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Toronto Island on schedule for July 31 reopening; some sections closed for summer

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Jul 11th, 2017

Families enjoy the swan ride at Centreville on Centre Island in Toronto in an undated file photo. TOURISM TORONTO/Doug Brown
First, the good news.

With some hard work and a little help from Mother Nature, tourists and locals alike could soon be ferrying their way back to fun on the Toronto Island. Sections of Toronto Island Park remain on schedule to reopen on July 31st, the City of Toronto announced Monday.

In a release, the city said it was aiming to reopen the park at the end of the month, but added that it “could be sooner or later, depending on conditions.”

“This has been an unprecedented event. I thank everyone for their patience. City staff are working hard to get the islands reopened as soon as possible,” Mayor John Tory said.

Now, the bad news.

Lake Ontario water levels are slowly receding, but remain about 30 centimetres above normal and Olympic Island, Gibraltar Point, Hanlan’s Beach and sections of Centre Island, including the grandstand, will be closed for the remainder of the summer.

The city has been under fire from some island businesses who feel the reopening could have been expedited.

“The city seems to be really dragging their feet,” Co-owner of the Island Cafe, Zorah Freeman-McIntyre, told The Canadian Press last week.

B.C. wildfire situation ‘still deteriorating,’ Williams Lake evacuated

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jul 11th, 2017

B.C. Hydro workers repair power lines that were damaged by wildfire as smoke and dirt blows in the air near Ashcroft, B.C., on Monday, July 10, 2017. More than 200 wildfires are burning in the province and an estimated 14,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. Hydro workers repair power lines that were damaged by wildfire as smoke and dirt blows in the air near Ashcroft, B.C., on July 10, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
The head of emergency management in British Columbia says the province’s wildfire situation will remain challenging for several weeks.

More than 200 fires burned across the province on Monday, and Bob Turner of Emergency Management BC says the situation is still deteriorating.

He says about 14,000 people have been evacuated and the government’s priority is keeping residents safe.

An evacuation alert was also issued for the more than 10,000 residents of Williams Lake on Monday night, with municipal officials warning wind and lightning in the forecast could push fires towards the city at a “rapid pace.”

Kevin Skrepnek, chief information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, says gusty winds and hot, dry conditions are expected to persist throughout the province over the next several days, meaning fire crews will not get a reprieve from the weather.

The fires, which have scorched about 400 square kilometres of land, are being fought by some 1,000 B.C. firefighters, with about 300 colleagues and support staff arriving from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick.


Related stories:

Rogers waives overage charges for B.C. wildfire evacuees
Wildfires in British Columbia Interior begin to exact economic toll
‘Bigger and better,’ family plans to rebuild after wildfire takes their home

Search continues for missing rescue dog at Pearson airport

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Jul 11th, 2017

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Emily, a rescue dog, went missing at Pearson airport on July 10, 2017. Image credit: Stray Paws from Greece, Toronto Dog Rescue
A tiny rescue dog, on her way from Greece to Toronto, is missing at Pearson airport after custom officials let her out for a walk.

Emily ran away around 8 p.m. on Monday, according to the Facebook group Stray Paws from Greece, Toronto Dog Rescue. Peel police confirmed the dog was still missing on Tuesday morning.

The rescue organization claims that Emily was let out of her crate and ran across the highway.

They’re asking everyone in the area to keep an eye out for the 10-pound dog, and not to chase her if they see her.

Emily, a rescue dog, went missing at Pearson airport on July 10, 2017. Image credit: Stray Paws from Greece, Toronto Dog Rescue

Friends, colleagues gather to remember councillor Pam McConnell

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Jul 10th, 2017

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Friends and colleagues of deputy mayor Pam McConnell turned out for a memorial service at the Metropolitan Community Church on Sunday.

About 700 people attended the service for the long-time city councillor for Toronto Centre-Rosedale who passed away Friday from an undisclosed lung disease at the age of 71.

