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TORONTO STAR

Thousands of kids used to get lost at the CNE every year. It was an adventure this Barrie man will never forget (sam., 17 août 2019)
Wayne Malley still remembers the bright flashing lights that caught his eye before he wandered away from his family. It was Aug. 22, 1966, and Malley, then just 5 years old, had come to the Canadian National Exhibition with his parents and five other brothers, a family tradition. But his day took a dramatic turn when he noticed a game he loved to play and got separated from the pack. “I just had a habit of running around, just going my own way,” recalled Malley, now 58 and living in Barrie. “I was just out there crying because I couldn’t find my parents. I was a big crier back then.” It may seem shocking now, but Malley was just one of 356 kids who got lost at the CNE on that day alone, at a time when up to 400 used to go missing at the fair every single day. Archives going as far back as the 1920s show a big bustling tent for lost children, and a 1958 Star headline blaring “1,624 lost children” in just one day. Today, that number stands at roughly five to 12 a day, depending on how busy it is. Part of the explanation could be the way parenting has changed over the years, from giving kids more freedom to being more protective, says Dr. Natasha Sharma, a parenting expert with a therapy practice in Etobicoke. “Kids haven’t changed all that much at all. They’re always curious, they’ll always wander off, given the choice,” Sharma said. “But we have become less trusting, more vigilant, more fearful, more worrisome.” The day Malley got lost was a cool one for August, with a high of just 17.8 C, and the CNE was packed as usual. Close to three million people visited that year, compared to about 1.4 million per season today. Back then there were tents for freak shows, including the “fat lady” Dainty Dora; children running around and doing a whole bunch of sit-ups in physical competitions; and the Alpine Way chair lift ride reached 31 metres, compared to today’s 13-metre-high Sky Ride. Malley and his family had just got into the fair, and were walking between the Food Building and the midway when he noticed a light-bulb game he loved to play and went running toward it in the hopes of winning some cookies. A woman noticed him and took him to the fair’s lost-and-found, where a Star photographer snapped pictures of his tearful face and eventual reunion with his mother. “I just ran to her and held on to her hand. According to the picture, I was all happy and smiles,” Malley said. It was an adventure he’ll never forget, and a story he still tells all his family and friends. In earlier generations, Sharma says, parents gave their children a lot more freedom — and a lot more responsibility. “Parents were far less anxious,” she said. “They were more trusting of their environment, which probably led to allowing kids to go off on their own.” Sharma thinks they also had higher expectations for what their kids were capable of, and that they’d know how to keep themselves safe. “We are more scared today as parents,” she said. “The upside is less lost kids; the downside is, I think kids then start to absorb that fear and that anxiety, and also don’t know how to cope with a situation where they find themselves on their own with a problem in front of them.” Small children should never be left on their own, Sharma says, but parents should consider allowing “small freedoms” in a safe or contained space after about the age of 9. “We have to teach our kids to keep themselves safe and to not be afraid of a crowded place like the CNE. The potential for people to be harmful or dangerous is extremely small,” she said. “In certain contained situations, we need to allow children the opportunity to experience discomfort.” A little freedom and responsibility could be a good lesson in knowing how to protect themselves in a large public place, Sharma says. Kids older than 6 should know their parents’ phone numbers and what to do if they ever get lost. (On Twitter, a Toronto police officer offered the tip of writing phone numbers on the arms of small children). “Lost kids is never a good thing, no matter what decade we’re living in,” she said. But rather than underestimating our kids, it’s better to understand what they’re capable of handling. “They’re really good at dealing with uncomfortable situations and fear and bouncing back from it,” Sharma said. “We’re not that great at it.” But for kids as young as Malley was when he got lost, the best advice is just to try to keep an eye on them. Malley had been missing for about 10 minutes when his family realized he wasn’t there. “They had six kids to hold on to, my dad and my mom,” Malley said. “You could get lost in a second.” As the family went about trying to figure out where to find him, Malley was being cared for by a matronly woman at the lost kids centre, playing with a rocking horse toy in a fenced-off area filled with more toys. “She made me feel very comfortable. I was still crying, though,” he said, adding that he went back to say hello for several years. The woman may have been Dorothy Mitchell, who ran the lost kids centre at that time. “I guess you really have to enjoy children in order to do this,” Mitchell, who didn’t have