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Newsstand: August 4, 2014

Worried about catching Ebola? Worry not: Canada's healthcare system and the way in which the virus spreads (contact with bodily fluids) make an outbreak here highly unlikely. And with that out of the way, here's some long-weekend news. Toledo residents are out of drinking water because of algae blooms on Lake Erie, Rob Ford was a no-show at a campaign event he promised to attend, and smart meters in Saskatchewan causing house fires may be used in some Toronto municipalities—there's no way to know just yet.

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Around 400,000 people in Ohio have been told they can neither drink nor bathe in their tap water, which comes from Lake Erie. Fortunately for Ontario residents, the algae that has produced a toxin in Toledo’s water supply hasn’t affected Ontario’s drinking water. The blue-green algae bloom that’s contaminating Toledo’s water could bloom anywhere, according to Raj Bejankiwar, a physical scientist with the International Joint Commission. It feeds off water pollution, especially phosphorous from farm fertilizers, and is right now so concentrated in Toledo’s drinking water that boiling the water doesn’t make it safe to use. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has said it has a “rapid response” system to identify problematic algae blooms.

Despite his reputation as a populist with special appeal to alienated voters, Rob Ford was nowhere to be seen at a Sunday afternoon campaign event in Thorncliffe Park. Ford’s team had confirmed his appearance (which they initially denied), but with no warning or explanation, Ford instead attended Ribfest in Scarborough and an event in Nathan Phillips Square. Other mayoral candidates managed to attend and promised employment initiatives, better after-school programming, and affordable housing to area residents. Thorncliffe Park is home to many immigrants and has more unemployment and poverty than other areas of Toronto. It also boasts one of the best voter turnout rates in the city, making it an important campaign stop.

Smart meters for detecting utility usage have been linked to fires in Saskatchewan, and there’s a possibility Ontario residents have the same brand of meter on their homes. Meter purchasing is done at the local level in Ontario, and there’s no province-wide database of which municipalities are using which types of meters. At this point it’s also unclear whether the fires were caused by the meters themselves or by their installation, but Beckie Codd-Downey, a spokesperson for Ontario energy minister Bob Chiarelli, said, “We continue to study the actions of Saskatchewan and determine if we have any cause to consider the same action.” Toronto Hydro says it does not use the meters, which are made by Sensus Corporation.

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