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    It was the first time Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca had faced reporters since the controversy began.

    The press conference at a GO station in Burlington had nothing to do with the province’s plan to build a series of new stops.

    But the minister had not yet directly answered why two proposed locations — Kirby, in his own Vaughan riding, and Lawrence East, part of Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” campaign promise — had been approved against expert advice. Nor had he explained why the board of Metrolinx, which is meant to be an arm’s-length agency of the province, reversed its early position to not support those stations under pressure from his ministry.

    Put on the spot Tuesday, Del Duca deflected: “Yeah, so you’re focused on the historical details. I’m focused on the go-forward.”

    Going forward, experts say, the way transit has been planned in the Toronto region promises more boondoggles amid a lack of evidence-based decision-making.

    “Politicians see building new rail transit as a shortcut to getting elected,” said Murtaza Haider, a Ryerson University professor who specializes in transportation planning and statistical models. “The public transit infrastructure investment is a taxpayer subsidy to politicians’ political ambitions because there’s no rationale for it most of the time. What gets built and what should have been built are completely two different things.”

    These recent projects, including the contentious Scarborough subway, have brought accusations of political interference, missing and misleading information and a lack of transparency.

    Read more: Scarborough residents question why subway plan gives them just one new stop

    Scarborough subway moves forward as Tory rejects value-for-money analysis

    There couldn’t be more at stake: Potential misspending of billions of taxpayer dollars meaning the wrong projects get built at a time when the city — and region — is growing at an unprecedented pace. And once a project is built, it remains in place for decades.

    Recently approved projects have seen politicians interfering with transit plans, changing direction after a plan has been studied and approved.

    Emails obtained by the Star show Del Duca’s ministry sent Metrolinx officials draft press releases outlining his intention to announce the stations at Kirby and Lawrence East, even though studies had recommended against them and the board had decided not to support them.

    And emails from then-president and CEO Bruce McCuaig indicated Del Duca was “disappointed” with the analysis and McCuaig requested staff produce “alternative analysis.”

    Former mayor Rob Ford didn’t rely on facts when he insisted a subway was what was needed in Scarborough. It was Ford’s chief-of-staff, Mark Towhey; unlikely ally, Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker; and his hand-picked Speaker, Councillor Frances Nunziata, that together led to the reopening of the agreement with the province to build a fully funded light rail line (LRT) to replace the Scarborough RT,

    a move the city clerk has said broke council procedure.

    These and other plans have been bolstered by sometimes missing and other times misleading analysis. Consider these:

    • After the Metrolinx board approved the stations at Kirby and Lawrence East, it took almost nine months for the business cases for each station to be released. The new Kirby analysis excluded hired consultants’ earlier opinion that it showed “poor results.”

    • An inflated ridership figure was produced and attributed to the city’s planning department just days ahead of a crucial vote on the Scarborough subway. Emails obtained by the Star show chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat had herself questioned TTC CEO Andy Byford about the subway figure’s origins, unaware it apparently came from her own department.

    • When the subway debate resumed at council last year, the TTC produced a briefing note that cast doubt on whether the LRT plan was still viable. It suggested the price of the LRT was now almost on par with the subway, which Byford later clarified was simply a figure the TTC was “asked to provide.” It is unclear who asked for that number.

    There has also been much secrecy clouding transit planning in the region.

    The original discussion by the Metrolinx board during which it first decide not to support Kirby and Lawrence East stations was conducted behind closed doors.

    Following a Star investigation, Metrolinx has since said notice of closed-door meetings will be given, with minutes published afterward. Although a review to reassess the merits of building a station at Kirby and Lawrence East has been ordered, it will not scrutinize the process that led to Metrolinx approving them in the first place.

    The Scarborough subway briefing note has to this day never been made part of the public record at city hall.

    And today, the mystery of the pivotal ridership number has not been solved.

    Eric Miller, the director of the University of Toronto’s Transportation Research Institute, said a lack of evidence-based transit-planning is one of the driving factors behind the region’s failure to build transportation infrastructure fast enough to keep up with population growth.

    “Somebody whispers in somebody’s ear, somebody thinks it’s a good idea for whatever reason. It gets announced, and then maybe if you do the analysis you discover, well, there’s problems. Then there is opposition to it because it hasn’t been thought through,” he said.

    In addition to technical analysis of transit plans, there will always be quantitative decisions that will require political judgment, he said. But analysis of transit projects should be made public before decisions are made and if elected officials decide to deviate from the evidence they need to explain why.

    “They should be clear about why they’re making that decision. And just winning the next election isn’t a good enough reason for doing that,” Miller said.

    He argued that while watchdogs like auditor generals should be able to scrutinize transit decisions, they should be the last resort. Instead, he said he would prefer to “fix the system” by subjecting government analysis of transit plans to independent peer reviews, something he said is regularly done in the United States in his field of travel-demand modelling.

    “I think we’ve gotten into such a toxic situation… (The public doesn’t) believe the numbers even if the numbers are there, because they don’t trust the process.”

    University of Toronto Prof. Matti Siemiatycki, an expert in transportation policy and planning, said there is an important role for both politicians, who set objectives and priorities with a mandate from the citizens who elected them, and experts, who do the technical analysis on how best to meet those priorities.

    But the lines have often been blurred in Toronto, he said, pointing to Kirby as a recent example showing the process has been “infused with politics at every stage.”

    “This isn’t just an anomaly. We’re at the point where this is the pattern of how we do things here,” he said.

    Siemiatycki agreed part of the solution to the broken system is a strong peer-review component, which would protect against the cherry-picking of evidence and expert advice that seems preordained because it simply affirms what politicians wanted in the first place — what has been dubbed “policy-based evidence-making” instead of “evidence-based policy-making.”

    If you look at the historical details, several of Toronto’s transit-planning decisions have not aged well.

    Ridership predictions for the Sheppard subway former mayor Mel Lastman pushed have not panned out, forcing the city to subsidize the underutilized, five-stop line about $10 for every ride.

    And today, plans for a Sheppard East LRT — supported by evidence and with funding from other levels of government — have stalled amid lingering political promises of an underground extension, meaning no rapid transit has been built at all.

    The Union Pearson Express — an idea the province pursued even after the private sector abandoned it over fears of cost recovery — looks certain to fall short of the promised goal of breaking even on its operating costs within five years. Figures released this summer show the province is still subsidizing the line at about $11 per ride, totalling about $30.4 million between April 2016 and March 2017.

    The same mistakes keep getting repeated because too many elected officials are concerned with personal and political agendas, said Councillor Josh Matlow.

    “No one has been able to back up even the most basic details when I’ve asked some of the most obvious questions regarding spending over $3 billion on one subway station. That doesn’t make sense,” he said.

    “Would any reasonable, responsible person when they’re buying a product at a store just buy what they think they deserve and accept any price that they’re told? No. They would consider their budget and they would make a thoughtful comparison of products so that they can know beyond a doubt that they’ve made the right choice.”

    Former mayor David Miller, who sat on both the boards of Metrolinx and the TTC, said decisions about transit should ultimately be made by public officials.

    “But they need to rely on the advice of civil servants and other experts, and where they do not accept the advice, should be forced to explain the reasons in public as happens at city hall operating at its best,” he told the Star in an email. “This is clearly not the case with a provincial agency whose appointees are all at the pleasure of the minister and do not have the stature, elected legitimacy, or background knowledge to stand up for an evidence-based transit planning process.”

    Miller and other politicians were removed from the Metrolinx board in 2009 by then premier Dalton McGuinty in what the province claimed was a bid to speed up projects with a more independent board. Board members are now unelected officials recommended by the minister of transportation. That shakeup has come at a cost, Miller said.

    “W‎hen premier McGuinty removed elected officials from Metrolinx it removed the political strength and heft from the board that prevented underhanded backroom deals,” he said.

    The focus on politically motivated projects has also meant universally-agreed-upon priorities get sidetracked.

    Though transportation experts, academics and top bureaucrats agree a subway to relieve the congested Yonge line is a priority project, today there is no money committed to actually building it and no mayor or minister is championing the need to just get on with it.

    The current process for approving major transit projects has also left something to be desired, watchers say.

    In 2008, the province changed how transit projects are vetted, streamlining the mandatory environmental assessment to what’s called the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP), allowing for approvals within six months.

    The office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario reported then that the TPAP took away some “key requirements” of the environmental assessment, including potential “alternatives” to a project.

    “A requirement to consider ‘alternatives’ is still in the public interest, particularly when various transit options have differing impacts socially, economically and environmentally,” the report reads. “A careful weighing of alternatives, with public scrutiny, can lead to better overall outcomes and a wiser use of scarce public resources.”

    It’s unclear whether projects like Scarborough and Kirby and those pushing for their approval will undergo scrutiny from watchdogs appointed to keep an eye on public institutions.

