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    Kathleen Wynne wasn’t on trial Wednesday in a Sudbury courtroom. But as the first sitting premier to appear on the witness stand, Wynne faced her own trial by fire.

    Equally, Hillary Clinton wasn’t on trial in a congressional hearing room, or in an abortive FBI probe last year. But we know how that ended on the campaign trial.

    Legally, Wynne could have dodged this week’s courtroom confrontation. Like all MPPs, she enjoys parliamentary immunity from judicial obligations.

    Read more:

    Olivier not as ‘strong a candidate as I had thought,’ Wynne testifies at Sudbury bribery trial

    Wynne threatens Brown with libel action over his Sudbury comments

    Politically, however, the premier had every reason to waive those rights. By agreeing to testify in the bribery trial of her former top campaign aide and a local party loyalist, Wynne wanted to show in a provincial courtroom that she had nothing to hide.

    But she had everything to defend in Ontario’s broader court of public opinion this week — not least her political reputation.

    Wynne took a personal gamble, albeit with little downside. In our parliamentary system, a premier is practiced at the alternating rituals of Question Period and news conferences, which tend to be more challenging than the plodding crown prosecutors she faced in Sudbury.

    Yet if the political risk was manageable, the potential upside isn’t so measurable for a premier trying to rebuild her reputation. In our legal system, an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty; in our political system, a premier is presumed corrupt until proven otherwise (even if she is not personally on trial).

    It is unsurprising that politicians are not given the benefit of the doubt, given that they are prone to say with a straight face that their baloney is filet mignon. That said, the premier’s utterances were delivered under oath Wednesday, so there is more reason to take Wynne at her word, if only this once.

    In truth, there were no surprises in her testimony, because few of the facts in this convoluted tale are in dispute. The cognitive dissonance comes in the context, in how you connect the dots and distinguish them from false leads.

    Our accompanying news coverage lays out the background to the seemingly sordid story of attempted bribery: A failed candidate in the 2014 general election, Andrew Olivier, wanted to run again in a 2015 byelection until the premier sidelined him by settling on a more electable candidate, Glenn Thibeault.

    In the aftermath, the premier’s team tried to pacify Olivier by dangling the prospect of an appointment if he would support Thibeault in a show of party unity. Their mistake was to go out of their way to console Olivier, a quadriplegic who records his calls because he cannot take notes.

    And so a scandal was born: Olivier taped top Liberal campaign aide Pat Sorbara suggesting he consider the appointment process, and recorded local Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed doing the same.

    When he posted the embarrassing recordings on Facebook, the opposition — which knows precisely how politics is played — pounced by filing an OPP complaint. Once the cops were on the scent, the story seemed to stink.

    At first, they laid criminal code charges. When the cops and crown realized the chances of a conviction were remote, they downgraded the case to lesser provincial offences under the barely understood and rarely invoked Election Act — relying on wording clearly intended to guard against greedy land developers buying off dissidents with handsome bribes, not party leaders ridding themselves of losers.

    That Olivier was never given any concrete offers, merely invited to go through the application process — for unpaid volunteer positions or a constituency assistant job that typically pays a whopping $35,000 a year — has been lost in all the bribery hyperbole. In reality, Olivier couldn’t be bought off because he had already been ruled out for the nomination, once the premier decided to appoint Thibeault using her power under the party constitution.

    Which makes the whole muddle moot. Chicanery isn’t bribery.

    Just ask Mike Duffy, who was excommunicated by his fellow senators and excoriated by his former media colleagues, before being exonerated by a judge who mocked the police case.

    To borrow a hockey analogy, and as much as I oppose fighting in the NHL, imagine if a losing coach filed assault charges every time an opposing player threw a sloppy punch. When you criminalize the competitiveness of the political game, and when you weaponize the Election Act, you arrive at the absurdity that is Sudbury.

    No one can predict a judge’s verdict. But this is a case that should never have gone to court, and may one day come back to haunt the opposition PCs as they deal with a similar mess of their own making in Hamilton — involving an embarrassing recording, a police investigation and litigation over a disputed nomination.

    Let the games begin — cops and robbers and politicians chasing their tails. But don't our police and prosecutors have real criminals to catch?

    Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. , Twitter: @reggcohn

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    KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA—Malaysian authorities were investigating the cause of a fire early Thursday that blocked the only exit of an Islamic dormitory on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, killing 23 people, most of them teenagers.

    Firefighters and witnesses described scenes of horror — first of boys screaming for help behind barred windows as neighbours watched helplessly, and later of burned bodies huddled in corners of the room. Islamic teacher Arif Mawardy said he woke up to what he thought was a thunderstorm, only to realize it was the sound of people screaming.

    Firefighters rushed to the scene after receiving a distress call at 5:41 a.m. local time and took an hour to put out the blaze, which started on the top floor of the three-story building, Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh said.

    Read more:Fire at Islamic religious school in Malaysia kills 25, mostly teens

    Singh said 23 charred bodies were recovered — 21 boys between the ages of 13 and 17 and two teachers.

    “We believe (they died of) suffocation ... the bodies were totally burnt,” he said. Singh said 14 other students and four teachers were rescued.

    Health Minister S. Subramaniam said six other students and a resident who went to help were hospitalized, with four of them in critical condition. He said the 23 bodies were in the Forensics Department waiting to be identified through DNA.

    The fire broke out near the only door to the boys’ dormitory, trapping the victims because the windows were barred, fire department senior official Abu Obaidat Mohamad Saithalimat said. He said the cause was believed to be an electrical short-circuit, though Singh said the investigation was continuing.

    Another fire department official, Soiman Jahid, said firefighters heard shouts for help when they arrived at the school. He said they found a pile of bodies in the right corner of the dorm and another pile in the left corner.

    Local media showed pictures of blackened bed frames in the burned dormitory. A resident, Nurhayati Abdul Halim, was quoted as saying that she saw the boys crying and screaming for help.

    “I saw their little hands out of the grilled windows; crying for help. ... I heard their screams and cries but I could not do anything. The fire was too strong for me to do anything,” she said. She added that the school had been operating in the area for the past year.

    Noh Omar, Malaysia’s minister for urban well-being, housing and local government, said the school’s original architectural plan included an open top floor that allowed access to two exit staircases. But he said a wall had been built dividing that floor, leaving only one exit for the dorm.

    “The wall shouldn’t have been there,” he said. He added that the school submitted an application for a fire safety permit that hadn’t been approved.

    The school, Darul Qur’an Ittifaqiyah, is a private Islamic centre, known as a “tahfiz” school, for Muslim children, mainly boys, to study and memorize the Qur’an.

    School principal Mohamad Zahid Mahmod was quoted by the Berita Harian newspaper as saying the students were being housed in a temporary building because of renovation work at the main school building. He said they were due to move back at the end of this month.

    Mohamad Zahid said the school has been operating for 15 years and is registered with the state Islamic religious council. He said the school had housed 42 students, six teachers and two wardens.

    However, an official with the state religious council said it had no record of the school.

    The Star newspaper said there were 519 tahfiz schools registered nationwide as of April, but many more are believed to be unregistered. Many such schools are exempt from state inspections.

    The newspaper said the fire department has recorded 211 fires in such private Islamic centres since 2015. In August, 16 people fled a fire at a tahfiz school in northern Kedah state. Another tahfiz school was destroyed by a fire in May but no one was hurt.

    The worst fire occurred in 1989 when 27 female students at a private Islamic school in Kedah state died in a blaze that gutted the school and eight wooden hostels.

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    After growing up in a middle-class home in Edmonton, Patricia Huculak moved to Toronto 11 years ago to escape a violent spouse and has struggled with poverty and homelessness ever since.

    But things are finally looking up for the 47-year-old single mother. In July, Huculak began receiving a $500 monthly housing allowance through a recently beefed-up federal-provincial homelessness prevention program that has allowed her to rent a one-bedroom apartment close to public transit.

    Next week, she will graduate from a 12-week advocacy program that has given her the confidence to apply for a well-paying job with the city of Toronto as a street outreach worker where she hopes to put her life experience to work helping others.

    And her daughter Alicha, 13, a budding track star, is trying out for a girls basketball team that plays competitively throughout southern Ontario.

    “It used to be every day getting up and asking where am I going to get the next meal and how am I going to get shoes for my daughter?” says Huculak. “But I’m breathing a little easier. For the first time in a long time I have hope.”

    Canadian incomes have risen by more than 10 per cent over the last decade, fuelled by a booming resource sector, while the number living on low incomes is rising in Ontario where growth has been sluggish, Statistics Canada says.

    However, the agency cautions that census results do not account for the sharp drop-off in oil prices that hit the economy and stalled the resource sector in 2015 and 2016. As well, the Ontario economy has started to rebound, showing strong growth in the first quarter and low unemployment.

    New data from the 2016 census reveals that the median income of Canadian households rose to $70,336 in 2015, up 10.8 per cent from $63,457 in 2005.

    The jump is attributed to high resource prices that attracted investment and workers to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, pumped up the construction sector and saw wealth filter through the economy, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.

    The picture wasn’t so rosy in Ontario, where the downturn in the manufacturing sector slowed income growth and the proportion of low-income residents has been on the rise.

    The median income in Ontario was $74,287 in 2015, up just 3.8 per cent over the last decade, the slowest growth of any province or territory during that time.

