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- 09/26/17--15:44: _NFL links arms to p...
- 09/26/17--16:39: _Donald Trump is bur...
- 09/26/17--15:57: _Bombardier hit with...
- 09/27/17--07:11: _WestJet names new n...
- 09/27/17--09:10: _Contentious issues ...
- 09/27/17--07:02: _Business groups urg...
- 09/27/17--12:22: _Will Finch Ave. sit...
- 09/27/17--03:00: _Ontario bill will r...
- 09/27/17--08:09: _Trump discusses his...
- 09/27/17--12:59: _Toronto is becoming...
- 09/27/17--03:00: _Sober since July, t...
- 09/27/17--11:45: _‘She’s still alive’...
- 09/27/17--11:53: _Trudeau ‘disappoint...
- 09/27/17--14:08: _‘I’m anti-Muslim to...
- 09/28/17--11:51: _Trump says NFL owne...
- 09/28/17--10:28: _No bailout for aili...
- 09/28/17--10:45: _Trump administratio...
- 09/28/17--10:16: _Province tries to a...
- 09/28/17--05:12: _’This is a disaster...
- 09/27/17--19:00: _Mother and child, 5...
- 09/26/17--15:44: NFL links arms to protect itself, not tackle racism
- 09/26/17--15:57: Bombardier hit with 219% duty on sale of jets to Delta Air Lines
- 09/27/17--09:10: Contentious issues lie ahead as Ottawa NAFTA talks end
- 09/27/17--07:02: Business groups urge slowdown on Ontario’s $15 minimum wage hike
- 09/27/17--12:22: Will Finch Ave. site of old Humber River hospital reopen?
- 09/27/17--03:00: Ontario bill will reveal drug company payments to doctors
- 09/27/17--08:09: Trump discusses his tax reform plan in Indiana
- 09/27/17--12:59: Toronto is becoming a sanctuary city for U.S. politicians: Menon
- 09/28/17--10:28: No bailout for ailing media outlets, Ottawa says
- 09/28/17--10:16: Province tries to allay business fears over minimum wage hike
- 09/28/17--05:12: ’This is a disaster’: Money starts to run out in Puerto Rico
As pre-game protests spread through the NFL on Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin thought he would focus on football by keeping his team in the locker room while the national anthem played in Chicago.
Tomlin hoped to keep the Steelers out of a long-simmering conflict over race, patriotism and pro football that boiled over late last week when U.S. president Donald Trump urged NFL teams to cut players who demonstrated during the national anthem.
Less than a day later Paul Smith, a volunteer fire chief in suburban Pittsburgh, posted his reaction on Facebook.
“Tomlin just added to the list of no good N------,” he wrote. “Yes I said it.”
Smith’s comments remind us that the backlash to African-American NFL players opting out of the pre-game anthem by sitting or taking a knee was never about respect for the military, or the idea that sports and politics shouldn’t mix.
Like the protests themselves, opposition to demonstrations by players like Colin Kaepernick have always been about race.
More accurately, they’re about racism, which is crucial to remember as player protests morph into all-inclusive demonstrations of unity and threaten to dilute the movement’s impact.
Kaepernick, like WNBA players before him and NFLers who came afterward, specifically targeted systemic racism and police brutality against Black people in his initial protests last August. The concept of unity, reintroduced to the conversation this weekend, is the latest in a series of diversions seeking to derail the dialogue on racial justice Kaepernick and others hoped to trigger by demonstrating.
Trump forced the issue back into headlines last Friday when, speaking at a campaign rally for a Republican primary candidate in Alabama, he energized the largely white crowd by telling them NFL team owners should fire “sons of bitches” who protest during the national anthem. In subsequent statements, Trump has insisted that the protests dishonoured the U.S. flag and military, and that his outburst was unrelated to race.
Yet with Trump, race often ripples just below the surface.
While he unequivocally trashed Black athletes who protest the anthem, Trump hesitated to disavow white supremacists like David Duke, who publicly supported his campaign for president. He also demurred rather than denounce deadly Neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, Va., arguing the group contained “very fine people.”
When ESPN anchor Jemele Hill, an African-American woman, described Trump as a white supremacist during Twitter conversation, the president and his aides demanded the network apologize and fire her. They urged no such action, however, when national magazines like Time and the New Yorker depicted him as a white supremacist on their covers.
Trump’s blatant and subtle appeals to racial bias help explain how he garnered 58 per cent of the white vote in last November’s election, winning the support of both working class whites and the wealthy whites who compose the majority of the NFL’s ownership class. Eight of the league’s 32 team owners have donated to Trump.
And if Trump had stopped after calling protesting players “SOBs” it’s not clear how many would have published statements disagreeing with him on players’ right to demonstrate. After all, they seem to share an obsession with policing Black athletes’ speech and a fixation with the performative patriotism of the pre-game anthem.
But Trump’s tweet calling for a fan boycott over player protests prompted team owners to speak out in defence of free speech and “unity.” Ultra-rich NFL owners supported a “pro-business” president who figured to make them richer, but a boycott would cost them money.
So first came the lukewarm rebukes of Trump’s proposed crackdown on free speech. Then came NFL owners, like Jaguars boss and Trump supporter Shad Khan, descending from luxury suites to stand with players, linking arms to show unity as the anthem played.
And then came Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Monday Night Football, taking a knee with players and coaches before the anthem, then standing arm-in-arm for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
If the goal was ambiguity, NFL team owners nailed it.
The gestures showed enough support for protests to keep players onside, but by emphasizing amorphous concepts like unity they derailed yet another oncoming, uncomfortable confrontation with racism.
They also positioned figures like Khan and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to lap up praise for appearing progressive in contrast to a recalcitrant president. This week’s Sports Illustrated cover features the men alongside athletes and coaches — like LeBron James, Steve Kerr and Candace Parker — who are vocal opponents of racism.
Mysteriously, the cover photo excludes Kaepernick but includes the tagline, “A NATION DIVIDED. SPORTS UNITED.”
But if the goal is to begin dismantling systemic racism, the pivot toward a poorly-defined vision of unity represents the opposite of progress.
Rosa Parks didn’t seek unity with the white man who told her to give up her seat on a bus Birmingham in 1955. She stayed put and kicked off a crucial phase of the civil rights movement.
Nor did Muhammad Ali try to unify with a U.S. government that tried to force him to join the army. He chose a side and risked his career rather than cross the line he had drawn.
And when Tommie Smith and John Carlos accepted their medals at the 1968 Olympics, the U.S. sprinters didn’t link arms. They raised their fists in protest while the national anthem played.
Silver medallist Peter Norman stood by, wearing a pin Smith and Carlos had given him, expressing unambiguous solidarity with a pair of African-American athletes engaged in a life-defining struggle against entrenched racism.
It’s not clear if this weekend’s demonstrations will ever result in an NFL team owner showing similar unequivocal support for Black players who protest against racial inequality.
