Saturday, September 18, 2010

Absolutely brilliant


Stephen Weir
Special to the Star

Long after the memories of Marilyn Monroe have faded, two well endowed condos will still be twisting the years away in downtown Mississauga.
Curvaceous. Shockingly new.
Absolute Buildings 4 and 5 are being built to last for the next century and beyond.
While their growing shapes are unconventional — the 56-storeyAbsolute 4 has been dubbed the Marilyn Monroe building because of its curves while Absolute 5, at 50 storeys, will sport a masculine big butt profile — it is the traditional application of concrete, and lots of it, that will make these buildings an eye-catching monument in time.
The condominiums have been under construction for over three years. Now, as the structures begin to tower over the nearby City Hall and Square One shopping centre, motorists, pedestrians and probably even the pilots of low flying planes are taking note of the now undulating skyline.
Designed by MAD architects, a very cutting edge and oh-so-chic Beijing-based architectural firm, their Mississauga condos with curves are being hailed as examples of “structural expressionism.”
Both condos break the mold on status quo. And of the two, Marilyn Monroe is the most different and therefore most interesting in terms of how it is being built.
Anthony Pignetti of the Dominus Construction Group is the director of highrise construction of the Marilyn Monroe building. Dominus is overseeing the building for Fernbrook Homes and the Cityzen Development Group.
Pignetti is quite used to being asked how a building can be rotated in space. Taking up a stack of his business cards, he shows how it is being done on the worksite. He holds the cards tightly in the centre and fans them out. While each card is the same size, the overall shape of the deck has morphed.
The cards, like the 56 egg shaped floors in the new Marilyn Monroe condo, remain rooted to the center (where fingers hold them in place) but are angled away from each other at a measurable angle.
“Each floor in Absolute 4 (Marilyn Monroe) is egg shaped and, like the cards, is fanned out from the centre of the building,” explains Pignetti. “The angle of difference between one floor and another ranges from one to eight degrees. Absolute 5 is different because the floors are shifted (from the core) at a constant angle shift of four degrees.”
HOW MARILYN MONROE
IS BEING BUILT
The business of building a condo with off-centered ovoid floors began not with a deep hole, but rather in a wind tunnel — it was essential for the architects to find out how a non-rectangular building would be affected by the elements.
“The wind tunnel tests at the University of Waterloo showed we had to build heavy underground and the first 25-floors above ground,” says Pignetti.
He estimates that the building’s base is about 20 per cent stronger than a traditional condo of the same size. Not surprising, the actual construction cost of the building will be about 20 per cent more than a typical 400 unit glass skyscraper.
And under Marilyn Monroe’s glass exterior is special concrete and steel, and lots of it.
The basement, all six floors of it, was dug like any other big project. The differences come into play with the Marilyn Monroe when her foundation — the basement walls and the floors — were made. Her bottom was constructed using a thick network of reinforced steel poles (rebar) that increases the tensile strength of the concrete that now covers it.
All buildings rely on rebar, but, in the case of Marilyn Monroe, a bigger rebar has been used. “Not only is it a thicker grade of rebar, we have used more of it” explains Pignetti “It is so tightly packed together you could easily walk across the rebar in the beams.”
So dense is this forest of rebar that traditional concrete could not be poured over and around it. Instead a special flowing concrete has been used on the lower floors.
Dump run-of-the-mill concrete inside a form made of plywood and you won’t get a solid wall after it has set. Concrete, when left on its own, leaves large air gaps inside the mix. In fact construction experts say that with traditional concrete as much of 20 per cent of its volume is made of trapped air. Bubbles reduce the density of concrete and that lowers its strength while increasing the chances that water will do damage.
On “typical” construction sites it is very much a case of shake while you bake. The concrete is vibrated to shake all the big air bubbles out. The oversized rebar used in the Marilyn Monroe is too thick and too close together to allow for equipment to vibrate poured concrete. Instead, a relatively new and more expensive concrete has been used for the foundation and the first 25-floors above ground.
“We have been pouring SCC — self-consolidating concrete,” explains Sergio Vacilotto, Dominus’ director of site operations. “It is highly flowable. In fact it fills the forms so completely we have to seal off their ends so that it doesn’t drain right out of the seams and onto the floor.”
This new expensive concrete uses super plasticizers and it is the weight of its mass, not vibration, that allows it to set without air pockets or seams. The concrete now exposed in Marilyn Monroe’s unfinished first floor lobby has a noticeable superior, almost polished, surface finish.
This summer Marilyn Monroe’s SCC passed the earthquake test. Workers already working on the 50th floor barely felt the 5.5 earthquake that rumbled through Ontario in July. “We didn’t even lay down our tools” said Vacilotto.
Because the windows have not yet been installed the innards of the building are easy to see. There are five ramrod straight concrete pillars that run from her bottom to her top. These pillars, the building’s core, form a tower that each floor, no matter its angle, is attached to.
Inside these pillars six high-speed elevators will soon be installed. “Sure the building has curves but you can’t run elevators at an angle so there has to a perpendicular core.”
At right angles to the centre tower there are four “C” shaped smaller concrete pillars. Like the central core, the squared Cs run straight and true from the basement to the roof. These are the passageways that carry the electricity and water upwards and residential garbage and recycled goods downwards.
