- RSS Channel Showcase 2750569
- RSS Channel Showcase 8938601
- RSS Channel Showcase 2001449
- RSS Channel Showcase 6753818
Articles on this Page
- 09/12/17--09:18: _Apple unveils iPhon...
- 09/12/17--14:29: _NDP slams Liberals ...
- 09/12/17--12:43: _Metrolinx announces...
- 09/12/17--13:40: _‘I didn’t want to s...
- 09/12/17--15:26: _Grade 7 Toronto stu...
- 09/12/17--11:30: _Popular post-second...
- 09/12/17--12:01: _John Tory strips de...
- 09/13/17--08:39: _Police officer expe...
- 09/13/17--03:00: _Toronto Parking Aut...
- 09/13/17--07:29: _6 die at Florida nu...
- 09/13/17--07:44: _Woman sexually assa...
- 09/13/17--13:54: _Judges to preside o...
- 09/13/17--12:25: _German right-wing p...
- 09/13/17--12:22: _A Russian plot used...
- 09/13/17--10:04: _Durham cop blames ‘...
- 09/13/17--11:58: _Shooter opens fire ...
- 09/13/17--07:59: _Olivier not as ‘str...
- 09/13/17--14:52: _Toronto to build 2,...
- 09/13/17--13:08: _Fading NDP presence...
- 09/13/17--16:18: _Martin Shkreli’s ba...
- 09/12/17--09:18: Apple unveils iPhone X, its most expensive phone yet
- 09/12/17--14:29: NDP slams Liberals on temp work
- 09/12/17--12:43: Metrolinx announces ‘thorough’ review of controversial GO stations
- 09/12/17--11:30: Popular post-secondary degrees aren’t where the jobs are, says OECD
- 09/12/17--12:01: John Tory strips deputy mayor of title after Doug Ford endorsement
- 09/13/17--08:39: Police officer expected to plead guilty to professional misconduct
- Andy Koropeski, vice-president of operations: $203,310: $2,230;
- Robin Oliphant, vice-president of finance: $203,310: $2,595;
- Remy Iomanaco, vice-president of design and construction: $203,310: $2,230;
- Ian Maher, vice-president of strategic planning and IT: $203,310: $2,230;
- Michael Konikoff, head of marketing: $185,000;
- Arlene Yam Fritz, head of human resources: $185,000.
- 09/13/17--07:29: 6 die at Florida nursing home that lost air conditioning after Irma
- 09/13/17--07:44: Woman sexually assaulted after mistaking vehicle for an Uber
- 09/13/17--13:54: Judges to preside over bail hearings at two courthouses
- 09/13/17--11:58: Shooter opens fire at Washington state high school killing 1
- 09/13/17--14:52: Toronto to build 2,000 market-rent and affordable units
Apple held one of its biggest launch events in years, introducing new versions of the iPhone, Apple TV and Apple Watch, to bolster its product lines.
In the lead-up to the event, which was the first event to be held in the new Steve Jobs theatre at the company’s new state-of-the art headquarters, there was much speculation about what would be announced. And just as in previous years, many of the leaks turned out to be true.
Here’s a rundown of what is new, and what potential customers can expect from the company’s updated product line:
What’s the new iPhone X all about? Calling it “the future of the smartphone,” Apple debuted the much hyped 10th anniversary product, the iPhone X is coming with a 5.8-inch edge-to-edge display and facial-recognition software that will let you unlock it just by looking at it. The new phone can be used with Apple Pay and some third-party apps.
What else is new? Coming in silver and grey, the biggest change is that it won’t have a home button.
It will also have two 12 megapixel cameras, as well as the company’s new portrait-lighting feature which promises better selfies.
Much of the time spent on the new product at the launch featured the facial-recognition software. This is a feature that has been available on Samsung phones since last year.
How much will I have to fork out to get one? It will be the most expensive iPhone ever starting at — are you sitting down? — $1,319 in Canada, for the 64GB configuration.
When can I get the new phone? Preorders start October 27 and the phones are scheduled to be available November 3.
What are Animojis? One of the fun additions is the creation of animated emojis, or Animojis, where users can speak and have digital characters move as they did.
Are there other versions of the phone? In addition to the iPhone X, the company is releasing an iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which look similar to the iPhone 7s but have a new glass design and a new faster processor, the A11 Bionic. They also have new speakers, which are 25 per cent louder than the previous generation. They will be available in silver grey and a new gold finish. The iPhone 8 with 64 GB starts at $929. Pre-orders start on September 15 and will be available a week later, on September 22.
Apple also touted its new operating system, iOS 11, will be available on September 19.
What’s up with the Apple Watch Series 3? The latest edition of the Apple Watch will have a new OS, and will become an even better heart-rate monitor. But the big add is cellular capability; the watch will have more functionality without being tethered to the iPhone. Siri will now be able to talk on it. The watch still has the same design, which is a surprise, and comes with a processor that is 70 per cent faster.
Listening to music on a watch? Yes, for the first time, Apple Watch will support streaming music, and let users listen on the go without their phone.
How much is the new watch? In Canada, Bell will be the provider in Series 3 with cellular, and it starts at $519. The non-cellular version will also be available and start at $429.
What’s up with Apple TV? Apple TV 4K was announced, and will support both Dolby Vision and HDR10, competing formats for High Dynamic Range, which show vibrant colours on Ultra HD screens. It also has a new A10X chip, which is more than twice as fast as the previous version. In the U.S., there will be live sports and local news. It is unknown if this kind of content will be available in Canada. Apple TV 4K starts at $229 for 32GB or $249 for 64GB.
Wireless charging? Really? In another first for Apple, Apple products will support wireless charging, made possible with support from Qi Charging and the fact that the new products will have glass in front and at the back.
The company also announced a new wireless charging pad, AirPower, that will be able to charge the new phones and watches and even AirPods, the company’s wireless earbuds, if the consumer buys a new special case for them. The AirPower pad is coming out sometime in 2018.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath pressed the Liberal government Tuesday about the growth of temporary work in Ontario and how proposed changes to labour laws don’t do enough to protect workers from “shady” companies.
Citing a recent investigation by the Star — in which a reporter spent a month working undercover as a temp worker inside a North York food factory — Horwath said existing laws allow workers to be exploited by temp agencies and the changes the government is proposing will not fix the problem.
“Too many shady companies contract out risky work to temp agencies, because our laws are written so that if a temporary employee is hurt on the job, the company isn’t held fully responsible,” Horwath said during question period. “Our laws make it easy for unscrupulous employers, unscrupulous companies, to save money by hiring temporary workers and allowing them to get hurt, instead of investing in permanent employees and training them properly.”
The Star found that the number of temp agency offices opening across Ontario has increased by 20 per cent in the last decade. There are now more than 1,700 operating in the GTA alone.
Among the advantages for companies that use temp agencies is that when a temp worker is hurt on the job, their agency — not the workplace where the injury occurred — assumes liability at the worker’s compensation board. This saves the company money on insurance premiums.
Bill 148, the government’s “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act” — which, if successful, will increase the minimum wage to $15 — includes some measures to improve working conditions for temp agency workers.
It will ensure they are paid the same as permanent employees doing “substantially similar” work, for example, and make it easier for them to unionize. But the bill does not directly address injury liability, which is one of the most significant financial incentives to use temp agencies in the first place.
“That’s a gaping hole and this is an opportunity to close that hole,” Horwath added in a phone interview with the Star.
The proposed legislation, which had its second reading in the Legislature on Tuesday, also doesn’t include any caps on how many temp agency workers a company can hire, or time limits on how long they can be made to work in the same job at the same workplace as a “temp.”
Speaking Tuesday at a conference at Ryerson University, Premier Kathleen Wynne said her government was “fully intending” to explore amendments to the bill, which will return to committee hearings after second reading.
“My hope would be that we can find ways to strengthen it for sure.”
Responding for the Liberals in the legislature on Tuesday, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn told Horwath that the government is “as concerned as you are” about the “growth” of temp agencies.
Flynn pointed out the ways in which the proposed legislation helps temp workers, and added that the ministry will be beefing up its enforcement capability by hiring 173 new employment standards inspectors “to go out and proactively inspect premises, perhaps like the one that was mentioned in the Star.”
Traditionally associated with casual office work, statistics obtained by the Star show that the majority of temps are now working in non-clerical sectors, such as manufacturing and construction.
Temp workers are also more likely to be injured on the job. Last year, non-clerical temps suffered more than twice as many injuries as non-temps doing similar work, according to Workplace Safety Insurance Board data analyzed by the Star.
Academic research suggests that the higher injury rates are due to the fact that temps receive less training, while companies also assign them riskier work.
