As the year draws to an end, we take a look back at some of top Toronto news stories of 2009:
• Tornado: The ferocious storm system that swept across the GTA on Aug. 20 caused two tornadoes in Vaughan, killed one person in Durham and left a path of destruction with downed power lines, flipped cars and homes without roofs. Dozens of flights at Pearson airport were also delayed due to the accompanying thunderstorms.
• Civic Workers Strike: When Toronto’s civic workers, including garbage collectors, went on strike on June 22, just as the summer weather heated up, few thought it would last 39 days. And as the garbage piled high at designated dropoffs in parks across the city, leaving acrid, rotting trash to bake in the sun, residents got more frustrated. When the labour dispute was finally settled between the city and CUPE Locals 79 and 416, all Torontonians breathed a sigh of relief.
• End of an Era for Miller: At the end of September, David Miller announced, to many people’s surprise, that he would not seek re-election for a third term as Toronto’s mayor in 2010. Miller, who has served as mayor since 2003, cited the need to focus on his family and spend more time at home with wife Jill and teenaged children Julia and Simon.
• Stephanie Rengel Murder Trial: The two teens accused of the shocking murder of 14-year-old Stephanie Rengel on New Year’s Day 2008 went on trial in March and both were found guilty.
In July, Melissa Todorovic — the 15-year-old behind the brazen stabbing of Rengel — was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for seven years. In September, her former boyfriend, David Bagshaw — who was 17 when he stabbed Rengel six times, leaving her to die in the snow outside her home — was sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.
• Lousy Sports Teams: Where shall we start? The Blue Jays finished the 2009 season with a losing record of 75 wins and 87 losses, repeating their fourth-place finish from 2008, while the Argonauts failed to make the playoffs finishing the season with a 3-15 record.
Needing a win on the last day of the season to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, Toronto FC instead laid an egg, losing 5-0.
Once a lacrosse powerhouse, the Toronto Rock missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
And the foundering Maple Leafs started the 2009-10 season with one of the worst starts in franchise history.
• TIFF: The 35th annual Toronto International Film Festival in September was bigger, better and glitzier than ever.
The 10-day festival screened 312 films from 64 countries and attracted some of the most prominent names in filmmaking to our city, including George Clooney, Jennifer Garner and Clive Owen.
• Michael Bryant: When news broke that former attorney general Michael Bryant had allegedly dragged 33-year-old cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard to his death following an altercation on Aug. 31, it brought the issue of road rage to a whole new level for Torontonians. On Sept. 1, Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death. He subsequently stepped down as the CEO of Invest Toronto. His criminal court case is scheduled to begin Jan. 22.
• Swine Flu Death: On Oct. 26, 13-year-old Evan Frustaglio died at St. Joseph’s hospital of the H1N1 virus. His death sent waves of shock and fear across the city and thousands of people lined up for hours at vaccine clinics around the GTA to get their shot in the following days.
• eHealth Scandal: In May, it came to light that spending at eHealth — the government agency in charge of creating electronic health records for Ontarians — was out of control. The following month, eHealth’s CEO, Sarah Kramer, was fired amid the controversy surrounding the spending scandal whereby millions of dollars were allegedly wasted on underused computer systems and untendered contracts.
In October, hours before the Ontario auditor’s scathing report was made public, Ontario Health Minister David Caplan, resigned.
• Mariam Makhniashvili: The case of the missing 17-year-old has baffled both police and the public for nearly three months since Makhniashvili disappeared on her way to school on Sept. 14.
On Oct. 9, her backpack was found a few kilometres away, and on Dec. 2, the RCMP announced a reported sighting of the teen on Oct. 27 in Alberta. In the exhaustive search for the teen, Toronto police took unprecedented measures, canvassing thousands of homes in the teen’s Forest Hill neighbourhood, questioning every student at her school and seizing dozens of computers from a public library.