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Newsstand: March 28, 2014

What's that, weather forecast? Sunday is supposed to be "sunny and seasonable"? Things might finally be looking up. In the news: analyzing Rob Ford's billion-dollar claim, cracking down on unpaid interns, and calling on rail companies to publicly disclose information about the transport of hazardous materials.

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Mayor Rob Ford’s claim to have saved taxpayers $1 billion in his first term has come under fire before, and it did so again at the first televised mayoral debate of the campaign. Following accusations that Ford’s claim is inaccurate and misleading, the National Post spoke to city bureaucrats. According to Post reporter Natalie Alcoba, “they seemed to back up the mayor, but it is complicated.” City manager Joe Pennachetti explained that Ford has definitely not saved taxpayers anywhere near that much money. What he has done is oversee a number of cost reductions and “efficiencies.” Eventually, Pennachetti said that Ford “can say that I saved a billion dollars, I had budget savings over the four years.” Other City politicians maintained their skepticism over the numbers. City councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale), for his part, said that when the City expects to pay one price for a service and ends up getting a lower price, that should not count as any form of savings: it is simply the result of an incorrect estimate.

As of yesterday, the province’s Ministry of Labour has started cracking down on the magazine industry’s now-standard practice of hiring unpaid interns. Given the choice between paying their current interns and letting them go, Toronto Life (also owned by Torontoist‘s parent company St. Joseph Communications) and The Walrus chose to end their interns’ jobs (two interns will stay on at The Walrus, as they are receiving academic credit for their work). The ministry also said it will be focusing on the magazine industry with renewed vigour this spring. Unpaid internships are understood by many to create an economic and class barrier for entry into professions that employ them, since people who can afford to work full-time for free are likely either to be well-off or to have affluent parents willing to pay their expenses.

City councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) wants rail companies to disclose to the public information on hazardous materials being transported on their lines. “We are simply asking for basic information…like the types of hazardous materials and the volume—for all residents, not only those who live along the railway lines,” Matlow told the Toronto Star. The number of train cars carrying crude oil through Toronto has increased from around 500 in 2009 to about 140,000 last year.

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