Once Upon a Blog…

A long time ago in a country far, far away, there lived a girl from Texas who was a blogger. She traveled far and wide across her beloved adopted country and blogged about everything she saw with pure glee. After more than three glorious years, though, the fairytale came to an end and she returned to the great state of her birth very sad and very hot. Fast forward exactly one year and, well, funny how things just seem to work out.

By way of reintroduction, I’m Carmen and, obvs, “she” is me. In case you are just joining the party, I was lucky enough to spend three years living and working in Canada. While there, I traversed the country forward and backward; I learned new things; I met a motherlode of awesome people; I ate new foods; I saw things I’d never seen before (I’m looking at you six foot high snow drifts); and had the absolute time of my life.

It took a long time — nearly a year, in fact — for me to finally see that when life gives you lemons, make a daiquiri! THIS IS THE SHOW! So I pulled myself up by my actual bootstraps1 and either sit inside my bubble and feel sorry for myself, or get out there like I always have and live an awesome life. I chose the latter. And a mere one year later, I’m back to my old social self. I’m making copious good friends; I’m dating very cute and very smart guys; I’m saving and am basically exploring and learning about Houston again. Not to mention the tens of you who have been begging me to blog again. Blog readers can be so demanding that way. But, really, who am I to deny you your happiness? ;-)

I missed blogging, but what was there to say? Houston is hot. You have to live inside an arctic-level air-conditioned bubble seven months a year. And, really, how many times can you talk about going to the Galleria without it sounding like broken-record time? Not that many. My momma always taught me that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. So I didn’t. 

It started to seem like every time I was in a conversation with someone about Texas, though, I hadn’t experienced whatever it was they were talking about. I hadn’t done this or that; I hadn’t been here or there. I haven’t even been west of San Antonio and, trust me, there’s a *lot* of Texas west of San Antonio. I realized that I knew waaaay more about Toronto and Canada than most of its own inhabitants, and yet knew next to nothing about my own backyard. I know what a beautiful place Texas is and how fantastic the people are — hello, I’m one of ‘em! Ergo, I’m officially blowing the dust off of my URL and am going to traverse my place of birth and blog about my amazing home — the places, the people, the foods and the crazy things I find — and where everything is bigger and better. Because that’s how I roll. Be prepared to shake what your momma gave you because we are going to have one helluva Texas-sized good time!

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Two HUGE Things

I’m too busy to blog, but, because I know you’re concerned, thought you might want to know about two giant things that have recently happened to me!

First, and most importantly, I was one of ten citizens in Toronto selected to blog for the CBC G20 Citizen Blog Team! Not only a huge feat unto itself, but a huge honour and one I’m taking with complete glee and zeal. You can follow all the goings-on around the G20 and the police state into which Toronto has turned.

Secondly, I was in an earthquake today. Yeah, you heard me. Toronto went and had an earthquake today that measured 5.5 on the Richter scale. Hi, drama much? I mean, if I hadn’t thought I’d already seen and done everything there was to do in Toronto, I did after today.

I’ll be back here to chat again soon, but, in the meantime, I hope you follow me as I help cover the G20 Summit as a citizen blogger for the CBC!

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The City That Opens Its Doors

It happens more often than not: you’re walking down King Street West past the Toronto Dominion Centre without realizing you’re seeing the work of one of the world’s great architects (in this case, Mies van der Rohe); you notice the Design Exchange on Bay Street, but don’t know that it housed Toronto’s original Stock Exchange from 1937 until 1983 and is still home to Canada’s first fluorescent light; or, lastly, didn’t know that Redpath was Canada’s first food trademark as you drive past the Redpath Sugar Factory every day on your way to work.

One weekend a year, Torontonians stop and look (and learn) when Toronto throws open its doors. Doors Open Toronto, the hugely successful program that allows the public in to view hundreds of buildings that are typically off-limits,was the first of its kind in North America. Modeling itself on the European version aptly named “Doors Open*”, Doors Open Toronto began ten years ago with a simple motto: open buildings for a day or two (no more) and tell the public they’re welcome to visit. The idea was that if you look more closely at the city in which you live, you’ll gain a better appreciation for the city itself. And has it worked? I’d say. More than 200,000 people participated in 2009 and organizers expected 250,000 attendees in 2010 (read: prepare yourself for very long lines!). For history and building geeks like yours truly, it means a weekend of traipsing through Toronto at breakneck speed, not eating, and maxing out both your DSLR’s SD card and water intake simultaneously.

