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Real City Matters

Join us Tuesday night for a discussion about municipal ethics in Toronto

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Newsstand: March 20, 2014

Apparently Rob Ford’s lawyer thinks that police will find a way to anonymously leak the infamous crack video before the upcoming municipal election to, presumably, squash the mayor’s chance at re-election. Nowadays, everyone is a conspiracy theorist. In the news: John Tory officially kicks off his campaign, Sarah Thomson announces her mayoral bid, the executive committee backs a BMO Field expansion, and backlogs to police background checks are getting out of control.

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Yesterday, John Tory officially launched his mayoral campaign with a speech at the Polish Combatants’ Hall. Tory touted his track record of leadership, and pledged to see both the Scarborough subway extension and downtown relief line come to fruition if elected. To perhaps make himself seem more relatable to the average Torontonian, Tory talked about his family’s long history in Toronto, while he also promised to lower tax rates and keep spending low at City Hall. Thankfully, he mentioned no gravy trains of any sort. When speaking about his competition in the race, Tory singled out Olivia Chow as a candidate who he said has a long record of polarizing voters, and summed up Mayor Rob Ford rather articulately by saying, “No one came to office with more goodwill than Rob Ford. And no one will leave office having exhausted more of that goodwill.” We feel you on that one, John Tory. We feel you.

In other mayoral candidate news: if anyone cares, Sarah Thomson is running for mayor. Again.

The City’s executive committee voted almost unanimously to give financial backing of $10 million towards the renovation of BMO Field, which will allow the Toronto Argonauts to move to a permanent home at the stadium. The executive committee has asked the city manager to make sure that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment—the company who operates the City-owned venue—help finance a study to assess possible transportation improvements to allow for better access to Exhibition Place. Oh, and since you were wondering, Mayor Rob Ford was the lone dissenting vote on the committee. Yes, he stands up for the taxpayer’s almighty dollar, even when it means going against his love of football.

The Toronto Police Services Board is trying to find ways to deal with perpetual backlogs to background checks for students and workers. Toronto Police currently receive upwards of 200 new requests for background checks on a daily basis, and at one point the backlog peaked at just under 17,000 requests last year. Students and job applicants are complaining that both school placements and potential employment opportunities are put at risk by check delays that can take months to complete. Currently, the RCMP only requires fingerprinting for some background checks that fall under the “vulnerable sector screening,” or VSS, category. However, it is expected that the RCMP will require all VSS checks to require fingerprints in the near future, which will severely impact the current system according to Police Chief Bill Blair. With increasing demands from employers, schools, and organizations for background checks, Toronto Police receive approximately 108,000 individual requests every year, some of which—like required checks for minors who would not have searchable criminal records—are simply backing up the system. Currently, Toronto Police quote an eight-week turnaround time on VSS checks, with temporary redeployed staff assisting to decrease current backlogs. These delays are not a universal problem within the GTA, though, with York Regional Police saying they complete VSS checks within two weeks, and Peel Regional Police quoting that they will complete them on the spot.

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