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    WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is demanding NAFTA concessions from Canada and Mexico but not offering “anything” in exchange, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Wednesday.

    Ross’s remarkable public statement corroborates the complaints of Canadian and Mexican officials, who have accused the U.S. of taking an unusually and unreasonably hard line in the talks to renegotiate the North American free trade pact.

    U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said in August that the negotiation would be a “win-win-win” for all three countries, and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has repeated that this is what Canada is seeking. Ross, however, suggested the U.S. was pushing for something different.

    Read more:Can Donald Trump actually kill NAFTA? You’re not the only one who’s unsure: Analysis

    U.S. officials admit they haven’t analyzed the economic effects of ending NAFTA

    Thousands of Canadians live in the U.S. on NAFTA permits. So what happens if Trump kills the treaty?

    “We’re trying to do a difficult thing. We’re asking two countries to give up some privileges that they have enjoyed for 22 years. And we’re not in a position to offer anything in return,” he said on CNBC. “So that’s a tough sell. And I don’t know that we’ll get every single thing we want. The question is, will we get enough to make it worthwhile.”

    Freeland has criticized the U.S. this month, including in a CNN appearance on Sunday, for taking a “winner-take-all” approach to the talks. Her office repeated those words in response to Ross.

    “Our government remains focused on achieving a win-win-win in these negotiations, a winner-take-all attitude won’t work,” Freeland spokesperson Adam Austen said in an email.

    It is possible that Ross is bluffing or simply speaking for domestic political consumption. Trade experts, though, said his words accurately describe what is happening behind the scenes.

    “They are not really negotiating. They’re saying, ‘Here’s our position, take it or leave it. And if you don’t like it, we’ll withdraw from the NAFTA,’” said Canadian trade lawyer Lawrence Herman, who predicted the negotiations would soon collapse because of the U.S. stance.

    “It’s an outrageously aggressive and uncompromising position that the U.S. is taking in the negotiations. And it doesn’t augur well for a successful outcome,” Herman said.

    U.S President Donald Trump used similar language to Ross in his own interview on Wednesday, saying on Fox Business Network that Canada and Mexico are having a hard time understanding that things would have to get worse for them.

    “In order to have a resolution — because right now, Mexico and Canada have such a great deal — it’s so good that it’s very hard for them to get used to the fact that it can’t be that way anymore,” Trump told host Lou Dobbs.

    As he has in the past, Trump said he thinks the only way to secure a good deal for the U.S. is to put pressure on the other two countries by initiating a termination. He said his negotiators “are going to have to get tougher.”

    “I say, right now, it’s going to be very hard. And in my opinion, in order to make a fair deal with NAFTA, you have to terminate the deal and you have to see where you’re going to come,” Trump told Dobbs.

    Trump said the same thing in a private meeting with Republican senators on Tuesday, the publication Inside U.S. Trade reported.

    “The president said there was no way to get the changes we need unless we get out, then have six months to negotiate,” said an anonymous pro-NAFTA senator. When senators expressed concerns, Inside U.S. Trade reported, Trump said, “Trust me, we’re working on this.”

    Initiating a termination would carry risks of its own: Mexico has promised to walk away from the negotiating table if Trump announces he is starting the six-month notice period.

    Canada has not taken a public position on what it would do in that case. Freeland, speaking more generally, said earlier this month that Canada would like to stay at the table.

    Inside U.S. Trade reported that some Republican senators are concerned that even initiating the termination process could damage the economy. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts expressed fear over the possible impact of the uncertainty on the agricultural industry.

    “That may be an option that the president feels he should exercise in order to get Mexico to the table to achieve what he wants to achieve, which is the trade imbalance — I understand that — but I think we can do it in different ways without sending shock waves all throughout agriculture. And then to restitch that and put it all back together it’s like Humpty Dumpty. You push Mr. Humpty Dumpty trade off the wall and it’s very hard to put him back together,” Roberts told Inside U.S. Trade.

    It is not clear whether Trump could actually terminate the deal on his own or whether he would require congressional approval.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business group that usually favours Republicans, has ramped up its pro-NAFTA lobbying this week, swamping Capitol Hill with industry representatives to plead for the preservation of the deal. And the major automotive companies have launched a pro-NAFTA pressure campaign of their own. The slogan for their “Driving American Jobs” effort, “We’re winning with NAFTA,” is a nod to Trump’s campaign promise to get America to “win again.”

    “We need you to tell your elected officials that you don’t change the game in the middle of a comeback. We’re winning with NAFTA,” they said on their website.

    The fifth round of negotiations is scheduled for Mexico City next month.


    Top Trump official says U.S. isn’t offering ‘anything’ to Canada in exchange for NAFTA demandsTop Trump official says U.S. isn’t offering ‘anything’ to Canada in exchange for NAFTA demands

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    CANBERRA—Australia’s High Court on Friday disqualified the deputy prime minister and four senators from sitting in Parliament in a unanimous ruling that could cost the government its slender majority in Parliament.

    Critics have condemned as outdated the 116-year-old constitutional ban on “a subject or citizen of a foreign power” standing for Parliament in a country where almost half the people are immigrants or have an overseas-born parent. But the court said the lawmakers’ foreign family ties were knowable.

    The seven judges rejected the government’s argument that five of the lawmakers — including three government lawmakers — should be exempt from the ban because they had not voluntarily acquired or retained citizenship of another country.

    Read more:

    Australian senator who made headlines for breastfeeding in Parliament forced to quit because she’s also Canadian

    While the judges said it may be harsh to disqualify Australian-born candidates who had no reasons to believe they were not exclusively Australian, “those facts must always have been knowable.”

    The judges also pointed to the “difficulties of proving or disproving a person’s state of mind” and the “regrettable possibility of a want of candour” if ignorance of dual citizenship was recognized as an excuse.

    The decision to disqualify Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce means a byelection will be held for his rural electoral district on Dec. 2, the earliest possible date.

    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s conservative coalition has a single-seat majority in the 150-seat House of Representatives where parties form governments.

    Joyce will be able to stand for re-election, having renounced the New Zealand citizenship he unknowingly inherited from his father. He is likely to retain the seat with the absence this time of his last election rival, independent candidate Tony Windsor, who won’t run again.

    Joyce later apologized to his electoral division for the inconvenience of a byelection.

    “In my gut I thought this is the way it was going to go,” Joyce told reporters.

    “I’m going to make sure that I don’t cry in my beer, I’m going to get back to work and work hard for the people of my electorate,” he added.

    The court also disqualified four of the six senators whose qualifications to be elected were debated in a three-day hearing earlier this month.

    The disqualified senators included government minister Fiona Nash, Joyce’s deputy in the Nationals party, who inherited British citizenship from her Scottish father.

    The senators who lost their seats in Australia’s dual-citizenship scandal:

    • Barnaby Joyce, deputy prime minister, who held New Zealand citizenship from his father, before renouncing it in August.

    • Fiona Nash, National Party senator, who held U.K. citizenship through her Scottish-born father, before renouncing it in August.

    • Malcolm Roberts, One Nation senator, who held U.K. citizenship by his 1955 birth to a Welsh father in India, before renouncing it in December

    • Larissa Waters, former Greens senator, who holds Canadian citizenship by birth. Waters resigned in July.

    • Scott Ludlam, former Greens senator, who holds New Zealand citizenship by birth. Ludlam also resigned in July.

    Another government minister Matt Canavan, whom the court heard might have inherited Italian citizenship from his Australian-born mother through his Italian grandparents, was allowed to stay in Parliament.

    The judges found that they could not be satisfied that Canavan was Italian on the evidence presented to court.

    Nick Xenophon was also allowed to stay in Parliament. He was born to Cypriot- and Greek-born parents and checked with both embassies to ensure he wasn’t a citizen of those countries. He later found he was British because his father left Cyprus while it was a British colony.

    The judges ruled that’s Xenophon’s status as a British Overseas Citizen did not give him the rights of a foreign citizen because it did not entitle him to enter or live in Britain.

    Disqualified senators are replaced by members of their own parties without an election so the balance of power is not altered.

    Canavan was sworn back in as a minister for resources and northern Australia late Friday while Turnbull took over Joyce’s portfolios of agriculture and water resources. Two acting ministers took over Nash’s portfolios.

    “The decision of the court today is clearly not the outcome we were hoping for, but the business of government goes on,” Turnbull said.

    Turnbull said he would refer the court’s decision to a parliament committee to determine whether the constitution should be changed, “ensuring in our multicultural society that all Australians are able confidently to stand for and serve in our Parliament.”

    Three parliamentary investigations recommended in the 1980s and 1990s that the prohibition on dual citizens be removed from the constitution through a national referendum.

    But successive governments have failed to act, perhaps because of the difficulty in persuading Australians to change their constitution. Of the 44 referendums Australia has held since 1901, only eight have been carried, and none since 1977.

    The seven lawmakers said they did not know they were dual nationals when they ran for election last year.

    Richard Di Natale, leader of the minor Greens party, praised the honesty and integrity of his former deputies Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, who resigned in July after discovering they were New Zealand and Canadian citizens respectively. None of the other five resigned.

    “If people are going to have faith in our democracy, then politicians need to start acting with some integrity with some decency and take responsibility for their actions,” Di Natale told reporters.

    The lawmakers were exposed as dual citizens as media scrutiny escalated after Ludlam declared in July that he had been illegally elected three times over a decade.

    Previously only two lawmakers had ever been caught out by the foreign citizen ban, although other dual citizens have almost certainly served in the Parliament undetected.


    Australian dual citizenship ruling might trigger coalition government’s collapseAustralian dual citizenship ruling might trigger coalition government’s collapse

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    HALIFAX—A new federal study says climate change in the Maritimes may lead to a gradual reduction in the growth of softwood trees, which are crucial to the region’s pulp industry.

    Using computer models, the Natural Resources Canada study marks the first regionwide assessment of the composition and growth of the Acadian Forest to the end of this century.

    The forest is carefully watched in forestry circles, as it is a unique mix temperate forests, with warmer weather trees like red maples, and boreal forests that include fir and spruce.

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    Assuming that greenhouse gas emissions continue at “business as usual” levels, the study says the woodlands will experience an average temperature rise of 7 C by the end of the 21st Century.

