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Black Friday shopping kicks off in stores, continues online

ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Nov 25th, 2016

Stores opened their doors Friday for what is still one of the busiest days of the year, even as the start of the holiday season edges ever earlier.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, once used to launch the holiday season, but the competition to grab customers first is keen. Stores like Macy’s, Walmart, Target and more were open Thursday evening in what they hope will be a new holiday tradition.

Bree Colley, 30, said she plans to go to Columbia Mall in Missouri on Friday with her mom in their yearly tradition. She and her husband were out after Thanksgiving dinner as well, driving from Harrisburg, Missouri, to pick up a 55-inch television a friend bought for them during a deal at Walmart.

Colley said the 55-inch television, which was about $200 cheaper than its original $500 price tag, was sold out online earlier Thursday. But a friend was first in line for the deal and bought one for her.

In addition to seeking bargains on TVs, items that drew crowds included cellphones and Hatchimals – eggs with a small, animated animal inside that hatch when given attention.

Many stores are offering the same deals as in previous years, like $19.99 boots that remain a big attraction, cashmere sweaters, and sheets.

Tanya Jordan planned to start shopping for herself Friday after buying for others Thursday night. She was looking for a big-screen TV at the Best Buy store in Howell Township, New Jersey. She also planned to browse the camera department, hoping to upgrade her current equipment if she could find the right deal.

“I buy a lot of stuff online, but when it comes to technology, I want to see and feel what I’m buying,” the 25-year-old Jackson Township resident said.

Jackie Tate, a nurse from Manhattan, said that in the past she’d get up in the wee hours to shop the deals on Black Friday. At Macy’s in New York on Thursday night, she said she will go shopping Friday but her enthusiasm has waned.

“I do most everything online now,” Tate said.

This weekend is crucial to set the tone for the holiday season. Around 137 million people plan to or are considering doing their shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation. That includes online and store shopping. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, vies with the Saturday before Christmas as the busiest shopping day of the year.

The NRF, the nation’s largest retail group, expects holiday sales to rise 3.6 per cent for November and December, better than the 3 per cent growth seen for those months last year. That excludes car sales, gas and restaurant receipts but includes online spending and other non-store sales such as catalogue spending.

Associated Press writers Bruce Shipkowski in Howell, New Jersey, and Summer Ballentine in Columbia, Missouri, contributed to this report.

Pedestrian struck by vehicle downtown, dies in hospital

News Staff | posted Friday, Nov 25th, 2016

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A man has died after he was struck by a vehicle in downtown Toronto.

Police were called to George and Dundas streets, just east of Jarvis Street, shortly after 8 p.m. on Thursday.

Police say the man was hit by a vehicle coming out of a driveway. He was pinned underneath the vehicle.

He rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries and later died.

Police say the man did not have any identification on him.

Investigators are trying to determine if the man was walking past the driveway at the time, or laying on the road in the path of the vehicle.

The driver of the vehicle remained on scene. It’s not known if any charges will be laid.

Business executives urge ‘bold leadership’ on climate policy from PM, premiers

BRUCE CHEADLE, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 24th, 2016

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Quest carbon capture and storage facility in Fort Saskatchewan Alta, on Friday November 6, 2015. Quest is designed to capture and safely store more than one million tonnes of CO2 each year an equivalent to the emissions from about 250,000 cars. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Canadian corporate executives whose companies together employ more than a million people are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers to press ahead with collective climate action, including putting a price on carbon emissions.

An open letter to the first ministers was released Thursday morning ahead of a planned meeting early next month in Ottawa, where the federal Liberals hope to finalize a pan-Canadian plan with all the provinces and territories.

“Canada has a history of taking far-sighted policy actions to capitalize on the opportunities created by global economic change,” says the letter.

“The time is right for the same kind of bold leadership.”

The 60-plus signatories include business leaders representing oil and gas, mining, forestry products, cement making, aluminium smelting, information technology, banking, grocery retail and building materials. Together, their businesses have revenues exceeding $300 billion annually.

