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CBC’s Metro Morning confirms the obvious: nobody pays attention to Queen’s Park

(Image: Horwath: Andrea Horwath/Facebook; Wynne: Loralea Carruthers/Facebook; Hudak: Ontario Chamber of Commerce)

(Image: Horwath: Andrea Horwath/Facebook; Wynne: Loralea Carruthers/Facebook; Hudak: Ontario Chamber of Commerce)

Anyone who cares about provincial politics may want to sit down before listening to the first two minutes of this segment from today’s Metro Morning. The radio show had a reporter stand on John Street, where she asked more than a dozen passers-by to identify the three leaders of Ontario’s major provincial parties. At least three people didn’t know who Kathleen Wynne was (she’s the premier of Ontario, for anyone still wondering). Someone thought Olivia Chow was a party leader. In the end, only one person was able to ID Wynne, Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak without difficulty.

We now have about a month to go until the next provincial election—an election that may determine the future of public transit in Toronto, among other things. If this unscientific sample is anything to go by, the candidates are going to need to print up a few more lawn signs.

The Informer

Politics

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Kathleen Wynne promises a magical mystery money source for public transit in Toronto

(Image: Wynne: Loralea Carruthers/Facebook; trains: Loozrboy)

(Image: Wynne: Loralea Carruthers/Facebook; trains: Loozrboy)

After announcing last week that her Liberal government is ruling out the possibility of using HST and gas-tax hikes to fund public-transit expansion in the GTA, premier Kathleen Wynne spent this morning attempting to reassure urban voters that new construction on subways and other crucial infrastructure will still be paid for…somehow.

“Will there be a dedicated fund?,” she asked Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway rhetorically, when questioned about where the money will come from. “Will it be transparent what those dollars are going to be used for? Yes, absolutely.”

When Galloway pressed Wynne for more specifics about money sources for this “dedicated fund,” the premier would only say that “it will be a number of things,” and that the details will be unveiled with the rest of this year’s provincial budget.

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Politics

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Power Moves: six city councillors making early political plays following Rob Ford’s ouster from office

Since a judge took the unexpected, unprecedented step of kicking Rob Ford out of the mayor’s office on Monday, city hall watchers have alternated between pontificating and head-scratching. It seems that the only things everybody can agree on are that Ford definitely did something wrong and that nobody is quite sure what will happen next (and that transit is still a really, really big problem). Meanwhile, a handful of city councillors, who are ultimately going to be responsible for guiding Toronto through the turmoil, have already begun early jockeying for position in the brave new post-Rob Ford world. While Adam Vaughan, Kristyn Wong-Tam and other left-leaners have used the opportunity to loudly blast Ford and call for a new era at city hall, Ford’s supporters must negotiate the most delicate political manoeuvring. Below, we look at how Ford and six of city hall’s other power players are responding to the bombshell news.

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People

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Roberta Bondar, Jamie Kennedy and seven others discuss The Art of the City at the latest Walrus Talk

Matt Galloway giving his talk on the art of inclusion (Image: Jack Landau)

Last week at the AGO, the Walrus Foundation convened nine prominent Torontonians—Midnight’s Children director Deepha Mehta, CBC’s Matt Galloway, chef Jamie Kennedy and astronaut Roberta Bondar among them—and gave them each seven minutes to talk about one aspect of “the art of the city.” The result: nine little TED talks, more or less, about different aspects of Toronto in 2012. Some were funny, some were profound, and yes, some were a little pedantic. Here’s how it all went down:

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Features

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How a small group of farmers and wealthy weekenders made the Melancthon mega-quarry protest a cause célèbre

An unexpected casualty of Toronto’s building boom is the sleepy southern Ontario township of Melancthon, where an American hedge fund plans to excavate $6 billion worth of limestone.

How a small group of farmers, and wealthy weekenders, made the Melancthon mega-quarry protest a cause célèbre

Fight Club: The farmer-chef Michael Stadtländer helped organize Foodstock, a quarry protest attended by 28,000 people (Image: Jason Van Bruggen)

How a small group of farmers, and wealthy weekenders, made the Melancthon mega-quarry protest a cause célèbreMelancthon’s windswept highlands spread out like a grand table underneath the sky. At 1,700 feet above sea level, southern Ontario’s highest point, the air is different: cool and often foggy, it’s a world away from smog-suffocated Toronto, which lies 100 kilometres to the southeast. The climate is ideal for raising crops, and tens of millions of kilos of potatoes are grown each year in the township’s rich, silty loam. The karst, or fractured limestone, that lies beneath the soil delivers an almost perfect drainage system—no matter how much it rains, crops never flood.

