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    WASHINGTON — Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas declared on Monday night that they would oppose the Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, killing for now a seven-year-old promise to overturn president Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

    The announcement by the senators, both Republicans, left their leaders two votes short of the necessary tally to begin debate on their bill to dismantle the health law. Two other Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine, had already said they would not support a procedural step to begin debate.

    “There are serious problems with Obamacare, and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it,” Moran said in a statement. He added that the Senate repeal bill “failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address health care’s rising costs.”

    Read more:

    Major insurance groups slam GOP health bill, say policy is ‘unworkable in any form’

    Can Republicans pass one of the most unpopular bills ever?: Analysis

    Trump suggests repealing Obamacare now, replacing it later if GOP senators can’t strike a deal

    In his own statement, Lee said of the bill, “In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.”

    By jumping together, Moran and Lee ensured that no one would be the definitive “no” vote.

    With four solid votes against the bill, Republican leaders were faced with two options: go back and try to rewrite the bill in a way that could secure 50 Republican votes, a seeming impossibility at this point, or do as Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, had promised and team with Democrats to draft a narrower, bipartisan measure to fix the flaws in the Affordable Care Act that both parties acknowledge.

    The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, responded to the announcement by urging his Republican colleagues to begin anew and, this time, undertake a bipartisan effort.

    “This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,” Schumer said. “Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system.”

    The opposition from Paul and Collins was expected, so McConnell had no margin for error as he unveiled the latest version of his bill. He survived through the weekend and until Monday night without losing another of his members — though some expressed misgivings or, at the very least, uncertainty.

    McConnell had wanted to move ahead with a vote this week, but was forced to abandon that plan after Sen. John McCain underwent surgery last week. That unexpected setback gave the forces that opposed the bill more time to pressure undecided senators. On Friday, the health insurance lobby, which had been largely silent during the fight, came off the sidelines to blast a key part of the latest Senate bill, saying it was unworkable, would send premiums soaring and would cost millions of Americans their insurance.

    McConnell has now failed twice in recent weeks to keep his caucus together for a planned vote. He first wanted to hold a vote in late June, only to postpone it after running into opposition.

    Lee, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, had championed a proposal that would allow insurers to sell low-cost, stripped-down plans — an idea that ended up being added to the latest version of McConnell’s bill. But the language added was not quite what Lee had been advocating, his office said after the bill was released.

    Moran faced pressure at home about how the bill would affect Kansas, including its rural hospitals. The Kansas Hospital Association said last week that the latest version “comes up short, particularly for our most vulnerable patients.”

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    A new federal blueprint for closing tax loopholes unfairly benefiting the wealthy will target Canadians who use private corporations to “sprinkle” income among family members to lower their collective tax burden, according to a Department of Finance document obtained by the Toronto Star.

    Finance Minister Bill Morneau is scheduled to unveil a package of proposed reforms at a press conference Tuesday morning, part of an ambitious commitment to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion that emerged in the aftermath of the Panama Papers.

    “There are signs that our system isn’t working as well as it should, specifically when it comes to private corporations,” writes Morneau in an opening letter contained in the 63-page report. “There are worrying trends. There is evidence that some may be using corporate structures to avoid paying their fair share, rather than to invest in their business and maintain their competitive advantage.”

    The government is launching a 75-day public consultation on the proposed measures that are designed to target tax advantages not available to most Canadians.

    “Over the last decade, the number of such private corporations has increased substantially and evidence indicates that a significant share of taxable income has been shifted from the personal to the corporate tax base,” reads the report.

    Read more:

    Canada is the world’s newest tax haven

    CRA pursuing criminal charges against Panama Papers tax cheats

    Income sprinkling is a key method of shifting the tax burden from individuals to corporations, the report says.

    Wealthy Canadians can now legally reduce their tax obligations by routing their incomes through private corporations. They then pay salaries to family members, such as their children, who are subject to lower personal tax rates or none at all.

    The government is working on new rules that would “help to determine whether compensation is reasonable, based on the family member’s contribution of value and financial resources to the private corporation,” reads the report.

    Morneau writes: “When the rules are used for personal benefit, they are not contributing to growing our economy. Rather, such practices can undermine confidence in our economy by giving tax advantages to a select few. We don’t think that’s fair.”

    As an illustration, the government report presents the hypothetical comparison of two wealthy Canadians who both earn $220,000.

    One of them, an employee, pays $79,000 in annual taxes.

    The other, who owns a private corporation, pays $44,000.

    That $35,000 tax break takes advantage of an accounting trick. The private corporation owner pays lower small-business tax rates and “sprinkles” a portion of the profits to a spouse and two children through low-tax dividends.

    The report does not address the issue of a public registry of corporate ownership in Canada — a measure widely considered to be an important step in the fight against tax evasion and avoidance.

    A Toronto Star investigation in January detailed the culture of corporate secrecy in Canada that can make it impossible to know the identity of real business owners — or “beneficial” owners.

    Britain adopted a public registry of “beneficial” corporate owners last year. It has been hailed by law enforcement and transparency advocates internationally as a breakthrough in removing the corporate veils that facilitate secret money flows.

    While absent in the report, a public corporate registry remains on the table, said Dan Lauzon, a spokesperson for Morneau.

    “It is definitely not on the back burner,” he said. “It just is not a part of this paper.”

    In a May speech in Toronto, Morneau talked about the lack of Canadian corporate ownership transparency as a “blind spot.”

    “We know we need to improve the availability of beneficial ownership information here at home to ensure law enforcement and tax authorities have timely access to this information to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, tax evasion and tax avoidance,” he said. “We can’t sit back and wait for another Panama Papers to tell us whether or not someone may be trying to hide their income from taxation.”

    Achieving that will require provincial co-ordination, he said, given that only 10 per cent of Canadian companies are federally incorporated — the rest are in provincial registries.

    The issue was on the agenda at a June meeting of finance ministers in Ottawa.

    “We discussed … ways to work together to develop a national strategy aimed at improving the availability of beneficial ownership information,” reads a Morneau press release following the meeting.

    Lauzon said Morneau’s initiative on the registry was “well received” by provincial finance ministers at the table.

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    Days after a continuing Toronto Star investigation revealed that Canadian girls are being sent abroad to be subjected to female genital mutilation, the federal government is not yet committing to track the cases, nor will it provide details on initiatives it is undertaking to prevent FGM from happening.

    “Female genital mutilation is an abhorrent and unacceptable practice. It is one of the most severe violations of the human rights of women and girls,” said a joint statement from Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef and International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. It added that Canada’s government is committed to addressing FGM “both at home and abroad.”

    The ministers’ statement went on to say that Canada “has and will continue to” make efforts to prevent and address FGM. It cited $101 million set aside in June for a strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence, and $150 million over five years to be given to local women’s organizations. This is in addition to $650 million over the next three years to support programs for sexual and reproductive health abroad.

    When pressed on exactly what the Canadian government is doing right now to address FGM, and whether it will start tracking known cases as other developed countries do, a spokesperson said the original statement stood.

    (The Star has previously reported on one initiative funded by Justice Canada: $350,000 to a Quebec organization now working to raise awareness around FGM.)

    Last week, the Star revealed that federal government officials are aware of cases in which Canadian girls are being taken abroad and subjected to FGM, an illegal practice known as vacation cutting. These same officials believe, based on the “limited information available,” that a few thousand girls are at risk.

    Canada has done little to understand the scope of the problem and is lagging far behind other developed countries in efforts to prevent it.

    For example, earlier this summer, U.S. Homeland Security launched a pilot program to help prevent vacation cutting. The program is based on an initiative at London’s Heathrow airport, where security agents are trained to identify girls at risk.

    The U.S., Britain and Australia have all undertaken research to determine the number of girls at risk: 507,000 in the U.S., 197,000 in the U.K. and 83,000 in Australia, according to an internal report from the Canada Border Services Agency.

    The CBSA report, initially reported on by Global News, deals primarily with what is strongly suspected by Canadian officials but, as yet, unknown: whether FGM is happening on Canadian soil.

    In the U.S., a doctor in Michigan was recently charged with carrying out the practice on up to 100 young girls, according to federal prosecutors, who say that no Canadian victims have so far been identified. There have also been cases in the U.K., France and Australia.