Through the Smart Prosperity Institute based out of the University of Ottawa, they’ve made common cause with clean energy associations, environmental advocacy groups, organized labour and environmental think tanks.

Their common message is that enlightened self-interest dictates Canada strive to be at the front of the pack as the global economy makes a historic shift.

That includes putting a price on CO2 — “the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions, stimulate innovation and drive energy efficiency,” says the two-page letter.

Michael Crothers, the president of Shell Canada, said the open letter was conceived in September — before the election of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump shook the climate policy world — and is aimed less at the premiers than at fostering discussions with other industrial sectors across Canada.

“I’ve had a few with peers in our (oil and gas) sector but also with other business leaders,” Crothers said in an interview.

“It really starts to help crystallize into the implementation phase what are some of the key issues that people are concerned about, and how can we address those.”

As the letter states, revenues from carbon taxes can be used to help vulnerable households but also to help “businesses to remain globally competitive while making the low carbon transition.”

That the signatories include the heads of the Aluminium Association of Canada and the Cement Association of Canada — two sectors considered most vulnerable to energy costs and emissions reductions — speaks volumes.

Aluminum association president Jean Simard said Canada now has the lowest carbon footprint aluminum in the world, and competes mainly with China, which controls half of global production.

The carbon intensity of aluminum production is down 60 per cent in Canada, while absolute emissions have fallen by quarter, Simard told The Canadian Press.

“We think that now Canada has reached a point — not only for our industry but other industrial sectors — where we have to bring together a mix of policies, including carbon pricing on a national basis, in order to get Canada’s economy as the best-in-class in the mid term,” he said.

It’s a message that still has many detractors.

Lisa Raitt, a former Conservative cabinet minister now contending for the federal party’s leadership, rose in the House of Commons on Wednesday to decry Liberal climate policies, including a new national floor price on carbon “that will drive up the cost of everything and force business to lay off workers.”

Those concerns have only intensified since Canada’s dominant trading partner elected a Republican president and Congress that are decidedly cool to the fight against global warming.

Simard suggested factors such as the strength of the U.S. dollar will have at least as much impact on Canada-U.S. trade as carbon pricing.

“We think we’ve passed the point of no return in terms of world commitment on carbon reduction,” he said, adding that what’s needed now are government policies to “accelerate the transition” while keeping Canadian industries competitive.

According to the World Bank, seven of the world’s 10 largest economies have priced emissions of carbon dioxide in some fashion. China is set to bring in a cap and trade system next year, which will be the world’s largest carbon market.

Smart Prosperity chairman Stewart Elgie said the low-carbon economy transition is underway, yet the world will continue to use oil and gas, cement and minerals for decades to come.

“Canada’s niche in that low-carbon economy is to be one of the cleanest producers of those products,” said Elgie.

“The only question for Canada is: ‘Are we going to keep pace with that change so we can secure our future prosperity?’”

Pediatrician group wants government to protect youth when recreational pot legalized

SHERYL UBELACKER, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 24th, 2016

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The Canadian Paediatric Society is urging the federal government to take steps to protect children and youth should it follow through on its plan to legalize recreational marijuana next year.

In a position statement released Thursday, the CPS is recommending there be an age restriction for the purchase of pot and that the ingredient in cannabis that causes people to get high be restricted in products sold to young people.

“We want to ensure that sales of cannabis products are prohibited to all youth under the legal age for buying tobacco and alcohol, so 18 or 19, depending on their location in Canada,” said Dr. Christine Grant, an adolescent medicine specialist at McMaster University who co-authored the CPS position paper.

“And importantly, we want the government to strongly consider limiting the concentration of THC in cannabis that 18- to 25-year-olds can purchase legally.”

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive component of marijuana.

“Young adults frequently experiment with marijuana,” she said. “By aligning the legal age for cannabis use with that for other legally controlled substances, young adults will have access to a regulated product, with a known potency. They’ll also be less likely to engage in high-risk illegal activities to access cannabis.”

Grant said there are many risks for young people associated with the recreational use of marijuana, including deleterious effects on the developing brain.