Mercifully (and due to copious amounts of Vitamin Water), I made it to hit six venues at this year’s Doors Open Toronto and, because I know you are dying to know, I’m adding a quick recap of each building. You’re welcome. :-) My feet were certainly tired and gnarly after running around for 48 straight hours, but for an event dedicated solely to heritage, architecture, and design, I don’t at all mind messing up my perfectly pedicured paws.

A quick recap of Day One:

Redpath Sugar Factory, 95 Queen’s Quay East, Toronto , ON M5E 1A3
I grew up in Sugar Land, Texas, whose moniker came from the Imperial Sugar Company (which has long since passed on to sugar heaven). Therefore, it stands to reason that I’d live less than a mile from Canada’s sugar factory on Toronto’s harbourfront, drive by it every day on my way to work, and that it would be open for Doors Open Toronto! We learned how sugar is crafted (it’s from sugar cane, in case your head has been under a rock), how brown sugar is made (shockingly, it’s made from spraying white sugar with molasses — once for light; twice for dark), took a guided tour through the museum and parts of the plant via a video virtual tour, and got to lick sugar off our feet after a trip into the Redpath sugar shed. Said shed holds a whopping 65,000 tons of sugar and, even with my ginormous sweet tooth, I doubt I could consume that amount of sugar in a lifetime. Lastly, we got to meet the Redpath Acts of Sweetness Ambassadors (should out to Janet whom I’d previously met at CupcakeCampTO!) and have our picture made taken with the Redpath Acts of Sweetness truck.

After a brief pitstop at home to pick up my camera that I’d forgotten (gasp!), slather on sunscreen, and change shoes, I was on to the:

City of Toronto Archives, 253 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON
Toronto has plenty of of stories of intrigue that highlight its past and present, and many of those stories are event dedicated solely to built heritage, architecture and design. The Archives have more than 1.2 million documents in their Indiana Jones-looking warehouse that visitors to Doors Open were able to view. Also open to the public for the first time was the Archives’ Conservation Lab. They demonstrated how they scan the documents, and for the sake of argument, we’ll just say that they’re way more sophisticated than my Canon point-and-shoot. ;-)

TTC Greenwood Maintenance Yard, 400 Greenwood Avenue, Toronto, ON M4J 4Y5
I’m a TTC geek. Yeah, they’re the expensive^; yeah, a lot of them are arrogant; and I’m definitely not a fan of waiting 25 minutes for the Queen streetcar, but, since the day I arrived in Toronto, I’ve had a serious love affair with those bright red streetcars and pretty much anything that has to do with the TTC. They get me where I need to go safely and, for the most part, with a smile. When I learned that the TTC had not one, but two, shops open during Doors Open, I was more than psyched.

The Greenwood Maintenance Yard is responsible for the maintenance of half of the TTC’s subway fleet: 1/3 of the T1 fleet, 126 H6 cars, and 44 H4 cars. I spent two hours there and every single TTC employee volunteering that day was heart-achingly kind. It could be because they don’t interact with the public every day like the operators do, or it could be that Brad the TTC guy had a little chat with them all in light of the TTC’s recent (and numerous) publicity gaffes. Just sayin’.

The public was treated to learning how the subway doors open, how the brakes work, how the lines are repaired and about one billion other cool TTC subway facts. I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed this site, but I’ll let you judge for yourself next year. :-) The only thing I didn’t like about the TTC sites was the fact that the Jane/Finch site was giving away little cardboard streetcars, for which I would kill, when Greenwood didn’t give anything away![ed note: I was planning to go to the TTC store in Union Station to see if they were selling them, but the store closed the weekend of Doors Open Toronto! Gypped yet again!]

For more TTC Greenwood Maintenance Yard goodness, check out my very exciting Flickr set for minutes upon minutes of excitement on the subject.

A quick recap of Day Two:

Stantec — Former MacGregor Socks Factory, 400 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E7
The beautifl building occupied for decades by MacGregor Socks has been transformed into a heritage timber post and beam building. Stantec, a health care and educational architectural firm reclaimed a piece of the city’s industrial history by designing a flexible, high-quality workspace that clearly fosters collaboration, sustainable design elements, and, in the spirit of Doors Open Toronto, a commitment to city building. The small, open space facing Spadina Avenue is used as a space to support local artists; each quarter, a new artist is chosen and Stantec pays 100% of the cost of the installation. <3!