    That’s attributed to the gutting of the manufacturing sector and the loss of 318,000 jobs, down 30 per cent since 2005.

    From 2005 to 2015, almost every metropolitan centre in Ontario saw below average income growth, compared to the booming Prairies, where incomes rose above average. The Greater Toronto Area had a median income of $78,373 in 2015, up 3.3 per cent. In the GTA, Oakville had the highest median income at $113,666. The City of Toronto had the lowest at $65,829.

    The last decade has also seen a rise in low-income rates in Ontario’s urban centres, led by London (17 per cent, up from 13 per cent) and Windsor (17.5 per cent, up from 14 per cent). The Toronto region’s low-income rate rose to 15.6 per cent from 14.1 per cent a decade ago.

    Across Ontario, 14.4 per cent of residents — some 1.9 million people — were low income in 2015, an increase from 12.9 per cent in 2005.

    Nationwide, the low-income rate edged up slightly over the decade to 14.2 per cent in 2015, from 14 per cent. For children, the low-income rate was also stable but higher at 17.1 per cent, up slightly from 17 per cent in 2005.

    “We see a relative stability in low income. That means in this period of growth, people aren’t falling further behind. But they aren’t necessarily catching up either,” Andrew Heisz, assistant director of income statistics division at Statistics Canada, said in an interview.

    “A decline in the low-income rate is possible if incomes of lower-income persons are rising faster than the median. But that hasn’t been the case here,” he said.

    (Statistics Canada defines a low-income household as one having less than half of the median income of all households. For a one-person household, the after-tax low income measure was $22,133 in 2015. For a family of four it was $44,266.)

    That means 4.8 million Canadians were living in low-income in 2015, some 1.2 million of them children, including almost 490,000 in Ontario.

    Lone-parent families such as Huculak’s and those with more than one child are more likely to be low-income, according to Statistics Canada.

    However, Statistics Canada says that the proportion of low-income children has been dropping since the mid-1990s, thanks in part to government programs. The average child benefit received by families has nearly doubled since the mid-1990s, the agency says.

    “We know from other research that government transfers are important for reducing people in low income. More progressive transfers, such as child benefits, play an important role in reducing the low income rate among families with children,” Heisz said.

    At the other end of the age scale, a larger proportion of Canadians 65 years and older were low income, rising to 14.5 per cent in 2015 from 12 per cent in 2005, according to Statistics Canada.

    Peter Milczyn, Ontario’s minister responsible for poverty reduction efforts, said while the province’s economy is strong “we know it’s not growing equally for everybody.”

    He noted the government’s efforts “to help people at the lower end of the income spectrum to be able to afford a lot of the important things in their lives,” such as more rental housing, affordable housing, a coming boost to the minimum wage, free tuition grants for post-secondary students, as well as pharmacare for youth.

    “There’s also the basic income pilot that we are testing out in three communities as another measure to look at how we can support lower-income Ontarians,” he said. “But we also know that our economy is growing — we have job growth.”

    He said the fact that one-third of new college and university students are receiving the full tuition grants “are a strong signal that we are providing the tools to people to increase their skills so they can better participate in our economy.”

    But provincial opposition parties used the census results to blast the Ontario Liberal government’s 13-year record.

    “This report shows what families already know — they’re being squeezed,” said NDP economic development critic Catherine Fife. “Household costs have gone up under Kathleen Wynne, but wages are being held back.”

    Jean-Yves Duclos, the federal minister of families, children and social development, said the census showed the needs across Canada “to work toward more resilient economies.”

    Duclos touted the Liberals’ Canada Child Benefit for helping ease child poverty. He also cited initiatives on affordable housing, early learning and child care investments, “which are going to benefit all families . . . , but, particularly, lower-income families.”

    Pedro Barata of United Way Toronto and York Region said Huculuk’s experience with a housing allowance shows how government policies can fight poverty.

    “What low-income Canadians need is support to close the gap between the rising cost of rent and the fact that their incomes are stuck,” said Barata, a member of a national alliance advocating for a national portable housing benefit.

    “We need significant investment in real measures that will tangibly create better outcomes for Canadians and a portable housing benefit is a piece that gets right at the heart of that challenge and would really move us forward,” he said.

    Current consultations on a national anti-poverty strategy should result in clear goals, timelines and public investments, added Anita Khanna of Campaign 2000, a national coalition of organizations working to end child poverty. Indexing the Canada Child Benefit is key to ensuring progress isn’t lost to inflation, she added.

    With files from Tonda MacCharles and Kristin Rushowy

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    WASHINGTON—Democratic leaders on Wednesday night declared that they had a deal with President Donald Trump to quickly extend protections for young unauthorized immigrants and to finalize a border security package that does not include the president’s proposed wall.

    After a White House dinner with the president, the Democrats — Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California — released a joint statement that appeared aimed at ensuring that the president would follow through after their discussions on the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

    “We had a very productive meeting at the White House with the president,” the statement said. “The discussion focused on DACA. We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”

    Read more:

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    U.S. Supreme Court upholds Trump administration’s ban on most refugees

    California sues Trump administration over ending DACA, joining 15 other states, D.C.

    In its own statement, the White House was far more muted, mentioning DACA as merely one of several things that were discussed.

    “President Donald Trump had a constructive working dinner with Senate and House minority leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, as well as administration officials to discuss policy and legislative priorities,” the statement said.

    “These topics included tax reform, border security, DACA, infrastructure and trade. This is a positive step toward the president’s strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans. The administration looks forward to continuing these conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle.”

    A White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private dinner insisted that the president had stressed his interest in seeing the border wall funded. The wall was a key campaign pledge, but Democrats are vehemently against it.

    According to a person briefed on the meeting, the president said at the dinner that he was not tethering wall funding to the DACA solution. Trump recently began to wind down DACA, which has provided protection from deportation for roughly 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants. But he has been torn about it, and he has made clear he would like a legislative fix.

    The president is pursuing a bipartisan patina as he heads into the fall legislative season with few major achievments in his first eight months in office.

    The meeting Wednesday night was described as a follow-up to one that Schumer and Pelosi held in the Oval Office last week with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, at which Trump astonished — and undercut — his own advisers by leaping at a deal offered by Democrats to attach a stopgap spending bill and debt-ceiling increase to a package of recovery aid for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

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    He was a giant of his time, a classic of his political type as regional godfather and an architect of some of the social programs on which Canadians still define and pride themselves.

    Allan Joseph MacEachen — known as “Allan J.” across his native Cape Breton Island; if you called him anything else you outed yourself as a come-from-away — died this week at 96.

    And for once the frequently uttered epitaph is true. His like is not apt to pass this way again any time soon.

    “Allan J. was the pre-eminent parliamentarian of his time,” Bob Rae, former MP and Ontario premier, told the Star.

    “He will deservedly be remembered for his deep commitment to social justice, to the economic development of his region and the whole country and to Parliament itself.”

    Sean Fraser, Liberal MP for the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova, told the Star that MacEachen “was just a larger-than-life character. He’s peerless in Canadian politics.”

    MacEachen held just about “every position there is to hold,” Fraser said. “And he did more with those positions than can reasonably be expected of a human being.”

    Allan J. was an MP and senator for more than 43 years, starting out at the progressive heart of the Pearson government in the 1960s and using his vast parliamentary skills, University of Toronto professor Nelson Wiseman told the Star, to engineer the downfall of the Joe Clark government in 1979 and his considerable powers of persuasion on the Liberal caucus to enable Pierre Trudeau’s return as leader — after his dalliance with resignation.

    “Allan MacEachen was a very, very shrewd tactician, and it’s actually because of him that Pierre Trudeau came back into power in 1980,” Wiseman said.

    MacEachen was born in 1921 in Inverness, N.S., and grew up during the Great Depression. His father worked in the Cape Breton coal mines for 46 years, and when he left, his son once recalled, “he left with nothing; he had no pension.”

    But MacEachen found education to be the great equalizer. He attended St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., and graduated in 1944 before studying economics at M.I.T.

    He was first elected in 1953 at just 33, was defeated in 1958 and re-elected in 1962.

    His first cabinet portfolio was as Lester Pearson’s labour minister. Then, in 1966, as minister of national health and welfare, he helped implement medicare in Canada, widely regarded as his greatest achievement.

    He told the Commons “this effort springs not only from a deepening of our humanitarian concern for our fellow citizens, but from a realization that we cannot afford the social and economic consequences of our failure to do so. In an industrial country such as ours, we cannot afford the loss to the economy stemming from ill health.”

    MacEachen, said Rae, “was at the heart and centre of the Pearson government — whose social and economic policies remain an integral part of the policy architecture of our country.

    “The Canada Pension Plan, medicare, manpower changes, regional development, immigration changes — Allan J. was instrumental in making these happen.”

    In 1968, MacEachen ran for the Liberal leadership, but lost badly and ended up in debt. He was shuffled sideways, then downward for a time by Pierre Trudeau. He considered quitting politics, but friends convinced him he would be letting down Cape Breton.

    For all MacEachen’s accomplishments during the Pearson years, he was what former Star columnist Richard Gwyn once called “a late-blooming media star.”

    By 1972, MacEachen had been on Parliament Hill for almost 20 years in various capacities, but cultivated a sort of shaggy, bearish demeanour that was clever camouflage for his shrewdness.

