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blogTO
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Charlie's Diary (Charlie Stross)
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Global Sociology
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Halfway Down the Danube (Douglas Muir et al.)
Hunting Monsters and inuit bikini scarlet carwash
In Media Res (Russell Arben Fox)
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Ivor Tossell on the Web
Jim's Occasional Journal of Sorts (Jim Rittenhouse)
Joe.My.God (Joe)
Johnny Pez's blog
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Language Hat
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Languages of the World (Asya Pereltsvaig)
Lawyers, Guns, and Money
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Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen)
Marginalia (Peteris Cedrins)
Mark Simpson
Maximos' Blog (Russell Darnley)
More Words, Deeper Hole (James Nicoll)
The Naked Anthropologist (Laura Agustín)
New APPS blog (group blog)
No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) (Peter Watts)
The Numerati (Stephen Baker)
NYRB Daily (New York Review of Books)
Open the Future (Jamais Cascio)
Otto's Random Thoughts (J. Otto Pohl)
The Pagan Prattle (Feòrag)
Passing Strangeness (Paul Drye)
patrickcain.ca (Patrick Cain)
Personal Reflections (Jim Belshaw)
Photosapience Daily (Jerrold)
Pollotencheg (Ukrainian demography blog)
The Power and the Money (Noel Maurer)
Progressive Download (John Farrell)
Registan (group blog)
Rev Rachel Rambles (Rachel Kessler)
The Rose and Phoenix Inn (Victoria Goddard)
Russian Demographic Live Journal (Ba-ldei Aga)
A Rusty Little Box (Rebecca)
Savage Minds
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Shadow, Light and Colour (Elizabeth Beattie)
Sharp Blue (Richard Baker)
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Supernova Condensate
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Torontoist
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Understanding Society (Daniel Little)
Volokh Conspiracy
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Wave Without A Shore (C.J. Cherryh)
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Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
7:13 pm - [AH] WI the Mid-Canada Development Corridor was realized?
A couple of weeks ago, Tristan Hopper's National Post article "The grandiose — but failed — 1960s plan by an Ontario war hero to settle a ‘second Canada’ below the Arctic" caught my attention.

It all comes down to Richard Rohmer, a Canadian war veteran perhaps more notable to many as an author of pulp fiction (really bad technothrillers, mainly). As Hopper notes, he had an ambitious plan for the settlement of the Canadian Shield.



If things had gone Richard Rohmer’s way in the 1960s, the Canada of 2016 could have been home to as many as 70 million people.

Canada would have had a GDP rivalling that of the United Kingdom and new highways, new railways and new metropolises, all built in the sparsely populated boreal forest region that Rohmer came to call “Mid-Canada.” He would even help to spawn an entirely new type of citizen: The hearty, winter-loving “Mid-Canadian.”

Rohmer — a lawyer and decorated RCAF Wing Commander — was leading a charge to build a “second Canada” on top of the old one.

“It was a very simple concept; the country needed long range policies and plans for the future orderly development of this vast land that we have,” said Rohmer, 92, speaking by phone from his home in Collingwood, Ont.

[. . .]

In its heyday, Rohmer’s Mid-Canada plan attracted the attention of a who’s who of powerful Canadians: Captains of industry, bank CEOs, labour leaders, scientists and Aboriginal leaders and the patronage of former Prime Minister Lester Pearson and the Governor General.

“Canada’s future is inseparably linked with the development of Mid-Canada,” read a preliminary report. More zealous boosters even claimed that a Canada without the moxie to develop its boreal forest might as well meekly surrender to U.S. annexation.


The scope, as the above map indicates, was very ambitious.

There would be diagonal trans-continental railroad connecting Labrador ports to the Yukon. A highway to the Arctic. New growth centres; Flin Flon, Whitehorse, Labrador City, Thunder Bay and High Level were all pegged as settlements that could reach Calgary-esque levels of size and influence by the year 2000.