Mayor John Tory was among those in attendance. He said McConnell’s work in council will have a lasting impact on the city of Toronto.

“What she did for me and for the city of Toronto in terms of getting us started on a meaningful poverty reduction program, that will make a difference in the lives of thousands of people in terms of their housing, a fair transit program, student nutrition programs,” said Tory.

“When it came to a commitment to helping those who were struggling, to getting things done, there was nobody any better. But she did it in a way that was pleasant and collegial, determined – she didn’t give up, ever …and that’s the way that politics is meant to be done. ”

Rev. Brent Hawkes said the best thing we can do to honour McConnell is to implement her poverty reduction strategy.

“Pam, I miss your face and I know you’re in great hands,” said Hawkes, who led the memorial service. “Look around you at the city you help build. And you built it with your love.”

McConnell began her political career in 1982 as a school trustee — a position she held for 12 years. She became a city councillor in 1994.

McConnell also sat on the board of several BIAs including Cabbagetown, Waterfront and St. Lawrence Market.

Her last public appearance was in June at the opening of Berczy Park, in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

An online book of condolences is available for the public to sign.

Ontario seeks public input on $15 minimum wage

ALLISON JONES, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jul 10th, 2017

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Ontario’s bid to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour – a move that is feared by businesses but has the support of some prominent economists – is being put to the public this week.

The Liberal government’s proposed legislation on labour reforms, which also includes equal pay for part-time workers, increased vacation entitlements and expanded personal emergency leave, starts committee hearings Monday that will travel the province.

The bill would boost the minimum wage, which is currently set to rise with inflation from $11.40 an hour to $11.60 in October, up to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018, and $15 the following year.

Businesses are strongly opposed to the increase, particularly the quick pace of it. A coalition of groups including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Franchise Association are sending Premier Kathleen Wynne a letter Monday, slamming the “arbitrary” increase.

“Many Ontario employers, especially small businesses, are now considering closing their business because they do not have the capacity to successfully manage such reforms,” they write.

“The business community was wholly aligned with your government’s previous approach, which allowed for increases to the minimum wage that were predictable and protected against arbitrary political decision-making.”

Business groups had been calling for the government to first perform an economic analysis, and have now commissioned their own, which the coalition said will be complete next month.

“To plan effectively and protect jobs, employers need predictability and time to adjust the cost of other inputs where we can,” the coalition writes. “There is no way to absorb and adjust to a 32 per cent hit in less than 18 months.”

Karl Wirtz, the CEO and founder of a packaging company in Brampton, Ont., said he may have to consider bankruptcy. “This is something that has got me scared out of my mind,” he said.

The minimum wage increase will mean an extra $1 million for WG Pro-Manufacturing’s 200 – soon to be 245 – employees, Wirtz said. About half of them make minimum wage and the rest will have to get commensurate pay bumps, he said.

The company, which does co-packaging for foods and confectionery products, is focused on growth, Wirtz said, and as such is operating within tight margins. He hasn’t budgeted for an extra million dollars a year and is locked into contracts with big customers. The only way he sees out of the pricing structure is bankruptcy.

“I want all of our workers to have a good income and good ability to have a good lifestyle,” Wirtz said. “I respect that. Truthfully, I do. But you have to give businesses an opportunity to phase it into their program. So yes, let’s shoot for $14, let’s shoot for $15, but scale it over the next coming years.”

Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said the government is sensitive to the needs of businesses, smaller ones in particular.

“We want to ensure there’s not unintended consequences, because these are complex policies,” he said. “If there’s more work to be done in terms of the details and potential unintended consequences, that’s something we’re certainly happy to do with our business community.”

A recent study out of Seattle made headlines for concluding that its minimum wage increase was actually detrimental to low-income workers. But its methodology has been criticized and it bucks the trend of similar studies concluding the opposite, noted Canadian economist Lars Osberg. He is one of 50 economists in Canada who just signed a letter in support of a $15 minimum wage.