children of her own, told the Star in 1986. “I’ve had some real screamers over the years. But you just have to sit with them and calm them down, tell them their mothers will be by soon to get them.” When she first took over in the 1960s, the CNE had just taken down a huge tent where about 5,000 lost kids ended up every summer. Some even ended up staying the night. “I don’t think we’ve ever had any cases where the parents didn’t eventually show up,” Mitchell said. There were still a lot of kids in the pen when Malley was there in 1966, he said, and “we all had those short haircuts where you put a bowl over your head.” He was there for probably less than half an hour, “most of the time in tears, but having fun with the kids,” before his worried mother came to get him. He got to leave with a lollipop. Lost kids at the Ex don’t get lollipops anymore and there’s no rocking horse, but the system remains pretty much the same, according to CNE’s Guest Services. Children are still brought to one of two lost-and-found locations — one in the Better Living Centre and one in the Enercare Centre — by staff, who try to entertain them as much as they can. On average, they usually stay only about 20 minutes before their parents come looking. Malley and his wife still go to the Ex a number of times every summer. He used to also take his mother, who died a few years ago at age 95, and he never misses the annual Warriors’ Day parade in honour of his dad, a Second World War veteran who also died at 95. The Ex isn’t as fun as it used to be, Malley says, but it’s still got its charms, such as cheap spaghetti in the Food Building, the old-fashioned vibe of the midway and the roaring air show. That’s where Malley had his second moment of trouble at the CNE just a few years after getting lost. Back then, there were no railings along the lakefront and people could go right up to the water’s edge to watch the military planes overhead. As one soared by, the wind knocked Malley off his feet and nearly sent him plunging into the water before a stranger grabbed the back of his shirt. It was another example of a time when people seemed to play a bit more fast and loose with children’s safety. “There was not as much protection back then. Things were more open,” Malley said. “Kids just ran everywhere.” Sahar Fatima is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @sahar_fatima
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Paid per procedure, many Ontario doctors are incentivized to always do more. But it’s not the only way to pay (Sat, 17 Aug 2019)
Paying doctors a fee for each service they perform — the way many Ontario doctors are paid — has long been seen as an imperfect and sometimes wasteful way to spend public funds. In other parts of the world, doctors are often paid according to their number of patients. The system encourages concentrating on the patients’ health rather than their illnesses. Compensating doctors for individual acts, known as fee-for-service, provides an unintended incentive for doctors to perform more procedures and order extra tests. It also pays more to doctors who cram the maximum number of patients into a work day and penalizes physicians who take extra time to answer questions and explain issues. The billing information revealed by the Star in its continuing Operation Transparency series has shown how a small number of doctors in Ontario bill far more than others, mostly because they see a large number of patients each day, work long hours and take few days off. Fee-for-service is largely restricted to North America, where physicians are considered owners of small businesses, said Dr. Rick Glazier, a family doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital. When Canada socialized health care in the 1960s, doctors simply stopped billing patients and started billing the government, said Glazier, who is also a researcher at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. Many who study doctors’ compensation say a superior method is to base pay on the number of patients a doctor takes on, even if they do not provide treatment, in a method called capitation. Such alternative payment models have the advantage of offering incentives to doctors to perform preventative medicine. And unlike fee-for-service, where the only tweaks that can be made are raising or lowering the fees for individual treatments, alternative models provide many ways to reward doctors for achieving better patient outcomes. “A lot of really high-performing health-care systems in the world are mainly salaried or (use) capitation and often have accountability, bonuses and other ways that the system is constantly measured and tweaked and organized so that they achieve the level of productivity and quality that they want,” said Glazier. Ontario, as most provinces do, employs a mix of compensation models, with 64 per cent of the $10 billion in payments to doctors during 2016 to 2017 coming from fee-for-service and 36 per cent from alternative payment programs, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). For decades, OHIP paid almost all doctors by fee-for-service — which was appropriate for the time, said Glazier, when the system treated lots of individual injuries or diseases. As the population ages, many people live with multiple chronic