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Newsstand: August 21, 2014

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was kicked up a notch when former president George W. Bush denied the challenge, labelling it un-presidential. He offered to make a donation to the cause, but thankfully his wife, Laura Bush, had a bucket of ice water at the ready to dump over him, thus fulfilling the wishes of many an American liberal. In the news: An approved fee-hike for Vulnerable Sector Screening checks, a bike lane closure on the Prince Edward Viaduct, Karen Stintz may or may not still be in the mayoral race, and approval for the Raptors’ practice grounds at Exhibition Place.

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Yesterday, a proposal was approved by the City’s executive committee to hike fees for Vulnerable Sector Screening (VSS) checks from $15 to $20 for volunteers. VSS screening fees for employment purposes were also approved to be increased from $50 to $65. A new, quicker VSS check was also put forth to council. For a fee of $65 for volunteers, or $110 for employees, people could be granted this newly minted priority access to background checks. If approved by city council, the new fee structure would be put in place on September 1. This year alone, Toronto Police Services is expected to receive 67,897 vulnerable sector screening requests—46,431 for employment purposes and 21,466 for volunteers. Toronto Police recently approved the hiring of 13 permanent positions to help address the volume of requests submitted to the VSS reference check program in order to avoid any backlog, as applications are expected to surge in advance of the 2015 Pan Am Games and world junior hockey championships.

According to the Toronto Cycling Twitter feed, a city contractor has improperly closed the eastbound bike lane on the Prince Edward Viaduct. While a construction notice previously dated July 4 was erected to inform commuters that the bridge’s bike lane would be closed as part of ongoing repairs over the next year, this specific bike lane closure appears to be the work of Bell Canada, who are required to patch manhole covers in the area. While there is no current timeline for the repairs to the viaduct to be completed, the closest available detours are the Gerrard Street bridge or the pedestrian bridge at Riverdale Park.

When former Toronto Transit Commission chair and current mayoral candidate Karen Stintz did not make a statement for or against the recently approved TTC plan to improve service, rumours began to circulate that her campaign had abandoned ship. Yesterday, when no one answered the door at her campaign offices on Eglinton Avenue, the National Post began to ask whether or not Stintz was dropping out of the mayoral race. Stintz’ press secretary Lauren Souch said that she had “nothing to say about any speculation.” In non-PR speak, this means she likely has something to say on the matter, but nothing yet prepared.

Plans for a $30-million practice facility for the Toronto Raptors to be built on the west-side grounds at Exhibition Place have been primarily approved by the City’s executive committee, providing that the team’s owners cover the cost of new parking at the city-owned site. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.—the company that owns the Raptors—will also pay for both construction and operating costs at the site, while renting the facility on a 20 year-lease. MLSE says it will begin breaking ground in November, with hopes that the facility will be completed by the time the Raptors play host to the 2016 NBA All-Star Game.

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