We were treated to tours that included information on the raised floors (you can even see the miles and miles of wires flowing underneath the flooring!), the natural lighting that washes that entire building in sunlight, original bricks and flooring and Stantec’s water conservation strategies. One of the things I found fascinating was Stantec’s encouragement and support for using public transit: they have showers in the building, they supplement 100% of TTC passes, and they provide access to two Zipcars in case employees who take transit need to duck out for meetings. A company that *truly* believes in reducing carbon footprints and not just talking about it in a brochure.

The Historic Walls at CAMH, 1001 Queen Street West, Toronto ON M3J 1P3
The CAMH Historical Walls are the perimeter brick structures which were built by unpaid psychiatric patient labourers during the 19th century at the former Asylum for the Insane ( now the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)). The southern section dates from 1860 and the eastern and western walls date from 1888-89. We were treated to a guided tour of the walls where the work and contributions of patients who lived and died behind the structure were highlighted. The bricks include the oldest physical examples of psychiatric patients’ labour from 19th century Ontario, now 150 years old, and obviously of immense historical and architectural value. Etchings carved into the walls 9and visible to the naked eye) by asylum inmates, and other unique physical markers representing patients’ history – including bricked in windows and an old railway track – were pointed out and, of course, I took photos. Seriously good stuff.

The Gladstone Hotel
After running around like a chicken with my head cut off for two straight days, I was exhausted. I’d never been inside the Gladstone Hotel, so I made my way over for a tour. Luckily, self-guided tours were possible, so I took the opportunity to photograph the inside of this historic hotel on my own, read parts of the (very) long guide, checked out the joint, and bolted. Built in 1889, the Gladstone is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Toronto. Its architectural details are Greek, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance and these periods brought the hotel back to life in 2002 when it was gutted and completely restored.

Doors Open Toronto is one of the highlights of my time in Toronto. To borrow a quote from Toronto Star writer Christopher Hume, “suddenly this is Toronto the Bold; Toronto the Daring; Switzerland run by New Yorkers.” I couldn’t agree more.

*and now called European Heritage Days
^ the most expensive in the world, actually

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My Toronto Bucket List

Since moving to Toronto three years ago, I’ve been whittling away at my “Toronto Bucket List”. Admittedly, for the last year or so, I’ve not been thinking about the “things I need to do in Toronto” as it very much started to feel like my home, and we all know that you rarely go sightseeing when you’re “home”. There are still a bevy of things I want to do before leaving this glorious city, though, and have set the goal of having my list completed by May 30, 2010. I plan to blog about each thing that I do from the list, just like I’ve been doing repeatedly* for the last three years. Ahem.

So, in no particular order, here’s my list of things to do before leaving Toronto^. If you see anything I’m missing, let me know! I don’t want to leave this city with any regrets!

Go up the CN tower
Niagara Falls/Journey Behind the Falls
U of T Art Centre
Campbell House
Walk High Park
Attend a Toronto FC game**
Tour Osgoode Hall
Tour the wineries in Prince Edward County (or at least drink a bunch of wines^^ from there ;-))
Ride the entire subway line and take pictures of each station
Go to Bulk Barn
Go to Body Blitz

The Don Valley Brickworks/Taylor Creek Park Completed 4/18/10
See a play at the Stratford Festival
Hockey Hall of Fame Completed 5/15/10
Design Exchange Completed 6/4/10
Redpath Sugar Museum Completed 5/29/10
CBC Museum Completed 6/4/10
Shop the St Lawrence Market Completed 3/27/10
Tour the Toronto Stock Exchange — Not a possibility, but I did see the original TSX trading floor at Design Exchange! So that counts. :-) Completed 6/4/10
Visit Allan Gardens Conservatory Completed 4/10/10
Check out Doors Open Toronto Completed 5/29/10
Spend time at the Leslie Street Spit Completed 5/24/10
Check out Wychwood Art Barns Completed 6/5/10
See the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art
Completed 6/5/10
Skate down the Rideau Canal — considering we had 1.25 cold days in Toronto this year and the Rideau was barely frozen and is unlikely to freeze prior to May 30, I am gonna go out on a limb and say that I won’t complete this one. But I’m adding it anyway, primarily because I’m the boss here. Check the URL, yo.