health conditions, and new technologies often require teams of health-care professionals to co-ordinate. Doctors and academics who study physician compensation now view billing for each procedure as obsolete. “The fee-for-service system, which is really meant for one-off acute problems, has difficulty supporting things like care co-ordination, team care, conferences and quality improvement,” said Glazier. “The fee system hasn’t kept up with any of that.” There are some advantages to fee-for-service, including improving access to health care by encouraging doctors to see as many patients as possible. Transparency is another plus. “It’s very clear: You see X number of patients and perform Y number of procedures, and this is the amount you’ll be paid. So there’s nothing mysterious about the payments or how they’re made,” said Glazier. Alternative methods are difficult to evaluate because it’s not clear which services doctors are performing and how often they’re doing them. The movement away from fee-for-service started in the 1990s and continued apace with alternative payments in Ontario increasing more than tenfold between 1999 and 2013, according to CIHI data. “The wave sort of started with family medicine and has moved also to certain specialties,” said Geoff Ballinger, manager of physician information at the CIHI. “But there are still some specialties in some provinces that are paid predominantly, if not entirely, by fee-for-service.” Nova Scotia is farthest along the road to alternative payments, with almost half of payments to all physicians determined by alternative methods. Alberta has the smallest percentage of alternative payments, which represent only 13 per cent of doctors’ payments. In Ontario, more than half of the payments to family doctors take an alternative form, but there are specialties, such as dermatology, where more than 96 per cent of payments are fee-for-service, that use very little in the way of alternative payments. The overall shift toward alternative payments across Canada, however, has plateaued and even reversed slightly in recent years. “It almost seems like we’ve sort of reached that sweet spot in terms of the blend of between fee-for-service and alternative payments,” Ballinger said. “And perhaps this is a slight adjustment backwards to fee-for-service.” Glazier sees other forces at work: The Ontario government originally gave doctors the choice on which system to use. Everyone picked the system that would pay more. This produced skewed statistics that make it appear that alternative compensation is more expensive than it would be if all doctors used it, he said. Now, the province has made it much harder for doctors to switch to alternative payment, he said. Alternative payment methods, such as capitation, also have drawbacks. There’s a theoretical incentive to not take on sick patients because doctors would have to work more for the same amount of pay. Glazier says there’s no evidence this has occurred and no scientifically rigorous studies of which compensation model is better. “We know that there are incentives in each one. Some of those incentives are good, and some of them are bad. From a health system perspective, we know that blending them seems to be advantageous. But there’s no magic bullet here,” he said. Pierre Thomas Leger is a professor of health economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has studied different models of physician compensation and concluded that blending is the best way to balance out the different incentives. “Fee-for-service incentivizes doctors to be available and provide lots of care, while capitation pushes doctors to control costs and avoid unnecessary procedures,” he said. “Blending the two provides the best of both worlds. It’s the right mix of quality and cost management.” One way a blended system could work is to pay doctors a yearly fee for every patient they take on, and then reimburse doctors for some, but not all, of the cost of each procedure they provide. This would encourage doctors to provide high-quality care to attract patients but also to keep their patients healthy to minimize the need for costly care. But such incentives are difficult to establish and require constant monitoring, said Glazier. This is something the United Kingdom’s National Healthcare System does well. “They’re constantly redesigning and they’re constantly tweaking,” said Glazier. “They pay performance incentives to encourage doctors to treat underserved populations and people with chronic conditions. “They vastly overpaid doctors in the first go. Then they changed the system, and they did it right away, and everybody agreed on different thresholds and different limits because the first time they weren’t appropriate.” In Ontario, the adversarial relationship between the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), an organization that acts as a union for doctors, and the ministry of health means that tweaks must be individually negotiated. And, as they will always affect some doctors more than others, there is always resistance, said Glazier. “In Ontario, we found out that what we were doing wasn’t appropriate, but it was too hard to change that so we didn’t.” The amount doctors are paid for each procedure is negotiated between the province and the OMA and is supposed