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18 ways Ontario’s budget will affect you

Julie Cazzin | posted Friday, Apr 28th, 2017

1. No increase to personal or corporate income taxes.

2. A cut of 25%, on average, to household electricity bills, starting this summer. Low-income Ontarians and those living in eligible rural, remote or on-reserve First Nation communities would receive even bigger cuts.

3. Tobacco taxes will go up by $10 per carton of 200 cigarettes over a three-year period. That works to an immediate increase of $2 per carton, effective 12:01 a.m. on Friday, April 28, 2017.

4. The introduction of the Ontario Seniors’ Public Transit Tax Credit for those 65 or older. This amounts to a refundable benefit of 15% of eligible public transit costs, providing an average annual benefit of $130.

5. Starting January 1, 2018, Ontario will launch OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacareproviding universal drug coverage to all children and youth aged 24 years and younger across the province, regardless of family income. There will be no deductible and no co-payment and the program includes coverage of 4,400 medicines and most cancer treatments.

6. Free average tuition for more than 210,000 Ontario students and lower costs for many more. Eligible students, including mature students and adult learners with annual family incomes of $50,000 or less, will receive enough in OSAP grants to coverage average tuition costs. That means that 80 per cent of students with annual family incomes below $90,000 will receive grants that equal or exceed the average cost of tuition and will not need to be repaid. (In the past, money in an RESP was taken into account when calculating the amount of OSAP grants and loans. Starting this September, that will no longer be the case, meaning the possibility for larger OSAP grants and loans—even for the kids whose families have saved some money in RESPs.)

7. Students with kids may also be able to receive OSAP funding for child care costs.

8. Increasing the minimum salary an individual needs to earn before they must start repaying OSAP from $25,000 to $35,000.

9. The limit on cash and liquid assets for single people receiving Ontario Works will be increased from $2,500 to $10,000. For couples, the limit is going from $5,000 to $15,000. For Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipients, limits will be increased from $5,000 to $40,000 for single people, and from $7,500 to $50,000 for couples. These changes start January 2018.

10. Gifts of any amount will not reduce the amount of social assistance people receive if the funds are used to pay first and last month’s rent, purchase a principal residence or buy a vehicle, taking effect September 2017.

11. The income exemption for cash gifts will be increased from $6,000 to $10,000 for both Ontario Disability Support Programs (ODSP) recipients as well as Ontario Works recipients.

12. Increases to ODSP and Ontario Works benefits for recipients will be 2%. As of Sept. 1, 2017 for ODSP and Oct. 1 2017 for Ontario Works.

13. As of now, the elimination of the $30 Drive Clean emission test fee.

14. Updating the Land Transfer Tax (LTT) by doubling the maximum refund to $4,000 for qualifying first-time home buyers if you’re a Canadian or permanent citizen.

15. The introduction of a foreign buyers’ tax (the non-resident speculation tax) of 15% that would apply on the price of homes in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region bought by individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada— or by foreign corporations. As an example, a home that cost $1 million would mean an extra $150,000 due to the new tax, bringing the final cost of the home to $1,150,000.

16. Regulatory changes that will allow decisions by the investment industry self-regulatory organizations (SROs) to be filed with the court. This will improve the likelihood for individuals to actually collect the fines they’ve been awarded.

17. Clearer financial statements for those who are a part of Defined Contribution Pension Plans (DCPP). As well, employers who provide DCPP plans to employees will also be able to provide continued financial management of these plans throughout the de-accumulation phase of retirement rather than transferring the funds to a third-party (like to a bank account). The benefit? Lower investment costs—and tens of thousands of dollars saved—over a lifetime.

18. Replacing the provincial caregiver and infirm dependant tax credits with a new Ontario Caregiver Tax Credit (OCTC). Dependants would not be required to live with the caregiver to claim the new credit.

Free prescription drug coverage coming for Ontario youth and children

CHRISTINE CHUBB | posted Friday, Apr 28th, 2017

budget liberal annoucement

Free prescription drug coverage is coming to Ontario for everyone age 24 and under — regardless of family income.

The new pharmacare plan, officially titled OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare, was announced on Thursday as Finance Minister Charles Sousa delivered the provincial Liberal’s budget.

“On behalf of our premier, starting this January we will be expanding our universal health care by providing free drug care for everyone age 24 and under,” Sousa announced as he presented the budget.

