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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 15:  (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump walks after arriving on Marine One in his return to the White House on March 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump is returning after speaking at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee earlier today. (Photo by Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images)

President Trump tells Mexico, Canada he won’t pull out of NAFTA

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

President Donald Trump on Wednesday told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that he will not pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, just hours after administration officials said he was considering a draft executive order to do just that.

The White House made the surprise announcement in a read-out of calls between Trump, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries,” said the White House.

Trump said he believes “the end result will make all three countries stronger and better.”

The announcement came hours after administration officials said Trump was considering a draft executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the deal – though administration officials cautioned it was just one of a number of options being discussed by the president and his staff.

Some saw the threat as posturing by Trump to gain leverage over Mexico and Canada as he tries to negotiate changes to the deal. Trump railed against the decades-old trade deal during his campaign, describing it as a “disaster.”

Senior White House officials had spent recent days discussing steps that could be taken to start the process of renegotiating or withdrawing from NAFTA before the end of Trump’s first 100 days in office, according to a person familiar with the president’s thinking.

But the person, along with an administration official, who both spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations, had said a number of options remained on the table, and stressed discussions are ongoing about the best way to proceed.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to comment on the order, which was first reported by Politico.

“The president has made addressing the problems of NAFTA a priority throughout the campaign, and once the president makes a decision about how he wants to address that, we’ll let you know,” he said.

The administration appeared to be divided Wednesday over how and when to proceed, as they balanced a newfound cautiousness with the desire to rack up accomplishments before Trump’s 100th day on the job.

Some were gunning for Trump to sign a draft order this week, while others were weighing the complications surrounding withdrawing from or renegotiating the deal without Congress fully onboard. The debate played out in the press Wednesday as some outlets quoted officials insisting the signing was imminent, while other officials dismissed the reports as “just a rumour.”

“My practice is to comment on things we’ve actually done or are doing as opposed to commenting on rumours,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters at an unrelated White House briefing Wednesday evening.

Trump could withdraw from NAFTA – but he would have to give six months’ notice. And it is unclear what would happen next. The law Congress passed to enact the trade pact might remain in place, forcing Trump to wrangle with lawmakers and raising questions about the president’s authority to raise tariffs on Mexican and Canadian imports.

The decision came days after the administration announced it would slap hefty tariffs on softwood lumber being imported from Canada. Trump has also been railing against changes in Canadian milk product pricing that he says are hurting the American dairy industry.

Trump told The Associated Press in an interview last week that he planned to either renegotiate or terminate NAFTA, which he and other critics blame for wiping out U.S. manufacturing jobs because it allowed companies to move factories to Mexico to take advantage of low-wage labour.

“I am very upset with NAFTA. I think NAFTA has been a catastrophic trade deal for the United States, trading agreement for the United States. It hurts us with Canada, and it hurts us with Mexico,” he said.

Another senior White House official declined to comment on “rumours” of specific actions. But that official said NAFTA has been a top priority for the president since day one and said the administration has been working on it since taking office. That person also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s thinking.

The Trump administration last month submitted a vague set of guidelines to Congress for renegotiating NAFTA, disappointing those who were expecting Trump to demand a major overhaul.

In an eight-page draft letter to Congress, acting U.S. Trade Representative Stephen Vaughn wrote that the administration intended to start talking with Mexico and Canada about making changes to the pact, which took effect in 1994.

The letter spelled out few details and stuck with broad principles. But it appeared to keep much of the existing agreement in place, including private tribunals that allow companies to challenge national laws on the grounds that they inhibit trade – a provision that critics say allows companies to get around environmental and labour laws.

Reports Wednesday of the possible move drew objections from some in Congress, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

“Withdrawing from #NAFTA would be a disaster for #Arizona jobs & economy,” he tweeted. “@POTUS shouldn’t abandon this vital trade agreement.”

Woman who had to be rescued from construction crane facing six charges

News staff, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

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A woman who had to be rescued in dramatic fashion after she became stuck atop a construction crane in downtown Toronto will face six charges, including mischief and interfering with property, police said.