“For many years, many in the economics profession were also very concerned about this possibility of disemployment of people with minimum wage jobs,” said Osberg, an economics professor at Dalhousie University.

“A whole raft of new studies in the last 20 years have indicated that disemployment effect is very small…On average you could say it’s small to negligible.”

While businesses’ concerns are understandable, he said, studies show that increasing the minimum wage increases people’s purchasing power, as well as consumption and economic activity in general.

“So in that sense it’s stimulative to the macroeconomy,” he said.

Ontario’s legislative committee will travel this week to Thunder Bay, North Bay, Ottawa, Kingston and Windsor, and next week to London, Kitchener, Niagara Falls, Hamilton and Toronto.

Patients whose emergency surgeries are delayed have higher risk of dying: study

SHERYL UBELACKER, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jul 10th, 2017

doctor working in a hospital
A doctor working in a hospital. REX FEATURES

Patients whose emergency surgeries are delayed due to a lack of operating room resources have an increased risk of death or a need for extra recovery time in hospital, a Canadian study suggests.

Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital found surgical delays for patients with serious injuries or life-threatening conditions such as a hip fracture, appendicitis or an aneurysm had almost a 60 per cent higher risk of dying compared to those who received more timely treatment.

The study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, showed that patients who didn’t get into the OR within a standard time frame for their condition had an almost five per cent risk of dying, compared to a 3.2 per cent risk for those whose surgeries weren’t delayed.

On average, delayed-surgery patients also stayed in hospital after their operation 1.1 days longer and cost the hospital $1,409 more than patients who did not have to wait.

“For the first time, we have strong evidence that the sooner you get to the operating room for an emergency surgery, the better off you are, regardless of your condition before surgery,” said senior author Dr. Alan Forster, vice-president of quality, performance and population health at the Ottawa Hospital.

Urgent surgeries are those considered necessary within 24 hours of a patient being diagnosed, in most cases at a hospital emergency department. Such surgeries represent 13 per cent of all operations performed in Ontario, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

“Some surgeries need to be done very promptly,” said Forster, an internist and researcher. “The hip fracture is a really good example because that’s one that really should be done within that 24-hour time frame.”

The reasons for delays were known in 39 per cent of cases. The most common causes for delay were that operating rooms were already in use or surgeons, anesthetists or surgical nursing staff were not available, he said.

“If you only have minutes or hours to plan, then you really have to have those resources available,” said Forster, adding that it’s difficult for patients and their families when an urgent surgery has to be put off.

“People are obviously very worried about their loved ones, they’re obviously worried about themselves, they’re often in discomfort as a result … The best thing is to get folks into the OR immediately when they’re supposed to be and minimize those anxieties, minimize their pain.”

To conduct the study, the researchers examined data from 15,160 adults who had emergency surgery at the Ottawa Hospital between January 2012 and October 2014. They found that 2,820 of these patients, or almost 20 per cent, experienced a delay.

Researchers spent the first three months of the study collecting data on the demand for emergency surgeries. In January 2013, the hospital began using a new method for scheduling such operations, including dedicating OR time specifically for emergency procedures and spreading elective surgeries more evenly throughout the week.

After the hospital implemented this new model, there was a significant decrease in the number of urgent surgeries that had to be delayed.

“There was a massive improvement in patients getting to emergency surgeries on time with this new model,” said Forster. “It might seem counterintuitive, but having unused time in expensive operating rooms could save both money and lives.”

Still, he said there are certain barriers to implementing a system with operating suites designated for emergency surgeries — which may at times sit unused.

“People running operations are always looking to make sure their budgets are maintained. It’s difficult to create capacity and then plan not to use it.”

In a related CMAJ commentary, Dr. David Urbach of Women’s College Hospital, says the study findings provide the most credible evidence to date that long delays to emergency surgery are harmful.

“These findings will ring true for many of us who have worked in an operating room in a Canadian hospital,” writes Urbach, surgeon-in-chief at the Toronto hospital.