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Features

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Stephen Marche: the case for a downtown gambling palace at Ontario Place

A Toronto casino is inevitable. Will it be an ugly box built where nobody can see it, or a glorious five-star island of fun?

Viva Las Ontario Place

(Images: GetStock and iStock)

“Toronto the Good” is an epithet applied only by those with a passing familiarity with the city. In truth, Toronto is a place where you can indulge your vices with ease and comfort and the relative security that you’ll be left alone with your degradation. Valerie Scott, legal coordinator for the lobby group Sex Professionals of Canada, recently explained to reporters that Torontonians shouldn’t worry about a sudden explosion of brothels after a ruling that legalizes bawdy houses: “There have been brothels in practically every condo and apartment building in Toronto. People have no idea they exist, we are so discreet.” Toronto’s virtue has always been superficial, little more than a collective pursing of the lips. The same squeamish moralism is now at work on the issue of a downtown casino, and a huge opportunity for the city may well be wasted on its account. The debate we should be having is the one we are most predisposed to avoid: not whether we should have a casino, but how we can make the casino we will have fabulous.

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Politics

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Karen Stintz’s ambitious transit plan is now one subway and one LRT

(Image: City of Toronto)

When announced, the far-reaching OneCity plan seemed full of moxie and momentum, but political realities have forced Karen Stintz to dial it back significantly. Rather than seek a staff study of the entire OneCity plan at this week’s council meeting, the TTC chair will only ask council to designate two priority transit projects (the subway extension to replace the Scarborough RT and a new waterfront east LRT). That leaves out any talk of the other 21 lines and—more importantly—the proposed property tax–based funding model, which had opponents from both sides of the political spectrum. On Metro Morning today, Stintz went on the defensive when host Matt Galloway questioned why she was “peeling back” the project to two lines for now, insisting the vision was “still there” and she’d planned on introducing tomorrow’s motion from the get-go. But delaying a commitment to a funding model until October at the earliest has stolen much of OneCity’s energy—and legitimacy. We’re inclined to agree with Galloway, who compared the downsized version of the plan to Rob Ford’poorly received subway dreams: “transit ideas without a funding model—that’s a movie we’ve seen before.” [Toronto Star]

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Business

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RIM’s grim financial problems may save it from its grim legal problems

After Research in Motion announced BlackBerry 10 would be delayed until 2013, some analysts cried death spiral, and CEO Thorsten Heins went into PR overdrive (in under five days, he talked up RIM’s robust future in a Metro Morning interview, an op-ed in the Globe and Mail and a reader Q&A). But the delay could have one other serious consequence: it leaves RIM vulnerable to being sued for misleading shareholders. Heins all but promised a fall 2012 release of the gadget since he took over in January—and, depending when he knew that wouldn’t happen, the company may have broken a regulation requiring companies to promptly disclose developments that could significantly affect their financial state. Basically, saying your business is “laser-focused on coming in on time” will get you burned if you don’t deliver.

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Business

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QUOTED: Thorsten Heins thinks RIM is just fine, thank you very much

There’s nothing wrong with the company as it exists right now.

Research in Motion CEO Thorsten Heins, on his company’s current predicament. Heins waved off all the talk of death spirals, suggesting RIM will make it through this “transition” and that the company is already a lot different from when he took the helm six months ago. Of course, Heins’s confidence, while heartening, would be more convincing had RIM not just announced 5,000 layoffs and a $500-million loss. [CBC News]

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Random Stuff

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Gallery: Conrad Black and Peter Mansbridge reunite at the National Business Book Award luncheon

(Image: Erin Seaman)

Trust business types to figure out how to cram an entire awards gala into the length of a standard business lunch. Yesterday at noon, the 27th annual National Business Book Award presentation at the Ritz-Carlton drew a crowd of authors, Bay Streeters and media veterans, including Conrad Black, Peter Mansbridge, Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway and Globe and Mail editor-in-chief John Stackhouse. The neck craning and whispers started when Black, nominated for his memoir, A Matter of Principle (which he says he will update now that he’s out of the slammer), arrived for the pre-luncheon cocktail hour. However, one press photographer didn’t seem intimidated by the Baron Black of Crossharbour: he chided Black for posing with his book shoved under his arm, instructing him how to hold it in a suitably promotional manner.