She’ll spend the night in custody before being formally charged on Thursday morning.

Toronto police Detective Barry Radford said her actions put the lives of rescuers in jeopardy, and impacted the construction site near Yonge and Wellesley.

The woman’s perilous climb remained a mystery even to those tasked with retrieving her, with firefighters saying there was no indication why she scaled the crane in the middle of the night.

They believe, however, that she climbed up the crane, crawled out on to the end of it, and slid down a cable to the large pulley device where she got stranded.

“She has to tell me how she did it because she has to be our new training officer for high-angle (rescue) because it’s impressive,” said Rob Wonfor, who rappelled down the towering machinery with her.

“It was hard enough for me to go up with ropes and harnesses and she free-climbed that.”

Wonfor said he didn’t ask her for an explanation during the rescue because they needed to stay focused. But he noted the woman didn’t seem frightened and was “very calm.”

“She was a brave girl, she helped me when I got there,” he said.

A 22-year veteran of the fire service, Wonfor said the rescue was unusual in that people who climb cranes typically stay on the shaft, which was not the case Wednesday.

The woman had been perched on a gently swaying large pulley device called the block — measuring only about 15 centimetres by 60 centimetres — for at least four hours and was clinging to a steel cable when Wonfor reached her.

“It’s an outstanding success,” Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said of the operation. “We train for this, although we’ve never seen one like this before.”

Pegg said crews were called to the scene at a construction site on Wellesley Street near Yonge Street at about 4 a.m.

Wonfor and a police negotiator began climbing up the crane at about 6 a.m. and the firefighter rappelled down to the woman on the pulley device around 8 a.m., Pegg said.

The firefighter then carefully strapped himself to the woman and the pair were slowly lowered onto the ground about half an hour later.

The plan had initially been to lower the block onto a nearby parkette once the two were harnessed but Pegg said the crane operator indicated the block might swing and the moving cables could cause some pinching.

“She was brought down safely, she didn’t appear to be in any distress,” Pegg said. “This was a very technical, very complex rescue.”

Wonfor also said he was feeling fine, although fatigued after carrying heavy equipment on an already intense climb.

But the firefighter had no intention of resting, and noted he was heading to play in a hockey tournament for the remainder of the day.

Emergency crews rescue a woman from a crane near Yonge and Wellesley streets on April 26, 2017. CITYNEWS/Melanie Ng

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Kevin O’Leary to quit Tory leadership race, support Bernier

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

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Celebrity investor and reality-TV star Kevin O’Leary, who rattled Conservative cages three months ago when he joined the party’s leadership race, did it again Wednesday by quitting a contest observers believe he had every chance of winning.

O’Leary’s stunning news – he’s throwing his support behind Quebec rival Maxime Bernier – appeared to catch even some members of his campaign team off-guard as they gathered to prepare for Wednesday’s final leadership debate.

Behind the scenes, however, O’Leary has been mulling the idea for about a week, say sources, ever more convinced that as leader, he might never be able to rally enough support in Quebec to deliver a majority Conservative mandate in 2019.

“It’s selfish to just take the leadership and say, ‘Great, I’m the leader, now in 24 months I will lose for the party,”‘ the frank-talking “Shark Tank” star told a news conference in Toronto.

“That’s not right. That’s just wrong.”


Related stories:

Maclean’s profile of Maxime Bernier, the man Kevin O’Leary is now endorsing for the Tory leadership vote
With Kevin O’Leary out, Conservative leadership candidates target Bernierp
Conservative rivals O’Toole, Leitch following divergent paths to leadership
For Bernier, freedom’s just another word for why he’s going to win leadership
O’Leary’s decision to attend final debate part of a broader political education


The tipping point, he said, came when he saw Conservative membership numbers overall that were even higher than he expected, which meant he didn’t have as large a share of the support as he thought he did.

When he learned that ballots had already been printed and mailed, he decided to act, picking up a phone at 1:30 a.m. to call Bernier, a longtime Quebec MP, to pledge his support.

The two share similar policies, while Bernier can deliver the number of seats the Tories need to form a majority government, O’Leary said.

