All eyes turn to tiny P.E.I. as electoral reform put to voters

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Tiny Prince Edward Island has a chance to send a big message to the rest of the country about electoral reform when voters are asked to consider proportional representation in a referendum as early as this spring.

Voters in British Columbia rejected making such a change in December, and while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to abolish the first-past-the-post federal voting system during the 2015 election, he later abandoned the plan, saying Canadians were not eager for change.

Now, advocates hope Canada’s smallest province will lead the way.

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“We were really counting on British Columbia. This was really devastating for our cause,” said Real Lavergne, president of Fair Vote Canada, a group that promotes proportional representation.

“We thought if a referendum was ever going to win, the conditions were good for that referendum to win. In the end, voters voted more along partisan lines,” he said.

Information sessions are now being held across P.E.I. to educate the public on the pros and cons of switching from the current first-past-the-post system to a mixed member proportional voting system.

The P.E.I. vote will be binding.

READ MORE: Proportional Representation for Dummies

But this isn’t the first time P.E.I. voters have been asked to consider electoral reform.

In fact, they voted 52 per cent in favour of switching to mixed member proportional reform during a plebiscite in 2016, but Liberal Premier Wade MacLauchlan rejected the results because of a low turnout of about 36 per cent.

“I think turnout will be much higher this time because the referendum is being held in conjunction with the next provincial general election. We usually get election turnout around 80 per cent,” said referendum commissioner Gerard Mitchell.

“This is a great exercise in direct democracy for the people. So they should vote and be informed what their choices are,” he said.

In 2016, voters were given five choices, but this time it will simply be a chance to vote “yes” or “no” to the question “Should Prince Edward Island change its voting system to a mixed member proportional voting system?”

A “No” vote would see no change in the way members are chosen for the 27 seats in the legislature, while a “yes” vote would see 18 members chosen in redrawn electoral districts and nine others chosen in province-wide ballots.

WATCH: Proportional representation defeated in referendum






Mitchell said under such a system, people would get two votes.

“One for district MLA and the other would be for the party list candidate. The party list is used to top-up the seats of those parties who did not get enough seats at the district level to reflect their share of the popular vote.”

About 90 countries, including New Zealand, Germany and parts of Scotland use such a system.

Lavergne said it has been difficult to convince Canadians to make the change because most politicians feel secure with the status quo.

“The interest of politicians is always for the first-past-the-post system because whoever is in power got elected by first-past-the-post. MLAs look at it and say maybe I wouldn’t be re-elected if we changed the system,” he said.

Still, he expects Quebec’s new CAQ government, which campaigned in part on the issue, will adopt a mixed member proportional system in the next year or so.

Don Desserud, a political scientist at the University of Prince Edward Island, said many Islanders didn’t pay any attention to the last plebiscite until the government decided not to accept the results.

“That’s a question of trust in government, integrity and worrying whether governments are serious when they make these promises to have a vote and respect the results,” Desserud said.

READ MORE: Referendum defeat dooms reformers’ hopes for foreseeable future

Lavergne said switching from the first-past-the-post system would give third parties a greater chance of winning seats, and would allow the results to better reflect the way people actually voted.

“In Ontario you have a majority government that was elected with about 41 per cent of the vote. People have to ask themselves if they are really comfortable with that,” he said.

No date has been set for the P.E.I. election, but Mitchell said the general wisdom is that it will be held this spring, and the referendum will be ready to go.

Desserud said he believes it could be as early as May.

“The last election was May 4 in 2015, so four years from that would be a reasonable time to call an election and won’t look like an early election or an opportunistic election. I expect there will be an election in May or early June,” he said.

The Island government could wait until the fall, but most expect it to go early to avoid any conflict with the federal election in October.

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Controversial tiny, tall home in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood on market for $3M – Toronto

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From their back deck, a couple of homeowners in south Riverdale discuss the “big white square” that has become their rear view.

“We knew by the height of it that it would just be grotesque,” said Linda Bourgeois.

“It’s just been a mar on a community.”

Bourgeois is referring to a house that is up for sale on Hamilton Street, near Broadview Avenue and Dundas Street East, and it about a block away from her own home.

The asking price is $3 million for the tiny but tall, 1300-square-foot, modern-style home. It sits on a 15-by-86-foot lot.

According to the MLS listing for 154 Hamilton St., it is a “unique home in central Toronto” and a “modern marvel with four levels of functional minimalism naturally lit via full-height Juliette balcony windows, beautiful terraces, and a central skylight.”

Seller Cyril Borovsky, who bought and built the existing home, calls it a “piece of art.”

“Really the most important thing was the fact that I wanted to make it extremely efficient with the environment in mind,” he said.

“The entire building works on natural gas with very little electronic components. The heating is completely radiant throughout the house… These are completely new ways to build a house.”

But the look of the tall and skinny look of the home has raised eyebrows in the south Riverdale neighbourhood.

“The only thing you could use it for would probably be to show movies on the side because it’s just a big white … It would be a great drive-in movie theatre but unfortunately it’s not, it’s a house,” said Linda Clowes while giggling.

