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Toronto Police demand that everyone stop moaning about the heat

Don’t even think about it (Image: Courtney)

Brace yourselves: Toronto should hit a scorching, sweaty, ice cream-melting temperature of 34°C today, with a humidex near 43°C. While Toronto’s chief medical officer issued an extreme heat alert and advised people to stay out of the sun, Toronto police took another approach, attempting to nip temperature-related complaints before the mercury rose much higher. From their official Twitter feed comes this warning: “Good morning #Toronto! NO ONE is allowed to say, ‘Is it hot enough for you?’ The heat never lasts and you don’t shovel it!” We hope they’re allowed to arrest the complainers.

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Politics

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Tension between taxi drivers and other road users grows after longboarder Ralph Bissonette’s death

(Image: Tom Purves)

The battle for space and safety on city streets is making headlines again in light of the death of Ralph Bissonette, the longboarder who was struck and killed by a taxi on May 14. The cab driver involved, Adib Ibraham, has been charged with second-degree murder, and police say road rage may have been a contributing factor—emphasizing once again the acrimonious relations between the motorists, cyclists and skateboarders who share the roads (and who all accuse one another of rampant rule-breaking). Yesterday, the Toronto Sun talked to cab drivers, who attempted to repair the damage to their poor public image. They said that pedestrians, cyclists and boarders ignore traffic laws—making it more difficult than ever to navigate the streets safely. Cabbies also said that skateboarders should stay off the roads (while longboarders are technically supposed to remain on sidewalks, police rarely enforce that rule, and the difficulty of navigating around pedestrians often means longboarders opt to ride on the street instead). Several taxi drivers voiced concern that most Torontonians—including police—are biased against them, rarely siding with drivers during accidents or other incidents. Thomas Tuah, who’s been behind the wheel of a Toronto taxi for 37 years, told the paper, “We go through hell. The police don’t back us, no one does.” Along with their stated complaints, the xenophobic remarks from commentators on the article underscore just how much cabbies are contending with. Read the entire story [Toronto Sun] »

The Informer

Features

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How bullying became the crisis of a generation

Kids are committing suicide, parents are in a panic, and schools that neglect to protect students are lawsuit targets

The Bully Mob

Mitchell Wilson had a short life. He was born in March 2000 at Markham-Stouffville Hospital to Craig and Shelley Wilson. From the age of three, he had trouble running and jumping. He climbed stairs slowly, putting both feet on each step before moving up. He fell often, and sometimes he couldn’t get up on his own. His doctors thought he had hypermobility syndrome—joints that extend and bend more than normal.

When Mitchell was seven, his mother was diagnosed with an aggressive melanoma. Her treatments left her distant, sometimes testy and mean, and in so much pain that she rarely left her bedroom. “I sort of kept Mitchell away,” Craig Wilson told me.

“He basically didn’t talk to his mother during the last four months of her life.” Wilson often left his son to his own devices while he took care of his dying wife and ran his family’s industrial knife business. Mitchell spent most of his time in his bedroom, playing video games. He comforted himself with food, and by the time he was four feet tall he weighed 167 pounds. Once, in a Walmart, he fell to the ground and his grandmother had to ask store employees to help her lift him.

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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Nine members of Toronto’s backyard-chicken underground on the special bond between man and bird

On November 30, councillors Joe Mihevc and Mary-Margaret McMahon took on the considerable challenge of trying to overturn nearly three decades of city hall opposition to backyard hens. They didn’t quite succeed. (Their motion to study the issue was referred to the municipal licensing and standards committee for consideration in February.) With his trademark zeal for kindergarten humour, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti opined, “Now we’re going to have thousands of chickens crossing the road and we’re going to have neighbours fighting against neighbours because they don’t want to hit the chickens.” But what Mammoliti and his ilk don’t understand is that urban hen keeping didn’t really go away when it was outlawed in 1983. It just went underground—into garages, sheds and secluded corners of backyards. The hopes of these renegade urban hen keepers are now running high, riding Toronto’s ever-growing wave of locavorism. Here, nine of those rebels, who break the law every day, talk about that other love that dare not speak its name: that between man and hen.

