brewery booth. Nothing that a few additional layers of ponchos and galoshes couldn’t fix. The culinary show must go on.
A Rainbow Casts Its Blessing On World Pride
The International stage was set as Toronto became host to the first World Pride held in North America. LGBTQ delegations came from far and wide to have a gay ol’ time and discover everything queer in the city. If seeing my city shine in the world spotlight wasn’t enough to have me bursting with Pride (see what I did there), the weather gods smiled upon us with the closing ceremony to end all ceremonies. After a 20 minute downpour the sky brightened and presented us with the most magical double rainbow shining its 7 hued beauty down on the Village below.
Free Palestine In Toronto
The turmoil in the Gaza Strip and Israel extended boundaries to Toronto streets. A large group of Pro Palestinian protesters began gathering weekly at the ROM across from the Israeli consulate on Bloor Street West where a group of Israel supporters had also assembled.
The People’s Climate March
The People’s Climate March came seemingly out of nowhere. A respectable crowd of 3000 gathered at Nathan Phillips Square in solidarity with larger rallies happening around the world. In New York an estimated 300,000 participated in the march organized by Avaaz.org, 350.org and Greenpeace. The idea for this worldwide day of action was to tell global leaders to try relying less on fossil fuels and achieve a 100% clean energy plan by the year 2050.
The El Mocambo Gets A Hail Mary
For a minute it looked like the 65 year old legendary music venue was going to tune its last guitar and plug in its last amp. The club that once hosted a scandalous night with Maggie Trudeau and The Rolling Stones was being sold off by the owner and at first there were no takers. Enter Michael Werkerle of Dragon’s Den fame in a last minute hail Mary. Werkerle not only bought the El Mocambo, he plans to renovate and continue on it’s music venue legacy. I look forward to many more years of looking up at that glowing neon palm tree and enjoying local indie concerts where my shoes stick to the floor.
Nuit Blanche Rabble
In its ninth year Nuit Blanche transformed the streets of Toronto into an all night street party full of interactive displays, performances and art. Local and international artists use the city as a blank canvas for their creativity and drunken revelers cover that canvas in garbage and vomit. While the crowds have made me jaded and cynical the art still continues to shine and inspire more each year.
Canada, let’s talk, because we have a problem. This year marked the 25th anniversary since the murder of 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montreal. At the Women Won’t Forget vigil and numerous other vigils including Speak For Tears (pictured above) we continue to address the growing numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women, children and men. I am proud of you because you are out there questioning and pushing for a national inquiry. I am not proud of Stephen Harper and his federal government for continuing to not listen to you. For more information and to sign a petition go to Amnesty International’s No More Stolen Sisters page or print, sign and circulate this petition from the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
It wasn’t the cleanest of campaigns in the long lead up to the October municipal election. The candidates for the most part maintained their decorum but a lot of supporters, predominantly from ‘Ford Nation’ reared their racist, homophobic and misogynistic heads. The outcome was not as some had wanted and better than others had hoped. In other words we were sad that Olivia Chow was not our new mayor but ecstatic that neither was Doug Ford. John Tory was the safe bet for a non-Ford win and it sailed him into victory. Torontonians will be maintaining a very close eye on City Hall after the last Ford years and the reelection of several controversial city council members. I’m looking at you Mammoliti.