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From shootings, to life-saving heroes to traffic tie-ups, Mayor John Tory has a lot to say.

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In a weekend “conversation” with Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington, the civic leader addressed some of the most pressing issues facing the city.

There was another terrible shooting of a child in north Toronto but this time the 12-year-old survived — thanks to what Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner described as the “heroic efforts” of the Toronto paramedics. Do you think we sometimes take what they do for granted?

“The paramedics are unsung heroes every day and especially during the pandemic. Day after day, they attend at events which are tragic, whether it is the terrible loss of a two-year-old in a parking lot collision where they tried everything to save a young life, to an unacceptable incident like Falstaff where the victim of a senseless act of gun violence was likely saved by their actions.

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And, of course, that isn’t even taking into account literally hundreds of strokes and heart attacks and seniors in distress where they help people with professionalism and compassion. I should also say during the pandemic they have done one of the most challenging assignments for us which has gone somewhat unnoticed: Operation Homebound T.O., which has seen them, with help from our health partners, vaccinate almost 9,000 people who couldn’t leave home.

The paramedics took the vaccines to them, and it was a huge and complex assignment. They have done it and as of last week, very close to 100% of these frail individuals, mostly elderly, had received both vaccinations. Another thing that I am totally struck by when I go to the paramedic graduation: the amazing education and life experience they have. You just sit and listen to their education, qualifications, and experience, and you are in awe. As you might expect, every one of them has done something else unusual in their lives, which also explains why they are so good at what they do for us. With all of the debates which understandably take place, we do sometimes forget how lucky we are to have the first responders we do, among the best in the entire world.”

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The year 2021 has seen another summer of deadly shootings in Toronto, and in many cases, the shooters are people who are on bail conditions. As mayor, what can you do to pressure the provincial government to stop letting so many dangerous people before the courts out of jail?

“The bail issue is frustrating. The federal government really has done some good work working with us on crime prevention and the province has been very supportive of the police. But no one has really picked up the challenge of reforming it, including … judges who I know have a difficult job to do but seem a bit disconnected from the incredible toll being taken by people who get charged with possessing and using a gun over and over again, and before the police officer who arrested them has finished a shift, they are back on the street.

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Defence lawyers criticize me for talking about this, pretending it isn’t happening. The police chief (James Ramer) can give you multiple examples where people have been released on bail two and three times on gun charges within a short period. These people are thumbing their nose at the law as they pass by the window of the police station, where the police officer who arrested them for the second or third time on gun charges hasn’t even finished filing the report. We need someone to step up and, through a combination of the law and the operation of the courts, establish the principle that if you are found with a gun more than once, you just lose the right to be out in the community while you await your court date.”

There is now a robust debate over the traffic jams created because of the ActiveTo program thanks to Councillor Michael Ford calling for it to end? What is your view on this?

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“As a big city of 3 million continues to grow and more and more people live in dense highrise settings, including lots of families, we simply must as a city find new and better ways to give them a place to be more active. Finding new places to have parks is challenging, but taking some of our roadways — and places like Exhibition Place — and making them available to pedestrians and cyclists some of the time can work and has worked. I have stated very clearly that I would like to see a program like this become permanent, just like I would like to see the same for CafeTO. But we are also monitoring the numbers, impact on traffic, number of cyclists, number of pedestrians, etc, as never before, so we can answer the questions like ‘where, how often, for how long,’ thoughtfully and backed up by facts.”

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On Aug. 12-15, Yorkville will conduct a pilot project of closing one of its streets to vehicles. Will this end up being permanent?

“We have some discussions underway with the local residents and businesses and the local councillor (Mike Layton). There seems to be a generally positive inclination to try something. We have to sort things are out like access for residents who live on the affected streets. I think virtually everyone would agree the closure of Bellair has been a huge success as part of the CafeTO program.

Another side benefit of this is that it would interrupt the round the block over and over again circus of the people with deliberately noisy motorcycles and cars. It is a real challenge to enforce the law here, as only a police officer can stop a vehicle. This is anti-social behaviour which disrupts the lives of residents and visitors. Closing one street would interrupt the circuit. (Tory’s wife) Barb’s theory has always been that these are people who are making up for other inadequacies, and she could be right as it would be difficult to come up with any other explanation for this really inconsiderate behaviour which is literally ruining lives of others.”

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