First up, Jill and Sunshine »

The Informer

Business

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BlackBerry blackout resolved, RIM’s Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis say they’re really sorry


Media punching bags and RIM co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis confirmed in a 10 a.m. conference call that full, global BlackBerry service was restored early this morning, ending the three-day blackout. The company’s larger problems, however, are another story.

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The Informer

Politics

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Is Rob Ford’s commitment to customer service actually doing more harm than good?

Where the mayor’s customer service bureau lives (Image: Mark Watmough)

The Globe and Mail put Mayor Rob Ford’s much-vaunted commitment to customer service—and his pledge to return all the city’s taxpayers’ many phone calls—to the test this weekend, exploring the mini-bureaucracy that exists within the mayor’s office, designed to filter and respond to the concerns of Toronto residents. The article tells a complicated tale of a committed group of pleasant-sounding staffers, phone records that get destroyed at the end of every business day and a procedure that exists solely for dealing with complaints about the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford. While we tip our hat to the mayor for responding to select calls himself, we’re starting to wonder if this ersatz 311 service really only adds up to, at best, a duplication of a function offered by other departments, and at worst, a distraction that may harm the mayor’s mandate to improve customer service city-wide.

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The Informer

Features

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How the G20—with its burning cars, broken storefronts, violent beatings and mass arrests—ruined Bill Blair’s popularity

Bill Blair

Family business: Blair planned on becoming a lawyer, but followed his dad into the TPS.

On June 26, 2010, Bill Blair was in the middle of the most complicated week of his career. The G20 summit had transformed the peaceful city that Blair had spent most of his life protecting into something closer to a police state. Protesters filled the streets. Steel fences sliced through the downtown core, guarded by black-masked riot police. Busloads of officers had arrived from across the country—cops who didn’t know Toronto’s streets and were technically not even accountable to Blair. Decisions about G20 security were being made by the Integrated Security Unit, a coalition of police and armed forces. The RCMP was responsible for controlling the area within the summit fence. The Toronto Police Service, assisted by officers from 21 provincial police detachments, was left with the rest of the city. The division of responsibilities was so unclear that as the summit began, even the head of the police board was confused about exactly where the ISU’s job ended and the TPS’s began. Blair was worried. International summits like the G20 rarely ended well. The chief had studied recent summits in preparation for the event, and what he found wasn’t encouraging. In Genoa in 2001, police had shot a protester to death. In 2009, rioters looted stores in Pittsburgh. Blair hoped to learn from history’s mistakes, but with tens of thousands of protesters meeting thousands of police officers, there were plenty of opportunities to make new ones.

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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Six things we learned from the Star’s investigation into the Canadian horsemeat industry

A horse tartare sandwich from the Black Hoof (Image: Jen Chan from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool)

Any time an investigation takes place at a “kill auction,” you know its findings will be grim. This weekend’s report from the Toronto Star’s Robert Cribb on Canada’s central role in the horsemeat industry is no exception. Horsemeat, which predominantly comes from animals not bred for food, has come under fire in Canada before (notably during Top Chef Canada) over complaints of poor sourcing and inhumane practices, and recently many countries—including the U.S.—have banned the stuff. Six things we learned from the Star’s investigation, after the jump.

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The Informer

Features

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How to treat the scourge of modern medicine—bad bedside manner

Illustration by Florian Bayer

When I was pregnant and working as a foreign correspondent in Beijing, my obstetrician suggested an amniocentesis test for Down’s syndrome. Afterwards, I was told to call in three weeks for the results, by which time I could already feel the baby’s first kicks. “There’s a problem,” the nurse said when I phoned, adding that the doctor was out. She advised me to call back in an hour. I hung up the phone and burst into tears. Worst-case scenarios overwhelmed me. Did “a problem” mean I’d have to terminate the pregnancy? Did it mean this, my first pregnancy, would be my last?