Sounds normal. Where it gets a little wacky is in the building of each individual floor around these core shafts and tower.
The floors are egg shaped concrete platters. Since each individual plate is skewed at a different angle than the floor directly below or above it, each suite in the building is different.
While in a traditional condo tower each unit’s kitchen and bathroom is directly in line with the kitchen and bathroom above and below it, the same isn’t true in the Marilyn Monroe.
Wearing a hard hat and work boots and standing on the 49th floor, Vacilotto uses his hands to show where a unit’s bathrooms and kitchen will be. “If we drilled down to a lower floor chances are there wouldn’t be a kitchen or bathroom there. They could be here (pointing to a spot close to the open edge of the building) or over there (gesturing back to the core tower).”
This gives unit owners uniqueness not found in any other large format condo build. But by not having water and sewage services running down the building in a straight line, the actual placement of pipes becomes an integral part of the initial stages of the construction.
“On some floors we have more piping running horizontally across the ceiling than we do going vertically through the floor to the next unit below,” Vacilotto says.
Building a tall condo is akin to creating a vertical assembly line. Each floor has to be created by a team of skilled tradesmen before the next level can be added.
Pouring concrete inside standing plywood forms creates the load bearing walls. Since the ceiling (and the next level’s floor) comes after the walls, the concrete is poured in between the wooden forms from above.
When the walls have firmly set, the plywood forms come down. The ceiling is poured and the basic services — electricity, water, sewage and gas — are roughed in.
There are no outside walls, so the forms are bundled up and put on a platform on the outside of Ms Monroe and lifted up to the next level so the floor building process can continue.
We can’t “fly” form (a crane swings the forms out the side of a building and lifts it up to the next level) the way other buildings do,” said Vacilotto. “The shape doesn’t allow for it.”
It takes about four days to build a floor at the Marilyn Monroe site. Periodically the roof crane and a concrete pumping rig are raised to keep pace with the growing condo.
Driving by you can’t see how busy the construction site is. The top two floors of Marilyn Monroe have a downward slanting brightly coloured collar around it.
The covering is there to make sure the workers, their tools and building material don’t fall down onto a busy Burnhamthorpe Rd. below. The barrier also protects the workers from the constant wind. And it takes the edge off anyone suffering from a fear of heights.
Watching the concrete being pumped from a crane you don’t see that you are at the top of the tallest building in Mississauga. But once the structure is complete, the view from inside will be just as interesting as the view from outside.
Cookie cutter and tiny boxes on boxes are two condo clich├ęs that don’t get used much when talking about the Marilyn Monroe. Each suite is aligned differently than the units above and below it. And each suite varies in shapes and sizes depending on where it is on the ovoid shaped floor.
A unit’s view of the outside world will be through a curved bank of windows and glass doors. Where there isn’t window glass there will be spandrel opaque glass panels giving Marilyn Monroe a wall-of-glass look.
These windows don’t open, instead there are sliding doors leading out to balconies. The balconies range in size; from 10 to 50 feet — it all depends if you are on a hip or a waist. If you stand on the bulge side of the ovoid and look down, you can’t see any other balconies. Go to another unit and look over the edge and you see a stepped progression of balconies below you. Look up and you will see ledge upon ledge of concrete.
Dominus Construction Group readily admits that the building is over built. All that extra concrete, rebar and snaking pipe work does have its advantages. This is a building that could well be standing in the year 2110.
The project has caught the interest of buyers and builders alike. Only a handful of suites are left for sale and the top floor was snapped up long ago by a single customer. A steady stream of companies from across the country have sent their own builders in to look up Marilyn Monroe’s skirt to see for themselves how it is being done.
The sales office is on on Absolute Ave. Hours are Monday to Wednesday 1 to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. For more information, go to www.absolutecondos.com.
Facts & Figures
 Absolute consists of five buildings in the block on the northeast corner of Burnhamthorpe Rd. and Hurontario St. in Mississauga.
 Absolute 4 (Marilyn Monroe) has a rotation of 207 degrees from the base to the top.
 Absolute 5 has a rotation of 200 degrees from the base to the top.
 Absolute 4 will reach 56 storeys. Each level has nine-foot ceilings except the penthouse level, which will have 10-foot ceilings
 Marilyn Monroe has 428 suites; her shorter companion will have 453.
 Marilyn Monroe’s largest suite will be 3,500 square feet, her smallest will be 545 square feet.
 Marilyn Monroe will have six penthouse units, 100 2 ½ -bedroom suites, 217 2-bedroom suites and only 28 1-bedroom units.
 Amount of concrete that has been poured at Absolute 4: 4,400 cubic meters
 Amount of concrete still to be poured at Absolute 4: 1,500 cubic meters
 Absolute 4 and 5 share a common garage with 954 parking spaces.
 There will be a retail space between the two buildings.
 A 30,000-square-foot, three-storey recreation centre has already been built. It has indoor and outdoor pools, a basketball court, two squash courts, weight room, cardio room, games room, three party rooms, five furnished guest suites, a 48-seat theatre, spa, indoor and outdoor whirlpool, men’s and women’s change rooms with showers, lockers and sauna/steam room, library room and outdoor barbeque facilities.
http://www.yourhome.ca/homes/articlePrint/861508

