Why Everybody Loves the TORONTO Sign

Since its instalment in July 2015, the 3D TORONTO sign has become one of the hottest tourist attractions in downtown Toronto. Initially created for only the 2015 Pan Am Games, the $90,000 sign has remained a firm fixture of Nathan Phillips Square following popular demand.

In fact, it was so popular after it came out, that City Councillor Norm Kelly even suggested that different variations of the sign such as “The 6” and “T. Dot” be made and placed in other parts of the city to reinforce the “cool” Toronto brand. This was eventually deemed unsuitable, given that it would take away the special-ness of the original sign.

But despite its popularity, the TORONTO sign is not unique in its design. Other cities such as Lyon, Budapest, and Amsterdam have been spotted with their own downtown 3D signs. As an international city ready to prove its place on the world stage, it was only a matter of time before Toronto became part of this global trend. I mean, wasn’t that why we signed up for the Pan Am Games in the first place?

The "I amsterdam" sign in the Netherlands.
The “I amsterdam” sign in the Netherlands. Look familiar?
Another 3D sign in Lyon, France.
Another 3D sign in Lyon, France.

What does make it unique, however, is the fact that it is able to change colour and design. As a result, this sign is more than just a tourist attraction, it has also served as an art medium (Nuit Blanche), and as a way to show solidarity with Torontonians and our friends all over the world.  Just a few days ago, the sign was lit blue and yellow for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month, and before that green and white to remember the victims of the bombings in Lahore, Pakistan.

And while we have seen this display of support and empathy with more historic monuments around the globe, there is something more personal about the TORONTO sign that I can’t seem to explain. Perhaps it’s because of its location in front of city hall, it’s accessibility to everyone free of charge (I’m looking at you CN Tower), or the fact that I see it more frequently and have actually touched it?

Who knows, maybe it just looks great on Instagram.

Either way, it certainly has become a defining landmark of Toronto, and for the first time, I’m looking forward to sending some postcards with city hall in the background.
Fireworks at Nathan Phillips Square

So keep up the good work TORONTO sign! And don’t let any snarky lawsuits get in your way either…

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Let’s Talk Politics

If you were anything like me, it’ll take a while before you get around to figuring out Canada’s political system. So how does politics work here? Let’s start from the top shall we…

Federal Government

Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

The federal government is the highest level of government in Canada. This means that decisions made at this level will impact Canadians all over the country.

Most of you are probably aware of our head of government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Although he’s only been in office for less than six months, he’s already pretty popular outside of Canada (“pretty” being the key word here).

That being said, Canada’s official head of state is still the Queen of England. This is because Canada remains part of the Commonwealth (territories previously part of the British empire). And while it explains why her image graces Canadian currency, the Queen also does some other things that benefit our country.

The federal government also consists of the House of Commons, with elected representatives known as Members of Parliament (MPs). Basically, the House of Commons makes Canada’s laws, which are then reviewed by the Senate (who are selected by the Prime Minister). You can find your MP and read more about parliament’s shenanigans here.

Provincial Government

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne

The next level of government makes decisions that affect our province, which in this case is Ontario.

In a nutshell: instead of a Prime Minister, there’s a Premier who is the head of government in Ontario. And instead of MPs, there are Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs).

The provincial government is important because it has exclusive jurisdiction over public life that the federal government cannot interfere with (important information if you ever want to differentiate between your MP and MPP).

This also means that education, hospitals, welfare, and other policies can differ between provinces. A good example of this is the different ways alcohol is sold across the provinces. Ontario just approved the sale of beer in grocery stores last year, so that’s good news for us.

Municipal Government

Mayor John Tory
Toronto Mayor John Tory

The final level of government is the municipal government, which deals with everything Toronto related. Residents of the city of Toronto elect a mayor and council members who lead local government and make decisions about transit, infrastructure, libraries, parks, and garbage disposal (to name a few).

The municipal government is perhaps the most accessible level of government for residents, since members of the public can readily present their concerns to councillors at committee meetings.

Our current mayor is pictured on the left, but you’ve probably read in the news recently about the death of our previous mayor, Rob Ford. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying he was an interesting character who generated quite a bit of scandal in his heyday.

So there you have it. What are your thoughts on Canada’s political system? How does it differ from your own country? Do you think Justin Trudeau uses a liberal amount of shampoo (ha-ha)?

Side note: Political parties are another thing to be aware of, but I won’t touch on them here. It’s enough to know for now that Trudeau and Wynne are Liberal, and Tory is Progressive Conservative.

How Well Do You Know Toronto?

Last week, my friends and I quizzed each other on some crazy Toronto trivia. Below is the filmed footage for your viewing pleasure (I’m the first one to appear on the left).

Play along and let me know how many you got right!

Full disclosure: This video was created for our Digital Communications and Social Media Strategy class at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. It was filmed and produced within two hours, and was required to be approximately two minutes in length.