    Those who perform female genital mutilation, called FGM practitioners, are “almost certainly entering Canada” to engage in the practice, according to the five-page report, which was prepared by Canadian border intelligence for employees.

    “According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian health-care providers, it is almost certain that FGM is also happening in Canada,” despite it being illegal, the report says.

    A spokesperson for CBSA did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

    Female genital mutilation, also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, is a procedure that intentionally alters or causes injury to external female organs. It can be inflicted on girls as young as 1 and varies in severity from partial removal of the clitoris, to excising the clitoris and labia and stitching up the walls of the vulva to leave only a tiny opening. (The latter practice is known as infibulation.)

    FGM has no health benefits for girls and women. It can cause severe bleeding, problems with urination, and later cysts, infections, complications in childbirth and an increased risk of death for newborns, according to the World Health Organization.

    It can also deny women sexual pleasure.

    FGM affects more than 200 million women worldwide, according to UNICEF.

    In 1997, Canada’s Criminal Code was amended to include female genital mutilation as a form of aggravated assault. It’s not just the person performing the mutilation who can face justice. Provisions in the code also allow for others to be charged: for example, a parent who participates in the offence by holding a child’s hands or requests that someone perform it. And the amendments make it illegal to remove a child from Canada for the purpose of female genital mutilation.

    There has never been a criminal conviction for female genital mutilation in Canada.

    A practitioner of FGM would enter Canada with the purpose of committing a crime (aggravated assault), but “may not have the awareness that they are doing so,” the CBSA document says. It adds that, in Canada, the practitioner is most likely to be called to the home of a woman to be re-infibulated (re-sewn) after having a child, or to perform the practice on a young girl.

    Women who are at risk of FGM “do not present with the typical criteria for child abuse” and the practitioners “believe they are promoting the long-term well-being and social acceptability of the child.” The reception at airports is “likely to include the future ‘patient’ or their family members.”

    The report also includes photographs of tools that can be used to perform FGM, including razor blades, scissors and special herbs to place on the wounds. (The photos are presumed to be intended to assist border officials by depicting items they should look out for.)

    FGM is practised in 29 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East, India and other parts of Asia. It is seen by some as a rite of passage into womanhood or a condition of marriage. It occurs in both Islamic and Christian communities, but is largely a cultural tradition that dates back hundreds of years. In many areas, there is huge social pressure on families to have their daughters cut in this way.

    Some women who have had the procedure have asked their doctors to reverse it, the Star revealed. According to provincial records, in the past seven years Ontario has performed 308 “repairs of infibulations,” a surgery that creates a vaginal opening where it has been sewn mostly shut.

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    Justin Trudeau is having a rough summer. It turns out that a lot of Canadians aren’t thrilled about the federal government’s multimillion-dollar settlement payout to former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, arguably the only public face in the nation more handsome than the Prime Minister’s. (Say what you want about Khadr, but he’s got great bone structure.)

    However, where there is negative energy directed at a political leader there is also sunny distraction. I highly doubt it’s a coincidence that in the midst of the backlash against the Khadr settlement this past weekend, Trudeau released a summer playlist on Spotify called “PM Mix” — as if to say to the masses, in his own upbeat camp counsellor way, “I know we don’t always agree on everything, but let’s just sit by a fire and sing it out.”

    Personally, I have no issues with the playlist distraction method, popularized by former U.S. President Barack Obama, whose own Spotify selections favoured soul and jazz.

    Read more:Justin Trudeau’s summer playlist includes Drake, Fiona Apple

    But why must our own leader’s preferences be so painfully safe? PM MIX is a predictable nod to Canadian content across the genre board. Blue Rodeo? Check. Drake? Check. Chantal Kreviazuk? Check. Justin Bieber? Check. The Tragically Hip? Check. K-OS? Check. Only in Canada is it taboo for politicians to admit that the majority of art and entertainment they consume does not originate in our home and native land. (Maybe I’m totally out of line here, but I don’t believe for a second that the Prime Minister sits on his back deck blasting Hedley.) Our progressive leaders may tiptoe around issues of nationalism, avoiding a narrative of Canadian exceptionalism like the plague, but when it comes to the arts, they are Canadian-content evangelists.

    I know what some of you might be thinking: what’s the big deal? Trudeau is the Prime Minister of Canada. Obviously he’s not going to plug “Born in the USA” as his song of summer, and besides, several of the tracks included on PM MIX aren’t by Canadian artists, and furthermore, many of them are by Canadian artists who have yet to hit it big; for example, maritime rapper Quake Matthews. A spot on such a list might give these lesser-known musicians the publicity push they need to succeed in a music business where young people hardly ever pay to listen.

    Fine. But why the nod to Drake, Bieber and Blue Rodeo? These are hardly artists who need a boost from the federal government. And if the government is in the business of cheerleading for rock stars, where’s Nickelback on PM MIX? It appears that Nickelback, a band surprisingly far more beloved in our nation than loathed, is routinely shafted in the political playlist game.

    Earlier this year, when Vice media asked candidates running for leader of the federal Conservative party to provide the media company with personal playlists of their own, not one candidate among the handful who responded included a Nickelback song; not even populist rabble-rouser, Kellie Leitch, who shouted out Carly Rae-Jepsen instead. (You’d think among the Conservatives, there’d be at least one out and proud Nickelback fan, but no.)

    Like Trudeau, Conservative leadership candidate Chris Alexander took the safe Cancon route in his response to Vice, championing Drake and the Tragically Hip, among others. Michael Chong’s list was a bit more interesting with nods to Rihanna and New Order, but he managed to sneak The Hip and Gordon Lightfoot in there too. The most Indie playlist came courtesy of lesser-known candidate Erin O’Toole, who is a fan of Australian psychedelic rockers Tame Impala; proof, perhaps, that the less name recognition a leader has, the cooler his playlist will be.

    Of course it’s possible that Canadian leaders genuinely love Cancon more than the average Canadian; that this love isn’t a political performance, but an authentic sample of their BBQ soundtracks. Our nation does after all produce a lot of great music. But it would be nice if every now and then a Canadian leader revealed his or her true colours, even when those colours strayed from the red and white. And it would be wildly refreshing if he or she just came out one day and said it: “You know what, I’m actually not crazy about The Tragically Hip.” “Arcade Fire? Yeah, they don’t really do it for me.” “Chantal Kreviazuk? I’m sorry but I don’t know who that is.”

    Alas, the religious doctrine of Cancon lives on. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a last-ditch effort to absolve himself in the eyes of the Canadian public, Omar Khadr released a summer mix of his own: a playlist even more fanatically Canuck than the Prime Minister’s. Think Stompin Tom Connors, Céline Dion, Our Lady Peace and, fingers crossed, Nickelback. It’s time they got their due.

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    The battle for a better bra is heading to court.

    Lululemon Athletica is suing Under Armour for allegedly copying a sports bra design, showing just how critical it has become for retailers to reinvent the ubiquitous undergarment.

    According to Lululemon, its $52 Energy Bra — which has four straps that criss-cross in the back — “does it all.” Which is why, the Vancouver-based company says, it’s suing rival Under Armour for patent and trademark infringements. In its lawsuit, filed this month, Lululemon says it takes issue with four of Under Armour’s sports bras, which range from the $29.99 Armour Strappy to the $39.99 Armour Eclipse Low Impact.

    In the filing, Lululemon says “Under Armour’s unauthorized acts have caused and will continue to cause irreparable damage to Lululemon and its business.”

    A spokeswoman for Lululemon declined to comment for this story. A representative for Baltimore-based Under Armour said the company “takes the intellectual property rights of others very seriously.”

    The two companies are fighting for a piece of the fast-growing sports bra market, which analysts say accounts for more than $1 billion in U.S. sales a year. Last year, Lululemon executives said third-quarter bra sales grew more than 20 per cent.

    Patent lawyers say lawsuits of this type are rare in the fashion industry, mostly because few retailers are willing to go through the trouble — or expense — of securing design patents for their products.

    “This is a long, expensive process — we’re talking at least a year and half, and several thousand dollars — just to get the patent,” said Laura Ganoza, an intellectual property lawyer in Miami. “That’s a lifetime in the fashion industry, where the lifespan of an article of clothing is a season, if you’re lucky.”

