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The Informer

Toronto Election 2014

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Weird Mayoral-Camapaign Idea Evaluator: artificially intelligent traffic lights

As the 2014 mayoral campaign continues, the candidates are bound to advance plenty of policy ideas. Some of those ideas are bound to be really weird, whether because they’re impractical, crazily expensive, or just new and unfamiliar. In this occasional feature, we’ll pick a few of those types of proposals and weigh the odds of them ever actually happening.

What It Is: If it worked as advertised, this idea would be a magic bullet—a way for some lucky mayor to dramatically reduce gridlock virtually overnight (and, naturally, take all the credit for doing so).

There are other technologies that can supposedly make traffic lights smarter, but the one that keeps getting mentioned by Toronto mayoral candidates is called MARLIN-ATSC. The reason this particular system has become such a hot topic locally is that it’s being developed at the University of Toronto, by a team of researchers led by professer Baher Abdulhai and an engineering post-doc named Samah El-Tantawy.

The details are very technical, but the layperson’s explanation goes like this: MARLIN-ATSC uses sensors and computer processors to link traffic lights at different intersections, allowing them to “think” as one. Rather than operating on timers or reacting to pre-programmed instructions, MARLIN-enabled lights adjust the length of reds and greens in response to real-time data about traffic flows. The system can even make itself smarter, by fine-tuning itself automatically over time. In theory, the amount of human intervention needed to optimize Tornoto’s intersections would be minimal. The researchers claim their system can reduce intersection delays by 40 per cent.

Who’s Proposing It: Karen Stintz made the biggest splash with her proposal, but the system has also been name-dropped by David Soknacki, and John Tory met with researchers for a demonstration. Olivia Chow has promised to speed the implementation of “smart traffic lights,” but hasn’t mentioned MARLIN by name.

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People

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QUOTED: Peter Brauti, lawyer for the police officer charged with killing Sammy Yatim

(Image: William Mewes)

(Image: William Mewes)

“You should be very careful and think about the fact that you haven’t heard all the evidence. Some of the evidence is pretty frightening.”

Peter Brauti, giving reporters something to publish. Quotes like these are all we’ll get for the time being, because Constable James Forcillo’s preliminary court hearing, which began Tuesday, is covered by a publication ban. (Forcillo is the officer charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim last July.) Brauti seems to be suggesting that details of Yatim’s behaviour before the shooting will make it clear that Forcillo was justified in pulling the trigger.

CORRECTION: This post originally misstated the first name of Constable Forcillo’s lawyer. It’s Peter, not Paul.

The Informer

Politics

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Rob Ford’s response to yesterday’s ombudsman’s report: fire the ombudsman

(Image: Christopher Drost)

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Every now and then we get a glimpse of what Toronto would be like if Rob Ford actually had the authority to implement his policy ideas. Tuesday provided such a glimpse.

If Ford were king of the city, the reaction to yesterday’s blistering ombudsman’s report on inappropriate hiring and firing practices at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation wouldn’t be to fire the corporation’s CEO, Gene Jones. Instead, the mayor would fire the ombudsman.

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The Informer

Sports

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The Maple Leafs/Canadiens rivalry is over—and we lost, apparently

(Image: The Hockey Writers)

(Image: The Hockey Writers)

You know the old Leafs/Habs rivalry? The most enduring conflict in the NHL? The sporting world’s plainest articulation of our nation’s fundamental Anglo/Franco tension? The fundamental antagonism animating all playground arguments for decades? Canada’s own Springfield vs. Shelbyville? You know that thing? Well it’s over. And the Leafs lost.

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The Informer

Sports

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VIDEO: Drake uses a lint roller on his pants at last night’s Raptors playoff game

After all the Toronto Raptors publicity stunts we’ve seen during the past few days, this 10-second clip of Drake meticulously de-fuzzing his pants at Tuesday night’s Raps-versus-Nets playoff game seems to have finally done the trick. The internet is laughing at the rapper’s fastidiousness (he’s so non-threatening that even pet hair isn’t scared of him), but we totally get why someone like him would want to be lint-free. The cred of an entire sports empire is in those pants.

UPDATE: The video we originally embedded has been removed from YouTube. This new one is zoomed-out, but Drake is still visible in the background. Or, check out this giant animated GIF.

The Informer

Real Estate

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House of the Week: $6.7 million for a classic home with a designer interior in Rosedale

house-of-the-week-56-binscarth-road-intro

Address: 56 Binscarth Road
Neighbourhood: Rosedale-Moore Park
Agent: Mimi Wood and Lisa Robinson, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, Brokerage
Price: $6,675,000

The Place: A detached, fully renovated brick-and-stone home on one of Rosedale’s prettiest tree-lined streets.

