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2013-12-31 at 9:00 AM

News of 2013

By Leith Dunick,
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Choosing the year’s top 10 stories wasn’t easy in 2013.

There were plenty of candidates and lots to keep news junkies on their toes. Without further adieu, here are the 10 stories we thought grabbed the biggest headlines over the past 12 months:

A spectacular blaze led to the closure of the James Street Swing Bridge in October. The century-old structure went up in a ball of flames and CN railroad officials, who own the bridge, say it could be months before the span, linking the city and Fort William First Nation, opens again. Train traffic over the bridge has resumed. Local leaders are looking into the possible replacement of the bridge.

Thunder Bay Police came under fire from a group tying itself to the Internet hacker group Anonymous. In January the group threatened to reveal embarrassing and potentially damaging inside information about police officers if TBPS didn’t step up its efforts to solve an alleged racially motivated sexual assault of a First Nations woman that took place the month before.

The Thunder Bay Power Generating Station found new life in November when the province ended more than a year of speculation and announced the soon-to-be-mothballed plant would be converted to biomass and operate as a peak power plant. The province had threatened to close the facility rather than spend $400 million to convert it to natural gas.

The much ballyhooed Ring of Fire project showed it wasn’t invincible in November when Cliffs Natural Resources announced the U.S.-based company was suspending development of a massive chromite deposit. Cliffs officials said too many obstacles stood between them and realizing the development. The province said the Ring of Fire is not dead, but it didn’t stop opposition parties from blaming the ruling Liberal government and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle.

Workers constructing the south-side’s new consolidated courthouse got an unexpected June day off when a crane collapsed across the roof of a lower section of the building, which is expected to open some time in 2014. Ministry of Labour officials took over the investigation.

The Canadian Lakehead Exhibition board of directors found themselves in the spotlight in September over the issue of free booze after meetings. Board member Linda Gambee went public, saying she feared some of her colleagues were getting into their vehicles afterward and driving home drunk. Gambee was subsequently removed from the board and stepped down from her long-time post as head of the Christmas Cheer campaign.

In March, a First Nations teenager admitted he’d lied to police when he accused officers of stranding him outside city limits, a move that intensified already strained relations between police and the Aboriginal community. The chief, at a news conference, accepted the teen’s apology and said no further action would be taken.

Area waterways turned tragic on a weekend in August, leading to the drowning deaths of three people in two separate incidents. A cliff-diving misadventure along the shores of Lake Superior took the lives of Kevin Spade, 32, and Melanie Fox 26. Jordan Desfosses, 31, drowned on the Kaministiquia River while canoeing with another adult and two children.

MP Bruce Hyer, who quit the NDP caucus in April 2012, crossed the floor after more than a year of sitting as an independent to join Elizabeth May’s Green Party. The move doubled May’s caucus, and drew national attention. Hyer has promised to run under the Green Party banner in 2015.

Cyclists Irene and Robert Booth were struck and killed outside of Red Rock in July. The couple were travelling across the country as part of a Cycle Canada group. A Texas driver was later charged with careless driving in the case.

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