    Lululemon, which has more than three dozen design patents, “clearly sees this bra as a product that’s going to have a long shelf life,” she added. In order to secure the patent, the company had to prove that the sports bra’s straps were an original, “non obvious” design that has ornamental value (as opposed to being strictly functional).

    “The bar for obtaining a design patent is high, which is one reason you don’t see many cases like this,” said Christopher Larus, an intellectual property lawyer in Minneapolis. “If this case moves forward, I would expect there will be a fair amount of focus on whether Lululemon’s designs are truly novel, or whether this is something that’s been done before.”

    Sports bras and bralettes have been driving much of the recent growth in the bra industry, which for years has been dominated by Victoria’s Secret. But recently, the company’s sales have been plunging, creating an opening for online startups, sportswear companies and others to step in.

    “When you have one player that owns the majority of the market, as Victoria’s Secret did, you start to see a real loss of innovation,” said Heidi Zak, co-founder of direct-to-consumer bra company Third Love. “The status quo is what people get used to, and companies don’t see a need to create anything different. We’re finally starting to see that change.”

    Third Love, for example, offers half-sizes that range from AA to G cups, and is expanding up to size K this week. (Victoria’s Secret, by comparison, maxes out at DDD.) Other startups, like True & Co. offer bras without wires, elastic or padding.

    “There’s a realization that consumers are looking for a new kind of bra — whether new fabrics or approaches to sizing — and companies are rushing to tackle that problem in one way or another,” retail analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said. “And it seems to me that Lululemon is trying to protect its designs and potentially scare off competitors.”

    This isn’t the first time the company, which last year had $2.34 billion in revenue, has taken a competitor to court. In 2012, Lululemon sued Calvin Klein for allegedly copying the waistband design on its $98 Astro Pant. The companies later settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

    “What Lululemon is doing here is staking its turf,” Jeremy de Beer, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, told Reuters at the time. “The business strategy is to deter other people from even trying to copy designs, because it’s going to cause them legal problems.”

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    EDMONTON—It’s time to take a deep breath and put pot on the back burner for an extra year, says Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

    He’s trying to persuade his provincial and territorial counterparts at their annual conference to ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to delay the legalization of cannabis 12 months to July 1, 2019.

    That would increase the chances of avoiding the “hodge-podge” of different provincial ages of majority and regulations now seen with beer, wine and spirits, Pallister said Tuesday.

    “I would hope we could learn from that and not re-create that for cannabis,” he added, acknowledging age of majority and regulations such as where pot will be sold are under provincial jurisdiction.

    Pallister also raised concerns about public and traffic safety, health impacts and more, including ways of measuring cannabis impairment for drivers.

    “There are too many unanswered questions, too many issues that have not been addressed for us to rush into what is an historic change.”

    Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said his province is working toward the deadline of Canada Day next year but wouldn’t mind an extension because there are “a lot of moving parts” in legalizing cannabis.

    “Could we have greater continuity in this? It would be desirable but hard to pull off in a short period of time,” Wall told reporters.

    “We don’t have continuity….in terms of liquor laws obviously every province is a different place. Just consider the age piece.”

    Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the small size of the Maritime provinces makes it important for them to be on the same page, although his administration believes it can meet the July 1 deadline next year.

    “In Atlantic Canada, there needs to be a uniform age, there needs to be uniform regulations across our respective provinces. I believe that could potentially lead to, perhaps, across the country.”

    McNeil said 19 “makes sense” as the age of majority for buying marijuana — the same age his province has set for alcohol.

    Ontario isn’t counting on an extension as it conducts public consultations on cannabis in advance of next July’s deadline.

    But Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted work is still being done to develop policies on public and traffic safety and protecting the health of youth with legalized cannabis — along with where it will be sold.

    “Those questions have not been answered. That’s the work that we have to do now in conjunction with the federal government.”

    Speaking for Quebec, Premier Philippe Couillard said a delay would be “fine” but he isn’t expecting one.

    “We’ve heard the prime minister say he was very firm on July 1… so we’re working under the assumption that this will be the date. A lot of work needs to be done.”

    Pallister said some of that work involves stronger campaigns to make driving under the influence of cannabis as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving has become.

    “Attitudes have to change. Attitudes take time to change and it takes a strong, focused campaign for young people to help them understand the dangers. And not exclusively young people,” he added.

    “I don’t think it has been properly or fully addressed.”

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    When Toronto actor Mena Massoud, 25, was announced as the star of Disney’s live-action Aladdin on Saturday, July 15, he had 4,042 followers on Instagram. By Tuesday, he had more than quintupled that to 23,200.

    Rarely has overnight success (OK, technically three nights) been as sudden as it has for the unknown Egyptian-Canadian whose own wishes of Hollywood stardom were granted when he was cast as the swaggering “street rat,” the beloved title character of Disney’s 1992 animated musical.

    Though he always knew he wanted to be an actor, as a teenager, Mena Massoud (pronounced Mee-nah Mah-sood) has said he dropped out of drama to focus on science and math while a student at Brother André Catholic High School in Markham. Though he studied neuroscience for a year at the University of Toronto, he ultimately dropped out of the program and enrolled in Ryerson’s School of Performance, graduating in 2014.

    “A lot of the Egyptian community is made up of doctors, pharmacists and engineers,” he said in a 2015 interview with the Markham Economist & Sun. “All throughout high school I took sciences, but eventually I chose to pursue what I truly want to do.

    “I love my parents and we have a terrific relationship. They have been very supportive of my career choice.”

    Massoud was born in Egypt, but moved to Toronto when he was just 3. Amid building his résumé with roles in escapist Toronto-shot TV productions such as Nikita, Combat Hospital, teen hospital dramaOpen Heart, and Saving Hope, his personal life was touched by tragedy. On Instagram last year, he paid tribute to the late Sarmad Iskandar, a fellow Ryerson theatre student who drowned in Lake Ontario in 2012.

    He posted a photo last March of them together with the hashtag “#BFF” and the caption, “Always on my mind, forever in my heart, eternally a part of my soul. Your legend is forever.”

    Through 2017, Massoud has been splitting his time between Toronto, Los Angeles and Montreal, where Amazon’s series Jack Ryan has been filming with The Office’s John Krasinski in the title role. Massoud plays Tarek Kassar, a CIA analyst. His busier acting schedule could mean fewer side gigs: just a year ago, he posted a photo of himself working in 40-degree heat at El Catrin in the Distillery District.

    Aladdin begins shooting in London next month. Disney and director Guy Ritchie reportedly auditioned 2,000 actors for the title role and that of Princess Jasmine, with Oscar nominee Dev Patel and Rogue One’s Riz Ahmed also in the running for the lead.

    Naomi Scott, who played Pink Ranger Kimberly in this year’s Power Rangers movie, has been cast as Jasmine. Will Smith will play the Genie role made famous by the late Robin Williams.

    Disney is no doubt hoping this worldwide open call has a smoother aftermath than its recent exhaustive search for a young Han Solo. A 2,500-actor search for an upcoming Star Wars prequel selected Hail Caesar! star Alden Ehrenreich. Then the film’s would-be directors, Lego Movie veterans Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, were fired last month from the troubled production; meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter wrote that the 27-year-old Ehrenreich is now working with an acting coach.

    Physically, at least, Massoud appears ready for his close-up. The actor shares regular updates on his physical fitness on Instagram, mentioning a vegan diet and “intermittent fasting,” which might be contributing to a lean-muscle physique and six-pack fit for Aladdin’s shirtless-with-a-vest look.

    And he already has some experience bringing a Disney animated classic to life. In one Instagram post, he’s seen recreating the iconic spaghetti-eating sequence from 1955’s Lady and the Tramp with a male friend. Let’s just hope he quits before tackling Bambi’s gazing-in-wonder-at-the-butterfly-on-his-butt bit.

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    It is one of our most basic democratic principles — and a relatively uncontroversial one, I thought — that every vote should count equally.

    But apparently not everyone agrees. City councillors Justin Di Ciano and Giorgio Mammoliti are currently engaged in a fight to overturn a democratic decision that was meant to ensure voting equality. They want the Ontario Municipal Board to overrule city council and preserve a system that gives voters in some areas twice as much say in city council decisions as in other areas. It’s ridiculous, as is their rhetoric about it.