As part of a year-long investigation into the rise of temp work, the Star sent a reporter to work undercover as a low-wage temp worker at Fiera Foods, an industrial bakery that mass produces bread products for major grocery stores and fast-food chains. She received just five minutes of safety training before stepping onto the factory floor. She was also paid in cash, at a payday lender, without any documentation or deductions.
Last year, 23-year-old temp worker Amina Diaby was killed while working at Fiera Foods when her hijab was pulled into a machine, strangling her.
Horwath said the Star’s stories showed the “squalid and dangerous conditions” faced by many workers, including Diaby.
“There’s no way that anybody should go to work in the morning and be fearful that they’re not going to come home at night.”
Metrolinx will undertake a “thorough and comprehensive” review of two proposed new GO Transit stations, after a Star investigation revealed that the provincial transportation ministry pressured the arm’s-length agency into approving the stops.
However, critics are already slamming the review as inadequate because while it will make recommendations about whether Metrolinx should proceed with the controversial stations, the agency hasn’t committed to examining the role that political interference played in the stops’ approval.
One of the proposed stations, Kirby, is in the Vaughan riding represented by Ontario Liberal Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca. The other, Lawrence East in Scarborough, is part of Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” plan.
Documents obtained through a freedom of information request show that in June 2016 the Metrolinx board voted in secret not to build the two stations, which were not supported by studies the agency had commissioned. The board then reconvened in public and endorsed them after Del Duca’s ministry intervened.
The Kirby station is estimated to cost about $100 million to build, while the price tag for Lawrence East is estimated at $23 million.
In a letter Metrolinx posted online Tuesday afternoon, board chair Rob Prichard said he had directed agency management to “initiate a thorough and comprehensive review of all the relevant analyses and information” for both stations.
According to the letter, which was addressed to Del Duca and dated Sept. 8, as part of the review Metrolinx will gather updated information about the stops including submissions from the cities of Vaughan and Toronto on proposed land-use changes around the station sites, population and jobs projections, local transit plans, “and any other relevant information.”
Hours before Metrolinx released the letter, Del Duca, refused to elaborate on what role if any he played in pressuring Metrolinx into approving the stations last year, saying he wouldn’t comment on “historical details.”
Appearing at an unrelated news conference in Burlington, Ont., the minister said the important thing is that Metrolinx won’t move forward with the stops unless further analysis determines they’re warranted.
“Metrolinx will not enter into any contractual obligations or spend any money until they’re satisfied that both Lawrence East and Kirby are justified,” Del Duca said.
“If the Metrolinx management and board are satisfied that they are justified, they’ll go forward. . . if the evidence isn’t there, the stations won’t go forward.”
Business cases commissioned by Metrolinx before the board vote determined that both Kirby and Lawrence East would cause a net loss of ridership on the GO network, because they wouldn’t attract enough new riders to offset the number of passengers who would stop taking transit due to the longer travel time the additional stations would cause.
A report prepared for Metrolinx by a consultant firm in June 2016 recommended against building the stations, as did initial drafts of agency board reports.
The documents obtained by the Star show that the board met behind closed doors on June 15, 2016, and voted not to go ahead with the stops, but a day later Del Duca’s ministry sent the agency draft press releases indicating he intended to announce stations that the board hadn’t approved.
The press releases shocked Metrolinx officials. After discussions between agency leaders and ministry staff however, Metrolinx’s board reconvened in public on June 28, 2016, and approved the two stops as part of a list of 12 new stations under GO Transit’s $13.5-billion regional express rail expansion plan.
Board reports were rewritten to support the two stations. Metrolinx didn’t release business cases for the new stops it had considered until almost nine months after the vote. The agency never published the consultant report that recommended against Kirby and Lawrence East, but the Star obtained a copy.
On Tuesday Del Duca was asked whether he had directed Metrolinx leaders to approve the two stations.
“I was given an opportunity to provide my input, I provided my input with respect to those decisions,” he replied, echoing statements he made to the Star in June.
He did not explain why his ministry drafted press releases that showed he planned to announce stations Metrolinx hadn’t approved.
“You’re focused on the historical details, I’m focused on the go forward,” he told a reporter.
The minister evaded the question when asked whether the approval of the two stations was free from political influence.
“I think on a go-forward basis what the most important thing for us to recognize is that Metrolinx is going to make sure they’re satisfied that both Lawrence East and Kirby are justified based on the analysis that they’re going to do,” he replied.
Progressive Conservative transportation critic Michael Harris called on Del Duca to “come clean” about his role in the stations’ approval. He accused Metrolinx and the Liberal government of “running away” from the issue by supporting the review, which he predicted wouldn’t get to the bottom of why the stations were endorsed despite not being supported by the reports.
“I don’t have confidence or faith in either the minister’s office or Metrolinx to be honest and transparent with taxpayers on how this decision was made,” said Harris, who is the MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga.
“We all know at the end of the day, as we’ve seen with this decision, that the Metrolinx board is unfortunately at the beck and call of the minister for political decisions.”
Harris has asked the provincial auditor general to conduct a “full value for money audit” of the two stops.
According to Prichard’s letter, Metrolinx management will report back with recommendations stemming from the review in time for the board’s February 2018 meeting. Prichard wrote that Del Duca has confirmed that he will “respect and support whatever conclusion the board reaches.”
The province is expected to enter into contracts for new GO Transit stations in the spring of next year.
A spokesperson for Tory said his office welcomes the review.
“City staff have recommended Lawrence East as a stop for SmartTrack and as an important part of the Scarborough transit network plan. City Council has voted to move ahead with SmartTrack and the province has endorsed this plan,” wrote Don Peat in an email.
The journey from their hurricane-ravaged home in Houston was frightening for 39 rescue dogs, some refusing to eat or leave their cages for fresh air when the four-van convoy took breaks on its way back to Toronto.
For volunteers, the hardest part of the trip wasn’t unloading the dogs for walks, cleaning up soiled crates or the more than 24 hours of driving.
It was saying goodbye.
“Just having three grown men, sitting in a van, bawling their eyes out was something that I was not going to forget any time soon,” said Curtis Cluett, a volunteer.
Cluett and eight other volunteers from Redemption Paws, a Toronto-based, non-for-profit organization, parted with the dogs on Monday morning after a weekend rescue trip.
The volunteers arrived in Texas on Friday to help animal rescue and sanctuary organizations like Hot Mess Pooches find a new home for some of its dogs in the wake of the hurricane.
“It was controlled chaos to say the least,” Cluett said. The shelter received an additional 15 to 20 dogs after word of the Redemption Dogs’ trip spread, but the volunteers were only able to safely transport an additional two Rat Terriers.
“All of these dogs were very loved,” Cluett said. “It was hard seeing these people who cared so deeply about their pets having to give them up.”
The exchange process took volunteers about four hours. First, they unloaded the humanitarian supplies brought down from Toronto, and then filled up the vans. Poodles, a cockapoo, Great Danes, three Dalmatians (one of which had its eyes surgically removed following an infection), Chihuahuas, husky mixes, and other pups wagged their ways into dog crates, and hit the road.
Nicole Simone, founder of Redemption Dogs, said the organization has already received over 2,000 informal requests for adoption from all over Canada.
“It’s a bit crazy,” she said, adding that she’s gotten calls late at night inquiring about adoption. Simone said four dogs will be available for adoption at a time, and the applications are now available on the organization’s website, where people can also make donations to support future rescue missions.
They have raised about $29,000 so far, and may embark on another journey to Houston or provide animal rescue relief related to Hurricane Irma.
As for the Houston mission, Simone said Redemption Dogs made a promise to the shelters that they would continue caring for the dogs, which will mean restricting adoption applications to the GTA to facilitate check-ins.
“After somebody adopts the dog we’ll be checking in regularly via home or email, and we expect people to keep in touch for the rest of the dog’s life,” she said. Being there to support the animal after adoption, if needed, is part of the organization’s philosophy of ethical rescue.
For now, the dogs are being housed at the OSPCA headquarters in Stouffville, after the organization stepped in and offered to help out with veterinary checks. There is a mandatory 10-day quarantine period for international rescues before they are put up for adoption, Simone said.
“It’s hard knowing that these dogs are going to be basically alone for the next 10 days,” said Cluett, reminiscing on dogs like Luke and Leia, a black Labrador pair, or Gabriel, who had all the volunteers head over heels.
“I think that this is one of the most important things I’ve ever done.”
With files from Bryann Aguilar
With files from Bryann Aguilar
After a few impatient drivers zip past students who haven’t cleared the intersection, a white Dodge Ram turns left onto Wilson Ave. in front of Pierre Laporte Middle School, blowing through a red light.
It’s been less than 20 minutes since the final bell, and Principal Paolo Peloso has already witnessed at least three drivers making dangerous manoeuvres at an intersection bustling with students.