    After receiving complaints about Kirby, Lawrence East and Scarborough, Ontario’s auditor general Bonnie Lysyk told the Star her office had already planned to audit the province’s regional transportation plan.

    As part of that review, expected to be published next fall, she said “it would be appropriate for us to look at Lawrence East and Kirby Station.”

    Toronto auditor general Beverley Romeo-Beehler, whose office is finishing an investigation into the Scarborough subway briefing note, said she has yet to determine if she will conduct a value-for-money analysis — something that has not specifically been the subject of any complaint.

    “Right now it’s undecided what we’re going to do,” she said.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump made his debut at the United Nations on Monday, using his first moments at the world body to urge the 193-nation organization to reduce bureaucracy and costs while more clearly defining its mission around the world.

    But while Trump chastised the United Nations — an organization he sharply criticized as a candidate for president for its spiralling costs — he said the United States would “pledge to be partners in your work” in order to make the UN “a more effective force” for peace across the globe.

    “In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential due to bureaucracy and mismanagement,” said Trump, who rebuked the United Nations for a ballooning budget. “We are not seeing the results in line with this investment.”

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    The president pushed the UN to focus “more on people and less on bureaucracy” and to change “business as usual and not be beholden to ways of the past which were not working.” He also suggested that the U.S. was paying more than its fair share to keep the New York-based world body operational.

    But he also complimented steps the United Nations had taken in the early stages of the reform process and made no threats to withdraw his nation’s support. His measured tone stood in stark contrast to his last maiden appearance at a global body, when he stood at NATO’s new Brussels headquarters in May and scolded member nations for not paying enough and refusing to explicitly back its mutual defence pact.

    While running for office, Trump labelled the UN as weak and incompetent, and not a friend of either the United States or Israel. But he has softened his tone since taking office, telling ambassadors from UN Security Council member countries at a White House meeting that the UN has “tremendous potential.”

    Trump more recently has praised a pair of unanimous council votes to tighten sanctions on North Korea over its continued nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests.

    Trump’s big moment comes Tuesday, when he delivers his first address to a session of the UN General Assembly. The annual gathering of world leaders will open amid serious concerns about Trump’s priorities, including his policy of “America First,” his support for the UN and a series of global crises. It will be the first time world leaders will be in the same room and able to take the measure of Trump.

    Read more:

    World leaders to discuss plight of Rohingyas at UN

    Defiant Kim Jong Un says he will complete North Korean nuclear program

    Jared Kushner begins push for Trump’s ‘ultimate deal’ between Israelis, Palestinians

    The president on Monday praised UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who also spoke at the reform meeting and said he shared Trump’s vision for a less wasteful UN to “live up to its full potential.” The U.S. has asked member nations to sign a declaration on UN reforms, and more than 120 have done so. The president also kicked off his maiden speech at the world body by referring to the Trump-branded apartment tower across First Avenue from the UN.

    Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said Trump’s criticisms were accurate at the time, but that it is now a “new day” at the UN. An organization that “talked a lot but didn’t have a lot of action” has given way to a “United Nations that’s action-oriented,” she said, noting the Security Council votes on North Korea this month.

    Guterres has proposed a massive package of changes, and Haley said the UN is “totally moving toward reform.”

    Trump riffed on his campaign slogan when asked about his main message for the General Assembly.

    “I think the main message is ‘make the United Nations great.’ Not again, ‘make the United Nations great,’” Trump said as he left the UN building. “Such tremendous potential, and I think we’ll be able to do this.”

    Trump also planned separate talks Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Emmanuel Macron. U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster said “Iran’s destabilizing behaviour” would be a major focus of those discussions. He also was having dinner with Latin American leaders.

    The United States is the largest contributor to the UN budget, reflecting its position as the world’s largest economy. It pays 25 per cent of the UN’s regular operating budget and over 28 per cent of the separate peacekeeping budget — a level of spending that Trump has complained is unfair.

    The Trump administration is conducting a review of the UN’s 16 far-flung peacekeeping operations, which cost nearly $9.78 billion a year. Cutting their costs and making them more effective is a top priority for Haley.

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    Ontario will have a zero tolerance policy toward young drivers who use marijuana.

    Premier Kathleen Wynne on Monday said commercial truckers, drivers 21 and under, and novice motorists will face stiff penalties if caught behind the wheel after using cannabis.

    For a first occurrence young drivers and G1, G2, M1, and M2 licence holders will face a three-day suspension and a $250 fine.

    A second occurrence will result in a week-long suspension and a $350 fine with all subsequent offences penalized with a 30-day suspension and a $450 fine.

    Similarly, commercial drivers will face three-day suspensions any time they are caught and fined up to $450.

    All other drivers found to be within the blood-alcohol concentrate range of up to .08 will face suspensions of between three and 30 days and fines of up to $450.

    Those with blood-alcohol concentrate levels above .08 face 90-day suspension and $550 fines.

    “There is no excuse for impaired driving — whether it is due to drugs or alcohol,” said Wynne.

    MADD Canada’s Andrew Murie said marijuana is by far the most-seen drug in fatal accidents.

    Murie said he was hopeful upcoming oral-fluid road tests will help reduce cannabis use by drivers.

    Read more: LCBO to run 150 marijuana stores

    Ontario prepping reefer awareness campaign on the dangers of marijuana as legalization date approaches

    Poll says Ontarians are high on government control of marijuana retailing

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    Torontonians will finally see full-time traffic wardens on city streets in early 2018, Mayor John Tory announced Monday as part of his continuing campaign to battle congestion.

    “I’m hopeful that they’re wearing a bright orange coat, or a bright green coat or something so people will clearly see who they are and what they are and what they’re there to do,” Tory said standing in Nathan Phillips Square during the morning rush hour.

    The province has agreed to make the necessary changes under the Highway Traffic Act that will authorize officers other than police to manage pedestrian and car traffic on city streets, and, if needed, around construction sites.

    The move is a long time coming.

    For years, critics, including the mayor, have questioned why highly paid and trained police officers should receive lucrative paid-duty assignments to direct traffic.

    Read more:

    Three or more unpaid parking tickets? You could be towed

    Why traffic jams are a good thing: Hume

    Toronto Star Deadly Streets series

    In 2016, city staff released a report that said lesser-paid special constables, not just police officers, should be permitted to direct traffic.

    “Police powers should not be a prerequisite for directing traffic,” said the report. “Other persons with appropriate training could fulfill the function safely in a more cost-effective manner.”

    While waiting for provincial approval, Tory initiated a pilot program using paid-duty police officers to go to key intersections experiencing bottlenecks.

    The pilot project was a success, Tory said.

    “We found a minimum of 90-per-cent reduction in intersection blockage by vehicles and a 70-per-cent reduction in intersection blockage by pedestrians.”

    The mayor announced other measures Monday, which coincided with the Toronto Police Service’s heightened rush-hour enforcement campaign.

    The days of utility trucks blocking lanes of traffic during the day for non-emergency work, “are over,” Tory said. “We cannot have non-emergency work . . . being done at a time when it’s going to cause this city to grind to a halt.”

    The mayor said he will be meeting with the officials of Toronto Hydro, gas and telecom companies to discuss confining non-emergency work requiring lane closures to off-peak hours, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

    The city will also create two “quick-clear squads” that will monitor traffic lanes along key downtown corridors, the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, and make sure they’re not blocked.

    The traffic operation centre will dispatch these teams to locations where there are reports of lanes being blocked.

    “We will have these two squads that will be watching for cars that are blocking these lanes, often times because of a collision, or because of stalled cars, and get them out of there, so they don’t block the traffic,” Tory said.

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    ST. LOUIS—A racially mixed crowd of demonstrators locked arms and marched quietly through downtown St. Louis Monday morning to protest the acquittal of a white former police officer in the killing of a Black suspect, following another night of unrest and more than 80 arrests.

    The latest action follows three days of peaceful protests and three nights of vandalism and unrest in the city that has been rocked since Friday, when a judge announced he found Jason Stockley not guilty in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith.

    Hundreds of riot police mobilized downtown late Sunday, arresting more than 80 people and seizing weapons amid reports of property damage and vandalism. The arrests came after demonstrators ignored orders to disperse, police said.

    “I’m proud to tell you the city of St. Louis is safe and the police owned tonight,” Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole said at a news conference early Monday.

    Earlier Sunday, more than 1,000 people had gathered at police headquarters then marched without trouble through downtown St. Louis, the posh Central West End, and the trendy Delmar Loop area of nearby University City. Protesters also marched through two shopping malls in a wealthy area of St. Louis County.

    By nightfall, most had gone home. The 100 or so people who remained grew increasingly agitated as they marched back toward downtown. Along the way, they knocked over planters, broke windows at a few shops and hotels, and scattered plastic chairs at an outdoor venue.

