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Did I make a mistake by not investing in a house? – CBC.ca

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This First Person column is the experience of Lise Watson who lives in Toronto. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ

My family and I live down the hall from my 90-year-old mother in a co-op building in the heart of Toronto. She’s fiercely independent, and even after my dad died, she insisted on living alone. 

So instead of trying to find her a new home close to me, I packed up my bags and moved into her building. 

The co-op has been our home for over 20 years. We live in an attractive, well-maintained red brick building. We are blessed with two lovely rooftop gardens, a central location close to all amenities and public transit, and a membership that cares deeply about social justice and environmental sustainability. We know and care about all of our neighbours and have a diverse membership of seniors, young children, and differently abled people. Everyone is welcome.

Most importantly, our home is affordable.

A rainbow forms in the distance over green spaces from an apartment overlooking the city.
The view from Lise Watson’s apartment in downtown Toronto. (Lise Watson)

As members all pitch in and work together to maintain our building, the co-op can keep rent levels lower than market rates. 

We pay $1,160 monthly for a two-bedroom apartment, and that means we can continue living in a city which is becoming increasingly expensive. Just across the street, a two-bedroom apartment that is not in a co-op building is renting for almost $2,500 per month with heat and hydro on top. And that’s the norm. 

I’m grateful to live where I do, but the long-term future for co-ops like ours is uncertain. Established in the 1980s, our co-op is in need of new kitchens, bathrooms and heat pumps. 

While my co-op has savings for capital projects such as this for now, it’s built on leased property and its future isn’t secure. I’m also constantly reminded of the pressures that many co-ops face in the media. Many are struggling with repair costs; some have been forced to raise rents to factor these expenses into their housing charges. Others need to go to banks to secure new financing or are applying for government assistance

If my co-op is unable to maintain its sustainable rent, my family will be forced to look outside the city for affordable housing. 

Two women smile at the camera. One of them holds a glass.
Lise Watson, right, and her mom have a close relationship. (Lise Watson)

I am 65 years old. I’m proud and happy with all that I have accomplished in my life, but in these troubled economic and social times, I have some doubts about my life decisions and investments.   

Growing up, I never wanted to be a homeowner. 

My father was the son of a fish and chip shop owner in northern England. He immigrated to Canada with high hopes and dreams in the 1950s. Dad was a self-taught copywriter and layout man. He met and fell in love with my mom at a Toronto ad agency. My parents scrimped and saved to buy a newly built home in Oakville, Ont., in the mid-1960s. It was a dream come true for them at the time. 

A black and white photo of a man and woman holding champagne glasses.
Lise Watson’s parents got married in 1954. (Submitted by Lise Watson)

Farmer’s fields, ravines, and forests surrounded our family home. After finding local cows one day trampling our neighbour’s patio, my parents realized that good fencing was a necessity. I still vividly remember my dad digging post holes himself with a crowbar and it seemed to take forever. 

Their budget was severely stretched. My parents couldn’t lay down grass in our backyard until a few years later, so we kids trailed into the house with red clay muck on our shoes regularly, much to my mom’s dismay. As children we spent hours each summer climbing trees and jumping into piles of yellowed grass and leaves, checking out the tadpoles and frogs in the creeks, and picking and eating sour apples from abandoned orchards. 

It sounds idyllic now, but it lacked a sense of community. There was little infrastructure, no school, churches, community organizations, public transit, or even nearby grocery stores for many years.

There was a sense of isolation and it was emotionally detrimental to a city gal like my mom who became a homemaker after her marriage. We were a one-car family and my dad drove to Hamilton every day for work. We were bussed several miles to school each day. 

A smiling woman with long hair stands on the stairs.
Lise Watson, age 22, grew up in Oakville, Ont. (Submitted by Lise Watson)

I wanted a different kind of life. I dreamed of going to university and travelling. So I struck out on my own after high school and funded my own part-time university education at the University of Toronto at the downtown campus. The city was an oasis for me, and I never left except to travel. 

My quest to find a vibrant and welcoming community led me to Toronto’s African music scene, and later to West Africa where I married my husband. Six years ago, I brought him and his son to Canada. I have happily supported them as they adjusted to a vastly different culture and now make remarkable contributions to our community. For decades, I have complemented my career in university student service by volunteering at music festivals and a community radio station and in 1997, I started my own community arts publication.

I have had a rich and rewarding life.  But the financial consequences are beginning to take a toll as Toronto becomes unaffordable.

A woman cuts a cake while a man and child look on.
Lise Watson, right, got married in Gambia in 2013. In this wedding photo, Watson cuts a cake with her husband and his son from a previous relationship. (Submitted by Lise Watson)

Today I wonder if I made the right decision by investing in education and life experiences rather than housing security and material possessions. I admit that I have been privileged to make this kind of a choice. Home ownership was low on my priority list. If I had a safe, clean home, that was good enough for me. I never dreamed that some day affordable housing would become scarce. 

