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Newstand franchisees to press TTC commissioners on controversial operations deal

A new subway train is shown in Toronto in December, 2012. The parent company of Gateway Newsstands, which operates kiosks in TTC stations, has threatened legal action if the company’s contract extension is revoked.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Dozens of people who own franchises in the TTC are expected to converge on the service's monthly meeting Wednesday, bringing pressure on commissioners being urged to tear up the deal that allows them to operate.

An end to the controversial lease with Gateway Newstands has been put on the agenda by TTC Chair Karen Stintz, who initially supported the deal.

It would require several procedural steps before anything substantive could happen to the deal at this meeting. And a number of franchise-owners will be ready to speak about the effect its cancellation would have on them.

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"This is a family of ours that is feeling concerned about their future and their livelihoods," said Noah Aychental, senior vice president for Gateway's parent company, Tobmar Investments International Inc. "There's a group of about 50 that plan on attending … they're going to be there to support, to be visible."

A two-thirds vote will be required for the board to agree to reconsider the Gateway lease. A debate sparked by that vote would normally happen at the next meeting but, if the first vote passes, a second vote will be held to see whether to consider the matter Wednesday. That would also need a two-thirds majority.

Only if both votes pass by the required margins would the commission be able to discuss Wednesday whether to rescind the lease.

The deal has been approved twice before but became a political hot-potato in recent months. Critics called it a sole-source deal while supporters said there was nothing untoward about extending the lease of a long-term existing tenant.

In an interview this week, Mr. Aychental stressed that it was the TTC that had approached his firm. He said they were asked to make a $700,000 investment – in the service's new stations and in preparation for the Pan-Am Games – even though the lease was winding down.

"We didn't have enough time to recoup our capital investments," he said. "So it was at that time that we started to negotiate with the TTC for an extension and a harmonization of all of our leases."

As he has said before, Mr. Aychental acknowledged that his firm has legal options if the lease extension is, in fact, cancelled. But he said their preference was to continue as a partner with the TTC.

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