TVO.org daily: Thursday, May 16

How to train your brain, Ontario’s recycling crisis, and the return of ‘Furious George’
By TVO Current Affairs - Published on May 16, 2019
a person pushing a shopping cart
A LCBO store in Kingston, Ont. (Lars Hagberg/CP)

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Good morning, Ontario.


Here's what we're following


Code red over blue bins

The Globe and Mail reports that China’s decision last year to ban the import of 24 types of recyclable commodities has waste management officials worldwide, including Canada, scrambling to find someone to take the contents of their region’s blue bins. China accepted 25,800 tonnes of plastic from Canada (most of it from Ontario) in 2017. In 2018, that figure dropped to 1,000 tonnes. The change has created costs for policymakers: Toronto recently offered $40 a tonne to a contractor to take the plastic film it had collected through its blue box program. All sorts of options are being considered, from changing what’s collected in municipal recycling programs, to ensuring that large companies pay to recycle their products’ packaging, and even to burning what can’t be shipped away.


Provinces have legal loophole to produce anti-Trudeau election ads

Are Ontario’s new anti-carbon-tax ads part of a coordinated effort to get Conservatives elected in this fall’s federal vote? The Toronto Star’s Susan Delacourt points out that new spending rules on federal political ads don’t apply to provincial governments. This means that if premiers such as Doug Ford and Jason Kenney “decide to form a united Conservative advertising front for [federal Conservative Leader Andrew] Scheer and against [Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau, the ad-spending limits in the federal election go out the window.”


EI rules for adoptive parents need to change, researchers say

A study from Western University finds that adopted children need more time to bond with their new parents than Canada’s current parental leave system allows. The report says the federal government should introduce new “attachment benefits” through the Employment Insurance program for these families — and they should be at least equal to maternity leave. The change would give adoptive parents another 15 weeks on top of the parental leave they already receive. 


Foreign buyers tax on homes seems to be working

According to the CBC, the pace of foreign residential real estate purchases in the GTA has cooled down since Ontario imposed a non-resident buyers tax two years ago. The analysis found that foreign buyers accounted for 1.8 per cent of total home purchases in the GTA since the tax came into effect in April 2017 — a significant drop from the industry estimates of five to 10 per cent before that year.



What we're tracking

George Smitherman has many accomplishments under his belt. He’s one of the longest-serving health ministers in Ontario history. He’s served as deputy premier. He helped create the Green Energy Act, and even ran for Toronto mayor in 2010. He’s documented much of it in his new memoir, Unconventional Candour.

Steve Paikin recently interviewed Smitherman for The Agenda. “Some people might know his nickname, Furious George, and he absolutely embodied that persona in the way he talked about some of his fellow politicians,” says Agenda producer Cara Stern, who co-produced the segment. “But it was refreshing to hear him reflect on his time in politics and recognize the ways in which he was, as he says in the interview, ‘a terrible boss.’”



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Lessons from post-Prohibition Ontario

From Ontario’s prohibitionist past to the current government’s loosening of liquor laws — including drinking in parks and more lenient alcohol advertising rules — the province has long struggled to find a balance between temperance and legalization. Dan Malleck, a professor and medical historian at Brock University, details that history in his book Try to Control Yourself: The Regulation of Public Drinking in Post-Prohibition Ontario. He joins Steve Paikin to discuss what lessons can be learned as the Ford government looks to revamp the province’s alcohol policy.


Raghu Rai: An Unframed Portrait

Award-winning photojournalist Raghu Rai’s 50-year journey is documented by his daughter, with a focus on his photography of Indian history as it unfolds. They travel together across Kashmir to cover civil unrest in the region. During the five years of filming and editing, Avani Rai says, she came into her own as a filmmaker under the wing of her father and his seasoned, artistic eye.



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Some GM jobs have been saved in Oshawa. That’s better than nothing — but only slightly



a car driving under a bridge
General Motors in Oshawa, Ont. (Eduardo Lima/CP)

Last week, General Motors announced it will invest $170 million to establish a parts-manufacturing operation in Oshawa, saving 300 of almost 3,000 jobs. The lucky ones will make parts for vehicles that will be finished in the U.S. and Mexico. Columnist Matt Gurney writes about what this means for an operation that, at its peak in the 1980s, had a staff of about 23,000 people and was the region’s largest employer.


Remembering the Great Famine and the Irish refugees who came to Ontario

Ontario has a rich history of sheltering refugees from far-off places who arrive to begin their lives anew. As the Great Famine Voices Roadshow makes its way across the province, eastern Ontario Hub reporter David Rockne Corrigan attends a session to learn about the history of Irish immigrants to Upper Canada. A mid-19th-century shortage of potatoes, a dietary staple, led to widespread disease and starvation in Ireland and resulted in tens of thousands of people fleeing the country. Corrigan writes, “At the peak of the crisis, in August 1847, about 2,500 refugees were arriving in Kingston every week.”



Tonight on TVO


8 p.m. — The Agenda: Libby Davies, a stalwart of the left

When Libby Davies retired from politics in 2015, she had spent more than 40 years as an activist and politician, including six terms as the New Democrat MP for Vancouver East. The former deputy party leader recently published a memoir, Outside In, which brings her to The Agenda. Davies looks back on her career of fighting for social justice, from her start as a community organizer in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to her time on Vancouver’s city council and years in federal politics.


10 p.m. — Redesign My Brain: Help Me Adapt

Host Todd Sampson is out to prove that brain training can make a person sharper, more resilient, even courageous. In this episode, he submits to several physical and mental tests to overcome the psychological challenge of climbing a 120-metre rockface in Utah’s Moab Desert — while blindfolded.



From the archive

Jan. 30, 2001 — When reality TV was new

Remember when reality television was new to the airwaves, and no one quite knew what to make of it? This 2001 More to Life segment has then-Toronto Star television critic Antonia Zerbisias and the Globe and Mail’s John Doyle discuss the pioneering days of the genre, its lower production costs, and whether reality TV could depict the truth. The two speculate about whether shows such as Survivor, Big Brother, and The Mole (hosted by a fresh-faced Anderson Cooper) could survive. Since then, the genre has transformed the television industry and created entire networks of productions that millions of viewers find relatable, entertaining, and addictive.

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