Thursday, July 31, 2014

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford blasts council office expenses

TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford was fuming Thursday at the latest council office budget expenses.

In an exclusive interview with the Toronto Sun, Ford vowed to slash councillors’ general office budget if elected — the move would close up an open-ended budget created by council back in 2012 to charge constituency office rent, cellphone charges and newsletter delivery costs beyond the $30,000 individual budget limit.

“I’m going to try to get rid of it,” Ford said. “They back doored me on that.”

Ford’s comments came as the second quarter 2014 office budget expenses were released on Thursday.

So far this year, the mayor’s office, deputy mayor’s office and councillors have spent a total of $411,052.05. Around $275,978 came out of councillors’ individual office budgets while $135,000 came from the general office budget.

If he’s re-elected, Ford said he’ll push council to vote to limit themselves to just the $30,000 office budgets with no general office budget.

“Absolutely it is gone, it’s gone. I need 23 votes,” he said.

“I can’t wait for a new council to get elected because some are going to get defeated but they’re going to realize they don’t need this slush fund — $30,000 is more than enough.”

Councillor Maria Augimeri tops the spending list so far this year at $18,641.12. Councillors Anthony Perruzza, Michael Thompson and Ron Moeser aren’t far behind Augimeri with their total spending also cracking $18,000 in the first six months of the year.

Augimeri said the majority of her spending is from “one-time or ongoing costs, like rent, for a new community office I opened in Downsview.”

The Wilson Ave. office opened in January of this year.

“The community office has proved a huge success for residents who can come in for an unscheduled face-to-face meeting to get their issue resolved, or having a space immediately available for a smaller resident group meeting when space isn’t available at a community centre or library,” Augimeri said in a statement.

She stressed city staff determine the costs of the community office.

“Like other councillors, I began the process to acquire a community office last year. It is up to city department staff to negotiate cost for space, and find suitable locations in the community,” she said.

“Having a space to serve residents that is minutes away from their home has proven invaluable to them.”

But Ford argued Augimeri’s spending in the first six months of this year was more than he spent all of last year.

And he dismissed the idea councillors need constituency offices.

“You don’t need a constituency office at the municipal level. It is just promoting themselves again,” he said. “It is frustrating as hell.”

Ford went on to suggest some councillors are sitting on expenses, filing them after the second quarter so they don’t show up until the third quarter expenses are posted at the end of October — after the election.

“I’d hate to see when the third quarter comes out in an election year,” he said.

“I wish the taxpayers saw the real spending because I guarantee it is going to be out of control because they are sending out these householders, self-promotional material non-stop.

“What they’re going to do is promote themselves at taxpayers’ expenses and when they’re running against someone that doesn’t have a, I call it a slush fund, it’s a huge disadvantage.”

The mayor said he believes the office budget spending should be public before election day Oct. 27.

“Absolutely, the taxpayer should know,” he said.

In the first six months of the year, the mayor’s office had spent $3,203.50 from its budget, according to the city.

Ford dismissed the argument he could afford to not spend his office budget due to his own wealth.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I disagree with that argument.

“I could go out and spend just like they do, it doesn’t matter. I respect the taxpayers’ dollar from day one.”

Here’s the top 10 council spenders so far this year when you add up all the office budget spending:

    Maria Augimeri, $18,641.12
    Anthony Perruzza, $18,558.98
    Michael Thompson, $18,514.75
    Ron Moeser, $18,092.37
    Kristyn Wong-Tam, $17,723.42
    Jaye Robinson, $14,839.84
    John Filion, $13,742.14
    Joe Mihevc, $13,321.23
    Gary Crawford, $11,992.30
    Cesar Palacio, $11,873.23 ​
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Toronto Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon hit by car

TORONTO - A man has been charged with careless driving after Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon got knocked off her bike and sent to hospital.

The bike-loving councillor was riding south on Woodbine Ave. crossing Gerrard St. on Sunday when she was hit and left lying on the street just before 11 a.m.

"I'm all banged up on my left side but I'm surprised I can walk away - it could have been a lot worse," McMahon told the Sun on Tuesday.

McMahon - who is running for re-election - said she was being her "classic, cautious, Mary Poppins, cyclist self" when the incident happened.

"The light had just changed and next thing I knew I had a passenger side door right at my handlebar and so I yelled, I screamed and then thump, the back of the car hit me and tossed me off onto Woodbine," McMahon said. "I was lying there on Woodbine and thankfully no one ran over me."

"I can't believe I'm OK because I was lying on Woodbine Ave." she added.

The Beaches-East York (Ward 32) councillor said someone called 911 because they were worried she hit her head.

"The ambulance came and then they were worried because my blood pressure was quite low so they loaded me up, took me to emergency and I had a CAT scan," she said.

A Toronto Police officer interviewed McMahon at Toronto East General hospital and told her the driver had been charged with careless driving. Police confirmed the charge on Tuesday but wouldn't reveal the driver's name.

Although she's always advocated for separated bike lanes, McMahon said the incident has driven the point home.

"We need more separated bike lanes," she said.

John Mohler was one of the drivers who stopped to help McMahon.

"I saw somebody on a bicycle going over, I didn't really have a clear view of exactly what happened but I just saw somebody going over and down," Mohler said. "I just pulled over and stopped to see if there was anything I can do to help."

Mohler agreed "it could have been worse."

"If you know people who commute on their bikes or ride their bikes around then you know people who have eventually had accidents like this, unfortunately in Toronto it is just too common," he said.
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Union wants bus driver in red-light run video to stay with TTC

TORONTO - Union boss Bob Kinnear is asking the TTC not to fire a bus driver caught on video running a red light on Eglinton Ave. and almost hitting a pedestrian.

 Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113, asked for a “compassionate penalty” after TTC officials confirmed Monday that the operator is “no longer with the TTC.”

The transit agency had conducted an investigation into a video which shows the bus blowing a red light at Ionview Rd. last week and then swerving around a pedestrian who had already started crossing Eglinton Ave.

“The operator is no longer with the TTC. I cannot saying anything further on that,” said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.

Ross wouldn’t say whether the driver was fired, citing “privacy concerns.”

“The video was sufficient for us to interview the operator and take it from there,” Ross said.

He stressed TTC operators, like all motorists, have to obey the Highway Traffic Act.

“As an organization, our expectation is that our operators not just obviously obey the Highway Traffic Act but exceed expectations and drive by example,” Ross said.

But Kinnear said while the union won’t contest any move to take the driver off the road, it wants management to reassign her to a non-vehicle job.

The union leader revealed the driver is a single mother of two children — she was a probationary employee who had been on the job for almost six months.

“She’s devastated,” Kinnear said. “She’s someone who went to work everyday, very mild-mannered.”

The TTC also confirmed Monday that it has wrapped up an investigation into an incident at St. Clair station where a collector allegedly called a disabled man a “diddler” when he asked for help paying his fare.

As the Toronto Sun reported, Kevin Rogers — a quadriplegic man — asked a collector to help him remove a token from a pouch strapped around his waist and the employee fired back: “Are you some kind of diddler?”

Ross said the TTC has “dealt with the matter internally, and responded directly to the customer.”

“We have interviewed the collector and we’ve taken appropriate action to deal with that situation — there’s not much more I can say on that one,” Ross said, adding the collector is still working for the TTC.

Rogers confirmed through e-mail on Monday that he had yet to receive a formal response in the mail from the TTC.