Strangely, Waterways, the precursor to Fort McMurray, was left off the list. It remains one of the few Mid-Canada cities that achieved any semblance of the growth envisioned by Rohmer.

Final infrastructure cost for a full-blown 1970s incursion into Mid-Canada? Four to five billion dollars, about $35 billion in 2016 dollars.

Governor General Roland Michener, a friend of Rohmer, arranged a meeting with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The idea was that Rohmer would show up, present the report, screen some slides and get the ball rolling on a Ministry of Mid-Canada or the like.

Instead, he met the disinterested eyes of the Prime Minister, who couldn’t seem to escape Rideau Hall fast enough.

“The message was ‘don’t even bother,’ but in any event we did our best,” he said.

Rohmer has long chalked up the failure to partisan considerations. The airman reeked of Tory blue, and whatever Trudeau planned to do with Canada in the 1970s, settling the North was not on the list.


I would argue that political differences were less important than the immense cost of this project. Could there have been any constituency for this sort of massive spending? To this, I would add the question of politics, not least with the First Nations. How would the indigenous peoples of the North, the last peoples not to be overwhelmed by European and Euro-Canadian settlers in their homelands, respond to this?

A September 2014 article in The Walrus, "If We Build It, They Will Stay" argued straightforwardly for this plan to be implemented now.

If the federal government had bought into Richard Rohmer’s vision from the start, the mid-Canada corridor would look very different today, beginning with infrastructure. Fifty years ago, it was still a government responsibility and, to a degree, priority. Now, it seems, there isn’t a government at any level that has the money for it. Infrastructure is incredibly expensive, and without a commercial imperative, a difficult sell.

But it’s not just infrastructure that governments have abandoned; they’ve abandoned leadership, as well. The government of Stephen Harper is a facilitator. It doesn’t spend money on northern infrastructure; its interest in policy tends to be narrow and ideological (gutting environmental law to pave the way for resource extraction, for example); and its record on Aboriginal concerns got off to an unfortunate start when it reneged on the Kelowna Accord, a Liberal initiative that had allocated $5 billion to First Nations education, housing, health services, and economic development (things haven’t improved much in the years since).

Canada was founded on bold action (David Thompson’s exploration of the West, Alexander Mackenzie’s push north) and big ideas (Confederation). But we have lost the appetite for both. The last big idea in nation-building was Clifford Sifton’s immigration policy under Wilfrid Laurier’s government a century ago, when a cheery, somewhat misleading campaign lured one million foreign settlers to the Prairies. Occasionally, we are pushed toward something larger (Expo 67, various Olympics), but for the most part we have come to settle for the “Peace, Order, and good Government” described in the British North America Act of 1867.
Good government, however, has become synonymous with good management. Courage isn’t prized, and we’ve paid a price for our caution. When it comes to infrastructure investment, planning, and urban development—activities that shaped the country at its founding—our caution has worked against us.

We are in need of a bold national vision, and the thoughtful development of the mid-Canada corridor certainly qualifies. Rohmer envisioned sustainable development, and if anything that’s even more desirable now than it was five decades ago. It would bring us prosperity. It would force us to be environmentally responsible. It would hasten the long-overdue respectful inclusion of First Peoples in Canadian society. It might even help us realize that elusive dream: meaningful national unity.


I am much less convinced of this. Scott Gilmore in MacLean's noted that, by most metrics, the Canadian North is terribly underdeveloped and that Canadians by and large are fine with this. At Vice, meanwhile, James Wilt's article "Why Scott Gilmore’s Latest Claims About the North Are Bullshit" makes the point via a series of interviews that much of what Gilmore would term development (large-scale resource exploitation, particularly) would be unwelcome among the people who actually live there.

Roger Epp, Director of UAlberta North, political science professor and author of We Are All Treaty People: Prairie Essays

VICE: What's wrong with how Gilmore approaches the North?
Epp: First, Gilmore's North is a slippery one. Sometimes it is strictly the territorial north, when he is counting people; and then, when he is counting ports, it slips down to Churchill. The question of where North begins is the subject of endless debate. Is Fort McMurray north? Labrador? Prince George? Sudbury? Chicoutimi? Or only those places where Indigenous peoples predominate?

