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Provinces, territories refuse federal government’s offer on health care funding

ANDY BLATCHFORD AND KRISTY KIRKUP, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Dec 20th, 2016

The federal government pulled billions of dollars off the negotiating table Monday after failing to reach a long-term health-care funding agreement with frustrated provincial and territorial health and finance ministers.

Ottawa attempted to sweeten its offer somewhat at midday in the face of withering criticism that it wasn’t bargaining in good faith, but the additional $3.5 billion over 10 years wasn’t enough to bridge the widening gap between the two sides.

“We were working today to have partners with the provinces and territories,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau told a news conference. “We were unsuccessful in that effort.”

Ottawa offered $11 billion over 10 years for home care and mental health, as well as $544 million over five years for prescription drug and “innovation” initiatives, on top of a 3.5 per cent annual increase in health transfers.

That offer is now off the table.

Heading into the talks, Morneau warned that if no deal could be reached that federal support would revert back to what the Liberals have long said they would do: limit the annual increase in health transfers to three per cent, or nominal economic growth, and provide $3 billion for home care.

The annual transfer payment increase is poised to drop next April to three per cent a year – half the six per cent it has been since 2004.

“We were disappointed that the provinces and territories did not feel that they could accept this offer,” said federal Health Minister Jane Philpott.

Monday’s talks appeared doomed from the start, with the provinces accusing the Trudeau government of refusing to negotiate a new federal health-care funding framework, instead putting forward what they considered a lacklustre take-it-or-leave-it offer.

Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette had threatened to walk out if the federal government didn’t put more money on the table.

In the end, it was Ottawa that was accused of shutting down the talks.

“Let’s be clear, we did not walk away from this meeting … It was the federal government that closed the meeting, ultimately,” said Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa.

“We are here to negotiate at the directive of the first ministers; by the prime minister himself, who invited the ministers of health to attend as well to find a solution. We didn’t have the opportunity here today to have that discussion.”

The federal government put forward a unilateral approach, Sousa added.

Earlier Monday, Philpott ducked questions about the concerns of the provinces, describing Ottawa’s earlier offer of mental health and home care cash as “historic” and “transformative.”

“They can’t continue to make ultimatums, to make threats,” said Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen, who added that the provinces have long been demanding health-funding negotiations with Ottawa.

“For months, we’ve been begging for this.”

It was clear the federal government wasn’t offering much wiggle room.

Philpott appeared wilfully blind to the dissent, saying she was “absolutely delighted” with her government’s “substantial offers on the table” as she skated around questions about the provincial concerns.

“This is a transformative, historic offer – we’re changing the face of health care in this country,” she said. “I am certainly optimistic that the provinces and territories would not walk away from something like this.”

But walk away they did – although not before the meetings were over, which appeared a distinct possibility as the day began.

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, speaking on behalf of the provincial and territorial interests, sounded a pragmatic and determined note as he acknowledged the failed talks and called for a first ministers meeting on health funding.

“We do not – and we all want to be very clear about this – view the end of today as the end of a path,” MacLauchlan said.

“We are on a path together, a path that we have travelled for 50 years, and on which we expect the federal government to be an active, supportive, engaged partner.

“We do not believe that as of the end of the day today that we are at an impasse. We have work to do.”

An analysis by provinces released Monday compared the potential outcomes of the status quo versus federal Morneau’s latest offer.

The data said that the status-quo scenario of annual increases of three per cent, or the average rate of nominal economic growth, in addition to $3 billion in targeted funding, would mean a total of $445.2 billion in federal health-care cash over the next decade.

It would also lower the federal share of funding in provincial health budgets to 20.2 per cent in 2026-27 from 22.9 per cent next year.

In comparison, the document said Morneau’s earlier $8-billion, 3.5 per cent offer would provide the provinces with total of $445.9 billion over the next decade.

Under that scenario, the share of federal funding would fall to 19.8 per cent in 2026-27 from 23.1 per cent in next year, the data noted.

Even with the 2015 Liberal platform’s pledge of $3 billion for home care, de Jong said he didn’t think his province would necessarily be better off. At the end of the day, he said it would essentially be “a wash.”

“It’s just an example of a federal government that says, ‘Here’s the solution and if you don’t like that’s too bad – it’s take it or leave it,’” he said.

“For me, for an issue of this importance, it’s ridiculous.”

Teen dies of suspected MDMA overdose after all-ages party at Rebel nightclub

news staff | posted Tuesday, Dec 20th, 2016

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A 19-year-old woman died and at least two other people were taken to hospital for suspected MDMA overdoses after an all-ages party at Rebel nightclub.