    According to police, the demonstrators then sprayed bottles with an unknown substance on officers.

    One officer suffered a leg injury and was taken to a hospital. His condition wasn’t known.

    Read more:

    St. Louis police arrest more than 80 amid violent protests over police shooting

    St. Louis cop’s acquittal in murder case triggers second day of protests

    Protests rekindled in St. Louis after acquittal of cop in killing of a Black man

    Soon afterward, buses brought in additional officers in riot gear, and police scoured downtown deep into the night, making arrests and seizing at least five weapons, according to O’Toole. Later, officers in riot gear gathered alongside a city boulevard chanting “whose street, our street” — a common refrain used by the protesters — after clearing the street of demonstrators and onlookers.

    “We’re in control. This is our city and we’re going to protect it,” O’Toole said.

    Mayor Lyda Krewson said at the same Monday news conference that “the days have been calm and the nights have been destructive” and that “destruction cannot be tolerated.”

    Early Monday, more than 150 protesters marched arm-in-arm, some carrying signs, to city hall. Police turned traffic away as the marchers blocked a busy St. Louis street during the rush hour crush. Once at city hall, they found their voices, chanting: “I know that we will win.” The protesters then marched four blocks to a city court building, where they chanted again, then dispersed. The next protest is scheduled for Monday evening in University City.

    Also Monday, high school students in at least two suburban districts protested the Stockley ruling. In Kirkwood, about 100 students walked out and held a brief rally, while 250 students in Webster Groves staged what school officials described as a peaceful demonstration.

    The recent St. Louis protests follow a pattern seen since the August 2014 killing of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson: The majority of demonstrators, though angry, are law-abiding. But as the night wears on, a subsection emerges, a different crowd more willing to confront police, sometimes to the point of clashes.

    Protest organizer Anthony Bell said he understands why some act out: While change can come through peaceful protests, such as those led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., years of oppression has caused some to turn violent.

    “I do not say the (violent) demonstrators are wrong, but I believe peaceful demonstrations are the best,” Bell said.

    Many protesters believe police provoked demonstrators by showing up in riot gear and armoured vehicles; police said they had no choice but to protect themselves once protesters started throwing things at them.

    Stockley shot Smith after high-speed chase as officers tried to arrest Smith and his partner in a suspected drug deal.

    Stockley, 36, testified he felt endangered because he saw Smith holding a silver revolver when Smith backed his car toward the officers and sped away.

    Prosecutors said Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting. The officer’s DNA was on the weapon but Smith’s wasn’t. Dashcam video from Stockley’s cruiser recorded him saying he was “going to kill this (expletive).” Less than a minute later, he shot Smith five times.

    Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the comment as “human emotions” during a dangerous pursuit. St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson, who said prosecutors didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stockley murdered Smith, said the statement could be ambiguous.

    Stockley left the police department and moved to Houston three years ago.

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    Sean Spicer must be thrilled to discover you can sell your soul and not pay a thing.

    At the Emmy Awards on Sunday night, Donald Trump’s former press secretary made a surprise cameo and added new scenes to his ongoing redemption tale. The reaction shots inside the Microsoft Theater mirrored the facial expressions of viewers at home: a mix of disbelief and skittish laughter.

    Anna Chlumsky, who stars in Veep, twisted in her chair as her jaw cranked open like a largemouth bass trying to swallow an escaping sunfish. Melissa McCarthy, who just won an Emmy for her portrayal of Spicer on Saturday Night Live, looked more baffled than amused, like she couldn’t quite believe the loathsome subject of her gonzo takedowns was now granted permission to be in on the joke.

    “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys — period! — both in person and around the world,” Spicer advised host Stephen Colbert, gamely mocking his debut press conference in the White House in which he excoriated the media while lying about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd.

    This was the new Spicer normalizing the old Spicer with air cover provided by an entertainment industry that, not so long ago, viewed him as an enemy combatant in a war on democracy. This was Spicer getting a richly undeserved pass in prime time and moving forward without ever having to look back.

    It was Hollywood hypocrisy at its most breathtaking.

    On a night in which anti-Trump sentiment laced the monologue and several trophies were bestowed on celebrities who made their bones last year attacking the U.S. president — including Alec Baldwin for his impersonation on SNL— the decision to turn Spicer into a sight gag and give him a literal podium on stage amounted to a surrender of any moral high ground.

    The glitterati who now bang on about how Trump is an existential threat whispered the secret handshake to his former mouthpiece. They welcomed Spicer into their world without so much as a sideways glance.

    The message was clear: this bumbling enabler of state disinformation, this bête noire who once couldn’t be trusted to accurately tell you what he had for breakfast, was no longer radioactive.

    Sure, he committed sins. Sure, his attacks on the free press and reality were appalling. But if those transgressions can now be converted into ratings gold or viral clips, extend a VIP invite because all is forgiven and forgotten.

    “People in the business and the average person is very grateful for (Spicer) to have a sense of humour and participate,” Baldwin told reporters backstage. “Spicer obviously was compelled to do certain things that we might not have respected, we might not have admired, we might have been super critical of in order to do his job. But I’ve done some jobs that are things that you shouldn’t admire or respect me for either. He and I have that in common.”

    Right. This delusion — that Spicer was just following orders when he tortured the truth on behalf of the most powerful man on earth — is something Spicer himself told Jimmy Kimmel a few days ago. It will no doubt become a mantra in the days ahead when he becomes a visiting fellow at Harvard or wows audiences who pay big bucks to hear him as a member of the Worldwide Speakers Group.

    But atop a trash heap of lies, it is yet another lie.

    If Spicer looked down and said, “Hey, your laces are untied,” there’d be a 99 per cent you were not even wearing shoes. This compulsive dishonesty, an affliction shared by every bootlicking enabler to orbit Trump, does not stem from extenuating circumstance or forced patriotic duty.

    It is a reflection of character.

    Spicer was not “compelled to do certain things,” as Baldwin wrongly insists. Spicer did these things — and, indeed, would still be doing them — because he feared no consequence. He sold his soul during a cynical auction and power play believing a celebrity-obsessed culture would give him a new one if needed.

    His Emmy appearance proves he was right.

    This is also what makes Sunday’s normalization so abhorrent. If Sean Spicer can get a high-five from the celebrities who were loudest in condemning him, Trump’s inner circle should be all smiles today. Who knows, maybe Kellyanne Conway can become a judge on the reboot of American Idol when she leaves The Trump Show. Maybe Stephen Miller can rehab his image as a correspondent on The Daily Show, where viewers will be encouraged to see his white power rants as self-deprecating satire.

    The redemption tale is a longstanding Hollywood trope.

    But even in a town where notoriety is often indistinguishable from celebrity, in a place where fame exists in a moral vacuum, the embrace of Spicer as a “get” shows just how much Hollywood still does not get it.

    They flipped their own script and turned a demon into a folk hero just to get people talking.

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    OTTAWA—A jousting match erupted Monday between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer as the Liberal government’s plan to end “unfair” tax advantages for some wealthy small business owners dominated the return of Parliament.

    As they exchanged blows, the two leaders gave what is likely a preview of the themes that will underlie their respective election campaigns in 2019 as each tries to position himself as the champion of the middle class.

    Scheer kicked off the first question period of the fall sitting by accusing Trudeau of hiking taxes on hard-working, middle-class small business owners, including farmers, mechanics, fishers and, particularly, female entrepreneurs who, he asserted, won’t be able to afford to take maternity leave.

    “As Conservatives, we believe in raising people up, not tearing people down,” Scheer said. “Conservatives wake up every day trying to think of new ways to lower taxes. Liberals wake up every day trying to find new ways to raise taxes.”

    The new Tory leader, who took over the post in May, vowed that the “pain will only be temporary,” promising that Conservatives would fight the proposed tax changes “every step of the way” and “save local businesses.”

    Trudeau countered by accusing Scheer of siding with the wealthiest Canadians at the expense of their truly middle-class counterparts.

    “(Conservatives) have been going around the country telling every doctor they meet that they stand with them, that they will defend their right to pay lower taxes than the nurses who work alongside them,” the prime minister said.

    “We don’t think that’s fair.”

    Trudeau even went on the offensive, urging Scheer to commit “right now” to reversing the Liberals’ proposed changes and restoring the current system of “tax breaks for wealthy individuals” if they win the next election.

    Read more:

    Tone-deaf rollout of Liberal tax reforms a lesson in how good ideas go sour: Editorial

    Trudeau government stands firm on tax changes

    Why Bill Morneau’s tax reform plan is politically necessary: Walkom

    Scheer did not oblige, prompting Trudeau to accuse the Tories of peddling misinformation to stoke outrage but without any intention of actually undoing the proposed changes.