“I do not consider the matter closed,” he said.
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Sunday, July 27, 2014

The golden age of Toronto movie theatres

The immense 2,318-seat Odeon Carlton Theatre, featuring three lobbies, a restaurant, a powerful theatre organ and a huge cascade of drapes that parted as the film began was on Carlton St. just east of Yonge. When this grand theatre opened in September of 1948 it was known as the Odeon Toronto and was part of a chain that included the Odeon Humber, Fairlawn, Danforth and Hyland theatres. The Odeon Toronto name was changed to Odeon Carlton in 1956. After failed negotiations with the city to preserve the building it was demolished in 1973. An apartment now stands on the site while next door to it is a “modern day” Carlton, the Carlton Cinema. Interestingly (for me, at least), this was the theatre I took my bride-to-be on our very first date. I even remember the movie, Jack Lemmon in “Under the Yum-Yum Tree”. Our marriage has outlasted the theatre by more than 40 years and we’re still counting. To the extreme left of this photo from the City of Toronto Archives is a portion of Maple Leaf Gardens. In the background is CBC’ s long demolished television transmission tower on Jarvis St. across the street from the Four Season’s Motor Hotel.

TORONTO - Just released by the History Press out of Charleston, South Carolina (what a great city!) and distributed by the good people at Dundurn here in Toronto (an even better city!!) is a new book by Toronto history buff Doug Taylor.

Titled “Toronto Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen” the book is chocked full of stories and photos of many of Toronto’s long gone but for many not forgotten movie theatres scattered all over the city.

As soon as I saw the title it brought back memories of growing up. I’m still waiting to read Doug’s book. However, if I had written it two places, the Alhambra and Odeon Carlton would have been front and centre for reasons that will become apparent when you look at the pictures attached to this story.


One of the many ways Heritage Toronto brings our city’s heritage to life this summer is through a delightful walking tour called "Creating Toronto: The Story of the City in Ten Stops."

Passing by some of the city’s most celebrated sites, this tour gives a “big picture” overview of Toronto’s history.

It visits a number of Toronto landmarks and shares inspiring stories of the people who built the city.

The tour also introduces citizens and tourists to key moments of innovation and creativity that have shaped Toronto, from the people who, over 10,000 years ago, left footprints in the clay under Toronto Bay, to the rise of the city's Financial District, to the story of stunning homegrown scientific breakthroughs that shaped our modern world.

This special tour runs every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. up to and including August 28. Cost is $20 per person and proceeds go directly toward the charitable agency responsible for Toronto’s heritage programming.

Pre-registration and pre-payment at is necessary to secure a guaranteed spot.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

All eyes on Ford Fest 2014

TORONTO - A fired up Mayor Rob Ford thanked thousands who showed up at Ford Fest Friday but avoided any campaign lines that might land him in hot water.

Ford chose his words carefully in a short speech to the throng of supporters who showed up at Thomson Memorial Park in Scarborough for what is now an annual event.

Telling them anything he said would get him in trouble, Ford instead stuck to a short thank you.

“Friends thank you so much,” he said, vowing to hold another Ford Fest next year. “I can’t wait to be here next year. Promises made, promises kept.”

The crowd cheered wildly for the embattled mayor. Long lines for autographs and pictures with the mayor and Councillor Doug Ford stretched across the park.

Mayor Ford was mobbed by supporters and media as he arrived at the event, as people chanted “We love Ford.”

But the love-in also grew heated several times as Ford Nation shouted down people in the crowd who spoke out against the controversial mayor.

A crowd of supporters surrounded LGBTQ activists as they talked to reporters, ripping up a sign they had brought to the event and shouting homophobic slurs.

“I would like people to see the way we’re treated by Rob Ford supporters and Rob Ford,” Poe Liberado said.

“This is the response that we get for existing and this is the response Rob Ford has given us as a community,” she said as a man screamed at her, telling her to go home. “The LGBTQ community in Toronto is massive. There would be lots of people here if it wasn’t so dangerous.”

At one point Toronto Police interceded, leading one of the activists out of the crowd. The mayor’s chief of staff came to check on the activists and ensure they were unharmed.

But Ford supporter Iola Fortino said she couldn’t understand why the activists showed up. The night was supposed to be about Ford Nation, she said.

She supports his decision not to attend World Pride. He is sticking to his principles, she said.

“When he says he’s not going to World Pride that is the biggest thing you could do for us Mayor Ford and we thank you,” Fortino said. “We feel oppressed in every segment of society.”

Council’s move to strip Ford of his powers was a “disgrace,” she said, adding that she thinks Ford has owned up to his addiction problems and is ready to move on.

“I love Mr. Ford, he’s real to me,” Fortino said. “The other politicians are not real and I can see through them.”

Tracey Cook, the city’s executive director of municipal licensing and standards, said there would be two bylaw officers and a supervisor at the event along with parks staff.

Licensing staff were there to ensure the conditions of the permit were being followed.

“One of the conditions in the permit speaks to no signage and also speaks to not handing out political or campaign materials — that’s a condition of the permit,” Cook said.

Bylaw officers were on the lookout for signs or materials with “electioneering” type of language like “vote for or re-elect,” she said.

“If it simply says, Ford Nation, Ford Fest, (or it is a) business card or magnet that’s considered informational and that is fine,” Cook said.

A ticket for a violation of the park bylaws would be around $200, she said, but bylaw officers would typically start by just asking for the activity to cease.

Bylaw officers, however, were not policing what the Fords said or did at the event.

“If there is a problem with anything said by anyone at the event then they are to follow that up with the integrity commissioner,” Cook said. “My bylaw enforcement officers are not the campaign police. We are there to ensure the parks bylaw is adhered to, the permit conditions are adhered to.”
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Toronto’s 416 area codes selling for hundreds, even thousands

Opportunity’s calling, 416ers: Those three digits at the beginning of your phone number could make for a lucrative pay day.
Toronto’s most coveted area code is becoming a business in the city, with 10-digit 416 numbers selling for hundreds — even thousands — of dollars.
“All my advertisements are in the Yonge and Finch area, and in the North York papers, so 416 targets my clientele,” says Reza Esmaeili, a local residential and commercial real estate broker with Homelife/Victory Realty, who purchased his current phone number, 416-888-SOLD, for $500.
The 416 tells his customers he’s established, Esmaeili adds.
Launched in 1947, 416 is Toronto’s oldest area code. The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission has since introduced area codes 647 and 437, but born-and-bred Torontonians argue the city remains synonymous with 416.
Esmaeili dreamed up multiple real estate-themed phone numbers, called his desired lines and told the strangers on the other end that if they wanted to sell, he was ready to buy.
The person who once held Esmaeili’s current number was happy to make some money, the broker said. He had no trouble transferring ownership of the number to his name through his carrier, Fido.
“It was not a real estate agent, fortunately — it was just a regular person. They were more than happy. They said, ‘OK, I sell it for $500, I get another one for free.’ ”
Toronto is not the first city where residents yearn for a traditional area code. When New York swelled and the 212 area code designated for Manhattan dried up, the introduction of the new 646 area code caused such a stir that a spring 1998 episode of Seinfeld chronicled a New Yorker’s dismay when Elaine was designated a new code.
Being perceived as established is a common desire among customers looking to buy 416 numbers, said Georgios Pappas, a phone number vendor behind websites like and END.
“They feel that a 647 number makes them feel like they’re not established. Let’s say you need a lawyer. If you call a 647 number, how credible is that lawyer, how many years has he been in business for?”
Pappas searches for creative 416 numbers through various carriers in the city. Once he is assigned a number, he makes the minimum payments on the account each month until someone buys the number from him. He then transfers responsibility of the account to the new owner.
Pappas charges a minimum of $99, but has previously sold the 10 digits for as much as $2,000.
Danyal Javaid is a managing partner with IMARK Development group, a local real estate developer, who has bought seven or eight 416 numbers through Pappas. All the numbers he has purchased end with the four digits 1000, an attempt to streamline his employees’ phone and fax numbers.
Javaid has never had any issues with the numbers from Pappas, and is looking to buy up to eight more from the local vendor.
Glen Brown, project manager with the Canadian Numbering Association, deals with assigning phone numbers to carriers. He said the association no longer hands out 416 numbers to Toronto carriers. There are, however, 2,010,000 647 numbers left to be assigned to the 13-year-old area code; 437 has only been assigned to 260,000 people since its inception in March 2013.
“It’s conceivable you could get a 416 number; it’s probably difficult,” he says. “It would be almost like old currency; it’s theoretically possible to pick up an old nickel or dime or quarter in your change, but the likelihood is greatly diminished.”
A carrier new to Toronto today could not offer 416 numbers to customers, Brown said. The last large batch of 416 numbers was assigned to Toronto carriers in 2006.
Telus spokesperson Chris Gerritsen said 416 numbers only become available to customers today if they are being reassigned.
“People don’t give up their numbers as often as they used to because of porting.”
Customers do call and request a 416 number but short of paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for the elusive area code, Gerritsen said landing a 416 number is now luck of the draw.
“It’s what we have that comes available. If somebody calls in and asks for a 416 number, we’ll do our best to accommodate but can make no guarantees.”
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rob Ford doesn't support lowering residential speed limits

TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford doesn’t feel the need to lower your speed.

Ford confirmed Wednesday he’s still against the recommendation from Toronto Public Health to reduce speed limits on residential streets to 30 km/h.

“No, I don’t support lowering the speed limit,” Ford said. “I think I’ve made that quite clear. We need to keep traffic flowing and I do not support the recommendations from public health.

“I believe our streets are safe. Obviously, you’re always going to get people that speed, the police do a great job of enforcing that when they can but again I do not support reducing speed limit down to 30 km/h.”

Mayoral candidate John Tory said he’s against the “blanket policy” of reducing the speed on residential streets.

“I think the most effective things we can do to clear up traffic on the major arteries so people aren’t forced off onto the residential streets where they don’t belong,” Tory said. “And secondly, ever vigilant and increased public education both of drivers and pedestrians.”

Fellow candidate Olivia Chow said she wants to enable neighbourhoods to request a lower speed limit if there is a consensus.

“Right now they do it block by block, street by street and that process is really quite long,” Chow said. “If the neighbours want to lower a speed limit in a neighbourhood, absolutely.

“It should be from the ground up, you want the neighbours to come together and ask for it. I don’t believe in top down solutions.”
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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Double the fun for race fans at Honda Indy 2014 in Toronto

TORONTO - Patience paid off for racing fans in Toronto this weekend.

Fans got a double-dose of the action at the Honda Indy Toronto on Sunday, after organizers crammed two races into the second day of the program following Saturday’s rained-out race.

The showers held off for most of the day, but jackets and umbrellas did make an appearance just after 4 p.m. Although a few fans headed for the indoors, many more braved the weather to enjoy the action of Race Two on the track.

England’s Mike Conway was eventually crowned the winner of the afternoon race, following a win by Sebastien Bourdais of France in Race One that morning.

Another big winner of the day was Jenn Willim, who was crowned Miss Indy Toronto 2014.

For 10-year-old Liam Corrigan-Ross, the Indy was a dream come true. An avid Hot Wheels collector — who owns more than 600 of the diecast cars still in their packaging — Liam was at the track with parents Sharon Corrigan and Mike Ross and eight-year-old sister Annie attending their first Indy. The Midland family was among the thousands of fans who spent the weekend trackside, returning for the second day in spite of Saturday’s cancellation and the possibility of more rain.

“It’s been awesome,” the aspiring racer said, “especially getting to sit in a car and meeting some of the drivers.”

Those drivers — Robbie Gordon and Paul Tracy — were among the many highlights of the weekend for the family, mom Sharon said. While Liam may be the biggest “car freak” in the house, she said, the family was already planning a trip to a popular car show in Mount Forest this weekend before the opportunity to attend the Indy came up.

“It’s been a great experience for us,” she said. “We tried to explain to our kids how fast these cars go and when they finally saw it, they couldn’t believe it.”
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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Organization in place to push for more homes on Toronto Islands

TORONTO - They vociferously opposed the revitalization of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and the launch of Porter Airlines in 2006.

Now, working in conjunction with NoJets TO, they won’t rest until they make Porter CEO Bob Deluce jump through hoop after hoop in his attempts to get approval to allow whisper jets to operate out of the Island Airport. In fact, they’ve made so much noise about his expansion plans and the supposed impact on the surrounding environment that council has deferred any and all decision-making on the expansion until the spring of 2015.

After they complained loudly and repeatedly about noise — because that is what they do best — a group of Toronto Islanders also caused The Docks entertainment complex to have its liquor licence revoked in July 2006. The Docks operators were forced to take their fight to appeal court and the licence was reinstated with strict conditions, including a ban on large outdoor events.

But in what can only be called hypocrisy at its very finest, the Toronto Sun has learned that the same Island whiners and so-called environmentalists are now quietly trying to revive a plan to build 110-units of co-op housing on their leased public Paradise — a plan that would require them to clear-cut a lushly forested area of 300 trees, many of them mature (as I noted while trekking through the area this past Wednesday afternoon.)

According to information obtained by the Sun, a Toronto Island Residents Housing Co-operative Inc. (TIRHC) — quietly created just over a year ago with its own bylaws and six-member board — has resurrected the dream to build co-op housing on the Island similar to the Flying Toad Co-op project which was killed nearly 20 years ago by the Conservative government of the day.

Although they are not specific as to who would be the benefactors of these new co-ops, an Island source, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal, thinks it would be largely to provide long-term rentals to the second and third generation of long-time Islanders who are now in their 20s and 30s and are having kids of their own and who are not on the 500-member waiting list to purchase homes.

“They’re (the Islanders) developers and they don’t see it,” says the source. “They just think they’re better than anyone else because they’re on the left (politically).”

The TIRHC update from April of this year indicates the board has identified two potential sites for co-op housing — one behind their Canoe Club and the other in front of Shaw House — in addition to what is known as the “promised lands,” the proposed site of the original Flying Toad Co-op.

The document indicates that the TIRHC board intends to start small with six to 10 unit co-ops on the Shaw House and Canoe Club sites, both of which are currently under the jurisdiction of the Island Trust. They feel these sites “may be easier to obtain” for housing than the “city-leased parkland” known as the “promised lands.”

“(This) presents an opportunity for TIRHC to work on smaller projects and build the capacity to eventually realize our greater goal of developing housing on the ‘promised lands’,” the document says, noting the board is looking for funding strategies to move forward with the projects using conventional mortgage financing since public money for affordable housing has all but dried up.

The Island Trust and the Flying Toad Co-op date back to 1993 when, under the Toronto Islands Residential Community Act, then Premier Bob Rae granted Islanders a sweetheart deal — 99-year leases to occupy public lands costing $36,000 per home on Ward’s Island and $46,000 per Algonquin Island home.

Trust administrator Amanda Street-Bishop told me last week the leases are now worth closer to $50,000 and $60,000 respectively and that the waiting list to purchase new leases is now “completely closed” at its capacity of 500 names.