Three people were taken to hospital during the Friday night party, a Toronto Paramedics spokesperson told CityNews. One of those people, a woman who is not from Toronto, later died.

Toronto Police told CityNews they were called to the club for two reported overdoses, as well as four other calls. However, by the time their officers arrived, nobody wanted to be helped.

A father who reached out to CityNews said his 16-year-old daughter attended the same party, and was in critical care in the hospital for two days.

Rebel is located at Polson Pier, in what used to be the Sound Academy. It is owned by Ink Entertainment.

City councillor Paula Fletcher wants a review of what transpired, and stricter health oversight at similar concerts in the future.

“When you have a big star playing and you know it’s a younger crowd that likes a certain type of drug, there needs to be a very strong medical plan for what can and mostly likely will be, overdoses,” she said.

“I’m going to ask city officials to review this situation from Friday night…”


STATEMENT FROM INK ENTERTAINMENT, Owner of Rebel nightclub

We extend our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the patron who passed away, and will keep them in our prayers during this difficult time.

REBEL has a zero tolerance drug policy, and also subjects every patron entering the venue to a full search.  Anyone who is caught with an illegal substance is immediately denied entry. We employ an EMS company on-site for every music concert and club night.

The event on Friday December 16th was an all-ages concert, with a separated licensed area for 19+ guests.

Public safety and security is our top priority at INK Entertainment and we will continue to ensure that it remains that way with the highest standard of support.

We are fully cooperating with the police on the investigation. Due to the fact that this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further on this matter.

Regards,
Elaine Quan
Director, Public Relations

Suspicious Etobicoke death now a murder investigation: police

news staff | posted Tuesday, Dec 20th, 2016

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Toronto police are investigating after a man was found dead inside a highrise apartment in the Islington Avenue and Dixon Road area on Monday morning.

In a tweet, police initially said the death was being treated as “suspicious.” Officers later confirmed that homicides detectives had taken over the investigation.

The male, whose age has not been revealed, was found just before 9 a.m. near Islington and Saint Andrews Boulevard.

He was found with a severe injury and was declared dead at the scene.

There’s no word on suspects, a motive, or what the injury is.

Truck attack that killed 12 at Berlin Christmas market ‘intentional’

KIRSTEN GRIESHABER AND FRANK JORDANS, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Dec 20th, 2016

1220-berlinattack

Police said Tuesday that the driver who rammed a truck into a crowded Christmas market in the heart of the German capital, killing at least 12 people and injuring nearly 50, did so intentionally and that they are investigating a suspected “terror attack.”

The truck struck the popular Christmas market filled with tourists and locals outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church near Berlin’s Zoo station late Monday.

“Our investigators are working on the assumption that the truck was intentionally driven into the crowd at the Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz,” Berlin police said on Twitter.

“All police measures concerning the suspected terror attack at Breitscheidplatz are being taken with great speed and the necessary care,” they said.

Numerous German media reported that the suspect, who was picked up about two kilometres from the crash site, was a Pakistani citizen.

Footage showed the suspect, his head covered in a white sheet, being pushed into a police car shortly after the attack.

Berlin’s public radio station RBB-Inforadio cited security sources saying the man entered Germany on Dec. 31, 2015. News agency dpa, also citing unnamed security sources, said he came to Germany as a refugee in February 2016. Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that the man was known to police for minor crimes.

Police declined to comment on the reports, referring questions to federal prosecutors who said they would hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

A spokesman for Berlin’s office for refugee affairs said police conducted a large-scale search overnight at a large shelter for asylum-seekers at the city’s now-defunct Tempelhof airport overnight. Four men in the late 20s were questioned but nobody was arrested, Sascha Langenbach told The Associated Press.

Among the dead was a man in the truck, who succumbed as paramedics treated him, Berlin police spokesman Winfried Wenzel said. Police said later that the man was a Polish national, but didn’t give further details of who he was or what happened to him.

The Polish owner of the truck said he feared the vehicle may have been hijacked. Ariel Zurawski said he last spoke with the driver, his cousin, around noon, and the driver told him he was in Berlin and scheduled to unload Tuesday morning. “They must have done something to my driver,” he told TVN24.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack German officials were cautious in characterizing what had happened. “I don’t want to use the word ‘attack’ yet at the moment, although a lot speaks for it,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ARD television late Monday. “There is a psychological effect in the whole country of the choice of words here, and we want to be very, very cautious and operate close to the actual investigation results, not with speculation.”

Germany has not experienced any mass-casualty attacks by Islamic extremists, but has been increasingly wary since two attacks by asylum-seekers in the summer that were claimed by the Islamic State group. Five people were wounded in an axe rampage on a train near Wuerzburg and 15 in a bombing outside a bar in Ansbach, both in the southern state of Bavaria.
Both attackers were killed.