    In Canadian representative democracy, like other places, the principle of voter equality is carried out in practice through a representation-by-population method of selecting our legislative bodies like Parliament and city council. A 2011 report from U of T’s Mowatt Centre went so far as to say “Representation by population was one of the principal forces behind the creation of Canada and is a key pillar of democracy.”

    The growth and change of the population and various areas over time makes exact equal representation hard to achieve, but the goal would be to try to have ward or riding boundaries that ensure a roughly equal number of constituents served by each elected representative.

    Toronto’s growth and change has been hyperactive in the past couple of decades, and as a result our wards have become staggeringly disproportionate. In 2014, the most populous ward (27, Toronto-Centre Rosedale) had more than twice as many residents as the least populous (Ward 18, Davenport). This means the councillor for Ward 27 has to represent twice as many people as the one in Ward 18 — with twice the burden on her time, twice the demands on her attention. Perhaps more distressingly, it means that when city council comes to vote on a big issue the residents of Ward 18 get twice as much say in the matter as those in Ward 27. Ninety-five thousand downtown residents get one vote at council on the issue, while 45,000 west-end residents also get one vote.

    This is transparently unjust.

    According to a city report, a population variation by ward or riding of 10 per cent from the average population might be considered acceptable in a democracy — you can’t get exact, so plus or minus 10 points may be close enough. As it stood at the end of the last election, six of our 44 wards (three of them representing the entire downtown core) have populations more than 20 per cent higher than the average. There are six wards with populations at least 20 per cent lower than average. Only 19 wards — less than half of them — were within that acceptable 10 per cent of the average population range.

    The city’s representation, in other words, has grown grossly disproportionate.

    City council recognized this. It commissioned a ward boundary review to study the issue over a couple of years, consider options, hold public hearings and surveys on the options, and present them to city council. City council voted on a more equal system that would add three new councillors and redraw some ward boundaries — the effect is to keep the average ward population at about 60,000 residents (as it is now) until at least 2026, and have each ward closer to the average (to reestablish voter equality).

    This, according to a statement put out by Mammoliti, is a problem because, “there will be too much weight given to the downtown part of the city that is already unfairly subsidized by the rest of the city.” This characteristic bit of divisive slime from Mammoliti was handily mopped up by my Metro colleague Matt Elliott in a column this week. I won’t repeat all of his rebuttal, but will reiterate that the three downtown wards in question here, which by my math house just under 10 per cent of the city’s population, contribute 25 per cent of the city’s total tax revenue. Those three wards have 6.8 per cent of the seats on city council.

    The downtown core, as Elliott writes, is also home to a third of the city’s jobs and produces 51 per cent of its GDP. “Downtown’s Ward 20 contributes in excess of four times more revenue from residential property taxes than Mammoliti’s Ward 7,” Elliott writes.

    Downtown is not subsidized by other areas. Downtown is the goose laying golden eggs we get to distribute all around the city.

    But even if it were an impoverished area needing subsidies from the rest of the city, it would still deserve equal democratic representation. As a representative fond of reminding us of the legitimately have-not status of much of his own ward, one would think Mammoliti would understand that.

    Instead, he and Di Ciano are seeking to have an appointed appeal board overturn the decision — or at least put off hearing the matter long enough to mean the new boundaries can’t be implemented in next year’s election.

    There’s something clownish in these officials trying to get provincial appointees to overturn a decision made by the elected body on which they serve. And there’s an extra dose of irony in that the new boundary system was passed by a two-thirds majority of a city council that was elected under the rules Di Ciano and Mammoliti are trying to preserve. You’d think if they respected the legitimacy of the system they are arguing for, they’d respect the decisions it produces.

    The democratic vote of city council, attempting to preserve and better reflect a basic principle of democratic government. That’s what these guys are trying to torpedo.

    Whatever it is they support, it ain’t democracy. Since we get no vote in the matter at all, we can only hope the board sends them packing. And perhaps the voters in the next election may do the same.

    Edward Keenan writes on city issues . Follow: @thekeenanwire

    0 0

    WASHINGTON—Hours into a long dinner with world leaders who had gathered for the Group of 20 summit meeting, U.S. President Donald Trump left his chair at the sprawling banquet table and headed to where President Vladimir Putin of Russia was seated. Earlier in the day, the two presidents had met for the first time, yielding what the Trump administration later described as a warm rapport, even as they talked about Russia’s interference in the United States’ 2016 elections.

    The July 7 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, was the single most scrutinized of the Trump presidency. But it turned out there was another, potentially just as important, encounter: a roughly hour-long one-on-one discussion over dinner that was only overheard by a Kremlin-provided interpreter.

    No presidential relationship has been more dissected than the one between Trump and Putin, a dynamic only heightened by the swirl of investigations into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to sway the election in his favour. Nevertheless, the meeting was confirmed by the White House only on Tuesday, after some attendees privately expressed surprise that it had occurred.

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

    The dinner discussion caught the attention of other leaders around the table, some of whom later remarked privately on the odd spectacle of an American president seeming to single out the Russian leader for special attention at a summit meeting that included some of the United States’ staunchest, oldest allies.

    The White House acknowledged the conversation on Tuesday but said there was nothing unusual about it, batting aside the suggestion that it had been deliberately hidden from public view.

    Late Tuesday night, Trump derided news reports about it as “sick.” He said the dinner was not a secret, since all of the world leaders at the summit meeting and their spouses were invited by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. “Press knew!” he tweeted.

    “Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!” Trump added.

    Read more:

    Trump confronted Putin on election meddling in ‘robust and lengthy’ meeting, Tillerson says

    The first Trump-Putin handshake just happened (with the world holding its breath)

    Trump tweets that U.S. should ‘move forward’ with Russia

    While the private leaders-and-spouses dinner was on Trump’s public schedule, the news media was not allowed to witness any part of it, nor were reporters provided with an account of what transpired. Trump’s traveling press contingent did note, however, that his motorcade left the dinner four minutes after Putin’s did.

    The conversation took place at a private meal that lasted more than three hours after a concert for the leaders and their spouses at the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall on the banks of the Elbe River.

    In the earlier, formal meeting, Trump said later, he asked the Russian president twice about his role in the U.S. vote. Putin denied involvement, and the two men agreed to move beyond the dispute in the interest of finding common ground on other matters, including a limited cease-fire in Syria.

    There is no official U.S. government record of the intimate dinner conversation, because no American official other than the president was involved.

    “Pretty much everyone at the dinner thought this was really weird, that here is the president of the United States, who clearly wants to display that he has a better relationship personally with President Putin than any of us, or simply doesn’t care,” said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a New York-based research and consulting firm, who said he had heard directly from attendees. “They were flummoxed, they were confused and they were startled.”

    The encounter occurred more than midway through the lengthy dinner, when Trump left his chair and approached Putin, who had been seated next to the first lady, Melania Trump. It was described to Bremmer by other guests as lasting roughly an hour; this was later confirmed by a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    But Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, disputed that account. He said Trump had described the exchange with Putin as purely social, and as lasting far less than an hour. “It was pleasantries and small talk,” Spicer said.

    In a separate statement, the White House said the two presidents had spoken through the Kremlin’s interpreter because the American translator with Trump did not speak Russian.

    Experts in United States-Russia relations said such an encounter — even on an informal basis at a social event — was a concern because of its length, which suggested a substantive exchange, and because there was no note taker or national security or foreign policy aide present.

    “We’re all going to be wondering what was said, and that’s where it’s unfortunate that there was no U.S. interpreter, because there is no independent American account of what happened,” said Steven Pifer, a former ambassador to Ukraine who also specializes in Russia and nuclear arms control.

    “If I was in the Kremlin, my recommendation to Putin would be, ‘See if you can get this guy alone,’ and that’s what it sounds like he was able to do,” added Pifer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

    The Trump administration is struggling to improve its relationship with Russia while under pressure from multiple investigations into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Those inquiries have cast a shadow over what would normally be seen as an attempt at diplomacy between world leaders.

