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New details about CN Tower “behemoth” aquarium emerge

An artist's rendering of the aquarium, set to take up 150,000 square feet and be open in time for the Pan Am Games (Image: B+H Architects)

As we reported last March, Toronto has been in talks with Ripley Entertainment to bring an aquarium of epic proportions to the CN Tower. Nearly a year later, some more details have finally emerged about the soon-to-be-built 150,000-square-foot behemoth, including a completion date of 2015 (just in time for the Pan Am Games, natch), the above artist’s rending and some questions about not-so-transparent financing.

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Random Stuff

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Pride Toronto’s severe case of TGIF: how the gay and lesbian festival ended up having one of its worst weeks ever

This has been a nasty week for Pride Toronto. The bad news started on Wednesday, when it came out that Pride had overspent its revenues for 2010 by more than $400,000, having blown through all the money the group raised in 2010 plus a sizeable surplus that had been left over from 2009. Then, on Wednesday, Pride Toronto’s executive director Tracey Sandilands resigned after the discoveries of the massive deficit and the fact that she had given a $40,000 job to her partner. Finally, at last night’s raucous general meeting, the board had to answer questions that sometimes got as blunt as “how do we call for all your resignations”?

How did Pride get in to this financial—and now, political—disaster? A brief recap, after the jump.

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The Informer

Business

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Pride Toronto almost bankrupt, thanks to pulled federal funding and QUAIA fiasco

Toronto Pride parade 2010 (Image: Eduardo Milano)

Last year wasn’t one of the best on record for Toronto Pride. It had the controversy around Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QUAIA), which split the city’s gay community and “threatened to bankrupt” the organization. Pride Toronto also had its federal funding pulled, even though Canadian Press reports that it had qualified for federal cash. This year doesn’t seem to be treating the organization any better, with the revelation that it will have to tell its annual general meeting it’s effectively bankrupt.

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The Informer

Politics

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For the second time, a Virgin airline cuts Toronto out of its list of destinations

Toronto to lose its Virginity in April (Image: BriYYZ)

Back in April, we were so hopeful about Virgin America’s new flights to San Francisco and L.A. That hope proved wasted last Friday when the airline announced that both services will end on April 6, 2011. The company chose Toronto as the airline’s first international destination last year, beginning service on June 23. Executive chief of Virgin America David Cush told the Star that Virgin intended to corner Toronto’s west coast–headed business market, citing our city as a leading centre in entertainment, technology and finance. The airline even hyped its Toronto launch by naming an Airbus A320 after rapper Drake and throwing a—we kid you not—party in the sky hosted by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and attended by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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TIFF Talk

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Martin Sheen joins Royal York Hotel picket line for 20 minutes

Fight the power, Marty! (Image: Brian McGuirk)

His son may have been spotted at the Drake’s rooftop patio, but Martin Sheen seems to prefer a more street-level approach to tourism. We loved Sheen as the union leader who takes on the crooked stock player Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, so it’s fitting that he sported a sign saying “On Strike for Justice Unite Here!” as he picketed with Royal York Hotel workers this morning. “I’ve been a union member all my adult life. I’ve been involved in labour struggles all my adult life, and I support it,” he told the Star. We’re not sure if Sheen knows the exact reasons for the strike, but he joined in the fighting of the power for 20 minutes before dashing off to the premiere of his movie The Way, directed by Emilio Estevez.

Martin Sheen joins hotel workers’ Royal York picket line [Toronto Star]

Star graphic

= Find this story on our Celebrity Sightings Map, where we plot the locations of stars spotted throughout Toronto

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People

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Why didn’t we think of that? Stratford’s Justin Bieber maps are a huge success

Maybe Tourism Toronto is on to something by using the Scott Pilgrim movie, which features Toronto landmarks, as a marketing ploy. Stratford’s map of Justin Bieber’s favourite hometown hangouts has been a hit with tweeny bopper tourists: the map is now in its third print run and Web traffic to Stratford’s tourism site has increased by 558 per cent with visitors looking for the PDF. Not interested in downloading it? Here’s the gist:

Justin Bieber’s Stratford Hangouts

Stratford can’t keep Bieber map in stock, orders third print [Globe and Mail]

The Informer

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Toronto’s six most memorable neighbourhood naming smackdowns

The city of Toronto's official breakdown of neighbourhoods (Image: City of Toronto)

Toronto: city of neighbourhoods, multiculturalism and, to a lesser extent, bureaucracy. These three attributes collide most often when it comes to naming or renaming Toronto’s diverse enclaves (140 by the city’s last count). And collide they did last week when a group’s efforts to change part of the Danforth Mosaic to Little Ethiopia were dashed. The minor controversy got us thinking about all the other Hogtown ‘hoods that have seen residents bicker and quibble over the proper term for their turf. Here, the six most memorable.