Why (housing) bubbles aren't good for you


Tony Wong
Business Reporter

Bubble (verb)
1) A thin film of liquid inflated with air or gas
2) Something that lacks firmness, solidity or reality.
•Merriam-Webster
Bubble. Balloon. Mania.
Anyway you want to describe it, an economic bubble is the bogeyman of financial markets.
And there’s certainly a lot of bubble talk going on today – especially in relation to the Canadian real estate market.
The bubble isn’t the bad part. That’s when prices inflate and living is good. As most economists will tell you, it’s the bursting that you should be worried about.
But what exactly is a bubble anyway?
Classic economic theory says a bubble is simply an overly rapid expansion of a good or investment followed by a severe contraction, also known as a crash. That’s the not-so-great part.
“A bubble forms when there is a hot new investment idea that capture’s everyone’s imagination,” says David Rosenberg, chief economist for Gluskin + Sheff & Associates.
According to Luis Seco, a professor of finance at the University of Toronto, the definition of an asset bubble is simple:
“It is when asset prices are for whatever reason unfairly inflated. But at the time, it is difficult to know whether it is overpriced unless you put it in relation to other goods and services, so it’s difficult to see it coming.”
Bubbles aren’t an unusual occurrence in markets. Just ask the folk who bought Nortel stock at the height of the technology bubble in 2000 at $1,245 a share. The company was worth more than a third of the entire Toronto Stock Exchange before it plummeted to penny stock status, eventually filing for bankruptcy protection.
“When people start using phrases like ‘this time it’s different, or we have a new paradigm, or I better buy now or I won’t be able to afford it,’ then you know you’re in trouble,” says economist Will Dunning.
In the case of the technology bubble, greed and speculation had set in. It was also difficult to value dot-com stocks since most companies were burning cash and traditional methods of valuing a company went out the door. The subsequent stock market crash caused more than $1 trillion in wealth to be wiped out.
While tech stocks were seen as the “hot new idea” back then, that concept can be extended to the housing market where people see property as a hot investment rather than as a place to live, says Rosenberg.
“The new idea becomes a bubble based on three criteria: excessive leverage, widespread participation and dramatic overvaluation.”
Perhaps the first recorded instance of an asset bubble was the Dutch Tulip mania of the 1600s. At the peak in 1637, a single most-sought-after bulb equalled the price of a luxury home on the finest canal in Amsterdam.
Many investors grew fabulously wealthy, with more people purchasing them with intent to flip them for a profit. But the market crashed spectacularly, wiping out parts of the Dutch economy. Substitute tulips for condos, and you pretty much have the Toronto market crash of 1989.
“When you think about it – it’s completely crazy that the Dutch would do something like that but when you are in the bubble you think it is perfectly normal,” says Toru Yoshikawa, a former professor of strategic management at the DeGroote School of Business in Hamilton, who now teaches at Singapore Management University.
Yoshikawa lived through one of the greatest stock market and housing bubbles in history. As a young executive at Canadian-based CIBC bank in Tokyo, he witnessed the implosion of the Japanese stock market in 1989 followed by the bursting of the real estate market. At one point the grounds of the Imperial Palace were said to be worth more than the entire state of California.
The fall of the Japanese economy followed two decades of stagnation. Some economists now wonder whether the American economy, which has seen a massive retraction, will suffer the same fate.
“Everyone said at the time that prices couldn’t go down, that there was only so much land available. It was like brainwashing,” says Yoshikawa. One banker friend ended up buying four condos in downtown Tokyo and almost went bankrupt as a result, he says.
“I was tempted to buy something myself, just because everyone was buying something,” says Yoshikawa. “Now I see many of the same things happening in Canada.”
Another definition of a bubble: They emerge when prices increase more rapidly than inflation, household incomes and economic growth, according to David Macdonald, an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
A number of factors can contribute to bubble conditions, including access to easy credit and low mortgage rates.
The bubble burst in the United States because there were other factors, such as sub-prime mortgages in loosely regulated financial markets which caused prices to peak in 2005 – and decline every year since, according to Macdonald. Currently, almost one quarter of U.S. households are “under water,” where the mortgage is more than the market value of the home.