But for now, all we have is unity dressed up as progress but protecting the business.
NFL links arms to protect itself, not tackle racism
WASHINGTON—Iranian state television played a video of a missile launch. Donald Trump saw an opportunity to claim vindication.
“Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!”
Turns out the test never happened.
Trump-friendly Fox News reported Monday that U.S. officials say the Iranian report was a fake, the launch footage from a failed test in January. CNN quickly confirmed with its own government sources: the U.S. president had been duped by an adversary.
In some other era, such an error would have been a significant news story. In the Trump era, it barely registered.
There is too much else going on.
America is being buried in a White House news avalanche, much of it triggered by the president’s own explosions and missteps. The astonishing volume of Trump-related daily developments has obscured events that would previously have merited intense coverage, leaving Trump’s allies and foes alike scrambling to adjust to a media era unlike any other.
“Controversies that used to take place over several weeks and occupy centre stage are now merely one storyline out of half a dozen that are washing through the daily or weekly news cycle. We’ve had days where a potential nuclear confrontation with North Korea is the second or third story in the news,” Kevin Madden, former top spokesperson for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, told the Star on Tuesday.
One of those days was Monday.
North Korea’s foreign minister announced that, in the regime’s view, Trump had “declared a war” by tweeting that the regime “won’t be around much longer” if it continues to speak the way dictator Kim Jong Un has spoken. He added that they now have the right to shoot down U.S. bombers even outside of North Korean airspace.
This did not lead the evening news.
CBS and ABC began with Trump’s ongoing attack on NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racism and police misconduct. NBC began with the post-hurricane humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, which has itself been obscured by the emotional battle over the protesters.
Trump’s ban on travellers from some Muslim-majority countries generated furious protest and a Supreme Court case when it was first introduced in January. The updated version issued on Sunday— which extended the ban from 90 days to indefinite — prompted just a single question at the White House press briefing on Monday, the day after it was introduced.
There were three briefing questions about the travel habits of Trump’s health secretary, Tom Price, whom Politico reported has spent more than $400,000 on private jets after experiencing a single airport delay while flying commercial.
The website Vox called it a “scandal,” but it wasn’t being widely treated as one yet. One New York Times article on the controversy ran on the 18th page of the printed paper. Others did not make print at all.
Late Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a private meeting with conservative leaders. And the New York Times reported that senior Trump aides had used personal email accounts for official business.
Both of these remarkable Trump stories appeared certain to be crowded out by all the other Trump stories.
“Trump is a permanent political eclipse that blacks out good news, bad news and everything in between,” said Democratic strategist Craig Varoga. Varoga said Democrats should try to turn Trump’s chaos against Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, making a “patriotic appeal to all voters, of all political persuasions, to restore calm and stability as a prerequisite to growing the economy, creating jobs and avoiding war.”
But it has been hard for Democrats to drive home any kind of message since Trump’s emergence in 2015.
In her new book, Hillary Clinton lamented that her campaign’s jobs message in 2016 was drowned out by Trump’s relentless feud-picking. On Twitter in 2017, average liberals complain daily that Trump is successfully distracting the public from damaging stories. And anti-Trump grassroots activists say they frequently feel overwhelmed by the pace of the news.
“Every day. Every day. Don’t you? I mean, it’s just madness,” said Pat Fogg, founder of RESIST Central Maine.
Some prominent Democrats say the concern about the short shelf life of Trump-era controversy is overblown. Despite a September uptick in support, he is hovering around the woeful first-year plateau of 40 per cent.
“The challenge for the Democrats is to weave these stories into a coherent narrative about Trump and the Republicans. It’s a work in progress, but Trump’s abysmal approval ratings suggest that the public is not missing the forest for the trees,” said Dan Pfeiffer, former White House communications director for Barack Obama.
It is not only Democrats fretting. Republican members of Congress gripe that the president’s impulsive musings and tirades are impeding the policy messages they are trying to communicate themselves. In the days leading up to Trump’s major Wednesday speech on the party’s tax reform plan, the president has relentlesslytalkedand tweeted about the NFL.
Fogg said her Maine group focuses on the issues they think they can impact, knowing there is “not much we can do” about much of the rest. Ben Wikler, a Washington director for major progressive group MoveOn.org , said they too subscribe to “the political equivalent of the Serenity Prayer”: ignoring the “blizzard of outrages” they can’t change to choose the important fights where people power can matter.
“Trump has demonstrated in his campaign, and continues to show, that his most powerful weapon is changing the subject to the topic of his choosing. But for people who believe the GOP agenda has to be stopped, our job is to cut through the noise and figure out where we can make a difference,” Wikler said.
Donald Trump is burying America in an avalanche of news (and it’s all important)
OTTAWA—Bombardier’s hopes for breaking into the U.S. commercial aviation market took a massive blow on Tuesday, as the U.S. Department of Commerce proposed a hefty 219 per cent duty on its CSeries jets.
The department ruled in a preliminary decision that Bombardier benefited from improper government subsidies, which gave the Montreal-based company an unfair advantage when selling south of the border.
The investigation was sparked by a complaint from U.S. aerospace giant Boeing, after Bombardier secured a deal for up to 125 of its CS100s with Delta Air Lines in April 2016.
The list price for the planes is around $6 billion, but the actual amount of money involved in the deal has not been made public and Boeing alleges Bombardier offered them for much less.
The financial penalties aren’t officially due until Bombardier delivers the first CS100 to Delta, which is expected in the spring. They could also still be dropped or refunded.
The key will be whether the U.S. International Trade Commissions finds that Bombardier-Delta deal actually hurt Boeing’s business, a decision that’s not expected until the spring.
But the ruling gives Boeing momentum as the dispute drags on, and more leverage in any future talks between the Trudeau government and the Chicago-based company to reach a negotiated settlement.
Boeing wasted no time in declaring victory on Tuesday.
“Subsidies enabled Bombardier to dump its product into the U.S. market, harming aerospace workers in the United States and throughout Boeing’s global supply chain,” the company said in a statement.
The dispute is not about limiting innovation or competition, it continued. “Rather, it has everything to do with maintaining a level playing field and ensuring that aerospace companies abide by trade agreements.”
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in his own statement that while the United States values its relationship with Canada, “even our closest allies must play by the rules.”
Meanwhile, Bombardier and the Trudeau government appeared to be reeling. Most had expected the Commerce Department to rule against Bombardier, but the size of the proposed duty was surprising.
Boeing had been asking for an 80 per cent duty.
“The magnitude of the proposed duty is absurd and divorced from the reality about the financing of multibillion-dollar aircraft programs,” Bombardier said in a statement.
“Boeing is seeking to use a skewed process to stifle competition and prevent U.S. airlines and their passengers from benefiting from the CSeries.”