to cover overhead costs, such as rent and equipment, in addition to take-home pay. But exactly how much doctors spend in overhead remains a point of contention when the fee schedules are negotiated. No one tracks how much doctors actually spend on overhead, which can vary widely between different specialties. However, the OMA estimates that doctors spend an average of 30 per cent of their billings on overhead. In Scotland, a new contract that came into force in 2018 will have the government assume the rent that family doctors — or general practitioners (GPs), as they’re referred to there — pay for their offices. If a doctor owns their office, the government will provide interest-free loans to help cover maintenance. This takes some of the guesswork out of including overhead costs in doctors’ pay. The idea, according to the Scottish government, is that “no GP contractor will need to enter a lease with a private landlord for GP practice premises,” according to a copy of the contract posted online. It’s part of a “long-term shift that gradually moves toward a model which does not presume GPs own their practice premises.” One of an ongoing series of stories. Marco Chown Oved is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @marcooved
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Toronto woman hits obstacle in trying to help Nigerian email scammer (Sat, 17 Aug 2019)
Lesley Martin just wanted to pay it forward. After avoiding a Nigerian phishing fraud, the Toronto life coach and communications consultant started wondering about the young man behind a computer screen half a world away who had tried to rip her off. Martin, who also works as a part-time standup comic and therefore keeps her social media and email accounts public, is no stranger to attempted spam scams. So — like a scene out of Will Ferguson’s 2012 Giller Prize-winning novel 419 — she engaged with the would-be fraudster earlier this summer and was surprised what she learned. She was also disappointed in PayPal when she tried to help the young Nigerian man who said he was trapped in the phishing farm because he needed money to help pay his brother’s tuition fees at engineering school in Lagos. The American online remittance company refused to allow her to transfer cash to Nigeria via its subsidiary Xoom — and makes no apologies for its actions. That has Martin accusing the firm of discriminating against Nigerians. “I’ve been spending some spare time lately trying to convince a few kids in West Africa who tried to catfish me to use the skills they learned in their catfish boiler room for less nefarious purposes ... to pivot and do some good with it,” she said this week. “I’m not a saint, but it seemed to me that they were really just people reaching out for help,” Martin said of the young men who speak English and are trained to dupe people around the world into sending them cash over the internet. Terry Eze Nwachi, who was supplementing his $80-a-month salary at a transportation depot by phishing, was one of those. “It feels wonderful and unreal that someone who is miles away from me could put me in such effort to help me. It’s an amazing feeling and I really appreciate it with all my heart. It gives me a sense of hope,” Nwachi, 23, said via a WhatsApp message. In exchange for him going straight — and helping some of his associates use their language and computer abilities for other purposes, Martin agreed to send $400 to pay the tuition fees of his younger brother, Viktor, 19. “It wasn’t even my money. I had a $400 Visa gift card I got from a previous job and I wanted to use it to help someone,” she said. “(The transfer) appeared to be accepted, but an hour later I got a call from a Xoom ‘verification’ rep who wanted to verify the transaction. I answered all the questions — including what the funds were for,” said Martin, who was offended by that “intrusive” line of questioning. “When I told them I had never met my receiving party face-to-face, they told me they could not authorize the transaction. When I asked why, they said it was because there is too much crime associated with the region,” she said. “I offered to sign a waiver of responsibility for them ... that they had a recording of me indicating I was coherent and had acknowledged the risks associated with sending money directly into Lagos, an area rife with confidence scams.” But Xoom repeatedly declined to comply with her wishes and then ignored her complaints until hastily reaching out the day after the Star made inquiries to the company this week. “I shared that having a policy specific to a region that restricts the transfer of money to people in need there because of the crime associated with it was institutional racism,” she said. “And at best they were applying a moral judgment to the recipients of such assistance.” Frustrated, Martin ended up transferring the Visa gift card funds using Xoom rival WorldRemit and she has “seen the happy results of my labours.” That’s because Nwachi is now helping her develop “a teaching module he could give to the graduating students at his brother’s engineering school to acclimatize them to North American culture in hopes of finding gainful employment here.” When family members suggested she might be the victim of an even more sophisticated criminal scheme, she assured