Most economists have ruled out a U.S.-style housing bust in Canada, particularly because we didn’t have the same volume of sub-prime loans. Tougher mortgage restrictions introduced this year means that risky zero-down, 40-year mortgages are no longer allowed.
“Canadian housing policies…continue to mitigate the risk of a massive wave of defaults in the future,” says economist Jim MacGee, author of a C.D. Howe Institute study saying a crash is unlikely.
Still, MacGee’s more bullish report came out only a day after Macdonald’s study, which was titled: “Canada’s Housing Bubble – An Accident Waiting To Happen.”
The case of the dueling reports led to more confusion over the direction of the housing market.
But in reality, the two economists did not have completely diametric views. Macdonald gave three scenarios for a housing bubble bursting, and the U.S.-style example was the most extreme and unlikely he looked at.
Rosenberg, one of the most influential economists, and formerly chief North American economist for Merrill Lynch, says determining if we are in a bubble remains a “close call. If it wasn’t a bubble at the recent peak, then it was one giant-sized sud.”
While most economists agree that sales of homes have gone beyond historical and demographic norms and prices are likely over-inflated in comparison to income, they disagree on whether the third element to be found in most bubbles truly exists in the Canadian housing market: Mass hysteria.
“The human part of it, the psychology is missing – are people really buying these homes because they expect values to rise constantly?” asks Dunning. “Most of the buying we’re seeing is from people who are not being speculators.”
“In a bubble market you have to find that greater fool, the persons who will always buy that good from you at a higher price,” says CIBC Economist Benjamin Tal.
Economist Yoshikawa agrees that Canadians have been much more conservative than his Japanese counterparts.
“In Japan, no one was questioning anything. It was a pure psychological euphoria. That is a key ingredient of a bubble. In this case, Canadians are not that extreme.”
Tell that to frustrated buyers who were caught up in bidding wars earlier this year. Only a few months ago, buyers lined up overnight to be first in line to get condominiums in North York. It was the same scene when buyers camped out at a housing site in Mississauga for three weeks to get first crack at buying a property. Justin Beiber fans could identify.
Still, most consumers don’t care about the semantics of whether the market is in a bubble or not. They just want to know whether prices are coming down.
Here, most economists at least agree that prices will have to fall or level off over the next several years.
“I don’t think you should be surprised if we see a 10-per-cent drop in average housing prices,” says CIBC’s Tal.
Dunning says the market is not in a bubble, but simply in a corrective phase, with prices coming down by 5 or 10 per cent.
The bursting of a bubble, as in the U.S., would be far more radical, with prices dropping by 30 per cent in three years. In Toronto, starting in 1989, prices fell 28 per cent in four years. A variation of this scenario might be possible if interest rates keep going up and government does not clamp down further on mortgage regulations, argues economist Macdonald.
A correction, meanwhile, is a short-term realigning of the market, but not severe enough to be called a crash – the aftermath of the bubble bursting.
“There is a difference between a popping of a bubble and a correction,” says Tal. “What we have seen are house prices overshooting and coming back to earth, but I don’t think it is going to be a dramatic fall.”
So why talk about bubbles?
“Because they’re a lot more sexy” says Tal. “People immediately understand what you’re talking about – and boy do they pay attention.”
Smart-shelter rules of thumb
 Buy a home you want to live in, not flip. Most studies show that in the short run, renting a home is cheaper than buying one. In the first years of purchase, your monthly payments are mostly paying off interest and the only person you’re making rich is your banker.
 Don’t buy during a boom. Markets move in cycles. We’ve been in a strong up cycle over the last decade, but the laws of market gravity will not be defied. What goes up can eventually come down.
 Make the biggest cash down payment you can afford. It’s simple. The more money you put down, the less interest you will have to pay on your property. This could result in substantial savings in the long run.
 Location, location, location. All the funds you’ve invested to improve your home’s “curb value” will be for naught if the neighbourhood is a no-go zone. It’s better to buy a fixer upper in a good neighborhood than having the best house in a run down area.
 Be Realistic. Buying a home is an emotional purchase, but don’t bite off more than you can chew. Make sure you keep within your financial comfort zone. A pool and a picket fence might be ideal – but not when you’re stressed out about paying the monthly dues.
http://www.yourhome.ca/homes/articlePrint/862717

