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Newsstand: August 27, 2014

According to an online sports media outlet, Toronto may be under consideration to get a second NHL team in future expansion plans. Why have one team that can’t seem to get it together to win a Stanley Cup when you can have two? In the news: council bans red-light right turns at the Leaside intersection where Georgia Walsh was killed, questions about whether or not John Tory’s seven-year SmartTrack timeline is realistic, the City is forced to pay the legal fees for a successful integrity commission complaint against Maria Augimeri, and a power outage in the east end has been resolved.

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Toronto city council has moved to ban right turns on the red light at the Leaside intersection of Millwood Road and McRae Drive. The motion was adopted following the death of six-year-old Georgia Walsh in July, who was struck by a van at the intersection. Residents of the area have had ongoing concerns about the community becoming a commuter route, with drivers using side streets to avoid gridlock and often travelling too fast in the area. Signs advising drivers of the new changes at the intersection will go up next week, before children begin using the intersection to walk to school.

Just how feasible is John Tory’s SmartTrack plan? In the real world that exists outside of flowery campaign promises, some experts say the seven-year timeline he has given his plan to create a surface subway on electrified GO Transit tracks is only slightly more realistic than mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson’s plan to give free Viagra to seniors. Metrolinx has already called the province’s goal of electrifying the entire Go Transit system within a decade an aggressive schedule. While there is reason to believe that the GO Kitchener line—one of the routes integral to Tory’s plan—will be electrified within five years, a host of other problems put the SmartTrack timeline in doubt. Karen Pitre of Metrolinx says that delivering the Tory-promised 15-minute service requires every station to operate the surface subway on two tracks, which means track expansion on the Barrie, Richmond Hill, and Stouffville GO lines. Then there is the matter of Union Station’s capacity. The hub of Toronto commuting is already pushed to its max, and adding faster, more frequent service will pose a major logistical problem. As if this wasn’t enough, a 12-kilometre stretch of track needed for SmartTrack that goes between Mount Dennis GO station and the airport corporate centre at Matheson Road has yet to be brought into even the earliest of development stages by the province. Oh, and then there is the fact that hydro approvals for track electrification are still pending, which alone could take another two years.

After a lengthy debate at City Hall yesterday, council voted 30-4 in favour of adopting the recommendations of integrity commissioner Janet Leiper that the City cover the legal costs of a successful complaint against city councillor Maria Augimeri (Ward 9, York Centre). In February, Augimeri was quoted calling political rival Gus Cusimano a criminal in an Italian-language newspaper. Integrity commissioner Leiper determined her comments were in breach of the code of conduct for council members and wrote in her report that a full apology should be issued, and that the complainant Cusimano was entitled to request to have his legal fees—up to $5,000—paid by the City, according to current municipal rules. Mayor Rob Ford put forth an unsuccessful motion that Augimeri should foot the bill for Cusimano’s legal expenses herself. Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) also put forth a motion that the policy itself be changed, so that the City would not be required to pay future legal fees for complaints to the integrity commissioner, but the motion was deemed to fall outside of the realm of debate.

Power was restored early this morning to approximately 6,000 customers in the east end after being out for 18 hours. The blackout came on the hottest day of the summer; it extended from Danforth Avenue to Queen Street East, and from Main Street to Luttrell Avenue. Toronto Hydro said the outage was caused when contractors fixing a water system damaged hydro equipment.

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