“Even this morning, I was out there again and I saw two girls crossing . . . and a car just zooms in front. They had to stop in order to avoid being hit,” Peloso said.
The school of about 400 students applied to have a crossing guard before summer holiday. It’s one of at least 49 schools waiting for an assessment by Toronto Police, who administer the crossing guard program.
Peloso and Vice-Principal Arlene Wheeler have made a point of coming out to monitor before- and after-school traffic at Wilson Ave. and Julian Rd., just west of Keele St. The area has seen an influx of traffic now that construction is complete at the new Humber River Hospital, located across the street from the school, on the south side of Wilson Ave.
Last Friday, on only the fourth day of the new school year, a Grade 7 student was struck by a car about two kilometres west of Pierre Laporte while crossing Wilson Ave. on her way to school.
The school sent a letter to parents informing them of the incident, but some parents had already voiced concerns about the intersection to Peloso last school year.
Though the student was not seriously injured, Peloso believes the incident underscores the need to have a crossing guard at the intersection as soon as possible.
“We don’t want to wait until somebody gets hurt,” Peloso said.
Because the school only runs three buses, most students take transit or get picked up by parents. Peloso said the hospital’s opening has increased TTC traffic on Wilson Ave., including a new stop in front of the school, which is more convenient for students.
Councillor Maria Augimeri, of Ward 9 York Centre, has worked with Pierre Laporte and other schools in her ward on getting crossing guards, and said she believes the program should be administered by the city.
Toronto Police have been running the program since 1947. According to the 2017 police budget, it costs $8.59 million to administer the program.
Const. Derrick Martin, a school crossing guard co-ordinator with Toronto Police Traffic Services, said the city will be taking over the program “very soon.”
Applications for a school crossing guard are currently received by the office of the police chief and then sent out to the divisions, which then conduct a daylong traffic assessment. These assessments are done in the order the applications are received and not triaged based on public safety, Martin told the Star. At Pierre Laporte, this assessment is slated for the beginning of 2018.
“This is typical,” said Martin of the wait time for a guard. “All the requests usually come around the beginning of the school year and then they taper off.”
There are about 600 to 700 crossing guards who are usually paid to work three hours a day, and cover the morning, after-school and lunch hours. The guards are hired and trained by police, and considered civilian employees.
When crossing guards are absent from duty, police officers are dispatched to fill in.
“The community welcomed the GTA’s largest hospital into our ward knowing that we would have some challenges,” Councillor Augimeri said. She credits Peloso and Wheeler, the “dynamic duo” at Pierre Laporte, for making safety a priority as they await a decision on a crossing guard.
“They are the most outstanding staff I’ve ever witnessed,” she said.
The most popular college and university programs are business, administration and law — but all the jobs are in engineering and information technology, says a new international report on education.
Following trends in the 30-plus other developed nations included by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), about 29 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students are taking business and law, and about 11 per cent engineering, manufacturing and construction.
While overall, university graduates still have much higher employment rates and earn more, engineering and information and computer technology sectors have the highest employment rates, the report says.
“(Post-secondary) enrolment is expanding rapidly, with very strong returns for individuals and taxpayers, but new evidence shows that universities can fail to offer, and individuals fail to pursue, the fields of study that promise the greatest labour-market opportunities,” said the OECD in a written release.
Its report “finds that business, administration and law are the most popular careers in countries surveyed, chosen by around one in four students. This compares to 16 per cent in engineering, construction and manufacturing, and less than 5 per cent of students study information and communication technologies, despite graduates in these subjects having the highest employment rate on average across OECD countries, exceeding 90 per cent in about a third of them.”
Deb Matthews, Ontario’s minister of advanced education and skills development, said the OECD report is further evidence that college and university “remains a worthwhile investment for students for their future” and noted the government’s new student aid program that provides students from lower-income homes with free tuition — they receive more in non-repayable grants than they have to pay in fees.
“Post-secondary education and training is a key pillar of Ontario’s economic strategy; seven out of every 10 new jobs created in Ontario are expected to require post-secondary education or training,” she said in a written statement to the Star.
“However, we know there is more to be done to prepare students with the skills they need for a changing economy, and that work must be done in collaboration with post-secondary institutions. We are working together with colleges and universities … to set the foundation for broader post-secondary education system transformation, including in areas like experiential learning, teaching quality and economic development.”
Another report released Tuesday found Ontario workers need to be better equipped to face the changing job market. The report, by the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, also urged that students not only learn “broader skill sets,” but for post-secondary institutions to make sure they get input from employers to help shape programming.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has warned that Ontarians are worried about their outdated job skills, saying what workers are trained for doesn’t necessarily match what employers are looking for.
John Tory has stripped one of his deputy mayors of the title after he endorsed Doug Ford for mayor in 2018.
On Tuesday, Councillor Vincent Crisanti, who represents Ward 1 (Etobicoke North) said he was backing Doug Ford in the coming election, leveling a major blow in a campaign that has not yet begun officially.
The move prompted Tory to oust him.
“I thank Councillor Crisanti for his time in this position,” read an emailed statement from Tory. “But, based on his words and actions over the past few days, he has clearly stated he does not support my administration and intends to campaign for another candidate who has an approach that I believe will take the city backwards.”
Tory named rookie councillor Stephen Holyday (Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre) as Crisanti’s replacement, calling him a “strong voice for Etobicoke.”
Crisanti, a long-time ally of the Fords, told the Star Tory called him Tuesday to tell him his role as deputy mayor had been revoked.
“We had a very civil discussion,” Crisanti said. “I made it very clear with John that I was prepared to continue to serve . . . but clearly John doesn’t feel comfortable with that and I can understand that, too.”
The councillor’s allegiances came into question after he appeared centre stage at the annual Ford family BBQ, dubbed “Ford Fest,” held at Ford’s mother’s home in Etobicoke on Friday.
“Wow! Let me say this: if anyone doubts the power of Ford Nation, come here tonight,” Crisanti told the crowd Friday. “I’m honoured to be here tonight. I’m honoured to always support Ford Fest, and here we are supporting the Ford family any way we can. I was thinking to myself about Rob Ford. Rob Ford is with us. He is everywhere tonight. I had such a great, very close relationship with Rob. I was first elected in 2010 with the support of Rob Ford and I’m here today because of the Fords.”
On Monday, Tory was asked whether a deputy mayor could support a different mayoral contender.
“I would expect they wouldn’t, to be frank,” Tory told reporters. “When that appointment is made, I think it carries with it the expectation that you’re an important part of the team.”
Tory named four deputy mayors in 2014. North York Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong wields the official powers of deputy mayor, while the appointments of Crisanti, Scarborough Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker and the late downtown councillor Pam McConnell were largely symbolic. The appointments followed a campaign promise of uniting a city, often divided along urban and suburban lines, under the banner of “One Toronto.”
As deputy mayors, the four have represented Tory at various functions and — with the exception of McConnell — have been largely loyal to Tory within the council chamber on major policy votes.
Crisanti came to city hall under Rob Ford’s administration with the mayor’s support, beating incumbent Suzan Hall after two unsuccessful attempts in 2000 and 2003.
He supported the Fords in important moves including ousting former TTC CEO Gary Webster when he opposed the push to extend the Sheppard subway and on failed votes such as the one held on a possible downtown casino.
“We have a very great relationship. We always have,” Crisanti said of the Fords.
The 2018 campaign does not start until May 1, when the nomination period begins.
Ford declared his intentions to launch a rematch with Tory, who has always promised to run for a second term, at Ford Fest on Friday.
With files from David Rider and Emily Mathieu
A Toronto police officer found with a small amount of cocaine in his wallet is expected to plead guilty to professional misconduct at a disciplinary hearing later this year.
Dressed in a maroon suit jacket, Det. Const. Kirk Blake made a brief appearance before the Toronto police tribunal Tuesday, facing two counts of professional misconduct under Ontario’s Police Services Act.
Police prosecutor Insp. Domenic Sinopoli told the tribunal that Blake is expected to enter a guilty plea at a November hearing, although the officer did not enter a plea Tuesday.
Blake, who has 17 years with the Toronto police, was charged with one count of possessing a narcotic after the Guns and Gangs officer was found to have a small amount of cocaine in his wallet.
The discovery of the drug came about in September, 2016, after Blake left his wallet behind at the Scarborough courthouse, where he had been doing some computer work in his capacity as an officer.
The wallet was located by another Toronto police member and “found to contain a small clear plastic baggie containing a white powdery substance,” later determined to be cocaine, according to a police document outlining the misconduct allegations against Blake.
“It was further determined that you were not in lawful possession of the substance in the accordance with your duties as a police officer,” according to the document.
