How Toronto's Papers Covered Christmas Trees and Chris Alexander

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How Toronto’s Papers Covered Christmas Trees and Chris Alexander

From Toronto's Deadly Streets to electoral reform to the killing of a local doctor.

In Front Page Challenge, Torontoist analyzes the best and worst of Toronto’s major dailies.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and as the festival season approaches and the year winds down, Toronto’s papers are taking a walk down memory lane this morning, updating readers on the latest news pertaining to some of their top recurring 2016 features, from Toronto’s Deadly Streets to the Panama Papers.


globe dec 6
The Globe and Mail


This morning’s Globe offers a portrait of Muzoon Almellehan, a 17-year-old Syrian girl, now exiled in London but who is still committed to her work of effecting change in her homeland. She’s encouraging young Syrians to stay educated and prepared for the work ahead in rebuilding the country after the war ends, and lobbying world leaders to support these peaceful goals, much like her contemporary, Afghanistan’s Malala Yousafzai. In Canadian news, the Globe reports Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is on a tightly controlled media tour of B.C. this week in the wake of the federal government’s approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project, a move that has angered environmentalists and First Nations communities. And Canada’s ethics and lobbying watchdogs are being pressured by the opposition leaders to probe the Liberal Party’s reliance on cash-for-access fundraisers.


post dec 6
National Post


The National Post is pretty Scroogey this morning, featuring on the front page a long vertical photo of the giant Christmas tree on Ste. Catherine Street in Montreal. Not only is it not the tallest Christmas tree in North America, but is also, according to the Post, ugly too. “It is not beautiful, there is not even a head at the top,” says one passerby interviewed by the Post. Further on the sourpuss beat, Terence Corcoran is not impressed by the federal government’s Buzzfeed-esque online survey on democratic reform, MyDemocracy.ca, which marches participants through a series of repetitive questions on proportional representation, MPs voting according to party policy or their constituents’ wishes, etc. And contrarian Conservative columnist Colby Cosh is okay with Kellie Leitch’s proposal to legalize the use of pepper spray for self-defense purposes. Cosh only wants it to be legal for women, not for men, because despite his opinion that “some feminists are attention-hungry zanies,” he’s heard enough stories from women about the dangers they’ve been subjected to in public that he believes they have a valid reason to have this special legal privilege: “Hell, I would consider extending it to very small firearms.”


star dec 6
Toronto Star


The Star follows up on two running stories from earlier in 2016: the kidnapping of Canadian Robert Hall in the Philippines (Hall was killed by his captors when their ransom demands were not met and before Canadian special forces could attempt an extraction), and the latest in the ongoing coverage of the Panama Papers. The latter features a Modigliani painting that was looted by the Nazis, which turned up as a claimed property of one of the offshore holding companies implicated in this ongoing investigation. And columnist Chantal Hébert goes HAM on Chris Alexander, the former lead singer of Wang Chung who found a second career as the immigration minister in the Harper government, and is now trying to cash in on Trumpmania in his bid to be the next leader of the Conservative Party. Alexander spoke at a rally in Alberta in protest of the carbon tax and as he raged against Premier Rachel Notley, the crowd started chanting “Lock her up!” Alexander did nothing to blunt the chants of bloodlust. For Hébert, the silence was further proof that Alexander—who, along with Kellie Leitch, was the spokesperson for Harper’s proposed “barbaric cultural practices” snitch line—is disqualified to be a political leader in this country.


metro dec 6
Metro Toronto


Chantal Hébert is so mad at Chris Alexander this morning that she makes the front banner of today’s Metro too, but the top story is a sad entry in the paper’s running feature Toronto’s Deadly Streets. News broke yesterday that the driver who hit and killed a mother of three as she stood on the sidewalk in November 2014 received a $1,000 fine and a six-month partial suspension of her driver’s licence, but the conviction is hardly justice as far as the family is concerned. “The maximum fine for careless driving is $2,000. It should be $50,000,” said the victim’s husband. “The number of pedestrians and cyclists losing their lives on Toronto’s deadly streets has been increasing and we need to find a better way to deter drivers.”


Toronto Sun


sun dec 6
The Sun continues to follow the lurid story of Mohammed Shamji, a Toronto neurosurgeon who stands accused of murdering his wife, Elana Fric-Shamji. Today’s entry, “My Surgeon Is In Jail,” from Christina Blizzard, features the effect this case is having on the doctor’s patients. The piece focuses on a woman in need of specialized surgery for her rare condition, and whose scheduled operation was cancelled this week. Blizzard manages to politicize this situation by criticizing Liberal provincial health minister Eric Hoskins for not paying the costs to bring an American neurosurgeon specialist up to Canada to perform this surgery. Also today, John Tory and his team visited the Sun office for a meeting with the editorial board, where he affirmed his promise that city departments will spend less money in 2017 and defended his vision of toll roads for the Gardiner and the DVP.


This week’s winner: Metro wins this week for its poignant portrait of a family’s loss and “what passes for justice on Toronto’s Deadly Streets.” The paper’s Page One social advocacy has been strong and commendable throughout the year, and with this victory, Metro is likely to be crowned the winner of Torontoist‘s Front Page Challenge 2016 standings, unless the Sun mounts a powerful comeback in the remaining weeks of December.

Newspaper Number of Wins
Metro 16
Toronto Sun 14
Toronto Star 11
Globe and Mail 11
National Post 7


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