In Europe, meanwhile, Bombardier’s rail business, Bombardier Transportation, faces a substantially larger rival after railway manufacturers Siemens Mobility and Alstom announced a merger.
The memorandum of understanding announced Tuesday is described as a merger of equals with each owning half the shares of the new company, to be headquartered in Paris. The Mobility Solutions business will be run out of Berlin.
The combined company to be called Siemens Alstom will have $18 billion (U.S.) in revenues and $1.4 billion in adjusted EBIT. Annual cost savings of $554.2 million are expected four years after closing.
Alstom and Siemens said the two businesses are largely complementary in terms of activities and geographies.
“We put the European idea to work and together with our friends at Alstom, we are creating a new European champion in the rail industry for the long-term,” Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser said.
However, analyst Cameron Doerksen of National Bank Financial said Bombardier Transportation can still succeed as a stand-alone company.
In fact, John Zechner, chair of Toronto-based investment management firm J. Zechner Associates, said the emergence of a new rail partnership gobbling up rail and light transit contracts across Europe could heighten the importance of the Toronto and other North American deals for Bombardier.
Bombardier Transportation would be the world’s third-largest railway company with a strong presence in France, Germany and Britain. It has a four-year backlog of orders and is moving toward an 8-per-cent EBIT margin.
While a trade war with Boeing and a bulked up Siemens/Alstom partnership creates new headwinds for Bombardier, the company has not indicated any further delays in its delivery schedule for low-floor Toronto Transit Commission streetcars as a result, said Stuart Green, a TTC spokesperson.
Bombardier Transportation communications head Marc-André Lefebvre reiterated that the company is on track to deliver the entire fleet of streetcars by a deadline of the end of 2019, citing the deployment of extraordinary resources to the effort.
“As we stated in July, in all transparency we’ve informed the TTC months ahead that there is a potential challenge to meeting the full target of 70 streetcars for 2017,” he said in an email.
After delivery delays, the current contract between the TTC and Bombardier calls for delivery of 204 low-floor cars first ordered in 2009 to arrive by 2019, including 70 by the end of this year. The deal offers up an option to purchase another 60 cars at the same price per car as the original contract.
Union representatives of Bombardier workers said the Boeing case highlights flaws in Canada’s trade agreements and the ability of big companies to use trade rules and the complaint processes to control the market.
“Who pays the price for these corporate fights? We do, the workers,” said Unifor Local 112 president Scott McIlmoyle during a rally last week at the Bombardier aerospace plant in Downsview.
With files from Michael Lewis
Bombardier hit with 219% duty on sale of jets to Delta Air Lines
CALGARY—WestJet says that its new no-frills, lower-fare airline will be named Swoop.
The Calgary-based company has been gradually revealing details of its new carrier since April.
Last month, WestJet said the new airline would begin service next summer, rather than late this year as initially announced.
The airline said on Aug. 1 that it didn’t expect to get regulatory certificates until the first quarter of 2018.
It also said that the new carrier would reveal its schedule early next year and begin flights next June.
Besides announcing the new name, WestJet said Wednesday it plans to start advance ticket sales in early 2018.
WestJet names new no-frills carrier Swoop, says ticket order will begin in early 2018
OTTAWA—Top trade ministers from Mexico, Canada and the United States laid out progress at the NAFTA re-negotiating table Wednesday but Mexico warned there remain “differences” to iron out as the contrasting positions sharpen into focus.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met with Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Mexico’s Secretary of Economy, and Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative, reported their negotiating teams had finalized one section devoted to concerns of small and medium-sized businesses, had advanced discussions on other areas such as digital trade, competition, telecoms, digital trade, good regulatory practice, and customs and trade facilitation.
“It has been a highly productive round and progress has been achieved on some issues,” said Mexico’s Ildefonso Guarjardo. “We advanced in some issues, but, at the same time, we encountered differences in others.”
But he was clear that further progress depended on the willingness of the United States to table specific clarifications of what it is seeking in many areas.
“As negotiations move forward, it is important that we have the will to table positions that encourage constructive discussions and programatic solutions.”
“For the next round in D.C.,” he said, “we will have substantial challenges to overcome.”
Freeland, for her part, pushed back at the America-First agenda of the Trump administration, saying that “mutual access in government procurement” was achieved in the Canada -European Union trade deal, and she suggested it should be achievable within the NAFTA re-negotiation talks.
Canada would like Canadian firms to be able to bid on sub-national procurement contracts at the state and municipal level, a goal that stands in stark contrast to Trump’s “Buy-American-Hire-American” agenda.
Freeland later dodged a question about whether she was frustrated by the pace of negotiations, stressing re-negotiations have been underway for a little more than a month.
Meanwhile stakeholders warned it will take a “Hail Mary” pass to complete negotiations by year’s end.
But stakeholders — business leaders, unions and organizations with a stake in trade — cautioned that with three rounds of talks complete, much work — and the most contentious issues — still lie ahead.
And some warned that the U.S. decision Tuesday to slap a hefty duty on Bombardier commercial jets, which is sparking a trade war in aerospace, could chill goodwill at the NAFTA negotiating table.
“This is very disappointing for Canada,” said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
“Inevitably, any of these side issues runs the risk of contaminating the negotiations. That’s not good,” Beatty said.
Moises Kalach, head of trade for the Mexican national business council, which is in close consultation with Mexico’s negotiating team, said he would be watching closely on how the arrival of the three ministers in charge of the NAFTA file would prod things at the negotiating table.
“A lot of things can really advance when the ministers join. I do think some issues have to go to the ministers.”
Rules of origin for made-in-North America content, dispute settlement and labour standards are big bones of contention right now.
Kalach said, on the “technical side, the (negotiating) tables are advancing,” especially as more specific proposals were laid out in certain areas. “Those are signs the process is moving forward.”
Canada’s Chrystia Freeland told reporters Monday that negotiators made progress “on a number of bread-and-butter trade issues which matter to Canadian businesses,” such as electronic forms at the border, simplified origin declarations and regulatory harmonization.
The U.S. drive to change the rules of origin — it aims to require more U.S. content in goods — has sparked broad concern among business leaders who fear it could upset established supply chains across North America.
“A stand-alone U.S. domestic content rule is a concern . . . . Given the amount of commerce that flows over both borders, any disruption to that would be problematic,” said Alex Russ, of U.S.-based Association of Equipment Manufacturers, which represents 950 companies worldwide that manufacture heavy off-road equipment for the construction, agricultural, forestry and mining industries.
There were concerns expressed, too, that, on many substantive positions, the U.S. government has yet to table its position.
“This is a bit of ‘hurry-up-and-wait,’ ” said Eric Miller, of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group.
“From everything we’re hearing, on very significant areas, we’re not seeing the text. It’s as if you have partners lined up on the dance floor, but the music hasn’t started yet,” said Miller, a Washington-based consultant that represents Canadian entities.