Blake was granted an absolute discharge after pleading guilty to the criminal charge.
The officer is accused of misconduct for allegedly acting in a disorderly manner or in a manner likely to bring discredit upon the reputation of the Toronto police force.
The penalty for a conviction under the Police Service Act ranges from a reprimand to dismissal.
Blake will appear before the tribunal on November 21.
Wendy Gillis can be reached at email@example.com
The salaries of the two top players at the Toronto Parking Authority remain a secret despite all other senior executives voluntarily releasing their pay.
The parking authority released a list of salaries of senior management to the Star on Friday. The salaries of president Lorne Persiko and Marie Casista, vice-president of real estate and marketing — both of whom are currently on paid leave pending an investigation into a questionable land deal— were censored.
“Where there are individuals for which the information is not provided, the individual did not give consent to disclose,” said a letter from the parking authority accompanying the list of salaries. The only information provided about Persiko’s remuneration is that he is afforded a leased vehicle.
Persiko and Casista were put on paid leave after a damning auditor general’s report released in June concluded the parking authority was planning to overpay for a parcel of land in North York by more than $2.5 million.
The authority — which manages all Green P parking in Toronto — is currently under new direction from interim president Andy Koropeski. The board is now chaired by city manager Peter Wallace, who, in an extraordinary measure, was put in place by city council following the auditor’s report.
The Star has tried for more than a year to find out how much Persiko and other parking authority executives are paid. The city agency hired an employment law firm and spent more than $5,000 to thwart those requests.
Typically, the salaries of heads of city agencies and corporations can be found on the province’s public sector salary (Sunshine) list. The parking authority is exempt, the city has said, because even though it collects hundreds of millions on behalf of the city it receives no public funding.
In July, Mayor John Tory told the Star he believed the salaries should be public and asked staff to find a way to make that possible.
“All the money in the Toronto Parking Authority is public money,” Tory told the Star then.
Persiko did not return a request for comment Friday. Casista’s husband, Real Casista, told the Star on Friday that her salary was “personal information.”
The following annual base salaries and taxable benefits for 2016 were released by the authority Friday:
More than a year ago, the Star filed an access-to-information request for the salaries of Persiko and other top executives. The request was rejected by the parking authority on the grounds that salaries were “employment-related matters.”
The Star appealed that request to the province’s information commissioner, and a decision is expected in the fall. (A subsequent access-to-information request revealed the authority spent $5,346 in legal fees fighting the appeal.)
In the meantime, the authority released the above salaries voluntarily.
Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler released her report in June about the now-cancelled land deal. It followed a 10-month investigation by her office after concerns were raised by authority board member John Filion about a land deal at Finch Ave. West and Arrow Rd., near Hwy. 400.
Romeo-Beehler’s report found the parking authority would have overpaid $2.63 million for the nearly five-acre parcel.
The deal, she told council, resulted from a “hairball” of relationships and potential conflicts involving Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, the Emery Village BIA, a lobbyist working for the BIA, the TPA executives and a sign consultant working for the TPA.
Jennifer Pagliaro can be reached at (416) 869-4556 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Pagliaro can be reached at (416) 869-4556 or email@example.com
Jayme Poisson can be reached at (416) 814-2725 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jayme Poisson can be reached at (416) 814-2725 email@example.com
HOLLYWOOD, FLA.—Six patients at a sweltering nursing home died after Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning, raising fears Wednesday about the safety of Florida’s 4 million senior citizens amid widespread power outages that could go on for days.
Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related, and added: “The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation.” He did not elaborate.
“It’s a sad state of affairs,” Sanchez said. “We all have elderly people in facilities, and we all know we depend on those people in those facilities to care for a vulnerable elderly population.”
Gov. Rick Scott called on Florida emergency workers to immediately check on nursing homes and assisted living facilities to make sure the patients are safe. And he ordered an investigation into what he called an “unfathomable” situation.
“I am demanding answers,” he tweeted.
The home said in a statement that the hurricane had knocked out a transformer that powered the AC.
Exactly how the deaths happened was under investigation, with Sanchez saying authorities have not ruled anything out, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators. He also said investigators will look into how many windows were open in the nursing home.
Across the street from the nursing home sat a fully air-conditioned hospital, Memorial Regional.
The deaths came as people trying to put their lives back together in hurricane-stricken Florida and beyond confronted a multitude of new hazards in the storm’s wake, including tree-clearing accidents and lethal fumes from generators.
Not counting the nursing home deaths, at least 13 people in Florida have died under Irma-related circumstances, and six more in South Carolina and Georgia, many of them well after the storm had passed.
At least five people died and more than a dozen were treated after breathing carbon monoxide fumes from generators in the Orlando, Miami and Daytona Beach areas. A Tampa man died after the chain saw he was using to remove trees kicked back and cut his carotid artery.
In Hollywood, three patients were found dead at the nursing home early Wednesday after emergency workers received a call about a person with a heart attack, and three more died at the hospital or on the way, police said.
Altogether, more than 100 patients there were found to be suffering in the heat and were evacuated, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs. Patients were treated for dehydration, breathing difficulties and other heat-related ills, authorities said.
Nursing homes in Florida are required by state and federal law to file an emergency plan that includes evacuation plans for residents. Any plan submitted by the Hollywood centre was not immediately available.
Calls to the owner and other officials at the Hollywood home were not immediately returned, but the facility’s administrator, Jorge Caballo, said in a statement that it was “co-operating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome.”
Through a representative, Carballo told the SunSentinel newspaper that the home has a backup generator but that it does not power the air conditioning.
The nursing home was bought at a bankruptcy auction two years ago after its previous owner when to prison for Medicare fraud, according to news reports at the time of the sale.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulates nursing homes, gives the Hollywood centre a below-average rating, two stars on its five-star scale. But the most recent state inspection reports showed no deficiencies in the area of emergency plans.
Florida, long one of America’s top retirement destinations, has the highest proportion of people 65 and older of any state — 1 in 5 of its 20 million residents. As of 2016, Florida had about 680 nursing homes.
As of Tuesday, the number of people without electricity in the steamy late-summer heat had dropped to 6.8 million — about a third of Florida’s population. Utility officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. The number of people remaining in shelters fell to under 13,000.
Elsewhere around the state, a Coral Gables apartment building was evacuated after authorities determined a lack of power made it unsafe for elderly tenants.
And at the huge, 15,000-resident Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines, more than half the residential buildings had no power Wednesday afternoon. Rescue crews began going door to door in the 94-degree heat to check on people and hand out water, ice and meals.
“These people are basically prisoners in their own homes,” said Pembroke Pines City Manager Charlie Dodge. “That’s why we are camped out there and doing whatever we can to assist them in this process. And we’re not leaving.”
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson called the six deaths in Hollywood “an inexcusable tragedy” and called on authorities to get to the bottom of it.
“We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep our seniors safe during this difficult time,” he said.
In the battered Florida Keys, meanwhile, county officials pushed back against a preliminary estimate from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that 25 per cent of all homes in the Keys were destroyed and nearly all the rest were heavily damaged.
“Things look real damaged from the air, but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it’s not much damage to the houses,” said Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers.
The Keys felt Irma’s full fury when the hurricane roared in on Sunday with 209 km/h winds. But the extent of the damage has been an unanswered question for days because some places have been unreachable.
In Marathon Key, a Publix grocery store opened under police guard on Tuesday, but residents could buy only 20 items each, and no cigarettes or alcohol allowed, said 70-year-old retiree Elaine Yaquinto.
She said she had yet to see any state or federal agencies or utility companies working on the ground yet. Her home had no electricity or running water, apart from a trickle of cold water that was good enough for a shower.
“It made me feel like normal,” she said.
U.S. President Donald Trump plans to visit Naples, on Florida’s hard-it southwestern coast, on Thursday.
At the Hollywood nursing home, Jean Lindor, a kitchen worker, said through a Haitian Creole translator that the air conditioner had not been working since the storm and it had been hot inside.
Paulburn Bogle, a member of the housekeeping staff, said the place had been hot but manageable the past few days. The staff used fans, put cold towels and ice on patients and gave them cold drinks, he said.
Broward County Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak said his office had received the bodies of at least three of the victims — two women age 71 and another who was 78 — for autopsies.
“They were sick already. It’s going to be tough to tell how much was the heat and how much of it was they were sick already,” Mallak said.
Flora Mitchell arrived at the home trying to find out what happened to her 58-year-old sister, Vonda Wilson, a stroke patient who lived there for about 10 years. She said she last heard from her sister two days ago and found out the air conditioning was not working.
“We need to know what happened to her,” she said. “They haven’t told us anything.”
Police are appealing for witnesses after a 19-year-old woman was allegedly sexually assaulted early Sunday.