On the campaign trail, the two weren’t exactly the best of friends. Bernier at one point called O’Leary a “loser,” and each campaign more or less accused the other of voter fraud, though the allegations were never proven.

But it was all smiles Wednesday as Bernier said the endorsement marks a turning point.

“As Kevin says, in Quebec the numbers for me are very good and the competition I had outside Quebec was really Kevin,” Bernier said in French.

“And we’re going to bring our forces together so we can win this race and then beat Justin Trudeau in 2019.”

O’Leary said he’ll do whatever it takes to help Bernier, but defended the fact his campaign sent out a fundraising letter just hours before he dropped out. He said he still needs the funds and will continue to raise money, though he didn’t explain why. His name will also remain on the ballot as the deadline to take it off has long passed.

A lack of facility with French was always considered one of O’Leary’s greatest liabilities.

Still, O’Leary had plenty of assets: instant recognition, thanks to years of television exposure; a public image as a savvy financial manager; and a brash, no-nonsense, outsider approach that echoed the unlikely ascent of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose thanked O’Leary for taking part in the race and focusing on young Canadians, who she said will be saddled with the bad economic decisions of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Kevin brought thousands of young Canadians into the party with a common sense Conservative message,” Ambrose said in a statement Wednesday night.

Candidate Kellie Leitch, who has also ripped pages from Trump’s populist playbook, said O’Leary’s departure opens a door for her.

“I was phoning them throughout the day,” she said of his supporters, and she suggested some of his campaign team had already joined hers.

The Conservative party said Tuesday there are 259,010 members eligible to vote.

O’Leary claims to have signed up just over 35,000, and there’s no guarantee any or all will agree to back Bernier.

“This is terrible!” Facebook visitor Nathan Welbourn wrote on O’Leary’s page after the news broke. “I don’t even know what to say and I can reassure you Kevin my vote is not going to Bernier.

“As a citizen of Quebec I had a lot of hope (in) you. Extremely disappointed.”

A major point of divergence between the two candidates is supply management, a Canadian mechanism for supporting dairy farmers popular in Quebec that has been making headlines as Trump promises to do battle with Canada over trade.

Bernier supports abolishing the system, while O’Leary has called it vital to Canada’s agriculture sector.

The other Quebec candidate in the race, Steven Blaney, said since he also supports supply management, he feels he can capitalize on O’Leary’s Quebec support.

“It’s an opportunity to go and court the voters who were ready to make their first choice Mr. O’Leary,” Blaney said.


Full O’Leary statement:

“Canada desperately needs a change in government. While Justin Trudeau basks in the glow of celebrity status and focuses on his next opportunity for a selfie, he is destroying the strong fiscal position that Prime Minister Harper left Canada in. If Trudeau isn’t beaten in the next election, he will leave the next generation of Canadians, those thousands of Millennials I’ve been talking about, with a mountain of debt and high taxes. This cannot be allowed to happen.

The Conservative Party needs someone who has the best chance of beating Trudeau. Someone who will command the support of Canadians from every region of the country and who can build a consensus among all members of the Party.

I am proud that my team and I have been frontrunners in this 14-candidate race since the very launch of my campaign in mid-January. In particular, I am touched by the 35,335 people who purchased memberships to support our cause.  This list includes a whole new generation of young Canadians, many of whom are new to the Conservative Party, and I’m hoping will be lifetime Members.

I am not a politician, so I never pushed a shopping list of promises. I’ve had only one, to achieve 3% economic growth in Canada. In order to do this, I said I would have to deliver the Conservative Party a majority mandate in 2019 so that we could reverse Trudeau’s irresponsible and destructive policies.

I have now spent four months on the campaign trail.  My team has done extensive polling during this time, but more importantly I have spoken directly with thousands of Conservatives from across the country, and the concerns they are expressing are the same.

Here is what I know:

1.    Maxime Bernier and I are statistically tied as front runners.
2.    Because I am an outsider I have very weak 2nd ballot support.
3.    I am extremely strong in the West but have not generated material support in Quebec.

Second ballot support is always a concern for any candidate and all you can do is live with that risk and see where the votes settle.

