How Toronto's Papers Covered a Drunken American Invasion
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How Toronto’s Papers Covered a Drunken American Invasion

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

The Olympics are over, and Toronto’s daily newspapers are cooling off during these final dog days of August by scouring the wires for strange local and international stories. As a result, this week’s Front Page Challenge competition is arguably more bizarre than the events recounted in the 1996 hit single “How Bizarre.” But which of the city’s papers will be in our face every time we look around for this week’s winner?


globe aug 23
The Globe and Mail


This morning’s Globe provides in-depth coverage of a mounting crisis that is placing great pressure on the country’s health care system: the fight against opioid abuse. In the last 20 years or so, doctors have been overprescribing painkillers (with the encouragement of the pharmaceutical industry), which has in turn led to more drugs being prescribed to fight subsequent addiction to painkillers. In the last five years, public program spending on medication to combat addiction has nearly doubled, and though per-capita usage of painkillers in the United States has been slowly declining, it is holding steady here in Canada. These costs—and the attendant issue of drug overdoses—are creating a vicious cycle for the health care system and society in general. Elsewhere on the front page, the Ontario government, under pressure in recent months to address its recent reliance on “cash-for-access” fundraisers, has decided it will tighten caps on political donations but won’t be banning the controversial fundraising practice after all—which will no doubt infuriate the opposition parties. In advance of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to China next week, the Liberal government is trying to repair the “hot-and-cold” relationship between China and Canada during the Harper years by committing to annual bilateral diplomatic meetings with the superpower. And in The Hague, an Islamist radical pleaded guilty in the International Criminal Court to charges of destroying ancient shrines in Timbuktu, the first war-crimes conviction of its kind.


post aug 23
National Post


A lot to unpack on the front page of the Post this morning. The paper leads with the story of a Jihadist who “deeply regrets” destroying the ancient Timbuktu shrine, with a photograph of the cultural wreckage. The rest of the stories are national: in Calgary, an officer involved in the shooting death of a young drug addict in a hotel room will not face charges in the incident, despite the recommendation of a police watchdog report to the contrary. As former prime minister Stephen Harper is expected to officially resign his seat in the House of Commons in the next few days, the Post reports on how he and former cabinet minister Jason Kenney stand to receive millions of dollars in pension plan payouts. Harper and Kenney were both harsh crusaders against the generous pension plans paid out to MPs when they first arrived in Ottawa as members of the Reform Party in the 90s. But they seem to be okay with such “obscene” payouts now—as is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which normally blows a gasket about this topic, but are pretty much ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ in this particular circumstance. Speaking of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, the Post isn’t particularly concerned about this weekend’s border security incident in Sarnia, where 1,500 boozy Americans in a massive inflatable raft regatta wound up being pushed by the high winds across the St. Clair River and onto Canadian land. Normally a mass influx of foreigners onto Canadian territory would be cause for concern for the Post, but not today! Worth noting as well that Post columnist Colby Cosh, who for a few hours over the weekend was raked over the Canadian Twitter coals for this mean tweet, tries to make amends by expanding on his intended point in a column explicitly praising the Tragically Hip while maintaining his resentment at the kudos CBC has been receiving for airing the band’s final concert commercial-free. “I’ve probably said too much about all this already,” he writes, “but I have a new question: would we have ever heard of The Tragically Hip if it had been up to the CBC in the first place?”


star aug 23
Toronto Star


The Star‘s main story is of the bizarre mass-arrival of drunk Americans accidentally floating over to Sarnia on dinghys and rubber tires with a great picture of the revellers. Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley joked: “The first thing I thought was that this is exactly what will happen when Donald Trump will be elected.” But the Star has a lot of exclusive reports this morning: the paper reveals Ottawa intends to send the TTC $500 million to help pay for dozens of system repair projects, including more elevator installations and accessible vehicles. (This infusion does not affect City Council’s directive for a 2.6 per cent cut in the TTC’s operating budget.) Also exclusive to the Star, a woman who lost custody of two of her daughters after failing a drug test is suing the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk lab and the Children’s Aid Society for millions of dollars (she claims the result was a false positive). And Robert Benzie reports on a strange Ontario Progressive Conservative bootcamp for young party activists that resulted in dozens of complaints from attendees; the details make it sound like a cross between Lord of the Flies and the Stanford Prison Experiment, with tales of shoe throwing, sexist outbursts during presentations, and attendees even being denied food and water in the seminar room. The PC Party of Ontario sent out an apologetic statement acknowledging the “feedback” they received from participants.


metro aug 23
Metro Toronto


Today’s Metro front page is a minimalist, low-key entry on a day full of crazy news, with the latest entry in their regular feature “Toronto’s Deadly Streets.” This instalment documents the second fatality of the year at Finch Avenue and Skymark Drive, with Councillor Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East) asking why the City is not moving more quickly to implement the recommended changes for safety measures. Metro also keeps a watch on the millennial beat with coverage of a report from credit bureau Equifax that reveals 18-to-25-year-olds have the highest delinquency rates on loans of any other age group, which puts young defaulters at a disadvantage in terms of eligibility for future mortgages or lines of credit.


Toronto Sun


sun aug 23

On this strange news day, the Sun has really delivered something special. The paper’s top story is “Song Bird,” documenting the home stretch for a young Canadian woman who has spent the last nine months travelling the globe with her family on a goodwill mission called “Around The World In 80 Anthems.” On Friday night she’ll be doing a victory lap in front of the crowd at the Jays versus Twins game performing the American and Canadian anthems. Today’s front page features her bursting into song in front of the Rogers Centre as she prepares for the big event. But even more significantly, the Toronto Sun does an apparent about-face on one of its main editorial planks this morning; after years of fighting for the little guy against the taxman, they seem to have thrown in the towel and instead offer their sincere “congratulations” to the people of Canada for now spending more money paying taxes than on food, clothing, and shelter. The Fraser Institute, the conservative think-tank that produced these findings, are probably facepalming this morning because it seems the Sun has totally misunderstood the meaning of this report and are instead offering praise to Canadians for prioritizing tax payments over basic human necessities. Has the Sun forgotten that government is supposed to work for the taxpayer, not the other way around?


This week’s winner: Zigging where the others zag has been one of the hallmarks of the Toronto Sun, and has been their magic formula to staying in first place on our weekly standings. This morning the paper pads its lead with another contemporary classic.

Newspaper Number of Wins
Toronto Sun 12
Metro 10
Toronto Star 9
National Post 6
Globe and Mail 6


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