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Real City Matters

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Newsstand: March 15, 2013

Lots of news to end the week! In the news: The lobbyist registrar wants new limits; Clayton Ruby will appeal Ford's conflict-of-interest case to the Supreme Court; a taxi union wants stronger penalties for assaulting cabbies; the TCHC is exempt from Toronto's lobbyist registry; the OLG offers Toronto a special deal for a casino; a rogue van launches an investigation at Pearson; and the UN says Canada is failing cyclists and pedestrians.

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Lobbyist registrar Linda Gehrke wants to see limits on when and where lobbyists can talk with city politicians. Gehrke’s recommendations—including that lobbyists only have contact with politicians on business days and during business hours, or during other scheduled council and committee meetings—goes before Mayor Ford’s executive committee next week. Gehrke said in her report that restrictions “will enhance the integrity and perceived integrity of lobbying and city government decision-making.”

Lawyer Clayton Ruby plans to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to hear an appeal against the conflict-of-interest case against Rob Ford filed by Paul Madger, arguing that the matter is of “national importance.” Ruby will file his leave of appeal today, and the mayor’s lawyers will have 60 days to respond; a decision on whether or not the country’s highest court will hear the case would come months later.

A Toronto taxi union is speaking out after two cab drivers in the city were attacked this week, saying that harsher punishments are needed to reduce the number of attacks faced by drivers. Both attacks happened on Wednesday; in the first, a driver was strangled inside his car near Sheppard Avenue West and Yonge Street, and in the second a passenger was held at gunpoint in Etobicoke. An 18-year-old man was charged with the second attack, but no arrest has been made in the first. A new law mandating harsher punishments specifically for attacking a cab driver might cut down on the attacks that make it one of the most dangerous jobs in Canada, said Jackie Edwards, president of the iTaxi Workers Association.

The Toronto Community Housing Corporation is exempt from the City’s lobbyist registry even as it prepares to redevelop housing properties, due to a loophole in the regulations. Other city agencies with significant property holdings, including the Toronto Parking Authority, are also exempt. The TCHC started getting calls from building-industry contacts after the housing taskforce recommended accelerating the redevelopment process. “There is genuine interest,” TCHC chief development officer Greg Spearn told the Globe and Mail. “TCHC owns over 2,200 buildings on 440 sites across the city and many of them are in dire need of repair.”

The OLG is sweetening the pot for a Toronto casino, offering the city more than double the fees for hosting a casino than those received by other Ontario municipalities. The higher fees are in recognition of the fact that a casino in the province’s capital is a more ambitious venture than one anywhere else in Ontario, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. chief executive Rod Phillips said. The OLG is calling for five new casinos in the province.

An investigation is underway after a driverless van rolled onto an active runway at Pearson on Monday night, and a jet failed to obey the resulting order to abandon its landing that came from air traffic control at the international airport. Just before midnight an unoccupied Sunwing Airlines van rolled across Runway 24, minutes before a scheduled landing by an Air Canada jet coming in from Edmondon. An air traffic controller at Pearson twice told the jet’s pilots to abort their landing but the orders were ignored; in the meantime the van—which had the engine running and was left in gear—rolled off the runway onto nearby grass. The Greater Toronto Airports Authority and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are both investigating the incident.

Toronto is failing its cyclists and pedestrians, according to a new report from the United Nations. The World Health Organizations report states that Canada is not among the 77 percent of UN countries that do safety audits of road infrastructure projects for pedestrians and cyclists, leaving the country promoting alternative forms of transportation without making sure they’re safe. The Global Status Report on Road Safety is the baseline for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011 to 2020, which aims to reduce traffic deaths around the world.

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