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Toronto in Review: July-August

The Ford Gong Show, violent cops, less RIM jobs and more subway surveillance, Toronto turns out for bike lanes and against service cuts

by Toronto Media Co-op

Toronto in Review: July-August

An unprecedented all-night council meeting took place last week, as Toronto residents responded to an opportunity to give public deputations on the now notorious KPMG service review. By the end of the continuous 22-hour session, the longest in Toronto history, over 300 people had lined up for their three minutes at the microphone, with the overwhelming majority opposing the Mayor's service-cutting agenda in a series of creative presentations.

Charles McGillivary is the latest person to die at the hands of the Toronto police. The disabled 45-year-old was walking near Christie Pits with his mother when he was tackled and handcuffed by officers. Moments later they removed the restraints and unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate him. The SIU, an almost completely ineffectual police watchdog, is investigating.

Mayor Ford laughed at allegations that he gave one of his constituents the finger at a stop light, after she told him he should stop using his cellphone while driving. Ford, who was abruptly pulled from an interview by his staffers over the issue, later referred to the incident as a 'misunderstanding'.

In other Ford news, councillor Doug Ford, who thinks that there are too many public libraries and not enough donut shops in his ward, has been locked in a bizarre exchange with Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood. The widely respected author asked residents to sign an online petition to keep library branches off the chopping block, a move which was derided by Ford, who said he had '[no] clue who she is' and that she should either get elected or shut up if she wants to influence public policy. Meanwhile, giant corporate booksellers have begun to cash in on the issue.

Cycling advocates turned out in droves on July 20th for a debate on the removal of downtown bike lanes, holding an impromptu Critical Mass bike ride to protest the planned closure of lanes on Jarvis Street. Activist Dave Meslin said “Cutting funding for bike lanes because there isn't enough demand is like cutting literacy funding because not enough people are reading.”

Former Deputy Mayor, TTC vice-chair and one-time mayoral candidate Joe Mihevc has claimed that the opening moves in Ford's long-dreamed-of plan to scrap the entire streetcar system, expand subways in the suburbs and remove cyclists from the roads are now underway, beginning with backroom plots to get rid of TTC chief Gary Webster, who has been critical of the mayor's stance on transit.

Meanwhile, in a ceremony held at a surburban subway station which was actually attended by the Mayor, the TTC officially launched its new subway cars, built by Canadian manufacturer Bombardier – a company which has only recently begun to divest from military contracts. With the introduction of the new cars, the TTC has extended the surveillance already found on its buses and streetcars further into its subways, with 24 CCTV cameras per train.

Technology giant Research In Motion announced the layoff of 2000 employees, more than 10% of its workforce. The Waterloo, Ontario based maker of Blackberry smartphones has faced a number of difficulties in the past few years, including an increasing irrelevancy in the mobile market and lingering questions over the state of its encryption protocols.

CKLN, Toronto's first ever campus/community radio station, is being evicted from its studios by Ryerson University. The move comes several months after the station's license was revoked by the CRTC, over long-standing management issues and a tense relationship with the Ryerson Student Union. CKLN has been off the FM dial ever since an federal court refused to hear an appeal in April. The station says it has asked the University for more time to find a new home.

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