Newsstand: October 14, 2014
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Newsstand: October 14, 2014

Thanksgiving is officially over, so let's now look ahead to Halloween. What will you dress up as? Or do you scoff at the idea of dressing up? If so, humbug to you, Halloween Scrooge! In the news: A Canadian-made Ebola vaccine goes into human trials, Lisa Raitt endorses John Tory for mayor, and today’s poorly constructed condominiums are tomorrow’s urban slum.

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Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced that human clinical trials have started for a Canadian-made Ebola vaccine. Developed by the Health Agency of Canada, the vaccine known as VSV-EBOV was sent to Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland for testing on approximately 40 healthy patients. At a news conference in Toronto, Dr. Gregory Taylor said that if VSV-EBOV is determined to be safe for human use, once the proper dosage is determined it will then be tested on a larger group. According to Taylor, health care workers who are handling Ebola cases in West Africa are likely candidates for this second round of human testing. Previous studies have shown the vaccine effectively prevents infection in primates prior to exposure, and also increases survival rates if administered shortly after infection. Results from the first round of human trials are expected to be available in December.

Yesterday, mayoral frontrunner John Tory racked up yet another endorsement from a Conservative MP as federal transport minister Lisa Raitt offered her support. Raitt told reporters, “Toronto needs John Tory. He has a track record of getting things done. He will be able to work well with all levels of government to produce results for Toronto.” Fellow mayoral candidates Olivia Chow and Doug Ford both scoffed at the endorsement, with Chow criticizing Raitt’s tenure as CEO of the Toronto Port Authority, during which a $6.8-million lawsuit was filed against a civic community group. Ford’s criticisms took a different route altogether when he said that as mayor he would bypass Raitt’s authority over the transportation portfolio, and deal directly with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to secure funding. Said Ford, “I won’t be going to Lisa Raitt for approval on funding of subways. I’ll talk to the prime minister directly.” The prime minister has yet to comment on Ford’s declaration, although one can arguably find a comment written between the lines of the fact that he has met privately with John Tory and not Doug Ford during the course of this mayoral campaign.

Poor quality condominium construction across the city has raised concerns that that these present-day money-pits are destined to become slums in the future. The highly publicized cases of glass panels falling from luxury condos like the Shangri-La and Trump towers are just the tip of the shoddy construction iceberg, since more than a dozen other buildings in Toronto have also reported falling glass. Some new buildings are also already reported to have water leaks and poor insulation, resulting in costly repairs by unit-owners, and lawsuits against developers. Ted Kesik, a professor of building science at the University of Toronto, says poor construction quality limits the average life cycle of a condo. “They are okay for the first five years, they gradually deteriorate by year 10 … and don’t even reach year 20 before significant remedial work needs to be done,” explains Kesik. “In 50 years these buildings may well become an urban slum.” While the provincial building code has been updated to stipulate that better glass be used in condo construction, a January 2014 report by Toronto’s auditor general found that municipal enforcement of building codes is virtually nonexistent. According to the report, two-thirds of open building permits across Toronto had no inspection for over a year, and only 30 per cent of the 3,735 reported code violations in 2012 were inspected. Real estate lawyer Audrey Loeb says that the municipal and provincial governments have not held developers accountable, and are largely to blame for what she calls a “woefully deficient” building code.