Some of my oldest friends made different decisions than me. They focused on home ownership, paying off the mortgage and raising families. Today they are retired, sit in their gardens — some even have pools —  and enjoy the grandkids and travel to all-inclusive Caribbean resorts. They appear relatively content and clearly not worried about housing security. 

I envy the peace of mind they have but still contend that this was not the life for me. I know I did the right thing for me — and my mom — at the time. But now I fear for our housing future.


Do you have a similar experience to this First Person column? We want to hear from you. Write to us at firstperson@cbc.ca.

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Iran protests: Canada sanctioning 'morality police' – CTV News

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Canada will be imposing new sanctions on Iran as a result of a continuing violent crackdown on protesters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.

The sanctions will be levelled on “dozens of individuals and entities, including Iran’s so-called morality police,” the prime minister said.

“We’ve seen Iran disregarding human rights time and time again, and now we see with the death of Mahsa Amini and the crackdown on protests,” Trudeau said, referencing the death of a 22-year-old who was detained for allegedly violating the country’s forced veiling laws. Her death has sparked outrage and has prompted a wave of international demonstrations, seeing some women cut their hair or burn their hijabs in revolt.

“To the women in Iran who are protesting and to those who are supporting you, we stand with you. We join our voices, the voices of all Canadians, to the millions of people around the world demanding that the Iranian government listen to their people, end their repression of freedoms and rights, and let women and all Iranians live their lives and express themselves peacefully,” Trudeau said.

While no official notice of the new sanctions has been published by Global Affairs Canada, the prime minister noted they come in addition to outstanding measures Canada has taken against Iran.

In an email to CTV News, Adrien Blanchard, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said that Trudeau “announced Canada’s intention” to issue these sanctions, pledging more details “in due course.” 

Joly, as well as MPs from all parties, have spoken out about the escalating tensions and use of force against civilians in Iran, with the House of Commons unanimously passing a motion last week offering “solidarity to the women of Iran who are fighting for their rights and freedoms.”

With files from CTV News’ Michael Lee 

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Maine power workers cross border without incident to help in Nova Scotia

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OTTAWA — Nova Scotia Power says there were no issues delaying American power crews from crossing the border to help repair the electrical grid from the devastation of hurricane Fiona.

On Sunday, the utility company and Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston had both said an issue related to the controversial ArriveCan app was delaying power crews from crossing into Canada.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said this morning that the order making the app mandatory and requiring that foreign citizens be vaccinated to come to Canada will expire on Friday.

Power crews helping to restore electricity are considered essential workers and are exempt from the border measures.

In a new statement Monday afternoon, Nova Scotia Power spokeswoman Jacqueline Foster says there was some confusion about the app but it is now confirmed there were no problems.

Versant Power says 15 line workers and two mechanics left Bangor, Maine, for Canada early Monday morning without issue, and Central Maine Power reports more than a dozen two-person crews and 10 support workers crossed the border without incident at around 7 a.m. Monday.

“We now know there were not any issues with ArriveCan,” said Foster. “Our contractor crews have made their way over the border and we are grateful to have them as part of our restoration efforts here in Nova Scotia.”

The Canada Border Services Agency reported that it cleared 19 power trucks at the Third Bridge border crossing in St. Stephen, N.B., just after 7 a.m. Monday. The CBSA said the average processing time was between 30 and 60 seconds per vehicle.

The ArriveCan app has been fodder for heated political debates for months and Conservatives have repeatedly demanded that the government shut it down.

During question period on Monday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre cited the allegations that ArriveCan delayed power crews to demand that the app be scrapped ahead of schedule.

He asked, “Will the prime minister suspend the ArriveCan app today, not Saturday, so that no more holdups happen at the border for those who are trying to help those in desperate need?”

Trudeau said he can “confirm that there were no delays at any border because of ArriveCan or otherwise.”

The utility company had said Sunday that crews were physically stuck at the border, but confirmed a few hours after question period on Monday that this had never been the case.

Foster suggested the error was a result of “confusion” after a concern arose Friday — before the storm actually hit — that crews from Maine might not be able to cross the border because of ArriveCan.

No New Brunswick border crossings reported issues over the weekend.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

 

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

 

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Former top civil servant, medical association president appointed as senators

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OTTAWA — Ian Shugart, a longtime bureaucrat and the country’s top civil servant during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been tapped for a seat in the Senate.

Dr. Gigi Osler, a Winnipeg surgeon, University of Manitoba professor and president of the Federation of Medical Women in Canada, is also set to become a senator.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the picks today after the two were recommended to him by the independent advisory board for appointments to the upper chamber.

Shugart, who will represent Ontario, stepped down as the clerk of the Privy Council in early 2021 to undergo cancer treatments and formally retired in May after a long public service career.

Trudeau also appointed him to the King’s Privy Council today, adding his name to a list that includes past and present cabinet ministers and people “honoured for their contributions to Canada,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Osler, who will represent Manitoba, became the first female surgeon and the first racialized woman to hold the presidency at the Canadian Medical Association in 2018.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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