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Toronto area code stereotypes: a guide to the city’s shifting phone-based social hierarchy

Each area code in Toronto comes with its own set of stereotypes that—rightly or wrongly—circulate with remarkable persistence. When Toronto and the rest of the GTA each get a new area code in March (437 and 365, respectively), the trash-talk hierarchy will only get more baroque. As Maestro has revealed no plans for a “416/647/437/905/289/365 (T.O. Party Anthem),” we offer this handy primer on phone-based bigotry.

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Tim Hudak does his best Rob Ford impression for the Toronto Board of Trade

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak sounded eerily like his good buddy Rob Ford yesterday in a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Hudak outlined his three-point plan for expanding Toronto’s transit system: (1) root out waste (one of Ford’s favourite pastimes); (2) subways, subways, subways, especially in Scarborough; and (3) no new taxes or tolls to pay for transit (Ford has been criticizedand mocked—for his staunch opposition to new revenue sources). Hudak even said Toronto is a city where “something has gone off the rails”—like, say, a gravy train? [Toronto Star]

(Images: Tim Hudak, Ontario Chamber of Commerce; Rob Ford, Christopher Drost)

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Giorgio Mammoliti’s most memorable gaffes, including the one that could end his political career

Although Giorgio Mammoliti leapt from Rob Ford’s lurching bandwagon in November, the two city hall fixtures still have a lot in common. Messy campaign finances, for instance. According to an audit released Friday afternoon, Mammoliti blew past the authorized campaign spending limit of $27,464.65 by a not-insignificant $12,000. If an audit committee decides to initiate legal proceedings on Feb. 4, the shaky math could cost Mammoliti a fine, some jail time or even ejection from office (another experience over which he and Ford could commiserate). In other words, his latest goof could be the end of Mammoliti’s run as a councillor, a 15-year career we honour below with a roundup of his most bone-headed comments and off-the-wall antics. 

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Karen Stintz wishes she hadn’t been so secretive about OneCity

(Image: Mike Beltzner)

OneCity may have launched a thousand op-eds and fired up Torontonians, but the ambitious transit plan is losing momentum after only a week. Fresh on the heels of the province’s dismissal, Karen Stintz admits she may no longer have enough council votes for the next step: getting approval at the July council meeting to move forward with a staff study of the plan. (Shelley Carroll, who previously said she would support further study of OneCity, has changed her mind, while fence sitters include Josh Matlow and James Pasternak.) Stintz now feels that she and her allies’ oath of secrecy worked against them when it came time to find wider council support. “Some of my colleagues were surprised and I regret I hadn’t taken more time to walk through the details with them,” she told the Toronto Star. That’s the thing about big secrets: the fewer people you tell, the less risk someone will spill the beans—and the greater risk of alienating those who aren’t in on the mystery. [Toronto Star]

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The province doesn’t like OneCity (but Torontonians really, really do)

(Image: screenshot from onecitytransitplan.com)

Now that OneCity, the mega-proposal that promises transit for all, has been ceremoniously unveiled, it turns out the province won’t get behind the project. When it comes to Toronto’s transit, “the train has left the station and we are proceeding with the plan as it is,” says Minister of Transportation (and transit cliché enthusiast) Bob Chiarelli. The minister says he doesn’t want to reignite the debate over already-approved plans, including the toxic quarrel over transit on Sheppard.

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Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 11, because we get along

Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 11, Because we get along

A couple of years ago, a proposal to build a mosque on a site not far from Ground Zero was met with months of protests and frothing rhetoric. The reaction proved, if nothing else, that some Americans will forever believe Osama bin Laden was the leader of all Muslims. Compare this to how the GTA greeted the announcement last year that a Muslim group was opening a 40,000-plot cemetery in Richmond Hill: a collective shrug. While it’s true that the 15 hectares near Leslie and Stouffville Road never experienced a terrorist attack, the cemetery is nevertheless a radical proposal for another reason: it’s a joint project of the rarely harmonious Shia and Sunni sects. And, even more remarkably, the group bought the land for $6.8 million from a Jewish company, the Beth Olam Cemetery Corporation, which also happily provided a sharia-compliant, interest-free mortgage. The cemetery officially opens this month, and aside from a tiny Shia site in Markham, it’s the city’s first to cater specifically to Muslim rituals—burials must be done within 24 hours of death, and with the corpse’s shrouded face turned toward Mecca.

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Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 13, because there’s a national park in the middle of Scarborough

Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 13, Because there’s a national park in the middle of Scarborough

Stories of vanishing ecosystems and endangered species are such a grimly familiar refrain, it’s a spirit-lifting relief when celebratory news arrives. Especially in your own backyard, and especially from a federal government not typically given to progressive environmental policies. In the next two years, one of the GTA’s best-kept secrets, the 47-kilometre-square Rouge Park, sandwiched between Scarborough and Pickering, will become the country’s first urban national park. Environmentalists and politicians, including Scarborough councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, have battled developers for decades to protect the sensitive wetlands, 450-million-year-old shale, rare Carolinian forest and fauna (225 different bird species, and snapping turtles!) that reside in the Rouge. The new designation means the wilderness will now be protected from development in perpetuity. And it will also be in the hands of Parks Canada, which has a much larger budget for trail maintenance and wildlife preservation. Picture the majesty of Algonquin combined with the convenience of Central Park. In other words, the first national park to which you can take public transit (avoid peak times if you’re carrying your kayak).