    The evening after his two meetings with Putin — the first lasting 135 minutes and the second an hour — Trump returned to Washington. On the Air Force One flight back, his top advisers helped draft a statement about a meeting his son Donald Trump Jr. attended last year with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

    “We have the worst relationship as a country right now with Russia than we have in decades, and yet we have these two leaders that, for reasons that do not make sense and have not been explained to anyone’s satisfaction, are hell-bent on adoring each other,” Bremmer said. “You can take everything that’s been given to us, and it doesn’t add up.”

    0 0

    Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau says secret corporate ownership in Canada will soon end with new rules compelling Canadian company owners to reveal themselves in government filings — a public policy move widely viewed as crucial in the battle against tax evasion and money laundering.

    But he would not commit to making the identities of Canadian corporate owners public.

    “In order to get at the understanding of who owns what, there’s really no other way to get at this,” Morneau said an interview with the Star on Tuesday, vowing to lead a national initiative that will eventually require actual company owners — or “beneficial” owners — to list themselves in their corporate registrations.

    “We believe that this is important information to have to understand how people are arranging their affairs and to ensure that we’re not allowing people to inappropriately use corporate structures for tax avoidance.”

    Read more:Ottawa to close loopholes used by rich to dodge tax

    While public corporate registries in Canada must include a list of directors, it is easy for beneficial owners to retain anonymity by hiding behind figureheads, lawyers and numbered companies.

    As it stands in Canada, it is possible to register a corporation, open a bank account, and send and receive money overseas all without disclosing one’s name — the same kind of secrecy offered by traditional tax havens.

    A Star investigation earlier this year detailed how Canada’s corporate secrecy has been identified internationally by an industry of tax avoidance experts who now sell this country as a safe place to hide wealth, free from prying eyes.

    On dozens of global websites, the Canadian flag is used to entice foreigners seeking anonymous companies fronted by nominee directors that can be set up overnight and used to hide wealth without the stigma that comes with traditional tax havens — a service called “snow washing.”

    Even the governments that collect corporate registrations in Canada don’t know the identities of beneficial owners at the helms of the corporations they regulate.

    Changing that will require consensus among the 10 provincial finance ministries, which oversee about 90 per cent of all corporate registrations in the country. (The federal corporate registry contains only about 10 per cent of the national total.)

    “When I came into this office, this (issue) was a challenge to get people to think about because they pointed out correctly that the issue … is a constitutional one, because you’ve got the reality that this is provincial jurisdiction in the case of 90 per cent of the corporations,” Morneau said.

    “My response was that that is not a good enough answer and we need to get at this.”

    In three separate meetings with his provincial finance counterparts dating back to last year, there has been strong support for change, he said.

    “I will tell you that everyone else around the table understands … how important this is for the country,” he said. “I’m not experiencing any resistance from any quarters … We are going to make progress on this. This is going to be an agenda item at every one of my (federal-provincial) meetings and I hope and expect that we’ll have a more concrete set of timelines and deliverables by the next time that we get together.”

    Britain is the international model for beneficial ownership transparency. Last year, the country launched a public beneficial registry that requires owners to identify themselves.

    It is now a publicly searchable website that details each company’s owners and directors, their months and years of birth, nationalities, countries of residence, mailing addresses and dates of appointment, along with the corporations’ annual financial returns and filing history.

    Law enforcement officials in Britain and beyond have hailed the registry as a breakthrough tool in helping investigators, accountants, investigative journalists and the public conduct due diligence on corporate activities including illicit wealth movement, money laundering, corruption and offshore tax evasion.

    Morneau is not prepared to go that far.

    “I’ll have to get back to you. There are obviously always going to be privacy concerns. We haven’t yet crossed that Rubicon with the provinces,” he said. “I haven’t yet got a complete consensus even in the federal government with the privacy issues, but they are significant.”

    The objective, he said, is a system that deters tax avoidance, not a system that “allows people to pruriently look into their neighbours’ affairs.”

    Morneau’s comments follow Tuesday’s release of a 63-page plan, first reported in the Star, detailing proposed reforms that would target “unfairness” in Canada’s taxation system benefiting the wealthy.

    The reforms are designed to close regulatory gaps being legally exploited by sophisticated Canadians using private corporations to lower their tax burdens.

    Among those strategies being exploited: “sprinkling” income among family members in private corporations in order to take advantage of lower corporate tax rates; holding income in passive investments inside a private corporation in order to benefit from lower tax rates than would be imposed on individuals; and converting a private company’s income into capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate inside a corporation.

    There are about two million private corporations now in Canada — an eightfold increase from the 240,000 that existed in 1972, Morneau said. Their share of gross domestic product has doubled in the past 15 years.

    Knowing who is behind that ballooning number of corporations is part of the government’s wider strategy to root out tax avoidance, he said.

    The Star’s reporting on tax avoidance and evasion has also highlighted the role that international tax agreements — many with traditional tax havens such as Barbados, the British Virgin Island and Panama — have played in the movement of Canadian wealth offshore.

    Morneau said the government’s strategy will address abuses of those agreements.

    “We are going to try to find ways to ensure that people aren’t taking that constructive business relationship we have with Barbados and turning it into a tax advantage,” he said. “That requires us to do some work. We’re going to do that work. But we’re not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

    0 0

    MONTREAL—Canada is investigating reports that two Canadians are among 20 women and girls captured by Iraqi forces hunting for Daesh militants in Mosul, according to a government spokesperson.

    As families of Canadian foreign fighters desperately await news of their loved ones, government officials are also searching for facts and truth in the fog of a brutal war days after the Iraqi government declared victory over the terror group.

    On Tuesday morning, those families awoke to reports that a group of about 20 female militants loyal to Daesh had been captured while hiding out in a secret tunnel in Mosul’s Quleiat neighbourhood.

    A report citing an Iraqi counterterrorism official said that there were five Germans, three Russians, three Turks, two Canadians, a Chechen and six others from Libya and Syria who had been detained.

    That information could not be independently verified by the Star. Global Affairs Canada said in a statement that it is trying to confirm details of the report with the Iraqi government.

    “We are aware of these media reports. Canadian officials are contacting local authorities and gathering additional information,” said Jocelyn Sweet.

    Herman Okomba-Deparice, the director of Montreal’s Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence, said he has received calls from the worried parents of Canadian foreign fighters who fear for their childrens’ lives.

    “I recently spoke with a mother whose child is there. The parents are worried. There are some parents who haven’t had any news from their children since the bombing of Mosul began. It’s a time of desperation right now,” he said.

    “There are some parents who have maintained communication with their children, who give them updates from time to time. But in the last four or five weeks it has been radio silence.”

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over Daesh on July 10, calling it “the end and the failure of the fake state” and “a victory over brutality and terrorism.”

    In the days since that declaration, Iraqi military forces have been digging through the rubble for militants hiding out in the city.

    There was little information available about the females captured in Mosul. Haider al-Araji, an Iraqi counterterrorism official cited by several media outlets said the females were members of a Daesh police unit and were armed with weapons and explosive belts.

    German authorities are reportedly attempting to verify that one of the females is a 16-year-old German school girl believed to have fled her country in July 2016.

    Alexandra Bain, the director of Hayat Canada, an organization that supports families of radicalized individuals, said that the Islamic terror group aimed to recruit young women below the age of 20.

    “Before you had too many critical thinking skills,” she said. “They were very successful and the fact that 20 young women want to come home or were caught, this is now what we’re facing.”

    She said the families of those whose children have been captured rather than killed in the assault on Mosul are likely to experience a temporary relief from their anxiety. After, they will be plunged into a nightmare of returning to their home country and facing justice or counseling for their extremist beliefs as well as the horrors they have participated in or lived through.

    “I think these kids are the lucky ones having gotten caught. There’s still always a possibility that their minds can change, that they can grow. When you’re dead there’s not much growing that happens.”

    Okomba-Deparice said Canada should push to bring its captured citizens back home. Those who have committed crimes should be charged and tried. But others will need counseling and support, he said.

    “We have young people and those who have lived through horror. We also have children who have been born over there. The problem is larger than we think,” he said.

    However he worries that the federal government is ill-equipped to face the full extent of the problem with just a small number of officials on the ground in Iraq.

    “I think Canada has to have a greater presence. We have to take this seriously because there are still about 200 Canadians in Syria and Iraq.”

    0 0

    An off-duty cop outside his jurisdiction. A young Black man allegedly beaten with a metal pipe. A family making accusations of racial profiling and a mishandled police investigation.

    Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit announced Tuesday that Toronto police Const. Michael Theriault has been charged in connection with “serious injuries” suffered by a 19-year-old in Whitby in December.

    The SIU, which investigates deaths, serious injuries or alleged sexual assaults involving police, has not released the name of the 19-year-old, or any details of the incident.

    But Leisa Lewis has told the Star that the young man is her son, Dafonte Miller.

    “I can’t picture this happening to a group of white kids walking through a neighbourhood,” Lewis said. “So I do think race played some part in it.”

    Theriault, who was arrested Tuesday and released on bail, faces charges of aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and public mischief.

    Neither Toronto police nor the SIU would comment on the events that led to the charges, but Julian Falconer, a Toronto lawyer hired by the man’s family, outlined his client’s version of what led to Miller’s injuries and Theriault’s eventual arrest. None of the allegations have been proven in court, and Miller’s mother said he is still too traumatized by the incident to talk about it with reporters.

    The incident began in the early hours of Dec. 28, 2016, Falconer said. Miller and two friends were walking to the house of another friend, not far from the home Miller shares with his family.

    Theriault, whom Falconer described as white, was in the garage of his family’s home when Miller and his friends passed by. The SIU confirmed in its press release that Theriault was off-duty at the time.

    Falconer said Theriault identified himself as a police officer and asked the young men where they lived and what they were doing in the neighbourhood. When Miller and his friends continued walking, Theriault chased them, Falconer said. Miller’s friends ran away, but Miller was punched, kicked, and struck in the face repeatedly with a metal pipe, according to Falconer.

    Falconer said that Miller called 911 during the alleged beating, but that when the operator answered, Theriault took the phone and said he was a police officer who had made an arrest.

    Theriault later told Durham police that Miller had been beating him with a metal pipe, Falconer said.

    When Durham police arrived at the scene, according to the SIU press release, they arrested a 19-year-old, who was later taken to hospital and “diagnosed with serious injuries.”

    Falconer said Miller suffered a broken nose, broken orbital bone, fractured right wrist and an eye so badly damaged that it will have to be removed.

    Photos taken by Miller’s family, and provided to the Star by Falconer, show Miller in a hospital bed, his left eye swollen after surgery.

    Miller was charged on Dec. 28 with possession of a weapon, two counts of assault with a weapon, theft under $5,000 and possession of marijuana, court officials in Durham told the Star.

    The charges indicate that the weapon in question was a “pole,” court officials said.

    Court records show that all charges against Miller were dropped in May, without a trial, at the request of the Crown attorney.

    “Dafonte wasn’t doing anything wrong,” said Falconer. “There was no basis for this individual to be in any way confronted by the off-duty officer.”

    Officers at the scene “interviewed multiple people,” said Durham police spokesperson Dave Selby.

    “It would be inappropriate to discuss our investigative findings or any details of the incident, given the current charges before the court against the off-duty officer,” Selby added.

    In its press release, the SIU said it was informed of the Dec. 28 incident by the alleged victim’s lawyer four months after it took place. Falconer said the fact that it was his office who had to contact the SIU — as opposed to Durham or Toronto police — raises questions about police accountability.

    Under Ontario’s Police Services Act, which regulates law enforcement in the province, a chief of police must “notify the SIU immediately of an incident involving one or more of his or her police officers that may reasonably be considered to fall within the investigative mandate of the SIU.”

    The SIU says it “will not normally investigate off-duty police officers acting in the course of their private lives,” but an investigation will be conducted if an off-duty officer identifies themselves as a member of the police during the incident, or if police equipment or property is involved.

    Asked why Durham police did not contact the police watchdog, Selby said “it is the responsibility of the police service that employs the (involved) officer to contact the SIU.”

    Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash said he “can’t comment on someone else’s investigation. This is the SIU’s investigation.”

    Pugash also refused to comment on the general rules for contacting the SIU.

    The responsibility to contact the SIU should lie with whichever police force is first notified of an incident, said former SIU director Howard Morton.

    “They might decide to contact the police service that the officer is a member of, to have them contact the SIU, but I was always of the view that, because (police) have to contact us right away, then it’s whatever police service is (initially) notified,” Morton added.

    Pugash said Theriault has been suspended with pay. Salary disclosure information made public by the government of Ontario shows that a Const. Michael James Theriault of Toronto police made $102,771.72 in 2016.

    Theriault is scheduled to appear in court in Oshawa on Aug. 10.

    Lewis said she still sees the emotional toll the injuries have taken on her son.

    “He goes minute by minute,” she said. “He will have an OK moment but then he will have a breakdown … He’s still scared. He’s still in that moment. To him it’s still fresh.”

    Before the alleged beating, Miller was a funny, outgoing young man, Lewis said.

    He loved to crack jokes with his family. He played basketball and wrote rap and R&B music. He was talking about going to college for mechanical engineering.

    But Miller is quieter now, Lewis said. He’s doesn’t write music anymore or talk about going to college.

    “I just hope that my son gets justice for what happened to him,” said Lewis.

    “Then he can heal and go back to being my fun-loving kid … making plans and dreaming and talking about things he’s going to accomplish.”

    0 0

    Larry Rosen doesn’t think anyone would be crazy enough to pay more for Prada shoes or a Hugo Boss sweater in his stores in Canada if they could get them cheaper online in the U.S.

    And that worries the CEO of Toronto-based luxury retailer Harry Rosen Inc., since it’s one of the demands on the table from the U.S. for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    “It would be a very, very serious and hurtful thing for Canadian retailers,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

    Read more:

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    “American retailers would have an enormous advantage over us,” Rosen noted.

    The Canadian government currently allows goods valued up to $20 to enter into the country — whether mailed, delivered by courier or transported — without charging duty or sales taxes.

    The U.S. is proposing that the so-called “de minimis” shipment threshold be increased to a “value comparable” to its $800 (U.S.) limit, which will make many of their goods much cheaper for Canadians but, as Rosen said, “basically, you kill your domestic retailers.”

    “It would create a tax incentive for Canadians to shop anywhere else but Canada,” said Karl Littler, vice-president of public affairs for the Retail Council of Canada, which has fought for years against raising the limit for fear of how hard it would hit the domestic retail sector.

    But online powerhouses including eBay, Amazon and UPS (U.S. companies that operate across North America), are leading the lobby to raise the threshold, arguing it benefits consumers on both sides of the border.

    The threshold has been in place for decades and is one of the lowest in the world.

    “The current threshold — which was set well before the advent of e-commerce — creates an automatic disadvantage for Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses and it is high time that this regulation be updated to reflect the realities of modern trade,” said Andrea Stairs, managing director at eBay Canada.

    Earlier this year, more than 50,000 Canadian eBay users signed a letter to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau requesting the increase.

    Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada, is all for raising the threshold, too.

    He points out that today, shoppers pay a hefty premium when buying goods online from outside Canada, noting that in addition to sales tax, Canadian consumers face duties of up to 35 per cent.

    “We’ve been lobbying for this for years because it allows us access to real-world prices for goods,” Cran said.

    A Nanos poll conducted on behalf of the Canadian American Business Council found that 76 per cent of Canadians were in favour of increasing the de minimis limit.

    But Rosen said the reason that big players are pushing for the increase is so that they can do business more cheaply by not having to operate distribution centres in Canada.

    “If this goes through, I would have to set up a distribution centre in Buffalo to compete,” he added.

    0 0

    WASHINGTON—Trumpcare is toast.

    In a colossal public defeat for U.S. President Donald Trump and his party, Republican leaders failed in their attempt to repeal Obamacare after they were unable to gain sufficient Senate support for a widely unpopular bill that would have resulted in millions of people losing their health insurance.

    Trump said he would now “let Obamacare fail” — suggesting, remarkably, that he would rather let Americans suffer than fix lingering problems with the nation’s health-care system.

    “It will be a lot easier,” he said. “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”

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

    Some Republican members of Congress came to believe they were better off punting on repeal-and-replace than getting punished in future elections for passing a bad bill. But the outcome is difficult to spin as anything other than a political calamity.

    Trump declared during his campaign that repealing Obamacare would be “so easy.” Instead, he wasted his precious first six months on a proposal that went nowhere even with Republican control of Congress. And Republicans were unable to deliver on a pledge central to their campaigns for seven years.

