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Morning Brew: Judge to clarify Ford's byelection status, $505 M to fix the Gardiner, police charge TTC collector, Downsview Park in doubt, and meet the UP Express

A judge will officially confirm this morning whether Rob Ford can to run in a by-election if his conflict of interest appeal fails and his seat is declared vacant. Justice Charles Hackland is holding a conference call with lawyers on both sides of the case at 10 am. The city's legal staff believe Hackland's initial ruling bans the mayor from seeking office until 2014, a position Ford's team disputes.

Yesterday's proposed city budget floated a 1.95 per cent property tax hike provided $21 million can be shaved from the police budget. The $9.42 billion spending document also includes a massive $505 million to keep the crumbling Gardiner expressway standing over the next 10 years. A study shows the highway carries 28,000 people downtown during rush hour, the TTC brings 145,000 by comparison. Is the Gardiner worth its gigantic repair bill?

Rob Ford might not be winning any popularity contests downtown right now but he's still holding sway with the federal Conservatives. The National Post says Ford is still palatable for Don Valley West MP John Carmichael and even the PM himself. I'd hate to see what you have to do to get ditched by those guys.

Rob Ford's imbroglio has made it into the pages of The Economist. The piece, which slams the mayor's "bombastic, polarising manner." goes on to highlight council's knack for alienating the city's admirers and knock our "shabby and truncated subway that is unfit for the world-class metropolis Toronto claims to be." Ouch.

Mississauga, also included in Metrolinx's "second wave" Big Move announced yesterday, is at its own transit crossroads. An LRT line through the city on Hurontario to Brampton is on the cards but, like somewhere else I know, funding is still up in the air. According to The Star, some local councillors are afraid of backing the $500 million project for fear of losing their seats at the next election.

Police have charged three men in connection with a theft investigation at the TTC that alleges a collector stole $3,800 from a float. Cops also allege unions reps helped cover up the crime that appears to involve tampering with token rolls.

Toronto could use all the parkland it can get, so why is the 145-hectare Downsview Park being transferred to a Crown corporation that "manages, redevelops and/or sells" surplus federal properties? No answers yet, but apparently the future of the land is still undecided.

The annual tradition (or so it seems) of vandalizing the Christmas nativity scene outside Old City Hall has continued for another year. A protective window was smashed Wednesday and a sheep figuring decapitated. The display has been attacked 6 out of the last 7 years.

Finally, Metrolinx's rebranded Air-Rail Link, now the Union-Pearson Express, has returned to the Internet after vanishing on Sunday. Here's a jaunty little animation from the folks at Winkreative, the creative team behind Porter Airlines' distinctive branding.

IN OTHER NEWS:

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photo: "IMG_6325" by 416Pictures in the blogTO Flickr pool.


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