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why the balance on Toronto council will swing right

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Vilma Filici is running in Ward 12 to inspire others in her community. With 10 seats in play and several incumbents vulnerable the balance of power at city council may swing to the right.
ANDREW WALLACE/TORONTO STAR

Robyn Doolittle
Nobody knows much about Gus Cusimano. It doesn’t matter. To stand a chance, he only needs the people in Ward 9 York Centre to know one thing: he’s a conservative newcomer running against a left-wing incumbent.
In today’s political climate, that might just be enough. After eight years of the left running the show, the balance of power at city hall is about to swing right.
The liberal councillors hold only a small majority on council. With Howard Moscoe announcing his retirement, 10 of those seats are open to newcomers. A handful of incumbents, most of whom vote left, are vulnerable. And judging by the most recent polls, Toronto’s next mayor will move to city hall with a conservative mandate.
Penny-pinching Rob Ford, who has vowed to stop the “gravy train” at city hall, holds a two-digit lead. Four of the five leading candidates are playing up their conservative side.
Door after door, Cusimano is hearing what poll after poll keeps showing.
“People are fed up with the spending out of city hall and they want change,” the 54-year-old insurance broker said. “We have to get our finances under control and I think the councillor that’s there, Maria Augimeri, she hasn’t done that.”
A little over a dozen of the current 44 city councillors are ideologically on the far left. About 10 are entrenched on the far right. The mushy middle is about split, with a tendency to vote left of centre.
Under Mayor David Miller, city council has moved in a distinctly liberal direction. From the green roof bylaw, to a ban on plastic bags, to millions being pumped into Toronto’s 13 priority neighbourhoods, causes typically associated with the left have ranked high on the agenda.
Taxes have also gone up. Unions have been strengthened. And left-minded councillors, such as budget chief Shelley Carroll, police board vice-chair Pam McConnell and TTC chair Adam Giambrone, hold the most influential postings.
Under the current regime, taxes have gone up, while city services and building projects have been neglected, said councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.
Minnan-Wong is a member of the Responsible Government Group; a coalition of conservative councillors who act in opposition to mayor Miller and the “Millerites” — progressive councillors such as Paula Fletcher, Adrian Heaps, and Gord Perks.
“They let the (summer of 2009) strike fester and the sick bank issue is still not dealt with,” said Minnan-Wong. “We’ve gone on a spending spree. We’ve got to start living within our means.”
Toronto may be a Liberal stronghold for provincial and federal politics, but locally, right-wing North Yorker Mel Lastman proves Toronto can vote conservative when issues hit close to home, said Nelson Wiseman, a politics professor at the University of Toronto.
“At its core, municipal governments are driven by property concerns. Property values are where the money is. Roads. Services. Garbage collection. Things that impact value,” he said. “Property owners are more likely to be conservative and also more likely to vote in local elections.”
When it comes to other levels, the Conservatives have been perceived as less sympathetic to cities, so Toronto voters tend to align themselves with the Liberals or NDP.
And when you break it down even further, the further you get away from Toronto’s downtown, the more conservative voters tend to be, he said.
Etobicoke Councillor Peter Milczyn said several of the left-wing councillors in the suburbs might find themselves in trouble.
“Certainly the political discourse has shifted dramatically right,” said Milczyn. And as far as any new faces, “I’d imagine they’d be centre or centre right, with Michael Layton as the exception.” (Layton, son of NDP leader Jack Layton, is running in Joe Pantalone’s Trinity-Spadina ward.)
That’s exactly what Ford’s camp is hoping.
If elected, front-runner Ford has promised to abolish the $60 vehicle registration tax and a land transfer tax, which were championed by Miller and passed by council in October 2007, as well as trim the number of council seats and individual councillor budgets. But his political opponents point out that the mayor is only one vote and to move on any agenda, Ford will need to get others on side — something he has a lacklustre track record of doing.
A number of left-wing councillors are already threatening to form a rogue government with a defacto mayor.
But Ford’s campaign has a plan.
The Etobicoke councillor’s team has been quietly supporting like-minded candidates, such as Cusimano, particularly in suburban wards.
If a few of the left-wing councillors can be knocked out, most of the fresh blood can be brought on side, and that mushy middle jumps on board, Ford will have enough support to pass his policies.
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/859661--why-the-balance-on-toronto-council-will-swing-right