The woman was in the area of King St. W. and Portland St. around 1:30 a.m. Sunday when she was involved in a physical altercation with one other woman, police say. While one of the women left the scene after the altercation, the other remained.
Shortly after, a white SUV pulled up with two men inside. The 19-year-old entered the vehicle, mistaking it for an Uber.
Once inside the vehicle, the woman was sexually assaulted by one of the men, police say.
The woman was later dropped off in the area of Don Mills Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E. around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
Police are looking for anyone with video footage of the altercation at King St. W. and Portland St., or that may have witnessed the woman exiting the vehicle at Don Mills Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E.
The vehicle in question is described as a white, 2009 Ford Escape with tinted windows, fog lights, and a license plate beginning with the letter “C.”
Police are looking for anyone with video footage of the altercation at King St. W. and Portland St., or that may have witnessed the woman exiting the vehicle at Don Mills Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E.
Witnesses can contact Toronto police at 416-808-3300.
A provincial court pilot project that has judges presiding over bail hearings at two of Ontario’s busiest courthouses has lawyers once again questioning the role of justices of the peace.
In an effort to speed the court process, the Ontario Court of Justice announced last week that judges would take over bail hearings at College Park in Toronto as well as the Ottawa courthouse.
The move comes as governments and courts continue to grapple with the effects of a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision that set strict timelines to bring criminal cases to trial.
The pilot project, expected to last 18 to 24 months, “is exploring whether the introduction of judges’ criminal trial experience at the earliest stage of the criminal court process could reduce time to final disposition,” said court spokesperson Kate Andrew.
“All judges at the Ottawa and College Park courthouses will participate in the bail project and will be scheduled to preside in bail court as well as in trials, judicial pre-trials and all other regular judicial responsibilities.”
Unlike someone looking to become a judge, a person does not need a legal background to qualify for the role of justice of the peace. Aside from presiding in bail court, JPs, who earn significantly less than judges, sign off on search warrants and preside over brief court appearances and matters involving provincial offences.
JPs will continue to handle bail hearings in courthouses other than College Park and Ottawa, Andrew said.
The court’s pilot project has prompted lawyers to question why JPs preside over bail in the first place, pointing out that it’s a critical step in the court process in which a person’s liberty is at stake when they have not yet been convicted of a crime.
Many criminal defence lawyers have long complained about the fact that such an important task is being placed in the hands of individuals who do not necessarily have a legal background.
Some have blamed JPs as one reason why jails are overcrowded with inmates who are awaiting trial.
Others see it differently.
“Putting experienced judges in bail court isn’t a solution to ensuring speedier justice,” said criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown, a Toronto director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. “While it is preferable to have our bail courts staffed with jurists who possess criminal law backgrounds, the answer is to hire more justices of the peace who possess that skill set.”
While the court has said judges will continue with their regular duties on top of presiding in bail court, lawyers have expressed concern that the pilot project will still lead to delays at the trial stage if judges have to be moved around to accommodate bail hearings.
Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt said that there were times when it could take up to a week to get a bail hearing at the courthouse in that city, “which is unacceptable,” but it could take months, if not more than a year, to get a trial date.
“The role of justices of the peace should be examined,” he said. “I think there should be an acknowledgement that justices of the peace play an important role in the justice system . . . , but I think there should be no scared cows about what that role actually should be.
“If you take a step back and think about it, it is rather shocking that you would rather have people without legal degrees, without the type of experience that judges by definition need to have, making decisions about police searching your house and about whether someone remains in custody or is released pending trial.”
Spratt said that a complete re-orientation of the justice system is required in order to reduce court delays, including examining the use of the criminal law in dealing with people who are in poverty, or have mental issues and addictions.
James Morton, former counsel to the Association of Justices of the Peace of Ontario, told the Star that part of the reason for having judges conduct bail hearings could be a current shortfall on in the number of JPs.
But he also acknowledged that there have long been calls from some groups for judges to preside over bail, and that could have played a role in the court’s decision on the pilot project.
“Justices of the peace know the law perfectly well and can make the decision just as well, to my thinking, as any judge can,” he said.
“Regardless of anything else, the length of time a bail hearing takes is really not contingent on the judge of the justice of the peace hearing it; it’s contingent on the Crown putting in whatever material they have, the defence calling sureties, whether they’re arguing over the form of release.”
Court delays are expected to be at the top of the agenda of the two-day federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers’ meeting, which begins Thursday in Vancouver.
The issue was put front and centre last year when the Supreme Court ruled in a case known as R. v. Jordan that cases that take longer than 18 months in provincial court, and 30 months in Superior Court, must be tossed unless the Crown can prove there were exceptional circumstances for the delay.
Bail has been among the areas targeted by Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi as in need of an overhaul to speed up the court process. There have been calls for federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to push for Criminal Code amendments that would scrap preliminary inquiries in most cases.
Wilson-Raybould’s parliamentary secretary, Marco Mendicino, told the annual Opening of the Courts ceremony in Toronto Tuesday that change is expected to be announced at the meeting in Vancouver.
“There, we hope to adopt a suite of legislative and policy proposals whose purpose will not only be to reduce court delays, but even more so, to break free from the culture of complacency which has beset our justice system, as laid bare in Jordan.
“It is time to act,” he said in his remarks.
Naqvi told the ceremony, which included the chief justices from all three levels of court in Ontario, as well as a number of other judges, lawyers and dignitaries, that the Ministry of the Attorney General will soon be releasing a new policy for Crown attorneys on bail.
“Too many of the people in our province’s correctional facilities are on remand,” he said.
“Too many are vulnerable, low-risk people, or those with mental health and addictions issues.
“And far too many, a disproportionate number, are racialized or Indigenous.”
PFORZHEIM, GERMANY—A nationalist party that wants Germany to close its borders to migrants, give up the euro and end sanctions against Russia is predicted to enter parliament for the first time, propelled by voters’ anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to admit over a million refugees since 2015.
Alternative for Germany, or AfD, is forecast to take between 8 and 11 per cent of the vote on Sept. 24, giving it dozens of lawmakers in the national parliament. Some polls even project that it could even place third behind Merkel’s party and the centre-left Social Democrats.
If the predictions are correct, it would be the first time in 60 years that a party to the right of Merkel’s conservative Union bloc has attracted enough votes to enter the Bundestag.
“It’s quite an achievement for a right-wing party to clear the 5 per cent minimum threshold,” said Gideon Botsch, a political scientist at the University of Potsdam near Berlin.
AfD’s poll numbers are all the more remarkable because the party has become increasingly extreme since its founding in 2013, according to Botsch.
“German voters haven’t wanted to vote for a right-wing party in recent decades,” he said. “Germany’s Nazi history is obviously one of the reasons for that.”
At an election rally last week in the southwestern city of Pforzheim, a mostly male, middle-aged audience gave a standing ovation to party co-leader Alexander Gauland, a 76-year-old former civil servant. Gauland, a former member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, sparked controversy last year by saying that Germans don’t want to live next to a black football player.
He made headlines again recently for suggesting that the government’s integration czar should be “disposed of” in Turkey, from where her family emigrated before she was born.
In Pforzheim, Gauland touched on a subject the party’s supporters are particularly anxious about: the influx of migrants from Muslim-majority countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Only if we defend Europe against a new Islamic invasion,” he told the crowd, “do we have a chance to remain a majority in this country and survive.”
Gauland’s anti-Islam comments fell on fertile ground in Pforzheim, which is located at the northern tip of Germany’s Black Forest. His party achieved a surprise victory there in last year’s regional election. It now has seats in 13 state assemblies and the European Parliament.
Observers say AfD benefited from Pforzheim’s large population of so-called Russlanddeutsche — ethnic Germans who emigrated from the former Soviet Union and hold more conservative views than the general population.
One such voter, Waldemar Meister, said he thinks AfD is the only party that listens to ordinary people’s concerns.
“We’re lied to, we’re deceived (by the other parties),” he said.
According to Timo Lochocki, a Berlin-based researcher at the German Marshall Fund think-tank, AfD’s success is partly due to the disillusionment voters feel with Germany’s established political parties. The development mirrors Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the rise of U.S. President Donald Trump, whose election AfD enthusiastically endorsed.
Nico Siegel, head of the infratest dimap polling agency, said more than half of people who vote for AfD say they did so out of dissatisfaction with other parties, drawing votes from all the others.
“The AfD is like a vacuum cleaner for those unsatisfied with the other parties,” he said.
Like populist politicians and parties elsewhere, AfD portrays itself as the lone voice of the people and all others, from mainstream politicians to journalists, as enemies or even traitors. It also enjoys good ties with Moscow.
