His public involvement in housing issues began in the late 1980s when he graduated from law school. He was one of the founding members of the Bread Not Circuses coalition which worked to convince people and politicians that the money being spent on Toronto’s 1996 Olympic bid would be better spent on housing. The organizers felt it hurt the bid, so it was probably pretty successful.
He worked for a number of housing agencies and helped found the National Housing and Homelessness Network, the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, the Multi-Faith Alliance to End Homelessness and the Toronto Environmental Alliance. His anger at the events which led to the Rupert Hotel fire in 1989 led to founding a coalition which pressed for and got better regulation and enforcement of safety standards in rooming houses.
Until recently he continued his work in housing as the Director of the Affordable Housing and Social Innovation at the Wellesley Institute. His public policy research focused on housing, homelessness, and the relationships between health, poverty and housing. He is currently seconded to the Prince of Wales to support his work in Canada through The Prince’s Charities.
Like a number of our members, Michael has dabbled in electoral politics, coming in second in the riding of Toronto Centre in the 2004 and 2006 federal elections.
Michael has been very involved in the life of Holy Trinity for many years in many important capacities. He currently serves as a warden helping ensure the viability of the parish as a whole. He has just started studying theology in his limited spare time.
His secret love though, is the accordion. While recovering from meningitis that left him in a coma for a time, he was hiking through Frontenac Provincial Park with a friend. The lingering deafness of his illness meant he thought he was going a little mad when he heard an accordion playing in the distance. He heard just fine however and the two of them walked to a little cabin from which the sound was emerging.
As they entered, they could see that the small room was filled with accordions of all types and sizes. They stayed and listened for a time and chatted with the player. Michael confessed that he had always loved the accordion. The player gave Michael an accordion after extracting from him a promise that he would never keep it in a case because “an accordion needs to breathe.”
Michael played that accordion for years and has it still. However, his beloved wife Ann Bisch offered an ultimatum on the playing of the ancient and out of tune accordion in the house: “it stops or I go.” Michael loves his wife somewhat more than his accordion and with some joy purchased the second of his three accordions. He has since added a concertina and a number of other ‘wheezy’ instruments to his collection.
Among his many ongoing activities, Michael plays his third accordion about once a month with Holy Trinity’s house band, Fallen Angles. He also plays from time to time with other musical combinations and has been known to preach a sermon or two.
Michael celebrated his 60th birthday last June with a surprise party thrown by Ann and his daughter Nicole and with the help of many of us here at Holy Trinity. Jim Houston captured Michael in this caricature which shows his love of bow ties, shorts, colourful socks, housing and accordions all in a single image.
Thanks for all your work with and for Holy Trinity and and for the whole community Michael! Looking forward to a bright future together. There’s just a couple of things we have to do.