According to the new plan, eligible Ontarians will be able to walk into any pharmacy across the province, show their OHIP card and pick up free medicine funded through the Ontario Drug Benefit Program.

The plan will cover 4,400 types of drugs.

As well, there will be no deductible and no co-payment.

Sousa said the plan will help students and “make life more affordable to Ontario families.”

“One way we can be a competitive and a compassionate society is to make sure that people who need medications get medication,” he said.

Souza added that the changing nature of the workplace means many Ontarians don’t have workplace benefits.

“For families with children requiring medication, for young people just entering the workforce who may be working on contract, causing real hardship for some,” he explained.

“We can do better than that. We must do better than that.”

The program will benefit around four million Ontarians and cost $465 million.

That price tag is expected to be funded by the growing economy. According to the Liberals, the GDP is expected to grow 2.6 per cent.

When asked if the province has the money for afford a plan of this size, Sousa was steadfast.

“We can afford it and that’s why we put it in our budget. Keep in mind that even with those who have plans — they still have co-pays and deductibles,” he said.

“We felt that we don’t put a price on our kids and we wanted everyone to have the same benefits.”

The program will be the first of its kind in Canada and Sousa said he hopes the move encourages the federal government to look at a universal Pharmacare plan.

“I’m just very proud of our cabinet and our premier for looking at this in such a progressive way,” he explained.

Pharmacare will be implemented January 2018.

The Liberals had promised no new taxes on families, though they are increasing tobacco taxes by $10 per carton over the next three years and giving municipalities the power to introduce a hotel tax.

In addition to balancing the books this year, the government is now projecting balanced budgets through to 2019-20. Despite reaching balance, however, the province’s debt continues to grow.

It is projected to be $312 billion this year, growing to $336 billion in 2019-20. Interest on debt is the fourth largest spending area, at $11.6 billion.

Historically low interest rates helped the province get to balance, but interest on debt is still projected to be the fastest growing expenditure area, at an average 3.6 per cent from 2015 to 2020.

Nonetheless, the government paints a rosy economic outlook, projecting two per cent average GDP growth through to 2020, driven by exports and business investment.

On the infrastructure front, spending is growing from a promise last year of $160 billion over 12 years to $190 billion over 13 years. The additional $30 billion will go toward new hospital projects, school renewal and child care expansion.

Ontario will also move ahead with planning a high-speed rail corridor between Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Windsor, the government said in the budget. The project could cut in half the four-hour travel time from Toronto to Windsor.

Under the education banner, about $16 billion is earmarked over 10 years to build and improve schools at a time when the government is coming under fire for rural school closures. Another $200 million will go to creating 24,000 child care spaces and subsidizing 60 per cent of them.

Post-secondary graduates will now have to start repaying the provincial part of their student loans when they are earning a $35,000 salary, up from $25,000, which student groups applauded.

Seniors are also specifically targeted in the budget. A public transit tax credit for people 65 and older will see 15 per cent of eligible transit costs refunded with an average annual benefit of $130. That is estimated to cost the government about $10 million a year. The measure comes after the federal government announced it was eliminating a 15-per-cent tax credit for commuters who buy a transit pass.

There is also $11 million over three years for a seniors community grant program and another $8 million over three years for new community centres with seniors’ programming. The province has also earmarked $100 million over three years for a dementia strategy that will include helping patients and their caregivers find support and improve training for health-care workers.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he was disappointed there was no new cash for affordable housing in the budget.

With files from The Canadian Press

Raptors blow 25 point lead, defeat Bucks to advance in NBA playoffs

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Apr 28th, 2017

Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan drives against Milwaukee Bucks' Greg Monroe during the first half of game 6 of an NBA first-round playoff series basketball game Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

DeMar DeRozan scored 32 points as the Raptors held on to beat the Bucks 92-89, but not before watching their 25-point lead vanish in a fierce Milwaukee comeback.

The Raptors clinched the best-of-seven series 4-2 to advance to the conference semis, where they face defending champion Cleveland.

Kyle Lowry added 13 points, but he and DeRozan were the only Raptors to score in double figures. Serge Ibaka had 11 boards but just seven points before fouling out for Toronto.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 34 points and nine rebounds to lead a young Bucks team. Thon Maker, who played high school basketball in Orangeville, Ont., had five blocks.

The Raptors, who had never won a playoff series in less than the maximum number of games, dominated for much of the night and led by as many as 25 points midway through the third quarter. But the Bucks responded with a 15-3 run to cut Toronto’s lead to 74-61 heading into a nail-biting final frame.

