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Real City Matters

Join us Tuesday night for a discussion about municipal ethics in Toronto

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Newsstand: August 7, 2014

Yesterday Canada’s Wonderland announced that it would be retiring SkyRider, the first-ever stand-up roller coaster built in the country, in order to make room for new development. Nothing lasts forever. In the news: David Soknacki vows to cut $65 million from the police budget, west-end residents voice opposition to a proposed homeless shelter, a Roma family makes a plea for special permission to remain in Canada, and a major gas leak on King West.

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At a news conference, mayoral candidate David Soknacki vowed that if he is elected, he will cut $65 million from the police budget. According to Soknacki, simply making a move from 28- to 24-hour shifts could save the city approximately $25 million. Mike McCormack, the president of the Toronto Police Association, says that Soknacki’s claims don’t hold water. He called the proposed change to shift work structures as being “airy fairy,” which presumably means that he doubts it will either be possible or produce the savings that Soknacki claims it will. Other mayoral candidates support the idea of combing through the budget but have yet to assign any dollar amounts to their commitments. Both Olivia Chow and Mayor Rob Ford said that they will look for savings, with Ford confirming that he would not meddle with the salaries of front-line officers. Meanwhile John Tory says that he plans to address the police budget at a later point in time. Mariana Valverde, a criminology professor at the University of Toronto, says that is likely that opportunities for savings do exist within the budget, including the reassignment of desk functions to less-expensive civilian staff and reforms to the mounted unit.

More than 500 community members in the west end have signed a petition to prevent a 50-bed homeless shelter from being opened at the intersection of Vaughan Road and Oakwood Avenue, arguing that it would likely lead to more drug dealing and criminal activity that already plagues the area. The shelter, which is operated by the Cornerstone Baptiste Tabernacle, was originally housed on St. Clair Avenue but was shut last month after its previous building was sold. The sale of the building is conditional on the approval of the new location, which is set to go before the Community Development and Recreation Committee on August 14, where Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) believes it will be sent to council for a vote.

A family of Roma human rights activists who say that they came to Canada in order to flee attacks for their work in Hungary have been living in a Toronto church for the past 32 months fearing deportation as controversy swirls around their denied application for refugee status. Jozsef Pusuma and his wife, Timea Darozci, were subpoenaed by the Law Society of Upper Canada to testify at a disciplinary hearing for their former lawyer, Viktor Hohuts. Hohuts was accused of professional misconduct by 17 Roma families—including Pusuma and Darozci—who all filed complaints over inaccurate and incomplete work that negatively impacted their refugee status applications. Both Pusuma and Darozci think that if they leave the church to attend the hearing and testify, they will be apprehended by Canada Border Services Agency and deported. Their new lawyer, Andrew Brouwer,​ has requested a special permit for the couple to remain in Canada with their young daughter Viktoria so that they can participate in the hearing, at which they hope the Law Society will uphold their complaints against Hohuts, which would allow for their refugee status applications to be re-evaluated.

Yesterday a portion of King Street West between Brant Street and Portland Street had to be evacuated and shut down after a construction crew hit a has line, causing a natural gas leak. At around 1 p.m. a backhoe operator hit the line, which had Enbrige crews working until the late afternoon to fix.

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