    As a result, in the latter half of the century trees like red spruce will decline in abundance between 10 to 20 per cent when compared with 2011, while the hardwoods that prefer warmer climates will increase.

    The study’s author, scientist Anthony Taylor, says there are still some uncertainties about the model because some factors are still being studied.

    Still, he says the model presents some causes for concern for the forestry industry.

    “It’s suggesting ... by the end of the century those particular species that the industry relies heavily on will not be performing as well as they are today,” he said in an interview.

    His paper suggests several methods of adapting forestry practices, such as planting species of softwood that are proven to be more resilient in warm climates.

    The paper also says the industry could start thinning forests to allow temperate species to grow more quickly, rather than to promote softwoods that will struggle in the warmer weather.

    The study, published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, predicts there will be an overall decline in the size of the Acadian forest because the increase in hardwoods like red maples won’t make up for the lost softwoods.

    The paper says there are currently 32 species in the region, with about half of them being boreal species like spruce, pine and fir.

    Van Lantz, a professor of forestry economics at the University of New Brunswick, said he published a peer reviewed study in 2012 that looked at the effects of climate change based on historical data, but the newer model shows a sharper rate of decline.

    “It was a surprise to me. It’s caused me today to write ... a project proposal with Natural Resources Canada to get into depth on the economic consequences of this projected decline,” he said.

    The forestry industry is a major part of New Brunswick’s economy, estimated to be close to five per cent of its gross domestic product, with softwood making up the majority of the total, Lantz said.

    “It’s very worrying. ... When the timber supply is reduced by a certain percentage you get a similar reduction in the forestry sector and that’s a lot of money.”

    Tracy Glynn of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick said in an email that the mid-century decline of softwoods points to the need for New Brunswick and the other Acadian forest regions to consider adapting to forests that will eventually have more hardwoods.

    “We can start by ending the spraying of planted clear-cuts that wipe out hardwoods in favour of softwood plantations: a call that has been growing momentum in the province recently, with over 35,000 people signing a petition to end glyphosate spraying in the woods,” she wrote in an email.

    She also said the conclusions point to the need for different forest management.

    “In a future of climate change, we need to look at non-softwood products and make sure that we manage them in a sustainable way that protects a healthy forest.”


    Maritimes’ softwood trees in decline due to global warming, study warnsMaritimes’ softwood trees in decline due to global warming, study warns

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    Electric cars, better street sweeping, more bike lanes and cleaner fuel would reduce air pollution’s toll on Toronto — the premature deaths of an estimated 1,300 people and hospitalization of 3,500 every single year.

    That is one of the conclusions of a new report by Toronto’s medical officer of health focused on dirty air caused mostly by vehicles and taking the biggest toll on people who live close to highways and other busy roads.

    “Toronto’s air quality is improving. Policies and programs implemented by federal, provincial and municipal governments have led to decreases in pollutant emissions, ambient air pollution levels, and related health impacts,” states the report by Dr. Eileen de Villa.

    “However, Toronto Public Health estimates that air pollution still contributes to 1,300 premature deaths and 3,550 hospitalizations in Toronto each year. Motor vehicle traffic is the largest source of air pollution emitted in Toronto . . .

    “Studies show that people living close to roads are more likely to experience adverse health outcomes including breathing problems, heart disease, cancer, and premature death,” she wrote, adding that the most susceptible are children, seniors and people already sick.

    Public health has noted before that health problems caused by air pollution are down from the days of coal-fired power and frequent smog warnings in Ontario, but progress has stalled and the main reason is our reliance on vehicles burning fossil fuels.

    “Traffic-related air pollution” is a mix of airborne particulate matter, nitrogen oxides such as nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic carbons. While tailpipes spew the most pollution, a significant portion of harmful particles come from wear and tear on asphalt, tires, brake discs and brake pads.

    There are life-saving solutions, de Villa, notes, but they require action by all governments, in terms of regulations and shifting consumer vehicle choice, and from Toronto taxpayers investing significant dollars in the city’s ambitious plan to fight climate change.

    Recommended changes to reduce Toronto air pollution and save lives include:

    • The federal government toughening vehicle emission controls and fuel standards to match those of California. Also, ensuring its new “clean fuel standard” clamps down on the release of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, not just greenhouse gas emissions.

    • Encouraging the introduction of hybrid and electric personal vehicles. They won’t likely replace heavy-duty diesel trucks so look at requiring retrofits that reduce their emissions, or introducing incentives to replace the older ones with new cleaner-burning trucks.

    • Since street-sweeping can reduce ambient particles floating above roads, the city should consider increasing the frequency of sweeping on busy roads and conduct a “mobile air monitoring study” to assess relationships between sweeping and air quality.

    • Fully backing city initiatives to get more drivers walking, cycling and taking public transit. Implementing TransformTO, the City’s ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Toronto by 80 per cent by 2050. That will require, de Villa notes, “sustained investment in transit and active transportation infrastructure, and efforts to electrify and switch to low-carbon fuels for all types of vehicles.”

    Toronto council unanimously endorsed TransformTO in July. A fight looms for the 2018 budget, however, because Mayor John Tory says the emission-fighting steps must be prioritized while Councillor Gord Perks says the plan is already prioritized and should be fully funded.

    On street sweeping, the city is launching an air quality study in 2018 with an eye to reviewing possible changes to sweeping schedules.

    Last February, while finalizing Toronto’s 2018 spending plan, the Tory administration had proposed cutting $2 million from the street-sweeping budget. After councillors unexpectedly rejected the cut, they had to tap a reserve fund to balance the budget.

    Franz Hartmann of Toronto Environmental Alliance welcomed de Villa’s call for actions to improve Torontonians’ health.

    “The report suggests ways to reduce exposure to pollution out there and to reduce pollution itself,” he said in an interview.

    “The city needs to make it as easy as possible for people to keep their cars at home. It’s not about saying ‘You can’t ever drive’ – it’s about saying when you are going to the grocery store or work, there are transit, cycling and walking options. The best way to reduce air pollution is by not turning on that engine in the first place.”

    Toronto’s health board will debate the report on Monday.


    Live near a busy road? Your odds of getting sick or dying just got higherLive near a busy road? Your odds of getting sick or dying just got higher

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    A move in the Ontario Legislature to condemn the 1937 “Rape of Nanking” by Japanese invaders is making waves across the Pacific.

    MPPs have unanimously passed Liberal Soo Wong’s motion recognizing Dec. 13 as Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day in Ontario.

    It remembers the more than 200,000 victims in the city of Nanjing, which was known as Nanking when Japan invaded China 80 years ago.

    “The Nanjing Massacre is about the tens of thousands of women, young and old, who were sexually assaulted in the capture of the city,” Wong (Scarborough-Agincourt) told the Legislature on Thursday.

    “It is about women and girls being used as weapons of war. Those who were non-compliant were beaten and killed,” she said.

    Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) said the carnage was so horrific that she “can’t believe it has taken us 80 years to commemorate it.”

    “During the six weeks that the Imperial Japanese Army decided to rape and pillage and murder the city of Nanking, it was called by westerners ‘hell on Earth.’ Close to 20,000 to 80,000 were raped,” she said.

    But Japanese interests quietly lobbied MPPs from all three parties against supporting Wong’s motion.

    That’s because the government of Japan has long argued the Chinese exaggerated the atrocities committed during the invasion.

    NDP MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto Danforth) said Friday he received “strange postcards from Japan” at his office prior to voting in favour of Wong’s motion.

    “They were just telling me how much the people of Nanjing supported their occupiers back in the 1940s. ‘Everybody loved us. Everybody loved the occupation forces.’ I threw them out. I thought: ‘give me a break.’ It’s just crazy,” said Tabuns.

    “It was very weird and I gather others had similar experiences in being contacted that way,” he said.

    “They were not from official sources, but they looked like they were specially printed.”

    Two Liberal sources told the Star that Premier Kathleen Wynne herself was lobbied by those sympathetic to the Japanese version of events.

    “There have been emails to some of us from Japanese lawmakers in the Diet in Tokyo,” confided one senior Liberal, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

    “The Japanese are not happy,” noted another Liberal insider.

    Their displeasure comes as Wynne will be in Nanjing next month on her third trade mission to China since 2014.

    Interestingly, Wong’s motion passed even though similar private member’s legislation she tabled — Bill 79, Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day Act, 2016 — has been stalled in a legislative committee since last year.

    Mindful her law is unlikely to be passed soon, she moved Thursday’s motion in time for the 80th anniversary of the massacre on Dec. 13.


    MPPs unanimously pass motion to commemorate victims of Nanjing massacreMPPs unanimously pass motion to commemorate victims of Nanjing massacre

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    Canada has suspended the mission by special forces soldiers to train Iraqi and Kurdish troops after rising tensions and clashes between the two rival forces.

    At risk of being caught in the middle of those tensions, the Canadian Armed Forces announced Friday that it was temporarily standing down its ground mission, which began in late 2014 and was extended by the Liberals in June for another two years.

    “We need to take a pause, we need to see how things unfold. That could happen in the near term or it could take some time,” Col. Jay Janzen, a senior military spokesperson, said in an interview.

    The decision means the suspension of the work by up 200 special operations forces troops who have been operating in northern Iraq on an advise-and-assist mission to help the Kurds and Iraqis in their fight against Daesh extremists.

    Janzen described it as a “prudent” decision by military leaders to ensure that Canadian troops are not caught in an “uncomfortable” situation.

    He said they were deployed to Iraq with a “clear mandate” to help defeat Daesh, but added, “now some other things are unfolding. . . . We expected some bumps along the way.

    “It wouldn’t be fair to say we were caught by surprise,” Janzen said of the clashes between Iraqis and Kurds.

    The defence department stressed that other elements of Canada’s mission — known as Operation Impact — will continue, including a detachment of helicopters, operation of a military hospital and intelligence gathering.

    The Kurds and Iraqis came together to fight a common enemy in Daesh. But it was always feared that once Daesh was near defeat, deep-rooted political tensions in Iraq would again boil over.

    The trigger for these latest tensions was last month’s independence referendum by Kurdish authorities. Iraqi forces, supported by Iranian-backed forces, mounted a surprise take-over of Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk earlier this month in retaliation and to ensure the oil-rich district remains in their control.