Toronto, coming off back-to-back wins over Milwaukee, had gone five minutes without a field goal before Lowry’s long jumper early in the fourth. But the Bucks kept firm hold of the momentum, while the Raptors coughed up one ball after another, and when Kris Middleton drilled a three and drew a foul with 4:06 to play, it pulled the Bucks to within a point.

Jason Terry drilled a three on the Bucks’ next possession to put the Bucks ahead, while the ear-splitting Bradley Center crowd roared.

Cory Joseph’s three-pointer with 1:27 to play put Toronto up by three, then DeRozan drove to the hoop for a dunk with 49 seconds to play for a five-point cushion. Still, the Bucks weren’t backing down. Terry connected on a three to make it just a two-point game with 16 seconds left. But DeRozan scored two free throws, then Patrick Patterson intercepted Tony Snell’s inbounds pass to clinch the win, DeRozan spiking the ball victoriously.

All the pre-game talk was about closing this series in six games, both to avoid the Game 7 pressure the Raptors know way too well, and give themselves a breather before tipping off Monday against the resting Cavaliers in Cleveland.

The Raptors shot 46 per cent on the night, and made nine of their 22 three-point attempts. The Bucks shot 42 per cent.

The second-seeded Cavaliers, meanwhile, have been off since sweeping No. 7 Indiana on Sunday.

Fuelled by the fired-up crowd, the Bucks raced out to a six-point lead against the notoriously slow-starting Raptors. Casey made an early sub, inserting Jonas Valanciunas for Ibaka, and the Raptors settled into their game, outscoring the Bucks 24-14 the rest of the quarter. They took a 28-24 lead into the second.

The Raptors rode their wave of momentum into the second quarter, and took a 13-point lead on a basket by DeRozan with 29 seconds left in the half. Toronto took a 51-38 lead into the break.

Consecutive threes from Ibaka, Norman Powell and DeMarre Carroll put the Raptors up by 25 points with 5:16 to play in the third, but the Bucks fought back with a 15-3 run.

Most articulated buses back in service, TTC says

CityNews | posted Friday, Apr 28th, 2017

artic-bus_1309119-38

After pulling all 153 of its 60-foot articulated buses off the road due to safety concerns, the TTC said Friday most buses have returned to service.

Articulated buses were seen on Dufferin Street around 6 a.m.

“This is all about ensuring that the fleet is safe for our passengers, our employees, and also motorists and pedestrians and everyone we share the road with,” TTC spokesperson Brad Ross told Breakfast Television on Friday.

Ross later tweeted that 125 of the 153 buses had been fixed and were back in service.

Ross had issued a statement Thursday night, saying all 153 of the TTC buses had been grounded after one of the vehicles experienced an unexpected acceleration during routine maintenance late in the afternoon.

Ross added one of its drivers returning to the Malvern garage due to faulty doors experienced a similar full throttle acceleration but he managed to quickly regain control of the vehicle.

No injuries have been reported and no customers were aboard the buses at the time of the incident.

Ross says Nova, the bus manufacturer, has a software fix to correct the problem. There was a concern it would not be applied in time for Friday morning’s rush hour service. While some buses are slowly returning to service, customers can expect increased wait times as well as more crowding on the buses.

The 60-foot buses will be replaced by regular 40-foot buses on the following routes: 7 Bathurst, 29 Dufferin, 36 Finch West, 85 Sheppard East, 53 Steeles Express and 41 Keele.

not be applied in time for Friday morning’s rush hour service. While some buses are slowly returning to service, customers can expect increased wait times as well as more crowding on the buses.

The 60-foot buses will be replaced by regular 40-foot buses on the following routes: 7 Bathurst, 29 Dufferin, 36 Finch West, 85 Sheppard East, 53 Steeles Express and 41 Keele.

Ontario’s first balanced budget in decade promises billions in health care

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

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Ontario’s Liberal government is promising to inject billions of new dollars into health care in its first balanced budget in a decade, a fiscal plan designed to appeal to nearly everyone in the province ahead of an election next summer.

Crafted by a party in power since 2003 that has been faring poorly in recent polls, the $141-billion budget has measures targeted at both young and old, people who access the health care system and anyone who owns or rents a home and pays an electricity bill.

The centrepiece of the plan is a $465-million-a-year pharmacare program for children and youth, which would cover prescription medications to treat most acute and common chronic conditions for people under age 25, with no deductible or co-payment. It would start Jan. 1.