Eat/Drink at:
Splendido
Harbord Room
Origin
Cowbell
Jet Fuel Completed 4/10/10
Five Doors North
Dessert Trends Completed 5/28/10
Guu Izakaya***
Swan
Leslie Jones Completed Completed 5/27/10
Ruby Watchco Completed 6/3/10
Sidecar Completed 5/22/10
Negroni Completed 5/23/10
Mothers Dumplings Completed 4/9/10
Cameron House
Roof Lounge at the Park Hyatt
Communists Daughter
Sweaty Betty’s
Bar Chef
Eat noodles at Pacific Mall

* Well, not doing such a great job of. I’ve done waaaaaay more stuff than I’ve blogged about, much to my chagrin. Ten lashes for moi!
** I’ve been to nearly every other professional sporting event in Canada except TFC. I’ve been to a Leafs game, Senators game, Canucks game and Raptors game, but never a soccer game.
*** I ate at Guu in Vancouver, but I’ve heard it’s different in T.O., so I’m gonna give it a whirl here.
^ The most amazing city that is the love of my life! For truth. ;-)
^^ Like Norman Hardie. Oh my, his Pinot Noir is so good.

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Canadians And Their Social Values — Parts III and IV

I have been away from the blogosphere for a wee bit too long (for good reason and reason for which I’ll explain in my post manana, so come back!), but I would be completely remiss if I didn’t pass along the third and fourth articles discussing Canadians and their social values. This particular post is a long one, but stick with it — I promise you’ll thank me for it and there may just be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. :-)

I must do this because very rarely do you run across a series of articles that compels you to read the entire thing from A to Zee, not Zed. Sometimes, on those rare occasions when both the sun and moon are aligned with Jupiter and you’ve just found a four-leaf clover, the articles are so good that you want to write about them. Such is the case with the series about Canadians and their social values written by the obviously brilliant strategy team at MacLaren McCann (specifically Heidi McCulloch (@heidimcculloch) and Lee Chapman (whose Twitter handle I don’t know, but will find out!) in partnership with the Canadian Marketing Association.

I’ve previously blogged about part one of the series that addressed Canadians’ individualism, and part two of the series which astutely canvasses the topics of tolerance and acceptance. Today, I bring you parts three and four.

The third part detailed Canadians’ quality of life and was simply fantastic. It eloquently summed up the main reason I love living in Canada so much. Sure, it’s expensive as hell, but if you like spending time with your family without feeling like you’re going to lose your job or can pursue your passion because you you know you’ll have healthcare no matter what that passion may be, then Canada’s your place.

Now, without further ado, part three of the series.

Defining Value #3
“One difference between Americans and Canadians is that Americans are still waiting to win the lottery. Canadians live as if they have already won the lottery.” Michael Adams, Fire and Ice, 2003.

20% of Canadians cite Quality of Life as top source of pride in being Canadian. (Macleans Canada Day Survey 2006). Quality of Life is one of Canadians’ key defining values.

Quality of life, simply put, refers to how good life is. People throughout the centuries, and in various parts of the world, have defined quality in their lives in rather distinct ways.

Among developed countries, certain variables are consistent in defining quality of life – life expectancy, purchasing power, literacy and education, housing, employment, finances. Against these variables, in study after study, Canada has always landed in the top ranks. For example, in the 2009 Mercer Consulting annual Quality of Living Survey among 215 cities, Vancouver ranked 4th and Toronto ranked 15th. In all of the Americas, Canadian cities of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary dominated the top spots.

Where does this come from?

• Canada is endowed with nature’s majesty, in lakes, mountains, fields in our backyard. Our physical closeness to nature likely inspires a more mellow approach to life and living.
• Since after the Great Depression, Canada instituted policies that would ensure that its people maintained certain standards of living – pensions, health care, protection from unemployment and other social support. Having a secure safety net gives people a certain reassurance that no matter what goes wrong, all will be well; in general, people have less to be anxious and stressed about. Unencumbered, people pursue a certain way of living that is more attuned to relationships, connections, rather than simply getting ahead in a rat race.

Points of Evidence
Macleans annual Canada Day poll offers up interesting proof points about Canadians’ distinct version of quality of life.

