Yonge and Queen

Morning Brew: TTC delays open-payment decision, Smitherman (sort of) walks out on debate, Ford defends his health, Toronto hires doormen, Ritz-Carlton opening delayed

The councillors on the TTC board have decided to defer awarding a contract to an open-fare provider until after the municipal election. At a meeting last evening, the board decided to go ahead and choose a provider, but is leaving the contract details for December 15, the next time the board will meet. "This is the end of term," Joe Mihevc, TTC vice chairman, said. "It's not appropriate for us to be making decisions that tie the hands in any way of an incoming council." The decision came just hours after the board received a letter from Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne advising it to "carefully consider" its plans to pursue an open-payment system as to avoid "wasting money on duplication." So, capitulation to provincial pressure, or just logical thinking?

George Smitherman made a rather hasty exit from the second of two debates he attended yesterday after being confronted by angry protesters about the eHealth scandal. Smitherman left the Toronto Community News debate not long after running into protesters with signs around their necks questioning Smitherman's role as provincial health minister. The Smitherman camp maintains that he had to leave due to previous commitments, but his opponents, predictably, are jumping on the move. "What does it say about Mr. Smitherman's credibility when he literally runs from his record?" Rocco Rossi wrote in a release. "The mayor has to answer to the people of Toronto and Mr. Smitherman showed today that he refuses to be held accountable."

Continuing with the mayoral race circus, Rob Ford was forced to defend his health last night after being prodded by an audience question at a debate. Dr. Marvin Kay said to Ford, "I'm a physician and I look upon you as a possible patient. I'm concerned about your weight. Do you think you'll be able to handle the entire four-year term?" In front of a paralyzed crowd, Ford acknowledged that he has some pounds to lose but that he is generally healthy. He added that he thought the comment was offensive, saying, "I thought that only came from my opponents." Stay classy, Toronto.

To make sure everyone can cast a ballot, the city has hired 700 doormen to open doors to polling stations on October 25. These "customer service clerks" will be situated where there are no automatic doors available so that each station is fully accessible. "If it doesn't have a push button or the door's not automated, we will have someone there to open the door for all electors," said elections director Bonita Pietrangelo. "They're not our buildings, so we can't retrofit them [with automatic doors]." The total costs for the hires is a little over $100,000.

The Ritz-Carlton hotel on Wellington Street West, which was due to open in December, is now aiming to open its doors in January after a pipe burst on the fifth floor. The 267-room Ritz was originally supposed to have been ready in the summer, with reservations already been made for guest stays and special events. Construction started in 2007.

Photo by Paul Flynn in the blogTO Flickr pool.


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