Thursday, March 29, 2012

Homeowner in bylaw battle over sign

TORONTO - Stefanos “Steve” Michelis and the city are embroiled in a sign war.

The homeowner and builder recognized the latest sign of trouble over his North York home Wednesday when a bylaw officer flashed a badge.

A City of Toronto letter served on Michelis was the second demand for removal of a “buyer beware” sign accusing a realtor and the former owner of selling an “unsafe and illegal” garage.

Michelis posted the sign after he was prevented from renovating his garage.

A city building inspector determined the structure’s footings and roof breached bylaw regulations.

“They’re denying me freedom of speech,” Michelis fumed outside the Wallingford Rd. home — purchased in 2009 for $550,000 — which is undergoing a $500,000 renovation.

Permits are required for temporary signs on private property other than for realty or election purposes, the bylaw officer said, adding: “Neighbours have complained.”

Michelis said in an interview that he applied to the city for a sign permit, but the application was turned down.

The 3.5-metre banner — transferred from the lawn to the garage entrance — names the previous owner plus realtor, Karen Millar.

In an interview, Millar strongly denied that anyone misled Michelis and his wife.

“I do believe in freedom of speech,” but the realtor said she was “sad” at the banner’s hurtful comments.

Saying she was merely the property’s listing agent, Millar said: “No matter how stellar your reputation is, it can be damaged.”

Calling the former owner — a senior — “an honest, caring, nice person,” she said: “I have no idea of what this is about.”

Lawyer Rob Moubarak, who was hired by Michelis’ wife, said proper inspections were never conducted.

In a letter last Sept. 14, the city advised that the only surviving records are a 1973 building permit, with no details of any inspections or problems.

Michelis’ wife has launched a lawsuit in connection with the issue.

Nothing has been proven in court.

Tridel had nowhere to go but up

When Jack DelZotto landed in Canada in 1927, transforming the face of Toronto probably wasn’t among his concerns.

Nevertheless, the company he started in the 1930s as DelZotto Homes, renamed Tridel in the 1970s, has contributed more than 70,000 residences to the GTA.

Last May, his sons — Angelo, Elvio and Leo, who made the firm into the leading condo builder in Canada — received a lifetime achievement award from the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the association representing the building industry in the GTA.

That night Tridel also took the prize for Highrise Green Builder of the Year — the fourth time in five years. Since 2005, all Tridel properties have pursued Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Leo DelZotto, the youngest of the brothers and Tridel’s president, speaks of his long-deceased father with obvious affection.

“He was highly principled, soft-spoken and led by example rather than lecture,” DelZotto says.

Jack DelZotto was a stonemason from Friuli, a province in Northern Italy squeezed between Austria and Yugoslavia. He went to work in the mines of Timmins, Ont., soon after arriving in Canada, but moved to Toronto after several years.

“He felt if he could find an opportunity to practice his trade he would stay,” DelZotto says, sitting in his spacious office at Tridel headquarters, a modest two-storey structure at Dufferin St. near Finch Ave. W.

When DelZotto Sr. moved to Toronto, the city was prospering. Its inhabitants numbered more than 500,000 and the suburbs of Forest Hill and York had started to take shape.

Union Station had opened in 1927, and across the street work on the luxurious Royal York Hotel was well underway. The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building (now Commerce Court North), completed in 1930, took pride of place as the tallest building in the British Empire until the 1960s.

But the shock of the Great Depression lurked around the corner.

Luck, however, gave the young immigrant a little help. DelZotto found himself at Bay St. and Bloor St. W. — considered North Toronto at the time — where the Park Plaza Hotel (now the Park Hyatt) was under construction. He overheard some the bricklayers speaking his Italian dialect and asked for a job.

Within a year, the wife he had left behind in Italy stood at his side.

A couple of years later, fortune struck again: a friend offered him a lot on Lappin Ave. in the Bloor-Dufferin area. The man had bought it to build storage for his banana business but discovered the land was zoned for residential.

DelZotto built a house on the lot, bartering for the materials, and paid for the land after he sold the property.

“From there he developed a crew of bricklayers and had his own guys working for him,” DelZotto says.

But real progress for the company came with the building boom following World War II, DelZotto says.

“The opportunity was there for anybody who had a work ethic, ambition, drive, commitment,” he says.

By the early 1950s, DelZotto had built a few stores, a few income properties, a few walk-up apartment buildings, some of which Tridel still owns.

The eldest son, Angelo, Tridel’s CEO and chairman of the board, was already involved in the family business. Elvio, Tridel’s deputy chairman, was headed to law school, and Leo jumped in right after high school in 1958.