    He was an intensely private bachelor, with a reputation among some colleagues for brooding and melancholy. And it was the Clark-Trudeau dramas of 1979-80 in which he jumped to national prominence, Gwyn wrote.

    In his memoirs, Pierre Trudeau wrote that MacEachen had great strategic sense, lived and breathed politics and was “the kind of man I respected because he had no ulterior motives.

    “He said what he thought, and the reasons he would give were always his real reasons.”

    Trudeau’s confidence in MacEachen was reflected by the late Liberal cabinet minister, Eugene Whelan, when he wrote in his memoir of having his knuckles rapped by the PM after speaking out critically on financial affairs while MacEachen was minister.

    “You can say anything you like about the banks, but leave MacEachen out of it,” Whelan reported Trudeau telling him.

    MacEachen, who retired from the Senate in 1996 after 12 years in the upper chamber, led the infamous Liberal protests there in the late 1980s over the Progressive Conservative government’s free-trade treaty with the United States.

    At MacEachen’s Senate retirement, colleague Sen. Anne Cools described the country’s first deputy prime minister as a true son of Cape Breton, whose parents spoke Scottish Gaelic at home.

    “His Scottish racial ancestry is revealed in his physical build and his stalwart features. He is a handsome man with great serenity and poise. He has the countenance of one who understands human beings and the human condition.

    MacEachen enjoyed solitude, she said. His face was inscrutable when necessary. “He is a complex man.”

    Richard Gwyn concurred.

    “The only way to understand him is to understand Cape Breton,” Gwyn wrote in The Northern Magus, a biography of Pierre Trudeau.

    “That tribal, private, tightly knit kingdom peopled by cynical romantics and canny innocents, peopled that is to say by Catholic highland Scots, given to beholding the Hebrides in dreams.

    “MacEachen is happiest in the past, which to him is part of the present. He speaks Gaelic fluently and visits Scotland regularly to revivify his roots. To his Cape Breton tribe, he is shepherd and icon combined.”

    And for all the titles he held — for all the landmark accomplishments — his “reputation at home was for service to his constituents,” said Fraser.

    He recalled an oft-told tale of how, as external affairs minister, MacEachen was attending a Middle East peace conference. He wanted the schedule changed so he could leave Thursday in order to get home to Cape Breton to deal with constituents.

    He was told by other participants that changing the agenda was no small inconvenience.

    “He said to the U.S. secretary of state, ‘The difference between your political system and mine is if I don’t get back for this weekend for my meetings at home, we don’t get to have this meeting next year.”

    Fraser said MacEachen’s impact on Canadian politics will continue for years because of the leaders he groomed as they passed through his office and under his influence.

    “When I was student union president at St. F.X. (Francis Xavier), the president of the university had worked in his (MacEachen’s) office.

    “When I was deciding to go to law school, the two people who convinced me that it was a good idea . . . they both got their start in law and politics working for Allan MacEachen.

    “The people that are around Ottawa now who have worked alongside him include Ralph Goodale and Gerry Butts.

    “This man had his fingers on the careers of so many talented people that he’s going to continue to influence Canadian politics for a generation after he’s gone.”

    In fact, MacEachen — whose stamp of approval mattered until the end of his days — helped in the election of 2015, Fraser said.

    “He had a home in Antigonish until he passed and he had a big red sign in the middle of town for me during the last election.”

    Still, it might be Bob Rae who hit on the most important of Allan J.’s legacies.

    Rae met MacEachen when he was a young guide in the House of Commons in the summer of 1966 and the MP was already a parliamentary veteran.

    “I saw him perform brilliantly in an emergency debate on back-to-work legislation. When I was first elected to the House in 1978, he was friendly, but didn’t give me any leeway in debate. I was his critic when he was finance minister.

    “When I was thinking about running for the Liberal leadership in 2006, he called me out of the blue and said he wanted to help. Given my often barbed comments about him I was taken aback. I went to see him, and we talked it through. I asked him to co-chair my campaign, which he generously did.”

    MacEachen was a scholar who remained, Rae said, “a student of economics, politics and philosophy his whole life.”

    He had been “made frail by a series of strokes, but kept reading, engaging and talking things through as best he could.

    “His was a life of service,” Rae said. “And he was loved by many, including me.”

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    Long Time Running

    3 stars

    Starring the Tragically Hip. Directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. Screens Thursday, Sept. 14, at 3:30 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and Friday, Sept. 15, at 9:45 a.m. at the Scotiabank Theatre. Also opens Thursday at major theatres. 97 minutes. G.

    It is, frankly, impossible to imagine anyone ever coming up with a more powerful or poignant statement on the Tragically Hip’s legacy and the sacred place it holds in this country’s collective heart than the hometown (maybe) farewell performance broadcast live from Kingston’s K-Rock Centre via the CBC to nearly a third of the Canadian population on Aug. 20 of last year.

    That catalytic moment of shared, nationwide celebration-in-grieving will stand into the future, for those who participated in it, as an indelible “where were you when…?” cultural/historical benchmark akin to the lunar landing or the Kennedy assassination – or, to invoke a couple of hockey references more in keeping with Gord Downie’s lyrical preoccupations, Paul Henderson’s game-winning goal against the Soviets in the 1972 “Summit Series” or that grim summer day in 1988 when we found out the Edmonton Oilers were trading Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings. It was a one-off. It will never be duplicated. No one’s getting that specific feeling back again.

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    Should you, however, desire to enrich that once-in-a-lifetime experience — indeed, the entire once-in-a-lifetime experience that was the Hip’s entire 2016 Man Machine Poem tour — with a better understanding in hindsight of just how astronomically high the odds were stacked against that momentous Kingston gig or any of the cross-Canada dates that built up to it ever happening at all, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier’s thoroughly engrossing and genuinely uplifting new documentary Long Time Running is a perfect companion piece. This is a story of strength, defiance and the powerful bonds of rock-‘n’-roll brotherhood sans pareil.

    In short, only Downie himself believed he was capable of pulling off an entire national tour after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in late 2015 and subsequently undergoing invasive and debilitating surgery and radiation treatment to stave off the inevitable. “I did not think there was any chance in hell we were gonna make it to the tour,” confesses guitarist Rob Baker early in the film. And yet he and bandmates Gord Sinclair, Paul Langlois and Johnny Fay and the extended, family-like crew with which the Tragically Hip has surrounded itself for the past three decades pull together behind their lifelong friend to make it happen, yielding results that far exceed the expectations of anyone involved and ultimately transcend the tragic circumstances underlying the storyline. The trajectory observed between a tentative first rehearsal caught on smartphone by Downie’s brother, Pat, wherein a frail, thoroughly bearded Gord who can barely remember song titles, let alone entire verses, feels his way through the first stanzas of “Escape Is At Hand for the Travellin’ Man” and the gigantic version of “Grace, Too” later shot at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto or the devastating “Ahead by a Century” clipped from Kingston that concludes the film is astonishing. Baichwal and de Pencier — a duo previously known for cerebral docs such as Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark conscripted to make the film a mere five days before the Man Machine Poem tour kicked off in Victoria last July — gather steam as rock-doc filmmakers along the way in tandem, gradually surrendering the artful structuralism of the early live scenes to a more dynamic and immersive vantage point in the crowd.

    I cried quietly through the entire Toronto International Film Festival premiere screening of Long Time Running at Roy Thomson Hall on Wednesday evening — an event attended by all the members of the Hip except Downie as well as, for some reason, Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe — and I was not alone, but the film is anything but maudlin. It is, in fact, often quite funny, with much of the humour supplied by Downie himself.

    He confesses the dark secret of his Bee Gees fanhood, reveals that the neckerchiefs he donned onstage nightly during the Man Machine Poem tour were actually “two socks stitched together,” rolls his eyes at the fact his spotty memory now requires six teleprompters’ worth of lyrics to get through a gig and allows himself to be filmed clad in naught but black Y-front underpants backstage whilst polishing his boots as a ritualistic balm against stagefright and trying in vain to don an unflatteringly tight metallic-silver suit in a manner that doesn’t make him look too “Elvis 1974.” His detailing of an awkward telephone exchange with idol Bobby Orr is far too droll to spoil. His admission that he lobbied to bring Langlois into the band all those years ago because he was afraid his best friend was going to move to Nashville in pursuit of a songwriting career and leave him alone and adrift in Kingston, meanwhile, is so sweetly emblematic of the deep, human forces that have bound the Hip together since 1984 that one doesn’t really require any further commentary on the matter.

    You don’t get that much further, anyway. Long Time Running digs deeper than most have dug with the Tragically Hip — although Downie has a reputation for being guarded, the rest of the band has always kept a pretty low media profile, too — but Baichwal and de Pencier tend to let the fleeting scenes of tenderness and vulnerability they’ve captured behind the scenes in the moment speak for the group’s history. They’re both friends of the band, anyway, and were able to penetrate the wall of media silence imposed upon all things Hip upon the announcement of Downie’s illness last May because of that friendship; they weren’t likely to come up with a lot of dirt, even if there was any way at all that whatever the Tragically Hip at its most unhinged and debauched back in the day got up to could even compare to what, say, Nikki Sixx and Mötley Crüe got up to in The Dirt.

    In any case, you know how the tour ultimately went down. There’s no suspense going in to Long Time Running, just the satisfaction of seeing love and hard work and determination hold the demons at bay for awhile. That’ll do for now.