For Canadians, there is more to life than work: Canadians place A REWARDING CAREER behind Freedom; Family Life; Being Loved and Being Canadian on their list of things that they value the most. (Macleans Canada Day Poll 2006)

Asked which activities they enjoy most, Canadians cite: A nice meal with my partner; Having a few hours for myself. (Macleans Canada Day Poll 2006)

Canadians believe that Experiences, not Things, make one happy. When asked, what is the best thing that happened to you in the past year, milestones such as weddings, births, pregnancies, vacations, graduations rose to the top of the lists. Moving into a new house or getting a new car sat at the bottom of the list of best things. (Macleans Canada Day Poll 2006)
Canadians don’t care for keeping up with the Joneses. 29% of Canadians say it’s important that people admire the things they own, compared with 36% of Americans. (Fire and Ice, Michael Adams)

Marketing Reference
Lululemon

The brand believes in keeping healthy, exercising, and drinking eight glasses of water a day. They’re not just getting people to buy their clothes, but to embrace the lifestyle they promote. And that lifestyle, outlined in their manifesto, includes beliefs like, “Friends are more important than money.” Their mission: Lululemon athletic creates components for people to live longer, healthier and more fun lives. If we can produce products to keep people active and stress-free, we believe the world will become a much better place. Lululemon has successfully tapped into a Canadians’ unique view of what a good life looks like.

Molsons’ Made From Canada
The Made From Canada spot pays homage to Canadas’s natural beauty, and the uniquely Canadian impulse to enjoy it as much as we can. Copy: Fact is, its this land that shapes us. We know we have the best backyard in the world and we get out there every chance we get.

Lee Chapman, Strategic Planner, MacLaren

And finally, article four, which tackles why Canada is just so peaceful (Hi, how about the “no guns allowed” rule? ;-)).

This post signals an end to our series on Dominant Canadian Social Values. We’ve outlined 4 Canadian Values: a unique balance between individualism and collectivism; an attitude of tolerance and acceptance; a heightened appreciation for a quality of life; and finally, an essentially peaceful predisposition.

We hope these guideposts will help you when crafting communications that can relevantly connect with and engage Canadians.

Defining Value #4
Borne of a legacy of cooperation and compromise, Canadians are essentially a peaceful people living in a peaceful place. An underlying sense of comfort and security manifests in our ideology with regards to peacekeeping and also is reflected in our business dealings. Further, it may be what allows us to attend to what we refer to as ‘higher level values’.

Points of Evidence
Canada truly and factually is a safer place to live. The murder rate in Canada is 1.85: 100,000 people, as compared to the U.S. at 5.6:100,000. The U.S. incarceration rate is approximately 6 times higher than in Canada; in fact, Canada’s murder rate has fallen by more than 40 per cent since 1975.

And perceptually Canadians feel safer as a people. Canadians afraid to walk at night is down almost 5% since 1975 and Canadians are more worried about Bullying than Terrorism.(MacLean’s Magazine Canada Day Report 2006)

How this Manifests
On Peacekeeping
: When Canadians are asked about the traditional role of the Canadian military, they speak with pride about Canadian participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions. Over the years, more than 125,000 Canadian military personnel have served on peacekeeping missions for the United Nations – more than any other country. (cbcnews.ca, Canada: The World’s Peacekeeper)

In Business: Our peacefulness extends to our engagement style regarding business dealings. The 2008 Bribe Payer’s Index, prepared by the global civil society organization Transparency International, ranks Canada at No. 1, tied with Belgium—meaning our companies are the least likely in the world to engage in payoffs. Only four per cent of Canadian business people have ever bribed high-ranking politicians or political parties, according to the survey, well below the international average of 13 per cent. (MacLean’s Magazine Canada Day Report 2009)

On ‘Higher-Level Values’: Canadians embrace social responsibility. Almost 7 in 10 Canadians (68%) pay attention to issues related to Corporate Social Responsibility; 52% have consciously refused to buy a product or a service from a company not conducting business in a socially responsible way. And Canadians see the global environmental issue as second only to healthcare as a pressing issue facing the country (note that this ranking has bounced about a little with economy factoring in of late). (Social Responsibility in Canada, Ipsos Reid 2003 and 2006)

A Marketing Reference
Need we look any further than the spiritually-based success story that is Lululemon?

But in the interest of not repeating ourselves, let’s reference Marc Thuet’s restaurant in Toronto instead – Conviction Restaurant. Conviction Restaurant offers recently rehabilitated ex-convicts a chance to turn their lives around by helping give patrons “the most unforgettable eating experience of their lives”. As testament to the success of the concept, planning for a second Conviction location in British Columbia is currently underway.