He attributed that delay to the fact that U.S. negotiators are trying to “work through” how President Donald Trump’s protectionist campaign talk “translates into actual language in the negotiation.
“What we are watching here, in fact, is a fundamental shaping of the Trump-era policy,” Miller said.
Dan Ujczo, a lawyer with the Detroit firm Dickinson Wright and advisor to companies on border issues, said much work lies ahead.
“I think we’re getting to the point where it’s going to take a Hail Mary (pass) to get this done before the end of the year,” Ujczo said.
One clear sign of movement was a signal by Mexico’s negotiating team, in its consultations with Mexican business leaders as well as Canadian union leaders, that it was prepared to agree to inclusion of an enforceable chapter on labour standards in the main text of a re-negotiated NAFTA.
As the Star reported Tuesday night, Kalach said Mexico’s view is that it signed onto “modern labour standards” in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. has ditched.
He said, if the American proposal is similar to that which Mexico worked on within the TPP deal, “we feel that’s something we agree on.” That agreement required countries to comply with their own laws, he said, and “it also has its own dispute settlements for labour and environmental (standards) that we also agreed to when we were looking at TPP.”
Canadian unions say that doesn’t go far enough.
Mexico’s move aligns it more closely with American interests on labour standards, and pits it against a proposal by the Canadian team.
Canada, according to Unifor president Jerry Dias, wants tougher language that would take aim at so-called “right-to-work” laws in the U.S., where states have passed laws that have effectively starved unions of money, by requiring the benefits of collective bargaining to be shared by workers who refuse to pay union fees.
Contentious issues lie ahead as Ottawa NAFTA talks end
Another day, another doom and gloom report about the impact of hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis says the number of jobs at risk would decrease by almost three-quarters if the $11.40 hourly rate is gradually increased over five years instead of the next 15 months.
“While the proposed changes will see $11 billion in wage stimulus flow into the economy in the next two years, a remaining $12 billion problem exists which will lead to jobs lost, added costs, and general damage to the Ontario economy,” the report warned Wednesday.
It was commissioned by the fledgling Keep Ontario Working coalition, which includes the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Restaurants Canada, the Retail Council of Canada, and other business lobby groups.
Karl Baldauf, the chamber’s vice-president of policy and government, said the rapid rise in the wage “poses great risk to our economy and cannot be resolved through offsets alone.”
The report came one day after TD Bank estimated that raising the wage to $14 in January and $15 in 2019 could cost the province up to 90,000 jobs.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn emphasized that “Ontario’s economy is strong right now” and can absorb higher wage costs.
“We’re experiencing strong economic growth, manufacturing exports are up, and businesses are hiring as a result. Despite this growth, we know that not everyone is sharing in the benefits,” said Flynn.
“This is why our government — after extensive consultations with businesses, organized labour and workers’ advocates — decided to take the bold steps needed to support workers and their families, and create more fairness and opportunity for all hard-working Ontarians,” he said.
“Our economy created more than 30,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate is sitting at 5.7 per cent, the lowest level in more than a decade. Thanks to our strong economy, we’re now in a position to move forward with positive changes for workers in Ontario.”
Flynn noted that studies by the OECD, the U.S. Center for Economic and Policy Research, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives contradict such grim prognoses about the impact of higher wages.
But the province’s independent Financial Accountability Office has claimed 50,000 jobs could be lost because businesses will have to lay off workers to cope with a rising payroll.
Business groups urge slowdown on Ontario’s $15 minimum wage hike
The province is considering a plan to re-open the closed Finch Avenue site of the old Humber River hospital, creating up to 150 beds for patients who don’t need to be in overcrowded acute-care hospitals.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the measure, for patients waiting for beds in nursing homes, rehab facilities or home care, presents a “tremendous opportunity” and similar moves are being examined elsewhere in Ontario.
“We’re having a number of conversations with other hospitals across the province,” said Hoskins, noting that proposals are coming from hospital officials themselves.
The patients who could be moved out of acute-care hospitals such as Toronto General, are in so-called “alternate level of care” beds and do not require acute care, Hoskins told reporters.
New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns raised concerns that the government is planning a scheme to “warehouse seniors waiting for long-term care” and complained about poor treatment of patients as the Liberal government has cut growth in hospital funding.
“Hospitals are desperately overcrowded. Patients are being left in hallways for days. People are waiting in emergency rooms for 12 hours or more. Wait lists for long-term care are now years long,” he said in the Legislature’s daily question period.
Hoskins said he was bewildered at the NDP response about the old Humber site, which closed after the new, state-of-the-art $4-billion Humber River hospital opened near Keele and Hwy. 401 in October 2015.
“I can’t for the life of me understand why the member would oppose this,” said Hoskins, a physician. “Only the NDP would demand more (hospital) capacity and then complain about us creating capacity.”
Alternate level of care beds in acute-care hospitals have long been considered a barrier to getting patients out of emergency rooms and into proper hospital rooms.
The government set aside $24 million in last spring’s budget to look at ways of freeing up acute-care hospital beds to account for a growing and aging population in the province.
Hoskins pledged any patients moved from acute-care hospitals to alternative sites such as the old Humber Finch campus would get “highly specialized, expert care that’s specifically focused at their individual needs.”
He called it “the right kind of care in the right place.”
Using older hospitals shut down when replacement facilities have opened could create “a significant number” of beds, the minister added.
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said the proposal suggests the government, which is up for re-election next June 7, is in “damage-control” mode from years of short-changing the health system.
“We have hallway medicine . . . ; people are being cared for in inappropriate places.”
Brown said alternative level of care beds account for as many as one-fifth of beds in some hospitals.
“The government has not invested adequately in home care and in long-term care . . . . We have a crisis in our hospitals and the government has been asleep at the switch.”
Will Finch Ave. site of old Humber River hospital reopen?
Ontarians may soon know whether their doctor, dentist or pharmacist is getting money from Big Pharma.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins is introducing new legislation Wednesday that will require drug companies and medical device makers to publicly report cash payments, free dinners and other benefits they’ve given to health-care professionals.
“I know that Ontarians want and deserve more access to information that can help them make better decisions about their own health care,” Hoskins said.
The payment information will be posted online in a searchable database and will be broken down by the name of the health-care professional who received it. Hoskins said the payment details will be for all 26 regulated health-care professions, from nurses to psychologists, as well as hospitals and other health-care organizations.
Hoskins said he anticipates the data collection for public reporting will begin in 2019.
If passed, the legislation will make Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to shine a light on the financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and medical professionals.
Critics of the payments say they raise the potential for conflicts of interest as they can influence doctors’ decisions on what drugs to prescribe.
Right now, there is little known on how much money or gifts actually pass hands from drug companies to Ontario’s health professionals. These payments, known as “transfers of value,” can include grants for research, fees for speeches or participation on advisory committees and travel costs to attend far-flung conferences.