    The failure undermines one of the central premises of Trump’s candidacy, his claim to be a master dealmaker whose toughness and negotiating expertise would allow him to smash through Washington gridlock. But Trump blamed Congress, not himself.

    Read more:

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    “For seven years, I’ve been hearing ‘repeal and replace’ from Congress, and I’ve been hearing it loud and strong. And then when we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, they don’t take advantage of it. So that’s disappointing,” he said.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would still force a vote on a proposal to forget about replacement for now and simply repeal Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, with the repeal taking effect in two years.

    But that improbable last-gasp plan effectively died before 1 p.m. on Tuesday, when three Republican senators said they would vote against even the motion to go ahead with a final vote.

    “Repealing without a replacement would create great uncertainty for individuals who rely on the ACA and cause further turmoil in insurance markets,” said one of them, Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

    “I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” said another, West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.

    Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski provided the decisive vote against the “motion to proceed,” telling NBC that repeal-and-delay “just creates more chaos and confusion.”

    The Republican initiative failed in large part because of the steep cuts it would have made to Medicaid, the program that provides insurance to the poor. Non-partisan government experts estimated that 22 million fewer people would have insurance in 2026 under the Republican proposal than under Obamacare, 15 million fewer through Medicaid alone.

    There were other problems, too: provisions that could have allowed insurers to return to their pre-Obamacare practices of charging higher prices to sick people, selling plans that paid for almost nothing and imposing lifetime limits on coverage. Complicating matters for McConnell, some hard-right conservatives opposed the bill from the other side, arguing that it did not amount to complete repeal of Obamacare.

    The outcome is a major victory for the anti-Trump “resistance” activist movement. Citizens seeking to save Obamacare inundated senators with phone calls and packed local town hall meetings, forcing key senators to hear emotional stories about how Obama’s Affordable Care Act has helped them.

    But the opposition extended far beyond loud liberals. The bill was one of the most detested pieces of major legislation in modern U.S. history, with less than a third of the public supportive.

    Republican governors from states that benefited from Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid were vocally against. So were the hospitals lobby, the doctors lobby, the nurses lobby, the seniors lobby, and advocates for people with cancer, diabetes, addictions and disabilities.

    Polling suggests Trump’s reputation has worsened on the question of whether he is a strong leader, and this failure is likely to increase pressure to alter his style. To the frustration of congressional Republicans, Trump never learned the details of the proposal and did far less to promote it than Obama did his own health overhaul.

    On Monday, the day the bill collapsed, Trump was sitting in a fire truck as part of a showcase of products manufactured in the U.S.

    With Democratic senators united in opposition, McConnell could only afford to lose the support of two Republicans. He ended up losing at least four. In a dubious boast, Trump said a “48-4” outcome would be “a pretty impressive vote by any standard” — ignoring the existence of Democrats.

    Republicans’ legislative focus will now shift to their attempt to overhaul the tax code. Tax reform is also complicated, and the collapse of the health bill, which included hefty tax cuts, makes it harder.

    “I think after health care, taxes are gonna be so easy,” Trump said in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network last week.

    0 0

    Flying to the United States may take a while longer as of today due to enhanced security measures affecting flights to the U.S.

    Both Air Canada and WestJet are advising passengers to arrive at airports at least two hours prior to scheduled departures to allow for additional screening.

    Air Canada says in an advisory that heightened security introduced by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security beginning today requires enhanced screening of personal electronic devices such as tablets and laptops.

    Read more: Pearson revamps screening system on U.S.-bound flights

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    In addition, all personal electronic devices larger than a smartphone will need to be easily accessible and have all cases and covers removed.

    WestJet has posted similar advice, adding the recommendation applies to all flights departing Canada.

    The Dept. of Homeland Security said last month that “in light of evaluated intelligence,” it was deemed necessary to implement enhanced security measures for all commercial flights to the United States.

    It said these measures would include enhanced overall passenger screening, increased security around aircraft and in passenger areas, the use of advanced technology, and expanded canine screening.

    “The United States and the global aviation community face an adaptive and agile enemy,” said the DHS on its website.

    “Terrorist groups continue to target passenger aircraft, and we have seen a spider web of threats to commercial aviation as terrorist pursue new attack methods.”

    0 0

    Whenever he is asked about his racial identity, Carl James always says “Black” instead of Antiguan, especially in Canada, where race is often defined by skin colour.

    But there is more to the York University education professor’s preferred response to the question.

    “I generally see myself as a Black person who happens to be from the Caribbean,” said James, who came to Toronto in the 1970s as a university student.

    “It’s the politics about being Black that we are thinking in skin-colour terms. That’s the way we have come to define and see ourselves in our struggles.”

    He is not alone in feeling that way.

    According to the Black Experience Project, a groundbreaking survey of 1,504 self-identified Black individuals in Greater Toronto, 53 per cent of the participants identified themselves as Black regardless of their heritage, country of origin, and ethnocultural and other identities.

    The participants were sampled to represent the population across census tracts, taking into account age, gender household income and ethnic/cultural backgrounds.

    The Environics Institute study, released Wednesday, posed 205 open questions to participants about their daily experiences as Black people in the GTA. Most interviews were conducted in person and each took between 90 to 120 minutes.

    “What struck me is how the experience of the Black community is so similar,” said Marva Wisdom, the project’s director of outreach engagement, whose family moved here from Jamaica 40 years ago.

    “Being Black is an important identity for us despite our diversity. It is our shared experiences that help bind us together.”

    Black people make up 400,000, or 7 per cent, of Greater Toronto’s population and the community has more than tripled in size over the last three decades.

    Until 2011, young Black adults living in GTA were much more likely to be born in the Caribbean than in Canada, but the trend has reversed. Black youth today are twice as likely to be born in Canada than in the Caribbean, while those from Africa have been on the rise.

    While people with Caribbean heritage make up 55 per cent of GTA’s Black population, those with African origins now account for 31 per cent of the community, with the rest being a mix of both and/or with other ethnicities.

    The study also found:

    • Two-thirds of survey participants said they frequently or occasionally experience racism and discrimination because they are Black;

    • Eight in 10 reported experiencing one of several forms of day-to-day “microaggression” such as having others expect their work to be inferior or being treated in a condescending or superficial way;

    • Although those with lower incomes are affected more intensively by these incidents, when it comes to getting randomly stopped in public by the police, those in the higher socio-economic stratum are not immune;

    • About four respondents in 10 said they felt accepted by their teachers “only sometimes” or “never”;

    • One-third identified challenges in the workplace linked to being Black, whether those involved explicit racism or discrimination, or an uncomfortable workplace culture in which they do not feel they are treated professionally accepted.

    “Teenagers growing up feel they’re experiencing all these things on their own. You feel you have to work hard to prove Blackness is a positive thing. Now we can confirm and validate our experiences with data,” Wisdom said.

    “There have been incremental changes, but things haven’t changed that much, either.”

    Wisdom remembers that as a teenage girl, she was misguided by a high school counsellor to take general math rather than advanced math, delaying her university education. She ultimately graduated from college and returned to university as a mature student, obtaining a master’s degree while raising three kids.

    Despite reaching higher educational attainment than earlier generations, Canadian-born Black people were more likely to say they were victims of racism than were their immigrant counterparts and were more likely to identify that racism as an obstacle.

    Four in five male participants between the ages of 25 and 44 said they had been stopped in a public place by the police and three in five said they said they had been harassed or treated rudely by police.

    Joseph Junior Smith, who was born in Canada to Jamaican parents and grew up in the Jane and Finch corridor, said the report findings speak to his own experience as a young Black man in the city.

    The 28-year-old teacher was only 6 when he was stopped by the police for the first time while playing in a courtyard. The most recent incident just happened two months ago, when he and a group of teenagers from Generation Chosen, a youth program he founded, were stopped on Hwy. 407 on their way to play paintball in Scarborough.

    Smith said they were handcuffed and searched after someone reported seeing one of the group members with a rifle, which was actually a paintball gun.

    “You are attempting to do the right thing but still can’t escape the gaze of police officers,” said Smith, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in humanities at York University. “Why is it so hard to believe we’re not criminal, that we are just regular citizens?”