The party has created a formidable social media machine with which to stoke outrage against migrants, Merkel and the media. It has by far the highest number of Facebook followers of all German political parties, and members avidly use Twitter to share news about crimes if they are committed by migrants.
Although the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Germany has dropped sharply since 2015, the issue remains at the top of the political agenda partly due to the absence of other major problems in the country, Lochocki said.
Germany’s unemployment is low, wages are rising and Merkel has absorbed most of her left-wing rivals’ political positions — from phasing out nuclear power to allowing same-sex marriage and easing immigration rules.
“Merkel has lost credibility among conservatives,” said Bernd Lucke, one of the founders of AfD who left the party in 2015 after losing a leadership battle. Lucke said many German conservatives are unsure who they’ll back this time round.
Recent opinion polls show almost half of German voters are still undecided.
Some in AfD fear the party’s unwillingness to clamp down on extreme nationalist rhetoric and veiled anti-Semitism could end up costing it precious votes.
“Germans would rather vote for nuclear war than for Nazis,” AfD’s regional head in North Rhine-Westphalia state, Marcus Pretzell, told The Associated Press in May.
This week, the party closed ranks around co-leader Alice Weidel following media reports that she had expressed racist views in a private email four years ago.
Senior AfD figures dismissed the report in the weekly Welt am Sonntag, which quoted from an email Weidel allegedly sent to an acquaintance in which she claimed the government was trying to cause “civil war” by systematically flooding German cities with Arab and Roma migrants.
Another report on Wednesday threatened to embarrass the party further. Weidel’s lawyer told Die Zeit newspaper that while Weidel had been friends with a Syrian asylum-seeker and had her over to visit, the newspaper’s report that she had employed the woman under-the-table as a housecleaner last year was untrue.
AfD later issued a statement reiterating that Weidel never employed the asylum-seeker.
Botsch, the political scientist, said it’s conceivable AfD might again fail at the last hurdle — like it did in 2013, when it ended up with 4.7 per cent of the vote.
On the other hand, if the party comes in third and Merkel’s Union bloc continues its coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats, AfD could end up being the biggest opposition party, with special privileges in Parliament.
“That will put AfD in a very strong position, but a lot depends on whether it can behave professionally,” Botsch said.
The notice went out on Facebook last year, calling citizens of Twin Falls, Idaho, to an urgent meeting about the “huge upsurge of violence toward American citizens” by Muslim refugees who had settled there.
The inflammatory post, however, originated not in Idaho but in Russia. The meeting’s sponsor, an anti-immigrant page called “Secured Borders,” was one of hundreds of fake Facebook accounts created by a Russian company with Kremlin ties to spread vitriolic messages on divisive issues.
Facebook acknowledged last week that it had closed the accounts after linking them to advertisements costing $100,000 (U.S.) that were purchased in Russia’s influence campaign during and after the 2016 election. But the company declined to release or describe in detail the pages and profiles it had linked to Russia.
A report by the Russian media outlet RBC last March, however, identified the Secured Borders page as the work of the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg firm that employs hundreds of so-called trolls to post material in support of Russian government policies. A Facebook official confirmed that Secured Borders was removed in the purge of Russian fakes.
The Secured Borders page, a search for archived images shows, spent months posing as an American activist group and spreading provocative messages on Facebook calling immigrants “scum” and “freeloaders,” linking refugees to crime and praising U.S. President Donald Trump’s tough line on immigration. The page attracted more than 133,000 followers before it was shut down.
It also promoted the Aug. 27, 2016, meeting in Twin Falls, called “Citizens before refugees,” which was first reported by The Daily Beast. The call came amid incendiary claims linking Muslim refugees in Twin Falls to crime that circulated on far-right websites last year. In May, Alex Jones, of the conspiracy site Infowars.com, retracted a claim that the Twin Falls yogurt company Chobani, which had made a point of hiring refugees, had been “caught importing migrant rapists.”
Shawn Barigar, the mayor of Twin Falls, said that the City Council chambers, where the supposed meeting was called on a Saturday, were closed that day and that officials did not recall any gathering. But he said that after two years of “robust debate” over the city’s refugee resettlement program, which dates to the 1980s, it was “kind of surreal” to discover that Russia had joined in.
“I kind of thought, ‘Well, that’s an interesting twist,’” Barigar said. He said the program “represents our core values as a community — welcoming others and learning from one another.” He said immigrants had not caused disproportionate problems there.
The multifaceted Russian information operation targeting the presidential election had many elements, including the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails, regular attacks on Hillary Clinton by the RT television channel and the online news site Sputnik, and the creation of fake accounts on Facebook and Twitter. But the Twin Falls post is the first example to come to light of Russian agents actually trying to conjure a political rally on American soil.
Facebook officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they had found a small number of additional events announced by the Russia-created pages and were looking for more. They declined to give examples.
The new revelations stepped up pressure on Facebook to make public more of what it knows about the Russian propaganda operations.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that he wanted Facebook and Twitter to testify in public session about the Russian use of their sites.
Warner called Facebook’s closed briefing for his committee and its House counterpart last week “just the tip of the iceberg.”
“We’re seeing more evidence of additional ads and how they are used to manipulate individuals,” he said.
Calling social media “the wild, wild West,” Warner said that getting a handle on the 2016 experience with Russian intrusions was critical because “the amount of advertising and use of these social media platforms in elections is only going to go exponentially up.” He said Twitter representatives would brief the committee soon.
Facebook said last week that the 470 “inauthentic accounts and pages” it had linked to Russia and removed had bought about 3,000 ads between June 2015 and May this year. Though some ads mentioned the presidential candidates or the election, most “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights,” wrote Alex Stamos, the company’s chief security officer.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has long been concerned that the United States might be inspiring pro-democracy movements inside Russia and on its periphery, including in Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic republics.
Jonathon Morgan, a former State Department adviser who has studied Russian online operations at his company, New Knowledge, said the Facebook activity underscored that the broader Russian goal went beyond attacks on Clinton or support for Trump in last year’s election.
“This is more about destabilizing democracy and pitting us against each other to limit the influence of the United States on the world stage,” he said.
Clinton Watts, a former FBI agent, now with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, who has studied the Russian influence campaign, said that beyond damaging the American image, Putin had reasons to court particular subgroups.
“If he’s successful, it gives him an indigenous U.S. audience in support of his policies,” Watts said. “It also gives him leverage in talking to President Trump: ‘Why don’t you stop interfering in Ukraine, and we’ll leave your domestic audience alone.’”
The potential influence of the Russia-linked Facebook ads depends in part on how they were targeted. While $100,000 is tiny compared with Facebook’s billions in quarterly advertising revenue, digital advertising experts said that even a little money could go a long way with Facebook advertising.
“In a world of microtargeting, where you can home in on individuals down to the Zip code, $100,000 can go a lot further than one would realize,” said Jason Kint, chief executive of Digital Content Next, an advertising research trade organization.
A group like Secured Borders may test hundreds of Facebook posts to see what content resonates with people, closely monitoring the number of likes, shares and clicks a post receives. If a post happens to take off, the group can pay to promote the post, effectively placing it in front of millions of people.
The issue is a thorny one for Facebook, whose business is almost entirely based on advertising. Executives at the social giant are deeply concerned at the federal government’s recent inquiries into how the company’s advertising works. Its advertising is not subject to the same regulations put on political print, radio and television ads.
The Russian campaign’s use of Facebook has distressed some employees, according to internal communications. In an excerpt from a company discussion board that was shared with The New York Times, Facebook employees pressed their bosses to be more open.
“Why are we only writing about this now?” one employee wrote, noting that last week’s Facebook disclosure came after months of news reports about the Russian influence campaign. Other workers asked for examples of the ads in question and for details on what the company described as the “geographic targeting” of some ads — specifically, whether they targeted swing states.
Stamos, the company’s security chief, declined to disclose more information. “There are complicated legal issues about what we can share with various interested parties,” he wrote on the discussion board. “I can’t go into more details than that at the moment.”
A veteran Durham police officer has come out swinging as he fights charges of discreditable conduct relating to allegations he made homophobic comments during an exchange with potential recruits.
The pursuit of Police Services Act charges against Sgt. Tom Andrews is a waste of resources, the officer’s lawyer, Bernie O’Brien, said as a disciplinary tribunal began on Tuesday morning in Whitby.
“This is a Durham police management issue that’s gone amok,” O’Brien said. “We think this is a grotesque waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”
O’Brien said Tuesday he’ll file an application to have the prosecution of Andrews declared an abuse of process. He’s also seeking removal of the prosecutor assigned to the case.
The allegations against Andrews relate to April of this year when he was acting as staff sergeant in Oshawa. A notice of hearing from the service says Andrews, asked to speak to two recruits, used vulgar and discriminatory language when he warned them about maintaining stellar reputations as officers.