“When these transfers of value take place they can have unintended consequences,” Hoskins said. “This isn’t suggesting at all the transfers are inappropriate. It’s important that the value and nature of those transfers . . . be made transparent.”
News of the proposed law was met with broad approval, from a major pharma firm to a medical device industry group to nurses and doctors expressing their support.
“I think there’s been a big blind spot in our health system for a long time. This helps address that,” said Dr. Andrew Boozary, who spearheaded a national Open Pharma campaign that called on the provincial and federal governments to require disclosure of payments from drug companies to doctors.
“It allows us to gain insight into some of the interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and health-care professionals that we previously had no idea about.”
Earlier this year, 10 major drug companies voluntarily released data showing they paid nearly $50 million to Canadian health-care professionals and organizations in 2016.
The disclosure did not reveal who received the payments, and several leading drug companies chose to not release any information at all.
For the health minister, voluntary disclosure by the companies wasn’t sufficient.
“We needed to go further to really, truly serve the needs of Ontarians in a responsible way,” Hoskins said.
This proposed legislation brings Ontario in line with countries such as Australia, Japan, France and the United States, which have mandatory disclosures on financial relationships between industry and doctors.
In the U.S., which began publicly releasing the payment details in September 2014, any cash or gift worth more than $10 must be disclosed.
The newly proposed legislation is deliberately silent on a threshold dollar amount that would require public disclosure.
“We want something that is meaningful and fair and not overly onerous. There are a lot of differing opinions in terms of what that threshold should be,” said Hoskins, adding that the issue would be addressed in further consultations.
Dr. Joel Lexchin, a long-time advocate of transparency, said he hopes the government sets “a pretty low threshold,” noting that studies out of the United States show that meals worth less than $20 can have an impact on doctor’s prescribing practices.
“The legislation in my view needs to be quite aggressive,” he said.
There have been numerous controversies in Canada over perceived conflicts of interest because of payment relationships.
In recent years, Toronto Star investigations have exposed a number of questionable relationships between big pharma and doctors.
The Star found drug companies routinely host and bankroll dinners at upscale restaurants as training for family doctors. Critics of the dinners say they are just marketing tools under the guise of education.
And there have been other controversies over perceived conflicts of interest because of drug company involvement, including alleged altering or ghostwriting of medical studies and physician endorsements of drugs.
Toronto’s Dr. Nav Persaud supports the new legislation, adding that there was never a good reason to keep payment information secret.
“A patient should know if the company selling a medication paid the doctor writing the prescription. Patients ultimately pay for this marketing so they have a right to know where the money is going,” he said.
Theresa Agnew, head of the Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Ontario, said the group also supports Hoskins’ bill.
“We think that the increased transparency will help to promote more evidence-based care getting through to not just clinicians but to patients as well,” she said.
Hoskins said he will be encouraging the federal minister of health, as well as his provincial and territorial counterparts, to follow Ontario’s lead and pursue similar legislation.
“I’m proud Ontario has demonstrated that leadership, but just as Ontarians want and deserve this information and greater transparency and accountability, Canadians deserve and want that, as well.”
Ontario bill will reveal drug company payments to doctors
WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are proposing a far-reaching, $5 trillion plan Wednesday that would cut taxes for corporations and potentially for individuals, simplify the tax system and nearly double the standard deduction used by most Americans.
The plan is sweeping in scope but omits critical, controversial details that are likely to take months to work out in a bitterly divided, GOP-led Congress. The political stakes are high for Republicans and for Trump, whose agenda has largely stalled as the GOP abandoned efforts to repeal the Obama-era health law. Republicans see tax overhaul as a once-in-a-generation opportunity that could produce a large political payoff, though some polls show the public is skeptical that average Americans will benefit much.
“Too many in our country are shut out of the dynamism of the U.S. economy, which has led to the justifiable feeling that the system is rigged against hardworking Americans,” says the blueprint, obtained by The Associated Press. “With significant and meaningful tax reform and relief, we will create a fairer system that levels the playing field and extends economic opportunities to American workers, small businesses and middle-income families.”
There are no details on how much it would cost, though back-of-the-envelope estimates by outside experts put the tax cuts in the range of $5 trillion over the next 10 years. The net cost to the federal debt would be far less — probably in the range of $1.5 trillion under deal put together by Senate Budget Committee Republicans — and the real battles will come as lawmakers quarrel over which tax breaks might be eliminated to help pay the balance.
The plan would collapse the number of personal tax brackets from seven to three.
The individual tax rates would be 12 per cent, 25 per cent and 35 per cent — and the plan recommends a surcharge for the very wealthy. But it doesn’t set the income levels at which the rates would apply, so it’s unclear just how much of a tax change there might be for a typical family, and whether its taxes would be reduced.
“This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally rethink our tax code. We can unleash the economy — promoting growth, attracting jobs, and improving American competitiveness in the global market,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
But Democrats swiftly condemned the plan.
“Each of these proposals would result in a massive windfall for the wealthiest Americans and provide almost no relief to middle-class taxpayers who need it most,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the Capitol. “It seems that President Trump and Republicans have designed their plan to be cheered in the country clubs and the corporate boardrooms.”
The plan would nearly double the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families. This basically would increase the amount of personal income that is tax-free.
Deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving would remain, but the plan seeks to end most other itemized deductions that can reduce how much affluent families pay.
But a battle is already brewing among Republicans over a move to eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes, which is especially valuable to people in high-tax states such as New York New Jersey and California. Republicans from those states are vowing to fight it.
The plan would retain existing tax benefits for college and retirement savings such as 401(k) contribution plans.
It would seek to help families by calling for an increased child tax credit and opening it to families with higher incomes. The credit currently is $1,000 per child.
Also proposed is a new tax credit of $500 to help pay for the care of the elderly and the sick who are claimed as dependants by the taxpayer.
The estate tax — which is paid by those with multimillion-inheritances — would be eliminated, a boon for wealthy individuals who inherit businesses, investments and real estate. Also slated for elimination is the alternative minimum tax, a supplemental tax for certain individuals, corporations and estates that enjoy exemptions lowering their income tax bills.
Companies would find themselves paying substantially lower tax rates, part of an effort to make U.S. businesses more competitive globally. The plan would impose a new, lower tax on corporate profits stashed overseas, and create a new tax structure for overseas business operations of U.S. companies.
Corporations would see their top tax rate cut from 35 per cent to 20 per cent. For a period of five years, companies could further reduce how much they pay by immediately writing off their investments.
New benefits would be given to firms in which the profits double as the owners’ personal income. They would pay at a 25 per cent rate, down 39.6 per cent. This creates a possible loophole for rich investors, lawyers, doctors and others, but administration officials say they will design measures to prevent any abuses.