5 tight city council races to watch

Ward 32 – Beaches-East York
Despite being a four-term incumbent, Sandra Bussin is the most vulnerable of the downtown councillors.
Criticism of the city’s decision to award a 20-year contract to Tuggs Inc., which runs the Beaches’ Boardwalk Pub, has been a major talking point in the mayoral campaign. Rob Ford has gone so far as to call the deal an example of city corruption.
Bussin, although abstaining from the most recent vote on the issue, initially went to bat for the family-owned business. Her political opponents hired a private investigator. As the Foulidis family readily admits, they have over the years donated several thousand dollars to her campaigns.
Bussin has also been front and centre in the debate over taxpayers covering councillor legal fees. The city agreed to cover costs of a libel lawsuit she launched against a local newsletter, Ward 32 News, which she claims has been spreading lies about her.
Her seat is being challenged by former TTC bus driver Bruce Baker, who has also been campaigning on the Tuggs Issue. He is being sued by the Foulidis family for libel.
Ward 15 – Eglinton-Lawrence
With longtime councillor Howard Moscoe retiring this ward is wide open.
Rob Davis, a former councillor, unsuccessful Progressive Conservative candidate and current Catholic Board trustee, is facing of against Josh Colle, a former Catholic trustee and currently an executive at an energy and infrastructure firm.
Davis served on councillor between 1997 and 2000. He has launched an aggressive social media campaign and has been aligning himself with the more conservative mayoral candidates.
Colle, the son of MPP Mike Colle, is also involved in a local community advocacy association, the Five Points Community Action committee.
Ward 27 – Toronto-Centre Rosedale
A former cop squares off against a local activist in Ward 27, a colourful downtown ward that encompasses Ryerson University, the gay village and Rosedale.
With long-time councillor Kyle Rae calling it quits, this coveted seat is up for grabs. Former George Smitherman aide Ken Chan, a former police officer and community safety advisor to London England’s mayor, Boris Johnson, is campaigning on investment in the arts community, local transportation issues and the environment.
The other big name in the ward — not including Enza “Supermodel” Anderson, who is back — is NDP up and comer Kristyn Wong Tam. Wong Tam currently works as in real estate. She immigrated to Toronto from Hong Kong with her family and has been an advisor to Mayor David Miller on economic development.
Ward 18 - Davenport
In 2003, Ana Bailao lost to Adam Giambrone by 1,200 votes. With the TTC chair’s short-lived bid for the mayoralty going up in flames, Giambrone’s former executive assistant Kevin Beaulieu has picked up the torch.
Bailao, a Portuguese immigrant who previously worked for Giambrone’s predecessor Mario Silva, has worked with a dozen community groups through the years, notably in 2007 she became president of the Working Women Community Centre.
Beaulieu is active in the NDP party and was a member of Giambrone’s 2003 campaign before moving with the candidate to city hall. Beaulieu’s struggle will be to capitalize on Giambrone’s popularity the ward, but also to establish himself as his own person in order to navigate through the strong anti-Giambrone faction led by the Dundas West BIA.
Ward 8 – York West
This already hotly contested race in York West between incumbent Anthony Perruzza and former local councillor Peter Li Preti got a lot more interesting this week, with news that Smitherman’s brother, Arthur, has put forward his candidacy.
Truck driver Arthur Smitherman, who shares a striking resemblance to his estranged brother, has backed Rob Ford.
Perruzza, who some left-wingers on councillor have accused of sucking up to front-runner Ford in recent weeks, has a tough fight ahead of him. The NDP stalwart narrowly defeated his longtime rival, Li Preti, in 2006.
Li Preti has a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology and has been involved in municipal politics for 16 years.
In an unprecedented move in the 2006 campaign, with both the Li Preti and Perruzza campaigns accusing each other of interfering with voters, council stationed a police officer at every poll in the ward.
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/859659--5-tight-city-council-races-to-watch