    Canadian forces had been assisting Iraqi security forces to retake the nearby city of Hawija from Daesh. But Janzen said that the Canadians were out of the area before the military action in Kirkuk unfolded.

    In a statement Friday, the Canadian military cited the “fluidity” of the current situation for the decision to suspend the ground mission, though for now the special forces soldiers will remain in northern Iraq.

    “Once more clarity exists regarding the interrelationships of Iraqi security forces, and the key priorities and tasks going forward, the task force will resume activities. In the interim, they will continue to monitor the situation and plan for the next potential phases of operational activity,” the statement said.

    Janzen cautioned that while Daesh had few strongholds left in Iraq, extremists were still present in the country and he expected them to shift to employ terror-style tactics.

    “Just because Daesh doesn’t hold territory doesn’t mean it’s over,” he said.

    A spokesperson for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said that the federal government has constantly been evaluating how Canada’s military can best support the coalition to defeat Daesh.

    “The situation on the ground in Iraq is fluid, and we will continue to assess our partners’ needs as the situation evolves,” Jordan Owens said in a statement.


    Canada suspends military aid to Iraqi, Kurdish forces amid outbreak of hostilitiesCanada suspends military aid to Iraqi, Kurdish forces amid outbreak of hostilities

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    Two autonomous Uber cars that have been on Toronto’s streets since August are now periodically driving themselves, Uber said Friday.

    The ride-sharing group said that there is always a driver behind the wheel and the operation switches from manual to autonomous mode as they see fit.

    “Our vehicles will continue to conduct testing, and may engage in autonomous mode as needed with a driver always behind the wheel. We have obtained a permit from the province for our development testing efforts,” Uber wrote in a statement.

    Sarah Abboud, an Uber spokesperson, said the cars are not on the Uber platform and aren’t transporting passengers — there are no immediate plans to have self-driving cars serving customers in Toronto.

    All the testing is being done in an area near the University of Toronto.

    Uber announced in May that it would open a research group devoted to driverless car technology in Toronto, creating a third hub and its first outside the U.S. for the company’s autonomous vehicle (AV) ambitions.

    Last year, Ontario became the first province in Canada to allow on-road testing of AVs.

    The Ministry of Transportation is running a pilot program that allows approved companies and research groups to test their vehicles under certain restrictions, including having a driver in the car to constantly monitor vehicle operation.

    As of August, seven groups were approved for on-road testing under the pilot program: Uber, the University of Waterloo, the Erwin Hymer Group, QNX, Continental, X-matik Inc., and Magna, the Star reported over the summer.

    Though Toronto won’t see any fully autonomous Uber vehicles in the near future, two U.S. cities are part of Uber’s driverless pilot projects right now: Pittsburgh and Phoenix.


    Uber testing autonomous cars in TorontoUber testing autonomous cars in Toronto

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    SAINT BRUNO-DE-MONTARVILE, QUE.—Canada supports an undivided Spain, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday in response to the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona passing a motion unilaterally establishing a new country.

    “Canada recognizes one united Spain,” Trudeau said in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, just east of Montreal.

    “We understand there are significant internal discussions that they are going through right now and we simply call for those discussions to be done according to the rule of law, according to the Spanish constitution, according to the principles of international law.

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    “But mostly that those conversations and discussions happen in a peaceful, non-violent way.”

    In response to Friday’s independence motion, Spain fired the Catalan president and dissolved the regional parliament.

    Earlier in the day, Bloc Quebecois Leader Martine Ouellet responded to remarks made by Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, which were similar to those Trudeau would make later.

    Ouellet called on Canada to recognize an independent Catalonia, saying she hopes the government would “adjust” its stance “because it’s not very classy to take a position like that.”

    The Quebec sovereigntist leader said Canada doesn’t shy away from “giving lessons” to countries in Africa, Asia or South America that have seen violence erupt after contested votes.

    “And then, all of a sudden, because it’s happening in Europe, (Canada) wants to protect the status quo?” Ouellet asked. “It’s troubling.”

    The Conservative party, which has been relatively quiet on the issue since the crisis in Spain began, said it was up to the federal government to take a position.

    “It’s an extremely complex subject,” said Tory MP Alain Rayes. “There is no simple answer. It’s an issue for the government.”

    Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard reacted to the Catalan government’s declaration by citing a motion passed in the provincial legislature on Oct. 4 that called for the crisis to be solved peacefully.

    “It’s not up to Quebec to interfere in this political debate or to dictate what the way forward should be,” Couillard said in a statement. “We still believe political and democratic dialogue is essential to resolve this impasse.”


    Trudeau says Canada recognizes one independent SpainTrudeau says Canada recognizes one independent Spain

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    For Canadian politicians visiting India, it is a rite of passage: Circumambulating the Golden Temple to honour the holiest site in Sikhdom.

    Prime ministers, cabinet ministers, premiers — and anyone aspiring to those jobs — knows the importance to voters back in Canada of being photographed on the temple grounds in Amritsar, wearing a head-covering out of respect for the faithful.

    But it won’t be happening anytime soon for Jagmeet Singh— neither praying, nor paying his respects. That’s because the new NDP leader, who could one day be Canada’s first turbaned prime minister, was refused a visa when trying to visit India in 2013.

    Back then, as an Ontario MPP, Singh was told (unofficially) that he’d been turned down after criticizing India’s treatment of minority groups. Four years later, fresh from winning this month’s NDP leadership convention, he is once again a controversial figure in India — and here at home among some Indo-Canadians.

    Singh’s pointed comments about a Sikh right to self-determination sparked protests from Indian politicians leery of local separatists who still dream of carving out an independent Khalistan in the Punjab.

    “It is better you confine your political views to Canada and don’t create any problem for Sikhs in India,” former Punjabi parliamentarian Tarlochan Singh told the Hindustan Times.

    Singh’s equivocations about the perpetrators of the 1985 Air India bombing have also raised eyebrows among the families of passengers who perished in the deadliest terrorist incident in Canadian history.

    Asked in a CBC interview if he condemned those who still honour the accused mastermind as a martyr — images of the late Talwinder Singh Parmar still pop up in some Sikh temples and commemorations — the NDP leader chose his words carefully. Or perhaps carelessly.

    While condemning the “heinous” violence, he hedged: “I don’t know who’s responsible (for the attack) but I think we need to find out who’s responsible.”

    Given that most of the 329 on board were Canadian citizens, and that Parmar was identified in court and by an inquiry as the instigator of the attack, the analogy has been drawn to an American politician withholding judgment against Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks.

    Bal Gulpta, chair of the Air India 182 Families’ Association, complained that Singh “should have disowned the glorification of terrorism, even suspected terrorism or promoters of terrorism.”

    Supriya Dwivedi, a morning talk radio host who had family friends aboard the ill-fated flight, commented that Singh “needs to be able to better answer these sorts of questions.”

    No Canadian politician wants to be seen as soft on terrorism, given the current climate. Nor does any leader want to be seen as excessively hard on self-determination, given Quebec’s historical environment.

    Politics is always a balancing act and some have suggested Singh is being unfairly singled out because he is Sikh. But that doesn’t mean a national leader can dodge sensitive questions about public positions he has — or hasn’t — taken in the past.

    During his time in the Ontario legislature, MPPs passed frequent resolutions marking historical massacres and expressing solidarity with victims around the world. Singh proposed a resolution in 2016 condemning an Indian “genocide” during anti-Sikh riots in 1984 (it was defeated, but a similar resolution passed the next year).

    World history isn’t part of the legislature’s provincial mandate, but it pays off with domestic voters. MPPs can pronounce on foreign affairs with impunity.

    Now that Singh has moved from the relative obscurity of Queen’s Park to the rarefied atmosphere of Parliament Hill, he can expect more scrutiny.

    The Air India disaster never got the attention it deserved because of a double standard that downplayed the deaths of so many Indo-Canadians. It would be unfair to apply another double standard — making Singh pay a special price for that collective inattention — but the more equivocal his answers, the more persistent the questions will become.

    Similarly, the self-determination issue will remain a perennial in Canadian politics given Quebec’s sovereignty movement, just as Catalonia has returned to the Spanish agenda, and Khalistan is still a sore point in India, which has spent decades fending off separatist movements all along its northeastern and northwestern borders.

    Like any politician who tries to avoid giving offence, Singh may only end up offending more people along the way. That said — and no matter what he leaves unsaid — if the NDP leader ever becomes prime minister, he may yet get that Indian visa.

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


    The more equivocal the answers, the more persistent the questions for Jagmeet SinghThe more equivocal the answers, the more persistent the questions for Jagmeet Singh

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    Erika Hurt had become the face of drug addiction.

    The young mother was captured in a photograph by police, passed out in the driver’s seat of her car outside a Dollar General store in Hope, Ind. — an empty syringe still resting between the 25-year-old addict’s fingers.

    The snapshot captured yet another horrifying moment in the worsening U.S. opioid epidemic.

    What was not seen that Saturday afternoon last October was her 10-month-old son, buckled into his car seat in the back.

    When Hurt first saw the photo, she was humiliated.

    “I was angry and I wanted to blame the police for putting my business out there and showing the world my private addiction and everything like that,” she told NBC News, a year after the image went viral.

    But the photo, she said, eventually had a sobering effect.

    “I’m thankful now that the cop did take the picture. The fact that I’m able to look back on that picture and see where the addiction had taken me, and I’m able to use that picture now to show others that addicts can recover.”

    Hurt reposted the picture over on Facebook to celebrate one year of sobriety.

    “I’ve decided to repost the picture simply because it displays exactly what heroin addiction is,” she wrote. “Also because I do not want to ever forget where the road of addiction has taken me.

    “Little did I know that day, my life was about to change, drastically. Today, I am able to focus on the good that came from that picture. Today, I am a mother to my son, again. Today, I am able to be grateful to actually have solid proof where addiction will only lead you, and today I am able to say that I am ONE YEAR SOBER!”

    Hurt could not immediately be reached for comment by the Washington Post.

    On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, calling it the “worst drug crisis in American history” and vowing to focus the nation’s attention on resolving it.

    “As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue,” he said. “It is time to liberate our communities from the scourge of drug addiction. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.”

