Hi there! I’m in the process of dealing with some personal matters, and will be back posting everyday on August 1st!!!

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For months, the man police are accusing of gathering the ingredients to create volatile explosives mused – in person and online – about testing the capabilities of Toronto’s G20 security.

Friends say Byron Sonne talked about obtaining the “chemical precursors” to explosives “in an attempt to purposefully raise flags and get ‘the man’ to take a look at me… but no luck,” as he wrote on an online forum for HackLab T.O. last fall.

It would seem “the man” looked.

Toronto police entered his Elderwood Drive home in Toronto’s tony Forest Hill neighbourhood with a warrant Tuesday; Mr. Sonne is now accused of obtaining the ingredients to make triacetone triperoxide – a powerful and volatile explosive used in 2001 by thwarted “shoe bomber” Richard Reid.

Mr. Sonne appeared in court in handcuffs on Wednesday, charged with mischief, possession of explosives, weapons and of intimidating “justice system participants” – the latter a rare charge associated with threatening or harassing judges, jurors and lawyers.

His bail hearing was pushed back to Saturday because the police investigation is still continuing. A publication ban has been placed on the proceedings.

International wire services called the charges an alleged “terrorist plot” leading up to Toronto’s weekend to host the world leaders.

But those who have worked with the 37-year-old computer security expert and mountain-biking aficionado say there’s no way he would pose a threat to public safety.

“He’s a security professional for a living. And … getting an idea of whether security is actually effective is something security people are trained to look into,” said Seth Hardy, a former member of HackLab T.O., a community “hackspace” and collective of technologically interested people based in Toronto’s Kensington Market.

Mr. Hardy thinks Mr. Sonne’s desire to look into summit security was “absolutely” related to his arrest.

“There’s no way he was plotting on doing harm. There’s no way he was building bombs. He’s just not that kind of person.”

The evening of May 5, Mr. Sonne was one of about a dozen people sitting around a table in a Queen and Ossington basement at one of the inaugural meetings of the Surveillance Club – a group of academics and activists interested in the study of the way people are watched.

Jesse Hirsh, a Toronto broadcaster and Internet activist, remembers Mr. Sonne talking animatedly, and with the expertise of someone who knew his way around security systems, about his plans to listen in on security force’s radio chatter and broadcast it on Twitter.

Activists did something similar when Pittsburgh hosted the G20 last fall. When police arrested two New York men and accused them of aiding protesters’ criminal activity by posting police movements on Twitter, it sparked a wide-ranging free speech case.

The Toronto police started to encrypt their radio system this year, to make it more difficult for someone to listen in.

Mr. Hirsh notes Mr. Sonne also talked about testing just what it would take to trigger a security response. He spoke about it as a means of studying the “security theatre” around the summit.

Mr. Sonne is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), requirements for which include at least five years of full-time, professional experience in information security best practices and a written endorsement from an existing CISSP.

His certification has been suspended “pending resolution of this matter,” said Dorsey Morrow, general counsel for the organization responsible for the certifications.

Julian Dunn, a digital designer who worked with Mr. Sonne designing security software at FSC Internet in 2003, remembers an affable guy who was politically left-leaning and had a penchant for electronics and mountain-biking in the Don Valley.

Mr. Dunn was shocked to learn of the charges against his former colleague, whom he last saw at a party a few months ago.

Criminal lawyer Alan Young can only remember two occasions in the past decade when the charge of intimidation of justice system participants was used. They’re designed to prevent intimidation or harassment of people like jurors and judges, but are seldom used, he said – “we don’t live in Colombia.”

And now, Sonne’s common-law wife has also been charged with explosives and weapons offences.

Toronto police said Thursday that Kristen Peterson, 37, has been charged with possession of an explosive device and possession of a dangerous weapon.

“Part of the investigation indicated that there was evidence to link her in the investigation and therefore as part of that evidence, what was uncovered, she was charged,” said Sergeant Tim Burrows of the G20 Integrated Security Unit.

Sgt. Burrows said there is “no risk to public safety at this time” and that the investigation is ongoing. He would not release additional information, saying police do not want to “hinder the court process”.