The plan will be most beneficial for youth who currently are not covered under private plans or the Ontario Drug Benefit program for social assistance recipients, but government officials weren’t able to say how many people that captures.

In total, the government is promising $11.5 billion in new spending on health care over three years, including money to address hospital overcrowding, funding for mental health and addiction services, cash for hospital construction projects and home care funding.

The budget also includes funds for new child care spaces, money to build schools, measures aimed at seniors and previously announced cuts to electricity bills and plans to cool the housing market.

Much of the projected spending, however, is spread out over multiple years, well past the June 2018 election. But Finance Minister Charles Sousa said his “socially progressive” budget is not a ploy for votes.

“These decisions that we’re making today are not based on election cycles, they’re based on long-term benefit for the people of Ontario,” he said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said the budget is not, in fact, structurally balanced, because of one-time asset  sale money – such as the sale of shares of Hydro One – and  accounting “tricks,” such as counting public pension surpluses as assets, against the advice of the province’s Auditor general.

“This budget is a patchwork attempt by a desperate government to fix the mess they’ve created before the next election,” he said.

“If they lose this next election this is spending they’ll never have to be accountable for.”

The price tag for the Liberals’ centrepiece pharmacare plan is not in the budget itself and was provided only verbally by staffers.

“Listen, that document is what, 296 pages long,” Sousa said when asked about the absence. “You can’t put everything in the document.”

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who just this week announced a New Democrat government would bring in universal pharmacare for people of all ages, said the Liberal plan seems last minute.

“I think it’s quite curious as well,” she said. “All I can think of is that they made it up on the back of a napkin before they got to today.”

The Liberals had promised no new taxes on families, though they are increasing tobacco taxes by $10 per carton over the next three years and giving municipalities the power to introduce a hotel tax.

In addition to balancing the books this year, the government is now projecting balanced budgets through to 2019-20. Despite reaching balance, however, the province’s debt continues to grow.

It is projected to be $312 billion this year, growing to $336 billion in 2019-20. Interest on debt is the fourth largest spending area, at $11.6 billion.

Historically low interest rates helped the province get to balance, but interest on debt is still projected to be the fastest growing expenditure area, at an average 3.6 per cent from 2015 to 2020.

Nonetheless, the government paints a rosy economic outlook, projecting two per cent average GDP growth through to 2020, driven by exports and business investment.

On the infrastructure front, spending is growing from a promise last year of $160 billion over 12 years to $190 million over 13 years. The additional $30 billion will go toward new hospital projects, school renewal and child care expansion.

Ontario will also move ahead with planning a high-speed rail corridor between Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Windsor, the government said in the budget. The project could cut travel times from Toronto to Windsor from the current four hours to two.

Under the education banner, about $16 billion is earmarked over 10 years to build and improve schools at a time when the government is coming under fire for rural school closures. Another $200 million will go to creating 24,000 child care spaces and subsidizing 60 per cent of them.

Seniors are also specifically targeted in the budget. A public transit tax credit for people 65 and older will see 15 per cent of eligible transit costs refunded with an average annual benefit of $130. That is estimated to cost the government about $10 million  a year. The measure comes after the federal government announced it was eliminating a 15-per-cent tax credit for commuters who buy a transit pass.

There is also $11 million over three years for a seniors community grant program and another $8 million over three years for new community centres with seniors’ programming. The province has also earmarked $100 million over three years for a dementia strategy that will include helping patients and their caregivers find support and improve training for health-care workers.

Raptors expect ‘dogfight’ with Bucks in Game 6 in Milwaukee

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

BROOKLYN, NY - FEBRUARY 5: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors handles the ball during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on February 5, 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Raptors coach Dwane Casey expects Game 6 in Milwaukee to be a 48-minute dogfight Thursday night as Toronto looks to close out its first-round playoff series against the young, athletic Bucks.

“Our No. 1 thing (Thursday) night is to go in with a warrior’s mentality,” he told reporters after practice Wednesday. “And not go in, get hit with a punch and say ‘OK, we’ve got Game 7.’ It’s going to be a 48-minute battle, war, however you want to describe it.”

Coming off 87-76 and 118-93 wins, third-seeded Toronto leads the sixth-seeded Bucks three games to two.

Defending champion Cleveland awaits the series winner. The second-seeded Cavaliers have been off since sweeping No. 7 Indiana on Sunday.