them she has seen where the young man lives and where he works via WhatsApp video calling. “I’m not worried about that, believe me,” said Martin. Xoom, however, remains unrepentant about its actions. In an email statement to the Star, the PayPal company said it “offers money transfer services to 130 countries around the world.” “It’s a more secure and convenient way to send money, reload mobile phones or pay bills for family members and people that you trust and personally know — as outlined in our user agreement,” Xoom said. “ In an effort to help keep our customers safe from scams we encourage them to follow best practices when sending money and provide details on how to do so in our FAQ,” the company said. “We review transactions to check for potential fraud, including scams, and to meet compliance and anti-money laundering requirements.” In fact, Xoom’s service agreement only says it should be used with “family members and other people that you trust.” “We recommend that senders use the service only to send money or mobile reloads to, or pay bills for, people you know personally, such as family and friends. You should never use the service to send requests or money to strangers,” it reads. Martin noted that just because she has never physically met Nwachi does not mean she doesn’t know or trust him now. She said she was so outraged about the apparent discrimination she reminded Xoom that under Canadian law “you can’t refuse a service based on race.” Nwachi, for his part, was not surprised. “It’s a messed-up situation,” the Nigerian said via WhatsApp. “I understand that any money sent from (a) Western country down to this part (of the world) is seen as (a) scam,” he said. “But it doesn’t have to be generalized. It may appear like they are protecting their users, but with that much detailed information that is provided the destination of the receiver shouldn’t be a barrier.” Robert Benzie is the Star's Queen's Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie
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Homicide victim in Roncesvalles drive-by was associate of Montreal mob boss, police sources say (Sat, 17 Aug 2019)
A restaurant owner shot to death Friday afternoon in front of the wine bar he ran in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood was an associate of Montreal mob boss Vito Rizzuto, according to multiple police sources. Paolo Caputo, 64, of Richmond Hill, became Toronto’s 38th homicide victim for 2019 after he was shot around 4 p.m. outside Domani Restaurant, at 335 Roncesvalles Ave., near Grenadier Rd. Witnesses reported two gunshots. Caputo died on the scene, Toronto police said. An autopsy is planned for Saturday. Domani Restaurant’s website lists Paul Caputo as its owner. It says he purchased it after owning and operating the Savorie Restaurant in Forest Hill for 11 years, an establishment visited by Rizzuto when the Montreal mob boss came to Toronto, according to police sources. Police believed Caputo was a longtime associate of Rizzuto, who was believed to be Canada’s most powerful underworld figure until his death almost six years ago. Read more: Vito Rizzuto, Canada’s most notorious mobster, dies suddenly Vito Rizzuto: Canada’s country club mobster Caputo was busted in November 2007 with dozens of other men when police broke up what they said was a high stakes poker game at a social club on Finch Ave. W. near Dufferin St. Police were alerted to the gambling activity after the club was robbed by two men earlier that year. The OPP organized crime unit estimated that operation grossed more than $1 million yearly, and that it funnelled funds to Rizzuto. Caputo is also the older brother of Martino Caputo, one of four men convicted of the 2012 execution-style murder of drug trafficker John Raposo in broad daylight on a crowded College St. patio in a killing connected to a group called the Wolfpack Alliance. Martino Caputo was convicted in 2017 of first-degree murder in Raposo’s death, along with Dean Wiwchar of Stouffville, Nicola Nero of Niagara on the Lake and Rabih (Bobby) Alkhalil of Montreal. Raposo, 35, was shot four times at close range on June 18, 2012 while watching a Euro Cup soccer game on TV at the Sicilian Sidewalk Café as part of plot to steal 200 kg of cocaine from him. Martino Caputo’s lawyer Greg Lafontaine told the jury that his client barely contributed in the murder conspiracy alleged by the Crown. Martino Caputo “was not an important cog in the drug importing machine . . . it doesn’t really appear he brought anything to the table,” Lafontaine said. The trial also heard that Martino Caputo had once been one of Raposo’s friends, who attended the baptism of his child. “None of us could imagine ‘his friend’ (Martino) Caputo, who came to his child’s baptism, would turn on him like this,” Raposo’s cousin, Helena Pacheco, told the court in her victim-impact statement. Police canvassed the neighbourhood Friday for witnesses or surveillance video in the latest shooting. A gun was found at the scene. Police described the suspect as male, with a fair complexion, thin, and standing 5-foot-11 to 6-foot-2. The suspect fled west on Constance St. in a white, four-door SUV, which was believed to be driven by someone else. Following the shooting, patrons to Domani’s had to be buzzed inside the locked front doors. Domani’s website states that the Roncesvalles wine bar/ restaurant has been open for 20 years, offering “Great food. Great Wine. Great Service.” “After owning and operating Savorie Restaurant in Forest Hill for 11 years, Paul purchased Domani Restaurant and immediately fell in love with both the restaurant and the neighbourhood,” the website states. “Slowly and respectfully enhancing the 17 year Roncy favourite has proven to be an excellent approach as passionate diners continue to embrace this gem.” Peter Edwards is a Toronto-based reporter primarily covering crime. Reach him by email at pedwards@thestar.ca
