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Newsstand: February 12, 2014

Valentine’s Day looms. “I choo-choo-choose you.” In the news: Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Reddit AMA falls flat, TCHC CEO Gene Jones stays put as lawyers investigate allegations of misconduct, and the new federal budget is a hit at City Hall.

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Yesterday, Premier Kathleen Wynne dropped by Reddit for an AMA that largely left participants unsatisfied. In true Reddit fashion, questions posed to Premier Wynne ranged from the well formulated to the nonsensical, but participants claimed that even the simplest policy-related questions were answered in the form of typical politician non-answers. Reforms to beer sales in Ontario seemed to be a hot topic—Premier Wynne indicated that she was keen to modernize beer sales without sacrificing social responsibility relating to the distribution of alcohol. The premier eventually ducked out of the session early, having answered only 10 questions, although she promised to answer more through the week, which removes the spontaneity and engagement—and thus the whole purpose—of the process. Impromptu poll: Who thinks Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly would do a Reddit AMA like a boss?

Following a lengthy closed-door meeting, the chair of the Toronto Community Housing board of directors confirmed that two instances of improper conduct by senior management are being investigated by a law firm. The two allegations in question centre around the human resources practices of controversial chief executive officer Gene Jones. It is alleged that Jones fired chief operating officer Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas and paid her a severance, then publicly claimed she had resigned from the position of her own accord. It is also alleged that Jones attempted to make his assistant’s salary look lower than it actually is. TCHC board chair Bud Purves refused to talk about the specifics of the investigations, but previously told the Toronto Star that they were expected to wrap up before the end of February. Mayor Rob Ford voiced support for Jones, applauding his work at the TCHC and going on to declare that Jones “will not be dismissed as long as I’m mayor.” If we judge the truth of this emphatic declaration based on the mayor’s track record of keeping his promises, Jones’ days may prove to be numbered.

Our two mayors seemed pretty happy that yesterday’s federal budget included much-needed funding for the Scarborough subway extension, making good on the promise of allocating $660 million in federal cash for the project. Both Mayor Ford and Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly praised the announcement, while also giving snaps to a new $200-million federal emergency preparedness fund for municipalities. Councillor Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) also praised the new program, which allows municipalities to apply for funding if they have spent money on infrastructure to help curb the effects of extreme weather damage. Deputy Mayor Kelly said that he wants to look immediately into whether there will be potential funds available to help deal with the estimated $170 million in damage caused by the December ice storm and the summer flooding of 2013.

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