    Despite Trump’s call to action, critics questioned the merits of his pronouncement, given that it did not include an immediate request to Congress for emergency funding.

    “America is hemorrhaging lives by the day because of the opioid epidemic, but President Trump offered the country a Band-Aid when we need a tourniquet,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. Markey called the announcement “nothing more than a dog-and-pony show in an attempt to demonstrate the Trump administration is not ignoring this crisis.”

    Since 2014, more than 28,000 people in the United States have overdosed on opioids and died, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Specifically, heroin overdose deaths have quadrupled since 2010, accounting for nearly 13,000 deaths in 2015, according to the data.

    Behind the grim statistics are haunting scenes of overdosed victims — and the children affected by their parents’ addictions.

    Disturbing photographs and videos depicting scenes such as the one in which Hurt was found unconscious have become common as the epidemic rages.

    In September 2016, a chilling photograph distributed by authorities captured the innocence lost on a 4-year-old’s face in East Liverpool, Ohio, where a man and woman were seen slumped over after overdosing in a vehicle, the boy still strapped into his car seat in the back.

    A week later, at a Family Dollar store in Lawrence, Mass., a hysterical toddler was captured on a cellphone video as she tried to wake her mother after an apparent drug overdose.

    Hope Town Marshal Matt Tallent, who originally released the photo of Hurt, could not immediately be reached for comment.

    But he told NBC News that he never intended to embarrass Hurt; he simply wanted to bring awareness to the public-health crisis.

    “For this girl to have her life ripped up and then come back and be sober after everything that’s happened to her, that’s a story of success,” Tallent told NBC.

    Hurt had tried to get sober before — going through rehab only two weeks before her overdose photo spread across the internet, and then relapsing, she said.

    In October 2016, she recalled, she was “miserable.”

    “I was driving home and I just knew that at some point, I wanted to use, because I didn’t want to feel the pain that I was feeling,” she told NBC this week.

    “My son was asleep in his car seat,” she said, “and I used the justification that he’s too young. and he doesn’t know what’s going on if he does see me.”

    As the Post’s Kristine Phillips reported, police believed Hurt had overdosed on heroin and was given two doses of Narcan, which reverses opioid overdoses in emergency situations.

    Hurt ended up in jail, where she said she first saw her photo, splashed across TV screens.

    “I was just shocked, I was humiliated. I really had no words,” she told NBC affiliate WTHR.

    Now, she said, she is “very thankful that someone decided to capture that moment.”

    “I’d been struggling with addiction for a long time,” she said, telling WTHR that she had been battling addition since she was 15, taking prescription painkillers for a staph infection. “I’ve been to the point where I was wanting to get clean and didn’t know how. I was trying but always failing.”

    Being able to see what her addiction looked like has enabled her to overcome it, she said.

    “Before, when I’ve relapsed, I’ve always forgotten where my addiction has taken me,” she told NBC News. “I get so far away from that miserable state, and that’s when I begin to start relapsing again. So I’m able to always have that picture in my mind and always look back at it to see that that’s always where addiction is going to lead me.”

    overdose


    Mom went from shame to gratitude after overdose photo went viralMom went from shame to gratitude after overdose photo went viral

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    The common law spouse of a former top Dalton McGuinty aide charged with deleting documents says he signed an immunity agreement with police three years ago during their investigation.

    “I did, yes,” Peter Faist testified Friday as he took the stand at the criminal trial of his partner Laura Miller, once deputy chief of staff to McGuinty, and former chief of staff David Livingston.

    Faist, who had an information technology consulting business, confirmed Miller approached him to wipe computer hard drives in the McGuinty premier's office before Premier Kathleen Wynne took over in February 2013.

    Court has heard Livingstone asked senior civil servants in the cabinet office to provide a special access password allowing personal information to be cleared before Wynne's staff began using the computers.

    “Laura asked me if I knew anybody capable of doing this type of work,” Faist testified.

    “I said that I can do it myself.”

    Livingston and Miller have pleaded not guilty to breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system in the alleged wiping of hard drives during the political transition period after McGuinty announced plans to resign and Wynne was elected party leader.

    McGuinty stepped down with his minority government under extreme pressure to reveal documents related to the controversial closing of natural gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election.

    Under examination by Crown prosecutor Tom Lemon, Faist was asked if he could remember Miller's title in the premier's office.

    “Honestl‎y, no,” Faist replied.

    “Deputy chief of staff?” Lemon queried again.

    “I think so,” said Faist, who also answered “I'm not sure” when Lemon asked if the hard drives to be cleaned were in the premier's office‎.

    “Her office was part of it,” Faist said, referring to Miller.

    Details of the wiping job were discussed in person and in a series of emails with another senior premier's office staffer, Dave Gene, Faist told court.

    In one email on Jan. 9, 2013, Gene asked Faist: “Hey, were you looking into wiping our computers?”

    That‎ was several weeks before senior bureaucrats, including cabinet secretary Peter Wallace, held a meeting on Jan. 30 to discuss whether to grant a special password to Livingston to clear hard drives.

    Wallace has previously testified he was concerned premier's office staff were not properly saving records of government decisions, including on the controversial gas plant cancellations.

    Faist said there was no discussion about a contract to do the work, for which he prepared by ordering White Canyon deletion software online on Jan. 10.

    He chose it to “clean the personal data but preserve the operating system and the applications.”

    Faist added there was a delay of “a month or so, six weeks, maybe two months” before he actually did the work.

    He warned at the time that people should “just make sure to have all your files on an external USB key” to save anything important.

    “If they had any files they wanted preserved, that would be a risk,” Faist told Judge Timothy Lipson.

    Faist later asked Gene for help in getting a cheque cut for the computer services, which came to $11,017.50 with tax.

    Although the work was done in the premier's office, Faist sent the invoice to the Liberal Caucus Service Bureau, which supports Liberal MPPs at Queen's Park, calling it invoice “OLP-20,” short for Ontario Liberal Party.

    Senior bureaucrats and government IT staff have testified previously that it's against standard procedure ‎to hire outsiders for such work, without going through an official procurement process.


    IT consultant hired to clean hard drives in McGuinty’s office tells court he had immunity deal with policeIT consultant hired to clean hard drives in McGuinty’s office tells court he had immunity deal with police

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    NEW YORK —The White House officially and emphatically called all women who have accused U.S. President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct liars on Friday.

    More than a dozen women came forward last year during the presidential election with allegations of sexual assault or misconduct against Trump.

    “Yeah, we’ve been clear on that from the beginning and the president’s spoken on it,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday.

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

    The stand was made as a spiralling scandal surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has emboldened women to speak more openly about sexual predators.

    The #metoo campaign on social media has become a popular way for women to share stories of assault.

    During the campaign, Trump vowed to sue all of the women who spoke out publicly.

    Last week, Trump called allegations of sexual assault made against him over the years “fake news.”

    Trump responded to a question during a freewheeling Rose Garden news conference about a subpoena reportedly issued to his campaign for documents related to sexual harassment allegations against him.

    “All I can say is it’s totally fake news — just fake. It’s fake, it’s made-up stuff. And it’s disgraceful what happens.”

    Trump added: “That happens in the world of politics.”

    Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, filed the subpoena in March as part of her defamation suit against Trump for saying she and other accusers were lying.

    Read more:

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie unsure Trump will serve a second term

    Donald Trump’s jaw-dropping, sexist insults spark bipartisan outrage, White House support

    #MeToo opens door to voices of women of colour: Paradkar

    Her lawyers want the Trump campaign to turn over “all documents” relating to Zervos and nearly a dozen other women who have accused Trump of unwanted sexual advances and touching.

    Meanwhile, a plaque commemorating the president’s infamous remarks about grabbing women “by the p----“ was posted outside the film studio where he unleashed his stunning admission to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush.

    An employee at the Burbank, Calif., studio shared a photo on Facebook of the small plaque that he said the show’s producers put up, with the caption, “In dishonor of our President, the producers of my show have created a plaque commemorating his comments to Billy Bush, which happened on our lot.”

    Trump was caught on tape telling Bush that he often kissed and fondled women without their consent and tried to hit on a married woman “like a b----.”

    “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said.

    The plaque reads, “On this spot in September 2005, Donald J. Trump bragged about committing sexual assault. In November 2016, he was elected President of the United States.”


    White House stands by Trump’s insistence that his sex assault accusers are liarsWhite House stands by Trump’s insistence that his sex assault accusers are liars

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    A couple of gal-pals on a shopping stroll in Bloor West Village. Hey, wouldn’t it be hilarious to send that bitch a nasty birthday text? LOL.

    Tap-tap-tap.

    “A year ago today was the first time I slept with Dellen.’’

    That poison dart was from Christine Noudga on Feb. 12, 2012, the day Laura Babcock turned 23.

    Babcock, no social media slouch, zinged right back.

    “That’s fine. I slept with him a couple of weeks ago.”

    Ba-da-bing.

    Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t.

    “Oh, they were sleeping together,” Karoline Shirinian assured court on Friday, plucking insider knowledge from her memory data bank of The Dating Files. “But he seemed to have no interest in pursuing a relationship with her.”

    Shirinian’s loyalties were clearly towards Noudga, her BFF. Though earlier Babcock had been her BFF.

    “First shocked, then upset,” she said, describing Noudga’s reaction to the unexpected tit-for-tat blowback.

    “It definitely changed from this is going to be funny to . . . whether there was any truth in it.”

    The inner lives of mean girls. Except these weren’t high school teenagers caught up in adolescent mischief. They were all savvy, well-educated women in their early 20s.

    Noudga had been dating — “if you can call it that,” Shirinian noted with a smirk — Dellen Millard for a year, since hooking up on the night of Babcock’s 22nd birthday, following a surprise party at Medieval Times thrown by Babcock’s then-boyfriend Shawn Lerner.

    Babcock had “dated” Millard in the distant past. Babcock and Shirinian, one-time close friends, were on the outs over some peeve or another, though they would subsequently — in the way of girls who blow hot and cold with each other — reconcile. Babcock was aware that Noudga was involved with Millard but didn’t seem annoyed by it until after her breakup with Lerner.

    Follow?