“We know that our brains develop well into our 20s and also from science that cannabis has an effect both structurally and functionally on our brains and that when our brains are developing we’re most vulnerable,” Grant said Wednesday from Hamilton.

“So by limiting concentrations of THC up until 25, we’re hoping we can mitigate some of the risks.”

Research has shown that regular pot use can lead to one in six youth developing a psychiatric diagnosis known as cannabis-use dependency, which can significantly interfere with a young person’s everyday life, including their schooling, relationships and interest in social activities like sports.

Cutting down or trying to quit weed altogether can result in withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anger, agitation and difficulty sleeping. Physical symptoms may manifest as digestive system upset, fever, chills and headaches.

But perhaps most concerning, said Grant, is that heavy or regular pot-smoking can in some cases cause psychotic events, such as depersonalization, losing touch with reality, and experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations.

Dr. Bernard Le Foll, medical head of addiction medicine services at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, agreed that the dangers to the developing brain and mental health risks mean young people should be protected from cannabis exposure.

Its own Cannabis Policy Framework mirrors that of the CPS in recommending that the minimum age for purchasing recreational pot once it becomes legal should match that for alcohol.

However, CAMH is not calling for reduced-THC products under a certain age, as “there is no evidence to support a particular THC-potency limit or cutoff.”

Le Foll said restricting young people to lower-THC marijuana could result in their smoking greater quantities to get a better high or to seeking for a more potent product from illegal black market dealers.

Grant said another major concern is that young people will get behind the wheel after toking up or vaping weed because many don’t realize they can be impaired by the drug – and even more so if they combine it with alcohol. And there is no roadside test for drivers suspected of being impaired by pot, as there is for booze.

“One of the biggest issues is protecting children too,” she said, noting there’s been a three-fold increase in young children with cannabis overdoses being brought to hospital emergency departments in the states of Colorado and Washington, where recreational marijuana is legal.

The reason? Young kids have ingested baked goods and other edibles containing the plant product that were intended for adults.

“These edibles are attractive to young children because they look like sweets or candies,” she said, suggesting that the government should ban the marketing of such products.

As well, the CPS wants Ottawa to align existing anti-tobacco legislation to include cannabis smoking.

“So that would be smoking in public venues, smoking in cars where children are present, and then we also feel very strongly that the government needs to fund a public education campaign to reinforce that it’s not safe for children and youth and young adults because of the brain issues and mental health.”

Hwy. 401 reopens after fatal crash at Guelph Line

news staff | posted Thursday, Nov 24th, 2016

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One person is dead after a crash between a tractor-trailer and a car on Highway 401.

The crash happened in the westbound lanes of the highway, near Guelph Line, before midnight on Wednesday.

The driver of the car was pronounced dead at the scene.

It’s not yet known what caused the crash.

The westbound lanes of the highway were closed until about 6:20 a.m. on Thursday.

Mayor Tory to announce road tolls coming to DVP and Gardiner

news staff | posted Thursday, Nov 24th, 2016

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If you drive into and out of the city on the DVP or Gardiner, get ready to open up your wallet.

According to sources at City Hall, Mayor John Tory is set to introduce a plan to implement road tolls on the two highly used expressways.

The mayor will announce that he supports road tolls in a lunch hour speech at the Toronto Region Board of Trade on Thursday. The money raised from the tolls will go towards building transit and other infrastructure projects.

The move is one supported by the city’s chief planner.

The city expects to raise between $150- to $200-million through road tolls, which would be set at $2.

Tory is also going to come out against the sale of Toronto Hydro, citing concerns about unanswered questions such a sale would have on hydro rates. Instead, the mayor will announce that the city will invest up to $250-million in the utility to assist with their capital and infrastructure needs.

The mayor is also going to call for a mandatory Hotel Tax to be applied evenly to all hotels and online accommodations, including Airbnb. As well, Tory will call for an end to the city’s Vacant Unit Property Tax Rebate, which could save the city as much as $20-million.

Small municipalities unlikely to benefit from infrastructure bank, Morneau hints

JOAN BRYDEN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Nov 23rd, 2016

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The Gardiner Expressway is seen on Aug. 26, 2016. CITYNEWS/Tony Fera

Finance Minister Bill Morneau is suggesting that small municipalities won’t see much — if any — benefit from the federal government’s proposed new infrastructure bank.

