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Toronto Month in Review - February

Recapping news from the Toronto area

by Toronto Media Co-op members

Photo by John Bonnar. Vigil in Toronto for missing and murdered indigenous women
Photo by John Bonnar. Vigil in Toronto for missing and murdered indigenous women

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The City will introduce fees to use public swimming pools if the proposed 2010 budget is passed. It will cost $2 for adults and $1 for children to swim. Several other new fees for Parks and Recreation programs will also be introduced. It is hoped the new fees will raise $7.1 million. The new budget will be voted on in April. 

 

In addition to user fees, the 2010 city budget will also see new taxes (including a four per cent increased in property tax), increased fees for using the TTC, cuts to city departments, transfers of service management to the provincial government and drawing money from the city's reserves. However, the city will not be selling off its assets. The budget relies on some one-time fixes that will not be available to the new mayor, who will be elected in October.

The city's budget chief, Coun. Shelley Carroll, defended the $9.2 billion budget from an attack by the Toronto Board of Trade, but admitted the TTC and police should do more to slash their budgets. However, the TTC broke even in 2009, with a modest surplus.

On Valentine's Day, thousands of people across the country -- including 300 in Toronto -- gathered to remember murdered and missing indigenous women. More than 500 indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing over the last 30 years.

 

A battle that was ostensibly about allowing girls to have more ice time at arenas controlled by community-run boards ended with city bureaucrats taking power away from the boards and placing it in their own hands. City staff will now have greater control of booking ice time at the arenas. The Leaside Girls Hockey Association declared it a victory, however they will likely end up with less ice time since they already have more ice time than other groups are allocated.   

City bureaucrats have transferred park supervisors to new areas around the city. Friends of Dufferin Grove Park says programs at their own park are under threat because of the move and views it as part of a broader attempt to take power away from local communities and concentrate it with staff at city hall.

 

An native man who claims he was beaten up and left outside in cold weather by a security guard at St. Michael's Hospital is suing the hospital and the guard for $2.1 million. He also said the police should have charged the security guards.

 

Members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty crashed an Ontario Liberal Party fundraiser, which participants had paid $950 each to attend. The demonstrators called for a 40 per cent increase in social assistance rates. 
 
The federal and municipal government are at loggerheads over both the location and cost of holding the G20 summit in Toronto. The federal government wants the summit held on the edge of the financial district at the Metro Convention Center, while the Municipal government wants the summit to be held in the Ex where the downtown business and traffic will not be disturbed as significantly. City council has asked the federal government to make a written commitment to cover the costs of what has been called "the largest security event in Canadian history." 

 

Premier Dalton McGuinty has urged citizens to make declaring the TTC an essential service a key issue in the upcoming municipal election. This would make it illegal for transit workers to go on strike. Mayor David Miller says the premier should not weigh in on municipal issues. The provincial government has been taking an active interest in the TTC, suggesting they take more control of how it is run in return for desperately-needed funding.

 

After a series of videos and photos of TTC workers sleeping or taking breaks went viral, anger at TTC workers has mounted. The union representing these workers has responded by condemning the public, management and the media for "harassing people who are doing their jobs." The TTC has proposed instituting secret shoppers to inspect the conduct of workers and creating a customer service advisory panel. 

 

Coun. Adam Giambrone announced his candidacy for mayor with a speech that called for non-citizens to be given the right to vote in municipal elections. Less than two week later he dropped out of the race when it was revealed he had cheated on his common-law girlfriend by sleeping with other women. There were calls for him to also resign as a councillor and leave his position as chair of the TTC, which he refused.

After Giambrone left the race mayor, councilor Shelley Carroll said she is considering changing her mind and running for mayor.

Mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi has condemned proposed bike lanes on Jarvis Street. He has also spoken out against proposed dedicated streetcar lines on Sheppard and Eglinton Avenues. He hopes he can win the election by siding strongly against downtown issues and with suburban drivers.
The Toronto Star reported that seven years after their ground-breaking expose of racial profiling by the Toronto Police, blacks are still stopped by officers more often than whites.

 

At the coroner's inquest into the death of a 15-year-old shot to death by police, the officers involved gave contradictory testimony.

The plan to redevelop public housing in Lawrence Heights was made public. It is similar to the redevelopment of Regent Park which is currently underway. The plan includes introducing private developers, market rent units and retail outlets to the neighbourhood, as well as new parks and schools.  Many residents have misgivings about the proposal.

Air Canada has launched a lawsuit against the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) and Porter Airlines. They allege Porter has been given an unfair advantage by having a near monopoly to use the island airport. 

 

The TPA unveiled plans to build a new $50-million terminal at the island airport to house Porter Airlines. While the plan was being announced on the island, protesters picketed on the mainland ferry dock. The TPA has also revived plans to build a $45-million pedestrian tunnel to the island airport. If it goes ahead, the project would be financed by the private sector, who would receive a commission every time someone uses the tunnel.  

 

The TPA, which is criticized for the pollution generated by the flights that come and go from the Island Airport, has signed a deal to purchase "green electricity."
  
report commissioned by Ryerson University has found serious problems with racism on campus and recommends the school take action to train its staff in anti-racism.

The Toronto Board of Health unveiled a healthy food plan that will help eliminate hunger and connect communities with rural producers. 

Teachers at Ontario's community colleges narrowly voted against going on strike.

In a byelection held in the riding of Toronto Centre, Liberal candidate Glen Murray defeated NDP candidate Cathy Crowe. Premier Dalton McGuinty was criticized for allocating $15 million in the last days of the race to save the Grace Hospital in order to help Murray win the seat. McGuinty's government had previously slated the hospital for closure.

 

Childcare advocates say 7,600 childcare spaces will be lost if the provincial government does not cover a $63-million funding gap.
 

Toronto Month in Review is a project of the Toronto Media Co-op, a recently started initiative project to write about under-reported issues in Toronto. You can visit our site at toronto.mediacoop.ca. To find out more information, or to get involved you can email toronto@mediacoop.ca 

 


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