    “They’re happy to talk about outrage but they’re not proposing to keep this (current) system,” Trudeau said. “They invent problems, exaggerate them and then won’t act because they know that helping middle-class Canadians matters.”

    While the Tories and Liberals battled it out, New Democrats did not ask one question Monday about the tax changes.

    But, in an echo of the 2015 election when the NDP was essentially squeezed out by a Liberal campaign that seemed more progressive, Finance Minister Bill Morneau called out New Democrats — normally champions of reducing income inequality — for supporting “continued tax advantages for the wealthiest Canadians.”

    In a letter to three New Democrat MPs, Morneau said he’s surprised and disappointed that they are opposed to his tax changes.

    He noted that his proposals are supported by a number of organizations with which the NDP would ordinarily be aligned — the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Nurses Association, Canadians for Tax Fairness, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Broadbent Institute.

    The current tax system allows someone earning $300,000 to use a private corporation “to save about as much as the average Canadian earns in a year,” Morneau wrote.

    “This leads to situations where an incorporated doctor can be taxed at a lower rate than a nurse practitioner or police officer.”

    His letter was in response to a letter sent to Morneau on Sept. 7 by Windsor-area MPs Brian Masse, Cheryl Hardcastle and Tracey Ramsey, in which the trio of New Democrats urge the finance minister to “heed the voices” of doctors, dentists, orthopedists and others who are vehemently opposed to the proposed tax changes.

    They urge Morneau to “reconsider” his proposals and concentrate instead on “tax cheats” who hoard their money in illegal offshore accounts, robbing the federal treasury of some $6 billion per year.

    Morneau said the government is in “listening mode” as consultations on the proposed changes continue until Oct. 2 and said he wants to hear from New Democrats and their constituents if they believe the changes will inadvertently hurt middle-class families.

    “I can assure you that our focus is on ensuring the wealthiest do not get tax advantages over and above what is available to other Canadians — and I would have hoped to count on your support on such a crucial issue of fairness and equity.”

    In the House of Commons, Morneau also vowed to ensure women are not disproportionately impacted by the changes.

    The proposed changes have raised the ire of doctors, lawyers, tax planners and other small business owners who’ve used incorporation to reduce their income tax burden.

    They would restrict the ability of incorporated business owners to lower their tax rate by sprinkling income to family members who do no work for the business. They’d also limit the use of private corporations to make passive investments in things like stocks or real estate and limit the ability to convert a corporation’s regular income into capital gains taxed at a lower rate.

    The Canadian Medical Association and provincial medical societies have spearheaded opposition to the reforms, contending among other things that they’ll result in doctors moving to the United States.

    The controversy has also galvanized the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which took to the air Monday by enlisting a small airplane to buzz the skies over Ottawa, trailing a banner that read, “No Small Biz Tax Hike.”

    Despite the opposition, more than 300 doctors across the country have put their signatures on an open letter to Morneau in support of the reforms. They argue that the changes will promote tax fairness and give the government more money to spend on health care.

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    Following repeated delays to the TTC’s streetcar order with Bombardier, the transit agency is asking other companies if they’re interested in supplying Toronto’s next batch of vehicles.

    Last Tuesdaythe TTC issued an official request for information (RFI) in order to “gauge market interest and capabilities of potential suppliers” to deliver up to 100 new streetcars.

    TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said the RFI isn’t an indication that the agency has decided to go with another company for its next purchase, and asserted the request was “strictly part of our planning to best understand how we can address our long term needs.”

    Read more:

    Not in service: Inside Bombardier’s delayed streetcar deliveries

    Past delivery delays tank Bombardier’s bid for New York City subway contract

    Bombardier shipped unfinished streetcars to Toronto and then finished them here in order to meet delivery targets

    “No decision has been made,” he said.

    The TTC is in the midst of taking delivery of a $1-billion, 204-vehicle order from Bombardier, but the Quebec-based company has fallen far behind the original delivery schedule.

    The contract has an option for additional cars, and the TTC has considered exercising it and buying an extra 60 vehicles once the first batch of 204 is delivered.

    However, as Bombardier’s production problems mounted, the TTC board directed the agency to seek out potential alternate suppliers.

    According to Green, the agency expects that it will need to start deploying additional streetcars around 2023 or 2024 to keep up with ridership growth. In order to have the vehicles available by then, the TTC will have to choose a supplier by the end of next year.

    The RFI closes November 14. As of Thursday seven companies had downloaded the information package from the public sector procurement website, Green said.

    A spokesperson for Bombardier said the company is among those that plans to take part in the RFI.

    “This will give us an opportunity to show that we are the only manufacturer on the market to already have a vehicle that is designed to the specific needs of the TTC, and an established production line geared towards such a project,” wrote Marc-André Lefebvre in an email.

    He said that Bombardier would also continue discussions with the TTC to exercise the option in the existing contract, which he asserted would be cheaper for taxpayers than placing a new order with another company.

    Under the terms of the original contract, in order to be guaranteed a lower price on additional Bombardier cars, the TTC must decide whether to pick up the option by the time the company delivers the 60th vehicle. That could happen before the end of the year.

    Green said the TTC is talking with Bombardier about pushing the decision date back “so that we have more time to assess the situation.”

    An official with Siemens said the company is “very interested” in the TTC’s request.

    “We’re currently reviewing the RFI and will make a decision as to whether to participate in the coming weeks,” said Patrick O’Neill, vice president of mobility at Siemens Canada Limited. The company has already won contracts to manufacture light rail vehicles for Seattle, Minneapolis, and San Diego.

    A spokesperson for Alstom, which earlier this year secured a $528-million vehicle contract from regional transit agency Metrolinx, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

    The TTC placed the initial order with Bombardier in 2009. The company was supposed to have supplied close to 150 vehicles by the end of this year, but has since slashed the year-end target to just 70 vehicles. The TTC currently has 44 of the cars on its property.

    In July, the company warned the TTC that it may not meet even the reduced 2017 target due to what it described as a “short-term” production issue.

    Bombardier says it is “deploying extraordinary resources” to hit delivery goals and is still on track to complete all 204 streetcars by the original 2019 deadline.

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    Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is shaking the trees to help Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown topple Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals next year.

    Mulroney, in government from 1984 to 1993, sent out a fundraising letter to would-be donors on Monday that highlighted his green credentials as he appealed for their green.

    “Ontario needs Patrick Brown and new leadership,” he wrote, noting his missive came 33 years and one day after he was sworn in as prime minister.

    “During my time in office, I’m proud of what our Progressive Conservatives accomplished. We built a stronger economy and created a cleaner, healthier environment for Canadians to live in. And I’m especially proud we did both at the same time,” continued Mulroney.

    “You see, the economy and the environment aren’t mutually exclusive. Good economic policy and good environmental policy go hand-in-hand. Many believe this can’t be the case. Yet my government brought in a free trade agreement and an acid rain treaty with the United States,” he said.

    “The former is a reason why Canada is now among the most prosperous nations on Earth, the latter is a reason why I was voted Canada’s greenest prime minister in history.”

    Mulroney — whose daughter, Caroline, will be the Tory candidate in York-Simcoe in the June 7, 2018 election — pointed out “Patrick shares my vision for pragmatic, progressive conservatism.”

    “It’s why I’m proud to support him in his mission to form a PC government in 2018. I’m asking you to support him, too,” he said, urging people to donate between $25 and $100 to the campaign.

    “Every dollar will help bring new leadership for Ontario in 2018.”

    While Mulroney is a controversial figure in some circles due to past problems, he is well-respected among Tories for his tax reforms, environmental work, and for being a leader in the fight against South Africa’s racist apartheid policies.

    Long a mentor to Brown, he confirmed to the Star last year that they are old friends.

    Walied Soliman, the PC campaign chair, said Mulroney’s imprimatur is important to Brown.

    “It was Brian Mulroney’s principled stand on acid rain and his leadership on free trade that drew Patrick Brown into politics. This makes Mr. Mulroney’s endorsement of Patrick’s leadership so meaningful,” said Soliman.

    “While we look to building a brighter future for Ontario with his daughter Caroline running under the PC banner, we will look to the past service of the former prime minister as an important example of leadership on the economy and environment that are as important today as ever.”

    While Brown is awaiting his party’s November convention in Toronto to roll out the Tories’ environmental plans, he said last week that “climate change is man-made and we have to do our part.”

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    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—Hurricane Maria grew into an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm Monday as it barrelled toward a potentially devastating collision with islands in the eastern Caribbean, and forecasters warned it was likely to become even stronger.

    The storm’s eye was expected to pass near Dominica later in the day on a path that would take it near many of the islands already wrecked by Hurricane Irma and then on toward a possible direct strike on Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

    “This storm promises to be catastrophic for our island,” said Ernesto Morales with the U.S. National Weather Service in San Juan. “All of Puerto Rico will experience hurricane force winds.”