Those attacks, and two others unrelated to Islamic extremism in the same weeklong period, contributed to tensions in Germany over the arrival last year of 890,000 migrants.

Far-right groups and a nationalist party seized on Monday’s attack, blaming German Chancellor Angela Merkel for what had happened.

“Under the cloak of helping people Merkel has completely surrendered our domestic security,” Frauke Petry, the co-chairwoman of the Alternative for Germany party, wrote.

Manfred Weber, a member of Merkel’s conservative party and leader of the European Parliament’s biggest political grouping, cautioned against sweeping verdicts but said it was important to ensure that extremists didn’t enter the country.

“The state must be able to check every refugee who comes here,” he told German public broadcaster ARD.

French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux expressed his sympathy after the attack.

“We are all Berliners today,” he told Europe-1 radio Tuesday. “In this type of situation, we need unity to face down terrorists, and on this occasion we need European unity. It must be strong, particularly strong.”

The White House condemned “what appears to have been a terrorist attack.” It came less than a month after the U.S. State Department warned that extremist groups including Islamic State and al-Qaida were focusing “on the upcoming holiday season and associated events” in Europe.

The Islamic State group and al-Qaida have both called on followers to use trucks in particular to attack crowds. On July 14, a truck plowed into Bastille Day revelers in the southern French city of Nice, killing 86 people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack, which was carried out by a Tunisian living in France.

Federal prosecutors, who handle terrorism cases, took over the investigation, according to German Justice Minister Heiko Maas. In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the United States was ready to help in the investigation and response.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump Islamic extremists must be “eradicated from the face of the earth” and pledged to carry out that mission with all “freedom-loving partners.”

Associated Press writers David Rising and Geir Moulson in Berlin and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

Electoral College meets amid effort to deny Trump presidency

STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 19th, 2016

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2016/12/12: Hundreds of activists, mostly women, gathered in front of Trump International in Columbus Circle for a "Not My President!" rally and march against the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. After speeches from protesters that included playwright & activist Eve Ensler, activists marched across 59th Street to Trump Tower on 5th Avenue. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Hundreds of activists, mostly women, gathered in front of Trump International in Columbus Circle for a “Not My President!” rally and march against the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Dec. 12, 2016. GETTY IMAGES/LIGHTROCKET/PACIFIC PRESS/Andy Katz

And you thought Election Day was in November.

Electors are set to gather in every state on Monday to formally elect Donald Trump president even as anti-Trump forces try one last time to deny him the White House.

Protests are planned for state capitals, but they are unlikely to persuade the Electoral College to dump Trump. An Associated Press survey of electors found very little appetite to vote for alternative candidates.

Republican electors say they have been deluged with emails, phone calls and letters urging them not to support Trump. Many of the emails are part of co-ordinated campaigns.

“The letters are actually quite sad,” said Lee Green, a Republican elector from North Carolina. “They are generally freaked out. They honestly believe the propaganda. They believe our nation is being taken over by a dark and malevolent force.”

Wirt A. Yerger Jr., a Republican elector in Mississippi, said, “I have gotten several thousand emails asking me not to vote for Trump. I threw them all away.”

A joint session of Congress is scheduled for Jan. 6 to certify the results of the Electoral College vote, with Vice-President Joe Biden presiding as president of the Senate. Once the result is certified, the winner – likely Trump – will be sworn in on Jan. 20.

The Electoral College was devised at the constitutional Convention in 1787. It was a compromise between those who wanted popular elections for president and those who wanted no public input.

The Electoral College has 538 members, with the number allocated to each state based on how many representatives it has in the House plus one for each senator. The District of Columbia gets three, despite the fact that the home to Congress has no vote in Congress.

To be elected president, the winner must get at least half plus one – or 270 electoral votes. Most states give all their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins that state’s popular vote. Maine and Nebraska award them by congressional district.

The AP tried to reach all of the electors and interviewed more than 330 of them, finding widespread aggravation among Democrats with the electoral process, but little expectation Trump would be derailed.

Some Democrats have argued that the Electoral College is undemocratic because it gives more weight to less populated states. That is how Hillary Clinton, who got more than 2.6 million more votes nationwide, lost the election to Trump. Some have also tried to dissuade Trump voters by arguing that he is unsuited to the job. Others cite the CIA’s assessment that Russia engaged in computer hacking to sway the election in favour of the Republican.

But despite the national group therapy session being conducted by some Democrats, only one Republican elector told the AP that he will not vote for Trump.