Toronto Police and Ontario Provincial Police officers executed search warrants at properties in the townships of Tiny and Lake of Bays on Wednesday. Police have also searched the home belonging to Ms. Peterson and her partner, 37-year-old Byron Sonne, in Toronto’s tony Forest Hill neighbourhood.

Ms. Peterson is expected to make a court appearance later Thursday. Mr. Sonne’s bail hearing was pushed back to Saturday. A publication ban has been placed on the proceedings.

The area, straddling the Annex and Yorkville, with a smidgeon of Summerhill, is roughly bounded by Bloor St. W. on the south, St. George St. on the west, the CN Rail line to Avenue Rd. and then Roxborough St. W. on the north, and Yonge St. on the east. This is obviously Toronto’s richest area, home to most of “our” politicians, and the ONLY area of the city, where the residents get on-street permits marked “transferable” that can be passed from vehicle to vehicle. It’s transferable so you can use it for a visitor, a tradesperson, a rental vehicle . . .” and doesn’t cost the 500 people who have one anything extra.

Started in 1998 or 1999 (they’re not even sure themselves) as a “pilot” project, it’s still in effect!!!

And it’s right on my birthday. This really make me want to leave this city for it’s duration to avoid this whole debacle of a Harper photo-op. The G20 summit runs June 26-27.

The Security fences will go up in two phases. The outer phase, the yellow zone, is a pedestrian- and traffic-controlled area around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Union Station and the Rogers Centre. The innermost security zone, the red zone, will wrap around  the convention centre and other nearby buildings. Residents and workers who need access to the yellow zone can  ask for a registration card, which will require submitting photo ID and personal information to the summit office. During the summit weekend, the red zone will be sealed by a  three-metre fence and five levels of security screening.

And our money, well it’s already gone, and lining the pockets of local officials, and you better believe me we’re not  getting it back. The only thing we have left is our collective will and voice, which we must use use to condemn this disgusting display of citizen abuse.

Access to the innermost security zone during the G20 weekend will be controlled by a 3-metre-high fence and five levels of security screening. If that disgusts you, then you’re not alone. But the real problem lies in the fact that this meeting  will not accomplish anything meaningful. It’s basically a junket-give-away in preparation for the Seoul summit. There is absolutely no upside whatsoever. Wasting money like this is  this is how governments get out of control. Harper is addicted to these photo-ops, and this is the biggest photo-op of all. The Government is spinning this a triumph of safety and security, but they’d all be safer if they never came here in the first place. Harper loves to wine-and-dine, and look good doing it, but I predict this summit will come back to bite him on the ass.

Donsview Park Proposal

Wonder what ever happened to plans for Downsview Park, Union Station or that aquarium at the CN Tower? So have we. Here is an update on 10 major initiatives either planned or approved around Southern Ontario:

RIPLEY’S AQUARIUM

PROJECT: A proposal for a 14,000 square-metre Ripley’s Aquarium at the base of the CN Tower is going ahead.

UPDATE: The city’s planning department is hopeful that final approval from city council will come in August. At issue is a technicality with the bylaw that pertains to the land, which currently does not specify it can be zoned for an aquarium. Several other changes to Ripley’s original proposal, such as the shape and exact positioning of the structure, will also need to be made.

“We’re quite happy with the work (Ripley’s) has been doing to meet our requests,” says Linda Macdonald, a planning manager with the City of Toronto. As for changes to the bylaw, “it’s not a huge change in terms of what could have been built there; we just want the language to specifically state that it could be zoned for an aquarium and the location will be moved just a little bit to the east at the base of the CN Tower. We will report to the full council for the August meeting so we can get approval before the fall election.”

UNION STATION

PROJECT: The $640-million renovation of Union Station, which will feature two new GO Transit concourses, a new 14,860-square-metre retail level below, refurbishment of the station’s main hall and a new sheltered pedestrian corridor connecting to the PATH network northwest of the station.

UPDATE: The project is underway and on schedule, but you probably won’t notice much work yet. “We’ve mobilized construction and we’ve issued small contracts for delivery items and prework,” says Richard Coveduck, director of design and construction for the City of Toronto who is overseeing the project’s construction. “We’re on schedule.” The massive project, which is getting about $300 million from the federal and provincial governments, is set to be completed in 2015.

