Thursday, September 30, 2010

TTC's Waste on Youtube

While others may view the reported $15,000 as a waste of money, I think the year end piece from Giambrone highlights the usefullness of the TTC to reach out to ITS riders in a topical and deliverable message. The TTC has used focus groups and has implemented some new customer service responses.

What did I see? Wifi on the trains, Stay in Touch with texting, More bathrooms, Better scheduling and Video screens on each station telling you future time? Do all these help curtail frustrations? Absolutely! Advertising their reliability.

Is $15,000 excessive? I shoot commercials for myself and my properties for sale. The cost to (video) camera may seem small but the time and effort is from editing, assembly, voice overs and audio's . This is not packaged and with graphics are layered in. I have corporate video's that run for a few minutes at the 10's of thousands. I do not feel this was excessive. Better $500K paid to CTV or CITY to run a paid commercial? Would Rogers be pleased? or just Better off!

Yes, again this is a typical sample of those who would rather complain and offer no reasonable alternative to spending money on anything. [I cannot ride a bicycle to a listing appointment or an Open House]

The delivery of this video on YOUTUBE will provide a new opportunity for people to look and see for themselves when they have time. These transit plans have been delayed for almost a decade; further delay would be sentencing the city to perpetual gridlock everyday for the next decade.

So Transit City? Good or Bad? we need your voice. To those that wish Not to improve the TTC and engage commuters, Please offer your solution.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mark wants to inspect that condominium

A book by Mark Weisleder – Put the Pen Down! What Homebuyers and Sellers Need to Know Before Signing On The Dotted Line – will prepare you well for closing day, and the day after.

The veteran real estate lawyer and instructor adapted two other books he wrote for real estate agents to suit the owners and buyers who pay for their services. He has packed in a wealth of information.

More importantly, an inspector could gauge the condition of the building’s heating, ventilation and air condition system, the roof and the garage. He or she could look into the building status certificate, condo association reserve fund, bylaws and rules, if the buyer knew to include this in the offer of purchase.

David Pylyp; There is no objection or interest to impede a home inspection on a high rise condominium unit and I have recommended a home inspector using thermal imaging technology (Shows you if you have water in the ceilings or behind walls) BUT... BUT>>>>

Is the Home Inspector selected by the Purchaser qualified and licensed to render an opinion on the condition of the Heating, Ventilation, Roof, Parking, Garage, Plumbing Electrical and appliance condition? How is the Home inspector qualified to read a financial statement contained in the Status Certificate about the long term requirements to repair or capital improvement budgets.

Maybe the Board of Directors of the Condominium Corporation having completed their Reserve Fund Studies as required every five years by Ontario Legislation; have decided that OTHER items need attention first. Who will provide the qualified and quantified answer?

The Home Inspectors that I generally meet have a specific trade specialty and have retired, modified, or evolved their career from construction into home inspections. While the standards are ever increasing to the betterment for the consumer; I am not aware of a financial statement analysis component in the Home Inspection Licensing Program.

It sounds great. But It just won't happen.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Phone Booth Gallery

For Immediate Release: Sept 15, 2010



Julia Vandepolder - Recent Paintings

September 8 – October 8, 2010

Opening reception: September 17, 6 – 9pm.

Artist will be in attendance.

The Telephone Booth Gallery’s premier exhibition features striking paintings by recent University of Guelph graduate, Julia Vandepolder. Accepted into several juried exhibitions across the province, this is the first commercial exhibition for this award-winning rising star. Vandepolder’s large oil on panel paintings reference abandoned architectural structures through abstracted layers of colour and texture. Her visceral passion for painting and surface capitalize on the tension between representation and abstraction, drawing beauty from degraded urban environments. Also on exhibition are fine porcelain works by Kim Harcourt and Mary Lazier.

About the Gallery:

Telephone Booth Gallery is located in the Junction, a bourgeoning west end Toronto neighbourhood. The Gallery is named after its mascot - a vintage 1950’s Bell Canada telephone booth prominently displayed in the gallery’s front window. “The booth is a remnant from my husband’s single days,” states Gallery Director, Sharlene Rankin.

The Gallery opened just in time for the Junction Arts Festival (Sept 8 – 12). Coming from a diverse background in arts administration – Art Dealers Association of Canada (ADAC), Headwaters Arts, the Art Gallery of Peel – Sharlene Rankin is thrilled to open her own art space. The gallery’s primary focus is to present emerging artists that each express a sense of integrity and innovation in their critical art practice. With a focus on the promotion of talented young artists, the gallery will also occasionally host invitational exhibitions of mid-career artists along with selected contemporary fine craftspeople and designers.