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The Informer

Features

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The weirdest mayoralty ever—the inside story of Rob Ford’s city hall

Loyal councillors have defied him. His approval ratings have plummeted. And his powerful Conservative backers are nervous. How did it all go so wrong? The strange story of Rob Ford’s city hall

The Incredible Shrinking Mayor

On Newstalk 1010, the sly strains of the Hollies hit “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” offered the first clue. Then morning host Jerry Agar burst on the air with a surprise announcement: Rob Ford and his councillor sibling Doug were taking over the station’s Sunday afternoon talk-fest, The City. For the once-staid CFRB, landing the boisterous brother act that Margaret Atwood had puckishly dubbed the “twin Ford mayors” was clearly a coup, but that didn’t answer the more obvious question: why on earth would the Fords want to spend two more hours a week in front of an open microphone when they were hardly suffering from a lack of media exposure?

Rob Ford, after all, ranks as one of the most compelling and exhaustively chronicled figures in Canadian politics, adored and despised with equal gusto. His every pronouncement seems to turn into front-page fodder, his every grimace and belly scratch catalogued by rapt photographers. And who could forget the YouTube footage of comedian Mary Walsh arriving in his driveway, decked out with a velvet breastplate and a plastic sword?

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The Informer

Politics

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Reaction Roundup: the fallout over Rob Ford’s decision not to march in the Pride Parade—again

(Image: Ryan)

It feels like déjà vu: despite getting tons of flak for not attending any Pride Toronto events last year, Rob Ford has once again decided to spend July 1 at his Muskoka cottage rather than marching in the annual parade. Asked whether he’ll attend any other Pride events, like the raising of the rainbow flag at city hall, the mayor gave an unhelpful “We’ll see.” Ford’s decision not to march, though not a shocker, has unleashed plenty of passionate discussion around the city. Here’s a roundup of what councillors, columnists and Ford himself had to say about it all.

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Politics

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TTC boss Karen Stintz masquerades as one of her own employees for reality TV

Rocking a wig and a killer nose ring as a disguise, Karen Stintz recently posed as an everyday transit worker, pulling shifts cleaning buses and working the lost and found. Stintz was taking part in an episode of Undercover Boss Canada, which allows head honchos like Stintz to experience what it’s like to work the front lines in their own organizations. And Stintz seems to have learned a thing or two (in a preview for the show, she’s shown in uniform saying, “I feel kinda like I wanna throw up”). Speaking on Metro Morning today, she said she hopes to engage in discussions with the union to improve the TTC “without necessarily moving to the outsourcing solution.” She also spoke about the pride TTC employees take in their work. Both observations, however, may not be to Rob Ford’s liking—we all know this administration likes its contracts outsourced and its civic pride awkward and bumbling. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

The Informer

Politics

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Rob Ford inspires local citizens—to try to bring Transit City back

The push to resurrect Transit City is picking up a modest amount of steam, courtesy of activist Joe Drew and the website SaveTransitCity.com. Speaking on the CBC’s Metro Morning last week, Drew made a case for reviving the plan Rob Ford killed on his first day in office. He argued that much of the legwork on Transit City is already done; he invoked the suburbs and their need for rapid transit (bonus Ford point) and said there’s room for compromise between Transit City and the mayor’s plan. Meanwhile, another website, CodeRedTO, is also pushing local citizens into the fight for what it calls “a rational, affordable and achievable rapid transit strategy.” As Torontoist notes, it seems Ford has managed to spark a wave of activism and community engagement the city hasn’t seen in years—though we suspect he doesn’t consider it one of his greatest accomplishments. Listen to the entire segment [Metro Morning] »

The Informer

Politics

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Rob Ford and his allies continue to control the PR game over contract negotiations with city unions

(Image: Christopher Drost)

The Rob Ford administration has already fired the first volleys of the New Year in the ongoing public relations battle with CUPE over current labour negotiations. In a column in the Toronto Sun, Doug Holyday criticized the city’s unions and their “terms and conditions of employment” before following suit with an appearance on the CBC’s Metro Morning yesterday, alongside CUPE Local 416 president Mark Ferguson, where he laid the onus for a work stoppage clearly at the feet of organized labour.

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