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Real City Matters

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

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Newsstand: April 16, 2014

Can someone tell me if Coachella is over yet? I’m tired of having my eyes offended by celebrities prancing around dressed like idiots. In the news: the west end gets hit with a blackout, Olivia Chow leads the mayoral race, a fringe mayoral candidate criticizes the police budget, and Toronto marijuana grow-ops are disappearing.

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As if it were being visited by the ghost of ice storms past, the city’s west end was hit last night by a massive blackout that began at around 9 p.m. Thousands of Toronto residents from Lake Shore Boulevard all the way north to the 401, as well as areas of Mississauga, were temporarily without power. The TTC was forced to suspend subway service briefly between Jane and St. George stations due to signal problems caused by the outage. Toronto Hydro says the issue stemmed from a Hydro One transmission problem.

Olivia Chow currently leads the Toronto mayoral race, ahead of Mayor Rob Ford and John Tory according to the latest Forum Research poll. The automated telephone poll included 882 Toronto residents; it shows Chow with 34 per cent voter support, Ford with 27 per cent, and Tory with 24 per cent. Both Karen Stintz and David Soknacki are lagging considerably behind, with just 6 per cent and 4 per cent support, respectively. So, are these numbers actually important, or is this just fodder for the 24-hour news cycle? Well, this is the first poll conducted that asked respondents to choose their next-favourite candidate, and 35 per cent of Chow’s supporters opted for Tory. Tory supporters were split down the middle with 21 per cent each opting for Chow and Ford as second picks. This question revealed the loyalty of Ford Nation—82 per cent of people who said they would vote for Ford were unsure of their second preference.

While Ari Goldkind may not be a household name in the current mayoral campaign, the criminal defence lawyer is indeed a candidate in the race. On Monday, Goldkind was critical of Toronto’s $957-million police budget, speaking out against increasing police salaries. With 90 per cent of Toronto Police Service’s operating budget going to police salaries and benefits, Goldkind says police are vastly overpaid. He cites the fact that a new member of the force will make $63,000 annually, which is approximately $15,000 more than what a new recruit to the New York Police Department would make. Goldkind also suggests that outsourcing certain services—such as background checks and evidence collection—could reduce costs.

Toronto Police are busting fewer and fewer pot grow-ops—just 87 in 2013, compared to 245 in 2010. While the drop does coincide with stricter penalties for growing marijuana that came into play in 2012, a local defence lawyer says they actually have little to do with the downturn in the Canadian pot economy. Lawyer Peter Zaduk claims the death of Toronto’s pot export industry is due to a drastic fall in pot prices over the past few years, coupled with U.S. growers becoming more proficient at cultivating their own hydroponic marijuana. It’s a pretty sad sign of the times when the drug trade starts feeling the pinch.

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