They built single family houses, townhouses, rental buildings, and even a shopping plaza. They also did contract jobs, constructing investment rental buildings and social housing.

In the second half of the 1960s two things happened to alter the company’s direction: interest rates went sky high, curtailing the rental construction market, and Ontario introduced condominium legislation.

“We had the expertise to build highrise so the transition (to condominiums) was natural — although we were going into a business that had no history,” DelZotto says.

The company’s first highrise condo came on the market in 1969, Arbour Glen on Kerr St. in Oakville.

“Nobody wanted to buy it,” DelZotto recalls. “Nobody understood what a condo was and so we rented out most of the suites. It took years to get them sold.”

Tridel got a big boost in the early 1970s when Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (then called Central Mortgage and Housing Corp.) introduced the Assisted Home Ownership Program, designed to help low-income people attain home ownership.

“We were selling units and we were building them by the thousands,” DelZotto says.

At that point the company decided to focus on condominium construction. In the years that followed, Tridel introduced many innovations in highrise technology and marketing that are industry standards today.

Tridel worked with the steel industry to develop steel channels and door frames so they could use drywall, which hadn’t been possible in highrise construction until then.

In a joint venture with Alcan Aluminum, Aluma Systems Corp., they devised an extruded aluminum form for pouring concrete that could “fly” intact from floor to floor — a system now widely used.

“(That) had the ability to produce the buildings at a much faster rate,” DelZotto says.

Tridel bought out Alcan’s share in Aluma in the early 1970s, but the move later landed the company in financial difficulties.

DelZotto explains the events this way: “The sad part is we took (the system) to the world, the economy went off the cliff and that got the company into trouble.”

For several years bankruptcy threatened. But in 1998, Tridel forged a conclusive restructuring plan with lenders — just in time to take remarkable advantage of Toronto’s imminent condo explosion.

“We weren’t geniuses,” says DelZotto. “(But) it was very competitive — not with other builders but against single-family homes and resistance to the (idea) of condominiums.”

In fact, Tridel had been chipping away at that resistance since the 1970s with innovative marketing. They introduced elaborate sales offices, had film presentations and built model suites.

To further distinguish condo suites from rental apartments, Tridel’s floor plans offered second bathrooms and in-suite washers and dryers. Its buildings featured amenities such as recreation centres, gymnasiums and swimming pools. Later came the front desk concierge and other security features.

Intent on making sure to deliver what it promised the purchaser, DelZotto says the company decided it had to control every phase of the process from buying the land to selling the properties.

“If you know there’s a better way of doing things, you have to go for it,” he says. “And that’s created other businesses.”

Today Tridel has a fistful of spinoff operations that manage everything from land development and construction to condo buildings and condo rentals to energy management for residential properties.

“The purchasers were where the great ideas come from,” DelZotto says. “The customer tells you if you’re willing to listen.”

Star Contest

In 1977, the first New in Homes section appeared in the Toronto Star.

Back then, most new homes were detached and built in the suburbs; today, condos have overtaken new home sales, both in the city and the 905 regions, according to a recent report by RealNet Canada.

Here at the Star, we’re celebrating a special anniversary of 35 Years of New in Homes with special new features, including a contest.

The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) is offering a hefty $35,000 toward the purchase of a new home or renovation to help us celebrate. All you have to do to enter is go to and tell us what a new home or renovation means to you.

Aside from the contest, we’d love to have your feedback on what you think makes a great community, what you love about your home and your neighbourhood. We will post the best online at — and perhaps even print a few in the paper.

Send your submissions to and put “35 years” in the subject line.

You can also read all the profiles of our Industry Innovators at

Monday, March 26, 2012

Toronto needs to crack whip on brothel licensing: Mammoliti

TORONTO - Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is urging city council crack the whip on brothel licensing in the wake of this week’s landmark prostitution ruling.

“We have to have this debate, there is no question in my mind,” Mammoliti said Tuesday.

A Court of Appeal decision delivered Monday struck down Canada’s bawdy house provisions as unconstitutional and amended the pimping provisions of the Criminal Code so that only those exploiting hookers will be prosecuted.

The court gave the federal government one year to address its concerns about the bawdy house law. If Ottawa does not act, hookers will be able to legally open bordellos.

Mammoliti — who floated the idea of creating a Toronto red-light district during his mayoral campaign in 2010 — was quick to pounce on the judgment, urging council to be open to the idea of zoning one spot for prostitution, like the Toronto islands, to prevent people from setting up brothels across the city.