According to the notice, Andrews told the recruits, “You can sleep with a thousand women and you’re a king. But you fellate one man and you are a c---s----- for life.”
The comment, made in front of an officer who’s openly gay, was “unprofessional, inappropriate and harmful to those who did and would have heard them,” the notice states.
The complaint that led to the charges, however, was not made by the recruits or other officers in the office at the time Andrews made them. A third party filed the complaint after hearing about the exchange, O’Brien confirmed.
Andrews denied the comment was homophobic; he attributed the resulting charges to “political correctness.”
“I used an analogy in a teaching environment,” Andrews said. “Rather than talking and resolving third-party concerns like this, I guess it’s easier to just call the lawyers and get out the taxpayers’ chequebook.”
O’Brien said Tuesday that Andrews has been assigned to administrative duties. He is not authorized to employ use of force tactics and is barred from performing paid duty, restrictions that will cost the veteran officer $40,000 in wages, O’Brien said.
“He was taken out and put in the penalty box,” O’Brien said. “It’s unfair. It’s undignified.”
O’Brien will seek removal of the firm of Ian Johnstone, a longtime prosecutor for Durham police, from the case. He cited an instance in 2012 when Johnstone filed a personal complaint about a remark made by Andrews that led to disciplinary action.
“The justification is the perception of a fair and impartial hearing,” O’Brien said later.
O’Brien will also apply to have the disciplinary action by police brass declared an abuse of process.
Alex Sinclair, acting as prosecutor during Tuesday’s hearing, rejected O’Brien’s assertion that the comments in question were harmless.
“That theme I simply can’t agree with,” Sinclair said. “When you make homophobic comments in the workplace, that’s a serious issue.”
A number of officers attended the tribunal to show support for Andrews. Brad Durst, vice-president of the Durham Regional Police Association, said Andrews has “the full support of the association.”
“I’ve known Tommy for 25 years,” said Durst. “He is truly the hardest-working, most dedicated officer.”
The tribunal has been adjourned to Oct. 31.
ROCKFORD, WASH.—A shooter opened fire at a high school in Washington state Wednesday, killing one person and injuring at least three others, authorities said.
Brian Schaeffer of the Spokane Fire Department told reporters that one person died at Freeman High School in the tiny town of Rockford, south of Spokane, and three injured victims were taken to a hospital.
Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital received three pediatric patients, spokesperson Nicole Stewart said. They were in stable condition, and family members were with them, she said.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said at the scene that the shooter was in custody, The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported.
Worried parents rushed to the school in the town of about 500 people near the Idaho border, about 40 kilometres southeast of Spokane. The two-lane road into town was clogged as people sped to the school.
Cheryl Moser said her son, a freshman at Freeman High School, called her from a classroom after hearing shots fired.
“He called me and said, ‘Mom there are gunshots.’ He sounded so scared. I’ve never heard him like that,” Moser told the newspaper. “You never think about something happening like this at a small school.”
Ambulances and a Lifeflight helicopter were sent to the school.
Stephanie Lutje told The Associated Press that she was relieved to hear her son was safe after his high school near Freeman was put on lockdown. She commended the school district for its communication with parents.
“It’s been amazing, within probably 15-20 minutes of hearing about it, I’d already received a phone call, I’d already received a text message saying that their school is OK,” she said.
She still worried for others she knew, including a co-worker who had yet to hear from her son, a sophomore at Freeman.
“My stomach’s in knots right now,” she said.
Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement that “all Washingtonians are thinking of the victims and their families, and are grateful for the service of school staff and first responders working to keep our students safe.”
SUDBURY—Premier Kathleen Wynne says a would-be byelection candidate simply wasn’t up to the job — and was offered a chance to get more involved in the party in an effort to let him down easy.
The details came in her long-awaited testimony to the Election Act bribery trial of the premier’s former deputy chief of staff, Patricia Sorbara, and Sudbury Liberal organizer Gerry Lougheed.
The pair are charged with offering Andrew Olivier, a mortgage broker and the party’s 2014 provincial election candidate, jobs or appointments to abandon his efforts to become the Liberal nominee in an unexpected byelection early the following year.
“I didn’t say this to him . . . he hadn’t been a great candidate,” said Wynne, the first Ontario premier in recent memory to testify at a trial that opposition parties are calling a test of Liberal “corruption” with a provincial election next June.
Wynne strode past a phalanx of reporters, TV cameras and radio microphones on her way into the courthouse, spending almost four hours in the witness box. On her way out of the building, a handful of protesters weakly chanted, “liar, liar, pants on fire.”
“He had not been able to pull the team together . . . there was some concern,” the premier said of Olivier, who placed second in 2014 as the Liberals won a slim majority but lost Sudbury to the NDP after holding it for 18 years.
Wynne’s preferred candidate for the February 2015 byelection — called after New Democrat MPP Joe Cimino suddenly quit for family reasons — was defecting Sudbury New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault, now her energy minister.
That’s why Wynne, who was once passed over for a party nomination in 1999, felt it necessary to reach out to Olivier to ask him to support Thibeault and stay involved in the party.
“I thought it was a decent thing to do . . . this was a difficult moment for him,” she said of Olivier, who subsequently released recorded conversations with Lougheed and Sorbara that prosecutors allege were illegal job offers.
The defence has argued that Thibeault had privately agreed to become the candidate before the conversations Olivier had with Sorbara and Lougheed.
Olivier, who is quadriplegic, tapes some calls and conversations because he cannot take notes.
Wynne testified her own conversation with Olivier — which was not recorded — made it clear there was a “process” he could go through to take various positions in the party, such as seeking an elected spot on the executive, serving on volunteer committees or seeking a public appointment.
“These were not things that would happen immediately,” Wynne testified under examination by Crown prosecutor Vern Brewer, describing her phone chat with Olivier on Dec. 11, 2014 as “awkward” because he was not signalling whether he would back Thibeault.
Olivier subsequently ran as an independent in the byelection and placed third behind Thibeault and a New Democrat.
The next call from the Liberal hierarchy to Olivier was by Sorbara, the following day. Lougheed had talked to him an hour or two before Wynne.
“My recollection is Pat was going to follow up with Andrew,” Wynne added. “Beyond that, there was no instruction.”
On the tape of that conversation, Sorbara said, “we should have the broadest discussion about what it is that you would be most interested in doing, whether it’s a full-time or part-time job in a (constituency) office, whether it is appointments or commissions . . . .”
In his talk with Olivier, Lougheed stated: “The premier wants to talk. They would like to present you options in terms of appointments, jobs, whatever, that you and her and Pat Sorbara could talk about.”
Under cross-examination by Lougheed lawyer Michael Lacy, Wynne replied “I did not” when asked if she gave “scripts” to Sorbara and Lougheed but said there was a “shared understanding” that the approach was aimed at keeping Olivier involved in the party.
“The words chosen by Mr. Lougheed may not have been perfect words,” Lacy said.
The trial is expected to continue into October.
Sorbara and Lougheed face maximum fines of $25,000 and two years less a day in jail for the alleged infractions, which are under a lesser category of provincial offences and not under the Criminal Code.
Sorbara faces a second count of inducing Thibeault to be the candidate. The Crown says he asked for income replacement through the campaign if he jumped from federal politics to the provincial Liberals and for jobs for two of his NDP constituency office staff.
Wynne testified that Sorbara had a say in how party funds were spent in the byelection.
“My understanding is she would have.”
Toronto is moving forward with the development of 2,000 market-rent and affordable rental housing units, through a provincial agreement to unlock surplus land across the city.
“There are far too many people who need to live in this city, who we need to have live in this city, who we want to live in the city, who would have an income that wouldn’t allow them to live affordably in this city,” said Mayor John Tory.
The rental properties will be built on two lots in the West Don Lands, the site of a multi-level parking lot on Grosvenor St. and the old provincial coroner’s office, on Grenville St.
Tory’s remarks were made during a press conference with provincial Housing Minister Peter Milczyn, at one future site, near St. Lawrence Market, on Wednesday morning.
The land will go up for sale on Thursday and developers will be invited to submit proposals, with the understanding the property must be used for affordable and market rent housing.
The province will profit from the sale but the expectation is the land will sell for less than it would if it was put on the market with no restrictions, said Milczyn.
They hope to have the first round proposals within a month and work could begin on one site as early as next spring, he said.
Milczyn said at least 30 per cent or 600 rental homes will be affordable. In Toronto, affordable is defined as rental units costing at or below the average rent across the city.
The remaining 1,400 will be at the “low end” of market rent, or the average rent for similar-sized properties across the city.
“So all of these units, compared to some of the other buildings that are around us, will be more affordable than you would otherwise see in the city,” he said.
