A man in in Oregon caused a three-car accident when he unleashed his inner-supersitious child and decided to hold his breath as he drove through a tunnel. No one was injured in the accident, thankfully, but it proves the old adage that truth is infinitely more absurd than fiction. In that spirit, here is the news: the TTC returns $47.7 million in unused subsidy, a whole lot of people have no idea what do to in the event of a nuclear power plant emergency, there was a lot more hazardous material at the base of the Gardiner than expected, and the pandas at the Toronto Zoo are really fussy eaters.
Believe it or not, the Toronto Transit Commission reports that it did not require $47.7 million in taxpayer subsidy last year. While the TTC cites reduced operating subsidy requirements as the reason behind the unused funds, it is possible that the full surplus will not stay in its change purse for very long. City policy stipulates that surplus funds at any agency, board or commission must be returned to the City. As it currently stands, two-thirds of the surplus could be funnelled into the TTC’s unfunded capital budget, with the remaining funds being put back into City reserves. This unexpected surplus is sure to rub some commuters the wrong way, since it comes after consecutive years of fare hikes and endless squawking from TTC officials that they never have enough money. Mayoral candidate and former TTC chair Karen Stintz says that the money should be used to freeze fares. A logical idea. However, TTC spokesperson Brad Ross says that any change to the current City policy which would allow the TTC to hang on to all that extra cash would need to be decided upon by City Council. In other words: don’t get your hopes up.
Pop quiz, hot shot! In the event of a nuclear power plant meltdown, what do you do? No clue? Well, you’re not entirely alone. According to a focus group report commissioned by Ontario Power Generation, emergency plan awareness amongst residents near both the Darlington and Pickering nuclear plants is quite low. On the one hand, the fact that locals have confidence in the safety of their plants is probably a good thing. Both have operated for decades with minimal incident. On the other hand, when things go wrong at a nuclear power plant, they can go really, really wrong. So, it would probably be a good idea to know a thing or two about emergency preparedness. The OPG says it recently issued an pamphlet on where to turn to for information and advice in the case of an emergency, and yesterday it launched a three-day mock emergency exercise with the participation of all levels of government, and close to 540 agencies. That may sound impressive, but environmental crusaders at Greenpeace are putting increased pressure on the government to hold public consultations while updating emergency response plans. According to Greenpeace, the government’s plans should encompass a wider radius than the currently prescribed 10 kilometres, which doesn’t really sound like a bad idea.
Let’s go from nuclear emergency straight to hazardous materials, shall we? City officials say they expected to find approximately 400 cubic metres of hazardous materials in the base of the Gardiner Expressway during median repairs from Dufferin Road to Ellis Avenue. In reality, they found 10 times that amount. Overnight work crews were delayed for almost two weeks while disposal sites were located for the materials, which included lead, salt, and zinc. Even with the delays caused by the 4,000-cubic-metre environmental footprint, officials say that repair work is still scheduled to be completed by the fall.
Finally, it costs the Toronto Zoo a small fortune to feed its two pandas because they are notoriously fussy eaters, according to Karen Tunwell, the facility’s senior zookeeper. The zoo imports their fare from Memphis, Tennessee for $500,000 each year. While the pandas only eat approximately 10 to 15 kilograms of food per day, they are presented with closer to 50 kilograms of bamboo on the daily because they prefer to meticulously select only the tastiest bits before tossing the rest. Suddenly, that toddler who refuses to eat vegetables at dinner doesn’t look like such a jerk anymore.