“Traditionally these places — and there is a lot of them, about 3,000 in the city — for the most part you haven’t been able to see in their windows. I think you’re going to start seeing the windows opened up now that they are legal,” Mammoliti said.

“I think you are going to start seeing women kind of advertising for people to come in ... Communities now are going to say, ‘What the hell just happened?’

“When they see that they’ll want us to dialogue and figure out how to get them out of their local neighbourhood.”

Mammoliti said it is time for council to consider brothel licences, which he estimates could be priced at around $100,000 and determine where they can go in the city.

“I’ve always suggested we bring them as far away from the city as possible,” he said. “Of course (the island) is an option, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be. Why is my neighbourhood an option and the island not?”

— With files from Sam Pazzano

Monday, March 19, 2012

Building a subway will avoid future regrets

TORONTO - Over 60 years ago, a streetcar line was planned for Queen St. between Strachan and Logan Avenues, with a tunnel running between McCaul and Church Streets.

The concept was much like the proposed Eglinton Crosstown line today.

While the Queen “streetcar subway” was eventually abandoned, we can now only look back and think: If only it had been built, and built much longer, with most of it underground!

If only Toronto hadn’t been so timid when Controller Horatio Hocken proposed the Yonge St. line in 1911, we wouldn’t have had to wait until 1954 for Toronto’s first subway.

In the 1940s, the City had the foresight and boldness to plan for the post-war future.

Today, we’ve become overly deferential to professional advice, while losing confidence in our own lived experience.

Today, we’ve cast aside our common sense.

We’ve become mesmerized by projections that contradict our own instincts.

In 1954, anyone predicting Scarborough and North York would be as built up as they are today, would have been dismissed as delusional.

The same applies for Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.

Yet today, 60 years later, we can’t seem to accept that 50 to 100 years from now, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) will need an integrated network of subways and GO trains, complemented by a vast feeder network of buses.

Today, the GTA is paralyzed by gridlock.

The estimated cost of this massive traffic congestion ranges from $6 billion to $9 billion annually. Our future economic development faces a historic threat.

To avoid more “if only” scenarios, we should embark on subway building now, by extending the Sheppard subway from Don Mills Rd.

to the Scarborough City Centre. Let’s finish what was started.

We should not be connecting the existing Sheppard “stumpway” to a surface Light Rail Train (LRT) system.

We know the fewer the transfers from one mode of transit to another, the more likely we will capture additional riders.

We know, too, that unless mass public transit is removed from existing roadways (by putting it underground, elevating it, or putting it in a corridor parallel to a roadway), it will not be as rapid, reliable or frequent as it can be.

It will therefore be incapable of luring motorists out of their cars.

Last year, Mayor Rob Ford resurrected a dormant TTC subsidiary to see whether the innovation and investment of the private sector could be harnessed to complete the Sheppard subway.

Our interim report, Toronto Transit: Back on Track, was recently released.

It concluded there were sufficient grounds and interest to finish the Sheppard subway and carry on to the next phase of the Public-Private Partnership (P3) analysis with the federal government.

Unfortunately, a school yard brawl has broken out at City Hall, precipitated by a clash of tempers, egos and ideologies.

To buy time, an advisory panel was quickly convened (most of whose members had already publicly proclaimed their preferences), and charged with making a recommendation.

An LRT on Sheppard Ave was recommended (to no one’s surprise) based on overly conservative TTC estimates of future ridership and population growth.

This has provoked another round of impulsive utterances on council which has solved nothing and hardened entrenched positions.

Council would best serve taxpayers by declaring a moratorium on Sheppard until the next phase of the federal P3 application is concluded.

Citizens will see whether the private sector comes to the table only when the Request for Proposals is issued.

Then we’ll know, at long last, how going to the private sector compares with the traditional TTC procurement method.

Councillors concerned about tax dollars should reflect seriously on Wednesday’s vote.

The current debate is more about the dissatisfaction a group of councillors have with the mayor than about substance.

But don’t shoot the message, just because you may not like the messenger.

Sixty years from now, how many “if onlys” will the next generation be lamenting?

If only they had built the Sheppard subway; if only they had built an integrated network of subways, including the Downtown Relief Line.

If only …

—Subway advocate Gordon Chong is a former Toronto councillor and TTC vice-chairman

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Putting the spotlight on cops

There was a time when the police uniform evoked the utmost respect. Those who wore it were automatically revered as heroes dedicated to serving and protecting the community.

This conventional wisdom has been tested recently by officers accused of wrongdoing that has left that uniform tarnished in the minds of some.