The Quebec data is a different kind of issue and a big problem for me. There are 78 seats in Quebec, and the Conservative Party currently holds only 12 of them. In other words, the Liberals politically own Quebec. Without growing the Conservative base in Quebec, beating Trudeau in 2019 would be a huge challenge. The Conservatives did it in 2011, but only with a perfect vote split and in a political environment much different than the one that exists today. This is obviously very disappointing for me. As someone who was born in Montreal, I had hoped I would do much better there.

Like the other candidates, I have worked like hell on this campaign and I want the DNA of my policies and objectives to survive into the general election. The candidate that best mirrors my policies is Maxime Bernier, and he has strong support in Quebec.  He is perhaps the first Conservative in a long time that has a chance of winning over 40 seats there, which would materially improve our chances for a majority mandate.

So here is what I’m going to do; I’m withdrawing my candidacy from the Leadership Race and throwing my full support behind Max. I’m going to do everything I can to ensure he gets elected, and I’m going to ask my supporters to do the same. Together we will drive Justin Trudeau out of power in 2019, and we will work to get Canada’s economy growing at 3 percent.

This was not an easy decision for me to make but after much thought and deliberation, it is the right one for the Conservative party and the country.  The campaign and travelling and meeting with Conservatives has been an experience of a lifetime, and I owe so much to my Team, and the thousands of volunteers and Members that have supported me. Together we will move forward to change Canada’s direction for the better in the election of 2019.

Councillor wants better process for reporting parking abuse

CityNews | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

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A Toronto councillor has his sights set on “habitual” parking abuse in the city, saying the process for reporting infractions is inefficient and the fines, sometimes not enough of a deterrent.

Coun. Stephen Holyday’s motion, which was to be considered by council on Wednesday, calls for the city to consider having 311 customer service agents start dispatching parking enforcement officers.

He said he’s had a lot of complaints from the residents in his Etobicoke Centre ward about cars regularly parked overnight.

“In Etobicoke like in many parts of the city, there is a three-hour parking bylaw, and that’s part of the character of our neighbourhood,” Holyday said. “We consider our streets unencumbered.

“But what’s been happening in some of the higher density neighbourhoods is that folks have been parking their cars on the road overnight. And it starts to go from a nuisance … to [becoming] blocked. And they’ve expressed concerns about the ability of safety vehicles to come through.”

The residents told Holyday they’ve been calling the city’s parking enforcement hotline, but very few tickets have been issued.

They’ve also suggested the $15 fine for exceeding the three-hour parking limit is not enough of a deterrent, and Holyday wants the city to consider raising the fine.

“I wonder if it’s an appropriate fine considering maybe it’s just cheaper to get a couple of tickets a month than to pay the cost of renting a spot in the building,” he said.

Holiday also noted a lack of data on parking enforcement and suggested 311 might also take on the task of gathering that information and preparing reports.

Last year, the parking enforcement unit got about 160,000 calls and issued 2,268,110 tickets. Almost 116,500 of those were for parking longer than three hours.

Girls praised for quick thinking after being approached by man

Ginella Massa and Espe Currie | posted Wednesday, Apr 26th, 2017

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Four Scarborough girls are being commended for doing exactly the right thing after a man allegedly offered them candy and tried to lure them into his car.

On the way to Albert Campbell Public Library after school Monday afternoon, the group of 10-year-old girls showed their street smarts when a strange car pulled up beside them.

They said the man inside offered them candy and asked them to get in the car with him.

“We just all said, ‘Nope,’ and then we kept walking and he kept following us,” one of the girls told CityNews.

That’s when the man got out of his car and started walking behind them.

“He also said, ‘If you don’t get in my car, I’ll catch you. I’ll get you with my car,’” the girl explained. “So we ran really fast. I never ran so fast in my life before.”

The girls fled to the nearby library, where they told staff to call police.

Toronto police spokesman Const. Victor Kwong commended the girls for their actions, and said their descriptions helped lead to a quick arrest.

“They remembered seeing him go into a store and, viewing those security cameras, we were able to identify who this person was,” he said.