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The Informer

Culture

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Tourism Toronto goes geek: now targeting Scott Pilgrim fans

(Image: seetorontonow.com)

So there’s this film called Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (based on the Toronto comic book series) and it’s got everyone excited because it’s actually set in Toronto—as in, the city is playing itself on-screen for a change, as opposed to standing in for Chicago or New York. Settings include Sneaky Dee’s, Casa Loma, Sonic Boom, Lee’s Palace and TTC buses (see an interactive map of all the places mentioned in the comic here). Aside from residents getting giddy about the city getting international play, the local government is hoping this will bring in some major tourist dollars just like how that movie about sparkling vampires made Forks, Washington into the Twilight zone.

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The Informer

Random Stuff

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Outrage of the week: Niagara takes out ads slamming Toronto, Toronto takes offence

Any Torontonian wondering what he or she should be angry about next, wonder no longer: the Niagara Parks Commission has released a couple of ads suggesting that there might be some downsides to spending the summer in the city, and that some of us might enjoy a weekend away. George Smitherman, with “simmering anger,” lays down the law in a Cnews piece: nobody but nobody talks about his city that way.

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The Informer

Business

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Caribana stiffed by feds and province, but golf and tennis get a bundle

Better luck next time: Caribana denied funding (Image: A. daSilva Photography)

This is starting to look like a trend: a major Toronto cultural event loses out on government funding and has to basically pass a hat to keep the shindig going: in May it was Toronto Pride, and now it’s Caribana. The annual festival of Caribbean culture applied for and was denied funding from both Ottawa and Queen’s Park. The Toronto Star, which has stepped in to sponsor Caribana, reports that organizers are taking this in stride.

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The Informer

Random Stuff

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Canada struts its stuff in million-dollar purchase of every ad in the New Yorker

Toronto, meet New York: page 68 of the June 28 edition of the New Yorker

As the G8 and G20 summits loom, now is apparently the time to remind Americans that we’re not backward hicks who while away the peak tourist season drinking mooseshine in our igloos. The medium, in this case, is the current issue of the New Yorker, which has had literally all of its ad space bought out by Canadians: the feds, provincial governments, tourism boards, businesses and the like. “It was a chance for us to stand up and shout into America, into New York,” Bob Dodd of Dodd Media Sales told the Star. But just what is being shouted?

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The Informer

Random Stuff

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Toronto hating gets an embossed stamp: U.S. State Department says stay away during the G20

Torontonians woke up this morning to find that the U.S. State Department had put our fair city on the same list as Jamaica and Ethiopia, thanks to the G20 summit. In the language of the U.S. government, travel alerts are usually reserved for “natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence,” as well as less dramatic stuff, like the World Cup (South Africa currently has a travel alert). Of course, the rest of Canada has wanted people to stay out of Toronto for decades now.

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The Informer

Politics

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Only Smitherman can go to China (on China’s dime)

Pit bull in China: George Smitherman among those headed to the People's Republic (Image: Shaun Merritt)

The Chinese government is holding a Mayor’s Forum on Tourism and has invited (according to its Web site) 222 representatives from cities all over the planet. The Chinese consulate in Toronto made a curious selection in its local representative for the all-expenses-paid trip: George Smitherman. His opponents in the mayor’s race are none too pleased, going so far as to say Smitherman will owe the Chinese favours after this. Furious George doesn’t see it this way, natch.

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People

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When Anne of Green Gables fails, Regis and Kelly will save your province for $1 million

Regis looks good in hats (Regis: CTV; hat: Sullivan Boutique)

Regis and Kelly are taking their show to Green Gables, and the P.E.I. government (with a little help from the feds) is footing the $1-million bill. This has caused some consternation for bleeding hearts, who think public funds should be used for health care and education. Clearly, these people don’t understand the power of Regis—he’s immortal and can wear the hell out of a suit (especially when the shirt and tie are the same colour).

Regis worship aside, this story gives us hilarious insights into both P.E.I. and Regis and Kelly. According to the Globe, “The demographics of the show’s viewers—which were shared with P.E.I. as part of the negotiations—match up perfectly with the travellers the province is targeting: well-off American couples who are over 45.”

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The Informer

People

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The “Bieber-iffic map to Stratford” now on tourism site

Just like Jared, Justin loves Subway (Bieber: Kerosene Photography; sandwich, Subway)

Stratford has its very own map to the stars. Make that star. The town’s tourism Web site is now offering visitors a map to Justin Bieber’s local haunts—he spent most of his young life there, after all. Called the Bieber-iffic! Map to Stratford, the guide offers 18 Bieber-frequented spots (like Subway, his pick for fast food), encouraging young tourists to explore the town that the petite popster recently said “nothing ever came out of.” Except you, Biebs, and, you know, that teensy theatre festival. Some of the highlights from the map:

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