Although the vast majority of serving officers are dedicated, professional and hard working upholders of the law, the actions of those few may have overshadowed the continued achievements of the many.

In Toronto, we’ve seen cops accused of beating a homeless man, threatening to Taser a prisoner’s genitals and peaking into windows while committing an indecent act.

Last month, a senior officer who heads up the city’s RIDE program allegedly showed up to work drunk.

And a couple weeks ago a cop was charged with second-degree murder, a first for the force.

All of this while the never ending saga of Toronto drug cops continues to wind its way through the courts.

The Attorney-General’s office is aware of the criticism but remains confident the SIU, OIPRD and police themselves are capable of dealing with any bad apples. It stands firmly behind Toronto’s finest.

“We are proud of the tremendous work police officers do to combat crime and hold criminals accountable for their actions,” ministry spokesman Brendan Crawley said.

But it’s not just Toronto cops accused of sometimes crossing the line. Every force in the GTA has had officers make the news for all the wrong reasons.

Farther away, Waterloo police recently came under fire for arresting a father whose daughter drew a picture of gun at school.

And late last year, Windsor’s police chief stepped down amid controversy after one of his officers was caught on video beating up a doctor.

Many people believe the alleged lies, assaults and cover-ups have created an atmosphere of mistrust, and even fear, of police.

“Certainly in my experience, since (Robert) Dziekanski’s death and the G20 there has been an awakening with respect to how police are perceived by the public,” Julian Falconer, a prominent Toronto lawyer, told The Sun recently.

“I think the reality is that people are no longer willing to simply drink the Kool-Aid.”

Falconer has gone up against cops in court countless times and has felt the tide shift on a personal level.

Years ago he was often branded “anti-police” for representing people wronged by officers.

“But now a lot of people ask me if I’m concerned for my safety,” Falconer added, explaining the question alone says a lot about public perception of police.

He maintains “the vast majority” of cops are good.

“The challenge is to convince those good officers to work with us to get rid of the bad policing,” Falconer said.

His firm represents Dziekanski, who was fatally Tasered by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.

The Polish immigrant’s death stunned Canadians as they viewed video footage of him being repeatedly zapped. Although it was captured on video — a must in order to have success standing up to cops these days — the four officers involved were never charged or disciplined.

The Dziekanski case started the pendulum swinging, but for many it was the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto that shattered the police hero archetype.

Many citizens who had never been in trouble with the law before were locked up for exercising their democratic rights.

But it was the individual stories that caused the most damage — like the man-handling of a one-legged man, the arrest of bubble girl and the detention of paraplegic who was left on the floor and forced to defecate on himself.

One of the more high-profile G20 incidents was the brutal beating of Falconer’s client Adam Nobody, which was captured by still and video cameras.

The Ontario Special Investigations Unit probed the incident twice but was only able to charge one cop because the others refused to identify each other or take responsibility for their own actions.

Along the way, SIU Director Ian Scott accused Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair of not cooperating with investigators.

The case infuriated many citizens, some of whom called police hypocrites for expecting the public to come forward with information about crimes but not being willing to do so themselves.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director, another police watchdog but with less powers than the SIU, recently named the other cops and recommended they face Police Services Act charges.

Chief Blair initially “defended his officers,” Falconer said, recalling how Toronto’s top cop initially claimed the Nobody video was “tampered” with but he later recanted and apologized.

The chief also recently asked the Toronto Police Services Board to extend the statute of limitations so the five cops accused of beating Nobody can face a disciplinary hearing.

Blair’s ability to adapt allowed him to weather the G20 storm, Falconer said, adding Windsor’s police Chief Gary Smith didn’t fair as well.

He stuck by his officers when Det. David Van Buskirk beat a doctor unconscious in 2010 and as many as 10 fellow cops allegedly tried to help cover it up.

Once again, the truth was caught on video.

Officers in that case also allegedly visited the victim in hospital and offered to resolve the matter by dropping his assault police charge, which was unfounded.

A former Toronto cop, who asked not to be named, said police routinely lay such charges to cover up their mistakes or bad behaviour.

He recalled one fellow cop who broke his hand punching a citizen and then charged the victim with assault police.

The ex-cop was once proud to tell people he was an officer. But these days when it comes up at social gatherings, someone inevitably shares a story about a bad cop.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said.

Bogus charges can cost people their home, family, job and reputation, he said.

“Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, your life can be destroyed,” he added.

But Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said complaints against officers are actually down “significantly” and he cautioned there is a big difference between allegations and convictions.