    “When it’s over, it’s done. And what then?” asks Baker at one point. Leave it to then to decide.

    0 0

    WASHINGTON–One by one, an American doctor, American nurse, American mother and American businessman explained to the cameras why their country’s health system is a disaster.

    Then Bernie Sanders called up the Canadian standing behind him. She had a kind of magic trick to perform.

    Dr. Danielle Martin, a family physician from Toronto, described a glorious place, “just north of your border,” where everyone is covered, costs are lower, outcomes are better, and people have no idea what it’s like to cough up cash for the privilege of delivering a child.

    Martin revealed her OHIP card.

    “I just handed over this card, my Canadian health-care card, to my doctor. And that was it,” Martin said.

    Some of the Sanders devotees sitting in the packed room on Capitol Hill murmured appreciatively, as if she had just conjured a rabbit.

    “I wish that all of my American neighbours could experience the same simplicity in their moments of need,” Martin continued. “And I hope that the American people will seize this opportunity to declare to each other, and to the rest of the world, that you do believe access to health-care is a human right.”

    The occasion was momentous: Sanders, joined by high-profile Democratic colleagues in the Senate, was introducing a “Medicare for All” bill to transform the U.S. health system from a patchwork of private and public insurance to a government-run single-payer system like Canada’s.

    Read more:

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    The doctor on a mission to heal medicare

    Democrats fight Trump in bid to reignite push for Canada-style health-care

    “Health-care in America must be a right, not a privilege,” he said. “Today we begin the long and difficult struggle to end the international disgrace of the United States, our great nation, being the only major country on earth not to guarantee health-care to all of our people.”

    Sanders, the Vermont social democrat who lives near the border, has made Canada central to his initial pitch. He extolled Canada’s single-payer system in a New York Times op-ed on Wednesday morning and then at the rally on Wednesday afternoon.

    “You know, I think it is high time that we started taking a look at what countries around the world were doing in providing quality care to all of their people in a far more cost-effective way than we do. And one of the examples of a single-payer system that is working well, that is popular, is the Canadian system,” Sanders said in introducing Martin.

    Martin, a vice-president at Women’s College Hospital and the former chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, came to the senator’s attention with the moment that made her an internet sensation.

    Testifying before a Sanders-chaired U.S. Senate committee in 2014, Martin trounced an ill-prepared Republican senator who peppered her with negative questions about Canadian care.

    The video has been viewed millions of times. Sanders’s aides have kept in touch, and they invited her back to town for his big day.

    Sanders is still years, perhaps decades, from a realistic chance of a legislative victory. But the Wednesday scene showed just how much has changed in two years.

    Sanders campaigned on single-payer care during his 2016 campaign. Under Barack Obama, however, Democrats lined up behind the significant-but-incremental changes of the president’s Affordable Care Act, relegating Sanders to his regular place on the left-wing fringe.

    His position is fast become the party standard.

    Unsettled and energized by U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare, and dismayed that more than 25 million people remain uninsured, much of the Democratic base is agitating for a true universal system. And now some of their most prominent elected officials are falling in line behind a proposal Hillary Clinton said will “never, ever come to pass.”

    Sanders’s bill has quickly gained 16 Senate co-sponsors. Though almost all of them represent liberal states, they amount to a third of the Democratic caucus.

    “People who are angry at Trump’s election, a lot of Democratic base folks, are saying, ‘We demand this. We’re tired of tinkering with this, we want to fix it.’ So they’re putting huge pressure on their senators,” said Minnesota State Sen. John Marty, the leading proponent of single-payer there. “And these senators are saying, ‘Oh, what am I going to do? Keep defending a broken system when my folks are saying we want something better and I know the broken system can’t be fixed?’”

    Joining Sanders on Wednesday were four senators thought to be contemplating their own runs for president: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker.

    "I love my northern neighbour,” Booker said, “but it is embarrassing to me to have a Canadian stand here in the capital of the United States of America and talk about a system that takes care of their children better than we take care of our children."

    Sanders would create a system far more generous than Canadian provinces offer. Unlike OHIP, it would offer full coverage for vision and dental care, and partial coverage for prescription drugs, to everyone including illegal immigrants.

    The cost, therefore, would be higher. Sanders did not say how he would pay. His bill has no chance of passing under a Republican-controlled Congress, and he described it as a mere first step in a consultative process.

    Two-thirds of Americans currently have private insurance, with more than half covered through their employers. Sanders proposes a politically perilous forced transfer of these people onto the government Medicare program currently reserved for seniors.

    An unscripted moment soon after the Wednesday speeches underscored just how hard it may be to combat fears about what many Republicans describe as socialized, or socialist, medicine.

    As Martin spoke to the media, a Maryland man wearing a pro-Sanders t-shirt approached her to tell her about someone he knew in Canada who had waited more than a year for a hip replacement.

    The Canadian system has problems, she told him, but wait times can be improved without leaving people uninsured.

    “There’s nothing about a publicly funded, single-payer system that necessarily leads to waits,” she said.

    Some Republicans are still attempting to repeal Obamacare, and Trump applauded their effort, without endorsing their specific proposal, in a Wednesday statement. Press secretary Sarah Sanders called Bernie Sanders’s proposal “a horrible idea.”

    “I can’t think of anything worse than having the government be more involved in your health care instead of less involved,” she said.

    0 0

    Doug Ford, the late Rob Ford’s sterner, slighter brother, has returned to the Toronto news cycle on a mission to land the city’s highest office. Ford announced last week at his family’s annual Ford Fest cookout (I’ve been and say what you will about the Fords, but they throw a great barbecue) that he plans to take on John Tory in the 2018 mayoral race, a man Ford recently described as “all talk, no action.”

    And yet, according to a new poll released on Tuesday, it may be Ford himself whom Tory will one day describe as all talk and no action. The poll, conducted by Mainstreet/Postmedia, indicates that if a Toronto mayoral race were held today, Ford would lose badly to Tory. According to the poll, Tory “wins easily” against Ford “with a 27 point lead.” However, if Tory faces both Ford and city Councillor Mike Layton, the progressive vote splits and Tory loses 20 points.

    “John Tory has nothing to fear from a one-on-one matchup against Doug Ford,” said Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet Research, said in a statement about the poll. “But things get much more interesting if there’s a strong progressive candidate in the race.”

    Well, here’s hoping things don’t get much more interesting. Here’s hoping they stay nice and boring. Interesting is great in every context except politics. It’s great when you’re watching a Ted Talk or that new Netflix documentary Diana. Interesting is not so great when the future of your city is at stake.

    Luckily, for those of us who aren’t keen on an interesting Ford More Years, Doug Ford doesn’t appear to have the lovable loser quality that ingratiated so many to his younger brother.

    As Ashley Csanady, host of the political podcast Canadaland Commons, put it on the air this week, “Despite being wealthy, Rob Ford had a man of the people vibe to him. And Doug does not.”

    Put another way, where Rob Ford was a coach, Doug is more management: hair slicked back, icy stare, dark suit. He’s kind of like Gordon Bombay in The Mighty Ducks, pre-community service.

    Silly analogies aside, Doug Ford may lose to Tory in 2018 because another tawny populist succeeded in 2016. I’m talking about U.S. President Donald Trump, a walking warning to the world that proclaims, “This is what happens when you aren’t vigilant. This is what happens when you don’t take bullies at their word.”

    Doug Ford is not Trump, but he excels at a similar style, one that is brash, flashy and contemptuous of media. Hopefully Torontonians, even some who voted for Ford, are put off by such a style in light of recent world events. After all, Canadians at large are put off by it. According to another poll, this one also from Mainstreet/Postmedia, in February, “Only 16 per cent of Canadians would call President Trump honest, only 21 per cent would call him rational, and only 23 per cent would call him inspirational.” While Canada isn’t by any means immune to populist creep, many in our nation are less keen on populist bravado than they might have been pre-Trump presidency and, if Tory is smart, he’ll play to those fears when he faces Ford next year.

    But there’s a catch of course. This, from the same February poll: “While Canadians disapprove of Trump (84 per cent), 53 per cent approve of his economic policy — higher than the 43 per cent who approve of Trudeau’s economic plan.”

    In other words, Trumpism can win here and so too can its cousin, Fordism, for a second time. Which is why in the event that Doug Ford gives John Tory a serious run for his money in 2018, I have a suggestion for our notoriously wooden mayor: fight Ford tactics with Ford tactics, while at the same time remaining a mensch. Be nice but be bold. Host your own bash, John Fest, complete with a classic rock cover band that pens an original tune just for you. Better yet, develop your own barbecue sauce (“John’s Own”) and donate all the proceeds from the sauce to a children’s sports charity. When you win, you can go back to being boring and we can rest a little easier until the next Ford takes the podium.

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    Ontario is banning a new Big Pharma marketing scheme that uses electronic medical records to sell drugs.

    The prohibition comes after a Star investigation found Telus Health has been inserting electronic vouchers for brand name drugs into its popular medical record software (EMR) used by thousands of doctors across Canada.

    “Ontario patients must have confidence that (prescribing) decisions are not influenced by marketing programs or electronic vouchers,” Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins said in a statement.

    “This practice is particularly concerning given its powerful influence on the brands of drugs that Ontarians receive, often without patients even being aware that this practice is happening.”

