Newsstand: January 15, 2014




Newsstand: January 15, 2014

Sometimes I like to imagine that Jeff Bridges is the mayor of Toronto. In the news: The GTAA is still in hot water over last week's shutdown at Pearson, some travellers are still missing luggage following last week's circus of flight delays at Pearson, Premier Wynne won't be meeting with Mayor Ford any time soon, and the unemployment rate in Toronto is pretty darn high right now.

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The Greater Toronto Airports Authority is facing calls for an internal overhaul following last week’s temporary shutdown of Toronto Pearson International Airport that halted all international traffic and caused massive flight delays. At the municipal level, leaders are growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of transparency regarding the governance of the private not-for-profit agency, which is overseen by 15-member board—all of whom are appointed by either the federal or provincial governments, or the GTAA itself. Board members have even been critical of the organization as of late, with chairman for the Halton Region Gary Carr saying that the agency needs to improve its customer service in the wake last week’s controversy. Howard Eng, CEO of the GTAA says an action plan will be released publicly following an internal review. If Eng’s attempt at reassurance sounds vague, that is because it totally is.

The GTAA can, at least, take some comfort in the fact that Air Canada is also getting a healthy dose of criticism lately as the airline continues to work through a luggage backlog that has seen some passengers get stranded without their bags for upwards of a week. After the shutdown at Pearson, Air Canada told customers that there were some 6,000 pieces of luggage that had been separated from travellers as massive delays and flight cancellations threw operations at Pearson through the wringer. A spokesperson for Air Canada says that as of Tuesday, the majority of this backlog has been cleared, although customers still waiting for their bags to materialize would likely beg to differ.

As the province begins to assess municipal requests for cleanup funding following last month’s ice storm, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s office has confirmed that it rejected Mayor Rob Ford’s request for a sit-down meeting to discuss disaster relief further. Premier Wynne’s spokesperson says that the premier will continue to liaise with Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly for all matters disaster-related. While we know that city council voted on Monday to ask the province to declare the city a disaster area in order to help qualify for relief funding programs, it remains to be seen whether or not Mayor Ford’s refusal to declare a state of emergency during the ice storm will be a factor in whether or not the province decides to grant the request.

Want some more fun news? Well, yesterday we also learned that Toronto’s unemployment rate is the second worst in all of Canada’s urban centres. The Toronto region is currently sitting at an 8.4 per cent jobless rate, according to Statistics Canada. But things actually look even worse when you consider the city of Toronto on its own—according to a report delivered to the city’s economic development committee, the unemployment rate within the city is closer to 10.1 per cent. While this is the first time in a decade that Toronto has had an unemployment rate higher than Windsor, the city has been slowly rising above the national average since 2002. This is partly due to the lack of stability in the United States economy, which has had an impact across the whole province. Other influencing factors include a weak manufacturing sector and a slow-down in new home construction.