NEW COMMUNITIES OF OAKVILLE

PROJECT: Heralded in 2006 as a development breakthrough featuring high density with a natural habitat and plenty of recreational space, Oakville’s ambitious plan is steadily coming to fruition. The 3,100-hectare development from Dundas St. to Highway 407 between Tremaine Rd. and Ninth Line will eventually house 50,000 new residents and include a workforce of 35,000.

UPDATE: The first residential subdivision, at the northeast corner of Dundas St. and Neyagawa Blvd., was approved in March and earth has been moved to make way for more than 500 units. On the other side of Neyagawa, the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex, with four hockey arenas, soccer fields, a cricket pitch and a skateboard park, will open in September.

Zoning is also in place for a new hospital to be built at Third Line and Dundas St., but Oakville’s senior planner, Robert Thun, says it is hard to say when the rest of the development will be scheduled. “A lot of the infrastructure issues, sewage and roads, things like that, are up to Halton Region to move on.”

WASAGA BEACH

PROJECT: A $400-million Wasaga Beach development that was to include hotels, condos, restaurants, a large conference centre, an indoor amusement park, and a monorail to connect it all.

UPDATE: The plan was scrapped after a fire in November 2007 razed the area where the development was to take place. Twenty-one buildings were lost, which made the planned redevelopment of the area along the town’s popular main beach next to impossible. But the summer resort community on the shores of Georgian Bay did get the WasagaDome. Unfortunately, the multi-use entertainment facility at the middle of Beach Dr. that opened in July 2008 is one of six properties owned by Beachfront Developments, which recently went into receivership. The Dome was just renamed Waterfront Dome under new management and, because of the recent financial problems, is not expected to open for the season until July 1.

COXWELL SEWER PIPE

PROJECT: To tunnel a new path for a massive sewer pipe that serves about 750,000 residents in central Toronto. After a huge crack in the underground pipe was discovered using a robotic camera in 2008, the city decided bypassing the problem area was the best approach. The bypass portion begins adjacent to the parking lot for Taylor Creek Park, and will run beneath the ravine before it connects to the existing sewer at Coxwell Ave. and O’Connor Dr.

UPDATE: The project’s construction phase began about two weeks ago. The total length of the bypass will be about 500 metres and it is to be operational by January once it is connected to the pipe in the existing tunnel. Cost for the operation is $29 million, but the city says that is a fraction of what it would cost if the cracked pipe collapsed and sewage flooded into the Don River.

TORONTO ISLAND TUNNEL

PROJECT: Plans are still alive to build a pedestrian tunnel under Lake Ontario to the Toronto Island Airport, but government may not be involved. The Toronto Port Authority abandoned attempts to get federal stimulus funding for what in 2009 was pegged to be a $38-million project. The TPA determined the 2011 deadline for construction completion to qualify for the funding could not be met.

UPDATE: The Port Authority has now turned to private investors to raise the cash, in what it is calling a P3 (public-private partnership) initiative. The process is underway with public consultations, a private environmental assessment and search for a private partner to put up at least half of the $45 million now budgeted for the project. The TPA has stated it will raise the other half and will implement a “user pay” system to generate revenue.

GARDINER EXPRESSWAY

PROJECT: Plans for the eastern part of the Gardiner Expressway remain in limbo; however, Waterfront Toronto and the City of Toronto have devised an extensive environmental assessment process that includes a public consultation initiative to find a solution.

UPDATE: Four possibilities are being considered for the stretch of the Gardiner from the Don Valley Parkway to Jarvis St.: Removal, replacement, enhancement or maintaining what is already there. Waterfront Toronto is conducting an extensive environmental assessment to determine how best to integrate plans for the Gardiner with the rest of the developments in that area along the waterfront. To gather input, at least 16 public meetings are planned across the city. Details can be found at the Gardiner consultation website: www.gardinerconsultation.ca.

DOWNSVIEW PARK

PROJECT: Much has happened since the original “Tree City” design won an international competition about 10 years ago to convert 230 hectares of the old military base in North York into one of the world’s largest urban parks. Unfortunately, not much activity has involved actual development.