“Every incident where (an officer) is found guilty of unprofessional behaviour is cause for concern,” he said. “But I think you need to look at things over a longer period of time.”

Police are more concerned about the damage caused by judges making sweeping comments about cops, he said, referring to Justice Elliott Allen’s admonishment of 51 Division officers last year.

Consts. Edward Ing and John Cruz guilty were found guilty of beating a homeless man at that trial. However, a Superior Court judge has since overturned that decision and ordered a new trial.

“But those comments are left out there and they cause damage, there’s no doubt about it,” Pugash said.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, believes bad cops threatens to undermine our entire justice system.

“The impact of bad behaviour by police has repercussions at many levels,” she said. “There is a real accountability issue and it needs to be fixed.”

Des Rosiers said police forces need to ensure those who sully the uniform are properly and promptly punished.

She and Falconer both believe the province should step in and restore the public’s faith in our police.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Girls and guns of a high calibre: Strobel

TORONTO - I like a gal with a gun as much as the next guy. But Wednesday’s SUNshine Girl, Ashley, was of especially high calibre.

She fairly blazed off the page in jean shorts, skimpy hunter’s red plaid top, sexy spectacles — and a honking big rifle with a Day of the Jackal scope.

Online, she’s a one-woman army, with assorted firepower, though she seems ill-clothed for patrolling colder climes.

I wasn’t sure whether to whistle or hit the dirt.

We’d never had a gun-toting SUNshine Girl before, though we’ve come close.

A different Ashley and a jewel named Jile have carried crossbows in recent years.

In 2010, hazel-eyed Louise, 23, who spends her spare time at the firing range, sported a pistol tattoo in a tender place. Louise said she looks for honesty in a man. Pity the man who lies to her.

And, in 1992, SUNshine Girl Keri-Anne told us of her bit part in Naked Gun 2 1/2, though now I’m really stretching the firearm theme.

This week’s GUNshine Girl is promoting the Sportmen’s Show, which runs through Sunday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Her weapon of choice is a Crosman air rifle of the sort used in the Olympics and for smallish game hunting.

It gives Ashley a certain feeling of, I dunno, danger, edge, mystery.

It’s a real sign of our times. This newspaper’s founders envisioned the SUNshine Girl as more girl-next-door than G.I. Jane.

Wednesday’s Ashley-get-your-gun is but the latest salvo in the advance of women. In my long-ago editor days, when I chose the Girl, bazookas meant only one thing.

On the other hand, there’s always been a fascination with armed women, even before Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane shot their way through the Wild West.

Joan of Arc and her sword cut such a dashing figure, they made her a saint. Vietnam has had women warriors galore, including former slave girl Trieu Thi Trinh, who wore golden armour and rode to battle on an elephant in the third century.

Long before that, the legendary Amazons were said to rule parts of Asia Minor.

Male enemies had mixed feelings about this all-female warrior tribe. If captured, you were likely to get sex, but the post-coital cuddle was a killer.

Sadly, the most famous official Amazon, Wonder Woman, is just a comics character and Xena: Warrior Princess was just TV, though I’m not surprised both were big hits. Like I said, an woman in arms is a woman of charms.

Unless you’re holier than thou.

Sarah Palin can’t pick up a water pistol without much mewling and self-righteous wringing of hands.

I’m no hunter, far from it, but c’mon, the woman lives in Alaska.

Many male politicians shoot, and I don’t just mean their mouths. Or, in the case of former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney, their pals.

Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter are among many presidential hunters. Former Democratic Party sweetheart John Kerry has killed just about everything that walks or crawls on God’s green earth, yet no one squawks. I guess it’s okay for a liberal male to pack a gun, but not a conservative woman?

Even Madonna ran afoul of her glib-lib friends for shooting pheasants on her 1,200-acre English estate. So she quit. Banned hunting entirely, in 2007. The Daily Mail reported this was in part because Kabbalah, her new religion, suggests the poor, feathered little dears would come back to haunt her.

Husband Guy Ritchie, also an avid hunter, was pissed. They divorced the next year.

Guns have always been a symbolic weapon in the gender wars. Each side has a popular top-10 list: Reasons men/women prefer guns over women/men. Both lists include “Guns have silencers.”

So you don’t have to be a gun nut to appreciate seeing a woman tread on traditional male territory.

“I’m all in favor of girls with guns who know their purpose,” Palin told the National Review recently.

Amen. Lock and load, Ashley.