There is no constitutional provision or federal law that requires electors to vote for the candidate who won their state. Some states require their electors to vote for the winning candidate, either by law or through signed pledges. But no elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged, according to the National Archives.

Those laws are rarely tested. More than 99 per cent of electors through U.S. history have voted for the candidate who won their state.

Electors are selected by state parties, and so are often insiders who can be trusted to vote for the party’s candidate. Many Republican electors said they feel duty-bound to honour their pledge to vote for the candidate who won their state, regardless of how they feel about Trump.

Still, some anti-Trump activists have been getting creative in trying to persuade electors to dump Trump.

In addition to thousands of emails, Republican elector Charlie Buckels of Louisiana said he received a FedEx package with a 50-page document that the sender said “had absolute proof that the Russians hacked the elections.”

“From the tenor of these emails, you would think these people are curled up in a corner in a fetal position with a thumb in their mouth,” Buckels said.

Associated Press writers Hope Yen in Washington, Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi, and Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, contributed to this report.

Jet setting Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor dies at age 99

HILLEL ITALIE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 19th, 2016

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Zsa Zsa Gabor, the jet-setting Hungarian actress who made a career out of multiple marriages, conspicuous wealth and jaded wisdom about the glamorous life, has died. She was 99.

The middle and most famous of the sisters Gabor died Sunday of a heart attack at her Los Angeles home, husband Frederic von Anhalt told The Associated Press.

“We tried everything, but her heart just stopped and that was it,” he said. “Even the ambulance tried very hard to get her back, but there was no way.”

Gabor had been hospitalized repeatedly since she broke her right hip in July 2010 after a fall at her Bel-Air home. She already had to use a wheelchair after being partly paralyzed in a 2002 car accident and suffering a stroke in 2005. Most of her right leg was amputated in January 2011 because of gangrene and the left leg was also threatened. Von Anhalt duly reported her misfortunes to the media.

The great aunt of Paris Hilton and a spiritual matriarch to the Kardashians and other tabloid favourites, she was the original hall-of-mirrors celebrity, famous for being famous for being famous. Starting in the 1940s, Gabor rose from beauty queen to millionaire’s wife to minor television personality to minor film actress to major public character. With no special talent, no hit TV series such as her sister Eva’s “Green Acres,” Zsa Zsa nevertheless was a long-running hit just being Zsa Zsa – her accent drenched in diamonds, her name synonymous with frivolity and camp as she winked and carried on about men, dahling, and the droll burdens of the idle rich.

She was like popcorn for the public and, for sociologists, the seeming fulfilment of the mindless future imagined in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” a creation made possible by mass, electronic media; her words and image transcribed and beamed into theatres and living rooms, on the internet and the shelves of newsstands and supermarket checkout lines.

Her secret, in part, was being in on the joke, once saying about a 1956 TV role, “I play a fabulously rich woman who has just bought her fifth husband; she is very unhappy. I won’t tell you who it’s supposed to be.” Ever game for a laugh, Gabor spoofed her image in a videotaped segment on David Letterman’s “Late Show,” which had the two stars driving from one fast-food restaurant to another, sipping sodas and digging into burgers like they were slabs of wedding cake.

Amid all the trivia, she had a peripheral part in two big scandals of the early 21st century: the death of Anna Nicole Smith (von Anhalt claimed to have had an affair with her) and the alleged financial scam of Bernard Madoff (a lawyer said she might have lost $10 million through him). And she was in the spotlight for a dustup from the late 20th century: “The slap heard ’round the world.”

In June 1989, Gabor smacked Paul Kramer, a police officer, on a Beverly Hills street, after he pulled over her Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible for a traffic violation. She was convicted of misdemeanour battery on a police officer, driving without a driver’s license and having an open container of alcohol in the car. She served three days in jail, performed community service at a woman’s shelter and paid $13,000 in fines and restitution.

When she was freed, she told reporters the jailers were kind but “at first I was petrified. They even took my makeup away.”

Gabor kept up the act in the advice book “How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man,” and in the exercise video, “It’s Simple Darling,” in which she banters and stretches with a pair of muscular young trainers. Her memoir, “One Life Is Not Enough,” came out in 1991 and dished about everything from her virginity (gone at 15) to the endless men who came on to her (She would claim that William Paley of CBS promised Gabor her own show if only she would spend an afternoon with him.)

Gabor had one child, Francesca Hilton, from her marriage to hotelier Conrad Hilton. (She would allege the child was conceived after Hilton raped her.) In later years, Gabor, von Anhalt and Francesca battled in court over family finances. Francesca Hilton died of an apparent stroke in 2015.