    The electronic vouchers steer patients to brand name drugs over their less expensive generic equivalents, and have raised concerns that patients’ health records are being used to sell pricier drugs that can pile unnecessary costs onto private insurance plans.

    The voucher feature, found in medical record software owned by Telus Health and other companies, will be disabled over the coming weeks, said Hoskins.

    The minister said he is working on the prohibition in collaboration with OntarioMD, which oversees and certifies electronic medical record software.

    A Telus Health spokesperson said the company “has always been careful to ensure that our EMRs comply with provincial policy as it evolves over time.

    “The minister’s directive to the industry is clear, and we are taking the necessary steps to implement the required changes.”

    The Star had found that brand name drug companies paid Telus to digitally insert the vouchers so that the prescription is filled with their product instead of the lower-cost generic competitor that pharmacists normally reach for.

    The voucher works like a coupon: If a patient’s insurance does not cover the full cost of the pricier brand name drug, the drug’s manufacturer will cover part or all of the cost difference from its generic equivalent.

    Doctors had to agree to the voucher feature in the Telus software before it was enabled on their systems, and physicians could opt out at any time.

    The Star found in some cases, doctors were unaware they had inadvertently enabled the feature.

    Thousands of doctors across Canada use electronic medical records to take notes during patient visits and to create a prescription to be filled by the patient’s pharmacy. Telus Health, a subsidiary of the telecom giant, is a dominant player in the electronic medical records field.

    Hamilton Dr. Monica De Benedetti applauded the minister’s “strong and important” decision to prohibit electronic vouchers.

    “Patient information should not be used for marketing purposes — patients aren’t ways to make money, they’re people we care for and try to keep healthy,” said De Benedetti, lead physician for the Hamilton Family Health team, a network of 165 physicians.

    She said some of the team’s doctors were unaware the vouchers had been added to their medical record system following a 2016 software update —nor were they aware that information about those vouchers was being shared with drug companies.

    Without the physicians being fully aware, they could not tell their patients about the program, De Benedetti said.

    The health team encouraged its members to turn off the voucher feature, and De Benedetti and others raised their concerns with Telus and OntarioMD, a subsidiary of the Ontario Medical Association that oversees the certification of electronic medical record software.

    “I’m very glad to hear this issue has been pushed forward not just for our patients but for all patients in Ontario,” she said.

    Telus said drug manufacturers paying to have their vouchers in the EMR receive “aggregated and anonymized, province-level statistics” on the total number of vouchers printed off for their products, Telus said.

    No patient or physician information is shared, the company said.

    Paul Lepage, president of Telus Health, previously said, “Protecting our customers’ privacy and safeguarding data is, and will always be, a cornerstone of our business.”

    Telus Health said the voucher feature has been positively received by the majority of doctors using the software. The voucher is offered only after a physician chooses a drug by its brand name to prescribe “so there is no influence on what drug the physician selects,” a company spokesperson said.

    Meanwhile, the brand companies said the payment assistance vouchers are about giving the patient choice between brand and generic drugs without having to spend more money.

    Critics, however, say vouchers manipulate physicians’ prescribing practices, adding that many doctors use a drug’s brand name when writing a prescription out of habit and aren’t necessarily instructing that a drug be dispensed over its generic.

    The vouchers also reinforce a false premise that generics are inferior in quality to the original brand name drugs, say doctors critical of the feature.

    Generics contain the same pharmaceutical ingredients and can cost as little as one-fifth of the brand price.

    To keep costs down, many drug plans encourage pharmacists to substitute a cheaper generic drug when filling a prescription for a brand drug, unless the prescribing doctor specifically requests otherwise. Without a voucher, even if a doctor uses the brand name on a prescription, pharmacists may substitute the cheaper generic.

    The voucher feature is offered in a number of electronic medical record systems, a Telus spokesperson said, adding that its software, which introduced vouchers in August 2016, follows ethical principles not necessarily present in other software.

    Telus has been a significant beneficiary of a provincial government-funded program that saw more than $340 million distributed to doctors to adopt electronic medical records in their practices. Roughly half of the doctors who received funding went with a Telus-owned EMR that now includes the voucher feature.

    At St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, about 100 physicians and nurse practitioners in the family medicine unit use a Telus EMR to write prescriptions for their patients. All of them have opted out of the voucher feature.

    On of those doctors, Nav Persaud, said, “It’s good that this function has been banned because it wasn’t actually helping people. It was an invasive and inappropriate marketing tool.”

    0 0

    One morning five months ago, Rosemary Finlay woke up and made porridge for her son Scott, just as she’s done every morning for nearly four decades.

    Only he wasn’t in the living room to eat it.

    “She forgot,” says her husband Hugh Finlay, laughing at the memory.

    “She thought he was still here. It was a big, big change for us.”

    The day before, on April 10, their 61-year-old son had finally moved into the supportive home that they, along with the Canadian ski community and other supporters, had worked tirelessly to have built.

    Scott Finlay was a promising 21-year-old ski racer when he suffered a devastating brain injury in a ski crash at the 1978 Canadian championships in Lake Louise, Alta, that left him almost completely paralyzed and unable to speak.

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    When love runs out of time: Parents fear for injured son

    For most of his life since, Rosemary has cared for him in the living room of their home just outside Napanee, 40 kilometres west of Kingston.

    He was in the centre of the home — and the centre of their lives.

    “Someone said he should have a bedroom and we said ‘no thanks, this is great,’ ” Hugh Finlay says. “He was part of our family all the time.”

    Which is why leaving him for the first time at his new supportive home, known as The Finlay House, was wrenchingly difficult.

    “It was a tearjerker for us,” he says.

    But they couldn’t have been happier for their son.

    The Finlay House, now home to Scott and five others with acquired brain injuries, is in a retrofitted wing of an existing health complex in Napanee, which means all the medical facilities from dental to physiotherapy are on site. The home is funded by the local health network and additional family-paid fees and operated by Pathways to Independence, so there are daily activities and trips.

    Hugh Finlay has high praise for the “terrific” staff, but notes they’re no match for Scott’s charms. “He’s sucking them right in,” he says. “They like his big blue eyes.”

    Scott’s room is full of ski team photos and memories of his life before his accident and, of course, it is painted golden yellow.

    “We asked him what colour he wanted and he said gold,” Hugh says. “He was always reaching for gold.”

    His race bibs from all those years of chasing the top step of the podium have been transformed into a spectacular quilt by the local farmhouse community quilters. The yellow No. 11 bib he was wearing on Feb. 24, 1978, sits in the middle. That’s the day his dream of a ski career — and very nearly his life — ended on a set of bumps known as Double Trouble.

    He was skiing hard, looking for a spot on the national team in the Crazy Canucks era of Ken Read and Steve Podborski, and came into that treacherous spot on the hill at 110 km/h. It was too much speed and he lost control over the first bump. He was out of position when he hit the second one and that threw him into a backward spin. His head snapped back and smashed against the icy slope, knocking him unconscious, and horrified spectators watched as he continued to tumble down the steep hill.

    Scott Finlay’s life was frozen in time that day. He never spoke again. His father says he understands everything, but can’t find a way to communicate verbally.

    But Hugh Finlay can speak and shout and bang his fists on the office doors of government and health care officials — and he did all that for 15 years to make sure that Scott would have a supportive home for that day that he and Rosemary couldn’t take care of him anymore.

    All parents worry about their children’s future, but for caregivers of adult children with needs, the thought of what might happen to them after they’re gone can be a terrifying thing.

    When Hugh Finlay started his drive to get a home built for Scott and others in the area with acquired brain injuries, he was told there were 2,400 parents in Ontario in the same predicament they were in.

    “We had over 100 applications for this place, people from Toronto would phone me and say, ‘If we moved to Napanee, do you think we’d get in?’ Thank God I wasn’t the person choosing the people,” he says.

    Through the activities in his new home, Scott Finlay has already been on numerous trips, including Kingston, the Thousand Islands and to watch drag racing, a real treat given his love of cars.

    His parents, who are in their mid-80s, have been taking things a little slower.

    “We haven’t gone anyplace yet,” Hugh Finlay says. “We keep thinking about it, but we’re homebodies. It’s awfully hard after you stay home for that many years not doing too much, it takes a while to figure out what to do.”

    But there is one thing he is clear on doing and that is thanking “all the people in Canada that really helped to make this Napanee acquired brain injury home a success.”

    At the top of his list are two Toronto Star journalists, the late Randy Starkman and Randy Risling, whose contributions were remembered at the celebratory opening on Wednesday.

    Starkman, the Star’s award-winning amateur sports reporter, wrote a feature headlined “The Skier: When love runs out of time” in 2011, a year before his sudden death from pneumonia.

    That story and the accompanying video by Risling galvanized community support and started the flood of donations that helped jump-start government action on building the Napanee home.

    “I bet he’s looking down from heaven smiling from ear to ear,” Hugh Finlay says of Starkman, whose commemorative plaque adorns a bench in the home’s courtyard.

    Scott Finlay is smiling a lot these days.

    He likes the staff, the activities, the food, and sitting in his golden room, looking out the window at the parking lot where his parents pull in to visit.

    They do so twice a day, every morning and evening, his dad says, but all these months later, Scott’s bed is still in their living room.

    “In case we want to bring him home for the weekend.”