But according to a transcript of a legislature debate from May 1996, the then-provincial minister of municipal affairs and housing Al Leach indicated that once they took office in 1995, an audit was ordered of the financial status of the Islands community. According to Leach, that audit revealed the Island Trust — responsible for the home leases and for the co-op — was $1 million in debt and had in fact spent $916,000 more than it received, including some $426,000 in legal and consulting fees.

Concerned that the Flying Toad Co-op had been given “special consideration” under the government’s non-profit housing program and that is would cost $200,000 (in 1995 dollars) to construct each unit (not to mention “equally exorbitant” ongoing operating subsidies), Leach told the legislature the government had cancelled the co-op project in July 1995.

Fast forward to 2014.

The TIRHC board very clearly indicates in its April update that despite the “lack of political will” in the past, they are looking to the upcoming provincial and municipal elections as “opportunities to gain some political momentum” with the co-op idea — labelled “Habitat for Insanity” by detractors.

“It’s the same old players and agenda and some members of the group dream of colonizing the whole park,” says an Island source.

If one reads between the lines, the same old players are particularly hoping the darling of the Toronto Islands, Olivia Chow (the widow of the saint of Toronto Islands Jack Layton), will win the mayoral race in October. Chow and Layton were married on the Toronto Islands in 1988.

Reached Friday, Chow’s communications director Jamey Heath said that was the first Chow had heard of the co-op plan and that she has not been approached by the Islanders for support.

Perhaps that’s because Chow’s planned July 12 Lake Ontario swim hosted by the Toronto Islanders was cancelled because everyone got cold feet, literally. After the swim, which is supposed to be rescheduled, Chow was to have joined residents at the Island Cafe to say a few words, answer questions and accept donation cheques.

A succession of calls and e-mails to TIHRC president Eliza Moore and vice-president Jane Davidson-Neville over three days to get more information on the status of the co-op plans and who would be eligible to live in the new housing went unanswered.

I also tried to get in touch with TIRHC board member Sarah Miller, a retired researcher and advocate with the Canadian Environmental Law Association, who wrote to the city last October suggesting “wildlife and the (Island) airport are in conflict” and to point out the value of “green space to (the) wellbeing of families, children and biodiversity.”

I wanted to know how taking down 300 trees on the “promised lands” would contribute to the wellbeing of families and biodiversity on the Island. But Miller did not return my requests for an interview.

Lorraine Filyer, chairwoman of the Island Trust and the Toronto Island Community Association (TICA) told me in an e-mail that she cannot comment on the issue because the Trust “has not been approached by TIRHC about any development.”

Yet at the top of TICA’s own Needs-to-be-Done list, also obtained by the Sun, is the task labelled “more housing. The TIRHC document also indicates that TICA and TIRHC are working closely together on the development of an Island Community Survey about housing needs.

I did reach Bill Freeman, spokesman for Community Air, who told me he’s mainly concerned about the impact of a “massively expanded airport on the Waterfront” and he feels now is the time for Porter to “relocate” to Pearson airport.

“I’m a strong believer that the airport has outlived its usefulness and now is the time it should be closed,” he said, adding it’s “just a matter of time” before the Porter business loses steam.

Asked about the plans for the co-op, he said he has followed the plans carefully but they’re a long way from being approved given the city permits needed and the financing that would have to be raised.

“There’s probably a need to have more people out on the Island,” he said, noting some would be kids of Islanders. “There’s a lot of young people who would dearly love to live on the Island.”



     Total size of Toronto Islands: 825 acres
    Island community sits on: 33 acres
    Provincial legislation that created 99-year leases: Toronto Island Residential Stewardship Act
    Legislation created in 1993 under NDP Premier Bob Rae
    Number of homes on Island: 262
    Number of residents: About 600
    Cost of leases in 1993: $36,000 for Ward’s Island and $46,000 for Algonquin Island
    Value of leases today: $50,000 for Ward’s and $60,000 for Algonquin.
    Average number of homes that sell per year: 2 or 3
    Number on waiting list to purchase homes: 500 (list is currently closed)
    Number of co-op units Islanders hope to build: 110
    Location of proposed co-op units: The Promised Lands (beside the new fire station) site behind Canoe Club and another in front of Shaw House (first two border the Boardwalk with an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario)
    Number of trees that would need to be clear-cut on Promised Lands alone: 300
    Number of Island residents who wrote e-mails against Island airport expansion in December 2013: 23
    Number of “No Jets T.O.” signs in front of Toronto Island homes: Too many to count.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Toronto to crack down on unleashed dogs

TORONTO - Dog owners who like to let their dogs run off leash outside of designated areas better beware of bylaw officers.

The city announced Thursday it is launching a bylaw blitz to encourage residents to keep their dogs on a leash unless they are using one of the city’s 57 leash-free parks. This summer crackdown — billed as a public education campaign and bylaw blitz by the city and Toronto Police — comes as complaints about dogs being off leash have jumped from 130 in 2013 to 440 so far this year.

“Enforcement officers will work their way through Toronto’s parks, including, for example, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Birkdale Ravine, Thompson Park, Wexford Park and Hunter’s Glen Park,” the city stated in a press release.

“All dogs must be kept on a leash whenever they are on any property other than their owner’s — unless they are in designated ‘leash-free’ areas.”

The fine for a dog caught running at large is $360.

City officials stressed only vaccinated and licensed dogs are allowed in leash-free zones.

“Dogs that are aggressive to humans, dogs with a history of biting, and other types of animals are not permitted in the leash-free zones,” the city stated.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Time to talk about Toronto becoming its own province, says Ontario MPP

Should Toronto be its own province?
It's a far-out idea that's been floated about before.
Proponents of the plan cite Toronto's mammoth population – relative to the rest of the province – means that residents outside the 'Big Smoke' really don't have a say with regard to government decisions.
Now a veteran Progressive Conservative MPP wants to re-ignite the debate.
Randy Hillier, who represents the riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington in Western Ontario, says that the "time is either fast approaching or already here, that Toronto ought to become a province unto its own."
"I'm of the view that government works best when it's close to its constituents," he told Yahoo Canada News.
"I don't think anyone would disagree that there are very distinctive differences in lifestyles and attitudes and demographics...between Toronto and the rest of Ontario."
Hillier referenced a recent op-ed article in the Lambton Shield suggesting that June's provincial election — with the Liberals winning most of their seats in the GTA and not many seats elsewhere — underlines the necessity for the rest of Ontario to go out on its own:
 "Has the GTA grown so big and have so many votes that the rest of Ontario votes will never matter again?
 "The short answer is it looks that way. But for the millions of people that live in and love the rest of Ontario, we happen to think we still matter. If Toronto doesn’t want us, then maybe it’s time to look at going our own way.
 "After all, new provinces are not only a Canadian tradition, but the reasonable thing to do when populations and cultures change."
Hillier cited several examples of government policies — decided by GTA MPPs — that have hurt people who live and rural and northern ridings.
"Take hunting and fishing licences. Here we have the majority of the legislature that have probably never hunted or fished or gone out into the bush with a gun or a fishing rod. But they're making rules and deciding things for people they've never visited and don't understand," he said.
"There's ten members from Northern Ontario out of 107. What chance do they have to protect their livelihoods?"
A rifle owner in rural Ontario west of Ottawa on Wednesday Sept. 15, 2010. (Canadian Press)A rifle owner in rural Ontario west of Ottawa on Wednesday Sept. 15, 2010. (Canadian Press)
He says that, whether it's a matter of Toronto becoming its own province or some sort of reformed legislature, it's time for Ontarians to have this discussion.
[ Related: Will Vancouver Island be Canada’s 11th province? ]
Last year, a group on Canada's west coast embarked upon a campaign to begin a public debate into whether or not Vancouver Island should become its own province.
"I'm not sure that having 14 MLAs out of 85 in B.C. means that the Island is getting the attention it deserves from that kind of level of government," Scott Akenhead, the chief organizer of the campaign, told Yahoo at the time.
A political scientist, however, noted that the 'separatists' face an uphill battle.
"Dividing up provinces is not something that’s really happened; the practical obstacles are enormous," James Lawson, a professor at the University of Victoria, told Metro Vancouver adding that other provinces would be averse to "giving another entity a seat at the federal table."
"Even if you could get the [B.C. government] to agree to it, it would be hard to provide incentives for the other provinces to go along."
But Hillier argues that it's natural, in Canada's history, that "provinces evolve."
"We just created a new territory called Nunuvat a few years ago," he said.
"They viewed the demographics in those two geographical areas as warranting political representation.
He continued:
"At one time Manitoba was just a little place called the Red River settlement and it grew into a province. At one time...Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. was one geographical jurisdiction called Rupert's Land and that became three different provinces," he said.
"These are not difficult things to do when people are looking at things objectively and seeing how best can government represent the people in the community.
"I do believe that Toronto is big enough and mature enough that they can stand on their own two legs by themselves."
What do you think? Is it time Toronto split from Ontario and became its own province?