The administration says the tax plan is focused on helping middle class families. But — despite six months of talks with congressional leaders — the outline still lacks vital details about how middle class families would fare. There are also signs that the wealthiest sliver of Americans could still reap tremendous benefits from the proposed changes, even though Trump has suggested that rich will not be better off.
Trump discusses his tax reform plan in Indiana
Hillary Clinton is coming to town and she will fall in love with Toronto.
When you live here, it’s easy to get lost in the daily grind, easy to forget just how enchanting and hospitable this city can feel to visitors. It’s clean. It’s safe. It’s friendly. Toronto is a big city, but not so big that it can’t amp up the small-town charm and dazzle passersby.
It is a place where daily irritants such as cost of living or traffic gridlock — by the way, what genius decided to tear up every road at the same time this summer? — remain invisible to travellers. They are too busy staring up at the CN Tower and basking in a sentiment the rest of us take for granted: Toronto can make anyone feel welcome.
So when Clinton’s motorcade pulls into the Enercare Centre on Thursday, the latest stop in her wildly lucrative What Happened book tour, it will feel like she just entered a haven, a refuge, a Xanadu, a sanctuary city in which her demons are banned and her ego is tickled.
Clinton will be greeted with thundering ovations and, amid a sea of moist eyes and sensible pantsuits, no one will address her as “Crooked.” There will be no spitting chorus of “Lock her up!” There will just be sustained applause.
Compared to life in her homeland, where to millions “Hillary Rodham Clinton” remains the long way of saying “Satan,” this will be a revelation. She will be so struck by the love, she will tell everyone she knows.
And this is why the city should brace for an influx of polarizing luminaries.
It’s no coincidence, I’d argue, that Melania Trump chose Toronto this past weekend for her first solo trip as the U.S. First Lady. Similar in vibe to her beloved New York City, Toronto allowed Mrs. Trump to breathe freely for a change.
The paparazzi risk here is not Code Red. The public is not as bold or as rude. She could dine on caviar or shop for new heels in relative peace. As an added bonus, Melania now has first-hand experience in a city that might one day become home when she is granted asylum after immigration officials conclude that years of being forced to see Donald Trump rage-tweet while naked violated her human rights.
What’s interesting about the pictures of Melania in Toronto is how relaxed she looked. She was smiling, but not in the startled gazelle manner we are used to seeing when she flanks her husband at a deranged rally or disaster zone. This time, her painted-on grin did not crack at the seams. Her eyes did not blink out mayday.
For one weekend, Toronto liberated Melania Trump from the worst parts of her life.
A few days later, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle selected Nathan Phillips Square as the backdrop for their first public appearance as a couple and detonated global pandemonium. That they, too, chose Toronto says much about the city’s ability to soothe jangled nerves while smothering the fears famous people secretly harbour elsewhere in the world.
And you know who else is coming to town this week? That would be former U.S. president Barack Obama. He will deliver a lunchtime speech about global citizenship on Friday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Then next week, Bill Clinton swings by to soak up the admiration — at a $5,000-per-table dinner at the Royal York Hotel.
The pattern is clear: as America becomes increasingly polarized, Toronto will become more attractive to those yearning for a break from the madness. The culture wars south of the border show no signs of ending and this poisonous atmosphere will be a boon to Toronto’s standing as a safe zone.
When someone like Roy Moore wins an election in Alabama, suddenly Toronto seems like an all-inclusive resort, an oasis of sanity in a churning sea of chaos. Moore wants to live in biblical times. If you listen to his views on immigration, gender equality, gay marriage or reproductive rights — and then swap out his Christianity for, say, Islam — Moore is basically a jihadist.
It’s hard to find this grade of religious extremism in Toronto, which is just one more reason battle-scarred former politicians will flock here in the months ahead. In Toronto, even as visitors, people can be who they want to be without the constant threat of being told who and what they are.
This should be a future tourism campaign: Give us your huddled masses of political refugees who are rich, less powerful than before and feeling under siege. Let Toronto be your sanctuary.
Toronto is becoming a sanctuary city for U.S. politicians: Menon
The case of an Ontario man dying of liver disease will go to court Friday to challenge a rule that has kept him off the province’s list of potential transplant recipients.
Cary Gallant argues that his constitutional rights are being violated by the Trillium Gift of Life Network, which bars alcoholics from the liver transplant list until they have been sober for six months.
Gallant, 45, said he hasn’t had a drink since the beginning of July. Documents filed with the court say he has a 75 per cent chance of dying from liver failure before he reaches the half-year of sobriety demanded by the organ and tissue donation agency.
“We are asking to have him assessed for transplant and, if he is otherwise a suitable candidate, that the six-month sobriety rule be suspended and he be listed like other people on the list,” said his lawyer, Michael Fenrick.
Trillium has said it will launch a $3-million, three-year pilot program next August that will make almost 100 patients with alcohol disorders eligible for liver transplants without having to be sober for six months.
But that could be too late for Gallant.
“August is a long time away,” Gallant said from his home in Sault Ste. Marie. He’s exhausted and weak, and speaking takes effort.
Gallant said after years of drinking regularly, he had “no idea” what alcohol was doing to his liver until he suddenly got sick.
“As soon as I found out what my scenario was, I was done with drinking,” he said.
“I just don’t know why it takes so long (to get on the transplant list). I’ve heard stories. A lot of people don’t even make it to get on the wait-list.”
In the pilot program document, Trillium itself states there is insufficient evidence for the six-month sobriety policy as it stands.
“There were no survival differences between problem drinking and non-drinkers,” said the document, referring to a Canadian study from 2009. “There is also no clear evidence that mandating a brief, arbitrary specific duration of sobriety is effective.”
About 80 per cent of Canadian patients were still alive five years after a liver transplant, reported the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which analyzed data from 2004 to 2013. In 2014, more than 500 Canadians received livers, making it the most common organ transplant after kidneys.
Debra Selkirk has been a vocal advocate for changing the six-month rule. In 2010 her husband, Mark, was told he’d die if he didn’t have a liver transplant — but was not eligible because he’d been sober for only a few weeks. He died three weeks later.
In 2015, Selkirk filed a constitutional challenge against Trillium’s policy. This past summer, she reached a settlement that led to Trillium launching the pilot program.
“The loss of Mark was devastating,” Selkirk said. “But I spent five years studying the law, researching and finding out that his death was unjust . . . needless and unfair. It’s brutal.”
Gallant is bedridden and too weak to attend Friday’s hearing in Toronto.
“I’m worried right now — his appetite isn’t great,” said his mother, Joanne. “I worry this problem with the liver is going to affect his other organs.
“People should be on a list according to their needs.”
Almost 1,500 Canadians — two-thirds of them men — die of alcoholism-related liver disease each year, according to Statistics Canada.
In an email, spokesperson Jennifer Long said Trillium’s “research on liver listing criteria points to a six-month abstinence from alcohol . . . as the most commonly used protocol across Canada, the U.S. and other international jurisdictions.”