The Raptors are hoping to end a recent stretch of futility when it comes to closing out series in Game 6 on the road. They lost to Indiana and Miami last year in Game 6 before rallying to win Game 7. Three years ago, they dropped Game 6 against Brooklyn before being beaten by the Nets in Game 7.

The Raptors have acknowledged being taken aback by the vocal crowd at the BMO Harris Bradley Center for Game 3, which turned into a 104-77 blowout loss for the visitors.

Casey says the answer to a hostile crowd is to outwork the home side.

“You’ve got to play through the noise,” he said. “Like everything else in this league, you’ve got to play above the noise.

“It’s going to be loud. I thought the first game there, it kind of put us back on our heels a little bit, along with their play …. I thought we were playing in mud most of the game. So we’ve got to be mentally and physically prepared as we were in Game 4 there. I thought we were more ready for what was about to hit us.

“Again, it’s going to be loud and it’s going to be a dogfight for 48 minutes.”

All-star point guard Kyle Lowry exuded calm when he met reporters, holding the microphone in his hand like a talk-show host as he sat at the podium at the team’s training centre.

Rather than approach Game 6 as if it was a Game 7, Lowry said the Raptors just need to focus on one possession at a time Thursday.

“It’s very cliched, I understand that, but that’s really how you’ve got to take it.”

Centre Jonas Valanciunas said the team is prepared for the challenge.

“We’re still fixing some little things but we’re ready and we’re going there to win,” said the seven-foot Lithuanian.

Toronto has profited from dropping Valanciunas to the bench and starting the athletic Norman Powell in a smaller lineup the last two outings. Casey has deployed Valanciunas off the bench to counter the Bucks use of Greg Monroe.

Lowry had nothing but praise for both Valanciunas and Powell, calling them both true professionals for adapting to their new roles.

“He’s changed the series,” Lowry said of Powell whose ability to drive to the basket has opened up space for Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and other Raptors.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s fun to watch,” he added.

Lowry had little to say about the back stiffness that affected him during Game 5.

“My body’s fantastic right now,” he said dryly. “Thank you for asking.”

He was clear that he was not about to let a physical ailment keep him off the court.

“You dream of being in the playoffs as kid … The playoffs, in the NBA, there’s nothing like it,” he said.

Ontario announcing new spending in first balanced budget in a decade

Allison Jones and Jessica Smith Cross, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

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Ontario’s Liberal government will release its first balanced budget in a decade on Thursday, with a host of new spending measures focused on pocketbook issues it hopes will resonate with voters heading into an election year.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has in the past few years focused on big-picture plans for the province, such as tackling climate change, massive infrastructure spending and pension reform. But as her party and personal popularity have tanked in the polls, her message has shifted to that of fairness and everyday affordability.

She recently unveiled a “Fair Hydro Plan” and a “Fair Housing Plan” and in a speech Monday to announce details of a basic income pilot project, fairness was a theme she often returned to.

“In this time of turmoil, we must work harder than ever to build and preserve a fair society,” she said. “We must make sure that hard work is rewarded with a decent pay cheque. We must make sure that the opportunities available to our people and especially our young people not only endure, but grow.”

By eliminating the deficit, Ontario is in a position to do those things, she said.

“My plan builds on the action we have taken and the investments we have made over the past five years,” Wynne said. “It takes dead aim at the challenges that confront us in this new, uncertain world. It puts fairness at the heart of all we do and all we aspire to achieve for the people of Ontario.”

Wynne said her approach is not to “cut back on public services, reduce taxes, slash regulations on corporations and let the results trickle down.”

That wouldn’t help people who are struggling, Wynne said, adding that the three main elements to her plan are creating a “fair economy,” a “fair future for Ontario workers,” and education.

Ontario’s finance minister has already announced that the budget will contain new spending to benefit seniors, students, parents, caregivers and patients.

“I’m balancing the budget and I’m proud of that, but that’s not an end in itself,” Charles Sousa told The Canadian Press in a recent interview. “It’s what are we doing as a result of the balance.”

Sousa has announced the budget will include a public transit tax credit for seniors 65 years and older.

He has also promised a “booster shot” for health care, specifically funding to deal with the problem of overcrowded hospitals, which forces patients to be placed in hallways and other unconventional spaces.

On Tuesday, ministers also announced $20 million in funding to increase the available respite services for unpaid caregivers who help friends and family members.

