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Newsstand: June 2, 2014

It's a beautiful Monday morning (if that's possible), and here is some news to go with your coffee: John Tory has an idea for transit, the provincial minimum wage increased for the first time in four years, Justin Bieber told a racist joke, and a majority of Canadians seem to approve of the "Nordic model" of dealing with prostitution.

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John Tory has a plan for transit and a snappy title to go with it: SmartTrack. The plan would see two existing GO train lines electrified and 22 stops added, and would extend westward all the way to the airport. It would be a short-term (well, shortish-term) solution to Toronto’s desperate need for a second east-west subway line, since Tory projects the line could be operational within seven years. Reviews have been mixed: a civil engineering professor at the University of Toronto is enthusiastic about the plan, while Richard Soberman, past chair of U of T’s civil engineering department, is skeptical. Tory’s rival candidates have latched onto his perceived flip-flopping, as Tory was believed to be in favour of a prioritized downtown relief subway line.

Yesterday, Ontario’s minimum wage was bumped up for the first time in four years, from $10.25 to $11. While that’s good news, it’s not good enough. Working full-time at $11 per hour will still leave someone 16 per cent below the provincial poverty line of about $23,000 before taxes for a single person. Groups like the Workers’ Action Centre and others are pushing for a $14 minimum wage with future increases tied to inflation, but the closest any provincial party comes to that goal is the NDP, who pledge to increase the minimum wage to $12 over the next two years. All three major parties plan to index future minimum wage increases to inflation. The minimum wage for liquor servers went up as well, from $8.90 to $9.55.

Video footage of Justin Bieber telling a racist joke surfaced over the weekend, prompting an apology from the 20-year-old pop star. The video, taken five years ago, shows Bieber telling the joke over someone telling him not to do it; the punchline of the joke is a racial slur.

A majority of Canadians support the “Nordic model” of dealing with sex work, according to a Department of Justice survey. The model, widely used in Nordic countries (hence the name), makes selling sexual services legal but the purchase thereof illegal; the intention is to lift the stigma from the person providing sexual services and place it on the person purchasing them instead, although in practice this model tends to perpetuate the stigmatization of sex workers. The Nordic model has its critics, many of whom say countries use other laws to continue to penalize sex workers. It also seems that criminalizing the purchasing of sex makes citizens more likely to want the sale of sex criminalized as well. Right now, most Canadians don’t want that to happen. The federal government is fast approaching the December deadline for a new law dealing with prostitution, a deadline imposed by the Supreme Court after it struck down three prior laws dealing with sex work.

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