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Newsstand: February 20, 2014

If it isn’t the snow, the rain will get you in the end. Environment Canada, we salute you for yet another weather warning. In less rainy news: Josh Matlow tries to curb rent increases, Toronto Hydro execs charge ratepayers for some questionable expenses, change is in the wind for the taxi industry, say “Hi!” to Maria Augimeri—your new TTC chair, and Karen Stintz is finally getting around to filling out her mayoral election paperwork.

matt newsstand raccoon

City Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) put forth a motion during yesterday’s city council meeting to push the Ontario government to ban above-guideline rent increases to cover maintenance and repairs, and force landlords to set aside 10 per cent of existing rent fees to cover those costs. While landlords are able to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to increase rent beyond the guideline cap if the increases are used to finance major capital work, Matlow argues that the replacement of key building structures—like balconies and elevators—is a cost of doing business that should be absorbed by the people and companies running the apartment buildings. Since the rent of a one-bedroom apartment in the Toronto has risen to $1,032 in 2013 from $1,007 in the past year, we all might want to pull a Jimmy McMillan and join the Rent Is Too Damn High Party.

Meanwhile, CTV reveals that Toronto Hydro’s top executives have been billing ratepayers for questionable business expenses including alcohol consumption during business meetings and unexplained employee perks. While one could argue that paying for wine with dinner is a cost of doing business in the modern era, expense claims—including a $2,600 price tag for a one-day meeting in Oklahoma—that offer no supporting details from invoices or bills are raising some serious questions. It looks like all the goodwill Toronto Hydro created by not increasing service rates following the ice storm this past December may very well go down the drain.

After yesterday’s city council meeting, big changes are ahead for the Toronto taxi industry. The City approved 290 new wheelchair-accessible cab licences and gave a thumbs-up to the goal of achieving an entire fleet of accessible taxis in the future. It also voted in favour of transitioning all taxis to hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles. While Miss Manners would still likely advise you against puking in a taxi, it still won’t cost you a dime since council stopped short of passing a proposed change that would give drivers the power to charge fees for people who soil their vehicles. It did, however, approve a change to the structure of taxi licensing, which will gradually see the Toronto Taxicab Licence replace the current two-licence system between now and 2024.

City Hall was a hopping place yesterday, as Maria Augimeri (Ward 9, York Centre) was named the new chair of the Toronto Transit Commission. Augimeri narrowly defeated Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) for the job that nobody in their right mind would ever want. Interestingly, Colle was backed by Mayor Rob Ford, Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North), and outgoing TTC chair Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence), while nearly everyone on Mayor Ford’s political hit list that was issued earlier this week voted for Augimeri. So, in pure Jets-versus-Sharks style, it is pretty clear what lines have been drawn in the sand at City Hall. Dance-fight in the parking lot after the council meeting tonight!

Finally, with Augimeri filling the void on the TTC board, Karen Stintz has declared she will officially join the mayoral race next week. Stintz confirmed that she will be filing papers as early as Monday of next week. Let the campaign begin!

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