Second, the "North" is judged entirely in terms of whether it is the site of effective sovereignty and economic development, especially of its "mineral wealth." Those are not necessarily the only criteria that Northerners would apply, though the assumption is that their perspectives are irrelevant. What matters is whether the North is genuinely "ours," meaning Southern Canadians'. As if it is up to people in Toronto and Ottawa to decide if "we" are a northern nation. People live there, and have been living there a long time.

Is this a symptom of Gilmore simply not being able to conceptualize that distinct cultural interpretations of lands/waters, economies, and societies exist? Or what's going on here?
Especially outside the territorial capitals, and in parts of the provincial norths as well, there is a complex relationship between what we might call traditional and wage economies. The latter presumably is a mark of "development." But it is not one or the other for people. Traditional land-based, water-based skills still compensate for the ridiculous price of food, for example, and the relationship between those skills and real self-determination and also the character traits required to live it out should not be discounted.

I was in the community of Deline on Great Bear Lake in late August, just before the effective date and the celebration of a self-government agreement that was almost two decades in the making. While Deline is not without its challenges, those negotiations were an incredible test of community leadership and cohesion, as well as a grounding in traditional stories and spirituality. Deline was rightly celebrated. Where was Gilmore?


For Rohmer's Mid-Canada Development Corridor to take off, or anything like it, at the very least we would need a national government willing both to engage in massively costly projects like this and to ignore the complaints of the people who actually lived there that these projects were hurting their lifestyles and communities. (In addition to First Nations, the Canadian government might well find itself in conflict with provincial government with their own plans for their portions of the Canadian Shield.) This is not impossible, but it would require some fairly significant tweaks.

Would there even be any guarantee that this plan would work? Hopper's article notes that we could well end up creating a sub-Arctic urban dystopia, with mined-out resource cities in environmental wastes. Northern Canada could look much more like post-Soviet Siberia that we Canadians would like to imagine. What would happen if funding to these vast projects was interrupted, as they were in the Soviet Union in the 1990s?

What do you think about this possibility? Was the Mid-Canada Development Corridor realizable?

Discuss.

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7:07 pm - [DM] "On the physical constraints to the independence of Statistics Canada"
I've a post up looking at the recent resignation of Statistics Canada's chief statistician Wayne Smith, prompted by the insecure data services offered by the federal government's ill-conceived platform.

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1:00 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Nearly triple the number of subway trains shut down by TTC because of extreme heat"
The National Post's Victor Ferreira reports on the overheating subway cars on the Bloor-Danforth Line, still overheating on the 19th. (Believe me, I can testify to this.)

When James Ross takes the TTC to work in the morning, he’ll inevitably walk onto a Toronto subway car without air conditioning.

It’s unbearable for Ross, the TTC’s Head of Subway Transportation, but instead of following the flock of riders off onto another train car, he’ll stand inside and take the heat.

“I’ll stick it out because I’m trying to set an example, but we can’t kid ourselves,” Ross said. “It’s not pleasant.”

Between June 1 and September 13, the TTC took 63 trains out of service because of the extreme heat inside the cars, according to internal data obtained by the National Post. The number nearly tripled from 2015, when there were only 23 trains placed out of service in the same time frame due to hot cars. It took between nine and 225 minutes to repair and get each train back on the line during a summer when up to 25 per cent of subway cars were operating without working air conditioning units, causing an uproar among riders.

The chance of a train going out of service increases when the weather spikes, Ross said, because of a greater strain on the HVAC systems to keep trains cool. This August was the hottest one on record in Toronto, with temperatures rising 20 times above 29 C. In August, there were more cases of hot cars forcing trains out of service — 25 — than in the entire four-month span between June and September in 2015. Five cars were taken off the line because they were too hot on Aug. 12, when the temperature spiked to a high of 35.9 C.