    The U.S. territory imposed rationing of basic supplies including water, milk, baby formula, canned food, batteries and flashlights.

    The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Maria had maximum sustained winds of 215 km/h in late afternoon. It was centred about 55 kilometres northeast of Martinique and 70 kilometres east-southeast of Dominica, and was heading west-northwest at 15 km/h.

    The centre said Maria would likely continue to gain strength for the next 24 hours or longer and could reach Category 5 status with winds reaching 250 kph. “Maria is developing the dreaded pinhole eye,” it noted.

    That’s a sign of an extremely strong hurricane likely to get even mightier, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. Just like when a spinning ice skater brings in their arms and rotates faster, a smaller, tighter eye shows the same physics, he said.

    Maria’s eye shrank to a small 16 kilometres in diameter.

    “You just don’t see those in weaker hurricanes,” McNoldy said. “It’s cranking up the angular momentum.”

    Hurricane warnings were posted for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Martinique. A tropical storm warning was issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Lucia and Anguilla.

    Forecasters said storm surge could raise water levels by 1.8 to 2.7 metres near the storm’s centre. The storm was predicted to bring 25 to 38 centimetres of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.

    Officials in Dominica closed schools and government offices and urged people to evacuate and seek shelters.

    “We should treat the approaching hurricane very, very seriously,” Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said. “This much water in Dominica is dangerous.”

    Read more:

    Battered Caribbean islands brace for approach of tropical storm Maria

    Hurricane Jose could bring wind, rain and rough surf to Nova Scotia, forecasters says

    Putting hurricanes and climate change into the same frame

    The small, mountainous island could be in trouble even if spared the storm’s strongest winds. In August 2015, Tropical Storm Erika unleashed flooding and landslides that killed 31 people and destroyed more than 370 homes.

    Officials in Guadeloupe said the French island would experience extremely heavy flooding starting in the afternoon and warned that many communities could be submerged overnight.

    In nearby Martinique, authorities ordered people to remain indoors and said they should be prepared for power cuts and disruption in the water supply. All schools and non-essential public services were closed.

    The storm’s hurricane-force winds extended out about 35 kilometres from the eye, and tropical storm-force winds out as far as 205 kilometres.

    The current forecast track would carry it about 35 kilometres south of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands late Tuesday and early Wednesday, according to territorial Gov. Kenneth Mapp.

    “We are going to have a very, very long night,” Mapp said as he urged people in the territory to finish any preparations.

    St. Thomas and St. John are still recovering from a direct hit by Hurricane Irma, which did extensive damage and caused four deaths on the two islands.

    Officials and islanders were also bracing in Puerto Rico, which did not take a direct hit from Irma but still saw blackouts across much of the territory. Nearly 70,000 people remain without power, and Gov. Ricardo Rossello warned that more widespread outages are likely with Maria.

    Forecasters said the storm would dump up to 46 centimetres of rain across Puerto Rico and whip the U.S. territory with heavy winds for 12 to 24 hours.

    Officials said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was ready to bring drinking water and help restore power in Puerto Rico immediately after the storm.

    Traffic was heavy Monday as people rushed to buy last-minute items. Among them was 70-year-old retiree Rafael Rivera, who clutched a small bag of dog treats for his dog and six puppies at home.

    “This storm is coming with some bad intentions,” he said at a San Juan store where some shoppers grumbled about empty shelves.

    Rossello said Puerto Rico had prepared about 450 shelters capable of taking in up to 125,000 people in a worst-case scenario. Nearly 200 people are still in shelters due to Hurricane Irma. Classes were cancelled and government employees were to work only a half-day.

    Farther north, long-lived Hurricane Jose continued to head northward well away from the U.S. East Coast but causing dangerous surf and rip currents. It was not expected to make landfall, but a tropical storm warning was in effect for coastal areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Tropical storm watches were posted for parts of New York’s Long Island and Connecticut.

    Jose was centred about 405 kilometres east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and was moving north at 17 km/h. It had maximum sustained winds of 120 km/h.

    Seawater washed over parts of North Carolina’s Outer Banks as Jose passed, and five people were knocked off a coastal jetty in Rhode Island by high surf caused by the storm. Officials said rescuers had to fight through rough surf to load the injured onto stretchers and get them to shore. All five were hospitalized.

    In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Norma’s threat to Mexico’s Los Cabos resort area at the southern end of the Baja California Peninsula eased as forecasters said it was moving away from shore and expected to weaken.

    Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lee weakened into a tropical depression far out in the Atlantic and Hurricane Otis became a tropical storm far out in the Pacific. Neither threatened land.

    0 0

    Two different cities, over 800 km apart, are arguing over fifty-two animals on a century-old carousel.

    Councillors of the City of Carmel will vote on whether or not to fund the carousel and its accompanied structure in the heart of its downtown.

    Meanwhile, a motion, set to appear on Oct. 2, 3, and 4, 2017, will ask Toronto City Council to amend the current license agreement at Centreville to secure the purchase of the heritage carousel.

    The motion, written by Councillor Paula Fletcher, and seconded by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, calls the Centreville carousel “an important part of Toronto’s history and a part of people’s histories.”

    “It would be a shame if the rains not only eroded the shoreline of Toronto Island, but also led to the loss of this treasured heritage asset,” reads the motion.

    At present, the Centreville lease agreement is valid until 2032. Fletcher would like to see that lease reduced to secure the money of the carousel over time.

    “They have suffered substantially because of the floods,” said Fletcher, “and getting back from that will be difficult. This will be a nice way to help him do that.”

    The hand-carved century-old carousel has one of the widest varieties of hand-carved animals and has been a popular attraction at Centreville since 1966.

    Read more:

    Carmel committee votes against funds for the $5-million Centreville carousel

    One last round on the Centreville carousel

    Toronto’s 110-year old carousel on Centre Island sold for $3 million

    Bill Beasley, owner of Centreville, said that the motion is the first step to working out a solution, but doesn’t have clarity yet on how the lease would be amended or what kind of authority the general manager of Toronto Parks and Recreation has to amend it. He’s also waiting to see how Carmel City Council will vote on the issue.

    “Everything’s complicated,” said Beasley. “It’s not a straightforward decision on our part.”

    In the hypothetical scenario that City of Carmel votes in favour of funding the carousel, and Toronto City Council votes in favour of keeping it here, Beasley says there are legal decisions that will have to be made. They have a purchase agreement with Carmel that needs to be managed.

    “It’s all hearsay at the moment,” said Beasley, “There’s an opportunity to sell it to Carmel that’s still open, and there’s an opportunity for the City of Toronto to keep the carousel at Centreville.”

    “They’re both great options, but today is not a deadline to make these decisions,” he said.

    Councillors for the city of Carmel will vote on the issue around 8 p.m. EST.

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    A woman who babysat toddler Ja’zara Garrison-Downey has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the little girl’s 2014 death.

    The babysitter, whose identity is protected because she was a minor at the time of the crime, wiped tears from her eyes in court Friday as she entered her plea.

    A post-mortem exam found that Ja’zara, 2 years old when she died, had dozens of injuries all over her body, including bruises and abrasions consistent with being hit with a belt, and a bite mark on her shoulder which the babysitter admitted to giving her.

    The babysitter, who was 17 years old when Ja’zara died, was the child’s primary caregiver for several days leading up to her death. The babysitter acknowledged that she was aware of the child’s injuries but did nothing to treat them, except to apply Polysporin on some wounds.

    Ja’zara’s cause of death, however, was ketoacidosis — a condition usually associated with people who have diabetes, though Ja’zara was not diabetic, Crown Attorney David Boulet said in court.

    Stress and starvation can each contribute to ketoacidosis, Boulet said, quoting the post-mortem report.

    Ja’zara’s stomach was empty at the time of her death, the post-mortem found.

    The babysitter failed in her legal responsibility as Ja’zara’s guardian, to care for the child, the Crown added.

    The babysitter called police to an apartment near Sherbourne St. and Wellesley St. E. on Jan. 3, 2014, saying that Ja’zara wasn’t breathing.

    Toronto police pronounced Ja’zara dead at the apartment.

    The babysitter will be sentenced later this year.

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    Five marks appearing to be fingerprints outlined in yellow were on the glass doors of an upscale downtown restaurant Monday, two days after a prominent Toronto real estate agent was gunned down.

    Used wine glasses and unfinished plates from panicked patrons could still be seen on tables at Michael’s on Simcoe.

    The restaurant was empty of customers, and will be until Saturday at the earliest.

    By then, it’ll have been a full week since a gunman fired in a crowded dining room, killing 54-year-old Simon Giannini in what police said was likely a targeted attack.

