Morning Brew: Toronto tourism boom in 2010, the GO is closer to becoming electric, biking on the sidewalk is dangerous, Arnold doesn't like girly men, the Toronto Backyard Axe Throwing League gains in popularity, and Lee Lounge readies to open

A rising loonie, fallout from the "Great Recession," and burning police cars in a shattered city couldn't stop 2010 from being a record-breaking year for Toronto tourism. Statistics released today by Tourism Toronto show the city's hotels rented out more rooms last year than ever before. In fact, Toronto came in sixth on the top ten Yearly Occupancy of top North American Cities list (we're right below Boston and before Los Angeles and Vancouver). By comparison, Toronto was 16th in 2006, 13th in 2007 and 10th over the last two years. In light of our high dollar and the struggling U.S. recession, according to David Whitaker, president and CEO of Tourism Toronto, the city has successfully re-focused its image as a cultural hub that offers a variety of attractions appealing to "sophisticated urban travellers."

GO is closer to becoming electrified now that the Ontario government has announced it will pay for an environmental assessment for converting the link between Union Station and Pearson Airport to electric. Described as a "game-changing moment" by transit enthusiasts, the news comes shortly after Metrolinx's board of directors voted in favour of electrifying GO Transit's two busiest corridors, the Lakeshore and Georgetown South Corridor. However, experts say they cannot electrify by 2015 so the air-rail link will be run by diesel trains in time for those Pan-Am Games.

Did you know that biking on the sidewalk is both dangerous and illegal? Well, if you didn't, you will, as Councillor Karen Stintz's request for civic staff and Toronto Police to come up with a new approach to the issue was approved at the city's public works committee. Councillor Mike Layton, who frequently cycles to work himself, supported Stintz's motion but added one of his own -- calling for police to enforce existing rules against parking or stopping in bike lanes, and calling for the lanes to be properly maintained and cleared of snow and ice.

Former California governor Ah-nold Schwarzenegger lectured a Toronto audience of about 1,600 for an hour on Wednesday. On the challenges he faced governing a state hit hard by recession, Mr. Schwarzenegger explained: "Doing a budget is like making sausage - you don't want to watch it." He also spoke at length at how hard he's worked and dismissed "girly men" who are often afraid to go beyond the status quo.

Now these are definitely not girly men. This week's EYE features the new phenomenom that is the Toronto Backyard Axe Throwing League. What started as a backyard, inebriated activity in Little Italy has blossomed into a 60-member-strong and legal(!) spectator sport.


Photo by meg_hamel in the blogTO Flickr pool.

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