But the TTC continues to place trains out of service due to hot cars, even when temperatures dip in the fall. A train on Line 2 was put out of service on Oct. 9, 2015 because it was too hot, despite temperatures only reaching 16.7 C that day. Later, on Nov. 5, 2015 — Toronto saw a high of 20.5 C — a train was taken out of service again because of hot cars.

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12:55 pm - [URBAN NOTE]
CBC News' Eric Rankin reports



Chinese student leads court action, demanding repayment of all money paid by foreign national home buyers

By Eric Rankin, CBC News Posted: Sep 19, 2016 8:09 PM PT| Last Updated: Sep 19, 2016 8:23 PM PT

Jing Li, 29, is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed against B.C.'s additional 15 percent tax on foreign home buyers.
Jing Li, 29, is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed against B.C.'s additional 15 percent tax on foreign home buyers. (Peter Scobie/ CBC)




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Eric Rankin
Investigative journalist



Eric Rankin is a veteran reporter and producer who has won numerous awards, including the 2015 RTDNA award for best In-depth investigative reporting (“Casino Money”), the 2009 Webster award for best reporting of 2009, the Canadian Association of Journalists award for Investigative Journalism/Regional Television (“Prescription for Profit”) and was nominated for “Best Daily Excellence” by the CAJ in 2010.




Related Stories

■ Realtors scramble to close deals before 15% foreign tax deadline on Vancouver-area homes
■ B.C. to spend $500M on nearly 3,000 affordable housing units
■ University grad inspired by 'beauty and kindness of B.C.' faces $84K foreign homebuyer tax



It's taken just over six weeks, but B.C.'s controversial tax on foreign home buyers is now facing a major legal challenge.

A class-action lawsuit has been filed in B.C. Supreme Court on behalf of virtually all non-Canadians who have been forced to pay an extra 15 per cent under amendments to the Property Transfer tax act.

If the lawsuit is certified by the courts and succeeds, the province could be forced to repay hundreds of millions of dollars — much of the expected revenue now earmarked to pay for affordable housing for British Columbians.

Record B.C. real estate revenue to fund affordable housing projects


The additional charge went into effect August 2, brought in by the B.C. government in an attempt to cool down Metro Vancouver's overheated real estate market.

Foreign investors, especially from mainland China, have been blamed by some for fuelling high home prices.

Lead plaintiff a university student

The lead plaintiff in the case is Jing Li, 29, a university student from the People's Republic of China, now living in Burnaby.

In August, Jing told CBC News she was caught in a financial crunch by the imposition of the additional tax.

In mid-July, she cobbled together a 10 per cent deposit on a $560,000 townhouse in Langley by borrowing from her parents and friends in China.

Twelve days later, the new levy was imposed.

The tax added $84,000 to the price of the property. If she backs out of the deal, she will lose her non-refundable deposit of $56,000.
CBC

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12:53 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Goodbye Vancouver: Foreign buyers now flooding Seattle and Toronto real estate markets
Global News' Jill Slattery reports on how foreign buyers, disincentivized in Vancouver, seem now to be flooding into Canadian Toronto and nearby Seattle.

Foreign buyers are leaving Vancouver en masse, instead heading to cities like Seattle and Toronto to invest in real estate, according to numbers provided to Global News from Chinese realty website Juwai.com.

Juwai.com is “where Chinese find international property” according to their website. They claim to have over 2.4 million real estate listings across 58 countries and have for a long time, marketed Vancouver to their clientele as an attractive place to purchase homes.

But the allure of Vancouver may be fading, according to numbers from the company that suggest there was an 81 per cent drop in buying inquiries in Vancouver in August compared to August 2015.

The recorded drop comes the month after a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax was introduced in Metro Vancouver to thwart off the foreign demand that has helped to fuel an unprecedented rise in home prices across the region.

The demand may have shifted south of the border and to other cities across the country, according to Juwai.

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12:50 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Ontario will need to implement foreign buyer tax on housing, CIBC says"
Well, yes. This CBC News report is unsurprising.