    In fact, Shirinian was inside the close circle of pals who were in contact with Babcock on the last weekend of her life — a Canada Day phone call when the former declined an invitation from the latter to meet up at Rib Fest at Centennial Park. Babcock, whose moods had been swinging wildly for months — one therapist had diagnosed her with borderline personality — was enthusiastic about her new-found gig working for an escort agency. Shirinian suspected Babcock wanted to boast about the men who were paying $250 an hour to spend time in her company. “She was looking to open up her own escort business. She had no embarrassment about what she was doing.”

    Shirinian didn’t want to hear anymore about it and passed on getting together. “I wasn’t interested in that type of business so I said no. That really wasn’t for me.”

    It is believed that Babcock was murdered on July 3 or 4, her body burned in an industrial incinerator. Her remains have never been found.

    Millard and co-accused Mark Smich have both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

    It is the prosecution’s theory that Babcock was the odd woman out in a romantic triangle with Millard and Noudga. The jury has been told of placating texts Millard sent to a disgruntled Noudga in April, allegedly about Babcock. “First I am going to hurt her. Then I’ll make her leave.” And: “I will remove her from our lives.”

    Could the flint for killing really have been sparked by a catty text banged off in a moment of idle spite?

    It is unknown whether Noudga will testify at the trial which has just concluded its first week. For now, a glimpse into these internecine relationships is being provided by Shirinian. She’ll be cross-examined Monday by Millard, who is acting as his own lawyer before Justice Michael Code.

    Shirinian reinforced what the jury has already heard — that Babcock’s behaviour had become increasingly erratic over the previous six months as she allegedly became more deeply involved with drugs; that she’d quarrelled with her parents over house-rules and many a night would not go home at all; and that she’d explode over small disagreements with friends, causing feuds.

    But Shirinian insisted Babcock had no wish to do herself harm. “She wasn’t suicidal. She was not going to kill herself, no, absolutely not.”

    Shirinian too had become friends with Millard, once attending a party he hosted inside his private plane’s hangar at Pearson, more often hanging out in the basement of his Maple Gate Court home, fitted with a bar and a bunch of X-boxes connected to TV consoles. Smich, best bro to Millard, would occasionally be there as well.

    Babcock and Noudga were reasonably tolerant of each other in those days, said Shirinian. “After Christine started seeing Dellen, sometimes Laura would be OK with it and sometimes she’d lash out, say mean things, send her nasty messages.” Post-Shawn breakup, tensions exacerbated.

    Oh sure, Shirinian was aware that Babcock was getting it on with Millard, or so Babcock claimed. Shirinian and Noudga would put their heads together to discuss whether Babcock was being truthful or just blowing smoke. “I would hear it from both sides,” she told Crown attorney Ken Lockhart. “Mainly I think she (Noudga) didn’t believe it.”

    Until that damned text got her seriously wondering.

    As all this interrelationship heaving and huffing was going on, Babcock was often couch-surfing, floating around town like a tumbleweed. A look-see into her tenuous day-to-day existence in those final months was provided by two earlier witnesses on Friday: An antidote to the meanness of girls in the kindness of strangers. As they tell it anyway.

    Jeff Wilson, a TV producer, told court he met Babcock, who aspired to become an actress, at his local watering hole in June or July, 2012. She bent his ear with woeful tales of her predicament. And presto, Wilson offered her a place to stay temporarily. “It was just until she got her stuff together, while she found some work and a place to live.”

    After two weeks, with Babcock apparently making no attempt to resolve her issues, Wilson said it was time to go.

    “It ended up in tears.”

    On cross-examination, Millard asked: “Did she ever tell you she was using your place to work as a prostitute, while you were out?”

    No, she hadn’t.

    “How did she compensate you for staying there?’’

    There was no compensation, Wilson insisted.

    Millard: “I’m going to suggest to you that she was trading sex for these things.”

    Wilson: “That’s not the case.”

    Court heard next from Dr. Sohail Khattak, a 53-year-old pediatrician who specializes in attention deficit disorder.

    Khattak met Babcock in, he thinks, early summer of 2012. He’d had dinner with a woman at the roof bar of the Park Hyatt, after which they retired to his room. The woman complained she’d had too much to drink and wanted to take a cab home but didn’t want to make the trip alone. So she called her friend, Laura Babcock, who showed up around 3 a.m.

    Subsequently, Khattak met Babcock alone on two more occasions.

    “She was a very intelligent girl going through some emotional times.”

    Khattak claimed he wanted to help — to the point of giving Babcock the security deposit — first and last month rent, plus another month out of generosity — she needed for an apartment and even offering to co-sign the lease.

    At their final meeting, again in his hotel room, Babcock announced that she’d found a place. Then she received a phone call. “She seemed disturbed” by it, said Khattak.

    Babcock left. He never saw or heard from her again.

    No, he’d never had sex with her, Khattak testified. No, he’d never seen her use drugs.

    But the final word on Day 5 of the trial goes to Karoline Shirinian.

    About that needling text the ladies sent to Babcock. What does she think of it now?

    “I would say it was unnecessary and kind of petty.”

    Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.


    Trial into Laura Babcock's murder hears of bitter text message exchange: DiMannoTrial into Laura Babcock's murder hears of bitter text message exchange: DiManno

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    During a 300-day campaign in 2014, now-Mayor John Tory made a broad promise to deliver a Toronto that was “more livable, more affordable and more functional.” He also made dozens of specific pledges.

    With the third anniversary of his election on Oct. 27 and the next election one year away, the Star checked whether he has kept them.

    Our conclusion: of 45 promises, 18 were fulfilled, 13 were broken, nine were still in progress, four were redundant (meaning the government was already doing what Tory had pledged), and one was in limbo (meaning it’s unlikely to progress at all this term).

    The Star reviewed policy papers released by Tory’s campaign and public statements made by the now mayor in 2014.

    Our accounting focuses on concrete promises, not broad statements. For example, Tory promised, as mayor, he would be an ambassador for youth employment (too broad to check), but specifically promised to double the number of companies participating in a youth-employment program (a promise kept).

    In some cases, the promises fulfilled may have been something already in progress or under consideration by city and agency staff, meaning Tory can’t take full credit, although they did happen under his administration.

    In an emailed response to this analysis, Tory said: “I ran to restore honesty, integrity and trust in this office, and I believe I’ve done that. It was the first thing I set about doing when I was elected and I have never lost sight of it in my three years here.”

    “I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in three years working with council and the other governments: we’re moving forward on cutting traffic; we’re moving forward on building transit; we’re moving forward on building affordable housing and creating more child-care spaces, and we’re doing it all while keeping taxes low.”

    ON TRANSIT AND TRANSPORTATION

    Tory promised: To build “SmartTrack” – a 53-kilometre “London-style surface rail subway” service with 22 stops primarily on existing GO lines and including a new western spur to the Mississauga Airport Corporate Centre in seven years without using city taxpayer funds.

    Status: Broken.

    Though Tory has seen elements of SmartTrack advanced by council, it is not what he promised during the campaign. The city is moving forward with a plan to build six new GO stations served by GO trains and a future LRT line towards the airport. One of the GO stations, Lawrence East, is currently under review. Tory’s promise to finance SmartTrack through a risky scheme called tax increment financing — essentially borrowing against property taxes from future development to build now — remains unclear with problems concerning the assumptions made in calculating the financing plan still unresolved.

    Tory promised: To start construction of the Scarborough subway extension “immediately.

    Status: Broken.

    Construction on the Scarborough subway has not begun. Some exploratory geotechnical work is being done. When Tory made this promise, candidates were discussing a three-stop plan, which has been scrapped in favour of a one-stop approved alternative introduced under Tory and now estimated to cost at least $3.35 billion. Subject to a further vote of council expected late next year, construction is anticipated to begin in 2020 and finish in the second quarter of 2026.

    Tory promised: To provide new express bus service on routes serving, for example, Don Mills Rd., Dufferin St. and for Liberty Village.

    Status: In progress.

    New express bus service was added in 2016 on five routes, including Don Mills. In June of this year, the TTC board approved a 10-year expansion plan of express service on new and existing routes. New routes to be added in 2019 include one on Dufferin.

    Tory promised: To freeze TTC fares in 2015.

    Status: Broken.

    Fares increased by 10 cents in 2015. Shortly after his election, Tory recommended the increase to cover proposed TTC improvements, including restoring bus service cut under former mayor Rob Ford. TTC fares have also increased every year thereafter under Tory’s administration. He has promised to support a fare freeze in 2018.

    Tory promised: To support a reduced TTC fare for people on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

    Status: Fulfilled.

    A “Fair Pass” program was approved by council in 2016, providing discounts for those on ODSP starting in 2018.

    Tory promised: To add queue-jumping bus lanes at key intersections outside downtown to improve bus commute times.

    Status: In progress.

    There are currently two queue-jumping lanes approved for construction in 2018 at Steeles Ave. and Don Mills Rd. and Lake Shore Blvd. and Brown’s Line, a TTC spokesperson confirmed. A third location will be going to council for approval shortly and another 15 are under consideration for future years.

    Tory promised: To approve the Gardiner East “hybrid” option that maintains the elevated connection to the Don Valley Parkway.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    Tory won a narrow victory in a 2015 council vote to build the hybrid and then amassed wider support in 2016 for the most expensive hybrid option.

    Tory promised: To crack down on illegal parking during rush hour.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    Though the mayor can’t direct police operations, Tory has encouraged several tag-and-tow blitzes for rush-hour rule breakers and saw police officers deployed to key intersections in 2016.

    Tory promised: To form a major route construction coordination committee.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    Tory formed a road closures coordination committee in his first year, which continues to meet regularly.

    Tory promised: To expand the city’s on-street cycling network, prioritizing separated bike lanes in “sensible locations.”

    Status: In progress.

    In 2016, council approved a 10-year cycling network planthat would expand the on-street network, but voted against staff recommendations to conduct further studies in major corridors while a Bloor bike lane pilot was ongoing. Council will vote on making the Bloor bike lanes permanent at a meeting next month. Tory supports making the lanes permanent.

    Tory promised: To increase the amount of bicycle parking at existing TTC and transit stations as well as on city streets.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    In 2016, the TTC added bike parking at six subway stations. Money from the federal government earmarked for TTC improvements, includes plans for 25 new storage stations to roll out starting this November and 15 more early next year.