One hour later, I dried my eyes and phoned back. “Everything’s fine,” my doctor said. I was too relieved to complain about the nurse. Eventually it dawned on me that all she had meant by “problem” was that the doctor was out.

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The Informer

Politics

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The TTC’s latest publicity problem? An employee urinating outside Runnymede station—or not

The entrance to Runnymede station

TTC workers behaving badly barely deserves to be news anymore, but the latest example to come to light is kind of hard to ignore: right outside Runnymede station last month, a TTC worker urinated in public. As is the pattern these days, TTC chair Karen Stintz has come out to apologize and say it won’t happen again.

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The Informer

People

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Our Fare Lady: Q&A with Karen Stinz, the newly appointed TTC chair

Complaints about TTC customer service, possible strikes, delays—Stintz says she’s ready to take it all on

(Image: Adam Rankin)

You’re one of few councillors from a non‑suburban area in Rob Ford’s circle. How important do you think it is for the mayor to bridge the divide between urban and suburban voters?
Residents want the same things no matter where they live: good value for their money, good city services, the ability to get around.

Do you ride the TTC to work?
Most days. I live near Lawrence station, and I work near Queen station, so it’s easy for me to hop on the subway.

The Yonge line at rush hour can be hell. How do you cope?
I like to read the newspaper, but sometimes it’s just way too crowded.

What are your plans for the TTC?
Among other things, we want to introduce modern fare payment and phase out paper transfers, tokens and tickets.

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The Informer

Politics

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On its second day of work, council gets down to the important stuff: food and bruised egos

A city council buffet in the Miller era (Image: Rob Ford for Mayor Campaign)

If yesterday was any indication, Rob Ford is in for a long four years. As the council met to approve choices for who got what committees, the disenfranchised left (some of the ladies wore pink as a little jab at Don Cherry) put up a doomed effort to try to secure some seats on the important committees, like the TTC and the police board. The Globe and Mail reports:

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The Goods

Stores

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Eaton Centre leading the pack in race to be Grinch 2010

You can't ring my bell (Image: Stephen Hackett)

Does this mark the beginning of the Annual War on Christmas? The CBC is reporting that two Toronto-area malls have asked the Salvation Army to stop ringing those damn bells while its volunteers collect donations from passersby. Apparently, the incessant ringing was driving some merchants a little batty:

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The Informer

Politics

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TTC complaints up by 15 per cent, but smiles will outnumber frowns by 2030

(Image: Suzanne Long)

In a year in which the TTC had to endure any number of scandals (including, but not limited to, napping fare collectors, drunk driving, and attempts to bulldoze the homes of former TTC workers), it’s no surprise that the TTC would see an increase in customer complaints. According to the Globe and Mail, the TTC thinks a 15 per cent increase isn’t exactly good news, but it isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Joe Mihevc, Peter Milczyn and others pointed out that the increase in complaints is modest given that use of the system continues to grow. The TTC is expecting to log 476 million rides this year, up from 471.2 million in 2009 and 466.7 million the year before. “If you do the math, in context it’s pretty small,” said Brad Ross, the TTC spokesman.

Excellent idea, Mr. Ross. Let’s do the math.

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The Informer

Culture

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Trailer Park Boys creator threw out 2005 Gemini award after watching this year’s ceremony

Trailer Park Boys creator Mike Clattenberg thinks the Gemini awards are trash, literally. After watching Sunday’s 25th annual Gemini awards for the best in Canadian television, Clattenberg picked up his own 2005 Gemini, carried it out to the curb, and plunked it down like the rest of his garbage. Then he took to Twitter to announce his actions: “Don’t know how it happened but my Gemini is out on the street. Seriously it’s there if you’d like one for yourself,” he tweeted.

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