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Ford government’s ‘streamlining’ delays funding for agencies that help the disabled (Fri, 16 Aug 2019)
Scores of Ontario non-profit organizations that depend on provincial funding to provide services to the disabled are stuck awaiting annual budget allocations due to changes by Premier Doug Ford’s government, the Star has learned. “(We have) never experienced anything like this before,” said one frustrated official at an agency, who, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity because they rely upon money from Queen’s Park to keep afloat. Another insider who also works with the developmentally disabled said there is “a big culture of fear” about speaking out over the budget crunch. “Agencies won’t come forward since they are funded by (the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services) and can’t risk it,” the second source said. “(There’s) mass paralysis and fear and no one can get any information as to why this is happening and when it will end and (everyone) is afraid of losing what they have,” the worker said. “People want his to get out but they are not allowed to speak to the media and are afraid.” Children, Community and Social Services Minister Todd Smith’s office conceded there are snags preventing the funding allocation amounts bring shared with recipients. “As you know, the past year has been marked by many changes — this has delayed this process, which we understand is challenging for our partners doing important work,” said Smith’s press secretary, Christine Wood. “To clarify however, we are continuing to flow funds to impacted agencies during this time. The ministry will be communicating with agencies about programs and funding in the coming weeks and expect that all agencies will have notices by the end of summer,” said Wood. “To achieve greater efficiency and improve supports for people in need, we continue to meet with partners and work with them to streamline transfer payment processes, and align and integrate multiple service contracts,” she said. “There are 360 transfer payment agencies who receive funding from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services that support people assessed and matched to services through Developmental Services Ontario.” Wood emphasized the government’s “efforts to streamline transfer payment processes and align and integrate multiple service contracts has not affected the flow of funds to any of these agencies.” Still, it could take weeks for the agencies to finally receive their funding from the ministry’s $16.7 billion annual budget. “Although the majority of our partners have experienced delays regarding 2019-2020 allocations, all recipients can expect to receive information about their allocations by the end of summer,” she said. Another provider of services to the disabled lamented the excuses emanating from Queen’s Park. “This is their cover-your-ass message, telling the wimps at the agencies that the budgets are coming and they should stop whining to the likes of you that they can’t help you because they have no money,” said the third source. “It is meant to shut them up, not solve a problem.” A parent whose child requires services from an agency that works with the disabled said it was especially galling, given the Ford government’s bungling of the autism file earlier this year. “It’s adding insult to injury, it’s punitive and incompetent — who gets away with stuff like that in the real world? Can you imagine trying that in (the Ministry of) Health?” the angry parent said, noting the provincial budget was tabled in April so such delays are difficult to understand. “We are two weeks from the Labour Day weekend.” This latest revelation about problems in social services comes after the Progressive Conservative government has gone back to the drawing board on autism program funding after outrage from parents and children following a botched February revamp. Smith, who was moved into the role in Ford’s June 20 cabinet shuffle in place of Lisa MacLeod, has won praise from some families in the autism community for ensuring that funding levels will remain at historically high levels. Robert Benzie is the Star's Queen's Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie
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A 25-foot man holding up a condo courts controversy in Toronto (Sat, 17 Aug 2019)