UPDATE: The land is still owned by the federal government, but the Downsview Park board has come up with a new plan, unlike the original, which saw almost all of the land used for green space and recreational facilities. Instead, the new plan includes residential and commercial developments across the north end of the park, part of the east and the southwest corner. In total, 7,300 residential units will be built, along with commercial and mid-size industrial space. About half of the overall area will be kept as park space or used for recreation. The board is in the final stages of negotiation with a company to develop almost 1,000 residential units in the Stanley Greene neighbourhood in the southwestern sector. Plans have hit a snag, however, as city council has presented a long list of changes to the board’s plan for the area (because the land would be sold to a private developer, the city would take over jurisdiction from the federal government).

Until requests from the city have been dealt with, the park’s development is on hold.

EAST BAYFRONT

PROJECT: East Bayfront development, between Lower Jarvis and Parliament St., and Lake Shore Blvd. to Lake Ontario, which includes 6,000 new residential units, 3 million square feet of commercial space and a continuous 1 kilometre promenade along the lake.

UPDATE: Waterfront Toronto will be holding two grand openings this summer to mark the early phase of the 10 to 15 year development plan for the East Bayfront project. Sherbourne Park (to be renamed July 16 after an open vote on Torontoist.com) and Canada’s Sugar Beach, set to become one of the country’s few urban beaches, are on schedule to open this summer. Construction of the Corus Quay entertainment building is also on schedule to open around the middle of this summer. The 280,000 square metre building on the shores of Lake Ontario, near the foot of Lower Jarvis St., will house Corus Entertainment’s studios.

EXHIBITION PLACE

PROJECT: A major facelift of Exhibition Place began in 2008 with the $49 million renovation of the Automotive Building, which was completed in October 2009 and reopened as the Allstream Centre. Major work still on the go includes reconstruction of the Princes’ Gates, the Direct Energy Centre and the Better Living Centre. A 320-suite convention hotel is also still planned.

UPDATE: Exhibition Place board chair Dianne Young says the various construction projects, with a budget of $24 million, are all ahead of schedule, with the first phase of work on the gates (a $6 million refurbishment) to be done by the end of May. The rest of the projects are to be completed by next spring. A $100 million, 320-suite convention hotel to be built by New York-based HK Hotels has passed a financial review by the city; if a site plan is approved, ground could be broken as early as the end of 2011.

Metrolinx has been decapitated.

CHECK OUT LOCAL EATS

So, the city bungles another construction project. Surprise, surprise. This one is particularly annoying because it didn’t need to happen to begin with. Why do we need the swankiest area of Toronto to be made even swankier, while dozens of streets, with large amounts of LOCAL traffic sit in disrepair. And what about all those empty, city-owned lots that are on every fifth block, never mind those, lets just remake Yorkville. I understand that that’s where the tourists go, and as we all know Toronto is obsessed with presenting itself as a world-class city, so I can understand why these projects get the go ahead without much consultation, but my problem is, that  they also go ahead without much planning!  4.5$ Million over-budget, and behind schedule, sadly, to me,  that screams Toronto, and it’s what we’re quickly becoming known for. Ironic, isn’t it, for a city trying to create a modern, streamlined image (if not an actual modern, streamlined city).

The major facelift of the stretch of Bloor St. that’s home to some of Canada’s swankiest retail stores is $4.5 million over budget.

A city staff report going to the public works committee next week lists 11 reasons – mostly unforeseen construction problems – for the 23 per cent overrun, which has left the “Mink Mile” torn up and its beautification at least a year behind schedule.

But more than half of the overrun – $2.5 million – is pinned on Toronto Hydro, including the need to sink 14 hydro “chambers” beneath the street, and problems that forced the delay of the work between Yonge St. and Avenue Rd.

The Bloor Street Transformation Project is a joint effort of the city and a local business improvement group. The city fronted the money and the business group is to repay the original cost estimate of $19.7 million.

The city is expected to have to pay the extra costs.

Kyle Rae, the local councillor who sits on the board of the Bloor Street Business Improvement Area, recently told the Star that that “the project management of this transformation has been disappointing, frustrating and such a struggle.”

There have been so many problems with the installation of wide granite sidewalks, planters and new trees that Rae has called the project a sequel to the bungled St. Clair streetcar right-of-way project.

The Bloor St. transformation is now expected to be finished by the end of this year.