Smitherman estranged from brother who endorsed Ford

He’s not his brother’s keeper.
Mayoral candidate George Smitherman made it clear Wednesday that he has nothing to do with his older brother Arthur — and that was the case before the newly announced city council candidate endorsed Smitherman’s rival, Rob Ford, in the Toronto Sun.
“It’s well known that my brother has no relationship with his siblings and that he’s running,” Smitherman said Wednesday.
He called his brother’s political manoeuvres, “his choice, his business.”
Smitherman’s older brother registered to run for city council in York West (Ward 8) late last week.
The truck driver said on Tuesday that he has no axe to grind against his brother but he’s supporting Ford.
“I’ve never agreed with my brother in terms of political philosophy,” Smitherman said, adding he is neither right-wing or left-wing. “I have to be honest and straight forward with you when I tell you I’ve had very little contact with him since my father passed away in the early ‘90s”
Erika Mozes, George Smitherman’s campaign spokesman, said Arthur has been estranged from George and his two sisters for 20 years.
Mozes said Smitherman’s two sisters support him and are holding a family barbecue for him on the weekend.
The campaign had planned and announced the event before Arthur Smitherman publicly endorsed Ford.
“We wouldn’t want that to turn into some sort of circus at all,” Mozes said. “It’s not unusual that George’s brother wouldn’t be invited to that event because he is estranged from the family.”
The former deputy premier isn’t focused on his brother’s lack of support.
“George would rather talk about the issues and the campaign,” Mozes said. “It’s not like his brother is running against him. I think he said it actually at a scrum (Wednesday) morning, where he said, ‘This is somebody who shares my last name.’”
Councillor Rob Ford welcomed the eldest Smitherman’s support.
“Taxpayers are sick and tired of the tax-and-spend ways of George and his friends,” Ford said in a statement provided by his campaign. “Obviously his brother is no different than the average over-taxed Toronto resident”
 http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2010/09/08/15288226.html

Toronto Party fields 12 candidates

A fledging municipal party just four years ago, the Toronto Party for a Better City is fielding 12 candidates for councillor in next month’s election.
And at least one — John Laforet running in Scarborough’s Ward 43 — has a good shot at knocking off the incumbent. Paul Ainslie, says president Stephen Thiele.
“He’s got an excellent chance,” he said Wednesday, noting that in three to four hours of canvassing recently they picked up 50-60 lawn sign locations in that ward.
Thiele says the party — created in the fall of 2006 — now has some 400 members.
The Toronto Party for a Better City recently made headlines over its decision to take 23 councillors to court for opting to pay the legal bills of two councillors, Giorgio Mammoliti and Adrian Heaps, while they were candidates in the 2006 election.
The court ruling — released July 19 — quashed the bylaw that made the legal payouts possible. But council decided at its last meeting to appeal the court decision, even though outside counsel, Alan Lenczner, recommended the appeal be “abandoned” because it was not likely to succeed.
Thiele said they have put together a policy platform that is “pretty basic.”
It calls for stopping the waste at City Hall, getting back to the city’s priorities and repealing both the personal vehicle and land transfer taxes.
“We think both are patently unfair,” he said.
They are not endorsing any particular candidate for mayor, he said, adding that some, however, have adopted planks of the Toronto Party’s platform such as repealing the personal vehicle tax.
http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2010/09/08/15285836.html