    0 0

    North Korea threatened to use a nuclear weapon against Japan and turn the U.S. into “ashes and darkness” for agreeing on fresh United Nations sanctions this week—rhetoric that is likely to exacerbate tensions in North Asia.

    “Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said on Thursday, citing a statement by the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee. “The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche,” it said, a reference to the regime’s ideology of self-reliance.

    Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the comments, which sent the Korean won lower, extremely provocative. “If North Korea stays the course that it is on, it will increasingly become isolated from the world,” he told reporters in Tokyo.

    Read more:

    UN security council accepts new sanctions against North Korea

    South Korean president ‘sandwiched’ by North’s threat

    Trump doesn’t want to negotiate with North Korea, but world leaders are split on strategy

    The comments come amid reports the regime may be preparing another missile test. There are signs North Korea has fuelled and readied for launch a rocket with an engine for liquid fuel, suggesting it may be an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Nikkei reported Thursday evening, citing a Japanese government official it did not identify.

    The UN sanctions follow North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test earlier this month. In late August, the regime launched a ballistic missile over northern Japan in what it said was “muscle-flexing” to protest annual military drills between the U.S. and South Korea. Leader Kim Jong Un called it a “meaningful prelude” to containing Guam. North Korea previously threatened to launch rockets over Japan into the Pacific and toward the U.S. territory.

    “A telling blow should be dealt to them who have not yet come to senses after the launch of our ICBM over the Japanese archipelago,” a spokesperson for the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said in Thursday’s KCNA statement. The committee is an affiliate of the ruling Workers’ Party.

    KCNA had previously described the rocket as an intermediate-range strategic ballistic missile.

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the launch at the time, while U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated that “all options” were under consideration in responding to North Korea’s provocations.

    The remarks about Japan came sandwiched between threats against the U.S. and South Korea.

    “Now is the time to annihilate the U.S. imperialist aggressors,” the statement on KCNA said. “Let’s vent our spite with mobilization of all retaliation means which have been prepared till now.”

    The report said the South Korean “puppet forces are traitors and dogs of the U.S. as they call for harsher ‘sanctions’ on the fellow countrymen, adding that the “group of pro-American traitors should be severely punished and wiped out with fire attack so that they could no longer survive.”

    Humanitarian aid

    Still, South Korea’s Unification Ministry is considering providing $8 million (U.S.) in humanitarian aid to North Korea through international organizations such as UNICEF, Yonhap News reported Thursday, citing the ministry.

    If the aid is approved by the government it’d be the first time in two years that Seoul has provided such assistance to its northern neighbour. In 2015, the ministry sent $10.3 million through international bodies.

    When South Korean President Moon Jae-in came into power in May he promised a new era of engagement with North Korea. But he’s turned more hawkish in recent weeks, seeking stronger warheads on ballistic missiles, stepping up military drills, and embracing a missile defence system he’d questioned.

    Jim Woolsey, former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, said Thursday the U.S. should aim to de-escalate tensions with North Korea.

    “We can’t push these things right close to the edge,” especially “if the president makes decisions really, really rapidly in the middle of the night,” Woolsey said on Bloomberg TV.

    Pyongyang trip

    The threat to Japan comes a day after a lawmaker said some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were considering visiting Pyongyang for talks with North Korean leaders.

    “In the LDP there are some people seeking dialogue,” independent lawmaker Antonio Inoki told reporters in Tokyo following a trip to the North Korean capital. “There’s a change in atmosphere at the moment” about the need for talks rather than pressure, he said.

    The government in Tokyo had criticized Inoki’s visit, with Suga saying beforehand that all trips to North Korea by Japanese citizens are discouraged.

    Abe has stressed the need for pressure on Kim via sanctions, as opposed to talks. He told the Nikkei newspaper this week that Japan was in agreement with the U.S. and South Korea that dialogue would only be possible when North Korea committed to complete and verifiable denuclearization.

    0 0

    Two men have been rushed to hospital and the province’s police watchdog has been called in after a stabbing and a shooting in North York on Thursday morning.

    Police and paramedics were called to Driftwood Ave. and Cobbler Cres., in the Jane and Finch area, just before 9:15 a.m. for reports of a stabbing.

    Chris Precious, a 48-year-old who lives nearby, said he was woken up by screaming, shouting and cars honking. When he went to his balcony to see what was happening, Precious said he saw a man attacking an older man and lots of blood.

    The man ignored pleas from bystanders and police to stop, said Precious.

    “Then the police officers shot him and that was the end of the commotion,” Precious said, adding that he thought the man’s back was turned to officers as he was facing the other man.

    Toronto police called the province’s Special Investigations Unit to the scene shortly afterwards, said Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu. The SIU hasn’t confirmed Precious’ account.

    The SIU investigates all incidents involving police resulting in death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

    Paramedics said the man who was shot suffered life-threatening injuries, and that the other man was seriously injured after being stabbed numerous times.

    Behind a string of yellow police tape, a pool of dark red blood could be seen taking up the better part of a square of sidewalk on the corner of the intersection. A few metres away lay a black jacket with what appeared to be a white shirt on top, while a black baseball cap sat on grass nearby.

    Neighbours looked on as police spoke with a group of young people. Meanwhile, a school bus and a TTC bus also sat in the taped-off area, taking up the better part of the block.

    Precious said the TTC bus passed by while the altercation was happening, so those on board likely saw the incident. He also said he didn’t think any children were on the school bus when it passed by a few minutes afterwards.

    Spokesperson Monica Hudon confirmed that the SIU has taken over the investigation from police.

    0 0

    Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown is refusing to apologize to Premier Kathleen Wynne despite her threat of a libel action against him for saying she was on “trial” in the Sudbury byelection bribery case.

    Some 22 hours after Wynne’s lawyer slapped him with a letter threatening a defamation suit, Brown finally issued a statement early Thursday.

    Her legal missive coincided with her taking the stand as a Crown witness in a Sudbury courtroom where her former deputy chief of staff and a key Liberal activist are on trial for alleged Election Act violations.

    “Yesterday was a sad day for Ontario,” wrote Brown.

    “No one, whatever their political view, wants to see the premier of our province debased and humiliated. Regrettably Kathleen Wynne compounded this sorry spectacle with baseless legal threats against me; threats that will be ignored,” he said.

    “We as a province need to put this ugly chapter behind us and move on.”

    Speaking with reporters later at Queen’s Park, he stuck to those talking points.

    “Yesterday was a sorry spectacle and, regrettably, Kathleen Wynne compounded the problem by this threat of a lawsuit. Her baseless lawsuit will be ignored,” said Brown, who refused to acknowledge he misspoke.

    In Washington, where she is meeting with U.S. officials to discuss NAFTA, Wynne noted Brown has until 5 p.m. Thursday to retract his comments.

    “We’re letting the lawyers speak at this point. Because my letter speaks for itself. And I think the deadline has not yet come, so we’ll see,” the premier told the Star.

    “I have to say if there was a mistake that he made, I think it would be a good thing for him to step forward and say that,” she said.

    “The fact is that this whole issue has been put into the hands of the courts. And so it has become a legal issue. And so I think it has to be clear what is actually happening, and that’s what my letter sought to clarify.”

    Her lawyer, Jack Siegel, said “this conduct by Patrick Brown is extremely disappointing.”

    “As a matter of law, a full and fair retraction prevents a plaintiff from recovering punitive damages,” said Siegel.

    “Mr. Brown’s refusal to take that simple step therefore suggests that this was not an accident and that his remarks were deliberately made with the intention of harming the reputation of the premier.”

    On Wednesday, he served Brown with a letter stating that he “made a statement about the premier of Ontario that is false and defamatory.”

    “Contrary to your statement, Premier Wynne is not standing trial. Your statement is false and misleading and appears to have been made with the intention to harm the reputation of Ms. Wynne,” wrote Siegel.

    “As you should well know by now, especially in light of the notice letter sent to your colleague Bill Walker just last week, the premier is not subject to any charges and will not stand trial for anything,” the lawyer continued, referring to the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Tory MPP forced to apologize for public comments he made about the premier.

    The letter stems from comments made by Brown at a Queen’s Park scrum on Tuesday with reporters from the Star, CBC, The Canadian Press, Radio-Canada, Global, CP24, CTV, Globe and Mail, QP Briefing, TFO, Queen’s Park Today, Fairchild, CHCH, and Newstalk 1010.

    “We’ve got a sitting premier sitting in trial and answering questions about allegations of bribery,” Brown, a lawyer, said.

    “I hope that the premier will give us answers. We’re not getting them in the Legislature. Maybe when she stands trial,” he added.

    Before the 2014 election, Wynne launched a similar action against former Tory leader Tim Hudak and MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton). That matter was settled in 2015.

    NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Thursday that Brown should apologize.

    “Both the premier and Brown seem to be in this tit-for-tat. The more important thing to be doing here is focusing on people,” said Horwath.

    Deputy Premier Deb Matthews said Brown appears to be bringing Donald Trump-style politics to Ontario.

    “There is a principle in Canada that you do not make defamatory, misleading comments about another political leader,” said Matthews.

    “In Canada, we actually expect people to be honest. There is, south of the border, a change in that culture. I do not want to see that change coming to Canada,” she said.

    “He’s a lawyer — he knows exactly what he did.”