A prominent economist says that Ontario will have little choice but to implement a tax on foreign house buyers, similar to the 15 per cent surcharge recently slapped on home purchases in Vancouver.

In a recent note to clients, Benjamin Tal of CIBC says the biggest problem facing policymakers with regard to hot housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver is a limit on the supply of new homes.

In both cities, there's a lack of undeveloped land to build new real estate in the downtown core.

"The main reason behind higher prices in the [Greater Toronto Area] is a policy-driven lack of land supply," Tal said. "And with no change on that front, policymakers have to use demand tools to deal with what is essentially a supply problem."

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12:48 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Influx of Syrian refugees helps drive rise in use of food banks"
The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant shares some sad, if unsurprising, news about Syrian refugee poverty in Toronto.

Toronto’s food banks are seeing more people come through their doors, among them, an influx of Syrian refugees who are struggling with the city’s high cost of living.

The number of people accessing the city’s food banks rose 1 per cent this year, to 905,970, from last year and is still 13 per cent higher than 2008 levels, an annual count to be released Monday shows. The increase was partly driven by hundreds of newcomers from Syria who, having fled the five-year-old civil war, are now grappling with high rental costs and limited incomes.

Demand had been stable, but the sudden increase in the first three months of the year was the most rapid since the 2008 recession, noted the Daily Bread Food Bank report. “This most recent spike is the result of a combination of stagnant incomes, rapidly rising food and housing costs and an influx of newcomers, including Syrian refugees, making the difficult transition to a new country with little income.”

Canada has admitted 30,647 Syrian newcomers since last November as both government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees, with thousands more due to arrive this year. More than 12,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict have settled in Ontario since November.

Christine Markwell, who co-ordinates the Agincourt Community Services food bank, saw a “huge increase” in demand from Syrian families this year, and cites rental costs as a major factor. She has adjusted services as a result, now offering a drop-in on Tuesday afternoons especially for Syrian families, and recruiting more Arabic-speaking volunteers.

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12:45 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "To get the rail-deck park, Toronto needs to work with developers"
Marcus Gee's opinion piece in The Globe and Mail makes some sense to me.

[Jennifer Keesmaat] argues that with space for new parks in downtown vanishingly scarce, decking over the rail lands is Toronto’s last chance to create a grand, signature park in the heart of the city.

As condo towers sprout left and right, the number of people living downtown is expected to double over the next quarter century, reaching almost half a million. Providing more space for all those people to stroll and play and walk their dogs only makes sense.

The 21 acres the park would cover – the equivalent of four large city blocks – is the minimum Toronto needs for its soaring downtown population, Ms. Keesmaat says. “Why would we make it even smaller by putting condos on it? That is flabbergasting in its small-mindedness.”

So instead of working with developers to create the park, the city intends to soak them for the cost. A city report released on Thursday says that “staff will identify options to enhance growth-oriented revenues so that local development activity can fund a significant portion of the rail-deck park project.” In other words, fees and charges developers pay when they put up a building would rise, inevitably affecting the cost of housing in a city where it is already painfully expensive. City hall would also pass the hat to “corporate sponsors, foundations and other philanthropic organizations.”

These are less funding plans than funding hopes. With so many pressing needs, from transit to housing, it seems rash to add another project to the long list that must be paid for … somehow.

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9:54 am - [BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Anthropology.net deals with the use of technology to save endangered languages.

  • At the Broadside Blog, Caitlin Kelly starts off a discussion of high school by starting with The Breakfast Club.

  • Dangerous Minds shares video of a very early performance by the Police.

  • The Frailest Thing engages with the idea and importance of memory.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes Rod Dreher's anti-refugee stance.

  • The Map Room Blog looks at the new Atlas Obscura book.

  • The Planetary Society Weblog takes a rocket roadtrip.

  • Savage Minds considers the importance of decolonization.

  • Torontoist notes a Toronto Sun editorial in favour of Rail Deck Park.