Mike Strobel’s column runs Wednesday to Friday, and Sunday., 416-947-2265 or

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Activist fights oath to Queen

Black community activist Charles Roach says he’s escalating his 24-year legal

battle to have an allegiance to the Queen dropped from the Canadian Oath of


Roach, 78, a long-time Toronto lawyer, has been waging a legal challenge

since 1988 to have the oath changed.

The permanent resident of Canada chose not to become a citizen because of a

refusal to swear the Oath of Citizenship because it contains a promise to bear

allegiance to the Canadian monarch.

He and his supporters are staging a protest on Tuesday at noon outside an

Citizenship office, at 55 St. Clair Ave. E., as new Canadians

are being sworn inside.

He claimed many new immigrants are forced take the oath without fully

understanding its meaning or may have strong feelings against colonialism.

“Some new Canadians don’t understand what they’re saying when they recite

the oath,” he said. “This case is still alive and proceeding before the


Roach, who unsuccessfully filed a class action suit over the issue, took his case to the Federal Court of Canada in 1992 claiming the oath was a violation of the

Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court ruled against his motion and an

appeal to the Supreme Court was dismissed.

He said the case will be heard on May 28 at the Ontario Superior Court of

Justice, on University Ave.

But, Robert Finch, chair of the The Monarchist League of Canada, accused

Roach of conducting a publicity stunt.

“This issue is not even on the radar of most Canadians,” Finch said on

Monday. “This is a distraction and at the end of the day, Canadians love

their Queen and will be celebrating her diamond jubilee.”

He said the monarchy is popular with new Canadians who have fled war-torn or

non-democratic regimes.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper marked Commonwealth Day on Monday by

extending friendship to other countries that celebrate the day.

“This day provides us with the opportunity to celebrate the strong bonds of

cooperation and friendship that exist among the 54 countries that form the

Commonwealth,” Harper said.

Toronto Sportsmen's Show opens for 65th year

TORONTO - The first thing Mayor Rob Ford is going to hear when he opens the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show is how it will be his turn this summer to deliver a Toronto Lake Ontario Salmon to Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion.

The 91-year-old Hurricane Hazel got Toronto’s mayor real good last year when she hooked an 18-pound Chinook off Port Credit and with the help of Great Ontario Salmon Derby Chair Walter Oster, delivered it personally to Ford at Toronto City Hall.

It was a classic.

“We are pretty sure we can get Mayor Ford on a boat with us this year,” Walter said on the eve of Wednesday’s opening of the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. “There are some pretty big salmon off Toronto Island or out near Scarborough Bluffs that he could even the score with.”

There is such a good feeling around the Sportsmen’s Show where there are no political correctness police and it’s OK to talk fishing, hunting and the outdoors.

One of the reasons for the positive mood is that it signifies the coming spring. Another is having Ford there.

“It means a lot,” said Walter. “He is doing such a great job and is such a super guy.”

Now Walter — as a business man and entrepreneur — says that about most politicians of any political stripe. But this time it was with a little more zeal.

“Things came close to getting messed up,” said Walter.

Three years ago, thanks to previous Mayor David Miller’s war on guns, the Sportsmen’s Show — which sells hunting rifles and equipment — found itself no longer welcome at the Direct Energy Centre at the CNE.

Imagine the stupidity?

“The show was there for 62 years,” said Walter. “It also brought millions to the city.”

No matter. Despite decades of bringing honour and tourists to the city, they were kicked to the curb.

They moved over to the Front St. convention centre — which is provincially operated and not bound by silly city rules or bylaws.

“We certainly didn’t ever want to leave the CNE but we had no choice,” recalls Walter, who has been chair of the board at the MTCC for 13-years. “It has worked out well because we now get more people coming to the show who take transit and with a $5 after 5 p.m. program, we get lots of business people from Bay St. coming in for an hour or two before they take the GO train or subway home.”

Starting Wednesday and running until Sunday this will be the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show’s third year at the new location.

It’s also the show’s 65th anniversary.

“I ordered in from Rapala a rod and reel package with our 65th logo on it,” said Walter.

Each day, they will hand out 65 of these rods to the first 65-people who come through the doors who are 65 or older. He hopes a bunch of seniors who don’t get rods will end up with one of these or one from any of the 450 top-flight exhibitors.

“For seniors, there is no fishing licence charge so it’s affordable fun. The GTA has great fishing where you don’t need a boat to catch a nice bass or pike or even trout or salmon.”

Walter gave me a rod that I am going to pass along to one of you for a senior in your life. I will choose a winner by e-mail Wednesday and please make sure it’s for a senior who could really use it. Send your e-mails to

Mayor Ford is expected to be there Wednesday at 9 a.m. with Toronto Sun Publisher Mike Power and together they will hand out this great prize valued at $100.

