Big Ideas that speak to TEDxToronto speakers, performers

Source: Toronto StarDate of publication: Aug 12, 2014Image 1 of 10

Adopt a bold food strategy, reform municipal elections – TEDxToronto thinkers play favourites on the Big Ideas Top 20 list.

As we close in on a transformative list of Big Ideas to transform Toronto, some of TEDxToronto’s biggest thinkers have jumped into the citywide brainstorming session. Past and upcoming speakers and performers from TEDx, whose mission is “Ideas worth spreading,” have chosen their favourite proposals from the top 20 ideas unveiled earlier this month:

Joel MacCharles, co-founder of, writer, cook — 2013 TEDxToronto speaker

Big Idea: Adopt a bold food strategy

Transforming our food policy has the potential to reduce congestion on roads with less need to transport (food), lower cost of healthy food by building infrastructure, reduce waste, decrease health costs, lower hunger, increase food security, lower cost of living, lower the environmental impact of our food system, increase employment and enhance community. Every one of us needs to eat. By improving food policy we are improving the quality of life for every individual, and this is why it has my vote.

Darrell Bricker, CEO, Ipsos Public Affairs — 2013 TEDxToronto speaker

Big Idea: Protect heritage assets

Our city is changing so fast that it is easy to lose track of the stories that define how Toronto became the success that it is. Every second person walking Toronto’s streets today was born in another country. How can they know our story if we don’t have the heritage assets to tell it?

They need to hear how our first lieutenant-governor, John Graves Simcoe, picked Toronto as Upper Canada’s first capital and how his Queen’s Rangers (our original refugee settlers) built our city’s first infrastructure, including Fort York. The tolerance that makes our multicultural city possible started with Simcoe passing the first anti-slavery legislation in the British Empire. How can that story be told without Fort York, which includes the oldest buildings in Toronto? Much better to have this wonderful old fort along with many other essential Toronto sites than another soulless condo development.

Mark Henick, mental health advocate— 2013 TEDxToronto speaker

Big Idea: Increase police accountability

With the largest municipal police force in Canada, Toronto holds a unique position of responsibility. So when someone with a mental illness is gunned down on our streets by those same guardians of the public interest, people take notice, here and across the country. We know that people living with a mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. And we know about more effective, efficient and humane ways to intervene and de-escalate when necessary. That our police be held accountable to this knowledge is more than a big idea — it is a solemn imperative.

Dave Meslin, creative director, PigeonHat Productions — 2010 TEDxToronto speaker

Big Idea: Reform municipal elections

The Top 20 Big Ideas are all impressive and constructive. But only one of them will help us achieve the other 19. Reforming our municipal elections is the crucial first step toward meaningful transformation in Toronto. Our elections are dominated by negativity, polarization and voter apathy. As long as our relationship with democracy is one of cynicism, frustration and mistrust, then we will continue to lag behind as a city. But a small and simple change like ranked ballots could reduce negativity, increase turnover, raise the level of discussion and re-engage the public, fuelling much-needed change in Toronto.

Jon Dwyer, CEO, Flax Energy — 2012 TEDxToronto speaker

Big Idea: Improve the quality and administration of public housing

JFK said, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” (Toronto Community Housing Corp.) is a transitional housing program built to enable Torontonians to transition to a sustainable lifestyle. We discuss the notion of sustainable housing often as if it’s an inanimate object, but it is our neighbours we are discussing. Until TCHC is properly managed, we will never come close to a just society, nor will we find our city’s true identity. We are poised to be the best city in the world, but we are only as strong as the most disenfranchised amongst us.

Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman, co-founders of Choir! Choir! Choir! — 2014 TEDxToronto performers

Big Idea: Downtown relief line and food strategy

Goldman says a downtown relief line (is his top idea), but thinks it’ll never happen. Along with the idea of complete streets, Goldman says, Toronto needs to become a city that everyone can move through with more ease.

Adilman says (his top idea is) food strategy, because while the city has an exceptional restaurant and food scene, some people still go hungry, and that’s a situation we should never accept.

Vasiliki (Vass) Bednar, Action Canada Fellow — 2012 TEDxToronto speaker and 2013 TEDxToronto co-host

Big Idea: Support affordable child care

Municipal governments — despite being the service system managers for child care in Canada — are often overlooked for their potential to innovate in terms of delivery. I’d love to see Toronto’s council prioritize exploring a range of innovations in the location and provision of child care service in an urban setting: more non-profit care offered in Bay Street buildings (the private sector), a public dialogue on municipal loans for child care (as is being piloted in New York City) and more drop-in care options (e.g., GoodLife Fitness). Our baby-booming city could be a model in the federation and source of policy inspiration.

Mark Bowden, president, TRUTHPLANE — 2013 TEDxToronto speaker

Big Idea: Increase police accountability

I have lived in other major cities, and Toronto police truly are world-class. But some recent, heavy-handed responses resulting in tragedy have caused many to lose trust in Toronto’s finest. My generalized experience is that tucked up in cop cars, cycling in high-speed packs, moping on the periphery of construction sites or even riding high on horses — Toronto’s police find it easy to default into behaviours that may intimidate. Being accountable and responsible for behaviour can be as easy as walking along some streets, and when meeting citizens, moving the hand away from the firearm, losing the shades and cracking a friendly smile.

Debbie Berlin-Romalis, clinical social worker — 2013 TEDxToronto speaker

Big Idea: Better harness the skills of immigrants

Many immigrant and refugee families I have worked with are eager and willing to work in a variety of workplaces and settings. Sadly, stereotypes about immigrants “stealing jobs” from the non-immigrant population proliferate and adversely influence people’s thinking. People in Toronto often forget that many immigrants accept jobs (like cleaning offices, working at McDonald’s) that many non-immigrants refuse and/or do not wish to apply for. Immigrants contribute to the incredible diversity and multicultural mosaic of our city. We need to support newcomers — who often make huge sacrifices to move here — with accessible employment training programs. We also need to demystify the mythology that clouds our city’s collective attitudes and treatment towards immigrants.

Gavin Sheppard, CEO, the Remix Project — 2009 TEDxToronto speaker and TED Fellow

Big Idea: Adopt a bold food strategy

The “creative city” is not going to save us. Not so long as we believe that means throwing everything we have into becoming even more dependent on the soft economy. Autonomy needs to be the word of this new century. How do we think creatively to create autonomous realities that exist symbiotically with each other? While our strength in this city lies largely in our diversity of international ideas, backgrounds and perspectives, Torontonians are far too reliant on a global network of providers. Adopting a bold food strategy is a critical step in creating a sustainable future for our children.

Readers continue to vote throughout the summer for their favourite Big Ideas in the top 20. The top 10 will be unveiled Sept. 5.

Recommended Reading