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Morning Brew: Budget delivers 2 per cent tax rise, chief planner skeptical on Gardiner repairs, Ford heads home, another Chow poll, giving coal, and no snow this Xmas

Toronto's property tax will rise by 2 per cent - slightly more than expected - to raise an extra $1.15 million for community grants, arts funding, lawn bowling clubs, the Botanical Gardens, and student nutrition programs. Some of those issues are priorities for several councillors. Toronto Police Services Board also agreed to cut spending by $21 million to keep levels the same as last year. So far, nothing's been decided on the whopping Gardiner repair bill.

Speaking of which, Toronto's chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat says she's opposed to spending big tax dollars on the giant elevated crumblefest that is the Gardiner Expressway and would prefer to invest in transit instead. Keesmaat believes burying the road (an unbelievably expensive exercise) is also out of the question but can't be certain without the results of an environmental assessment that was shelved when Rob Ford came into office.

Rob Ford is apparently coming back from his not-at-all-strange vacation to who knows where this week. Ford was spotted leaving town on Dec. 10 at Pearson airport shortly after finding out he'll remain in office until his appeal of a conflict of interest ruling. It's apparently routine to keep the vacation habits of politicians secret.

We've heard this a thousand times, but another new poll says Olivia Chow would be the only mayoral candidate with the popularity to unseat Ford at a by-election. In all other scenarios without Chow the present incumbent comes out on top. Is that a concern? will Ford be re-elected?

Today is "Super Tuesday," a day of strike action by up to 20,000 elementary school teachers that will seriously disrupt classes in GTA. Action against the controversial Bill 115 - legislation that could introduce two-year contracts and effect striking rights - by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario is also taking place in Peel and Durham regions.

Over at The Star there's some fretting about what mean-spirited parents will give their badly-behaved little imps for Christmas in a world without coal. An alternative from a surprising number of countries around the world: a wooden switch. Coal is available, at a push, for $30 a sack from a farrier in Orangeville.

Also in bizarre news: beanie babies aren't the first class ticket on the gravy train they used to be.

The TTC has released its holiday schedule. Bus, subway, and streetcar service will run as normal except on Christmas Day and Boxing Day which will see a reduced, Sunday service. On New Year's Eve the TTC is free after 9pm and the subway will run until 3:30am. Don't forget on Jan. 1 the 2013 fare increase will take effect. Hooray Christmas cheer!

Also, it won't snow this Christmas either. Womp womp...


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

Photo: "Reflections on the future" by D O'Quinn from the blogTO Flickr pool.

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