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Newsstand: January 10, 2014

Raise your hand if the idea of the People's Choice Awards makes your eyes want to roll back into your head. I can't be the only one. In the news: the cost of cleaning up the ice storm has ballooned, why burying power lines in Toronto will never happen, the TTC's Andy Byford is looking for transit visionaries, Doug Ford is convinced the Tories want him on their team, and a Toronto woman with ALS finds a way to write.

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Yesterday city manager Joe Pennachetti recommended that city council request the province declare Toronto a disaster area in order to qualify for special provincial funding to put toward the $106-million price tag for cleanup. Cleanup was supposed to cost closer to $75 million, but evidently that number has flown out the window. If you expected the mayor to react to the news by running up to damaged trees across the city while yelling “FIND EFFICIENCIES!” you would—surprisingly—be wrong. Mayor Ford concurred with Pennachetti that it is time to ask the provincial and federal governments to help cover the costs of storm cleanup. Mayor Ford mentioned that the City has $30 million in reserve, and a motion will be tabled at a special council meeting today to request $60 million from the province. If you do the math, that still leaves a deficit of $16 million. It remains to be seen how that would be covered. Pennachetti warns that if the province does not assist in funding cleanup efforts, Toronto residents might see this year’s 2.25 per cent property tax hike double.

There has been some talk about burying Toronto’s power lines to avoid this level of damage from an ice storm in the future, but Toronto Hydro estimates the task would cost upwards of $15 billion to complete. Paying for it would also require a 300 per cent increase in electricity rates, which means it will never, ever happen in this version of the multiverse.

Toronto Transit Commission CEO Andy Byford says that it is time to elect officials to office who understand the value of public transit to the city of Toronto, not just the price tag associated with it. During a speech at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, Byford reiterated his message about the direness of the TTC’s financial state. With a current $2.3 billion shortfall in new equipment and maintenance funds, Byford cautioned that the transit delays due to this week’s frigid temperatures are a portent of things to come if more money doesn’t appear fast. “The last few days have starkly demonstrated the fragility of our existing network as we have struggled to keep 30-year-old streetcars going in Arctic temperatures. Furthermore, our signalling, stretches of track, communications equipment, and the SRT are, quite simply, worn out,” said Byford.

Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) thinks he would be an asset to the Progressive Conservatives if he were to run in the next provincial election, even though the idea of his possible candidacy concerns some within the PC ranks. Ford seems spectacularly confident that his brother’s crack scandal has not affected his chances as a potential PC candidate in the next provincial election. “If the PCs didn’t want me, they wouldn’t be holding my riding—the only riding, I think, in Ontario,” Ford said, referring to the fact that the party has yet to announce a candidate in his Etobicoke North riding. A quick perusal of the PC website shows his is not the only riding without a candidate.

Finally, meet a Toronto woman named Zehra Madenli, who has lost her ability to move and speak due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—also commonly known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Madenli has found a way to communicate by writing prose—including short story-length work—which she composes on a computer by blinking to spell words out. It is remarkable stuff.

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