    Brown’s snafu came six days after his chief of staff issued an edict to Tory MPPs and staffers to “please refrain from commenting” on the trial lest they cause the party problems.

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    In its strategy of presenting a united front to beat out fierce competition for Amazon’s second North American headquarters, Toronto is partnering with three other municipalities and two mayors to put forward a single, regional bid.

    Three mayors — Toronto’s John Tory, Mississauga’s Bonnie Crombie and Brampton’s Linda Jeffrey — and chairpersons of the Durham, Halton and York regions have joined forces in the bid.

    The municipalities are part of Toronto Global, a new agency working to bolster efforts to attract foreign direct investment to the region.

    Amazon is the agency’s first major project, and one that Mayor Tory believes is unparalleled in Canada when considering its possibility to generate tens of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in investment and potentially massive spinoffs.

    Seattle-based Amazon announced its search for a home for “Amazon HQ2” on Sept. 7. The tech giant is poised to invest “more than $5 billion (U.S.) in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.”

    “It’s going to be a blockbuster bid because it’s going to have the region bidding, hopefully with some people who aren’t technically part of Toronto Global joining us,” Tory said in an interview.

    Though Global Toronto was conceived to include the immediate GTA area at the time of its launch in February 2017, Tory said he hopes to partner with cities like Waterloo and Hamilton in this bid and for future projects.

    Tory said the timing of this agency was perfect for the Amazon bid, but creating a regional partnership to entice foreign investors is something he has been working on for years.

    “It wasn’t just about creating an organization,” Tory said. “It was about actually deciding that when we went forward to attract foreign direct investment, which this is, that we would do it as a region because we were stronger together.”

    Tory referenced a Cities of Opportunity report by Price Waterhouse Cooper that showed the success of similar organizations in London, Chicago and Montreal.

    “We are stronger when accentuating the business benefits of the entire region,” said Mark Cohon, chair of the Toronto Global board of directors, in a statement to the Star.

    Diverse site selection, cultural diversity and quality of life across the region are factors that can leverage these opportunities, he said.

    Toronto isn’t the only Canadian city vying to house Amazon online retail giant’s second home. Vancouver also signalled plans to bid, as well as other North American states and cities like Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Detroit.

    Abdullah Snobar, executive director of Ryerson University’s DMZ business incubator, believes having Amazon headquartered in the city would bring international exposure to Toronto’s tech community, but could absorb start-up talent.

    “It’s going to be a lot of work . . . to ensure that by bringing on a corporation, it does not mean that we lose the potential of building out an innovation nation of talented entrepreneurs and startups,” he said.

    The organization has until Oct. 19 to submit its bid in the “Olympics of foreign direct investment,” as Tory calls it, with eyes on the gold.

    “We’re going to try to win,” he said.

    With files from David Rider

    0 0

    MENLO PARK, CALIF.—Google faces a new lawsuit accusing it of gender-based pay discrimination. A lawyer representing three female former Google employees is seeking class action status for the claim.

    The suit, filed Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court, follows a federal labour investigation that made a preliminary finding of systemic pay discrimination among the 21,000 employees at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. The initial stages of the review found women earned less than men in nearly every job classification.

    Google disputes the findings and says its analysis shows no gender pay gap.

    Read more: Google anti-diversity memo shows how ‘entrenched’ tech bias is

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    The suit, led by lawyer James Finberg of Altshuler Berzon LLP, is on behalf of three women — Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease and Kelli Wisuri — who all quit after being put on career tracks that they claimed would pay them less than their male counterparts. The suit aims to represent thousands of Google employees in California and seeks lost wages and a slice of Google’s profits.

    “I have come forward to correct a pervasive problem of gender bias at Google,” Ellis said in a statement. She says she quit Google in 2014 after male engineers with similar experience were hired to higher-paying job levels and she was denied a promotion despite excellent performance reviews. “It is time to stop ignoring these issues in tech.”

    Charges of gender discrimination have swirled at Alphabet Inc.-owned Google since the U.S. Labor Department sued in January to bar Google from doing business with the federal government until it released thousands of documents related to an audit over its pay practices. The sides have been battling in court over how much information Google must turn over.

    The lawsuit also follows the firing of male engineer James Damore, who wrote a memo circulated on internal message boards that blamed inherent differences between men and women for the underrepresentation of women in engineering roles.

    0 0

    OTTAWA—The deadline for applications for the job of RCMP commissioner has been extended so a more “proactive” search can be led by a committee charged with drawing up a shortlist, the Star has learned.

    The closing date for interested candidates to apply was supposed to have been Friday, Sept. 15 and the federal government has already received “a number” of applications —which it would not specify — for the job, according to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office.

    This week the government agreed to extend the deadline to Oct. 23, in an effort to broaden the search.

    Goodale’s office told the Star the decision to extend the application process will not affect the government’s expectation that a replacement for retired Comm. Bob Paulson be named by the end of the year, and is “no reflection” on the applications received to date.

    However, an official speaking on background said Frank McKenna, the former ambassador to Washington and N.B. premier leading the search committee that will provide the prime minister with a list of recommended candidates, will instruct a headhunting firm to canvass more broadly for potential applicants for the job of top cop.

    Paulson announced in early March his retirement effective at the end of June.

    While the hunt is ongoing, deputy commissioner Dan Dubeau is serving as interim RCMP commissioner.

    The final decision will be up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but the Liberal government has had trouble filling many federal appointments in a timely way.

    While it moved swiftly to name David Vigneault as CSIS director within two months of Michel Coulombe’s retirement at the helm of Canada’s spy agency, a government website lists two dozen top cabinet appointments that remain to be filled, including the RCMP commissioner job.

    Others include several Officers of Parliament ranging from the Official Languages Commissioner, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the Senate Ethics Officer, the Lobbying Commissioner and the Information Commissioner. There are other openings too at the head of Telefilm Canada, the new Canada Infrastructure Bank, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Canada Post Corporation, as well as ongoing openings at the Immigration and Refugee Board, the Veterans Review and Appeal Board; and upcoming “opportunities” the government says will be “posted in the coming weeks” to fill the positions of a new Chief Electoral Officer, a Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons, and chair of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP. Applications for the job of chairing the CBC closed earlier this week.

    Trudeau brought in what he called a new “merit-based” appointment process intended to be more inclusive and seek out a diversity of candidates. But long-delayed appointments have been the result.

    Meanwhile many of the positions have been filled on an interim basis for a year or more.

    A letter Goodale wrote to his opposition critics in June about the search process for Paulson’s replacement said the search would be expected to recommend candidates who “demonstrate the ability to spearhead organizational change, as well as the ambition to advance the government’s nation-to-nation reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and the promotion of diversity and gender equity in all internal policies. In addition, leadership on issues stemming from mental health-related illnesses and post traumatic stress injuries within the force will be a vital asset.”

    A “notice of opportunity” lays out job requirements for top Mountie including the government’s preference that candidates be bilingual. Beyond educational and professional qualifications, the government says it’s looking for a leader who demonstrates “sound judgment and impartiality,” and is a team builder with “high ethical standards, resilience and integrity, superior tact and interpersonal and communication skills.” And someone who is “motivated by challenge and change.”

    The RCMP has struggled over the past decade to deal with a range of management challenges including harassment allegations, recruitment problems and a failure to manage the mental health needs of its employees, as the federal auditor general reported last spring.

    0 0

    WASHINGTON—Ontario might respond with its own protectionist measures if the U.S. implements the “Buy American” policies favoured by President Donald Trump, Premier Kathleen Wynne said on Thursday.

    In an interview in Washington, Wynne said she had told Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross an hour earlier that “we will retaliate if necessary.”

    “We don’t want to do that, but we will if we have to,” Wynne said at the Canadian Embassy.

    “There will be real damage done on both sides of the border if Buy America takes hold in any way across the country. And the expectation of our industry will be that we will act in accordance, and we will put in place similar barriers,” she said.

    “And that’s what creates a trade war. And we’re not interested in that, we’ve managed to avoid that, we don’t want to go there, but we are prepared to. It’s what our businesses would expect of us.”

    Buy American policies vary. In general terms, they require U.S. governments to use U.S. companies for government projects, shutting out companies from Canada and other countries. A similar barrier from Ontario might limit certain Ontario projects to Canadian firms.

    Wynne’s Liberal government has aggressively challenged Buy American proposals in New York and Texas. Ontario’s lobbying, and threats of retaliation, were widely credited for helping to defeat the New York proposal in April, though the state then approved a narrower measure.

    Wynne’s Thursday remarks, after her half-hour meeting with Ross, were both her broadest and most direct retaliation threats to date. They came as Canadian, American and Mexican negotiators attempt to hammer out a new North American Free Trade Agreement.

    Wynne, trailing in the polls to Patrick Brown’s Progressive Conservatives, faces a tough election in June 2018.

    At Queen’s Park, Brown said he was “worried about the protectionist rhetoric in the United States.”

    “The goal is to have access to American markets. I hope that we don’t get to the point that we’re in a trade war with our largest trading partner,” Brown said in an interview.

    “I know that the federal government is trying to ensure that we have open access to the borders and I know that’s difficult with the latest push in the U.S.,” he said.

    NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said that while NAFTA needs to be renegotiated to help workers, she was “worried” about the risks of “one-upmanship.”