    Like others who participated in the survey, Smith said he tries to overcome these hurdles and stereotypes by working twice as hard, getting involved with the community and through higher education.

    Four in five survey participants said they belong to at least one community group, a rate that is higher than the Canadian average. One in two also belongs to, or participates in, organizations or informal social groups that specifically address the interests of the Black community.

    James, the university professor, said most people in the Black community rely on community activism and education to overcome hurdles, adversities and stereotypes.

    “Racism still exists and now takes different forms,” said James, who sits on the advisory committee of the Black Experience Project. “Its subtleties then and now are different.”

    The project, started in 2011, was a joint partnership with the Diversity Institute, United Way, YMCA and York University. It was funded by TD Group, Trillium Foundation and the Province of Ontario.

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    Public health officials have reopened the Queen Live Fresh Food Market a day after it was closed for inspection.

    Toronto Public Health spokesperson Lenore Bromley said health staff re-inspected the stores Tuesday and all five have been allowed to open.

    “The operators used this time and thoroughly washed and sanitized all surfaces,” said Bromley.

    The establishment was shut down on Monday following a video that appeared on social media showing mice nibbling food on display at the Meli Baklava and Chocolate Bar.

    All five food stores in the building located at 238 Queen St. W., near John St. were affected by the closure.

    Health officials said that they became aware of the issue and immediately went to investigate. The food market has never had a complaint, warning or closure before, they said.

    Julie Kyriakaki, one of four partners of Meli Baklava, said the mice were a problem for every vendor in the building because it was “an old building.”

    She said the baklava the mice were seen nibbling on is “strictly for display,” and that they “never serve anything that’s open like that. Everything we offer to our customers is covered and protected.”

    After the incident, Kyriakaki said they will no longer be leaving display food when the store is closed.

    With files from Alexandra Jones and Alina Bykova

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    QUEBEC—A package expressing hate toward a Muslim cemetery project was delivered last week to the Quebec City mosque where six men were shot dead in January, police said Wednesday.

    Quebec City police spokesman David Poitras said security has been increased around the Centre culturel islamique de Quebec and that authorities are taking the matter seriously.

    He added it’s too soon to know whether any charges will be laid.

    The package arrived two days before a referendum on a proposed Muslim cemetery was held Sunday in nearby Saint-Apollinaire, but the mosque did not immediately report it to avoid influencing the vote.

    Voters rejected a zoning change that would have allowed the burial ground project to move forward by 19 votes to 16.

    Read more:

    Canadian Muslims’ fear over safety grows after Quebec City mosque attack

    Future of Muslim cemetery rests with 49 voters in Quebec town

    Quebec town should not have held referendum on cemetery for Muslims: Paradkar

    Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard condemned the incident, which he described as “unacceptable and repulsive.”

    “We should all condemn these acts, they’re not unique to Quebec, we see this around the world where communities co-exist,” he said in Edmonton as he attended a premiers’ meeting.

    He described the parcel as “an offensive document.”

    This is not the first time a hateful gesture has been directed toward the mosque.

    Last June, a pig’s head was left at the entrance of the mosque during Ramadan. The pig’s head was wrapped in paper and was accompanied by a note that read “Bonne (sic) appetit.”

    In January, six men between the ages of 39 and 60 were killed when a gunman burst into the mosque and opened fire during evening prayer.

    The mosque has said it has also received hateful letters since the attack.

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    Auto insurance rates in Ontario rose again in the second quarter of 2017.

    Approved rates posted by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario show an average increase of 0.76 per cent.

    Last quarter, rates went up by an average of 1.24 per cent.

    In 2013, the Liberals promised to reduce car insurance premiums by an average of 15 per cent by August 2015, but after the self-imposed deadline passed, Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted that was what she called a “stretch goal.”

    In April, a report by Ontario’s auto insurance adviser found that the province has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada despite also having one of the lowest levels of accidents and fatalities.

    Read more:

    How lawyers and car insurers get away with highway robbery: Cohn

    Ontario’s auto insurance system ‘one of the least effective’ in Canada, report finds

    Poor neighbourhoods pay more for car insurance: Study

    David Marshall found that the average auto insurance premium in Ontario is $1,458, which is almost 55 per cent higher than the average of all other Canadian jurisdictions.

    The insurance system favours cash settlements in lieu of care, Marshall found. Sprains and strains — the majority of claims — often take more than a year to settle and about one-third of overall benefit costs goes toward competing expert opinions, lawyers’ fees and insurer costs to defend claims instead of going to treatment, he wrote.

    Marshall’s recommendations included adopting a “care not cash” approach, exploring better ways to care for people who are catastrophically injured and making lawyers’ contingency fees more transparent.

    Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the government will be hosting consultations on the recommendations made in Marshall's report in the coming months.

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    Just how close did we come to the worst aviation disaster ever at the San Francisco airport last week?

    When the pilots of Air Canada 759 aborted their attempt to land on a taxiway mistaken for a runway, the jet was 81 feet off the ground, and less than 30 feet above the huge airliners lumbering toward take off, full of fuel and people, according to incident reports emerging from the United States.

    To say this was a close call is an understatement. This Air Canada plane was just seconds from colliding with one of the planes on the ground.

    Should Canadian business and holiday travellers be concerned?

    A quick read of a report on aviation safety oversight in Canada just published by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Committees suggests there is good reason for worry.

    The committee tabled its report just a few weeks ago, on June 20, including 17 recommendations for improvements to bring Canada back in compliance with international safety standards and to ensure Canadian aviation inspectors have the training and skills they need to properly do their jobs.

    The committee heard enough troubling testimony about the state of Canada’s aviation safety oversight system that it called on the government to invite the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in to conduct a comprehensive audit of Canada’s aviation oversight system.

    Transport Canada, the government department charged with overseeing aviation safety, takes issue with the suggestion that it is falling behind international norms for safety. Spokespeople from the department tried to assure parliamentarians that Canada is 95 per cent compliant with the standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

    What they fail to mention is that this result is based on an audit of Canada’s safety oversight system that was conducted in 2005, more than a decade ago.

    It is this kind of heavy spin that may have led MPs on the committee to call for Transport Canada to be put on a shorter leash, urging the government to produce an annual report on Transport Canada’s compliance with findings from the ICAO audit.

    After more than a decade of budget cuts, it is little wonder that Canada is falling offside when it comes to safety in the air. As a result, the checks and balances that have delivered one of the safest aviation systems in the world are falling victim to cost cutting and misguided management.

    A recent example. Last August, without consultation and in secret, Transport Canada withdrew or reduced safety oversight from a significant portion of aviation including:

    • All airports in the country.

    • Business aircraft, such as former Alberta Premier Jim Prentice died in.

    • Urban heliports.

    • Aircraft that do dangerous work, such as water bombing the wild fires raging in British Columbia.

    In addition to retreating from its oversight responsibilities, Transport Canada is relying on shallower inspection procedures that can be done more quickly but probe less deeply into an airlines’ compliance with the rules that are supposed to keep our skies safe for everybody. The regulator freely admits this practice is intended to boost its performance metrics.

    In this context, Kathy Fox, the chair of the independent Transportation Safety Board, called on the regulator to do more intensive and direct audits and inspections.

    Justice Virgil Moshansky, who conducted the commission of inquiry into the crash of an Air Ontario jet in Dryden that killed 19 people, told the committee that flying is less safe today than 15 years ago because Transport Canada is no longer conducting direct operational oversight of the airlines.

    Meanwhile, the perishable skills and competencies of Transport Canada’s own inspectors, who are supposed to be responsible for ensuring the skies are safe, are deliberately being allowed to wither.

    In fact, because of cuts, a growing number of inspectors no longer have valid pilots’ licences because they have not flown an aircraft for years in many cases. Today, inspectors are being sent out to oversee the safe operation of planes they no longer know how to fly themselves.

    Aviation safety oversight in Canada has been whittled away for the past decade and this retreat by our aviation oversight authority Transport Canada continues to this day.

    Transport Minister Garneau has a chance to put a stop to this retreat when he responds to the Committee’s report in the Fall. The committee has put forward a responsible and prudent agenda for safety. Let’s hope Minister Garneau takes the opportunity to implement it before the next close call turns to tragedy.

    Greg McConnell is the national chair of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association.

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