    Tory promised: To ensure bicycle lane maintenance was a separate line item in the budget “so the funding is transparent.”

    Status: Broken.

    Bike lane maintenance is grouped together with maintenance for roads, bridges and sidewalks in the transportation services budget.

    Tory promised: To develop a tourism cycling strategy, including the expansion of Toronto’s destination cycling trail network.

    Status: Broken.

    There is no tourism cycling strategy. Tourism Toronto reported in 2016 that cycling is not a motivator for people to visit Toronto. City staff are pursuing various trail expansion projects as part of the city’s off-street cycling network, which were identified in 2012 before Tory took office.

    ON HOUSING

    Tory promised: To form a task force to immediately review and recommend changes to the corporate structure of Toronto Community Housing and report back in July 2015.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    As one of his first acts as mayor, Tory appointed a six-person task force, which produced a final report in 2016. The task force recommended, among other things, breaking up the company into separate entities dealing with development and operations.

    Tory promised: To address the Toronto Community Housing repair backlog “immediately.

    Status: In progress.

    A repair backlog of $1.6 billion remains despite Tory’s ongoing efforts. The city has contributed $1 billion in repair financing, largely through mortgage and other refinancing. The other governments have yet to contribute to a requested one-third share each, despite Tory and the city’s insistence insist that they do so. A revised plan will be debated by council during the 2018 budget process.

    Tory promised: To explore financing and incentives to encourage the development of both ownership and rental affordable housing.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    Tory launched the Open Door program in 2015, which provides tax breaks and incentives to developers. Since then, the city has invested $121.86 million to encourage the creation of 1,869 rental and 596 home ownership units, none of which are completed yet. Housing advocates have criticized the city’s approach, saying the units remain unaffordable for many.

    Tory promised: To “enhance” the Rent Bank program

    Status: Redundant.

    The Rent Bank program, which provides interest-free loans for those at risk of eviction, is operated by a non-profit agency. Since the demand for those who qualify for the loans and deposits requested have not increased, the program has not expanded and is increasingly self-sustaining.

    Tory promised: To provide more cash for community benefits, known as section 37 funds, for affordable housing through the development application process.

    Status: Redundant.

    The mayor has no direct involvement with these agreements. Since 2014, the amount of cash and number of new units secured through the development process has increased. However, section 37 agreements are negotiated between staff, the developer and the local city councillor and later approved by council.

    Tory promised: To increase funding for the rent supplement program

    Status: Fulfilled.

    This promise is only barely fulfilled as the result of a largely inflationary increase to the rent supplement program, which helps subsidize rents for those eligible. The program remained relatively stable between 2014 and 2017. Funding increased from $33.1 million to $35.1 million and the number of units served decreasing slightly from 3,645 to 3,600.

    Tory promised: To ensure more city-owned land is used for affordable housing

    Status: Fulfilled

    Through the Open Door program, the city has made 10 sites available for public housing since 2014 compared to three sites between 2010 and 2014. Another two dozen additional sites have been identified.

    Tory promised: To establish a standing committee on housing and homelessness that reports to council.

    Status: In progress.

    There is no standing committee for housing, though an affordable housing committee, which is not a standing committee, continues to meet regularly. Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat said there remains a possibility such a committee could be created before the end of the term.

    ON TAXES

    Tory promised: To keep residential property taxes at or below the rate of inflation.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    Residential property taxes — when you don’t factor in the already-approved Scarborough subway levy built in to the increase in 2015 and 2016, or the new increase for transit and housing projects added at Tory’s urging in 2017 — rose at the rate of inflation for the last three years: 2.25 per cent in 2015 (2.75 per cent with the subway levy), 1.3 per cent in 2016 (1.9 per cent with the levy), and 2 per cent in 2017 (2.5 per cent with the city-building levy).

    Tory promised: To push the province to cut the business education tax.

    Status: Broken.

    There is still a portion of property taxes that businesses are required to pay towards the costs of province-wide education.

    Tory promised: To “continue” with a city policy to rebalance residential and commercial tax rates.

    Status: In progress.

    In the 2017 budget, council allowed one half of the tax rate increase on the residential property class to be applied to the commercial property class, rather than the city’s one-third policy and a slowing down of a tax ratio reduction policy implementation with a revised target of 2023 rather than 2020.

    ON JOBS AND THE ECONOMY

    Tory promised: Streamline Invest Toronto, the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and the city’s economic development division and double the number of foreign investment leads in his first term.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    In 2014, the now-defunct Invest Toronto recorded 158 foreign direct investment opportunities with 24 new investments in Toronto. As of August 2017, under the new Toronto Global — a joint effort between various GTA cities, provincial and federal governments with the goal of increasing foreign investment — 300 leads were identified with 19 companies in the process of establishing a location in Toronto.

    Tory promised: To double the number of companies in the Partnership to Advance Youth Employment (PAYE)in his first year

    Status: Fulfilled.

    The employment and social services division reported at the end of 2015 that the number of companies participating had tripled to 129 in September 2015 from 40 in 2014.

    Tory promised: To institute a regular report card on red tape and measures to reduce it.

    Status: Broken.

    There is no regular report card on red tape.

    Tory promised: To double the available open data each year during his term.

    Status: Broken.

    At the end of 2014 there were 165 datasets available, in 2015 there were 197, in 2016 there were 225 and in 2017 there were 255. Toronto ranked second only to Edmonton in the Public Sector Digest’s 2017 index of 61 Canadian cities open data initiatives.

    ON POVERTY

    Tory promised: To implement a poverty reduction strategy.

    Status: In progress.

    Tory tapped the late councillor Pam McConnell to oversee the city’s 20-year poverty reduction strategy, with a plan that council requested in 2014, before Tory became mayor, approved in 2015. A 2016 progress report showed that of 98 action items on that year’s work plan, a third were in progress or ongoing, another third were completed, 20 per cent were partially completed and almost 10 per cent were deferred or delayed.

    Tory promised: To advocate for more child-care spaces and increased child-care funding.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    In the 2017 budget, council added 300 child-care subsidies. While Tory pushed Premier Kathleen Wynne to address a daycare affordability crisis, at the same time he announced a plan to scrap a city grant for daycares in schools in 2017 to fund the new child-care subsidies. Tory later reversed his position under pressure and backed a plan to continue to offer the grants while still funding the new subsidies.

    Tory promised: To improve food security, including breakfast nutrition programs in school.

    Status: In progress.

    Tory has a mixed record on student nutrition, despite his commitment to implement the poverty reduction strategy. In 2016, Toronto Public Health was under pressure to adhere to a directive to cut its budget to meet Tory’s council-backed property tax target, putting 13,000 low-income students at risk of losing healthy snacks. The proposed cuts were not advanced to city council for approval.

    ON THE ENVIRONMENT

    Tory promised: To maintain the city’s 2012 tree cover of 3.8 million trees by doubling the city’s annual expenditure to $14 million by 2019 and fund the planting of 380,000 trees annually

    Status: Broken.

    The 2015 budget only increased the number of trees to be planted from 100,000 to 105,000. In 2016, the budget increases to just under $10 million. For 2017, the approved budget allowed for 120,000 trees to be planted.

    Tory promised: To create a sustainable city advisory board and release a “sustainable city report” annually.

    Status: Broken.

    No such advisory board or report exists.

    Tory promised: To appoint an environment advocate, with responsibilities that include the creation of a plan to prepare the city for climate change adoption.

    Status: Broken.

    There is no environment advocate. A chief resilience officer was hired this year to help the city prepare for the impact of climate change. Tory pushed back on the required $6.7 million needed next year for a much-lauded climate change action plan brought forward by staff. At the request of Tory’s appointed parks committee chair and executive member Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, staff have been asked to produce business cases to prioritize goals set out in the plan for the 2018 budget — something advocates say the plan already does.

    Tory promised: To collect data to monitor energy use at city buildings and use the data to achieve $22 million in annual savings by his fourth year in office.

    Status: Redundant/Broken.

    The city’s environment and energy division already monitored energy use at city buildings before Tory took office. Annual savings are much less than $22 million. In 2016, $400,000 in revenue annually was achieved by reducing electrical consumption, $900,000 annually through LED retrofit projects and $30,000 through water retrofits at Metro Hall and city hall.

    Tory promised: To proactively plan parks near new developments by linking in the parks department at the early stages of the development application process and create a transparent accountable system for tracking where park levy funds are spent.

    Status: Redundant.

    Parks staff were already involved in the review of development applications, have created policies in conjunction with city planning that address park deficiencies and report on how park levy funds are spent.

    Tory promised: To create new corporate and philanthropic partnerships to support Toronto’s parks.

    Status: In progress.

    The most significant partnership announced during Tory’s term has been the creation of a linear park under the Gardiner, still under construction, known as The Bentway. The project is a result of the $25 million donation from philanthropists Judy and Wil Matthews.

    ON ARTS AND CULTURE

    Tory promised: To appoint a “creative economy” advocate .

    Status: Fulfilled.

    In December 2016, Tory appointed Councillor Michelle Holland as his advocate for the innovation economy, with a role of “championing the growth of Toronto’s technology and knowledge sector.”

    Tory promised: To work with staff, arts organizations and the private sector to try to meet or exceed the $25 per capita arts funding goal by 2017.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    The target was met for 2017. During the 2017 budget process, a Tory-backed 2.6 per cent budget reduction request for all divisions saw staff considering deferring funding that would put the $25 per capita target at risk. Under pressure, Tory-appointed budget chief Councillor Gary Crawford reversed that plan at committee, putting the city back on track.

    Tory promised: To open a standalone music office to bolster new partnerships and reduce red tape.

    Status: Broken.

    Tory didn’t create a standalone office like the film office. However, under his administration a music advisory council is working on a music strategy and a music sector development officer is responsible for cutting red tape for the industry.

    Tory promised: To march in the annual Pride parade.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    Tory has marched enthusiastically, with many of his staff and fellow council members, every year.

    ON OTHER THINGS

    Tory promised: To outsource garbage collection east of Yonge St.

    Status: In limbo.

