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Newsstand: June 19, 2014

Apparently, a Toronto advertising company has relocated its office to a local bar for the duration of the World Cup so that employees can take in games, while still maintaining some level of productivity. Who doesn’t appreciate a company with priorities? In the news: Tim Hudak will step down on July 2, the TDSB elects a new chair and hits the pause button on a deal with the Confucius Institute, and Toronto Hydro gets a passing mark on its ice storm response.

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Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak seemed as cool as a cucumber on Monday when he announced his intention to stay on until a new leader was elected, but less-calmer heads prevailed yesterday as it was announced he will step down on July 2. In retrospect, Hudak’s days as exiting-leader did appear numbered after a loud revolt against him was launched earlier this week by several MPPs who were furious over his humiliating election loss. At least 13 Tory MPPs called for his immediate resignation, with veteran MPP Randy Hillier (Larnark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington) saying, “Every hour that he stays on will increase the fractiousness and the divisions between him and his caucus.” It is not clear who might step in to serve as interim leader, but more details are emerging about how upset Conservatives were with Hudak’s pledge to cut 100,000 public-sector jobs, which they argue cost them the election. At one point, sources say that Hudak’s campaign was considering a rather tasteless stunt, which involved handing out pink slips—yes, you read that right—to more than 200 employees at Ontario Power Authority, to signify that their jobs would be terminated if they were elected. While the idea was ultimately abandoned, it does give you the sense that this election could have gone way worse for the Conservatives, because nobody likes a metaphorical pink slip.

Less than a week after the sudden and unexpected resignation of former chair Chris Bolton, the Toronto District School Board has elected former vice-chair Mari Rutka as his replacement. After months of being linked to TDSB-related scandals, Bolton resigned last Friday, citing unspecified personal reasons as the impetus for his departure. This vaguely sounds like the way celebrity couples always cite “irreconcilable differences” when they divorce. Bolton has also said that he will not be seeking re-election in the fall for his current post as school trustee for Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina.

Just a few hours after Rutka was elected to her new post as TDSB chair, she was welcomed into her new position by being handed the reins to preside over a heated debate on Wednesday about a controversial partnership with China’s Confucius Institute. Some trustees complained that they were kept in the dark about the deal, and had been bombarded by letters and emails from constituents who opposed offering courses from the cultural organization that is often considered to be a propaganda machine of the Chinese government, since government officials directly oversee the Institute and its learning materials. A motion was passed to delay the partnership in order for the board to complete a more thorough investigation into the organization, so Confucius Institute courses scheduled for fall will not proceed as previously planned.

A new independent report by the Toronto Hydro Independent Review Panel reveals that the time it took Toronto Hydro to restore power during the 2013 winter ice storm was in line with industry norms, when compared with other North American ice storm and snowstorm responses. While Toronto Hydro may not have dropped the ball on power restoration, the report did say that better communication with customers who found themselves without power should have happened. The report claims that online outage status updates were frequently inaccurate, and there were not enough staff to field the surge of 397,500 customer calls in the days between December 21, 2013, and January 2, 2014. In total, 25 recommendations were made in the report, including calls for better co-operation with the City of Toronto, updates to emergency response plans, and contracting out a call centre to deal with higher-volume phone inquiries.

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