There seems to be plenty of criticism of this mayor but one legacy he won’t have is of being a leader who almost killed the Sportsmen Show.

And if he can match Hazel this summer on that salmon challenge, he will also restore Toronto’s honour.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tunnel to island airport confirmed

TORONTO - The construction of a pedestrian link between Toronto’s downtown and the Billy Bishop island airport was announced Friday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mayor Rob Ford and other dignitaries gathered in one of the airport’s hangars.

City council approved the building of the fixed link in July, and Ottawa recently gave the green light for regulatory amendments to allow construction to move ahead.

The tunnel, which will cost $82.6 million to build and take just over two years to complete, will be financed by the private sector and partially paid for by airport users through an existing $20 Airport Improvement Fee.

“The construction of the pedestrian tunnel will create jobs in the GTA and help manage passenger flows to and from the airport,” said Harper while standing in front of a dozen airport and construction workers - some wearing hard hats and reflective vests.

The link between downtown Toronto and the island airport has been a long time in coming.

Former mayor David Miller campaigned in 2003’s mayoral race with a platform that included a pledge to scuttle plans for a bridge to the airport. Miller, never a fan of the island airport’s expansion, claimed that a fixed link would cause additional noise and congestion around Toronto’s waterfront.

“Unfortunately, regulatory obstacles had been put in place,” said Harper, adding that “as much as I like ferries ... lining up for one when you’re trying to catch a plane does not make a world-class city.”

Mayor Ford called the tunnel an “amazing gateway to Toronto” that will add vitality to the city, just before taking a veiled shot at Miller’s killing of a fixed link.

“We knew it was going to come, and the people of Toronto knew it was going to come,” said Ford, adding that the tunnel will save the City more than $10 million by including an island watermain and sewage project, as opposed to constructing that separately.

The tunnel — an 800 foot length of underwater walkway which will be located at the foot of Bathurst St. and Eireann Quay — is expected to move more than 1.5 million travellers every year.

The airport’s current main tenant, Porter Airlines, is gradually expanding its stops in both Canada and the U.S.

“This is an announcement today ... that we’ve been looking forward to for some time,” said Porter CEO Robert Deluce. “We’ve always been strong supporters of any improvements to infrastructure that ultimately makes it easier for our passengers.”

Meanwhile, at the foot of Bathurst St. at Queen’s Quay, a small group had gathered to protest the tunnel’s construction.

One of them was MP and former city councilor Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina), who said the increased number of flights that a tunnel will bring means a safety hazard to the area’s residents.

“Children and parents in the neighbourhood are saying that their safety must come first,” said Chow, “and to increase the number of flights to the island airport is really not appropriate.”

Preparatory work, including the relocating of city utilities to allow for the tunnel’s water main shafts, is to begin some time this month, according to the Toronto Port Authority.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mattamy founder gives $40 million to Sick Kids

TORONTO - A little slice of history was made in Canada Wednesday and sick children were the benefactors.

It came in the form of a $40-million gift donated to the Hospital for Sick Children by Peter Gilgan, the founder and CEO of Mattamy Homes.

His simple but expensive gesture was the largest single donation ever made to a Canadian pediatric hospital.

“It is my absolute pleasure to announce to you today a transformational gift of $40 million,” said Tim Hockey, president and CEO of TD Canada Trust, and SickKids campaign cabinet chair.

Gilgan shared centre stage with Hockey and received a standing ovation from the large crowd. The donation will go toward the new Centre for Research and Learning being built at the corner of Bay and Elm Sts.

“(I) really sincerely believe that any donation that’s given is going to be well shepherded and is going to really, really make a difference,” said Gilgan. “These people are serious about what they do, and the best in the world at doing it.”

Gilgan compared the research building to his company’s aim of not only building homes, but building communities.

He said researchers and scientists will now be running into each other in the hallways, allowing them to collectively generate new ideas toward children’s health issues.

“Peter, thanks to your vision and your extraordinary generosity, we’re now going to be able to take children’s health research to the next level, accelerate discoveries and train the next generation of clinicians and scientists,” said Dr. Janet Rossant, chief of research. “It’s really going to make a difference.”

The main issues to be studied in the centre are children’s cancers, obesity and concussions.

A former Sick Kids patient’s sister, Jillian Smith, was there to thank Gilgan as well.

Smith’s sister, Sarah, had a brain tumour when she was four years old and died four years later.