Thanks again for your valuable time and attention!

Heidi McCulloch, V.P., Senior Strategic Planner, MacLaren McCann

So there you have it. Four defining reasons that makes Canada, and Canadians, great. Longtime ATGAIC readers already know that I love Canada, but just to set the record straight, I don’t in any way hate the States; on the contrary. Rather, it’s more like trying to fit into your favourite high school sweater; even though it might not fit quite right anymore, you’ll always have a certain fondness for it and you have to buy something new. Who knows, maybe I can figure out a way to live in both of “my” countries, by which I mean if you are a Canadian sugar daddy looking for a cute American girl, you know where to find me. :-)

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My Own 50 Reasons To Love Toronto

Just when I thought I couldn’t love a city any more, Toronto Life magazine goes and publishes an issue — and a video! — with 50 reasons to love Toronto.

You all know that I could easily come up with about one bazillion and one reasons to love Toronto, but in the spirit of the article, I’ve decided to list my own 50 reasons to love this fan-freaking-tastic city! And these are just the ones I came up with on the fly! I guess that’s not so hard when you’re in love.

1. When the sun shines and lights Lake Ontario up as blue as a sapphire
2. The cuisine. Enough said.
3. Art Gallery of Ontario
4. Nuit Blanche
5. The awesome Metro food writer, Stephanie Dickison
6. Independent bookstores that are still in business
7. A festival for every neighbourhood and ethnic group in the city every single weekend during the summer
8. That people call me back when they say they will
9. The Toronto Reference Library
10. Allan Gardens
11. How serious its people are about recycling. A PhD is required to figure it all out. Thank god I live in a building. ;-)
12. Toronto Cat Rescue*
13. Wychwood Art Barns
14. The Distillery District
15. That I can count on one hand the number of times someone’s been rude to me here
16. How people generally do not care about your race. Seriously, America — get the eff over it
17. The 401, better known locally as the Highway of Heroes
18. Mother’s Dumplings
19. The astonishing number of museums: art, sugar, shoe, police, and of course, hockey
20. Toronto Botanical Garden
21. Honest Ed’s
22. The sheer number of cupcake shoppes
23. Beaches, parks, hiking trails, and ski runs within a two hour drive
24. The weather, by which I mean no humidity
25. The St. Lawrence Market
26. Luminato
27. Toronto International Film Festival
28. Canada Reads
29. CBC headquarters
30. Second City
31. Frank Gehry
32. Volleyball on Sunday at Ashbridges Bay
33. Brunch. That is all.
34. The Mies van der Rohe-designed TD Canada Towers
35. Doors Open Toronto
36. The Junior League of Toronto
37. DJ skating parties in winter at Harbourfront
38. That gay people can get married here
39. Winterlicious/Summerlicious
40. The Drake Hotel
41. Trinity Bellwoods Park on the first “warm” day of Spring
42. The DVP when the trees are changing
43. Downtown coming into view when I drive south on the DVP every single day. Not a day goes by that I don’t smile when I see it.
44. The lookout from the Don Valley Brick Works
45. Watching the brightly coloured kayaks bob and float in Lake Ontario
46. How quickly the city clears the roads when it snows
47. Massey Hall
48. Double-decker tour buses in the summer
49. Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup in 40+ years, 99% of people here are still die-hard fans
50. As much as they hate it, how damn nice Torontonians are, especially my amazing friends

I don’t know what Toronto Life’s 50 reasons are, but I can’t wait to find out!

P.S. I’ll link out tomorrow — I’m too tired right now. Must. Go. To. Bed.

* From whom I adopted my adorable cat, Abby

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Canadians And Their Social Values, Part Deux

Back in April, I blogged about a series of articles written by MacLaren McCann via the Canadian Marketing Association around Canadians and their social values. I found the first part, which addressed the specifics of these social values, absolutely fascinating!

When I saw that the second part had been published, I got all giddy and couldn’t wait to get home and blog about it! You’re welcome. :-) The second part of the series addresses the attitudes of acceptance and tolerance that are the hallmarks of this great nation, such as the fact that, by 2017, one in two people in Toronto and Vancouver will be visible minorities. Long time TIC.com readers will know that I absolutely agree with these attitudes and, once again, is one of the zillions of reasons why I so love Canada.

