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Toronto’s Unsolved Mysteries of 2012

A year in loose ends.

As 2012 comes to a close, we’re all looking forward to the new year.

But forget about all that, for the time being. What about all of last year’s dangling threads?

Here are five 2012 mysteries that continue to keep us up at night, along with estimates of our chances of ever seeing them resolved.

Obviously, we’ve left a lot out. Rob Ford alone could fill an entire post. That said:

Rob Ford’s Secret

Looking back on 2012, it would be hard to pick out a single week where there wasn’t some sort of Ford-related scandal in headlines. Nobody could accuse Toronto’s local media of being soft on the mayor.

But for much of the year a rumour has circulated among City Hall watchers. The whisperers say that reporters know something about Ford that they’re not publishing—something so explosive that it can’t be revealed, either because its news value is questionable, or because there isn’t enough proof. (Or because of some combination of both of those things.)

Earlier this month, the mystery story surfaced in hazy outline form, bigfoot-like, when Canada.com’s Marc Weisblott wrote a blog post about it. In the post, Weisblott talks about how Wilf Dinnick—CEO of the now-maybe-defunct OpenFile.ca—alluded to the existence of the Ford bombshell during a media panel on CBC Radio’s Q. (To hear what was said, go to the December 7 episode on this page, hit “play,” then skip to the 49-minute mark.) Dinnick is well connected, and his wife works as a reporter for the Globe and Mail, so he’s definitely privy to newsroom chatter. If he thinks there’s something to the gossip, that’s an interesting data point.

Enough other credible people think something’s up that the rumours can’t be discounted.

The Question: Reporters aren’t paid to keep secrets. So, what gives?

The Prognosis: Rob Ford has very few friends in the press gallery, and so if any paper can publish something damaging about him without violating its code of ethics, it will. If there’s anything to these rumours, the truth will come out.

The OLG Casino

In March, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced that it would build a new resort casino somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area. Ever since, Toronto has wondered just where, exactly, the thing is going to end up.

At first, there was some speculation that Ontario Place, recently closed down by the province for redevelopment, would make a good casino location. But then John Tory torpedoed that idea.

The Port Lands was another popular suggestion, for a little while. But the extensive decontamination and utility work needed there quickly put a damper on hopes of erecting a gambling palace in that part of town.

Downsview Park has been floated as a possibility. One elaborate proposal by Oxford Properties Group even envisioned a multi-use entertainment complex—with a casino at its centre, naturally—on Front Street, right next to the Rogers Centre. The OLG has even said that it might consider putting a casino in Markham.

The Question: Where does the OLG want to put this casino?

The Prognosis: The City has public casino consultations scheduled through the end of January. After those are done, council will probably vote on its preferred option. The OLG will presumably announce its intentions once the City has had its say. There’s a decent chance we’ll know more by the end of 2013.

Sam’s Sign

Ryerson University bought the former site of Sam the Record Man, at 347 and 349 Yonge Street, in 2008. As part of that deal, the university inked an agreement with the City to preserve Sam’s iconic neon spinning-record sign and incorporate it into a building somewhere nearby.

Ryerson has demolished Sam’s, and is now in the process of building a new Student Learning Centre in its place. And yet, despite the fact that the university was obligated, under its contract with the City, to pick a location for the sign by July 2011, it still hasn’t announced a plan.

The Question: Does Ryerson intend to honour its promise?

The Prognosis: Ryerson president Sheldon Levy has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t want the sign anywhere on his campus. The odds of a resolution in 2013 are slim, unless the City decides to put its foot down.

The Condo Market

For years, analysts’ predictions have been inconsistent. Some have said that Toronto’s condo market is totally reasonable, and that we can all expect prices to increase or remain stable for the foreseeable future. Others have said that Toronto’s condos are overpriced, and that oversupply is bound to cause values to decline, or maybe even crash.

This year, we heard a lot more of the latter than the former. Sales of condos have been slowing significantly. Expert opinion—at least as reported by the local media—is pretty much unanimous: unit prices are going down, and they’ll probably keep going down, at least for a little while.

Nobody’s sure exactly how much worse things will get. Some analysts think the market is headed for a relatively painless slowdown. Others have said we’re in for a crash. Still others have seen dark portents in the travails of Toronto’s Trump International Hotel and Tower, which is fast on its way to becoming an overdevelopment cautionary tale.

The Question: Has the condo market peaked? If so, how painful will the comedown be?

The Prognosis: Who knows? If there’s anyone out there with a sure sense of whether or when Toronto’s housing market is going to collapse, they’re wisely keeping that valuable knowledge to themselves.

The Gardiner

When news broke that City staff had deceived the public about the severity of the Gardiner Expressway’s problems, it wasn’t long before the finger pointing began.

Some blamed city councillors for not authorizing enough spending on needed repairs. City councillors blamed Mayor Rob Ford for supposedly shelving a Waterfront Toronto environmental assessment that would have investigated whether it would be wiser to tear down part of the Gardiner rather than fix it. (In fact, the assessment was shelved before Ford took office.) Ford’s allies blamed City staff for supposedly not spending money that was allocated for repairs.

Regardless, the elevated section of the highway has as little as six years of useful life left, according to documents obtained by the press. Now, the City faces an estimated $500-million repair bill. Clearly, someone should have raised the alarm long ago. But who?

The Question: Whose job was it to bring the severity of the Gardiner’s problems to the public’s attention, and why didn’t they?

The Prognosis: Nobody’s going to take the blame for this screw-up voluntarily. In any case, the confused nature of the response makes it seem like more of an organizational failure than an individual one. The odds are fifty-fifty that a head or two will roll in 2013. In fact, a couple may have rolled—albeit quietly—already.

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