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Toronto in Review: August Part I

Ford breaks some promises and keeps others, more G8/G20, remembering Babcock, and we've finally found homes for the poor

by Toronto Media Co-op

Toronto in Review: August Part I

In perhaps his most controversial moment ever, one-time NDP Member of Provincial Parliament, and now ultra-conservative Toronto councillor, Giorgio Mammoliti suggested that police should “forcefully” remove homeless from the streets and place them in institutions. Mammoliti, who seems to think that you're either a taxpayer or a communist, made the outrageous comments during an interview with reporters from CityTV soon after he was named chair of a city taskforce on homelessness.

Noted Toronto activist Wendy Babcock was found dead in her apartment of an apparent suicide. A survivor of abuse and of the Children's Aid system, she became a sex worker in her teens and later a powerful advocate for sex workers' health and rights. Babcock was eventually recognized by the city for her numerous achievements, which included founding the Bad Date Coalition, working in harm reduction, and reforming how Toronto Police deal with crimes against sex workers. She graduated from George Brown College and was a law student at York University's Osgoode Hall at the time of her death.

More than one year after the G8/G20 summits, documents released under the Access to Information Act show that Federal Cabinet Minister Tony Clement personally controlled G8 spending in his riding. Clement, the Conservative MP for Parry Sound-Muskoka, where the G8 was held, essentially used over 50 million dollars of taxpayer money as his personal slush fund. The federal government has faced widespread criticism for its summit spending.

Mayor Rob Ford held a dinner in honor of Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, which included Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a guest. This is the second time Harper and Ford have appeared in constructed social events together; Harper previously suggested that Ford's policies fit into a wider Conservative campaign to implement austerity measures. Flaherty endorsed Ford in the mayoral election last fall.

City Council is pushing forward with privatization of garbage collection 6 months sooner than anticipated. The plan will save the City $3 million dollars in the 2012 budgeting process. Wages paid to garbage collectors will go from $26 to $18 per hour.

Rob Ford is breaking his election committment to preserve city jobs and core services. During his campaign, Ford stated "I will assure you that services will not be cut, guaranteed," claiming "no layoffs" would be necessary. This week, however, the Mayor admitted that up to 17,000 city workers will be axed if they do not take buyout packages. Even firefighters are now in danger of receiving pink slips, with Ford threatening to fire hundreds of them, leading traditionally conservative media outlets to openly accuse the mayor of being elected on a false pretense.

Google's Street View cars, and their attendant privacy concerns, have returned to the streets of Toronto. The Web giant, which continues to consolidate it's tech/media empire with a recent multi-billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, has previously faced controversy over the deployment of its fleet of vehicle mounted cameras, including multiple lawsuits over the unauthorized collection of unsecured user data.

Ford plans to keep his promise to isolate cyclists. Toronto's War on Bikes, which heated up last month with the move to scrap bike lanes on Jarvis, Pharmacy and Birchmount at a cost of almost half a million dollars, has now received international media attention. Opposition to the bike backlash has emerged from the Ontario Medical Association, which has framed cycling as a significant health issue; the OMA issued a report calling for more bike lanes and better training and testing for drivers in interacting with bicycles.

G20 defendant Kelly Pflug-Back is no longer under house arrest after a successful bail review before an Ontario Provincial Court judge. Pflug-Back, who, along with other activists has undergone trial by media while dealing with draconian bail conditions and ongoing police harrassment over the past year, is now allowed to contact her fiance Julian Ichim (although this is contingent upon Ichim disassociating from anyone involved with the anti-poverty group SOS).

Attendance rose at this year's Summerworks Festival, as volunteers stepped up donations in response to a funding cut from Heritage Canada. Critics maintain that political programming, and not a failure to meet an arts grant deadline, was the reason for the cut. The conservative government has been caught making politically motivated funding decisions in the past, eventually being found in contempt of parliament and facing an snap election after cabinet minister Bev Oda admitted she doctored official documents.

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