    According to restaurant owner Michael Dabic, who has one copy of the surveillance video and provided the police with another, Giannini was laughing in the last moments before he was shot.

    Dabic described accounts from his staff what he said he saw.

    The suspect strode into Michael’s just before 9 p.m. Saturday, wearing a hoodie, track pants and a baseball cap. The restaurant’s manager asked the man if he could help him, as his attire didn’t match their usual clientele.

    “We have a dress code,” Dabic said. “So a guy wearing a hoodie and a cap, it’s like, you’re not getting in.”

    Dabic said the shooter told his manager he was there “looking for a friend.” When the manager confronted him again, the man bolted towards Giannini’s table.

    Dabic said his 26-year-old daughter, who works at the restaurant full-time, was about three metres away when the gunman started shooting.

    The shooter fled amid the chaos, driving west along Pearl St. in a white SUV. A waiter dashed outside to write down its licence plate number.

    Giannini, meanwhile, died in hospital, becoming Toronto’s 41st homicide victim of 2017.

    The whole thing lasted less than 20 seconds, Dabic said.

    “The blessing in this is that no one else was hurt.”

    Dabic said Giannini’s table was closer to the restaurant’s exit. However, Dabic also said roughly 140 people were inside at the time, and he believes one of them must have directed the gunman to Giannini’s table.

    “You just can’t find an individual that quickly,” Dabic said. “Simon’s back was to the hit guy . . . so you have to know where he is.”

    Dabic wasn’t in the restaurant at the time, but says they have surveillance of the entire incident. On Monday, police were still coming and going from the restaurant.

    Though police are saying it appears to be a targetted shooting, Dabic said he believes it wasn’t particularly well-planned. Mere blocks away on King St., festivities were well underway for the evening at the Toronto International Film Festival, meaning an abundance of police officers and heavy traffic.

    “The police were here in seconds,” he said.

    Giannini’s friends and family told the Star he was a devoted father to his two school-age sons. In the last year, Giannini was in the middle of a divorce, after multiple years of separation from his former wife. The real estate agent grew up in Toronto’s east end after immigrating to Canada from Lebanon when he was about 7.

    Giannini’s death was the second shooting at Michael’s in two years, though police said the two aren’t connected. In September 2015, two masked men opened fire on a couple inside the restaurant, both of whom survived.

    Dabic insisted Michael’s is safe, and that something like this could happen at any restaurant.

    “I didn’t think lightning could strike twice but it did,” he said.

    0 0

    Of the four candidates vying for the NDP leadership, the numbers suggest that only one can hope to win on the first ballot.

    Jagmeet Singh’s campaign has claimed credit for enrolling 47,000 of the 124,000 members eligible to vote for the next leader.

    If the bulk of them do vote over the next two weeks, all could be in place for a first ballot win Oct. 1.

    While that amounts to an organizational challenge, the fact is that it should be logistically easier for Singh to get his vote out than for his rivals.

    That’s because his support is more heavily concentrated than that of Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton and Guy Caron.

    Connecting with large pockets of members in the GTA and the larger Vancouver area is presumably more straightforward than reaching out to a lot of smaller ones spread out across the country.

    It also helps that Singh’s political base — again in contrast with his three rivals — is located in Canada’s most-populated urban area.

    Angus holds a northern Ontario riding. Ashton’s seat is in northern Manitoba, and Caron hails from the Lower St. Lawrence region.

    Under the NDP formula of one member, one vote, the edge that comes from being familiar to a large pool of potential support is particularly valuable.

    Some New Democrats — especially but not exclusively in Quebec — lament the fact that the leadership vote is not weighted to reflect the demographics of the country.

    The NDP may not have a shot at winning government unless it can win seats in Quebec, but anyone can become its leader without showing well in a province whose party ranks are thin.

    Among the three main parties, this is a feature unique to the NDP.

    The party brass — under Tom Mulcair’s leadership — had four years to fix the leadership election formula in a way that better reflects the electoral reality of Canada and it did not.

    The outgoing leader probably did not expect the issue of the leadership to resurface as soon as it did.

    Be that as it may, the failure to give Quebec a voice on party affairs commensurate with its demographic and/or caucus weight could contribute to the notion the New Democrat presence in the province is a blip a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    That being said, it is not just because Singh has finished ahead of the pack in the membership drive that he is going into the vote with an edge on the competition. If that were the case, the Ontario MPP would be little more than the New Democrat’s Kevin O’Leary — a bright shiny leadership object of dubious marketable value.

    Singh’s stumble-free campaign has been all that O’Leary never was. As the NDP campaign reaches the final stage, some are pointing out that he lacks a seat in the House of Commons. That is a fair point to make, but no one is arguing that he is less ready for federal prime time than the three MPs he is running against.

    If there is a path to victory for one of the other contenders it runs through a second ballot. Did not Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer recently turn front-runner Maxime Bernier into an also-ran over the course of multiple ballots?

    But the parallel between the Conservative Party of Canada and the NDP dynamics has clear limits.

    Bernier won the air war but neglected his ground game, a mistake Singh cannot automatically be counted on to make.

    Moreover, the Beauce MP campaigned on a set of policies that curtailed his capacity to grow from ballot to ballot (or to secure caucus support.) No one would describe Singh’s platform as polarizing. It is the notion of campaigning under a turban-wearing Sikh leader, not his policies that is a concern in some NDP quarters.

    There was a time when having a shot at power mattered less to the New Democrat base than to its Liberal and Conservative counterparts. But that was in the pre-Layton, pre-Mulcair era and before the party scored back-to-back NDP victories in Alberta and British Columbia.

    At the final leadership showcase of the campaign on Sunday in Hamilton, all candidates featured strengths New Democrats have cause to like. But it was Singh who seemed to most succeed at making them dream of a brighter electoral future.

    Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

    0 0

    Two weeks ahead of Const. James Forcillo’s high-profile appeal hearing, Crown prosecutors are defending the jury’s decision to find the Toronto police officer guilty in the attempted murder of Sammy Yatim, who died in a hail of Forcillo’s bullets in July 2013.

    After six days of deliberation, a jury last year found Forcillo not guilty of second-degree murder in Yatim’s death — but convicted him of attempted murder in the now infamous streetcar shooting that killed 18-year-old Yatim.

    The conviction “does not accord with logic or common sense,” Forcillo’s lawyers argued in documents filed to Ontario’s Court of Appeal in May, asking for the officer’s conviction to be quashed or for a new trial to be ordered.

    Read more:

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    “As a matter of common sense, the suggestion that an accused can be legally justified in killing someone, but criminally liable for attempting to kill that same person within the span of less than 10 seconds, is unfathomable,” Forcillo’s lawyers wrote, calling the conviction a “compromise verdict.”

    But in a written response filed with the court Friday, Crown lawyers say there “no logical or factual inconsistency” in the jury’s verdicts.

    “The two verdicts in this case were not inconsistent. They arise from different factual and legal bases, which were clearly explained to the jury by both Crown and defence counsel in their opening and closing addresses, and by the trial judge in the charge to the jury,” write Crown lawyers.

    Forcillo, currently suspended without pay by the Toronto police and out on bail, will be back in court next month for the appeal of the unprecedented attempted murder conviction of a cop in an on-duty shooting.

    Yatim was killed just after midnight on July 27, 2013, moments after the teenager exposed himself and pulled a small knife on unsuspecting passengers on the Dundas St. W. streetcar. Yatim was alone on the streetcar by the time police arrived.

    As Yatim stood at the front door of the streetcar holding the pocket knife, Forcillo shot at him in two distinct volleys separated by five-and-a-half seconds. He fired three times then, as Yatim lay on the floor of the streetcar paralyzed and dying, six more times, striking him a total of eight times.

    The jury determined Forcillo’s first three shots — during which the fatal shot was fired to the heart — were not a criminal act. But it found the second volley was neither justifiable or in self-defence, and convicted him of attempted murder.

    The jury was entitled to find Forcillo guilty of attempted murder for any of the shots in the second volley, “if the jury found that Mr. Yatim was alive during the second volley, that any of the shots were not justified, and that (Forcillo) had the specific intent to kill when he fired an unjustified shot,” the Crown wrote in its response to Forcillo’s lawyers’ arguments.

    Forcillo’s lawyers also argued that trial judge Justice Edward Then incorrectly accepted the Crown position that the second volley of shots was a separate event. In their response, the Crown said if Then had not specifically instructed the jury on their option to convict Forcillo of attempted murder, they would have been left in an “‘all or nothing situation,’ perhaps feeling compelled to render a guilty verdict to sanction conduct that they found morally reprehensible but that did not cause death.”

    In a scathing sentencing decision released in July 2016, Then handed down a six-year prison sentence, finding the shooting of Yatim was “unnecessary and unreasonable and excessive from the outset of the second volley.”