If the point of public art is to stir debate, then a new piece by a St. Clair W. condo development is a resounding success. The 25-foot bronze and stainless steel sculpture, which depicts a towering man in a white button-up shirt holding up a tall condo building while standing on a foundation of multicoloured blocks, lit up Twitterverse this week, with users debating: what does it mean? One user mused the statue was a dig at condo developers, another tweeting that it represented “a certain class’ dominance over the society that is supposed to be diverse and multicultural.” Added another, “Never has Toronto been captured so perfectly.” One user called the display “a public art sham,” with “no public benefit.” While some saw getting such an high-profile artists as a coup, and others expressed shock about the sheer size of the towering structure. Others just called it ugly. “One can never anticipate how people will respond,” said David Moos, lead consultant for the installation, commissioned through the city’s Percent for Public Art program, which encourages developers to contribute 1 per cent of their gross construction costs towards art dedicated for the public realm. The piece, by revered contemporary German artist Stephan Balkenhol, was assembled in Europe before shipped to Toronto where it was unveiled Aug. 10, part of the development being built at the former home of the Imperial Oil building. Balkenhol is expected to visit the site with Moos sometime next week. Moos, a former curator of modern and contemporary art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, says his own personal impression is that the subject is standing on an unstable foundation that “might support him or shift,” while holding a “tower that’s heavy and might topple.” A key objective was to “make a genuine effort to try and do something that is relevant to people,” Moos said. “Maybe we can get people to thoughtfully reflect about this.” Moos said Balkenhol received zero esthetic input or direction from the selection team, in what Moos called a free creative process. “He has ideas about Toronto and he proposed this work,” Moos said. According to the Percent for Public Art Program website, “The privately-owned art is intended to make buildings and open spaces more attractive and interesting and to improve the quality of the public realm.” In its bid to grow the city’s collection of public art, the program uses a clause in Ontario’s Planning Act known as Section 37, which lets developers trade community benefits for zoning variances. Councillors have a hand in deciding whether to use the funds from Section 37 for art or other benefits such as splash pads, playground upgrades and community centres. The money must be spent in the same ward as the development, as the funds are meant to compensate for its impact. Private developers have commissioned more 150 public art displays under the program to date. Balkenhol, whose pieces are currently held in prestigious collections worldwide, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, was selected by a panel of Toronto arts professionals, project architects and local residents. The selection committee was picked by city planning staff and the developer. It is the first of two works to be incorporated into the Imperial Plaza development spearheaded by Camrost Felcorp Inc. City documents about the project from 2014 suggest the estimated budget for the work was $675,000 — of which about 85 per cent was to go directly to the creation of the artwork. Imperial Plaza is already home to other works of art. Last year, Camrost Felcorp hired Toronto artist Anthony Ricciardi to create seven murals splattered with bright paint and a rainbow of drip marks for the lobby of the One o One condos in midtown. “This developer has a sophisticated sense of the role art can play in the lives of people,” Moos said. “There is a possibility at this site to have an art ensemble.” Balkenhol was selected over five other artist invited to submit proposals. A note posted near the statue indicates the committee selected the piece as it embodies the “present moment in the city’s evolution and invites deep contemplation.” That’s why Brendan Sinclair likes it. Sinclair, who lives in the area and came across the sculpture on the day of its unveiling, posted a photo of the statue and tweeted, “new condo in Toronto unveiled its permanent art installation this week, a sculpture of a creepy white dude in dress clothes holding a massive condo on top of a more interesting and colourful foundation. It’s a horrid eyesore and kind of perfect for this city right now. I love it.” He told the Star he was surprised by the piece, as it’s not “not the usual inoffensively abstract art I’d expect from a luxury condo.” “The first thing I thought was, the people who live here are going to hate this,” Sinclair told the Star. “It’s huge and hard to miss and not the usual inoffensively abstract art I’d expect from a luxury condo.” But that’s what makes this piece a success, he said, adding he welcomes the proliferation of public art across the city. “I’m all for more public art, even if it sometimes values being interesting or relevant over being comforting or fitting in with its surroundings,” he said. “The fact this piece has gone up in the same complex that has another condo being built using the exterior of a demolished century-old church as a facade is some interesting context as well, I think,” Sinclair said. Jason Miller is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic
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