A similar rule applies in Ontario to lung and heart transplants, for which patients must not smoke tobacco or other substances for six months before being listed.
However, the six-month rule for liver transplants has come under scrutiny in recent years, with critics calling it discriminatory and arbitrary.
Three studies between 2008 and 2016 that reviewed liver transplant patients with alcohol disorders in the U.S. and Europe concluded that patients being sober for more than six months and staying sober afterward had only a minor effect on transplant success.
A European study found that patients with alcohol-related liver disease had a “significantly higher” success rate than those with other causes of liver failure. Of the one-third of patients who relapsed, 64 per cent consumed alcohol on occasion, the rest consumed alcohol heavily.
A University of Pittsburgh study recommended three months of sobriety “may be more ideal than six months.”
“The real issue has never been allowing alcoholics to jump to the top of the wait-list, but to have a level playing field not based on discriminatory attitudes,” Fenrick said.
Meanwhile, the wait until the Ontario wait-list changes is frustrating to Selkirk.
“There’s already success in liver transplant patients (with alcohol disorders) and others shouldn’t have to wait,” she said. “Why are people left dying between now and next summer?”
Sober since July, this man must wait before he can join the list for a new liver
A Brampton family is fighting to keep their daughter on life support at Brampton Civic Hospital, even as her attending physician issued a death certificate declaring her brain dead last week.
“She’s still alive,” said Stanley Stewart of his daughter Taquisha McKitty, 27, who is the mother of a 9-year-old girl. “She’s still in there.”
Stewart and Taquisha’s mom Alyson McKitty believe the hospital acted too quickly in declaring their daughter dead, and doctors are ignoring what the family believes are responses to “stimulus” including squeezing their hands and moving her thumb when asked to do so.
The family went to court on Sept. 21 and won an emergency injunction temporarily preventing the hospital from removing the respirator that is keeping her alive.
That injunction expires on Thursday when the matter will be back before Superior Court Justice M.J. Lucille Shaw in Brampton.
The injunction arrived last minute, said Bishop Wendell Brereton, who is helping the family and hoping to find a “legal team” willing to join the fight.
“The injunction showed up 30 minutes before (the respirator was to be disconnected),” Brereton said. “It was like something out of a television show.”
Dr. Omar Hayani had already signed a death certificate declaring Taquisha died the day before — at 12:55 p.m. on Sept. 20 — six days after she suffered a drug overdose.
Taquisha’s parents say they just want to give her a chance to live.
“The goal for us was to have some time and to be able to get an independent second opinion,” Stewart said.
But they can’t transfer her to another hospital or have another doctor examine her without getting the death certificate cancelled.
“It’s been crazy,” Stewart said. “You get a call that your daughter, her heart has stopped, so you think you’re going to lose her. Then, you come to the hospital, and they have resuscitated her.”
Doctors used ice to treat the swelling of her brain, and she was breathing on her own and moving, although unconscious in ICU. But after 72 hours of observation, although her heart is still beating, her breathing stopped.
“You sit there for three days and hope that the doctors are doing something to make her better,” Stewart said, but he didn’t see it.
When the family asked, they were told there was no medicine and no treatment.
She has never regained consciousness and remains in a coma.
Justice Shaw ordered life support to remain connected until a decision by the Consent and Capacity Board, as per the Health Care Consent Act (HCCA).
A spokesperson for Willaim Osler Health said the hospital could not speak to McKitty’s case due to privacy issues, but that “before health care decisions are made, there are a number of processes that physicians and care teams must follow in order to ensure decisions are made appropriately and that they are in the best interest of the patient,” Alineh Haidery said in an email to The Guardian.
The hospital, she wrote, follows a “recognized standard of practice” and criteria for neurological determination of death.
“At Osler, all neurological death determinations are determined by two experienced physicians in this field,” she wrote.
‘She’s still alive’: Brampton family goes to court to keep daughter on life support
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has joined the chorus of condemnation over a U.S. government decision to slap a 220 per cent duty on the sale of Bombardier jets, stating Wednesday that he’s “disappointed” by the move and vowing to fight for Canadian jobs.
In Quebec, where the Montreal-based company employs thousands of workers, Premier Philippe Couillard urged the federal government to take a strong stand against Boeing, the American aerospace giant whose complaint over Canadian subsidies to Bombardier sparked the U.S. decision to impose the punishing duty.
“Not a bolt, not a part, (and) of course not a plane from Boeing (should be) entering Canada until this conflict is resolved in a satisfactory way,” Couillard said in Quebec City.
“Quebec has been attacked,” Couillard added. “But let me tell you, the war is far from over and we shall win.”
The punishing duty was announced in a preliminary ruling from the U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday evening. The move stems from a Boeing complaint about the sale of 125 Bombardier C-Series jets to the American airline, Delta. Boeing contends that the Montreal-based plane maker is propped up by Canadian government subsidies that allow it to offer the jets at unfair low prices in the U.S. market.
The decision to impose the 219.6 per cent duty was quickly met with condemnation by union leaders, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and government ministers. Across the Atlantic, British Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “bitterly disappointed” in the ruling and pledged to protect the 4,000 Bombardier jobs in Northern Ireland.
At the heart of Boeing’s case against Bombardier is its assertion that it receives improper government subsidies in Canada. Quebec has invested $1 billion in the aerospace and transportation firm, while Ottawa announced in February that it would give Bombardier $373 million in interest-free loans to support its aircraft projects over the next four years.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau repeated his praise for Bombardier’s C-Series jet on Wednesday, claiming that “nothing can compare with this plane” and that Boeing feels threatened. He said that the government will do everything possible to protect Bombardier and the Canadian aerospace industry.
He added that Boeing has received “tens of billions of dollars” in subsidies from the American government over several decades, and described the U.S. government decision to impose duties as “really surprising.”
Last week, in response to Boeing’s complaint about Bombardier to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Trudeau threatened to block Canada’s proposed purchase of 18 Super Hornet fighter jets, which are made by Boeing.
Speaking outside the House of Commons on Wednesday, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair ridiculed the threat to terminate a non-existent contract as weak, and called on the prime minister to take up the trade dispute directly with U.S. President Donald Trump.
“It’s about time that we had a government that had enough backbone to stand up to the bullying of Boeing and of the U.S. government,” Mulcair said.
“There are rules of international trade. The U.S. is not respecting them, and we’ve got to say that loud and strong.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, meanwhile, said it’s up to the Liberal government to defend its loan to Bombardier.
“Our thoughts and best wishes are always with the families affected by these decisions,” he told reporters Wednesday morning.
“This is going to be a difficult day for many people that are in the workforce, but our position is always that the government should be focusing on making it easier for all companies to succeed, lowering barriers to investment, lowering payroll taxes, abandoning the idea of a carbon tax.”