Panagiote Konstantelos, 66, of Toronto, has been charged with four counts of criminal harassment.

One of the children’s mothers, whose name CityNews is withholding to protect her daughter’s identity, said hearing what happened gave her goosebumps.

“She should be proud of herself. She’s done the right thing,” the woman said. “To me, her and her friends are little heroes.”

Today’s Parent editor-in-chief Sasha Emmons said the incident provides the perfect opportunity for parents to talk to their kids about street safety.

“By the time they are walking to school by themselves or walking home with friends, playing out in the yard by themselves, you want to make sure you’ve had a conversation about those kinds of possible situations that could be making them uncomfortable,” she said.

She offers the following streetproofing tips for parents.

  • Avoid emphasizing “stranger danger” since most abductions happen by an acquaintance or family member.
  • Focus on possible situations they might encounter and role play different scenarios (e.g. an adult asking for directions, offering candy, or asking for help finding their dog).
  • Remind them to listen to their gut and stay away from any situations they don’t have their parents’ permission to participate in or that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • If they are approached, they should yell, ‘No!’ and run in the opposite direction.
  • They should seek out safe spaces (e.g. libraries, schools, stores) and safe adults (e.g. teachers, police officers, crossing guards).

Various pie and tart shells recalled due to E. coli contamination

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Apr 26th, 2017

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Various brands of pie and tart shells are being recalled due to the presence of E. coli.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Tuesday the shells are produced by Edmonton-based Harlan Bakeries and were sold across Canada.

The Deep Dish Pie Shells, Sweetened Tart Shells and Tart Shells are sold under the Great Value, Apple Valley, Western Family and No Name brands.

The CFIA says the best-before dates on the affected shells range from Nov. 24, 2017 to Dec. 21, 2017.

Click here to see all the UPC codes.

The federal agency says there have been no confirmed illnesses associated with these products.

Food contaminated with E. coli O121 may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea.

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LCBO workers deliver strike vote to back contract demands

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Apr 26th, 2017

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Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) staff have voted 93 per cent in favour of a strike as their union continues to bargain for a new collective agreement.

Voting by members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) was held Monday and Tuesday.

Denise Davis, the head of the OPSEU bargaining team, says they will now return to negotiations with a strong mandate from the workers.

The vote was called by the union in late March after what they described as management’s “complete lack of respect for workers.”

The union has long railed against the government’s move to sell beer, wine and cider in grocery stores, calling it “creeping privatization.”

OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas says he hopes the strike vote will “wake up this management team to the reality of the situation.”

“The people of Ontario built the LCBO, paid for the LCBO, and own the LCBO. We’re not about to let the Wynne government destroy it through this piecemeal privatization.”

The union represents 7,500 LCBO staff whose last contract expired on March 31.

Firefighters rescue woman stuck on crane in downtown Toronto

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Apr 26th, 2017

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A woman who got stuck atop a tall construction crane in downtown Toronto has been rescued after being strapped to a firefighter and lowered to the ground.

Construction workers and bystanders packed a sidewalk below the scene to watch the rescue operation unfold.

The woman was perched on a gently swaying large pulley device for at least four hours and was clinging to a steel cable.

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Fire officials have said it appears the woman was trespassing and climbed up the piece of machinery at a construction site on Wellesley Street near Yonge Street.

Police said she will be taken to hospital to be checked out and then arrested. She will face a charge of mischief.

Platoon chief Kevin Shaw told reporters at the scene that crews were called at about 4 a.m.

By 8 a.m., a rescue worker lowered himself from the top of the crane onto the pulley the woman was perched on and placed a harness on her. He then strapped himself to the woman and the pair began to be slowly lowered to the ground.

Police said the pulley device the woman was on measures only about 15 centimetres by 60 centimetres.

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Shaw said there was no immediate indication as to why the woman climbed atop the crane.

“She’s been up there for a couple of hours, so she’s got to be getting pretty cold and I’m sure she’s scared, so it’s going to take a while,” he said.

“Obviously she shouldn’t be there and hopefully we can come to a good solution to this problem here.”

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