Sari Gabor – Zsa Zsa is a family nickname – was born in Budapest in 1917, according to a finishing school yearbook kept by a former classmate. Various references over the years have given other birth dates; Gabor usually avoided the subject. She was still in Hungary when she won a beauty contest and married and divorced a Turkish diplomat, Turhan Belge.

Gabor, sisters Eva and Magda, and their mother, Jolie, emigrated to America around World War II. Zsa Zsa gained notice when she became the wife of Conrad Hilton, whom she married in 1942 and by the following decade all the Gabors were celebrities. (Eva died in 1995 at age 74. Mother Jolie died in April 1997 at age 97 and sister Magda died two months later at age 78).

In 1998, cultural historian Neal Gabler diagnosed her kind of celebrity as “The Zsa Zsa Factor.”

“When she first came to fame in the early 1950s, Zsa Zsa wasn’t an actress or a singer or a dancer or an entertainer of any sort,” he observed. “She was the beautiful wife of actor George Sanders who happened to appear on a quiz show dispensing offhanded advice to lovelorn viewers. By being herself she became such a success that she immediately landed movie roles.”

Her film career was, as The Film Encyclopedia notes, “mostly decorative.” Among Gabor’s more prominent credits: as dancer Jane Avril in John Huston’s Toulouse-Lautrec biopic, “Moulin Rouge,” 1952; and Orson Welles’ classic “Touch of Evil,” 1958. More recently, she appeared in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series and in the “Naked Gun” spoofs.

Her love life, meanwhile, rolled on, like a B-melodrama on a double-bill with Elizabeth Taylor’s A-list spectacular.

In 1954, Gabor made headlines being seen with Dominican Republic playboy-diplomat Porfirio Rubirosa within weeks of his marriage to dime store heiress Barbara Hutton. Her 1958 romance with Rafael Trujillo Jr., son of the Dominican dictator, became a scandal in Congress. Ohio’s Rep. Wayne Hays – eventually caught in his own adulterous affair – cited the expensive gifts Gabor was allegedly receiving from the young man to argue that foreign aid for the island nation should be eliminated.

She wed eight times – nine including a 1982 shipboard ceremony that was quickly annulled and may not have been legal. Other husbands included businessman Herbert L. Hutner and prolific inventor Jack Ryan, credited with designing everything from missiles to the Barbie doll. She is survived by von Anhalt, whom she married in 1986.

Part of Mama Jolie’s advice to her daughters, as recounted in a 1953 Associated Press interview with Zsa Zsa, has a modern touch. She said she told them: “You must be independent and able to do for yourself. Then you do not have to marry a rich man, you can marry a poor one. And if it is wrong, you can go.”

Former Associated Press Writer Polly Anderson and Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Extreme cold weather alert issued for city of Toronto

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Dec 19th, 2016

A thermometre, showing -25C, is partially encaissed in ice, on Friday Jan. 12, 2007 in Regina, Sask. Regina residents woke up to temperatures reaching -48C on Friday. (CP PHOTO/Troy Fleece) Canada

The city of Toronto is under an extreme cold weather alert.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto’s Acting Medical Officer of Health, issued the alert Sunday morning, saying it will be in effect until further notice.

While the light snow and overcast conditions are expected to give way to sunny skies, temperatures are expected to fall throughout the day and with the wind chill factored in, it will feel closer to -16 by 3 p.m. this afternoon.

Extreme cold weather alerts are issued when the temperature is forecast to reach -15 C or colder, or when the wind chill is forecast to reach -20 or colder.

During an alert, you’re asked to dress in layers and cover up exposed skin, which can freeze in minutes.

Also, you’re asked to call or visit friends, neighbours and family who may experience difficulties in these dangerous weather situations.

City council passes amendments to dangerous dog by-law

news staff | posted Thursday, Dec 15th, 2016

sharpei dog

Toronto City Council unanimously passed amendments to the city’s by-law on Wednesday governing dangerous dogs.

A dangerous dog is now one that has severely bitten a person or another animal or it is the second or subsequent bite or attack on record or a dog that has been ordered muzzled.

A pet deemed to be a dangerous dog will not be allowed into a leash-free area and the dog’s owner must purchase a dangerous dog tag from the city and be microchipped. Warning signs must also be posted on the owner’s property.

As well, the new by-law makes it illegal for a pet to be tethered for more than three consecutive hours. It also bans the use of choke collars and choke chains while increasing the fines for owners who do not comply with the by-law.

Among the other amendments made to the by-law, a pet will not be allowed to remain outdoors during extreme weather unless they have access to an enclosure that will protect them from the elements.

The new by-law will take effect on March 1, 2017. Anyone found guilty of an offence under the new by-law could face fines of up to $100,000.

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