  • Understanding Society considers the international measurement of happiness.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues that Gary Johnson is good for Hillary.

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8:56 am - [PHOTO] White orchids in the Galleria Italia, 2
White orchids in the Galleria Italia, 2 #toronto #ago #artgalleryofontario #white #orchids #flowers #galleriaitalia

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8:52 am - [PHOTO] Book abandoned on the Brighton shore, Charlottetown
Book abandoned on the Brighton shore #pei #charlottetown #brighton #beach #books #latergram


Someone had abandoned a copy of How to Become a Rainmaker on the Brighton shore, leaving it to get soaked by the incoming tide.

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Monday, September 19th, 2016
11:15 pm - [URBAN NOTE] blogTO on towns and daytrip destinations to visit from Toronto
Derek Flack lists five towns; Amy Grief identifies five destinations.

I should try one of these

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10:32 pm - [LINK] "Ontario group to showcase importance of Great Lakes"
I like this idea. The Toronto Star's Allan Woods reports.

For some they mean the beach. For others they mean work. They can be a draw for tourists, but are often just a backdrop for locals.

If you are an environmentalist, you might see them as a living, breathing thing in need of protection, but ask the average high school student and they’ll roll their eyes like they would for any five-point answer on a geography test.

On their own, they are Ontario, Superior, Huron, Erie and Michigan. Together they are the Great Lakes.

You can see them from space, but now a group of prominent Ontarians, helped along by the province’s lieutenant-governor, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, is looking to put them on the map — so to speak — with a campaign to brand the importance of the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem onto peoples’ hearts and minds.

“Why not? The Amazon rainforest is the lungs of the planet. Why can't the Great Lakes be the heart and arteries of North America, or something like that?” said Douglas Wright, who is leading the initiative that will be unveiled next month at the Great Lakes Public Forum in Toronto.

It has been dubbed “Greatness — The Great Lakes Project” and the idea is deceptively simple: create a marketing campaign to embed the lake system deeper into the public consciousness. To get people thinking not only about the environmental threats and challenges, but also about the potential lapping at the shores of communities as diverse as Toronto, Thunder Bay, Toledo and Tobermory.

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10:29 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "TTC 2017 Operations: A Budget Meeting With No Budget"
Steve Munro worries about the TTC's budget cuts. The savings found are one-time only things. What happens when new pressures come about?

The TTC Budget Committee will meet on September 21. At this point, we have only the most threadbare of reports that gives no indication of how transit service will survive the onslaught of Mayor Tory’s misguided and reckless attitude to funding TTC service.

The report is a mere six pages.

In order to give the impression that TTC management actually are achieving the cuts Tory wants, they have “found” some loose change to meet the 2.6% reduction in operating subsidy.

This saving is achieved by the following projected budget line reductions:

Remove land lines for TTC staff who are provided with cell phones ($0.3m)
An increase in capital projects in 2017 will cause a higher proportion of some staff costs to be charged to capital rather than operating ($0.8m)
Reduced budget for departmental overtime so that increased rates due to the collective agreement are absorbed within departmental budgets ($0.8m)
Reduced training and travel ($0.5m)
Reduced stand-by costs ($0.6m)
Materials and supplies costs reduced by: increased bus warranty recoveries, converting IT contractor positions to staff, reduced furniture and equipment budget. ($1.0m)
Deferral of the September 2015 service increase translates to a saving in full year costs to continue these improvements to 2016 ($1.5m)
Lower health care costs due to a downward trend in claims ($10.3m)

Most of the saving ($15.4m) actually occurs on the regular TTC side of the house with only $0.4m as lower Wheel-Trans costs. This is a simple case of the relative size of the two organizations and the tiny amount of infrastructure (beyond buses and a garage) that must be maintained out of the W-T budget.

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10:26 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "NYC's Subway Gridlock Could Trigger a Transit Renaissance"
Aarian Marshall's Wired article strikes me as overly optimistic. What if people become too used to gridlock as the new normal?

