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Newsstand: February 27, 2014

As we ice skate our way into the end of February on this frozen tidal wave of frigid temperatures, take comfort in knowing that Mercury Retrograde ends tomorrow. Our lives will all suck a little less. In the news: the partial sale or lease of Toronto Hydro could be up for discussion if Karen Stintz becomes mayor, the provincial government will dole out $190 million to municipalities for ice storm relief, Bill Blair knew that Doug Ford’s complaint was imminent thanks to Sandro Lisi, and Rob Ford gets mean-girled at the Big City Mayors' Caucus.

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In her first campaign speech at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, mayoral hopeful Karen Stintz said she would seek to sell or lease a portion of Toronto Hydro in order to help finance transit expansion, if elected. Stintz said that a 10 per cent sale or lease of the utility would help fund a downtown relief subway line without increasing taxes. She would be facing a tough sell at City Hall, if history is any indicator. In 2011 City Council voted an overwhelming 30-6 for a motion that said it was not in the public interest to sell the utility—in whole or in part. Mayoral rival John Tory stopped short of opposing the idea, but warned against what he called “asset fire sales.” Outlier candidate David Soknacki, however, is less opposed to the idea of a Toronto Hydro share sale, having advocated for it in the past. He did say that the lease scenario, which Stintz seems to favour, was a bad idea because it would create more confusing bureaucracy.

Everyone loves free money, and the City of Toronto is no exception. Yesterday, the Ontario government said that up to $190 million has been earmarked to help municipalities pay for the cost of cleaning up the December ice storm. Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Linda Jeffrey says that funds will be available to help offset the costs of expenses including warming centres, police, and debris cleanup. Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly welcomed the news, saying that almost all of the city’s ice storm-related costs should be eligible for funds. Further good news came when City Manager Joe Pennachetti recently revised the ice storm cleanup estimate down from the original $106 million figure to a more paltry $86.5 million.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair was working the media rounds on Wednesday, saying that he was offended by the language Mayor Rob Ford used about him during the now-famous Steak Queen profanity rant that was caught on camera last month. Not entirely shocking. What is interesting, though, is that Blair revealed that he anticipated Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) would launch a complaint against him after it was threatened by Sandro Lisi when Lisi was in police custody this past fall. Councillor Ford maintains that the investigation by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director stems from his complaint about a fishing trip Blair went on with Andrew Pringle, a member of the Toronto Police Services board. However, the chair of the police services board has gone on record as saying that the complaint focused on the chief’s comments made during the infamous October press conference where Blair confirmed the existence of a video allegedly showing Mayor Ford smoking crack cocaine. Whichever is the case, Blair maintains that he is is not guilty of any misconduct.

Yesterday in Ottawa, the Big City Mayors’ Caucus was a mayoral meeting that would have made Regina George proud, as Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Quebec City Mayor Regis Lebeaume threw some subarctic temperature shade at Mayor Ford. “It’s a caucus, not a circus,” said Corderre. “I want to talk about issues and we didn’t talk to him. I didn’t shake his hand. I didn’t look at him.” Ouch! Lebeaume also said he did not want to associate with Ford at the meeting. “He can behave as he wants, I have no problem with that,” said Lebeaume. “But I don’t want to say to my people and my kids, that I’m working with a guy that is mayor and smoking crack.” Be sure to write that one down in the Burn Book…

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