3148 Dundas Street West - Toronto - Ontario - M6P 2A1

T 647 270 7903 -

Contact: Sharlene Rankin, Director

Featured artwork: Julia Vandepolder Weathered (Barrier) 2010, oil on wood, 48 x 38”

Photo Slide Share

Monday, September 20, 2010

Undisclosed costs can really add up

It’s hard to think of any consumer purchase contract where the price on the front page is not the full purchase price, where additional charges are unlimited, and where the seller has no legal obligation to make full disclosure of extra charges to the buyer at the time of sale.

And yet this is a common practice among some Toronto-area condominium builders. It is an issue that cries out for the government to intervene in the public interest.

I was reminded of this problem once again last week while I was reviewing a client’s pre-construction purchase contract for a unit in a large mixed-use condominium development in downtown Toronto.

When I added up all the extra charges buried in the disclosure statement but not even hinted at in my client’s purchase agreement, the total came to just shy of a staggering $70,000.

The 33-page purchase and sale agreement for this project is typical for pre-construction condominium contracts. For a mere $935,3000, the buyer gets a floor plan without measurements or any guaranteed size, along with an obligation to pay a number of disclosed but unlimited charges such as government taxes and levies, and the costs of utility meters and connections. In order to discourage buyers — and their lawyers — from actually reading the contract, it is written in the tiniest type face possible. (No wonder I have to use trifocals after years of reading these contracts!)

But the $935,300 cost of the condo (plus the disclosed but unlimited extras) is far from the total tab the buyer has to pay.

Under the 1998 Condominium Act, at the time a purchase contract is signed, the builder is required to deliver to the purchaser a thick volume of materials which includes the proposed condominium organization documents and a disclosure statement setting out 27 specific details of the project.

Buried in the disclosure document is a statement setting out whether the unit buyers jointly will be required to purchase assets or services from the developer.

In my experience, the vast majority of buyers find these disclosure documents intimidating and incomprehensible and do not bother to read them.

In reviewing the disclosure statement for the new downtown project with my client last week, I pointed out that after the condominium project is registered, all of the unit owners as a group will be required to purchase from the developer:

Up to 6 guest suites at $200,000 plus HST each, or $1,356,000, plus 8 per cent interest over 10 years,

A superintendent unit for $565,000 including HST, plus 8 per cent interest over 10 years.

A recreation centre for an astonishing $11.3 million, repayable without interest over 10 years.

Including $860,000 in interest on the guest suites and superintendent’s unit, the unit owners as a group are on the hook to the developer for a total of slightly more than $14 million during the first 10 years of ownership.

My client’s share of the total cost works out to $69,560, or a hit of more than 7.4 per cent in addition to his purchase price.

None of these charges were disclosed in the sales office, so when I calculated it out for my client, he was in shock at the total amount of the costs.

In my experience, this project marks a new high — or low, depending on your viewpoint — in undisclosed extra charges for condominium buyers. It’s a situation which demands greater government protection for unsuspecting consumers.

And it’s also an issue which the members of the Building Industry and Land Development Association might want to tackle before the government does it for them.

Until the disclosure laws are changed, condominium buyers can protect themselves by taking several steps:

Ask about undisclosed charges in the sales office before signing anything.

Read the disclosure statement and especially Section 17 (about extra costs).

Above all, always have an experienced condominium lawyer review the purchase agreement and disclosure statement within the 10 day cancellation period after signing it.

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer. He can be reached by email at, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818. Visit the column archives at for articles on this and other topics.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

We could all share a lesson here

Right HEAR, right now.

Are you listening to me? Are you really listening to me?

Turns out I may not have been listening so well to you.

I’m going to change that.

First off, I intend to start looking away from my blackberry long enough to listen with my eyes as well as my ears. A persons facial expressions, their stance, are a dead giveaway for how someone is feeling before they even start talking.

Secondly, if I’m going to ask my kids about their day at school or work, I should avoid anticipating their usual “okay” and leave myself open to receiving anything new that might escape their lips. Too often I let my mind wander because I think I know what they are going to say, which leaves me at a loss and unprepared in case they do decide to expand on their response.