Another reason is that I don’t think these minorities have necessarily been here for generations, as in the U.S., either. Rather, because Canadian immigrants are so new to the western world, the businesses, communities, and families are authentically real. When I eat at a family-owned Vietnamese restaurant, I know that the food they’re serving is probably very similar to how it’s done in Hanoi, for example. My favourite Thai restaurant is owned by a husband and wife who only moved here from northern Thailand six years ago. Authentic, indeed.

That’s not to say that every single “native” Canadian is as welcoming as they’d like to believe; of course that’s not the case. Take a gander for yourself, though. Do these Canadian hallmarks sound different than American attitudes about attitude, tolerance, and immigration?

Canadian Social Values:

Dominant Themes in Canadian Culture

Defining Value #2
We Canadians value an attitude of acceptance and tolerance. Over the course of our history, Canadians have embraced a liberal, open attitude, extending goodwill and acceptance to others who might be different.

Because of this pervading attitude of acceptance and tolerance, Canada is not just multi-cultural, but multi-everything. Note the diversity of beliefs, lifestyles, opinions, worldviews. Some would go so far as to say that this diversity is our greatest strength. (Macleans Canada Day Poll Report, 2006)

Diversity and pluralism are celebrated in Canada. Multiculturalism, in particular, has been noted as one of the most distinctive features of our society. More Canadians cite multiculturalism as central to the national identity – more than bilingualism or hockey. Canada’s top source of national pride is Multiculturalism, second only to Democracy. (Michael Adams, Unlikely Utopia, 2007)

Adams asserts further: “Canadians aren’t unique in living in a diverse society. Rather, Canadians are distinctive in the way that they have incorporated Canada’s policy of accommodating diversity into their sense of national identity.”

(I tend to disagree with the first part of the statement – that Canadians aren’t unique in living a diverse society. Canadian diversity IS unique and more intense. Take the United States: First nations and British colonial roots, but no French. Same goes for Australia. Canada counts among its peoples a first nations group, not one but two colonial forebears, and substantial waves of immigration from all over in recent years.)

The rest of his statement, however, rings true. Canadians have imbibed a strong attitude of acceptance and tolerance, so much that it defines and binds us as a nation.

Where does this come from?

How did we get here?

History: Canada was never a unitary entity. Canadians have never been one people in one place; we’ve always been a diverse people – Aboriginals, colonial British, colonial French, European immigrants – spread across a vast territory.

Our religion – or lack of it?

Religion, by its very nature, prescribes a certain code of conduct and belief. One’s religion helps a person make sense of the world, and pass judgment on what’s acceptable or not.
Canada is a secular nation. Compared to the United States, there are twice as many Canadians who say they have no religious affiliation. Church attendance has been on a steady decline, with almost 2 in 5 Canadians saying they never/almost never attend church. With less religiosity, Canadians are less likely to adhere to hard-and-fast, black-and-white judgments on right or wrong. This, in turn, makes for a more laissez-faire stance towards difference in beliefs/lifestyles.

Points of Evidence
Canadians are a tolerant and accepting people, who value and celebrate diversity. Festivals such as Caribana, Taste of the Danforth, Pride are the most obvious (and colourful) expressions of such.

Other data points support this value:
• By 2017, 1 in 2 people in Toronto and Vancouver will be visible minorities.
• 57% of Canadians live side-by-side within the five largest cities. Canadians – of whatever colour or stripe – are able to live amicably in close proximity to one another. Contrast this with other modes of settlement where people who are “different” confine themselves to either ghettoes or gated enclaves.
• 78% of Canadians believe immigration is good for the country (vs 64% of Americans).
• Canada was the fourth country in the world and the first country in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide

A Marketing Reference
In one of the most iconic pieces of Canadian advertising, The Rant aka I Am Canadian from Molson’s, “Joe” actually lays out the policy, and the pervading belief of Canadians – I believe in diversity, not assimilation. [Ed. note: this is a fantastic commercial and one I blogged about long ago!]

During the Olympics, Tim Horton’s aired a spot that drew directly from the immigrant narrative – the first things that newcomers to Canada experience are the cold, and Tim Hortons. The spot rose to the top as both “Most Memorable” and “Best Ad.” (Marketing Magazine, April 19, 2010)

Of late, Virgin and LCBO tipped their hat to the LGBT communities in their ads targeted to their mainstream audience, signaling that sexual orientation is a non-issue for these brands.

Lee Chapman, Strategic Planner, MacLaren

Photo credit: www.slapupsidethehead.com

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