At least one in 10 of the new units will be designed for large families, he said.
“Families should be able to live in these communities,” said Milczyn, who said more announcements about surplus provincial lands are coming.
The decision to unlock the property was announced in late April.
The city will be waiving $27.9 million in fees, charges and property taxes to support the development of the 600 affordable units, through the city’s Open Door Program.
Kenneth Hale, director of legal service with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, said one concern is according to federal and provincial agreements, affordable housing is defined as less or equal to 80 per cent of market rent.
“Eighty per cent of Toronto rent is not affordable to the people who need housing most in this city,” said Hale, particularly people receiving social assistance.
“There doesn’t seem to be any clear programs that tie future subsidies to these developments,” said Hale.
“When they say affordable housing who is it going to be affordable to?”
Tory, on Wednesday, said the city has “great plans to do more” and people should “stay tuned for us making more land available,” for affordable housing.
“I can assure you from our end that we are doing everything we can to move these projects forward quickly,” said Tory.
Councillor Ana Bailao, the city’s housing advocate, said the development will “serve an important need,” by providing safe, affordable and long-term housing for families and workers in the downtown.
Tory and Bailao praised late councillor Pam McConnell, who passed away in July and was devoted to poverty reduction. Bailao said McConnell’s vision of an inclusive city was a powerful reminder that equality is a shared responsibility.
Next week, Bailao will be presenting information on the creation of an additional 298 units, in seven developments, run by not-for-profit, co-operative and private sector organizations, to the city’s affordable housing committee.
The city will be investing a further $22.4 million in “capital funding and fees, charges and property tax relief,” also through the Open Door program, said Bailao, in a release.
The city will, for the first time, meet and exceed an annual target to approve more than 1,000 affordable units annually, she said.
On Monday, Tory and Milczyn announced that Toronto will get $90 million in provincial funding, over three years, to help end chronic homelessness.
Those funds come from a $200 million commitment in the last budget, to be spent over three years, and earmarked to reduce homelessness across Ontario.
Other municipalities will receive details on funding in the fall, said Milczyn.
MONTREAL—For a taste of the challenges that could await Thomas Mulcair’s successor in Quebec consider the following: On Tuesday, Longueuil-Saint-Hubert MP Pierre Nantel told le Devoir that he and possibly others might prefer to sit as independents than to serve in the House of Commons under any of the non-Quebec candidates vying for the NDP leadership.
In an open letter published Thursday, Nantel — who currently serves as the party’s heritage critic — writes that it was Jack Layton’s promise of a party respectful of Quebec’s national character that drew him along with many of the province’s voters to the NDP in 2011.
From his perspective, the fact that Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton and Jagmeet Singh have all spoken out against Quebec’s plan to prevent individuals wearing face coverings from dispensing or receiving public services amounts to a breach of that promise.
The bill currently debated in the National Assembly would essentially impact the minority of Muslim women who wear the niqab and the burka.
MP Guy Caron — the only Quebec candidate in the running — has said that while he disagrees with the bill he would, as federal leader, respect the will of the National Assembly on the matter.
Ashton, Singh and Angus have argued that Quebec’s secular character should not be affirmed at the expense of constitutionally protected religious freedoms.
In his letter, Nantel warns that under a leader set on a collision course with the National Assembly on secularism the NDP could lose its tenuous connection with nationalist Quebecers and, by the same token, set the cause of federalism back in the province.
Nantel will support Caron in the leadership vote, but there is more at play here than the jostling that often attends the last stretch of a competitive political contest.
Indeed this MP’s crisis of confidence in some of his party’s values predates the entry of any of the current leadership aspirants in the campaign to succeed Mulcair.
In the last campaign Nantel was one of a handful of Quebec New Democrat candidates who broke ranks and came out in support of the proposed Conservative niqab ban at citizenship ceremonies.
Back in January, the local media in Nantel’s Montreal South Shore riding reported that he was considering a run for the Parti Québécois in next year’s Quebec election. On Wednesday he described that scenario as “hypothetical.”
Nantel is a popular, hard-working MP. He would be a catch for a momentum-hungry PQ for more reasons than one.
His federal riding includes much of the provincial riding of Vachon. That happens to be the seat currently held in the National Assembly by Martine Ouellet, the latest leader of the Bloc Québécois. She is expected to vacate it to run federally in 2019.
In the last federal election, Nantel kept his federal seat with a slim 700-vote majority. The Bloc won a solid 27 per cent of the vote. If he were to make the jump to the provincial arena and a solid PQ riding, he would in the process provide Ouellet with as clear a federal run in Longueuil-Saint-Hubert in 2019 as she could hope for.
In terms of raw politics this could be described as a win-win quid pro quo.
That being said, there is more to Nantel’s lament than an isolated case of positioning in the possible hope of a more promising political future under a different banner.
There is a widespread fear among the party’s rank-and-file in Quebec that the nationalist-friendly terms set out by Layton and Mulcair to bring the province under the NDP tent will become moot under a less Quebec-savvy leader. And that as a result, the province’s New Democrats will no longer be competitive.
In his letter Nantel readily admits that, in contrast with Caron, he is not a lifelong NDP supporter but rather a Layton convert. But the New Democrat predicament in Quebec is that the party has more supporters like Nantel than like Caron.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals assume that they would benefit from a fading NDP presence in Quebec. That assumption is almost certainly right when it comes to ridings like Mulcair’s Outremont that happen to be home to a diverse and solid federalist constituency.
But in other areas of the province, it could give a breath of life to a moribund Bloc Québécois.
Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
NEW YORK—A judge jailed former pharmaceuticals company CEO Martin Shkreli on Wednesday after finding that he violated his bail on a securities fraud conviction with a social media posting she agreed posed a threat to Hillary Clinton.
Defence attorneys had argued at a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn that the post by Shkreli, offering a $5,000 (U.S.) bounty to anyone who could grab him one of Clinton’s hairs while she’s on a book tour, was political satire. But U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto didn’t see the humour, saying the offer could be taken seriously by fellow Clinton detractors.
The Clinton offer could be viewed as “a solicitation of an assault,” the judge said before revoking Shkreli’s $5-million bail.
“This is not protected by the First Amendment,” the judge said. “... There’s a risk that somebody may take him up on it.”
The government had told the judge that the message had alarmed the Secret Service detail that protects Clinton, a Democratic former presidential candidate and first lady. It also argued that it fit a pattern of veiled threats against female journalists who rebuffed Shkreli’s social media advances and of taunts aimed at prosecutors in his case.
On Monday, Shkreli, often called the Pharma Bro, wrote to the court apologizing for his behaviour, saying, “I am not a violent person.”
But for the judge, it was too little, too late.
“He doesn’t have to apologize to me,” she said. “He should apologize to the government, the Secret Service and Hillary Clinton.”
Shkreli watched in silence as the hearing unfolded and sometimes put his head down and appeared to scribble notes. After the judge’s ruling, he remained expressionless as deputy U.S. marshals led him out a side door of the courtroom without handcuffing him.
Defence attorney Ben Brafman said outside court he was disappointed in the judge’s decision.
“We believe the court arrived at the wrong decision, but she’s the judge and right now we will have to live with this decision,” he said.
Shkreli, who is best known for hiking up the price of a life-saving drug and for trolling his critics on social media, was found guilty last month on charges, unrelated to the price-fixing scandal, that he cheated investors in two failed hedge funds he ran. The defence had argued that investors got their original investments back and even made hefty profits.
Since his 2015 arrest, Shkreli’s attorneys have tried and failed to get him to tone down online antics they feared would taint his jury and, after his conviction, hurt his chances for a lenient sentence by giving the court the impression he wasn’t taking his situation seriously. Along with the Clinton flap, reports surfaced that he was trying to auction off what he claims is a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album he bought for $2 million.
For now, Shkreli will await his Jan. 16 sentencing at a federal jail in an industrial part of Brooklyn instead his Manhattan apartment, which was a familiar backdrop for his live-streamed bluster. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, though the term could end up being shorter under federal sentencing guidelines.
The government sought to get Shkreli locked up as a danger to the community amid the fallout from his social media post, which read: “The Clinton Foundation is willing to KILL to protect its secrets. So on HRC’s book tour, try to grab a hair from her. I must confirm the sequences I have. Will pay $5,000 per hair obtained from Hillary Clinton.”
The defence insisted it was merely a tasteless joke comparable to some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s derisive comments.
“Indeed, in the current political climate, dissent has unfortunately often taken the form of political satire, hyperbole, parody or sarcasm,” the defence’s court papers said. “There is a difference, however, between comments that are intended to threaten or harass and comments — albeit offensive ones — that are intended as political satire or strained humour.”