The apocalypse is nigh. In 2019, New York City plans to shut down the portion of the L subway line that runs under the East River and across Manhattan, for a full 18 months of work to repair the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Make no mistake: The shutdown is going to suck. The city and its Metropolitan Transportation Authority are already scrambling to figure out how to get L train riders from Brooklyn not just into Manhattan, but across the island, running under 14th Street. No combination of ferries, buses, bike lanes, and even gondolas can fully replace the L, which moves 300,000 people on a typical weekday.

But there’s light in this tunnel, and not just at the end. If New York makes the right moves, it could turn this pile of lemons into pure Beyoncé, giving its denizens a better way to move through its canyons.

Last week, the MTA a announced it would study the lemonade recipe: a plan to expel cars from Manhattan’s 14th Street, in favor of Bus Rapid Transit, pedestrians, and cyclist infrastructure. It’s a temporary fix that, if advocates get their way, could become permanent.

“We’re looking at [the shutdown] as an opportunity to prove that modern, 21st century street design really maximizes not only throughput but livability,” says Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives. The advocacy group, along with a New York City think tank, has been a major proponent of the pro-walker and -commuter 14th Street plan, which they call the “PeopleWay.”

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10:14 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "When the Toronto police illegally spied on their own bosses"
At Daily Xtra, Arshy Mann asks an important question. How can the Toronto police be trusted when it spies on its own leaders?

In the days since the death of former Toronto police chief Bill McCormack, there’s been much talk of his legacy; as a family man, as a homicide investigator, as the city’s first Catholic police chief.

But like all chiefs before and after him, McCormack, who was Toronto's top cop from 1991 to 1995, was a deeply controversial figure.

Some of the scrutiny he endured during his tenure was relatively silly and inconsequential. When he assumed the post, McCormack came under fire for donning war medals that he wasn’t entitled to wear, technically a criminal offence. The RCMP refused to bring charges forward and the city moved on.

Other actions, however, were deeply serious.

At the same time that the war medals controversy was ongoing, the Toronto police began conducting a covert surveillance campaign on members of the civilian oversight board charged with holding them to account.

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10:09 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Phase-out of TTC tokens worries advocates for the poor"
Toronto Star reporter Ben Spurr notes how Presto could hurt the poor.

The Presto fare card system is supposed to help modernize the TTC. But what’s being done to make sure it doesn’t leave the transit agency’s most vulnerable customers behind?

By the end of this year, the TTC plans to finish rolling out Presto readers across its entire network. Sometime in mid-2017, the agency intends to stop accepting all other fare media, including tokens and tickets.

That could mean big changes for dozens of drop-in centres, homeless shelters and other social service agencies that distribute thousands of TTC tokens to their marginalized clients each year.

According to Elis Ziegler, manager of the Toronto Drop-In Network, community agencies have been left in the dark about how they will provide transit support to clients once Presto is in place and tokens are eliminated.

“The token system as distributed by non-profits is challenging enough. The problem is that we don’t know what that replacement is going to be,” Ziegler said.

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10:07 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "New Moss Park community centre would be 'transformative’ designers say"
Jennifer Pagliaro of the Toronto Star reports on the release of the design of the new community centre in Moss Park.

A new Moss Park is taking shape on paper as residents continue to worry what a growing neighbourhood means for the rare downtown green space.

A more-than-$100-million community recreation centre proposed to replace the existing John Innes Community Recreation Centre — the only recreation centre in the increasingly dense downtown ward — is being pitched as the antidote to pending gentrification.

This week, residents got the first look at what’s being proposed — a multi-storey building that stretches much of the width of the park on the western edge to include new ice pads, gyms and gathering spaces. City council has yet to see a feasibility study or make any decisions about the park.

It’s an early concept, designers stressed at a meeting in the park Wednesday night, after the city and community agency, the 519, partnered to consult some 1,800 people.

Residents heard this week the project will include completely landscaping the park with promenades, a splash pad, tennis and basketball courts.

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10:02 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Toronto grapples with the effects of extreme weather"
CBC News looks at how climate change will hit an unprepared Toronto.