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The Informer

Business

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PHOTO: The World’s Biggest Bookstore’s sign comes down

(Image: Kathy Vey)

(Image: Kathy Vey)

Earlier this afternoon, a crew was in the middle of removing the final “e” from the exterior of the former World’s Biggest Bookstore, at Yonge and Edward streets. It’s the final step in the closing process that began in 2012, when Indigo made it known that it wouldn’t be renewing the store’s lease. Toronto journalist Kathy Vey took this photo from a window in the Atrium on Bay, across the street.

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The Informer

Politics

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Adam Vaughan wants to help the Liberals craft a national urban agenda

(Image: Toronto Star/Screenshot)

(Image: Toronto Star/Screenshot)

If Adam Vaughan gets himself elected to parliament, which he’s trying to do, it will be a loss for city hall’s left, but not necessarily a devastating one. Spacing‘s John Lorinc points out that a move to Ottawa could result in Vaughan having more influence over the fate of Toronto’s urban core, not less.

From Lorinc’s column:

In an interview with Spacing on Sunday, Vaughan said that when [liberal leader Justin] Trudeau and chief of staff Gerald Butts made their widely-reported but abrupt overture, he agreed to seek the Trinity-Spadina nomination on one key condition: if he wins the contest (and the eventual by-election), he will head a caucus committee tasked with developing a national urban agenda for the Liberals for the next election and beyond.

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The Informer

Politics

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Four things we learned from the city ombudsman’s scathing report on staffing practices at TCHC

tchc-logo-big

City ombudsman Fiona Crean’s much-anticipated report on hiring practices at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, released this morning, is perhaps not quite as damning as promised. Even so, it contains quite a bit of evidence of mismanagement at the corporation’s highest levels. Crean herself puts it best, on page 67: “It is an alarming tale of senior executives ignoring policy and running an organization as though it were their own personal fiefdom.”

The target of the majority of Crean’s criticism is Gene Jones, a Detroit import who started as TCHC’s CEO in mid-2012, in the chaotic aftermath of Rob Ford’s purge of the corporation’s leadership. Jones was supposed to put the troubled organization on better financial footing. At last check, he still enjoyed the mayor’s unqualified support (for what that’s worth, these days), but he’s going to have a lot to answer for once the rest of city council is done absorbing these findings. TCHC has already preemptively docked his bonus.

Many of the liberties Jones is accused of taking would be acceptable at a private company. With taxpayer dollars involved, though, there’s an expectation that things will be done in accordance with clear, consistent policy. Crean’s report makes it obvious that such attention to the rules has been lacking at TCHC, at least since the start of Jones’s tenure.

Here are four things we learned from the report.

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The Informer

People

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One-time mayoral candidate George Smitherman is getting into the medical-marijuana biz

(Image: Smitherman: Joseph Morris; marijuana: Mark)

(Image: Smitherman: Joseph Morris; marijuana: Mark)

What does life after losing an election to Rob Ford look like? For George Smitherman, the second-place finisher in 2010’s mayoral election, it evidently looks like a bucolic farm, and a never-ending supply of medical-grade weed. CTV reports that the ex-Ontario health minister is working with former deputy police chief Kim Derry and a Markham pharmacist to start a licensed grow-op in Uxbridge. He’s one of hundreds of applicants under a new federal program designed to take pot cultivation out of the hands of medical-marijuana patients and make it the purview of a new group of licensed commercial growers. The program is proceeding, despite a court injunction issued against it late last month.

The other 2010 mayoral candidates are also getting on with their lives, albeit in less headline-grabbing ways. Rocco Rossi lost a bid for a seat at Queen’s Park and is now CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada, Joe Pantalone is a lobbyist and Sarah Thomson, having also lost a Queen’s Park bid, has morphed into a kind of professional weirdo.

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People

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Man fined $25,000 for saying “fuck Brooklyn”

(Image: courtesy Toronto Raptors)

(Image: courtesy Toronto Raptors)

What is the exact price, in U.S. dollars, of publicly expressing disdain for a borough of New York City as an NBA general manager? Now we know. Masai Ujiri, GM of the Toronto Raptors, has been fined $25,000 by the league for saying “fuck Brooklyn” during a fan event in Maple Leaf Square, prior to game one of the Raptors’ playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. The fine came despite Ujiri’s grudging halftime apology: “You know how I feel. I don’t like them. I apologize.” While unsportsmanlike, the incident has fired up the local fan base, and is being interpreted by some suspicious commentators as a deliberate attempt to build a more badass brand for a team still struggling to make the best of its embarrassing, aubergine-coloured past.