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Rouge Valley gets $144 million to become Canada’s first national park in a city

(Image: Vlad Litvinov)

As the federal government promised nearly a year ago, a massive stretch of the Rouge Valley will become Canada’s first urban national park, with the help of $144 million in federal funding. The government will mete the money out over the next decade to create Rouge National Urban Park, a 47-square-kilometre green space bordered by Lake Ontario, Toronto, Markham and Pickering. The exact boundaries of the park haven’t been decided yet, but so far the proposed space is about 15 times larger than Central Park and within easy reach of seven million Canadians—a fifth of the country. At an announcement today, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the government will seek consultation from the public and hopes the space will be a “people’s park” (which is convenient, since some parkgoers will soon be taking the “people’s highway” to get there). [Globe and Mail]

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Find out how far you’ll have to schlep to watch the Pan Am Games in Toronto

(Image: U.S. Army)

Since council freaked out over the rising price tag of the 2015 Pan Am Games—because mega sporting events usually come in under budget, right?—organizers are at least trying to keep costs down. Today, they unveiled a new venue plan, which features a clustering strategy to cut down on security costs and transit problems (though the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee suggested a different motivation). The revised plan will see more sporty happenings in 11 municipalities and three universities, compared with the original 2009 bid, which spread the events over 16 municipalities and 40 venues.

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Detached home sales soar as condos continue to take over the real estate market

(Image: Jeremy Burgin)

While developers build ever more condominium towers across the city, the classic object of any potential homeowner’s yearning—the detached home—is surging in value at a pace that far exceeds that of the ubiquitous apartment unit. Detached homes have become a “precious” commodity (realtor Richard Silver’s words) as the condo craze has rapidly increased the skyward share of Toronto’s housing stock. According to Moneyville.ca, demand for detached homes is so strong that sales jumped 22 per cent across the GTA last month, which, in turn, pushed the average price of all homes up to $517,556 (an 8.5 per cent increase over April 2011). Of course, none of this is much of a surprise—10 years ago one condo was built for every three houses and today there are three condos for every house. Demand meet supply. Supply, demand. The only question left to be answered is whether or not this red-hot housing market can last. [Moneyville]

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Which Toronto neighbourhood has the most cheaters?

(Image: ashleymadison.com)

Ashleymadison.com, the “infidelity dating site” (and, it would seem, Centreville zoo fan) has revealed that, in Toronto, the Beaches, Forest Hill and High Park have the most people looking for a little extramarital action. (All three are blue chip real estate neighbourhoods: coincidence?) According to data compiled from the adultery-enabling website’s 400,000 GTA users, Rosedale, Etobicoke, Downtown, North York, Midtown, Leaside and Scarborough round out the neighbourhoods with the most cheaters. Other tidbits: Leaside members had the most affair partners, while Etobicoke had the fewest, and Scarborough members had the most overall encounters. We’ll bet that, right now, someone in the Beaches is snooping through their spouse’s computer history.

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Reaction Roundup: what the revival of Transit City could mean for Toronto (and Rob Ford)

The whole “war on cars” talking point feels so 2009 (and 2010… and 2011), but now that Metrolinx and city council have pushed through an LRT-based transit plan against Rob Ford’s wishes, it’s back in a big way. Some members of council (well, mostly Doug Ford) are already gnashing their teeth over what the plan means for drivers—especially since tolls could be on the table if Josh Matlow gets his way. Others are looking ahead to the 2014 election and how shifts in power could change the whole project once more.

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City council wonders whether to have a casino referendum now, later or never 

Let’s hope the peace and love down at city hall continues today as councillors debate whether to put the question of a Toronto casino to voters (again). Michael Thompson, chairman of the city’s economic development committee, wants a ballot this fall and thinks the province, which instigated the casino plan, should front $7 million or so to pay for a referendum. Adam Vaughan, who opposes the would-be gambling complex, wants the city to wait and just throw the question onto the ballot during the next general election in 2014. The motions each require the support of two thirds of council to move along to debate; otherwise, they’ll be punted to Rob Ford’s executive committee. For his part, the mayor has previously said he supports putting a question about casinos on the 2014 ballot (along with one about subways, of course), but he’s so far said nothing about a mid-term vote. This could get interesting. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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Exclusive golf clubs are actually going to pay their taxes…soonish

(Image: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District)

Just in time for pseudo-summer, today’s Toronto Star returns to a strange tax situation involving nine exclusive country clubs and golf courses in the GTA. See, back in the ’50s and ’60s, local municipalities wanted to keep green space out of the hands of developers, so they struck a deal with several private golf clubs: as long as the golf courses stayed golf courses, they could defer 10 to 30 per cent of their tax payments (in other words, “Keep doing what you’re already doing and you’ll get a break on your taxes”). The decades-old agreement has cost the city $37 million in lost tax revenue to date. Eyeing that cash, city council voted in 2010 to renegotiate their deal with the courses, but many of the clubs are still trying to sort out new deals with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. Despite all the hold-ups, we assume the deals won’t contain anything too drastic. Read the entire story [Toronto Star]»

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Four users on the GTA’s largest South Asian dating website—Shaadi.com—share the secrets of ethnically loaded matchmaking

Shades of Brown

For members of traditional South Asian communities, marriage—in Hindi and Urdu, shaadi—is the single most important event in life. To help unmarried South Asians find a suitable partner, Anupam Mittal, a Mumbai entrepreneur, launched the dating website shaadi.com, and it became so popular in the GTA that the company chose to open a satellite office in Mississauga last year.

Like Lavalife, match.com and other dating sites, Shaadi contains pages and pages of users’ profile pictures, interests and hobbies. But Shaadi bills itself as a site for people who want to marry, not a hangout for promiscuous daters, and it requires that its members indicate skin complexion and religion and caste—decidedly old-fashioned ideas that have created something of an image problem. Many of its members deny they use it out of embarrassment. And yet that hasn’t diminished the site’s popularity; 24,000 of the GTA’s 684,000 South Asians now use Shaadi’s services, including parents who set up profiles for their eligible children—a computer­-age variation on the arranged marriage.

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