Clowes, Linda Bourgeois, and a group of other area residents, fought the home’s construction several years ag, when they first caught a glimpse of the design plan.

“People weren’t happy with that design and the height … it doesn’t really fit,” noted Councillor Paula Fletcher, who has been to the home before.

“I was a little surprised that the planning department didn’t suggest that it was out of character and shouldn’t be approved.”

The listing has been active since September, but remains for sale.

Borovsky, who initially started building it for himself now, said he is looking for someone who would appreciate it.

He acknowledged the home has led to a lot of discussion within the neighbourhood, and some people expressed their distaste for the style of the home.

“I really hope that this will be landmark after I’m long and gone,” he said.

“I hope they treat it like it’s the Eiffel Tower. It’s something that is new and beautiful part of the neighbourhood.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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He started as a tiny preemie at Sick Kids. He beat the odds and now he’s back at the hospital — as a doctor in training

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Adam Shehata has been inside the Hospital for Sick Children hundreds of times in his 36 years.

First, as an infant, struggling to survive in the hospital’s NICU after being born 16 weeks too early and on the threshold of life.

Adam Shehata, 36, is a third-year medical student who came late to the field but says it’s a long-held dream to be a pediatric surgeon.
Adam Shehata, 36, is a third-year medical student who came late to the field but says it’s a long-held dream to be a pediatric surgeon.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

Then, as a child, during weekly visits for his many follow-up appointments.

And later, as an adult, Shehata found himself back at Sick Kids for an unexpected visit, during which he and his wife learned their longed-for first pregnancy would have a devastating end.

But this week, Shehata entered the hospital, not as a patient or a parent, but as a doctor-in-training, a step toward fulfilling his long-held dream of becoming a pediatric surgeon at the renowned hospital.

“I’m fortunate for so many reasons, and much of it has to do with the care I received at Sick Kids,” Shehata says. “And now it’s a really nice feeling to know I can start to give back.”

Shehata, a third-year medical student at the University of Toronto, started his six-week pediatrics rotation at Sick Kids on Monday, Nov. 26.

That morning, during his subway commute to the hospital, Shehata found himself reflecting on what it meant to go back to the place that once saved his life. This time, and against the odds, he would be the one helping children.

Shehata hadn’t planned on making his thoughts public. But once he saw the big, illuminated Sick Kids sign towering above the main entrance, Shehata snapped a photo of the building’s facade and posted it on Twitter, along with several tweets briefly outlining his health journey.

His Twitter thread, which includes the following statement — “We can never truly know the impact we will have on other people’s lives” — has since been ‘liked’ more than 2,000 times and has generated dozens of comments. This is a lot of online attention for Shehata, who has roughly 350 Twitter followers.

“I think it’s the kind of story that people are longing for,” he says. “People are always rooting for the underdog. And though I don’t see myself in that position now, I certainly was an underdog when I was a baby, born at 24 weeks, with such long odds for survival.”

At 36, Shehata is a bit late to medical school; many of his classmates are in their early 20s.

But Shehata, who applied five times to med school before being accepted by the University of Toronto in the spring of 2015, knows he brings a host of skills.

Shehata is a professional pilot with a university degree in aviation business management. He also has a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.

While in his 20s, Shehata focused on his passion for aviation, earning his Class I Flight Instructor rating, which allowed him to teach commercial pilots how to fly, and then acquiring his airline transport pilot licence, which is needed to captain large commercial airliners.

Adam Shehata, 2 months old, in an incubator at Sick Kids. The Polaroid photo was taken Aug. 7, 1982.
Adam Shehata, 2 months old, in an incubator at Sick Kids. The Polaroid photo was taken Aug. 7, 1982.  (Supplied)

But in 2010, at age 28, Shehata decided to become a doctor after a lifechanging experience that took place with his wife, Christina.

The pair, who had married the previous year, had been referred to Sick Kids after learning their unborn baby — their first pregnancy — had a severe heart defect. Shattered by the news, the couple were comforted by a pediatric cardiologist, who spent two hours helping them understand what it meant for a baby to have such a condition.

“We ended up losing that pregnancy,” Shehata says. “But that conversation with that physician inspired me to consider a career in medicine. He didn’t make the situation medically better for us, but the time he took and the way he explained things to us and his kindness … I knew I could be that person someday.”

Within months of their loss, Shehata was acquiring the high school and university credits needed to get into medical school. But despite top grades and his extensive aviation experience, Shehata didn’t make the cut at various schools.

Adam Shehata as a happy, healthy 4-year-old on his first soccer team.
Adam Shehata as a happy, healthy 4-year-old on his first soccer team.

Shehata then turned his attention to the law, another profession he believed had the power to change people’s lives.

He excelled in his studies at Osgoode Hall and was called to the bar in 2016. But still, he could not let go of his dream of being a doctor.

Shehata applied one last time to medical school. The same month that he was offered a job in aviation law at a downtown Toronto firm, he was admitted to the U of T’s faculty of medicine.