The bank, to be launched next year, is intended to attract billions in private investment for public infrastructure projects.

But Morneau told the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on Tuesday that global institutional investors will be looking to invest only in “large transformational projects” that produce a revenue stream, from which they can earn a high rate of return on their investment.

He says it’s unlikely they’ll want to sink money into roads and bridges in small communities.

In a question-and-answer session hosted by the federation, Morneau made no mention of the notion that a number of small communities with similar projects could bundle them together in order to make them more appealing for international investors.

But FCM president Clark Somerville said the federation wants to ensure that all municipalities, big or small, are able to take advantage of the bank; he says rural Liberal MPs have assured him they’ll be pushing hard for the bundling concept.

“One thing that they talked about that they were really hoping to push for was exactly the bundling and was having it for the smaller communities,” said Somerville, who met earlier Tuesday with members of the Liberals’ rural caucus.

While Morneau didn’t mention bundling during his meeting with the FCM members, Somerville said he’s encouraged by the fact that the minister has promised to consult closely with municipal leaders as the government hammers out the details of the infrastructure bank, which is to be formally created in the 2017 budget in a few months.

Morneau has already announced that the bank will be launched with $15 billion in direct federal investments and another $20 billion in repayable contributions, loans and loan guarantees. The government hopes to leverage up to $5 in private investment for every $1 in government funding; to that end, Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been courting some of the world’s most powerful institutional investors.

Asked Tuesday what kind of projects he envisages being financed through the bank, Morneau said: “The notion behind the bank is that it’s going to provide projects that are going to be large because they’re going to large enough that institutional investors will be interested in them and these tend to be large investors that need to be able to write a large cheque.

“They’ll be projects that will have some way of having a revenue stream,” he added, like east-west transmission of electricity or public transit.

“The kinds of projects that are unlikely to fit the bill might be, you know, bridges or roads in smaller communities, for example.”

A spokeswoman for Morneau later did not respond directly when asked if bundling of small projects is still a possibility. Instead, Annie Donolo pointed to the fact that the government has promised to invest $186 billion over 12 years for infrastructure projects, including a targeted $2 billion for rural and northern communities.

The bank is “an added mechanism” aimed at helping provinces and municipalities attract additional investment for projects that otherwise wouldn’t get built, she said in an email.

While potential investors have told the government they’re interested in large, transformational projects, Donolo said, “It’s too early to tell what those might be, what form they might take, who the players will be, etc. An electricity grid, for example, would have many players. A transit line, fewer.

“But in all cases, this added investment will free-up taxpayer dollars for other projects — large and small.”

Toronto Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to Trudeau and one of the architects of the infrastructure bank proposal promised in the Liberal election platform last year, has said that one of the primary objectives was to help small municipalities that don’t have the borrowing power to finance expensive projects or projects large enough to attract international investors.

“That’s actually one of the reasons it was conceived,” he said in an interview last week, adding that the notion of bundling small projects together is “one of the reasons” the FCM agreed to support creation of the bank.

“Small communities are a particular focus of how to bundle little projects that the big (investment) funds won’t touch into larger projects managed by the federal government … to access those pools of capital to deliver those projects.”

Power restored in the Annex, subway service resumes

news staff | posted Wednesday, Nov 23rd, 2016

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A power outage in the Annex left 2,400 customers in the dark on Wednesday and had an impact on the morning’s subway service.

The outage began before 4:30 a.m. Power was restored by 6:15 a.m.

According to a Toronto Hydro map, there were three separate outages in the area bounded by Dufferin Street, College Street, Avenue Road, and St. Clair Avenue.

The outage was caused by a loss of supply from Hydro One. The power comes from Hydro One and is then distributed to the city.

TTC subway service was suspended between St. George to Lawrence West stations due to the outage. Shuttle buses were running until service resumed around 6:20 a.m.

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A map shows a power outage in Toronto on Nov. 23, 2016. Screen grab via Toronto Hydro.

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