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rob Ford's office reports threat to police

TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford’s office called Toronto Police to report a threat this week.

Cops were spotted going into the mayor’s office at City Hall on Tuesday morning. The two officers left a short time later.

Amin Massoudi, Ford’s spokesman, confirmed the mayor’s office contacted police to report a threat.

“There was a threat received around the mayor,” Massoudi told the Toronto Sun.

He said the threat came in Monday and officers were in the mayor’s office to interview the staffer who received the threat.

Back in February, the mayor’s office reported a threat made against Ford to police.

Three years ago, two men were charged with threatening to kill Ford in two separate incidents.
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Saturday, July 12, 2014

More Etobicoke homes broken into overnight

TORONTO - Maeve McCarthy thought she was dreaming when she first opened her eyes in the middle of the night and saw a masked man staring down at her.

Like a scene from a horror movie — one that has played out more than 20 times now over the past three summers in south Etobicoke — she let out a blood-curdling scream that sent the intruder scurrying off into the darkness.

“It was terrifying,” a still shaken McCarthy said Saturday, hours after her encounter. “I just started screaming and screaming.”

The break-in at her home — one of two targetted shortly before 2 a.m. in the area of Browns Line and Lake Shore Blvd. W. — occurred less than 24 hours after an elderly woman had a similar rude awakening near Bloor St. W. and Royal York Blvd.

It’s not yet known if the man behind the latest incidents is the same serial intruder who has terrorized south Etobicoke residents during the summer months since 2012, often sexually assaulting women as they slept.

But McCarthy believes it must be him because the similarities are uncanny.

If so, then the serial intruder has now strayed from his usual hunting grounds — an area bounded by Islington Ave., Dundas St. W., The Queensway and Humber River.

McCarthy never imagined she could be next when she went to sleep Friday night, forgetting to lock the sliding glass doors to her back patio at her home — a mistake she won’t make again any time soon.

The woman, whose husband was asleep in the basement, awoke around 1:30 a.m. and squinted through the darkness at the shadowy figure standing within arm’s-length of her bed.

“I was in a daze and I looked and I’m going like, ‘Who’s there?’” McCarthy recalled.

The intruder wore a white mask over his face, possibly a bandana, and a red hoodie pulled up over his head.

“There was just slits, all I could see was his eyes,” McCarthy said. “He was just staring at me. It was scary.”

McCarthy screamed louder than she’s ever screamed in her life and the man fled out the back door, hopped a couple of fences and “was gone.”

“This guy was jumping fences like a gazelle,” she said.

McCarthy called 911 and Toronto police immediately flooded the area. The intense manhunt came up empty, once again, but it’s believed cops recovered a shoe that may belong to the intruder.

Police conducted a similar unsuccessful search early Friday after an elderly woman who lives about 9 km northeast of McCarthy scared off an intruder.

The serial intruder cops have been hunting since 2012 has often struck numerous times in a single night.

“It’s too soon to know if this is the same guy,” Const. Matthew McLeod, of 22 Division, said of the latest break-ins. “But every officer at our station is committed to finding whoever is responsible.”

McCarthy said her intruder snooped around her home before making his way to her bedroom and he stole two cellphones and a laptop, which was later found by police on her patio.

She believes the man went out of the house, left the computer outside and returned to her room, which is next to the patio doors.

“I’m lucky, if this is the guy who has been sexually assaulting people, that I didn’t get touched,” McCarthy said.

Investigators haven’t determined how the serial intruder chooses the homes he targets but McCarthy wonders if he’s stalking his prey rather than selecting victims at random.

“I have a feeling I was being watched,” she said.
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Annual SlutWalk held in Toronto

TORONTO - This fluorescent yellow bristol board recounts Julia’s past abuses.

Among the five incidents, include her being sexually assaulted in her bed at age seven while wearing pyjamas and on the train home in a skirt when she was 18.

She now proudly holds up the sign up and marches with the couple hundred protesters on Toronto’s streets Saturday for the third SlutWalk.

“At 19, I’m a victim no more, I’m a survivor,” said Julia, who did not wish to give her last name. “It feels like a very safe environment. This is the first I’ve been able to march and feel safe. It gives me a chance to speak out in a way I haven’t before.”

Chanting, “Consent is sexy” and “Our bodies, our choice,” the group made its way from Nathan Phillips Square across Queen St. W. and up University Ave. to Queen’s Park.

It took one remark to spark SlutWalk protests across 200 cities worldwide beginning three years ago.

Toronto Police Const. Michael Sanguinetti advised a group of women at York University in February 2011 to avoid violence by not “dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

The officer later apologized for the comment.

While organizers believe there has been some bridging between the Toronto Police and “slut-shaming,” they are looking at a broader picture these days.

“This year we’re focusing on issues of … Trans women, sex workers, drug users, because sexual violence affects them,” said organizer Natalee Brouse. “From speaking with people, we know that sexual violence and victim-blaming are still issues ... They keep needing to be addressed.”

A 30-year-old Trans woman, Eliza Tichborne, said she has been the subject of victim-blaming.

“I think this march (helps me) to let out my anger towards all of the bad things that happened to me and many other people,” she said. “I’ve certainly faced a lot of discrimination in my life and I’ve been in some positions where males have sexually harassed me.”

Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo was among a few speakers at the end of the march who spoke out against sexual assault.

“It’s not about what we wear, it’s time both men and women figured out that sexual assault isn’t going away,” DiNovo said. “One in four women have experienced it. There has been some bridging and education, but clearly not enough.”
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rob Ford sits during World Pride standing ovation

TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford sparked controversy less than an hour into Wednesday’s council meeting.

Ford was the lone member of council present in the chamber who did not stand up to applaud city staff and volunteers that worked on World Pride Toronto.

“Rob Ford once again stands alone in a corner pouting by himself and that’s where he belongs, that’s where he should stay,” Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said after the snub.

The 10-day World Pride festival ended a day before Ford returned to the city from his stint in rehab.

At council Wednesday, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly made the presentation to World Pride on the council floor rather than Ford. Although Ford did clap briefly, he didn’t stand and applaud along with other councillors as they saluted World Pride officials and it quickly stirred up negative reaction on social media.

“You guys have been asking this question for 14 years ... I’m not homophobic,” Ford told reporters.

He ignored questions asking why he didn’t stand up.

The mayor’s brother and campaign manager, Coucillor Doug Ford was absent at the time of the presentation.