    After taking office, Tory said information provided by staff indicated the city could save far less from outsourcing than he had believed possible during the campaign. But at the beginning of this year, Tory planned to push ahead with outsourcing anyway. At risk of being defeated at council, Tory moved a surprise motion that referred the issue back to staff for further study to be completed at an unspecified date.

    Tory promised: To keep Toronto Hydro public.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    The utility remains public. Though Tory slammed election rival Karen Stintz for suggesting privatization, in 2016 he agreed the city should look at a partial sale to fund transit and housing. His office, the Star’s sources said, took an interest in appointments to Toronto Hydro’s board of directors, while two of Tory’s key campaign advisors, the Star revealed, were hired to lay the groundwork for a partial sale. Tory denied reports earlier this year that talks were underway and said he would see the utility kept in public hands.

    Tory promised: To keep a weekly schedule that is public and easily accessible and to hold at least a weekly press availability.

    Status: Fulfilled.

    Tory sends a daily itinerary of public events he’ll be attending to the press gallery. Critics have argued it should be posted publicly and show all meetings (including those behind closed doors) that he is attending.Tory often speaks to the media once a day, sometimes multiple times a day.

    Tory promised: To introduce “real penalties” for politicians and bureaucrats who “abuse the privileges, responsibilities and trust that accompany public service.”

    Status: Broken.

    The penalties have not changed.

    Jennifer Pagliaro can be reached at jpagliaro@thestar.ca or 416-869-4556


    45 made, 18 kept: The Star analyzes promises John Tory made before he became mayor45 made, 18 kept: The Star analyzes promises John Tory made before he became mayor

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    The city’s audit committee has rejected a push to conduct a value-for-money analysis of the Scarborough subway.

    On Friday, a motion from Councillor Josh Matlow for that comparison of the approved, one-stop, $3.35 billion subway extension to the seven-stop LRT alternative failed in a 1-4 vote. Councillors Christin Carmichael Greb, Michael Ford, Stephen Holyday, and Chin Lee voted against it.

    That decision came as the auditor general presented a work plan for future audits for next year, the last of the term and ahead of an anticipated staff report on the updated cost of the Scarborough subway, which is expected to rise.

    “My question for you is: Do you want to have all the relevant facts before you to inform your decision?” said Matlow, who has been critical of the subway plan, at committee. He has been chiefly concerned about the lack of information provided to justify it.

    “If you would prefer the one-stop subway and if the information comes back to support that argument, in fact, if you always believed it would, then what do you have to be afraid of?”

    The work plan will be considered by council next month. The auditor general has the power to conduct her own investigations without direction from council, but on Friday the auditor, Beverly Romeo-Beehler, told the Star she has decided against doing such a comparison because, she said, it is not her role to re-open council decisions.

    Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, who was chosen by Mayor John Tory to champion the subway project, called Matlow’s motion a “back-door attempt” to “sabotage” the subway.

    Top bureaucrat, City Manager Peter Wallace, confirmed in March that staff have never been directed to do and therefore have never presented such an analysis.

    The vote on a value-for-money analysis was followed by a discussion of a controversial briefing note that was produced last year before a crucial vote.

    That briefing note, produced by the TTC and which cast doubt on the feasibility of returning to the fully-funded LRT plan, was the subject of a complaint to the auditor general.

    Romeo-Beehler found no evidence that TTC CEO Andy Byford or his staff deliberately misled council, nor did she find any evidence of political interference.

    She did outline several problems with the briefing note, including a cost calculation and its limited distribution. It was initially provided to just the mayor’s office and that of TTC chair Councillor Josh Colle. It was subsequently leaked to CP24 by the mayor’s office, the Star earlier confirmed.

    On Friday, Matlow outlined questions that still remain, including why Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency that was in charge of the LRT project, didn’t verify the contents of the TTC-produced briefing note that were “easily verifiable.”

    The briefing note raised doubts an LRT could still fit in the existing corridor, replacing the aging Scarborough RT.

    When the Star earlier asked Metrolinx to confirm whether the LRT would still fit in the corridor, as their earlier work had stated, a spokesperson confirmed that it did.

    On Friday, Matlow produced an email from senior TTC official Gary Carr saying he’d met with a senior Metrolinx official responsible for the corridor where the LRT would have run in the midst of the briefing note being drafted. It’s unclear if they discussed constraints in the corridor with an LRT option.

    The auditor general also found an email from former Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig to Byford during that time where McCuaig indicated a cost estimate provided for the LRT was too high — by $320 million. That figure was never adjusted and McCuaig’s comments weren’t noted in revised versions of the briefing note.

    “The TTC co-operated fully with the (auditor general), providing all correspondence relevant to this issue, including correspondence with Metrolinx. Staff were exonerated of any wrongdoing by the AG. Any further questions on this matter should be directed to her office,” TTC spokesperson Brad Ross wrote in an email Friday.

    Metrolinx declined to comment. McCuiag could not be reached for comment.

    Matlow maintained there were “significant errors” and omissions in the briefing note and that he didn’t believe that a request for the briefing note “began at the TTC.”

    “The briefing note was ultimately used as a political tool that influenced the outcome of a council vote that led to a one-stop subway that will serve far fewer Scarborough residents for over a billion dollars more of the city’s limited funds.”


    Push to see value-for-money analysis of Scarborough subway rejectedPush to see value-for-money analysis of Scarborough subway rejected

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    This story is part of the Star’s trust initiative, where, every week, we take readers behind the scenes of our journalism. This week, we look at how the Star put together its coverage of the recent release of 2016 census data.

    Before the latest census numbers were released earlier this week, one question kept coming up in the Star newsroom: Would the data show that Toronto, for the first time, had become a visible minority majority city?

    If that was the case, reporters and editors would have to be ready.

    Statistics Canada gives advance notice about what will be released when, which gives newsrooms a chance to plan. But, without data available beforehand, editors and reporters do their best to plan for the kind of coverage they think will be needed.

    With the return of the mandatory long-form census after a 10-year absence, an accurate look at the city’s ethnic makeup was once again a possibility. The 2011 National Household Survey found that 49 per cent of those living in Toronto identified as a visible minority, so editors were on the lookout for a change in that number in 2016.

    “We knew that this information would be particularly important for the Star, as it touched on a lot of issues clearly in line with our organization’s interest in social justice issues” such as affordable housing and equality, said Natasha Grzincic, the Star’s digital news lead and co-ordinator of the Star’s recent census coverage. “It was very much a question of what the Star could bring to its audiences that they couldn’t get anywhere else.”

    About a month before this week’s release of data, a team of Star editors, reporters, data analysts and designers began exploring potential story ideas based on topics provided in advance by Statistics Canada: immigration, ethnocultural diversity, housing and Aboriginal peoples.

    During their brainstorming sessions, there were a few questions Grzincic and the team kept coming back to: if indeed the data showed that Toronto was a visible minority majority, what would that look like? And how could the Star make this information relatable to each reader?

    The idea of an online interactive map in which readers could look up their census tract using their own address was born.

    “We wanted people to be able to easily find what their community looked like in terms of visible minority populations,” said Grzincic.

    With this in mind, the team asked Statistics Canada to provide data specific to the GTA, such as ethnic groups broken down by income brackets, the fastest-growing ethnic groups, and areas where people spend the highest portion of their income on rent or mortgage payments. The idea was that reporters and editors would have information that would not be readily available on release day had the Star not asked in advance.

    Knowing the kind of information that was coming allowed editors to tap relevant reporters, create graphic templates and schedule story publication.

    On Tuesday, the big day began in Ottawa with a “lockup,” a practice common for government budgets, in which journalists are literally locked in a room and provided data. The catch is no information can leave the room until some prescribed time (phones must be turned over to ensure security). In this case, Ottawa reporter Alex Ballingall, along with self-described “data map geek” Matthew Cole and interactive designer Cameron Tulk went into a room in a government building at midnight and were provided hard and digital copies of census information. They then had 8 1/2 hours to produce their stories and the interactive map to be posted on thestar.com when the embargo was lifted Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.

    “The big challenge is trying to find the story behind the numbers. They give you a lot of information, and you have to sift through it to find what you think the Star’s readers will find interesting or need to know,” said Ballingall. “Luckily, Statistics Canada provides unlimited coffee, Timbits, muffins, chips, juice boxes, bottled water and sandwiches to help you make it through the night.”

    Ballingall filed three stories from the lockup, including one focused on the fact that 51.5 per cent of City of Toronto respondents identified as visible minorities that ran on page A1 of the next day’s paper.

    The other two stories looked at how Ontario is now home to the largest Métis population in the country, and how an increasing number of immigrants are choosing to live in the Prairies, particularly Alberta.

    After the lockup ended, a team of reporters in Toronto began digging into custom data sets provided by Statistics Canada and contextualizing it for readers.

    Columnist Shree Paradkar provided commentary on Toronto becoming a minority majority city, while Affordable Housing Reporter Emily Mathieu looked at Flemingdon Park and Georgina Island, the top two communities in the GTA with housing in need of major repairs. Real Estate Reporter Tess Kalinowski examined census data that showed condominiums now house more than 20 per cent of Torontonians, and reporter Alex McKeen covered the news that 33 per cent of households in Toronto spent more than the Statistics Canada benchmark of 30 per cent of income on shelter.

    Coverage continued Thursday, with Social Justice Reporter Laurie Monsebraaten looking at data showing the persistent income gap between visible minorities, recent immigrants, and Indigenous Canadians, and the rest of Canadians. Meanwhile, Identity and Inequality Reporter Jennifer Yang worked on a weekend profile of three census areas where most respondents identified as Chinese.

    “Covering the census is a mix of extensive planning and breaking news all in one assignment,” said Julie Carl, senior editor of national and urban affairs and social justice. “Having a sense of what you want to cover, even if you don’t have the raw data beforehand, is key. Once you have the data, you have to interpret it quickly, hit the ground running to find and write stories that illustrate the information.”


    Trust Project: How the Star’s census coverage came togetherTrust Project: How the Star’s census coverage came together

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    After three days of federal officials publicly acknowledging that employees of Canada’s spy service deserve better, government lawyers pushed back Friday on the specific allegations of harassment made by the five intelligence officers and analysts who first brought the issue to light.