    The six-year sentence is one year longer than the mandatory minimum of five years jail time for attempted murder with a weapon, something Forcillo’s lawyer say violates the Charter.

    “Any reasonably informed observer would not support the imposition of severe jail sentences on those who make errors in judgment in the heat of the moment and pose little to no danger to society,” Forcillo’s lawyers argued in their written submission.

    if the conviction is upheld, Forcillo’s lawyers asked the Court of Appeal to find that the mandatory minimum sentence violates the Charter, and that a suspended sentence should instead be imposed.

    The Crown, however, says the sentence imposed was fit “and, indeed, at the bottom of the range this Court has set for attempted murder.”

    Forcillo’s lawyers have also argued several other grounds for appeal, including Then’s decision to disallow a defence witness to testify about “suicide by cop” and to exclude evidence about Yatim’s text message history and Google searches. Months before he died, Yatim had searched “the easiest way to kill yourself” and “how to commit suicide without feeling any pain.”

    0 0

    Like many public servants, Tom Campbell avoided reporters.

    In life, he kept his distance. In death, however, he has opened up.

    At his behest, his daughter sent an email the other day signalling that one of Ontario’s most influential deputies was finally ready to go public.

    “Hello Martin. Yesterday my father, Tom Campbell died.

    “You wrote a piece about him in 1984 when he was deputy minister of finance and you might be interested to know that at dinner on the night before his death, your piece was a topic of conversation.”

    Campbell, 83, had kept a copy of that newspaper profile all this time, despite refusing an interview with the rookie reporter who wrote it. Now, according to his daughter Alexandra, 44, he was ready, belatedly, to talk — from the grave.

    As much about how he lived his life as how he ended it.

    “I did ask my Dad, ‘What if I told Martin some of these things now, after you die?’ And he said, ‘Sure.’ ”

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    But before the epilogue is written, one must go back in time.

    Campbell had once helmed the province’s sprawling health ministry, where lobbyists pressed him to help people suffering from terminal illnesses die with dignity. The deputy had listened respectfully, knowing full well his hands were tied by his political masters and prevailing public opinion, but he’d challenged the group:

    “Why should we do it?” he asked at the time.

    This year, Campbell had his answer, when the roles were reversed. Suffering from the excruciating pain of bladder cancer, he quietly chose Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID).

    But to fulfil his final wish, he first had to rely on his old skill set as a deputy to navigate the Byzantine rules laid down by bureaucrats in the corridors of power he’d once inhabited. The irony was not lost on the former mandarin, a shy but forceful introvert who’d always been a stickler for formality and rules.

    “I don’t want to be a science experiment,” he told his children, declining desperate attempts at surgery as the cancer invaded his lymph nodes and the pain worsened.

    A deputy treasurer must be cold-blooded in wielding a budget axe to balance the government’s books. No surprise that he would be similarly decisive about his own circumstances.

    Campbell’s daughter says he had excellent care from the two physicians who assessed his bid for MAID. But the drawn-out procedures for collecting information and granting permission were frustrating and dehumanizing.

    After securing the final approvals, Campbell tried new pain medications without success before announcing to his family (including his wife Mary Mogford, also a former deputy, and son John): “I want to do this . . . this is happening tomorrow.”

    His daughter describes it as a moment of enormous relief — from the physical pain, but also the mental limbo. He worried that others would still not benefit from the procedure as he had.

    “It sounds crazy but the chance to have an assisted death gave him the courage to keep living through the summer,” Alexandra explained. “He was very adamant that the legislation has not gone far enough. And he hopes that having been former deputy minister of health for Ontario might give some weight to the cause.”

    Over coffee, she explained that her father believed the procedures could be streamlined so that people who clearly qualify for medically assisted death are not forced to take heroic — or humiliating — steps to comply. At times, it felt as if the roadblocks made death harder for patients only to make life easier for the bureaucracy.

    Despite securing permission from his Toronto doctors, it was difficult to relay that approval to another jurisdiction so that he could die with loved ones at his suburban home. He faced an unexpected 72-hour delay in filling the approved prescription. And having watched two of his sisters struggle with dementia, the inability to sign an advance directive for MAID“created fear and frustration for my Dad,” she said.

    Throughout his career, Campbell had always projected precisely the opposite — outer calm and inner confidence. A downhill skier from northern Ontario, he scaled the heights of the Toronto power structure during the Progressive Conservative dynasty that culminated with premier Bill Davis, and later chaired Ontario Hydro.

    Publicly, he kept his mouth shut and his tie tightly knotted — to the point that one of his political masters described (in that 1984 profile) ordering him to loosen his collar at a staff meeting. Privately, though, Campbell fussed over every budgetary comma, political coda, and even the dress code for budget day.

    He was too loyal to disclose it at the time, but as his daughter told me this month, Campbell had begged then-treasurer Frank Miller to dress appropriately when delivering his budget in the early 1980s. Miller wouldn’t back down, concealing his trademark tartan jacket until just before he walked into legislature for the solemn occasion.

    That act of defiance was one of Campbell’s lingering regrets, for he believed it detracted from the budget and trivialized the work of the public service. But perhaps Miller (who died in 2000) was gently pushing back against his powerful deputy, whose grip on the budget process was legendary.

    That symbolic power struggle stayed with Campbell. A sign that, in life as in death, there are some things one cannot fully control.

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

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    Students at Cardinal Leger Secondary have launched a petition against their school’s backpack ban in classrooms — which forces students to carry their books, binders, medication and pencil cases in their arms between classes.

    Cardinal Leger is one of a handful of high schools in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board that has the ban to avoid clutter in the classrooms. Students are saying the ban is already making their school year very difficult.

    Students are expected to keep their backpacks in the locker and pick up the items they need between classes and carry them. Megan Beere, a Grade 10 student at Cardinal Leger, had small cuts on her arm, she said, caused by the heavy items she had to carry — which kept slipping from her hands.

    “Because I had to carry around my laptop for class I was more concerned about protecting it than anything else because I obviously didn’t want to drop it,” she said Monday. “It’s really heavy to carry.”

    Things are extra difficult for her, she said, because of the EpiPen, inhaler and medication that she needs to take around with her — the school, she added, also bans purses and fanny packs. Beere is one of the over 500 signatories on the petition so far, which launched Friday.

    “The reason to do it was to reduce the clutter in the classrooms, so many kids were bringing in these massive backpacks; they were on the floor, hanging off desks, just taking up space and these aren’t big classes in the first place,” said Bruce Campbell, spokesperson for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

    “It was creating an issue in terms of the clutter in the classrooms.”

    But some students disagree.Grade 10 student Victoria Ricciardi said the once-navigable hallways at Cardinal Leger are now busy and chaotic — packed with students trying to get their items from their lockers between classes.

    “It’s a lot of stuff to carry and I often have to go up flights of stairs and down and I have tried but I can’t hold on to the railing and opening doors is a struggle, so I have to wait for someone to open it for me,” she said outside her school Monday. “I dropped all my stuff two times. I’m scared of the day I drop my binder and everything falls out.”

    Campbell said it wasn’t a ban across the Dufferin Catholic board, and that it’s up to the individual school. Campbell said he was unsure how many had chosen to enforce the ban but heard of it in a few schools, including Loyola Catholic Secondary School.

    The website for Philip Pocock Secondary School lists the rationale behind its backpack policy.

    The reasons include: Backpacks are a tripping hazard; they cause back, neck and shoulder injuries for students carrying them; they are a target for thieves, they are increasingly becoming bigger in size and that they are used as makeshift closets housing clothes for students who avoid wearing their uniforms.

    Campbell said students who feel they need their backpack in the classroom for a valid reason should speak to their teacher.

    Chloe Cabral, a Grade 12 student at Cardinal Leger, started the online petition, which will be delivered to the school board once it meets its target of 1,000 signatures.

    On the petition, she stated that because of the ban, students are dropping their items and colliding with other students in the hallways, that students are getting to class late because their lockers are too far and that students need to carry their feminine hygiene products without a backpack.

    In protest, Beere and a few other students are planning on carrying boxes to classes instead.

    “I think the teachers are going to be upset about it but I’m hoping they are also impressed,” she said. “They’re probably going to have to change the rule to say that you can’t have anything to carry around your materials with except for your arms.”



    Here are some other recent school bans across the GTA:

    • In November 2011, the Earl Beatty Public School issued a ban forbidding students from bringing “hard” balls, such as soccer balls, tennis balls and footballs, to school.

    • In December 2015, St. Luke Catholic elementary school banned tag and other contact games from its playground. The ban took place after students were playing rough at recess, which led to a series of injuries.

    • In September 2015, students and parents said that cartwheels, somersaults, handstands and gymnastics were banned at the Runnymede Junior and Senior Public School. The school board later said it was all a misunderstanding and that only dangerous and “advanced cheerleading-like activities” were banned without supervision.

