Lots of budget info! In today's news: Residential taxes could go up a bit more in 2013; "Super Tuesday" one-day teacher strikes hit Toronto; the debate over the Gardiner's future continues; a big fire in Brampton could have been much worse; a budget freeze could hurt Toronto Police's diversity; and the Blue Jays snag a Cy Young winner.
Councillor Mike Del Grande (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt) said he’ll quit his role as budget chief if Toronto council goes after additional spending, but he does support increasing 2013 residential taxes by 2 per cent instead of 1.95 per cent. Raising the residential tax by that level covers the $1.15 million in extra spending—for school nutrition programs, priority centres, community partnership grants, and a one-time grant for Toronto Botanical Gardens and local lawn bowling clubs—Del Grande proposed. The difference on the tax bill for the average Toronto homeowner would be about $62.
Nearly half of Ontario’s elementary students are out of classes today as the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario’s “Super Tuesday” one-day strike hits eight provincial school boards today, including Toronto, Peel, and Durham. Teachers are staging the rotating one-day walkouts as the next step in their dispute with Ontario’s government over Bill 115.
The debate about what to do with the crumbling Gardiner Expressway continues, with the city’s top planner leaning in favour of investing in transit instead. Toronto shouldn’t be spending huge amounts of money to “move more cars,” Jennifer Keesmaat said on Monday when asked by the Toronto Star if the Gardiner Expressway should go underground. Another chunk of concrete fell off the Gardiner on Friday night—at least the seventh such incident this year, according to the Star. The recently hired planner also indicated she wants to resurrect the environmental assessment focused on comparing the cost of maintaing the expressway versus tearing it down; the assessment was shelved shortly after Mayor Rob Ford’s election. Meanwhile, in perhaps the only thing they’ve ever agreed on, Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) and Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity Spadina) both suggested that a public-private partnership might be the way to go for the Gardiner.
Nearly 50 firefighters fought a large chemical fire in Brampton last night, but Brampton Fire’s deputy chief Matt Pegg said the blaze could have been much worse without help from Greater Toronto Airports Authority. The GTAA sprayed a special foam to contain the fire at Empack Spraytech Inc., near Airport Road and Highway 407, Pegg said—important, because it was too risky to send firefighters inside. A quarter of the building collapsed due to the fire, but the 30 to 50 people working in the building when the fire started got out safely. The cause of the fire is still undetermined.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said that freezing the police budget, as planned for 2013, will harm efforts to diversify the force. “In our hiring, we set very specific targets for ourselves to bring in language skills, to bring in cultural competency, [to] bring people who came from our diverse communities. I think it makes us a smarter organization,” Blair told the Globe and Mail. “Right now, we’re certainly not able to do that.”
And it’s official: National League Cy Young–winner R.A. Dickey is a Toronto Blue Jay. The multi-player deal, signing Dickey to a two-year extension with the Jays, was finalized and officially announced on Monday night.