Mayor Ford has had a rocky relationship with the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community since being swept into office — he has repeatedly refused to march in the city’s Pride parade.

When he returned from rehab, Ford blamed homophobic, racist and sexist comments he made before taking a two month leave on his alcoholism.

Wong-Tam — the only openly gay member of council — said Ford has “shown repeatedly he just doesn’t care for this community.”

“It’s really quite unfortunate that Mayor Ford again is just not decent in his approach, he just couldn’t even bother to stand up, he couldn’t even fake it,” Wong-Tam said.

“I think he has just been very consistent from trying to rip down the rainbow flag, from not attending the Pride marches, he has done everything he can to destroy his relationships with the LGBT community.”

“He couldn’t even stand up to say thank-you,” she added.

After the World Pride presentation, Wong-Tam asked Ford “in the spirit of World Pride” to release his hold on a report requesting city staff to look at the feasibility of allocating 25% of shelter beds in an existing youth shelter to LGBT youth.

“The mayor is not ready to release that,” Speaker Frances Nunziata told Wong-Tam, prompting several councillors to groan.
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Toronto's Union Station plaza to be named after Sir John A. Macdonald

TORONTO - The plaza in front of Union Station will be named after Sir John A. Macdonald.

After almost nixing the idea entirely, council voted 21 to 15 on Wednesday to name the spot in front of the station after Canada’s first prime minister. The honour will come in time for the 200th anniversary of Macdonald’s birth in January.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong led the charge to name the plaza that is being redeveloped after Macdonald rather than his original suggestion to look at renaming Union Station.

“There is nobody more important in Canadian history than Sir John A. Macdonald — the founder of this country,” Minnan-Wong told council. “Without Sir John A. Macdonald we wouldn’t have this country.”

Councillor Pam McConnell’s push to cancel the proposal to name the plaza after Macdonald lost on a tie vote (18 to 18).

McConnell read council a speech by Macdonald about the Chinese labourers who helped build the railway.

“People’s lives were hurt through building of the railway,” she said.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam unsuccessfully urged council to put off approving the honour.

“It would be a grave mistake of this council, grave mistake to not look at the total history of this man,” Wong-Tam said.

Councillor John Parker urged his colleagues to “have some historical perspective.”

“Have some perspective on the contribution that Sir John A. Macdonald made to this country,” Parker said. “If we’re not careful, then we risk reexamining some other historical figures.”

Council also voted Wednesday to ban Mayor Rob Ford and any other member of council or city official from holding press conferences on city property without inviting all members of the City Hall press gallery.

Last week, Ford created controversy by having an invite-only press conference in his office when he returned from rehab. The move excluded several media outlets and led to an outcry from councillors.

Councillors voted 38 to 3 to approve Councillor Paula Fletcher’s motion mandating that all members of the City Hall press gallery be included at any media event held by the city, mayor or councillors on city property. Mayor Ford voted against the move along with Councillors Mike Del Grande and John Parker.

Parker tweeted out an explanation of his vote moments later.

“I have a general aversion to building up an inventory of little rules aimed at mandating good behaviour,” he stated.
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Teacher killed, two wounded in Lawrence Heights shooting

TORONTO - A supply teacher was killed and two others seriously injured in a hail of bullets fired at close range in front of a Lawrence Heights lowrise early Tuesday.

Toronto Police say officers patrolling nearby heard gunfire erupt at 11 Flemington Rd., near Lawrence Ave. W. and Allen Rd., around 12:15 a.m. and responded immediately to find two men and one woman shot multiple times.

“This is obviously a horrendous event that has taken place,” Insp. Tim Crone, of 32 Division, said at the scene Tuesday. “It’s very, very disturbing.”

As Forensics Unit officers gathered evidence, he explained one of the victims succumbed to his injuries in hospital about eight hours after being shot.

The city’s 23rd murder victim of the year has been identified as Abshir Hassan, 31 — a well-liked occasional teacher at Lawrence Heights Middle School on nearby Highland Hill and other neighbourhood schools.

The two surviving victims — an 18-year-old woman and 22-year-old man — remain in “very serious condition,” Crone said, adding none of the victims were known to police prior to the shooting.

Investigators believe a vehicle pulled up to the apartment building and an assailant walked up to a group of people outside the west entrance, opened fire and took off.

“This was a very brazen, cowardly act in a community that has made great strides in the past few years to bring a sense of calm and safety to the area,” Crone said of Lawrence Heights, a neighbourhood that has seen more than its fair share of gun violence in the past.

Police released few other details of the deadly incident, the city’s third shooting in six weeks where three or more victims have been hit by gunfire.

On June 29, three men in their 20s were injured when gunshots rang out at a housing complex on San Antonio Way, near Islington and Steeles Aves.

And on May 24, a gunman opened fire at a housing complex on Walpole Ave., near Greenwood Ave. and Gerrard St., killing Douglas Parker, 20, and wounding his three friends.

Lawrence Heights residents say the latest victims were just hanging out on the stoop of the Flemington lowrise enjoying a warm summer’s night when they were shot.

One woman, who lives in the building next door and wouldn’t give her name, said she rushed outside after hearing the gunfire to see two men and one woman covered in blood.

“I heard (a woman) screaming, ‘My only son,’ ” she recalled, adding it’s something she’ll never forget.

Sam, a man who stopped by the scene and refused to give his last name, said Hassan was his “best friend.”

“Everybody is in shock,” he said.

He said Hassan, who was not married and had no kids, lived in a ground-floor apartment next to the doorway where he was killed.

Hassan was “not a fighter,” Sam said, adding he couldn’t understand why anyone would shoot him.

No arrests were made and a description of the killer was not immediately released.

But Crone said investigators were reviewing surveillance video from area cameras.

Anyone with information regarding the shooting is urged to call police at 416-808-3200 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
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Monday, July 7, 2014

Two Toronto city council seats filled by appointment

TORONTO - Toronto has two new councillors — but they won’t be around for long.

Council voted Monday to appoint Ceta Ramkhalawansingh as the new councillor for Trinity-Spadina (Ward 20) and James Maloney as the new councillor for Etobicoke-Lakeshore (Ward 5). The two will serve on council until the Oct. 27 municipal election.

Ramkhalawansingh — who worked as the city’s diversity manager until retiring four years ago — replaces Adam Vaughan who left his council seat before successfully running for the federal Liberals in Trinity-Spadina byelection.

Maloney — a Toronto lawyer — replaces Peter Milczyn who vacated his council seat after being elected to Queen’s Park as a Liberal MPP for Etobicoke Lakeshore.

“I really hope I can serve the constituents of Ward 20,” Ramkhalawansingh said after the vote.

She has lived in the ward for the last 43 years and stressed she will not be running in the Oct. 27 election.

“I’ve been very active in the community; I’ve gotten involved in municipal politics for a number of years with campaigns for councillor, for mayors,” Maloney said after winning the appointment. “It is four months, I can do this job and give back to the community.”

Maloney also assured council he doesn’t plan to run for the seat in the October election.

Etobicoke Councillor Mark Grimes applauded the appointment of Maloney — who was his council campaign manager in the last election.

“He knows the ground he walks on,” Grimes said.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong called the appointments “a complete waste of time” given that there are only two council meetings left.

“It would make a lot more sense if maybe those functions were taken over by the staff and we just left the seat open,” Minnan-Wong said.

“It is unnecessary to appoint someone.”

City officials advised council the seat couldn’t be left vacant until the next election.