Three years later, and starting his pediatrics rotation at Sick Kids, Shehata knows he’s on the right path.

Shehata’s mother, Mona ElSayeh, is proud of her son and remains in awe of his success given the grim outlook at birth.

ElSayeh, who is executive director of a small Toronto charity called Access Community Capital Fund, recalls her and her husband’s fear in the moments after Shehata’s birth on June 7, 1982. Her son, born at 24 weeks and weighing just 660 grams (one pound, seven ounces) was unbelievably tiny and frail, his skin nearly translucent.

Doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital rushed the baby to Sick Kids, where doctors in the neonatal intensive care unit did everything they could to save his life.

Shehata, who initially relied on a ventilator to help him breathe, spent more than 120 days in hospital, and faced multiple health crises, including one remedied by a lifesaving blood transfusion.

Each day of his stay, ElSayeh or her husband made the hour-long trek from their home in Pickering to visit their son.

ElSayeh, who was heartbroken every time she had to say goodbye to Shehata, sleeping in his incubator, believes the constant care from the NICU staff has helped her son thrive — not just as a baby but throughout his life.

“Even though I was there every day, I couldn’t be with him 24/7. But I knew the nurses would take him out and cuddle him and treat him like any baby wants to be treated. I think that went a really long way in his development.”

After four months, Shehata went home on Thanksgiving weekend with his parents and older brother, Kareem.

Through much of Shehata’s childhood, ElSayeh continued to take her son to Sick Kids for weekly appointments with specialists to monitor his hearing, eyesight and growth and development. Doctors warned ElSayeh that Shehata would likely have physical disabilities and serious developmental delays due to his prematurity.

Adam Shehata, 1, in his Pickering backyard.
Adam Shehata, 1, in his Pickering backyard.

But though he needed extra help for some tasks, especially with his fine motor development, and did have to repeat third grade, Shehata surpassed everyone’s expectations.

ElSayeh says she knows he will make a good doctor, just as he is already a good son, husband and father. Shehata and Christina have a 7-year-old daughter, Amelia, who ElSayeh calls “the apple of my eye.”

After his first week of training at Sick Kids, Shehata is even more sure of his dream of being a pediatric surgeon at the hospital that once saved his life.

He knows it is a longshot. Once he completes medical school, Shehata faces at least seven more years of training and stiff competition for the handful of pediatric surgery spots in Canada.

But he also knows that he has beaten the odds once before at Sick Kids. And that he’ll be helped by his personal experience — as a patient and then as a parent at the hospital — coupled with his technical skills honed while a pilot and a lawyer.

It’s time, he says, for him to start paying forward all the kindness and care he has received in his life. And he wants to start at Sick Kids.

Megan Ogilvie is a Toronto-based data reporter. Follow her on Twitter: @megan_ogilvie


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These Tiny Sheet Pans Made Me a Better, Faster Cook

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One thing I wish someone had told me when I started cooking in a restaurant kitchen is that you only spend about 50 percent of your time actually cooking. The other 50 percent is mostly spent fighting with other cooks over, more or less, everything: Who gets the best burner. Who gets the good squeeze bottles (and who gets the ones that are permanently stained mystery orange). And, most critically, who gets to use the ovens.

Restaurant ovens are particularly coveted real estate, because there are almost always fewer ovens than there are cooks who need to use them. I very quickly learned to a) set up my cutting board every day at the work station closest to the ovens, and b) keep a stack of quarter-sheet pans near me at all times. At about 9½ x 13” quarter-sheet pans are the little sibling of the sheet pans you probably already use at home to roast potatoes and bake cookies, and they were my secret weapon tool for maximizing kitchen efficiency. The second another cook would take out their giant trays of roast chicken/carrots/walnuts/whatever, there I was ready to claim that newly free rack with three or four tiny baking sheets of sesame seeds, croutons-to-be, and nuts that could all cook at once.

And while I haven’t touched my fancy restaurant tweezers once since I stopped cooking professionally (there’s something very tragic about using tweezers to plate a meal I’m eating alone in my pajamas), quarter-sheet pans remain one of the top five most useful tools in my home kitchen. I’m constantly reaching for mine to toast a few handfuls of walnuts for a salad, bake a couple of sweet potatoes, broil shrimp, or heat up leftover pizza—tasks that don’t merit a half-sheet pan, which is only twice as big but ten times more annoying to handle. And since several quarter-sheets can fit in the oven together comfortably, I can roast garlic, make crispy Brussels sprouts, and bake fish fillets for dinner all at the same time like some sort of kitchen ninja.

Need more proof that quarter-sheet pans are the hardest-working tools in the kitchen? I use them as a dish for breading crispy cutlets; as a makeshift cover for my one saucepan without a lid; for transporting tongs, oil, salt, pepper, and dish towels to the grill; and (my personal favorite) as counter garbage pail for scraps and trash. This mini pan‘s greatest advantage, however, comes after cooking: It slides right into the bottom of my sink for easy cleaning and reusing. I’m no longer fighting with anyone for oven space, but the line cook in me is still all about that maximum efficiency life.

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