    “No organization can ensure that its employees and managers will never act inappropriately. Organizations cannot be held to such a standard. Rather, organizations must be measured by whether they have procedures in place to address issues as they arise,” reads the government’s statement of defence, filed Friday in a $35-million lawsuit that alleges a toxic workplace inside the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

    CSIS maintains that the five plaintiffs had their complaints “addressed by the Service in a fair, reasonable and timely manner,” and should not be entitled to compensation.

    “If the plaintiffs have suffered any damages,” the 18-page statement reads, “the damages claimed are excessive and remote.”

    Read more:

    Judge slams Ottawa for delays over $35-million CSIS lawsuit alleging workplace Islamophobia, racism and homophobia

    Head of spy agency CSIS admits ‘retribution, favouritism, bullying’ in workplace

    Five CSIS employees are accusing the spy agency of Islamophobia, racism and homophobia in a $35-million lawsuit

    The lawsuit, filed in July, alleges the five intelligence officers and analysts encountered managers who openly espoused Islamophobic, racist and homophobic views and discriminated against Muslim, Black and gay employees.

    One of the complaints, “Alex,” alleged that he had faced years of homophobic harassment as an intelligence officer, often called a “fag” or “homo.” One email included in 54-page statement of claim alleges a manager wrote to Alex: “Careful your Muslim in-laws don’t behead you in your sleep for being homo.”

    Pseudonyms are used for both the complainants and managers who are cited in the lawsuit, since under Canada’s Security of Information Act, identifying a spy can be considered an offence. All five of the complainants are still CSIS employees, but are on medical leave.

    Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told the House of Commons earlier Friday that there must be “appropriate consequences” for harassment and discrimination at CSIS. “This behaviour is unacceptable.”

    He was responding to calls from NDP public safety critic Matthew Dube, for an investigation into the workplace conduct at the spy service.

    CSIS director David Vigneault publicly acknowledged Wednesday that his agency suffers from a workplace climate of “retribution, favouritism, bullying and other problems,” which he said is, “categorically unacceptable in a high-functioning, professional organization.”

    Vigneault’s statement was accompanied by an executive summary of a “workplace climate assessment” conducted at CSIS’s Toronto office, which uncovered low morale and a possible exodus of employees who said they felt “disillusioned and disheartened.”

    One employee described the Toronto office as “the region progress forgot.”

    “The issue here is that there’s clearly a cultural problem and one third-party report is not enough,” Dube said Friday, according to the Canadian Press. “What we’re asking the minister is to launch a full investigation into this type of discrimination, these allegations of homophobia and Islamophobia.”

    The defence statement filed Friday conceded some of the allegations, admitting that at the spy service’s Toronto office “inappropriate language was used by employees.”

    But addressing each of the five complainants, the statement refuted many of the individual allegations, or questioned the character of the complainants.

    “Alex socialized extensively with senior managers in the office and developed personal friendships with many such managers,” reads the statement, claiming he had been close to “Simon,” the manager who allegedly sent some of the questionable emails.

    The statement also claims that Alex’s internal complaint last year into the harassment resulted in “disciplinary sanction on the employee against whom Alex’s complaint of harassment was deemed founded.”

    Alex has alleged the only career that suffered after he complained publicly was his own.

    For “Bahira,” a Muslim intelligence officer with more than a decade of experience and who alleges she faced discrimination once she started to wear a hijab, the government claims that, “any scrutiny” or “direction given to Bahira over the course of her employment with the Service, was reasonable, justified and wholly consistent.”

    Last month, Federal Justice Simon Noël chastised the Department of Justice for not responding faster to the lawsuit, filing a statement of defence beyond the usual 30-day limit.

    “(T)here is a course of action to be followed and you are no different from any other parties in Canada,” Noël said told government lawyers in a teleconference call. “It is not because you are the Attorney General of Canada that you can act as if the Rules do no apply. This is not acceptable.”

    The Star reported on the call Tuesday after a transcript of the conversation was filed in federal court.

    According to the transcript of the Sept. 13 call with Noël, however, the government was attempting to “resolve the claim.”

    Toronto lawyer John Phillips, who represents the five plaintiffs, said in an emailed response Friday night that, “CSIS continues to blame the victims and refuse to accept responsibility for the harm and suffering the organization has caused.”

    “The CSIS director has had a chance to meet with these employees and has seen them in tears. He knows exactly what his organization has done to them,” he wrote. “It has crippled them and destroyed their careers. Yet CSIS continues to grind them because it can. In my view, it is a shameful response.”


    CSIS says harassment complainants don’t deserve $35 million as Goodale calls bullying at spy agency ‘unacceptable’CSIS says harassment complainants don’t deserve $35 million as Goodale calls bullying at spy agency ‘unacceptable’

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    WASHINGTON—Halloween came a little early at the White House as U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed the children of White House reporters into the Oval Office Friday for some early Halloween treats.

    More than a dozen costumed kids, including little witches and Princess Leias, a pint-sized Darth Vader, and a purple-haired unicorn gathered around the Resolute Desk, where the president handed out little boxes of White House Hershey’s Kisses.

    The president also dispensed plenty of compliments, congratulating the kids’ parents for doing a good job — at least of raising children, if not their coverage of the Trump White House.

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

    “I cannot believe the media produced such beautiful kids. How the media did this, I don’t know,” he said as he welcomed the kids to join him around his desk.

    Trump also joked with the kids about their parents’ professions. “You going to grow up to be like your parents?” he asked. “Don’t answer. That can only get me in trouble, that question,” he joked.

    Soon after, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered a box full of candy, and the president started handing out the treats.

    “You have no weight problems, that’s the good news, right?” he said at one point. “So you take out whatever you need, OK? If you want some for your friends, take ‘em. We have plenty.”

    He also asked one little girl how the press treated her. “I’ll bet you get treated better by the press than anybody in the world, right?” he joked.

    Read more:

    White House stands by Trump’s insistence that his sex assault accusers are liars

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    The president will also be welcoming ghost and goblins to the South Lawn for trick-or-treating on the eve of Halloween on Monday.

    Families of school children from 20 schools in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia have been invited to the festivities, along with military families and community organizations.

    The president and first lady Melania Trump will be handing out presidential M&M’s and treats from the White House pastry kitchen, and the South Portico will be decorated in spider webs, according to the White House.

    Fog will fill the air and trick-or-treaters will see bats and pumpkins decorated with the profiles of presidents past.

    Federal agencies including NASA, the Secret Service and the National Park Service also will be handing out giveaways.


    Trump greets reporters’ kids for Halloween treats, comments on their looks, weightTrump greets reporters’ kids for Halloween treats, comments on their looks, weight

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    The first round of charges in special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election were approved Friday — but it's still not known what they are or who they target.

    A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., approved the charges, CNN reported Friday, citing sources briefed in the matter.

    The network said plans were being made to take anyone charged into custody on Monday.

    But with the charges still sealed under orders from a federal judge, it's impossible to know who might be involved.

    CNN said a spokesman for Mueller's office declined to comment.

    The special counsel has been digging into allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign since May.

    Mueller's been focusing on potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    President Donald Trump is also part of the probe for possible obstruction of justice for his alleged efforts to impede the investigation.

    CNN reported that investigators are also scrutinizing Trump and his associates' financial ties to Russia.

    In addition to Mueller's probe, three committees on Capitol Hill are conducting their own investigations.

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


    First charges filed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigationFirst charges filed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation

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    Since leaving the White House in January, former president Barack Obama has turned heads, images of him slipping into a Broadway play with his elder daughter, Malia, and kitesurfing with billionaire Richard Branson in the British Virgin Islands were shared on social media sites.

    His next stop: jury duty in Cook County, Illinois.

    Obama, a constitutional scholar who frequently invokes messages of civic engagement, plans to serve next month, the county’s chief judge told the Chicago Tribune on Friday. Obama owns homes in Washington, D.C., as well as Chicago. He’ll follow in the footsteps of presidential predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, both of whom appeared for jury selection after leaving the White House.

    Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans first shared the news with county commissioners during a budget hearing. He later told the Tribune that necessary precautions would be taken to accommodate security and scheduling needs. He did not specify the date or courthouse location Obama will report to in November.

    “He made it crystal-clear to me through his representative that he would carry out his public duty as a citizen and resident of this community,” Evans told the Tribune.

    A spokesman declined to comment on the former president’s private schedule.

    The Tribune reported that other high-profile figures, like Oprah Winfrey, have also reported for jury duty in Cook County. Jurors can be summoned for civil or criminal pools and can be called to any of the county’s courthouses.

    “Although it’s not a place where the public can earn a lot of money, it is highly appreciated,” Evans told the Tribune of Obama’s choice to serve. “It’s crucial that our society get the benefit of that kind of commitment.”

    Obama skipped jury duty at least once before when in 2010 he was pre-booked with the State of the Union. According to CBS News, the summons were sent to Obama’s former home on the South Side of Chicago, but the president told the county court that he wouldn’t be able to make it.

    Obama would not be the first former president to report for jury duty after leaving the Oval Office.

    In August 2015, more than six years after the end of his presidency, George W. Bush received his jury duty summon and reported to the George Allen Dallas County Civil Court building. Bush sat through the jury selection panel and, though not picked to serve as a juror, spent about three hours at the court and posed for photos with his fellow jury candidates.

    “If the former President can show up for jury duty what excuse do you have? #civicduty” tweeted a spectator.

    In March 2003, Bill Clinton became Prospective Juror No. 142 in federal court in Manhattan. The New York Times reported that Clinton, whose name was avoided in the court hearing, was eventually dismissed in the jury selection in a case involving a gang shooting in the Bronx.

    While serving as vice president, Joe Biden was called for jury duty in Delaware in January 2011. He too was not chosen as a juror.

    Even members of the judicial branch don’t always make the cut.

    In April 2015, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. reported for jury duty in Montgomery County, Maryland, and was being considered for a civil trial in a case involving a car crash. The Washington Post reported that Roberts answered questions about relatives — that his sister was a nurse and his brother-in-law was with Indiana State Police — but said nothing about his day job, which would be listed on a form.

    “Roberts was not selected, and left court without comment,” The Post reported.


    Former president Barack Obama to report for jury selection in IllinoisFormer president Barack Obama to report for jury selection in Illinois

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