Game two against the Nets will take place on April 22, at the Air Canada Centre, at 7:30 p.m. It’s a best-of-seven series, so latecomers still have at least a week to jump on the bandwagon.

The Informer

People

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QUOTED: Toronto Star editor Michael Cooke, on losing two key reporters to the Globe and Mail

(Image: courtesy the Star)

(Image: courtesy the Star)

“Our competitors have woken up after 5 years of slumber and are coming after our best people, and in some cases are successful in luring them away.”

Michael Cooke, boss of bosses at the Toronto Star, in a dour staff memo on the departures of sports columnist Cathal Kelly and city hall reporter Robyn Doolittle. Both reporters were integral to the Star’s brand, and both of them decamped for the Globe and Mail in the space of two weeks. Perhaps even more revealing of Cooke’s mood is the memo’s subject line: “Of course they raid the Star…where else are they going to look?”

The Informer

Sports

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For bandwagon jumpers: five phrases that will make fans think you’ve been a Raptors supporter all along

(Image: Hwan Hong)

(Image: Hwan Hong)

The Toronto Raptors have just finished the best regular season in the club’s two-decade history, and are now one game into a round-one playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. The winner will likely go on to face the formidable Miami Heat in the next round of the tournament, and so no matter what happens during the rest of the series (Toronto has already lost its first game out of seven against Brooklyn, and conspiracy theorists are blaming the refs), there may not be a lot of time left to get on the Raptors bandwagon.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still jump on with both feet. If you do, it won’t even be that hard to fool long-time fans into believing you’ve been there all along.

To that end, here are five key phrases to drop if you suspect your basketball-loving acquaintances are starting to question your bona fides.

1. “I can’t believe how easily Masai undid Colangelo’s two biggest mistakes!”

masai-ujiri
Who: Raptors GM Masai Ujiri; former GM Bryan Colangelo

What: Ujiri left the pre-existing roster mostly intact this season (his first on the job). But it was getting rid of two of his predecessor’s signature hires—sending former first overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani to New York, and packing Rudy Gay, the previous season’s major acquisition, off to Sacramento—that helped unlock the potential in holdovers like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Freeing the ball from Gay’s me-first clutches set in motion a franchise-record-setting 48-win season for the club, destroying all talk of “tanking” to get a high pick in June’s draft.

Used when: The Raptors are flying, and no one on court is playing like his job is to kill all ball movement.

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The Informer

Culture

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Five piping-hot docs to catch at Hot Docs 2014

Ooooh my. It's George Takei! (Image: Hot Docs)

Ooooh my. It’s George Takei! (Image: Hot Docs)

Hot Docs, Toronto’s hottest, doc-iest film festival, is upon us. Starting Thursday, the 2014 edition of the annual fest will begin unspooling an expansive slate of non-fiction films on all kinds of subjects. It’s like school, except less educational. And you have to pay for it.

If you’re totally baffled by the offerings, here are a few buzz-y picks that may be worth your time. For screening times and more information, click the titles. Or check out the full festival schedule here.

1. To Be Takei (Jennifer Kroot and Bill Weber, USA, Special Presentations)

To generations of Trekkies and Trekkers (which is like a Trekkie, except in denial about how geeky and annoying they are), George Takei is best known as Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek TV series and first run of six films. But, thanks to the advent of social media, Takei has enjoyed a second career as a meme-generator and viral brand, with a Facebook page boasting nearly 7 million fans. Maybe To Be Takei will unearth Takei’s secret underground content mill, where dozens of communications graduates relentlessly crank out memes daily. Or maybe it will be a fond portrait of an aging actor whose gay-rights activism makes him more than just a kitschy sci-fi footnote. You never know.

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The Informer

Sports

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QUOTED: diehard Toronto Raptors fan Nav Bhatia, to the New York Times

(Image: Bhatia: MississaugaEliteCars.com)

(Image: Bhatia: MississaugaEliteCars.com)

“I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t womanize. But I Raptorize. That’s it.”

Nav Bhatia, a Mississauga car dealer who (by his own reckoning) has never missed a regular-season Raptors home game, explaining his obsession to the New York Times for an article about himself. Bhatia is such a constant presence at Raptors games that he has managed to befriend players and managers. Some fans even recognize him from TV, because his courtside seats put him in view of the cameras. This season has been a standout for the Raptors after nearly two decades of mediocrity, and Bhatia is, naturally, very pleased. “This season has been very special because nobody expected this,” he told the Times.

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