Canada's largest city isn't immune to the effects of climate change, Toronto government research has found.

In addition to sweltering hot July and August temperatures this year, there are predictions that summer temperatures in Toronto could reach 44 C by 2050, according to Toronto's climate driver study.

"It's startling," David Carlson, director of the World Climate Research Program at the UN's World Meteorological Organization, said of recent NASA data pointing to a leap in global temperatures. "It's definitely a changed planet. ... It makes us nervous about the long-term impact."
Scientists say global warming is also causing more powerful downpours, droughts and rising sea levels.

Extreme weather has also hit Toronto in the form of massive storms. In July 2013 the city saw 126 millimetres of rain dumped in a matter of hours. The storm flooded subways and saw dozens of cars partially submerged in water and abandoned on major roads like the Don Valley Parkway. It also left tens of thousands of people without power.

The storm flooded many homes, including that of Bev Silva, who didn't know her former North York home was on a flood plain when she bought it more than 30 years ago.

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9:56 pm - [URBAN NOTE] Torontoist on how the Junction went dry in 1904
Torontoist shared a Historicist feature, "A Carnival of Vice", describing how, back when it was an independent town near the beginning of the 20th century, the Junction went dry.

In 1878, the federal government passed the Canada Temperance Act, drafted by Liberal Senator Richard William Scott. Sometimes known as the Scott Act, this legislation granted individual municipalities the right to put alcohol sale to a plebiscite, and to enforce a ban on its sale should the majority of voters favour one. Implementing such a ban on alcohol sale was generally known as exercising “local option,” and over the years several Ontario communities chose to take advantage of this right. One such community was Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood, which banned the sale of alcohol in 1904, while still an independent municipality.

In 1903, the Junction was the town of Toronto Junction; its reported population in October of that year was just shy of 7,000. Convenient rail access, low tax rates, and a local customs office had served to attract many factories to the area, which in turn spurred commercial growth, particularly along Dundas Street. These amenities, coupled with the Junction’s six hotels, served to make the town a popular stopping point for those going to and from the city of Toronto. The local hotels did steady business, with each maintaining a barroom where the bulk of the profits were made.

The factors which brought enforced temperance to the Junction were many and nuanced. While the temperance movement was growing across much of Canada, there was local concern over the unfortunate reputation that the Junction was earning for itself.

Both Heydon House, located at the northwest corner of (Old) Weston Road and St. Clair, and Brown’s Hotel, located further north, had a reputation for fights and general rowdiness. For several years Heydon House, the Junction’s largest hotel in 1903, was also a regular venue for cockfighting, and sometimes the subject of police raids. On February 22, 1903, Rev. T.E.E. Shore gave a sermon at the Annette Street Methodist Church on “Some Needed Reforms in Toronto Junction.” Shore outlined several problems he believed to be plaguing the town, including the existence of gambling dens, to which he accused the local police of brazenly turning a blind eye. He reserved most of his ire, however, for the local hotels, the primary (legal) purveyors of alcohol in the Junction. The Star quotes Shore as saying “Many a poor fallen girl has told me down in yonder mission how she fell into sin and degradation in Junction hotels. Men do not go to those hotels merely for refreshments or to quench their thirst. They are cesspools, I say. Cesspools of harlotry, vice, and iniquity.”

The sermon ignited a debate over local option which raged in Toronto Junction throughout 1903. The town divided into those who saw alcohol as the root of the problem, and the moderates who argued that they could make do with more vigorous enforcement of the current laws and an investigation into the liquor licensing system. The pro-local option side was led by several prominent townspeople, in particular the Protestant ministers, who increasingly called for prohibition in their sermons. The cause was also championed by some members of the town council, particularly Councillors A.H. Perfect and future MPP William A. Baird. The “Antis,” as the opposition was known in the press, were understandably led by the local hotel owners, whose livelihood depended on alcohol sales; on the town council, their political champion was councillor and former Junction mayor James Bond.

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