The government is also launching an initiative to create 40,000 job training placements and internships over three years for students of all ages and recent graduates, as part of a $190-million Career Kick-Start Strategy.

In a recent speech, Sousa highlighted investments the government has made in the innovation sector, saying more of that can be expected in the budget as the government embraces, “new, potentially disruptive technologies.”

Sousa has said the budget will refer to the recent housing affordability measures the government announced. However, Sousa’s office said there is “no line in the budget” attributed to a newly announced 15-per-cent foreign buyer tax. It’s expected to be revenue neutral, as any money coming in should offset a decrease in revenue from land transfer tax.

No further such housing measures will be unveiled in the budget, Sousa said Wednesday, but there will be measures on social housing for low-income residents.

Additionally, $200 million will go toward creating 24,000 child care spaces and subsidies for families for about 60 per cent of those spots — as part of the government’s promise last year to create 100,000 more licensed spaces.

Cuts to hydro bills will add nearly $2 billion to the budget. An eight-per-cent rebate that took effect Jan. 1 is estimated to cost $1 billion a year, and more measures announced last month to help low-income and rural residents will cost taxpayers about $833 million a year.

Even with a balanced budget this year, Ontario will still have debt of more than $300 billion. In 2016-17, interest on debt was the province’s fourth-largest spending area, with $11.4 billion of interest on approximately $317 billion of debt.

The official opposition maintains the Liberals will only achieve “fake” balance in the budget as a political ploy ahead of the 2018 election. The Progressive Conservatives have even created a “Chef Charles Sousa” online caricature who talks about “cooking the books.”

PC Leader Patrick Brown said he believes the Liberals can only balance the budget by dramatically cutting services or raising taxes, or by using accounting “tricks.” He’s specifically watching out for two such tricks: counting public pension surpluses as assets, against the advice of the province’s Auditor general, and counting revenue from the partial sale of Hydro One against the deficit, when the money is intended for a separate trust for infrastructure projects.

“It’s Chef Sousa cooking the books to look good in an election year,” said Brown.

Ontario’s NDP also sees politics in the budget.

“The government’s had 14 years to address the problems that we’ve seen in this province, and they’re now scrambling at the last minute to save their own political skin, as opposed to really being concerned about the realities of life for Ontarians,” said Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Quick-thinking TTC worker saves life of man in distress

Faiza Amin | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

dundas-station-collector

Tense moments at Dundas subway station forced a suspension of service both ways on Wednesday morning, when a man reportedly jumped onto the track. Dozens of witnesses were on the northbound platform around 10:30 a.m. when the incident occurred, many praising a quick-thinking TTC employee who sprang into action.

The TTC tells CityNews a customer entered the station and immediately walked onto the northbound tracks. Within minutes, a station collector rushed to his side.

“He just kept talking to him, and said ‘breathe in breath out’ and ‘look me in my eye,’” said eyewitness Jeffrey Ribeiro. “Then he was like, ‘now say I am strong’, then he had everybody on the platform say it with him.”

Ribeiro captured the interaction between the two men in a touching video he later posted online. The footage appears to show the station collector seated on the platform comforting a man who was firmly holding onto him, while standing on the track.

“When he came up off the platform and came towards the TTC worker, the TTC worker gave him a great big hug,” Ribeiro recalls. “He’s like ‘where’s your cellphone, let me put my number in it.’”

The employee, who’s been with the transit system for 23 years, is being praised for how he handled and de-escalated the tense situation, hugging, comforting and befriending the man. The employee stayed with him even after emergency personnel arrived, spending over half an hour with him.

“The biggest positive action that we saw today was my employee going above and beyond his training and staying there with the customer to ensure he was safe, and everyone else was safe,” said Ellen Stassen, Group Station Manager with the TTC.

His colleagues also stepped in, cutting the power and suspending subway service in both directions.

With the TTC seeing two dozen suicides attempts and 12 deaths annually, employees are trained to look for any sign of distress. In all incidents, standard procedures will see trauma counseling offered to those workers.

Following the incident, the TTC worker went back to work, and finished his shift.

“This is the best ideal story that we can present and commend him for not only an act of safety, but an act of compassion, customer service,” said Stassen. “It goes beyond one area of recognition, and it speaks volumes of his colleagues as well.”

Social media posts have been pouring in, with those who witnessed the moment, calling for the employee to get recognition, not only from the TTC, but the city.

“People like this need to be recognized, and the TTC needs to recognize him for what he did,” said Ribeiro.

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