“Global hospital budgets in an era of constrained public financing force surgical departments to strive for maximum efficiency; most optimize utilization of operating rooms and staff at maximum capacity for elective surgery, while assiduously avoiding any unbudgeted activity.”

The authors note that even though the study was conducted at one centre, the findings are likely generalizable to other hospitals across the country.

“We need to think about how we make OR resources available for urgent surgery differently,” said Forster.

Coun. and deputy mayor Pam McConnell dead at 71

CityNews | posted Friday, Jul 7th, 2017

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Long-time city councillor and deputy mayor Pam McConnell has died. She was 71.

In city council on Friday, Mayor John Tory announced her passing and said she would be “deeply missed.”

Council adjourned early after learning of the news.

“Pam was a friend, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother,” Tory said in a statement (full statement below). “She was also a woman who proudly served her city and the people of Toronto for more than 35 years.”

He said all official flags would be lowered at Toronto City Hall and civic centres in McConnell’s honour, and the Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square would be dimmed on Friday night.

On Thursday, Tory told the media that McConnell was “gravely ill” and getting the best care available.

McConnell began her political career in 1982 as a school trustee — a position she held for 12 years. She became a city councillor in 1994 and represented Ward 28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale.

McConnell also sat on the board of several BIAs including Cabbagetown, Waterfront and St. Lawrence Market.

Her last public appearance was in June at the opening of Berczy Park, in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

McConnell was passionate about affordable housing and, as deputy mayor, led Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Over her many years as a city councillor she also helped with the revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront – including the development of the West Don Lands and East Bayfront neighbourhoods – and was a member of the Children and Youth Action Committee.

In 2013, McConnell became front page news when then mayor Rob Ford almost knocked her overduring a heated session at city council. McConnell said she suffered whiplash and had had to visit the chiropractor following the incident. Ford later apologized for the incident and said it was a complete accident.

 

Mayor John Tory’s full statement on McConnell’s passing:

“It is with great sadness that I learned this afternoon of the death of Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell.

Pam was a friend, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. She was also a woman who proudly served her city and the people of Toronto for more than 35 years.

Toronto is a better and fairer city thanks to Pam’s service and advocacy.

She was a strong defender for Toronto. During her time as City Councillor and Deputy Mayor, she was responsible for leading Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. She oversaw the revitalization of Regent Park and her legacy will be leaving behind a flourishing community. She was working on transforming St. Lawrence Market, the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and turning the West Don Lands and East Bayfront neighbourhoods into vibrant communities.

Pam has a long history with the City of Toronto. Her initial work as a Councillor centred around children. She oversaw the opening of the Wellesley Community Centre, the first community centre in Toronto since amalgamation. She also represented Toronto at the Board of Directors of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities where she encouraged and supported women seeking municipal office. She served as the Chair of the Toronto Police Services Board where she worked to bring community policing back to the City’s neighbourhoods. She also served as a school trustee where she was well known as an advocate for children living in poverty.

She will be missed by her Council colleagues, City staff and the community she served with integrity and passion. She always worked to find common ground and consensus among her colleagues.

My thoughts are with Pam’s husband Jim and their two daughters, as well as her four grandchildren, many friends, residents and colleagues.”

Bring it on, summer: Weekend filled with food festivals, Beach jazz

PATRICIA D'CUNHA AND SAMANTHA KNIGHT | posted Friday, Jul 7th, 2017

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StreetFest on Queen Street. COURTESY: Beaches International Jazz Festival
Just because the Canada 150 long weekend is over, doesn’t mean that all the excitement has ended for the summer. In fact, it’s just the beginning. It’s like that old proverb: When one jazz festival ends, another one begins. There is no shortage of food festivals, as Summerlicious kicks off on Friday. This weekend is also your chance to meet up with the rhinos at the Toronto Zoo.

If you are planning to take the subway to the various events, a portion of Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) will be closed for TTC work.

