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Cancer rates lower in Toronto than in the rest of Ontario: CCO

Cancer Care Ontario has released data suggesting that people in the GTA are dying of cancer at a rate less frequent than the provincial average. The Toronto Sun’s reporting suggests that there are three big reasons Torontonians are doing better than people elsewhere in Ontario: fewer smokers, lower rates of obesity and a mix of people from places with fewer instances of cancer.

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The Informer

Politics

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Five things Torontonians should look for in the federal election debates

This week, Canadians get to watch two debates among the leaders of the four official parties in the House of Commons—the English one is tomorrow night, and the French one the night after (apparently there’s a sporting event of some kind on, so the French debate was moved up a day). As with the last several English-language debates, Steve Paikin will be moderating the showdown, but unlike in 2008 this will be an entirely Green-free event. What can we look forward to when four white men get onstage and redefine “diversity” to mean “Jack Layton’s moustache”? Some ideas, tailored for Torontonians:

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Condo high rises post record in February, but is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Condos rise as high as condo sales records (Image: veggiefron)

According to builder’s group BILD GTA, Toronto hit a landmark last month as high-rise condo towers added more than 2,000 units—the first time Toronto has cracked that number. The broader GTA saw high-rise counts spring up as well, and investment in high-rises seems to be increasingly crowding out low-rise condos, according to BILD. (Interestingly, the trend isn’t just in the downtown: even in the suburbs, high-rise numbers are generally growing faster than low-rises.) This is just the latest in the seemingly never-ending series of press releases from real estate boards, builders, banks, sellers and any other parties that have a stake in Toronto’s real estate market. On the other hand, media sources seem to be predicting dark (or at least dull) days for Toronto real estate. So is the GTA market going like gangbusters, or going over a cliff?

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Random Stuff

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In the midst of Japan’s nuclear crisis, demand for iodide pills rises near leaky Pickering plant

Pickering A nuclear generating station (Image: ilkerender)

With the news that Japan may be on the brink of a serious nuclear crisis, Ontarians living near the Pickering power plant seem to be increasingly worried about the adverse health effects that come with living near a nuclear reactor. Those fears got an extra boost when it was discovered that the plant leaked tens of thousands of litres of demineralized water into Lake Ontario. Experts say that the risk posed to locals is “negligible,” but that hasn’t stopped people from planing for the worst. The Toronto Sun reported yesterday an increased demand for potassium iodide pills at pharmacies in the plant’s surrounding areas. While potassium iodide can help prevent thyroid cancer caused by radioactive iodine, it’s probably not as effective as people think.

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The Informer

Politics

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Ford Nation? Tea Party North? Whatever it’s called, it’s probably not worth much

On Saturday morning the Toronto Star broke the story that Nick Kouvalis, the man who ran Rob Ford’s winning election campaign last year, is putting together what he calls “an advocacy group for the taxpayers of Toronto. It will be something like: Respect for Taxpayers Action Group.” But the rest of Toronto quickly started calling it “Ford Nation”—the Star’s attempt to call it “a quasi Tea Party North” doesn’t seem to have gotten very far.

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The Informer

Politics

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Battleground Toronto: leaked memo shows that Conservatives really, really, really want “very ethnic” Toronto votes

The latest scandal in Ottawa is that immigration minister Jason Kenney, who’s been charged with building the Conservative brand in Canada’s immigrant communities, seems to have allowed a Conservative fundraising memo [PDF] to go out on government letterhead—a big no-no. There have been a number of reactions, from the NDP demanding Kenney’s resignation to the Liberals trying to look above the fray. We can’t help but have a reaction of our own: the Conservatives like us! They really, really like us!

Of the 10 target ridings profiled in the Conservative memo, two are in Toronto proper and five are in the G.T.A. The memo gives some idea of how the Conservatives see the ridings in and around Toronto:

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The Informer

Random Stuff

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Eight new electric car charging stations open around the G.T.A., as Ontario slowly, slowly moves towards a gas-free future

Jason Wolf, VP North America at Better Place, and Sandra Pupatello, Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Trade

As oil goes back over $100 per barrel and GTA commuters face higher gas prices, electric cars—a.k.a. “EVs” for “electric vehicles”—are slowly gaining popularity in the city. To capitalize on this, the international organization Better Place—not a.k.a. “BP”—is launching a pilot project that will build eight EV charging stations across the GTA and Barrie. The stations will be situated where Better Place’s partners are located, such as PowerStream sites in Barrie, Markham and Vaughan; Veridian sites in Ajax and Bowmanville; and the Evergreen Brick Works.

