Gun violence, the drama at city hall involving Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his fellow councillors, and the stylish Ikea monkey were among the stories and issues that most captivated the city in the year that was 2012.
Ford on the field, in council and in court
In his second full year in office, Ford continued to agitate for subway development, successfully managed to privatize garbage pickup west of Yonge Street and saw the city reach labour deals with both indoor and outdoor workers.
But there were also many headaches for Ford at city hall, including a surprise ban on plastic bags which later received a stay of execution, and an inability to find common ground with his fellow councillors on future transit development.
Ford also faced a removal challenge, which led to a judge's order for him to leave office. The mayor has since won a stay of that judgment and his appeal will be heard in January — though he could still be forced from office in the New Year. He also faced a defamation trial in 2012 but a judge dismissed the case on Dec. 27, saying the plaintiff failed to prove he was defamed.
He continued to coach an Etobicoke high-school football team, the Don Bosco Eagles, which made it all the way to the Metro Bowl for the first time. Ford also launched a highly public weight-loss challenge that he eventually abandoned, led a trade mission to Chicago and spent a couple of days in hospital as a result of a throat infection.
Inside council chambers, there were many issues that continued to flare up throughout the year.
Those issues included the future of the Toronto Zoo elephants, debate over a possible casino in Toronto, the contentious removal of bike lanes on Jarvis Street and the general manner in which tax dollars should be spent.
A wave of gun-related homicides, which crested in the mid-year, was also top of mind for many Torontonians.
Two people were fatally wounded in a June 2 shooting at the Eaton Centre, which left six innocent bystanders wounded and hundreds of shoppers trapped when the violence unfolded. The incident made international headlines, though city officials pointed to the wider statistics that paint a picture of a city that is both safe and highly livable.
Days after the Eaton Centre shooting, a man was shot dead on a College Street restaurant patio that was filled with people watching a soccer game. The suspected shooter was dressed as a construction worker and fled the scene on foot. A British Columbia man was later arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Perhaps the most shocking episode of gun violence occurred on July 16, when a shootout erupted at an outdoor barbecue on Danzig Street. Two people were killed and 23 others wounded.
An intensive police investigation later led to murder charges being laid against three individuals. But police believe at least four shooters were present on Danzig Street.
While Toronto police grappled with an increased number of shootings in the early part of the year, there were fewer shooting occurrences this year than there were at the same point in 2011.
Darwin, as he is known, escaped from a vehicle he had been left in while his owner, Yasmin Nakhuda, was shopping inside the store.
Nakhuda told CBC News that the Japanese macaque had been to Ikea before, but she had been told by staff that pets were not permitted in the store — that's why Darwin was left in her vehicle on the day that he escaped.
Nakhuda is now fighting to have the animal returned to her. Darwin will spend the holidays in an animal sanctuary until the judge makes a ruling on his long-term custody, which is expected in the new year.
The growing city
Toronto continued to confront challenges related to its growing population, its transportation issues and the kind of city its residents want to build.
David Mirvish announced plans to build three giant condominium towers downtown, based on designs by the renowned architect Frank Gehry.
Transit issues were at the forefront of municipal discourse in 2012. The push for a downtown subway relief line got underway, as well as a debate over whether the Eglinton Crosstown LRT should be buried, while provincial transit agency Metrolinx presented an updated priority list of infrastructure projects.
There was also a changing of the guard at the TTC head office at the Davisville subway station. When former TTC chief Gary Webster clashed with the Ford administration on their preferred direction on subways, he was relieved of his duties.
His successor, Andy Byford, has since dealt with several high-profile emergencies — including disruptive floods at Union Station in March and June and the shooting of a TTC collector — as well as ongoing budget and development challenges related to the transit system.
The aging Gardiner Expressway also made many headlines throughout the year, as city officials investigated the investments that will be required to keep it in working order.
Changes at Queen's Park
At the Ontario legislature, some of the biggest news of the year broke when Premier Dalton McGuinty announced in October that he was stepping down as Liberal leader and also proroguing the house. Seven current and former Liberal cabinet ministers are vying to succeed him.
The premier's surprise announcement came during a tumultuous year at Queen’s Park, in which the minority government fought major fiscal problems, struggled to get its budget passed and the province saw its credit rating downgraded.
An attempt by the government to gain majority control of the legislature was stymied when the Liberals won only one of two seats in a pair of September byelections.
The governing Liberals also grappled with controversies involving the cancellation of gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville, the Ornge air ambulance service and the payment of bonuses to nearly all eligible managers in the Ontario Public Service.
Controversial legislation the government brought forward in the fall led to a major dispute with teachers that prompted work-to-rule campaigns and rotating strikes in every single public elementary school in the final two weeks before the holidays.
Tragedies in Toronto, around the province
A deadly stage collapse that occurred ahead of a Radiohead concert at Toronto's Downsview Park was just one of a number of unexpected and sudden tragedies to occur across the province in 2012.
Eleven people were killed in a deadly crash in February involving a truck and a large van carrying migrant farm workers in Hampstead, Ont. Only three people survived the collision.
Within weeks of the Hampstead crash, a Via train derailed near Burlington, Ont., leaving three train engineers dead and dozens of passengers injured.
In late August, Toronto police assisted investigators from Peel Region with the probe into the death and dismemberment of a missing Toronto woman. The victim's former boyfriend was subsequently charged with second-degree murder.