Events

Jazz in the Beach
Summer would not be complete without the sounds of jazz in the Beach echoing around the city. The Beaches International Jazz Festival starts on Friday and runs until July 30. The festival kicks off with the Sounds of Leslieville and Riverside in Jimmie Simpson Park. It culminates with the mainstage shows at Woodbine Park and StreetFest at the end of July. During StreetFest, Queen Street East will be closed from Woodbine to Beech Avenues from 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on July 28-30.

Summer lovin’ food fest
One of the best parts of summer is the annual Toronto foodie event that lets you try out various restaurants in the city at mouth-watering prices. More than 200 restaurants will be taking part in the festival, which starts on Friday and runs until July 23. It is part of TO Canada with Love, the city’s year-long program celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. This year, there are 22 new editions to the restaurant roster, including Maple Leaf Tavern and Ricarda’s. Three-course prix fixe lunch menus are priced at $18, $23 and $28 and dinner menus are priced at $28, $38 and $48.

Raspberry Champagne Délice dessert from Ricarda's. Photo credit: City of Toronto

 

Salsa on St. Clair
Dance the weekend away at the 13th annual Salsa on St. Clair this weekend. The two-day street festival will see St. Clair shut down from Winona Drive to Christie Street. The event showcases Latin life in Canada, offering non-stop dancing in the streets, Latino beats and local and international entertainers. Guests can also enjoy authentic Latin American foods and a fiesta in the children’s zone.

Click here for the list of associated road closures.

Running with bubbles
Woodbine Racetrack will be overflowing with bubbles this Saturday for the Bubble Run. The 5K course offers four ‘foam bogs’ where there is enough foam to cover participants from head to toe. Each of the foam bogs has a different colour of foam. The first heat goes at 8 a.m. There are only three rules for race day: one, all levels of runners, walkers and strollers are welcome; two, wear white – that way your appearance will be more pronounced at the finish line; and three, enjoy being a kid again.

People taking part in the Bubble run in San Diego. Photo credit: Instagram/@BubbleRun5K

 

Food as diverse as Toronto
“Be there or be hungry.” The TO Food Fest is taking over the Chinese Cultural Centre on Sheppard Avenue this Sunday. The event is in its sixth year and celebrates the cultural diversity and creativity of the city’s renowned restaurants and chefs. Vendors include Pub Street Grill, Ice Volcano Ice Cream, Bao is Life and Curb Crave. Admission is free, but guests are encouraged to make a $2 donation.

Summer of Love Picnic
The Summer of Love Picnic is celebrating its 50th anniversary this weekend with an event at Trinity Bellwoods Park. The picnic brings together intentional, conscious groups of people from musicians to dancers, artists, shamans, yogis and psychedelic groups. The picnic will be held in the picnic area near Queen Street West and Gore Vale Avenue, from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Guests are asked to bring something to share before they spread out a blanket and relax.

Rhino-watching at the zoo
Catch up with the third largest land mammal – the white rhino – at the Toronto Zoo this weekend. The Rhino Open House features the rhinos Tom, Tony, Sabi and Zohari. With a donation, visitors can go behind the scenes and hang out with white rhinos. Proceeds will go to the Endangered Species Reserve Fund’s Bowling for Rhinos campaign, which supports rhino conservation. Rhinos are poached about three to four times a day. So far this year, more than 450 rhinos have been poached in Africa alone. The open house runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

A white rhino at the Toronto Zoo. Photo credit: Twitter/@TheTorontoZoo

 

TTC closure

Partial Line 1 closure
After last weekend’s break for Canada Day, the subway will once again be partially shut down on Saturday and Sunday. This time, it’s Line 1 between Bloor-Yonge and Lawrence stations. Shuttle buses will be running. Wheel-Trans buses will run upon request. Riders who need access to an elevator should exit at York Mills station.

Road closures

There are road closures for Salsa on St. Clair. Click here for details.

There are road closures for Taste of Lawrence. Click here for details.

Click here for the City of Toronto’s list of road work.

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