At the office where I’m constantly wanting to make the most of my time, I’m going to make a deliberate attempt to slow it down. Slow it down and be available to my team. Be present and ready to hear them out. I like to think I’m really good at seeking feedback…I just don’t know how great I am at hearing it.

I’ll have to work at letting people finish speaking before I jump in (a challenge for me sometimes both personally and professionally. It’s not done with bad intentions, just in an effort to move things along faster). Sometimes I don’t listen completely because I am already onto thinking about what I am going to say.

What does all this have to do with my visits to charities?


A common thread amongst the organizations I visited yesterday is that each and every one expressed the importance of listening to their clients, listening for the needs of the communities and the people they exist to serve. If we’re not prepared to listen we may as well throw in the towel, close up shop, move over and let someone who is going to listen take over.

I didn’t let the cloudy, rainy, grey day or the sleep deprivation I’ve felt since spending Monday and Tuesday in NYC, nor the cough that’s been keeping me company for the past 2 weeks get in the way of another fabulous Thursday. After all, Thursday’s are my designated Site Visit day and they are fast becoming my favorite day of the week.

Thanks to each and every one we met with for being so generous with their time and for opening up their organizations to us.


Some highlights. For more, check out the terrific websites;

Arts For Children and Youth (AFCY) is a creative art focused program that collaborates with high priority communities and empowers marginalized children and youth by engaging them in hands-on, community and school based arts and education programs.

Through community and school based arts engagement, children and youth can self-express, develop skills, learn new ways of seeing and doing, and establish new connections with society and with themselves. AFCY’s programs include skills development, hands-on arts-based learning, mentorship, self-expression, collaboration, inclusiveness and social awareness.

One of the things that really impressed me about this organization is that their office overflowing with beautiful pieces of art designed by local artists (the youth engaged in AFCY’s programs) wasn’t overflowing with office staff. Most of their workers are on the front lines…communicating and collaborating with communities…right where they should be.

Sharon, Julie, Karyn, Audrey

BOOST Child Abuse Prevention & Intervention is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and violence through education and awareness.

Boost designs and delivers primary prevention programs for children in elementary schools across Ontario. The programs: I’m A Great Kid! and I’m A Great Little Kid! are designed to develop pro-social skills in children that make them less vulnerable to abuse or violence. These programs also works towards developing their self esteem.

Children who feel good about themselves are more likely to develop positive relationships and are less likely to be mistreated in their interactions with others.

It is important to children’s well-being that they know how to get help when they are feeling scared, threatened or have a problem or worry. Children who have developed good communication skills, and have learned about making good choices are more likely to be able to speak with an adult they trust about what is happening or how they are feeling.

The June Callwood Centre is a large, welcoming and very conveniently situated building where young mothers, or soon to be teen mothers have access to a variety of programs and support services for themselves and for their babies.

Housing is available on the premises with 16 apartments subsidized according to the tenants income. At this Centre young moms can work towards their Ontario Secondary School Diploma while their child is being cared for in the nursery (which I got to enjoy for a wee bit) on the same premises.

There are so many offerings at this Centre I could go on forever. I encourage you to visit the site which is a phenomenal resource for teen moms, soon to be teen moms, possibly pregnant teens and for parents of a pregnant or possibly pregnant teen.

* A bit of a shout out to those of you wanting to support the centre. The young mom clients of the centre could use new or gently used household items… quite often the girls are living in their own homes for the first time and don’t have access to the things we may take for granted.

The 519 is a community centre in downtown Toronto which has been providing community programming in its neighbourhood for 35 years. Their innovative model is a partnership between the City of Toronto and the local community – the City owns the building and provides funding for core expenses while the community determines the programming and raises the funds to make it happen.

The Centre is a beautiful community space which feels like a boutique hotel with its leather furniture, slate floors and fine art over the fireplace. The space is gorgeous and really welcoming, but what happens in the space is even more amazing.

 With dozens of programs and over 250 community groups using the building every year, The Centre creates opportunities for people to meet and build relationships with their neighbors – people they might not get to know otherwise. From ballroom dancing to alcoholics anonymous, from free counseling to free yoga.

Eric Wood - Head Chef - Director of Food Services

If you’re in Toronto, make sure you visit their new restaurant opening this fall. Colleen and I had the opportunity to test some of the “fare” coming to this kitchen and I can’t tell you how anxiously I am awaiting it’s opening.

The 519 is a progressive model that should serve as a best practice for the sector!!