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Morning Brew: 2010 Operating Budget Fee Hikes and Service Cuts, Provincial Funding of TTC, Feline Cesspool in Etobicoke, Whole Foods Expansion, Mounting Household Debt

Photo: "Let our lap dancers..." by Loozrboy, member of the blogTO Flickr pool.

What's happening in the GTA (and sometimes beyond):

The City of Toronto's operating budget was launched yesterday, and as expected, there will be fee hikes including a 4% property tax increase, minimum $350 billing for false alarm calls that result in emergency response, and a one-time $50 fee to register children in City-run recreation programs. There will also be service cuts, including reduced hours at city courts and libraries, reduced overtime work hours and bylaw enforcement, and hiring freezes. According to Mayor Miller, city assets won't be sold, but "you can't have a great city for free." (See embedded videos below). Most of the declared mayoral candidates have weighed in on the budget issue in armchair quarterback style.

When will we see the City and Province deal with the problem of the grossly underfunded TTC? Maybe next year. Talks are ongoing, and hopefully we'll see a renewed commitment from the provincial government to put more money into our lagging and struggling transit system.

How anyone could let things get so out of control is the question. An elderly woman and her adult daughter, living together in an Etobicoke bungalow, shared the space with 28 cats (along with thousands of cockroaches and a staggering amount of festering urine and feces). After repeated attempts, the Humane Society finally gained entry and removed the animals. No charges are pending, but if you ask me, someone needs a serious head check.

Organic supermarket chain Whole Foods plans to double its presence in the GTA by adding two new stores: one in Square One shopping centre in Mississauga, and one in North York's Hullmark Centre. The move comes as larger, more ubiquitous chains like Loblaw and Sobeys move to increase their downtown markets, primarily on the form of boutique stores in condominium-dense areas.

Canadians like to spend. Too much. Even through periods of recession. The average household debt in 2009 was over $96,000, and the ratio of debt-to-income stood at 1.45 - the highest recorded in the 11 years the Vanier Institute of the Family has been compiling this data. How these folks are going to send their kids to university is a concern, and will likely spell more debt for young people as they require loans to finance their schooling. Rinse, repeat.


Mayor Miller's opening comments at the Toronto 2010 Operating Budget Launch:

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