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Morning Brew: social media and the mayoral race, contraband cigarettes, road tolls coming?, Toronto's 20-minute makeover, a ticketing blitz on Front Street

Newsflash! Social media will play a prominent role in the 2010 mayoralty race! Thanks goes to David Rider at the Toronto Star for this nugget of novel information. Kidding aside, it is interesting to track each candidate's social media acumen and to wonder why George Smitherman is doing so little of anything at this point in the campaign.

When not on Facebook or Twitter, it would seem as though a significant chunk of teenagers are smoking contraband cigarettes. With roughly 60,000 Ontario students purchasing illegal smokes, health organizations are pressuring the federal and provincial governments to take preventative measures more seriously. Where to start? With the First Nations, of course. Because they sell cheap cigarettes by the bagful on reserves outside of Toronto, much of the blame for the popularity of these cigarettes is being laid at their door. The problem with this theory, however, is that it disregards the complexity of the problem. Kids buy cigarettes at corner stores and coffee shops, not on reserves. As such, the owners of these establishments have to be held accountable as well.

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion isn't about to please many commuters with her contention that road tolls or other taxes are likely necessary to fund transit expansion. "The money has got to come from somewhere. So you have to look at all the sources of revenue and then choose the one that will give the best result and the least impact on the citizens....So tolls have got to be looked at," conceded McCallion yesterday. Although no concrete plans to institute tolls are in the works, Toronto mayoral candidates Sarah Thomson and George Smitherman have hinted at their willingness to consider them.

Should you lament the proliferation of litter that always seems so visible in the Spring, you might consider taking part in the City's annual 20-minute makeover, which takes place on April 23. But I tend to wonder if this program isn't just one big PR stunt with the Home Depot, McDonald's, Glad Canada and the Toronto Sun all taking the opportunity to preach "green" values without actually doing much of anything. Am I wrong? Is this actually an altruistic and effective initiative?

Oh, and if you're planning on picking someone up at Union Station in the near future, you'll want to be careful where you (double) park. Citing traffic congestion on Front Street, Toronto Police started a ticketing blitz yesterday which saw 36 tickets handed out to cabs in the area. Not a cabbie? Well, with all the complaining about being targeted, it wouldn't be a surprise to see others get ticketed for the same infractions over the coming days.

Photo: "Caught in the headlights..." by chewie008~, member of the blogTO Flickr pool.

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