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Newsstand: February 7, 2014

It's Friday, and everything is all right. Except for the transportation between Union and St. Andrew stations this weekend, because that's off. Some more news: Rob Ford has overseen a continued decline in local community housing, residents favour a public-friendly overhaul of the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway, and a Catholic high school student has lodged a human rights complaint.

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Despite Mayor Rob Ford’s hands-on reputation in some of Toronto’s lower-income areas, and his penchant for “touring” community housing complexes to discuss tenants’ problems, the wait for both community housing and community housing repairs has grown during his tenure. While 142,555 people were waiting for a spot at the beginning of Ford’s term, now there are 167,472 people on the list. The repairs backlog has increased from $647 million in 2011 to $862 million today. Not all of these numbers can be blamed on Ford alone, to be sure: Ontario was hit harder than most of Canada in the global recession and, like the States, has been slow to recover. But for a man who builds political capital by interacting with poor people and claiming other politicians won’t, Ford clearly has not actually made their lives a policy priority. He has fought asking the federal and provincial governments for repairs funding and has even advocated the mass sale of some housing units to finance repairs for others.

In a forum on the future of the Gardiner Expressway, residents clearly favoured a move to demolish the eastern strip and replace it with a tree-lined, eight-lane boulevard. The plan, which would cost approximately $470-million and take three years, would be far cheaper than the other options, and take less time—repairing the current freeway would cost $870 million and take six years, and turning it into an elevated road would take eight years and cost over $1 billion. The boulevard also seemed to be the preferred option for urban design aficionados, who liked the open concept and bike lanes. One resident who dissented from the majority, Peter Wood, mentioned Toronto’s constant traffic congestion. Wood favours keeping the current freeway, and said he doesn’t want to see more traffic on the 401 and the QEW.

Mississauga French Catholic high school student Christopher Karas has filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Karas alleges ongoing, systemic discrimination based on his sexual orientation and detailed for the Toronto Star several incidents, from being taught in class that gay people should not be allowed to adopt to reading material that included a father beating his gay son, with no attendant discussion of that aspect of the material. Karas was even prevented from putting up posters bearing the quote, “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential,” from LGBT icon Harvey Milk. The tribunal has yet to respond to Karas’ complaint, but his lawyer is confident it will accept the case. If it does, Karas is seeking a letter of apology, $25,000 in damages, and seven “public interest” remedies, including gender-neutral washrooms and mandated sensitivity training for both teachers and students.

There will be no service between Union and St. Andrew stations this Saturday and Sunday.

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