“I believe in the power of research, because I know that research allowed my sister Sarah to live as happily as she possibly could with her condition,” said Smith.

With Gilgan’s gift, Smith says, “other big sisters won’t have to say goodbye to their sisters and brothers.”

Prior to making this donation, Gilgan, who is a volunteer member of the campaign cabinet, raised more than $1.5 million for the hospital.

He jokingly pointed out the men wearing pinstripe suits, reminding them Hockey and himself were just getting started.

“Get your book out — we’ll be chasing you down,” he said, with a laugh.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cut council in half: Mammoliti

Just when Toronto city council couldn’t get more rock ‘em, sock ‘em, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti wants councillors to put their own jobs on the chopping block.

Mammoliti will start the debate to chop city council in half, from 44 councillors to 22, in two weeks.

The Mayor Rob Ford loyalist said a city report is coming to the March 19 executive committee meeting on changing the boundaries of councillors’ wards.

Although the report will deal with redrawing the wards to reflect population changes, Mammoliti said he’ll move at that time to reduce the current roster of 44 councillors in half.

“I think it is time,” Mammoliti said Sunday. “I’m convinced if we keep council at 44 (members) then no business — that means anything to the suburbs — will get done ever.

“Changing (the number of councillors) is good for the suburbs.”

The York West (Ward 7) councillor added that city council “drags on continuously with 44 people.”

Mammoliti argued a 22-member council would expedite meetings.

Ford’s 2010 election platform included a pledge to cut council in half.

The mayor has always maintained he wouldn’t bring the issue to council until the last year of his term.

If Mammoliti is successful, councillors could end up having to cast a vote on eliminating 22 seats from the council chamber this year.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Councillor Ford says lottery could fund Toronto subways

TORONTO - Councillor Doug Ford floated the idea of a Toronto lottery or casino to help fund transit Thursday while slamming the brakes on talk of resurrecting the city’s car tax.

Ford stressed his brother Mayor Rob Ford would be “pushing up tulips” before resurrecting the car tax to pay for the Sheppard subway. Councillor Ford raised three revenue ideas to help pay for the Sheppard subway including a dedicated lottery, a casino in his Etobicoke ward and new toll lanes added to the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.

“Rob will be pushing up tulips before he reinstates that car tax,” Ford told reporters at City Hall Thursday. “It is one of the four options, it is one of the four options we aren’t going to do, it is very simple.”

City council meets March 21 to debate the future of transit on Sheppard Ave. Ford is pushing to extend the Sheppard subway while left-leaning councillors want to revive the Sheppard LRT from the Transit City plan.

As the Sun reported, Mayor Ford has reached out to councillors asking them in private meetings which of four revenue tools they would support to fund the Sheppard subway including a $100 car tax, a 0.5% sales tax, road tolls and a parking levy.

Mayor Ford went on John Tory’s NEWSTALK 1010 show Thursday night and vowed he’s against reviving the car tax.

“The last thing I would ever do is to bring back the car registration tax,” Ford told Tory.

“I will guarantee there will never be a tax on cars again ... there will not be any new taxes administered by my administration,” he added.

His brother was equally as blunt.

“We’re against all taxes,” Councillor Ford stated. “All taxes are evil as far as I’m concerned.”

He did acknowledge the parking levy would be “the least of all evils.”

As for road tolls, Ford was adamant he doesn’t support tolls on existing roads.

“If there was a way at building additional couple lanes going down the Gardiner and the DVP, we would consider road tolls,” he said.

Ford stressed he was just “throwing” ideas out there by suggesting a casino or transit lottery.

Officials from Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation stressed they don’t have a mandate to do localized lotteries.

“The OLG has always resisted special purpose lotteries for the main reason that there would be no end to the demand,” OLG chairman Paul Godfrey told the Sun’s Joe Warmington Thursday.

Godfrey said lottery revenue can be used to fund government projects but such requests are not the OLG’s mandate.

TTC chair Karen Stintz said Mayor Ford did mention a $100 car tax in a meeting with her and Councillor John Parker.

“It was our comment back to the mayor that perhaps that wouldn’t be the most effective way to proceed,” Stintz said.

“We just repealed the vehicle registration tax at $60, I think that was a mandate vote and I think the people of Toronto would be not supportive of raising the fee and actually reimposing it.”

Councillor Adam Vaughan said if Ford wants to host a casino in his ward, he’s entitled to ask for it but he stressed council needs to decide on transit on Sheppard this month.

“I am not interesting in putting off until tomorrow a debate about tomorrow, I think we should make a decision today,” he said.

- With files from Joe Warmington