    • In May 2017, the Toronto District School blocked all Wi-Fi and network access to Snapchat, Netflix and Instagram in schools until the end of the academic year because the three sites alone use up to 20 per cent of the its network activity each day.

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    Equifax Canada says approximately 100,000 Canadian consumers may have had their personal information compromised in the massive cyberattack on the credit data company made public earlier this month.

    The company said Tuesday the investigation is ongoing and it appears that the breached data may have included names, addresses, social insurance numbers and in some cases credit card numbers.

    “We apologize to Canadian consumers who have been impacted by this incident,” Lisa Nelson, president and general manager of Equifax Canada, said in a statement.

    “We understand it has also been frustrating that Equifax Canada has been unable to provide clarity on who was impacted until the investigation is complete.”

    Read more:

    Canada’s privacy watchdog launches probe into Equifax hack

    Equifax’s data debacle shows need to rein in credit agencies: Wells

    U.S. senators seek investigation of Equifax stock sales following data breach

    The credit data company added that hackers accessed Equifax Inc.’s systems through a consumer website application intended for use by U.S. consumers. The hackers obtained access to files containing the personal information of some Canadian consumers through the interface, Equifax said.

    On Sept. 7, Equifax announced that it suffered a data breach that may have compromised the personal information of 143 million Americans and an undisclosed number of Canadian and U.K. residents. The company said last week that fewer than 400,000 U.K. individuals may have had their information put at risk.

    But Equifax, which collects data about consumers’ credit histories and provides credit checks to a variety of companies, learned about a major breach of its computer systems in March — almost five months before the date it has publicly disclosed, according to three people familiar with the situation.

    In a statement, the company said the March breach was not related to the hack that exposed the personal and financial data on 143 million U.S. consumers, but one of the people said the breaches involve the same intruders. Either way, the revelation that the 118-year-old credit-reporting agency suffered two major incidents in the span of a few months adds to a mounting crisis at the company, which is the subject of multiple investigations and announced the retirement of two of its top security executives on Friday.

    Equifax hired the security firm Mandiant on both occasions and may have believed it had the initial breach under control, only to have to bring the investigators back when it detected suspicious activity again on July 29, two of the people said.

    Equifax had also been tight-lipped about the security issue’s impact in Canada.

    Canada’s privacy watchdog announced last Friday that it was probing the data breach and Equifax had committed to notifying those affected in writing as soon as possible.

    Equifax said Tuesday that it will be sending mailed notices directly to Canadians who have been impacted in the cyberhack outlining the steps they should take.

    It is also offering Canadians whose data was put at risk free credit monitoring and identity theft protection for the next 12 months, a service offered to U.S. residents on the day the cyberattack was first announced.

    The company is now facing investigations in Canada and the U.S.

    At least two proposed class actions have been filed in Canada and many more in the U.S. against Equifax in connection with the data breach.

    The cyberattack occurred through a vulnerability in an open-source application framework it uses called Apache Struts. The United States Computer Readiness team detected and disclosed the vulnerability in March, and Equifax “took efforts to identify and to patch any vulnerable systems in the company’s IT infrastructure.”

    With files from Bloomberg

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    Police have released two news surveillance videos in the hopes of finding the killers of Anthony “Fif” Soares, who was shot on September 14. Soares was a friend of rapper Drake.

    Detective Sergeant Gary Giroux from Toronto Police Homicide unit said the attack on Soares, a 33-year-old Toronto man, was “very focused.” It took place in the lobby of a high-rise apartment at Kennedy Rd. and Glamorgan Ave. after Soares had been dropped off by a friend.

    In the first video, Soares is shown in the foyer of the building, attempting to buzz up to enter, when two assailants run up with guns drawn and shoot at him from the outside through the glass doors. After the doors shatter, they continue to fire upon him before fleeing in a white Ford Fusion driven by an unseen third suspect. The second video shows the car, which looks new and has tinted windows, pulling up and speeding away after the attack.

    Police were called to the scene just before 3 a.m. and Soares was taken to hospital with numerous gunshot wounds, where he succumbed to his injuries.

    Drake posted a photo of Soares on his Instagram after the news of his death had come out, calling him one of his “family members.”

    A prominent Toronto tattoo artist also shared an Instagram photo of a tattoo of Soares’ face that he said Drake had come into his parlor to get inked.

    This shooting marks the 39th homicide in Toronto this year, and police are asking for anyone who has information to contact them immediately.

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    Toys ‘R’ Us has filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States and says it intends to follow suit in Canada.

    The company filed Chapter 11 documents late Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Virginia and says its Canadian subsidiary plans to seek protection in parallel proceedings under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

    The chain also said it had secured $3 billion (U.S.) in financing to stay open while it restructures its outstanding debt and establishes a sustainable capital structure to invest in long-term growth.

    Toys ‘R’ Us said the “vast majority” of its approximately 1,600 Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us stores around the world and its web portals continue to operate as usual. There are 70 stores in Canada.

    The company added that it is committed to working with its vendors to ensure inventory levels are maintained and products continue to be delivered.

    The company said operations outside of Canada and the U.S., including some 255 stores in Asia, are separate entities and are not part of the Chapter 11 filing and CCAA proceedings.

    “Today marks the dawn of a new era at Toys ‘R’ Us where we expect that the financial constraints that have held us back will be addressed in a lasting and effective way,” said chairman and CEO Dave Brandon in a statement.

    “Together with our investors, our objective is to work with our debtholders and other creditors to restructure the $5 billion of long-term debt on our balance sheet.”

    Toys ‘R’ Us is headquartered in Wayne, N.J., and has nearly 65,000 employees worldwide.

    The company said the proceedings are a way for Toys ‘R’ Us to work with its creditors on restructuring the debt beleaguering it. And it emphasized that its stores worldwide will remain open and it will work with suppliers and sell merchandise.

    Filing for bankruptcy protection “will provide us with greater financial flexibility to invest in our business . . . and strengthen our competitive position in an increasingly challenging and rapidly changing retail marketplace worldwide,” Brandon said in the announcement.

    The move comes at a critical time leading into the holiday season that is crucial to retailers' bottom lines. The company said it was “well stocked as we prepare for the holiday season and are excited about all of our upcoming in-store events.”

    Retailers of all kinds are struggling. The Toys 'R' Us bankruptcy filing joins a list of at least 18 others since the beginning of the year — including shoe chain Payless Shoe Source, children's clothing chain Gymboree Corp. and the True Religion jean brand — as people shop less in stores and more online.

    “Toys 'R' Us had little choice but to restructure and try to put itself on a firmer footing, said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. However, he added, “even if the debt issues are solved, Toys 'R' Us still faces massive structural challenges against which it must battle.”

    Toys ‘R' Us, a major force in toy retailing in the 1980s and early 1990s, started losing shoppers to discounters like Walmart and Target and then to Amazon. GlobalData Retail estimates that in 2016 about 13.7 per cent of toy sales were made online, up from 6.5 per cent five years ago.

    And children are increasingly moving more toward mobile devices as playthings. “For many children, electronics have become a replacement or a substitute for traditional toys,” Saunders said.

    Toys 'R' Us has struggled with debt since private-equity firms Bain Capital, KKR & Co. and Vornado Realty Trust took it private in a $6.6 billion leveraged buyout in 2005. The plan had been to take the company public, but that never happened because of its weak financial performance.

    With such debt levels, Toys 'R' Us has not had the financial flexibility to invest in its business. Analysts say Toys 'R' Us hasn't been aggressive about building its online business, and has let those sales migrate to rivals. And they say the company should have also thought of new ways to attract more customers in its stores, such as hosting birthday parties.

    While toy sales overall have held up fairly well, they are shifting toward discounters and online companies. U.S. toy sales rose 6 per cent last year on top of a 7 per cent increase in the prior year, says NPD Group Inc., a market research firm. That was the biggest increase since 1999 and was fuelled by several blockbuster movies.

    But for the first half of 2017, sales rose 3 per cent. That puts more pressure on the later part of the year, when most toy sales occur, for the industry to meet NPD's estimate for a 4.5 per cent annual increase. Lego is laying off 1,400 workers after saying profits and sales dropped in the first half. And the nation's two largest toy makers, Mattel and Hasbro, reported disappointing second-quarter results.

    Toys 'R' Us announced the filing late Monday. It said it was voluntarily seeking relief through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond, and that its Canadian subsidiary would be seeking similar protection through a Canadian court in Ontario as it seeks to reorganize.

    Toys 'R' Us said it expects to continue honouring return policies, warranties and gift cards, and customer loyalty programs should stay the same.

    In a separate statement late Monday, the company said its online sales sites worldwide remain open for business during the court-supervised process.

    ---With files from the Associated Press

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