Shootings in Toronto up 38% from last year

A young, pregnant mother gunned down while waiting in a vehicle and a targeted midtown hit in what’s considered an “upscale” neighbourhood have punctuated what many residents have suspected: gun violence is up. Now data from the Toronto Police backs the assertion.
As of June 6, 2016 there have been 238 shootings, 66 more than the same time last year. The figure represents gun violence both with and without injury, but in all four measured categories the numbers are up relative to 2015. The sharpest spike is seen where the status of injury is unknown: a 283.3% increase from 18 to 69. Shootings involving death are up 122.2% (from nine to 20) year-to-date.

Amid the spray of bullets police and politicians find themselves under fire from the public to curb the gun violence. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti proposed a gun amnesty/buyback program that would allow residents to turn in their weapons for grocery vouchers without fear of prosecution.

READ MORE: Mayor John Tory asks federal government to tighten US-Canada border to stop the flow of illegal guns

The head of the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee, Cesar Palacio, wants the province to suspend the liquor licenses of businesses where illegal gun activity has become a chronic problem – effectively shutting them down by targeting a lucrative source of revenue. His motion passed with unanimous support from Council and includes “proactive enforcement measures” that Canada’s restaurant association fears would unfairly target some businesses.

“If someone is shot in a car you can’t say the car is the problem. It’s the situation,” protested James Rilett, Vice-President of Ontario operations.

And as the season shifts and temperatures rise, so too the sense of fear among some residents that this summer could mirror the violence in 2005, infamously dubbed the “Summer of the Gun.” But crime experts say it’s still too early to predict whether that pattern will play out. The recent media spotlight has focused police efforts and resources, and politicians of all three levels of government seem determined to collaborate on a solution.

These are the “worst” landlords and buildings in Toronto

Common areas cluttered with filth and debris, units with broken appliances and suffocating from poor ventilation, these are just some of the complaints plaguing buildings across Toronto. Recently took stock of the deplorable conditions and assembled a list of the “100 worst landlords in the city”, along with the buildings they manage.
The data was culled from complaint-driven Municipal Licensing and Standards inspections. “We didn’t see too much seasonality, there are complaints going on throughout the year,” said Yale Fox, creator of the website.

They’re slightly more skewed to heat, mold, bed bugs and roaches.

So far in 2016 the apartments at 104 – 105 West Lodge Avenue, owned by the Bnai Fishel Corporation, have been hit with the most violations: 119. But the worst building since 2014 is the 15-story apartment at 500 Dawes Rd. Inside common areas were soiled with mold and flooring in some of the units was breaking apart like puzzle pieces.

Landlord Carolyn Goodman is known to the local city councillor who’s been urging residents to lodge complaints about their living conditions. Goodman did not respond to numerous requests for comment. “We are pushing virtually every day to keep on top of her and the state of this building,” said councillor Janet Davis.

We should not have to do this as a city.

Many of the run-down, broken buildings are clustered in the downtown core and the east end; but it’s believed there are many more tenants suffering in silence elsewhere. “We only have data from wards of proactive city councilors who push the city to investigate buildings,” said Natalie Hundt, with ACORN Institute Canada.

But when it comes to landlords, as opposed to buildings, the worst in the city, is the city. Toronto Community Housing (TCH) was hit with 452 violations since 2014. The TCH, however, is the largest landlord in Canada. Having the highest number of complaints in aggregate isn’t unusual by virtue of that fact. “TCH has 2,100 buildings, just under 60,000 units, 50 million square feet of residential space, and most of our buildings are over 50 years old,” said spokesperson Lisa Murray. Rounding out the top five are Havcare Investments Inc. (174 violations), Bnai Fishel Corporation (170 violations), Arsandco Investments (145 violations) and Q REIT SUB LP (134 violations).

Relief may soon be coming for tenants living with substandard conditions. Toronto’s Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee recently pushed ahead a preliminary licensing framework that would force landlords to comply with bylaws or have their licenses revoked.

“We need to look at more tools that can provide more teeth and enforcement to make these landlords comply,” said Councillor Janet Davis. Backers of the move say they have a broad base of support at city council and are hopeful that licensing landlords will address the pattern of neglect in many of these buildings.

Uber did almost double the lobbying of the taxi industry to win key council vote

Every attempted contact made to city officials – whether by phone or email – must be registered according to city of Toronto lobbying rules. Data from the city reveals staff at ride-sharing company Uber, and those hired to push their agenda, made 2,058 attempts between January 2015 and April 20, 2016 – nearly double the number made by the taxi industry and its supporters.

Within the 15 months leading up to the key council decision that largely swung in Uber’s favour, there was a sharp spike in the number of attempted contacts on September 29. These were mostly emails Joshua Wozenilek, CEO of Dijoto Inc., sent councilors and staff. His company provides driver cashiering and client invoicing software for traditional taxi companies.

“Our recent lobbying efforts were focused on educating city councillors that UberX provides the same service as taxi companies and that they follow the same fundamental business model,” said Wozenilek.

We sought to ensure that they were not fooled by Uber’s politically misleading terms, such as ‘ridesharing,’ which actually means ‘car pooling.’

Uber Toronto’s General Manager Ian Black was by far the most prolific lobbyist in this highly politicized, acrimonious debate. He made at least 1,731 attempts to reach city staff and councillors through various means — more than the total number of attempts made by all taxi industry lobbyists and supporters combined. The company also relied on four lobbyists from StrategyCorp Inc.: Stephen Adler, Emily Naddaf and principals John Duffy and John Matheson.

Amarjeet Chhabra, Executive Director of the iTaxiworkers Association, was the most aggressive lobbyist for the taxi industry. He reached out to city staff or met elected officials 268 times. Government relations/PR firms Sussex Strategy Group and Navigator Inc. also worked to sway votes in the industry’s favour.

As for the targets of Uber’s aggressive lobbying, a key member of mayor John Tory’s staff, Luke Robertson, was the focus of their attention. Tory’s Senior Advisor of Council and Stakeholder Relations was approached 70 times. Municipal Licensing and Standards Executive Director Tracey Cook and downtown councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam were the next most lobbied individuals at City Hall.

The taxi industry focused their efforts on councillors Jim Karygiannis, Janet Davis and Giorgio Mammoliti. All three were vocal supporters of leveling the playing field to ensure taxi drivers could maintain their livelihoods in this new disrupted reality of ride-sharing.