Under the municipal elections act, council has to fill any vacancy within 60 days and council could only leave a seat vacant if election day was less than 90 days away.
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Caiman caught in High Park

TORONTO - Dozens watched as a 60-centimetre caiman was captured in a High Park pond Monday.

A type of alligator not native to Canada, the caiman would likely not have fared well, especially at night, said Toronto Animal Services spokesman Fiona Vendam.

“In the long run, they wouldn’t withstand the cold,” she said. “Once it got cold at night, they would die.”

The caiman was initially captured on video by High Park resident Teghan Stadnyk. Her brother later posted the video to YouTube and Reddit, where it circulated and attracted media attention.

Stadnyk said she spotted the reptile in a narrow body of water next to Grenadier Pond on Sunday afternoon.

“I was just in my backyard and we saw it floating there,” the 28-year-old said. “He splashed around and moved around a little and that was about it.”

She only saw one in the water and it appeared to be the length of an adult’s arm.

“I think it might be somebody’s pet,” Stadnyk said.

Animal Services spokesman Tammy Robbinson said there’s a good chance it’s an abandoned illegal pet.

“They’re not natural to Canada, so that would be our best guess,” she said. “If you could remind people to never release animals into the wild, that would be great.”

The caiman is in good shape after being fished out of the water by experts from Reptilia, a reptile zoo in the GTA, according to animal services.

Reptilia manager Cheryl Sheridan said the caiman is native to South and Central America and could “get up to as much as eight feet long” over two decades, but would likely be smaller.

The next step is to find a suitable home for the reptile “so that he can hopefully grow up and hopefully help to educate people maybe on why they’re not the best pets and educate them about the conservation of their species,” Sheridan said.
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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Plan will create traffic chaos on Eglinton Ave in Toronto

At city council this week, planners hope to ram through a series of Official Plan amendments that will take them one step closer to creating long-term traffic havoc on Eglinton Ave and in north Toronto’s surrounding neighbourhoods.

Their grand vision to create a Grand Boulevard on Eglinton Ave. — following the completion of the $5-billion Eglinton Crosstown LRT — is contained in their Eglinton Connects study and report.

Led by Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat, the plan is to create a “complete street” that balances space for pedestrians, cyclists, transit and vehicles. Under the planning “vision,” Eglinton — now a major arterial thoroughfare — will become “multi-modal.” That means it will incorporate wider sidewalks with lovely street furniture, public art and “big trees,” protected cycling lanes, on-street parking and with whatever space is left, one lane in each direction for cars (reduced from two and often three lanes in each direction`during rush hour.)

Vision is welcome in our city but certainly not when it is the same old tunnel vision. In a repeat of Jarvis St. and St. Clair Ave. W. (minus the bike lanes), the city’s planners refuse to get it through their thick heads that people still drive cars and that an arterial thoroughfare simply cannot accommodate everything, unless one wants to increase gridlock.

To add insult to injury, there is the wonderful Beltline, which cuts through midtown Toronto —just south of Eglinton from the Allen Expressway right to Mt. Pleasant — and is used as a cycling and jogging trail. With a few improvements, it could absorb the cyclists who commute regularly, summer and winter.

But what’s planning if you don’t mess with success? And here’s where it gets really controversial. To absorb vehicular and truck traffic (EMS, fire and garbage trucks) the city planners have come up with a scheme to create two-way public lanes (or alternative arterial roads) that would run parallel to Eglinton and be located just south and north of the current thoroughfare. To do so, the Official Plan would need to be changed — one of the recommendations Keesmaat and her planners hope to push through council this week.

Full disclosure: I live on a street that runs south of Eglinton, where construction on the LRT has begun in earnest. It has become virtually impossible already to get north of Eglinton Ave. without weaving a circuitous route through the neighbourhood. But I suspect the traffic will only get worse on our neighbourhood streets if Keesmaat and Co. get their way.

I might add that despite the fact that Keesmaat’s associates claim they had some 60 consultations on the Eglinton Connects Planning Study and my own councillor, Josh Matlow, included news of a May public information session in his April e-newsletter, the proposals are clearly a dog’s breakfast. The very controversial public lane-way changes are a classic case of a plan that is hidden in plain sight — that is, buried in mounds of paper and recommendations.

Still, it would seem Keesmaat’s grand vision has been incubated under the most perfect of circumstances seeing as the lion’s share of media attention at City Hall as of late has focussed on the city’s “enfant terrible” — Mayor Rob Ford. And what better time to ram through changes with major consequences than in the summer when fewer residents are paying attention.

Area resident Jane Steele Moore said she found out about the Eglinton Connects proposal quite by chance last fall when she noticed a flyer in her mailbox. It was only when she attended a public session at Forest Hill Collegiate and started to ask questions that she realized that part of the plan was to create the new public lane-that would absorb the traffic overflow, including trucks. The city report to the June 19 planning and growth management committee indicates that the intent of the lane-ways is to make the “pedestrian and cycling environment” on Eglinton safer.

Steele Moore attended the June 19 meeting at which it was made clear that the goal is to create a continuous system of two-way rear lane-ways behind new mid-rise buildings that will be developed on the north and south sides of Eglinton. Their creation would be a “condition of development” because the residents of new buildings will have no access to Eglinton, she said.

According to staff report, the plans are extensive both in my Avenue Rd.-area neighbourhood and in neighbourhoods east of Mt. Pleasant right through to Bayview.

“They’re taking all the new development and hiding it,” said Steele Moore. “They’re trying to put the traffic in the closet.”

She warned what the city planners aren’t telling people, or being honest about, is that at least two houses on each street will have to be expropriated to accommodate the lane-way plan and with nowhere to go, traffic from the mid-rises will spill onto neighbouring streets.

She said most of the people in her neighbourhood have no idea about the plan and those who do are in “shock.” She is so upset, she created a YouTube video at to advise Eglinton-area residents.

The city’s own March 25, 2014 transportation services report says diversion of traffic from Eglinton could increase traffic in surrounding neighbourhoods by about 10% and that further study of neighbourhood traffic patterns should be done before any new policies are put in place.

I tried to reach Keesmaat on Friday and for most of this past weekend to ask her if such traffic studies had occurred, along with other questions. I was informed by her flak, Bruce Hawkins, that she “works hard to make herself as available as she can for all media” but that she was too busy to speak with me, even on the weekend.

This is the same Keesmaat who spent $372,000 on a flashy dog-and-pony show to promote herself on the transit tax issue last year and who I noticed was busy tweeting about subjects near and dear to her heart, including Eglinton Connects, this past weekend.

Hawkins sent me the traditional P.R. line on lane-ways indicating they “will not experience high traffic volumes” and that the city’s research shows residents living in mid-rise buildings along avenues “have lower automobile ownership rates.” He did not produce the city’s research when I asked for it.

He also indicated that the city “will not be expropriating property” to develop new lane-ways, although if Hawkins or Keesmaat were to survey the situation even in my own neighbourhood, they would see that it is physically impossible to create two-way lane-ways without doing so.

Mayoral candidate Karen Stintz, whose ward takes in the neighbourhood north of Eglinton and who voted for the Official Plan changes in the June 19 planning committee, said in an e-mail she will be holding another community meeting to “clarify the misunderstanding” of some residents that the laneways will change.

Matlow’s senior policy advisor, Andrew Athanasiu, said the councillor “would oppose” any lane-ways off of Eglinton in his ward being converted into arterials.
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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Giorgio Mammoliti broke code of conduct: Integrity commissioner

TORONTO - Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is facing the stiffest punishment possible for an alleged breach of council’s code of conduct by “improperly” accepting $80,000 raised at a dinner held in his honour.