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Politics

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Fare evaders cost TTC $22 million in 2010

Whether they want subways or streetcars, nearly all Torontonians seems to agree that the city needs more public transit. Just one hitch: apparently people don’t want to pay for the TTC we’ve already got. The transit commission announced yesterday that what they call “fare evasion”—riding for free—doubled over the last year. That means in 2010, the money lost tallied up to $22 million.

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The Informer

Politics

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Rob Ford promises “hardball” tactics if premier doesn’t pony up $150 million

In an interview this morning with Jerry Agar on Newstalk 1010, Mayor Rob Ford finished off a long interview about the trouble at Toronto Community Housing with some other quick answers, including what he’ll do if Dalton McGuinty says no (again?) to his demand for hundreds of millions of provincial taxpayer dollars. From the interview, which can be heard here: “I haven’t talked to him face to face about that request of $150 million,” said Ford. “And if he says no, obviously there’s a provincial election coming up on October 6th. I want to work with him, not against him. But obviously if he’s not helping out the city, I’m going to have no choice but to work against him. I don’t want to do that.”

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The Informer

Random Stuff

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Toronto wakes up to higher gas prices. Who’s to blame? Everybody

With prices jumping to $1.20 per litre in some places—having risen almost five cents in two days—Toronto is facing prices similar to the summer of 2008, right before the last recession started. Who gets the blame depends very much on who is being asked. Here, a rough roundup of the potential suspects.

Libya: While it’s a relatively small oil exporter (exporting less oil than Canada, itself a small player next to giants like Russia and Saudi Arabia), the chaos in Libya has the markets nervous. As much as it’s possible for business pages to come to a consensus on anything, this is the short-term explanation for the last few days.

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The Informer

Politics

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Stephen Harper announces changes to citizen’s arrest laws in most election-y way possible

More and more, it’s looking like Canada is going to have an election on May 2. There are signs are everywhere: rumours aplenty, partisan attacks, choreographed events. Take Stephen Harper’s announcement yesterday that his government was changing the citizen’s arrest laws so that shopkeepers (like David Chen) that detain thieves don’t have to face trial. The proclamation gave us more insight than ever about the Tories’ preparations for a spring vote. Sure, Harper’s mouth says “no, no, no,” but his political theatre says “yes, yes, yes.”

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Sign of the apocalypse #49,273: the Toronto Star, National Post and Spacing all agree on something—subways

Whimsical designs or “architectural wankfests”? Designs for two of Toronto’s new subway stations (Image: TTC)

We’re not going to go so far as to call it an “editorial consensus,” but with the debate over subways that Toronto’s been having for at least a year (more like decades, when you think about it), it’s interesting that two of the city’s dailies and one prominent magazine’s blog all have pieces today that deal with the fact that, with few exceptions, even when Toronto builds subways (yay!) we do it terribly (boo!).

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The Informer

Politics

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Could Stephen Harper win Toronto seats with TTC cash?

Just don't call it a gravy train: federal funds for the TTC could help Harper’s chances in a city that just voted for Rob Ford

Judging by the amount of ink that has already been spilled over a potential federal election, it’s not too early to start speculating on what will happen if the writ drops. A few things are pretty clear: if there’s an election, it’s likely to be triggered by the spring budget, brought forward by Jim Flaherty in late March. So what will Flaherty (and Stephen Harper) put in said budget? It’s still a mystery, but the Tories presumably have three priorities:

1) Avoid an election if possible
2) If an election can’t be avoided, get the Conservative Party on the best footing possible
3) Put the Liberals (and to a lesser extent, the NDP) on the worst footing possible.

One good way to accomplish numbers two and three would be for the feds to do in a big way what they’ve only done in a small way so far: give some cash to the TTC.

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The Informer

Politics

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Where are they now? Catching up with Toronto’s former mayoral candidates

As Rocco Rossi reminded us with his surprise announcement last week, the candidates of the 2010 mayoral race, who so preoccupied Toronto’s politics watchers for nearly a year, have moved on to other things. So what have the five former frontrunners been doing since election day? Here, a quick visit with each of them.

The Informer

Politics

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Toronto Transit Commission workers’ union properly reads the mood of the city for once: no strikes during contract negotiations, says leader Bob Kinnear

TTC union chief Bob Kinnear made a speech yesterday that demonstrated a quality we haven’t seen from the union since the last work stoppage: labour leaders that can read the mood of the city. Toronto, after all, voted in a union-stomping mayor in part because they were sick of strikes from both the TTC and the city’s outside workers. With the province moving quickly to approve Rob Ford’s promise to make the TTC an essential service, the union is trying to slow things down a little by promising not to strike during this round of contract negotiations.

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