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Global issue 20

Inbox New Toronto mayor aims for stability over celebrity John Tory took up his duties as Mayor of Toronto on 1 December following the city’s mayoral election at the end of October. The moderately conservative Tory won 40.2 per cent of the public vote, on a record 60 per cent turnout, and replaced the controversial Rob Ford, who had registered as a candidate but was forced to pull out of the race in September after being diagnosed with an abdominal tumour. His brother, Doug Ford, ran in his place and came in second (33.7 per cent), followed by Olivia Chow (23.2 per cent). The mayoral office had been stripped of the majority of its budget and powers by the city council in November 2013, making the role essentially a symbolic one. The restrictions were imposed on Rob Ford in the wake of revelations regarding his alcoholism and repeated substance abuse. He is the subject of several criminal investigations, after Toronto newspapers obtained photos and videos of him being drunk in public, driving while intoxicated and smoking cocaine. Nevertheless, he refused to resign and, despite the controversies and his ill health, he stood as Ward 2 city councillor and was elected. The powers that the city council removed apply to Ford only and have now been restored to the mayoral office. Where Ford came to stand for volatility, John Tory’s election is an attempt at stability. Tory previously contested the 2003 mayoral election and, after losing, spent several years as the leader of the Progressive Conservative © Alex Guibord Creative Commons by ND 2.0 Party of Ontario. He has been keen to stress that his term in office will signal the end of the city’s political turmoil and the beginning of a new era. His post-election speech clearly addressed citizens’ concerns, even if he didn’t specifically name Ford: “Torontonians want to see an end to the division that has paralysed City Hall the last few years.” Equally, he is eager to curb the media’s delight in and the celebrity status surrounding the mayorship. To that effect, he has refused all requests to appear on late-night talk shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live. Nigeria promises to defeat Boko Haram In his New Year’s Address Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to focus efforts on defeating militant group Boko Haram. “I want to assure you that the terrorists will not get away with their atrocities: they will not win; they will be routed,” he said. Just hours before the President’s address, a New Year’s Eve service at a church in Nigeria’s north-eastern city of Gombe ended in disaster when a suicide attack left eight people wounded. While no group has admitted carrying out the attack, it is widely held that Boko Haram is responsible. The militant Islamist group began a campaign of violence in northern Nigeria in 2011 with a series of bombings in Bauchi, Zaria and Abuja. In 2013 the government imposed a state of emergency in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in an attempt to ward off the militants. But the group ramped up its attacks in 2014, carrying out raids on towns and villages in which hundreds of civilians were captured. Now, following a series of attacks in the cities of Gombe and Bauchi during December which claimed the lives of at least 26 individuals, the President has reaffirmed his commitment to defeating the rebels. “We will bring justice to the savage terrorists known as Boko Haram,” he said. “They will be defeated.” New Mexico crash sees space race slow down The US$218.5 million USA spaceport that was built to host rocket flights for space tourists is casting around for new customers in the wake of the Virgin Galactic crash. The October accident, which cost the life of one of the pilots, has seen Virgin’s plans to begin commercial flights in early 2015 suffer a serious setback. Spaceport America, built by the state of New Mexico at taxpayers’ expense, is the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, designed with the needs of the space tourism business in mind. With Virgin Galactic its main tenant, the facility had been preparing to cater for the launch of commercial flights soon, but now most of the buildings will continue to sit unused. The bulk of the construction work on the site was completed in 2012. New Mexico Spaceport Authority director Christine Anderson said: “The plan has always stressed diversification in revenue streams. It’s Spaceport America, not Virgin Galactic Spaceport. We were thrilled to have Virgin Galactic as an anchor tenant, but we’ve always sought other customers.” The authority, which manages the facility, faced a grilling by the state’s House of Representatives at the end of 2014 about how it plans to bring in revenue now that it looks like space tourism is unlikely to become a reality for several more years. The authority has asked for further funding from the state to help plug its budget deficit and pay for a new hangar. While it waits for the commercial space industry to take off, the spaceport has been able to make use of its futuristic buildings as a backdrop for filmmakers, with Land Rover and Kawasaki both having filmed commercials at the spaceport. n See page 1 for comment 6 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global


Global issue 20
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