And while Mammoliti maintains he did nothing wrong, Brian Iler — the lawyer who filed the integrity complaint against the veteran councillor — isn’t ruling out asking Toronto Police to investigate.

In a report released Thursday, Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper ruled Mammoliti breached council’s code of conduct by accepting the cash — she calls it “an impermissible gift” — from the 2013 event. She recommends council find Mammoliti has breached the code and suspend his pay for 90 days — the maximum penalty possible. The pay suspension would cost Mammoliti around $26,000.

“This type of fundraising is not permissible,” Leiper wrote.

Leiper’s report details the May 22, 2013, fundraiser where tickets cost $500 and more than 200 guests attended the event where they dined on beef tenderloin, chicken supreme and red velvet cake and could drink from a “deluxe” open bar.

The guest list included “lobbyists, companies doing business with the city or in the councillor’s ward, family members and staff from the councillor’s office,” according to the report.

“Some businesses declined to attend, but advised the councillor’s staff they would send money in the form of donations,” Leiper wrote.

Leiper notes Mammoliti’s staff worked on the event during city work hours including sending out invites, designing tickets, following up RSVPs and arranging security who were hired because “Giorgio said he didn’t want any media at the event.”

Mammoliti says he has done nothing wrong and isn’t ruling out dragging the city to court along with the integrity commissioner if council pushes ahead with the matter at next week’s meeting — he’s currently before the courts trying to get a judge to reverse Leiper’s initial decision to launch the investigation.

“The right thing to do is to allow for this to go to court and for the challenge to be looked at by a judge and hope they can deal with it afterwards,” Mammoliti told the Toronto Sun. “The integrity commissioner has chosen to ignore the court case and try to embarrass us publicly — me and my family — and I guess a judge will have to look at that as well.”

The York West (Ward 7) councillor claimed if Leiper’s ruling is allowed to stand councillors wouldn’t be able to have a surprise birthday party or a wedding “without the integrity commissioner breathing down their throat.”

“How can anyone have done anything wrong that was in a hospital bed with his head carved open?” Mammoliti asked. “I can barely remember any of it.”

“My son and friends decided to do something nice and she’s punishing me,” he added.

The report notes, Mammoliti — who underwent brain surgery last year — told Leiper he had “some short term memory loss during this period of time.”

Brian Iler said he was pleased Leiper took his complaint seriously “and wrote what I think is a scathing report.”

“This is as offside as you get when you come to a code of conduct violation,” Iler said.

He said he believes Toronto Police should have a look at the case and is willing to file a complaint if that is what is needed to launch an investigation.

“He shouldn’t be entitled to walk away with $60,000 in his pocket — that’s completely offensive,” Iler said.

Asked why he filed the complaint, Iler said he felt he had to do something.

“It is pure desire to see justice done,” Iler said.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said the voters will decide on Oct. 27 whether Mammoliti should be returned to office.

“If Councillor Mammoliti has taken that money improperly then he has to be punished appropriately,” Minnan-Wong said.
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I'm not the issue: Joe Killoran 'Shirtless jogger' to Fords

TORONTO - The shirtless jogger who confronted Rob Ford brushed off Doug Ford’s attacks on Wednesday and repeated his call for the mayor to address the unanswered questions swirling around him.

Doug Ford came out slamming Joe Killoran — a Toronto teacher — who confronted Mayor Rob Ford on Tuesday when he spotted him at the East York Canada Day parade.

Killoran was out for a run with his shirt off when he saw the mayor and demanded answers.

Described at first as “the shirtless jogger,” Killoran quickly became a social media darling on Canada Day as Ford’s foes applauded him on Twitter for questioning the embattled mayor.

But the mayor’s brother and campaign manager was no fan of the encounter and slammed the outspoken jogger at City Hall again on Wednesday.

“I wouldn’t let him teach my dog,” said Doug Ford. “The way he was acting he needs anger management.”

Ford — who was at the parade with the mayor — claimed Killoran “thought he was the Hulk.”

“He’s a teacher? You’ve got to be kidding. I wouldn’t let my dog learn anything off this person and I question his credibility,” he said.

Killoran dismissed Ford’s comments.

“Even if Doug’s insults about me were correct, Torontonians would still want answers to my questions,” Killoran told the Toronto Sun in an e-mail Wednesday.

“The fact he thinks people who are furious with him and his brother need anger management shows he still doesn’t understand how disgraceful his brother’s mayoralty has been.

“Maybe most Torontonians need anger management since the vast majority want his brother to resign.”

He argued Ford would rather insult him “than answer people’s questions.”

“Unfortunately for him, I’m not the issue,” Killoran said. “The focus should be on the dozens of unanswered questions surrounding (Ford) and his brother.”

He gave several examples — including Ford’s refusal to co-operate with police, insulting Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, racial slurs, misogyny, homophobia, drunk driving and his association with Sandro Lisi.
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cheers, jeers for Toronto mayor Rob Ford at Canada Day parade

TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford was dogged by fans and detractors as he made a series of public appearances on Canada Day — a day after returning from a stint in a Muskoka rehab.

Flanked by staffers and volunteers holding “Ford for Mayor” placards, supporters cheered while residents — who did not appreciate his presence as he walked in the East York Canada Day parade — jeered.

“Answer one of the million questions people have!” a shirtless man repeatedly yelled at Ford along the parade route, prompting campaign manager and brother Doug Ford to react.

“Every once in a while you get a nutcase out there, needs a little anger management,” Councillor Ford said to reporters. “I don’t go chasing socialists down the street shouting and screaming at them.”

Cries of “Go back to rehab!” mixed in with “Welcome back Mr. Mayor!” as Ford stopped to shake hands with supporters and take photos with children, lifting them up on his shoulders.

But two women who booed him along the route chalked up much of the support to residents simply having good manners.

“I don’t think there’s much support for Mayor Ford in East York,” Donna Tozzi said.

“I think people are just being polite,” Andrea Geboers added.

When asked why he wouldn’t take any questions after making his post-rehab statement on Monday, Ford simply said: “With all due respect, it’s about Canada Day today, OK. I’ll be more than happy to answer questions another day but today’s about Canada Day.”

His brother insisted “every major media outlet” will get a chance to eventually sit down with the mayor for one-on-one interviews.

“This isn’t the time and the spot, and we’re going to give you guys a good opportunity.”

Mayoral rival Olivia Chow said there are “some apologies that he still needs to make, especially to people in diverse communities.”

John Tory — another major contender in the mayoral race — said he was “prepared to give him Canada Day off.”

“But (Wednesday), he’s got a lot to answer for,” he said.

All three mayoral candidates had jam-packed itineraries on Tuesday, attending some of the same events.

Ford was well received when he took the stage at the annual Scotiabank CHIN Picnic. Dozens of people crowded around him for photographs. One couple admitted they were not Ford fans and simply wanted a photo with the mayor.

“(People) have pictures taken with Charlie Sheen, too,” Tory pointed out.
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Avida, Etobicoke company gutted by fire

TORONTO - A three-alarm fire destroyed a commercial building in Etobicoke early Tuesday.

The blaze erupted at 72 Six Point Rd., near Islington Ave., around 4:30 a.m. and when Toronto Fire crews arrived at the scene the building was fully engulfed in flames.

About 80 firefighters and 21 fire trucks were called in to battle the stubborn blaze.

By the time the flames were under control the roof had collapsed and the building was gutted.

The building housed Avida, a digital signage company.

It’s believed nobody was inside the business when the fire broke out and no injuries were reported.

Area residents were advised to close their windows to keep the smoke out of their homes.

It was not immediately clear what sparked the blaze.
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