    “People become hardened in their positions and we don’t end up hammering out a deal that’s going to work for everyone,” Horwath said in an interview.

    “I understand that (Wynne) might be put in a bit of a spot, but at the same time we all have to keep our powder dry.”

    Trump has vowed to pursue a “Buy American, Hire American” agenda, and his negotiators are attempting to write Buy American policies into the new NAFTA. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is resisting, saying one of its top NAFTA priorities is keeping government procurement open.

    Wynne said Ross simply acknowledged her remarks. They were just talking, she said, not negotiating.

    Wynne, making her second trip to Washington in 2017, was also scheduled to meet Thursday with three Republican senators: Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, Montana’s Steve Daines and Maine’s Susan Collins. She was to deliver a lecture at Johns Hopkins University and remarks at an embassy barbecue for members of Congress.

    Like Trudeau, she said she is trying to strengthen relationships with state leaders while the mercurial Trump is in office.

    Read more:

    Trudeau teams up with Canadian labour in push for NAFTA reforms

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    0 0

    Police in Toronto say they’re looking for two boys who have been missing since Tuesday afternoon.

    They say Jayden LaRose, 14, and his 12-year-old brother Damien LaRose were last seen at 3 p.m. on Tuesday in the Wellesley Street East and Rose Avenue area.

    Damien LaRose is described as five-foot-one, 98 pounds, with short dirty-blond hair.

    Jayden LaRose is described as five-foot-four, 120 pounds, with shoulder-length blond hair and blue eyes.

    Police say the boys are known to frequent the Wellesley Street East and St. James Court area, as well as the Banff Avenue and Eglinton Avenue East area.

    Officials say they are concerned for their safety.

    0 0

    Ontario’s move to curb foreign real estate buyers appears to be working, with a drop in the number of deals in the months after the province introduced a tax on non-residents.

    Slightly more than 3 per cent of real estate activity in Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe from May to August involved foreign buyers, new government statistics released Thursday show, down from 4.7 per cent the month after the tax was introduced.

    “We put in those measures, and it shows that they’ve been reduced, and it also shows that the market stability is there,” Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa told reporters at Queen’s Park.

    The overall Toronto Region housing market has cooled significantly since the non-resident speculation tax was introduced, though experts agree that has more to do with the psychological impact of other new provincial policies — including expanded rent controls and land for affordable housing. On its own, the tax does nothing to make homes more affordable.

    From May 27 to Aug. 18, “approximately 3.2 per cent of 66,434 real estate transactions in the (Greater Golden Horseshoe) involved at least one foreign entity,” says the government report. “Out of the 35,264 transactions outside of the GGH, approximately 1.6 per cent involved at least one foreign entity. Overall, out of the 101,698 transactions in Ontario, approximately 2.6 per cent involved at least one foreign entity.”

    Foreign buyer rates are higher in York Region, which topped the list of Ontario municipalities at 6.9 per cent of transactions from May to August, followed by the city of Toronto, where the rate was 5.6 per cent.

    In the month immediately after the new tax was introduced, some 4.7 per cent of those who purchased homes and condos in a wide swath stretching from Niagara through to Toronto, east to Peterborough and north to Barrie, were non-residents.

    However, that includes a number of previously negotiated deals that would have been grandfathered in and were unaffected by the new tax.

    There is no provincial data on the number of foreign buyers before the levy was introduced. While the Toronto Real Estate Board released its figure of 5 per cent of foreign investment into the regional market early this year, there was widespread skepticism among some who believed the level of overseas investment was much higher. But subsequent research, including some done by the Ontario government, has shown similar findings.

    Given that foreign students and those applying for landed immigrant status are exempt from the new tax, the levy only affects about 1.5 per cent of all real estate transactions, said Brad Henderson, CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

    “It’s a fairly small piece, but politically it is large,” he said. That’s because in global cities such as Toronto, where prices continue to escalate, people are looking for someone to blame. Foreign buyers have no voice and no vote.

    “They can be taxed with impunity,” said Henderson.

    York Region, where foreign investment was the highest in the province, has been particularly hard hit in the market slowdown since Ontario introduced its cooling measures last April.

    But because the government measures hit only investment buyers who have their choice of cities around the globe, the new tax “is doing nothing to contribute to affordable housing” here, Henderson added.

    The tax can’t be blamed entirely for the slowdown in the Toronto region housing market, which is still digesting the Liberal government’s 16-point Fair Housing Plan as well as tighter federal lending rules and two central bank rate hikes this summer, with speculation interest rates will continue to climb, said Henderson.

    “Any of these individual pieces can have an effect on the market,” he said. “What we worry about is the confluence of factors. They’re all intended to cool down the market. It could overshoot the target.”

    The 15 per cent foreign-buyers tax is levied on businesses and buyers who aren’t citizens or permanent residents of Canada, and is similar to one in British Columbia that’s been in place for more than a year.

    But Henderson thinks Ontario will follow Vancouver, which had to implement some of the exemptions Ontario built into its tax because the Vancouver tax was actually driving away buyers that the city wanted. A year after its new tax was introduced, Vancouver sales were up 22.3 per cent.

    A solid economy with strong GDP growth and high employment means both the Vancouver and Toronto housing markets will prevail, Henderson said.

    The government report also notes that outside of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, in the month after the tax was implemented — from April 24 to May 26 — 1.5 per cent of transactions involved foreign buyers, rising slightly from May to August.

    While housing sales in Toronto area remain up year-over year, they have nevertheless declined month-to-month since the province’s new policies were ushered in.

    0 0

    OTTAWA—Scarborough MP Arnold Chan — who used his final speech in Parliament to implore MPs to “elevate” their debate — has died after a battle with cancer.

    News of his death was confirmed Thursday, triggering condolences from his fellow MPs.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Facebook to reflect on a visit he had with Chan just a few weeks ago.

    “He was still cracking jokes — and insisted on playing piano and making me sing. We laughed and cried that day, and I’ll always cherish that visit and all the times we spent together,” Trudeau wrote.

    “Arnold, you have a beautiful family and my thoughts are with your wife Jean and your three sons, Nathaniel, Ethan, and Theodore. They are fine young men, just like their father. Rest in peace my dear friend,” he said.

    Condolences poured in from other MPs as well.

    “Mourning the passing of not only a great parliamentarian, but a close friend. @ArnoldChanLib, your drive to serve Cdns was ever inspiring,” Navdeep Bains, the minister of innovation, science and economic development, tweeted.

    “Devastated by the passing of @ArnoldChanLib. Sending my love to Jean and the boys, family, friends and colleagues. You will be missed,” said Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes.

    Environment Minister Catherine McKenna also took to Twitter to pay tribute. “Devastating. ArnoldChanLib was the best of the best in politics. He reminded us why what we do matters. Love to his family & all his friends.”

    At Queen’s Park, there was an audible gasp from MPPs in all three parties when a visibly upset Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid broke the news in the Legislature that Arnold Chan had died.

    Duguid, the Scarborough Centre MPP, asked Speaker Dave Levac if the House could have a moment of silence to remember the well-regarded Scarborough-Agincourt MP.

    MPPs on both sides of the chamber immediately agreed and outside, the Canadian flag was immediately lowered to half-mast in his memory.

    “He was a breath of fresh air in this business. Always positive, always optimistic, and always full of energy. A real gem,” Duguid told reporters after.

    International Trade Minister Michael Chan wept openly in the Legislature as he recalled his friend and former chief of staff.

    “Arnold was a great guy. Three weeks ago, he gave me a phone call, and got my family to his house. He told me there’s no more medicine. The doctor advised him that after five doses of trial medicine, they decided he’s no more,” the minister told the hushed chamber.

    “He told me, ‘Michael, I’m dying.’ That’s a message from him. You know what … life, for everyone, is short, so enjoy it,” he said.

    Chan also worked as a senior aide to former premier Dalton McGuinty and was widely respected at Queen’s Park.

    The 50-year-old was first elected to the House of Commons in a byelection in 2014. But he was forced to take time off from his political duties in January 2015 for treatment of nasopharyngeal cancer.

    Chan won his Scarborough seat in the October 2015 election

    The MP for Scarborough-Agincourt, struggled this year after the cancer reoccurred. In June, he made an emotional appeal to fellow MPS to elevate their debate and behaviour.

    Noting then that he might not have the energy to speak in the Commons again, Chan implored his political colleagues to rise above petty partisanship.

    “I know members revere this place, and I would beg us to not only act as honourable members but to treat this institution honourably,” he said.

    He singled out for praise the conduct of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, saying she set an example that other MPs should aspire to follow.

    “Despite strongly disagreeing, perhaps, with the position of the government of the day, she does so in a respectful tone. I would ask all of us to elevate our debate, to elevate our practice to that standard,” Chan said.

    “It is only through that practice, which I believe she so eloquently demonstrates, that Canadians will have confidence in this democratic institution that we all hold so dear. It is important that we do that,” he told the Commons in his June 12 speech.

    He also spoke out against the practice of “canned” talking points, saying such rote speeches undermine public confidence.

    “We can disagree strongly, and in fact we should. That is what democracy is about. However, we should not just use the formulaic talking points,” he said.

    Finally, he spoke about the importance of what he called basic common civility.

    “We have much to be proud of, and I would simply ask us to celebrate this incredible institution. By doing those small acts, we will continue to uphold our Canadian democracy and the values that bind us together,” he said.

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