With files from The Canadian Press
Trudeau ‘disappointed’ in U.S. decision to slap 220 per cent duty on Canada’s Bombardier jets
Roy Moore, the former “Ten Commandments Judge” who is very likely to be the next U.S. senator, is open in his bigotry toward Muslims and gays — another indication of the prevalence of racial and religious hostility in the Trump-era Republican party.
‘I’m anti-Muslim too’: Alabama Republicans align with anti-gay Islamophobe Roy Moore
The U.S. president urged the league to enforce a rule that requires players to stand during the anthem, adding that it’s ‘disgraceful’ they’re not stopping their players.
Trump says NFL owners are ‘afraid of their players’ as they protest during anthem
Good journalism is “critical” to democracy but Ottawa says it won’t bail out media models “that are no longer viable.”
No bailout for ailing media outlets, Ottawa says
The models for the proposed $1.6-billion wall will be tested for the ability to withstand sustained drilling with power tools and to deter crossers with anti-climbing features.
Trump administration gives glimpse of Mexico border wall prototype workTrump administration gives glimpse of Mexico border wall prototype workTrump administration gives glimpse of Mexico border wall prototype work
Queen’s Park is moving to ease businesses’ fears over the forthcoming increase to the minimum wage with a new package of measures aimed at offsetting the impact of the change.
Province tries to allay business fears over minimum wage hike
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—First, Hurricane Maria knocked out power and water to Puerto Rico. Then diesel fuel, gas and water became scarce. Now, it’s money.
The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory’s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island.
There are long lines at the banks that are open with reduced hours or the scattered ATMs that are operational amid an islandwide power outage and near total loss of telecommunications. Many people are unable to work or run their businesses because diesel to run generators is in short supply or they can’t spend all day waiting for gas to fill their car.
Engineer Octavio Cortes predicts it will only get worse because so many of the problems are interconnected and cannot be easily resolved.
“I don’t know how much worse it’s going to get,” Cortes said as he joined other motorists stopping on a bridge over a river in northern Puerto Rico to catch a faint cellphone signal. “Right now it’s manageable, but I don’t know about next week or after that.”
The father of six typically works from home or travels around the world for his job, but neither approach is possible now because the power is still out for nearly all 3.4 million people in Puerto Rico and flights off the island are down to only a few each day.
While Cortes is OK for the moment, others don’t have nearly the same resources.
Cruzita Mojica is an employee of the Puerto Rico Treasury Department in San Juan. While she, like many public sector workers, has been called back to work she can’t go because she has to care for her elderly mother in the aftermath of the storm. She got up at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and went to four ATM machines only to find each one empty.
“Of course I took out money before the hurricane, but it’s gone already,” she said. “We’re without gasoline. Without money. Without food. This is a disaster.”
Surgical technician Dilma Gonzalez said she had only $40 left and her job hasn’t called people back to work yet in the capital. “Until they let us know otherwise, I’m not supposed to go back,” she said with a shrug as she pressure washed the street in front of her house, sending muddy debris flying.
All are struggling with the overwhelming devastation of Hurricane Maria, which began tearing across the island early in the morning of Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm with winds of 249 km/h. It destroyed the entire electricity grid while grinding up homes, businesses, roads and farms. At least 16 people were killed. There still is no exact tally of the cost and full extent of the damage, but Gov. Ricardo Rossello says it will bring a complete halt to the economy for at least a month.
“This is the single biggest, major catastrophe in the history of Puerto Rico, bar none, and it is probably the biggest hurricane catastrophe in the United States,” Rossello said Wednesday as he delivered aid to the southern town of Salinas, whose mayor says 100 per cent of the agriculture there was wiped out when the wind tore up plantain, corn, vegetables and other crops.
On Thursday the Trump administration announced it was waiving the Jones Act, a little-known federal law that prohibits foreign-flagged ships from shuttling goods between U.S. ports, for Puerto Rico. Republicans and Democrats have pushed for the move, saying it could help get desperately needed supplies to the island more quickly and at less cost.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter that U.S. President Donald Trump had “authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico” in response to a request from Rossello and that it “will go into effect immediately.”
Antonia Garcia, a retiree who lives in the city of Bayamon, said she was down to her last $4. She spent a day using precious gas to look for an ATM that was in operation because she couldn’t get into her credit union, which was taking only 200 customers a day. “This has become chaotic,” she said.
Puerto Rico was already struggling before the storm. The island has been in a recession for more than a decade, the poverty rate was 45 per cent and unemployment was around 10 per cent, higher than any U.S. state. Manufacturers of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, which are the most important segment of the economy, have been shedding jobs for years. Now everything from multinational companies to small businesses and ranches are scrambling to get enough fuel to run generators while their employees struggle to even get to work.
Before the storm, the island’s government was in the midst of bitter negotiations with creditors to restructure a portion of its $73 billion in debt, which the previous governor declared unpayable. Rossello appeared to warn the bondholders that the storm had made things worse. “Puerto Rico practically will have no income for the next month,” he told reporters.
Making matters worse for many consumers is the fact that those food stores that are open, typically on reduced hours, are unable to process credit or bank cards or the local system of welfare payments. The businesses are insisting on cash, even though that is technically illegal.
Still, as in any economic crisis, there are people who find the upside. Christian Mendoza said the car wash where he works hasn’t reopened so he has been selling bottled water, even without refrigeration. “The water hot and it still went like you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
Another relative success story is Elpidio Fernandez, a 78-year-old who sells coconut and passion fruit ice cream from a pushcart on the streets of San Juan and has a supplier with a generator. He has made up to $500 on some days since the storm.
“Business has multiplied by a thousand,” he said, but he quickly added: “Even though I’m doing well, I don’t feel good because I know other people are suffering.”
’This is a disaster’: Money starts to run out in Puerto Rico
A mother and her 5-year-old daughter have died after they were struck by a vehicle Wednesday night.
Toronto police said they were hit just before 9:30 p.m. at Warden Ave. and Continental Pl. near Ellesmere Rd. while crossing the street. Police confirmed there was no crosswalk in the area where they crossed.
The 34-year-old woman and her daughter were taken to hospital by emergency run in life-threatening condition, and they were later pronounced dead.
Police at the scene said a family of four was crossing the street after eating dinner at a nearby restaurant. The father and another child, 2, crossed the street safely while the mother and daughter were struck.
The initial car that struck them remained at the scene, and while the child was hit once, the mother was then struck by a second vehicle in the southbound lane and the driver fled the scene, said Toronto Police Const. Joe McDougall.
Police are looking for the vehicle which is described as a 2006 or 2011 black Honda Civic.
Warden Ave. was closed in both directions between Lupin Dr. and Ellesmere Rd. for several hours but reopened early Thursday morning.
Mother and child, 5, dead after being hit by a vehicle in Scarborough