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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses delegates during the 2017 United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Liberals look to ease affordability concerns with release of housing strategy

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 22nd, 2017

OTTAWA – The federal government will unveil its highly anticipated national housing strategy today, with the Liberals looking to ease the concerns of Canadians who fear being priced out of the market.

The plan will put a heavy focus on housing supply — building tens of thousands of affordable housing units over the next decade — and repurposing other cash to maintain housing supplements.

There are expectations that the plan will also include a new portable benefit that low-income renters can carry with them through the market.

Those are just two of a number of anticipated measures aimed at making housing in Canada more affordable, particularly for the 1.7 million households that are forced to spend more of their disposable income than they should on housing.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Toronto to unveil the details of the plan, while Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos travels to Vancouver to make a simultaneous announcement on the West Coast to mark National Housing Day.

Recently released census data found that 1.7 million households were in “core housing need” in 2016, meaning they spent more than one-third of their before-tax income on housing that may be substandard or doesn’t meet their needs.

Outside of Vancouver, the cities with the highest rates of core housing need were in Ontario. In Toronto, close to one in five households were financially stretched — the highest rate of any city in the country.

The government hopes that building 80,000 new affordable rental units, along with billions more in spending over the next decade, will lift 500,000 of those families out of core housing need and help a further 500,000 avoid or get out of homelessness.

The details of how the spending will roll out are of keen interest to housing providers and cities. Municipal leaders have been meeting with federal officials this week to talk about the national housing strategy.

The Liberals laid the financial backbone for the plan in this year’s federal budget, promising $11.2 billion over a decade in new spending. About $5 billion of that money the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is expected to turn into $15 billion by leveraging $10 billion in private investment.

Still, most of the money won’t be spent until after the next election in 2019, which concerns anti-poverty groups.

Those groups are planning demonstrations in multiple cities today, demanding the Liberals spend the full $11.2 billion before the next election.

Uber reveals coverup of hack affecting 57M riders, drivers

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 22nd, 2017

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Uber is coming clean about its coverup of a year-old hacking attack that stole personal information about more than 57 million of the beleaguered ride-hailing service’s customers and drivers.

So far, there’s no evidence that the data taken has been misused, according to a Tuesday blog post by Uber’s recently hired CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. Part of the reason nothing malicious has happened is because Uber acknowledges paying the hackers $100,000 to destroy the stolen information.

The revelation marks the latest stain on Uber’s reputation.

The San Francisco company ousted Travis Kalanick as CEO in June after an internal investigation concluded he had built a culture that allowed female workers to be sexually harassed and encouraged employees to push legal limits.

It’s also the latest major breach involving a prominent company that didn’t notify the people that could be potentially harmed for months or even years after the break-in occurred.

Yahoo didn’t make its first disclosure about hacks that hit 3 billion user accounts during 2013 and 2014 until September 2016. Credit reporting service Equifax waited several months before revealing this past September that hackers had carted off the Social Security numbers of 145 million Americans.

Khosrowshahi criticized Uber’s handling of its data theft in his blog post.

“While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes,” Khosrowshahi wrote. “We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers.”

That pledge shouldn’t excuse Uber’s previous regime for its egregious behaviour, said Sam Curry, chief security officer for the computer security firm Cybereason.

“The truly scary thing here is that Uber paid a bribe, essentially a ransom to make this breach go away, and they acted as if they were above the law,” Curry said. “Those people responsible for the integrity and confidentiality of the data in-fact covered it up.”

The heist took the names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of 57 million riders around the world. The thieves also nabbed the driver’s license numbers of 600,000 Uber drivers in the U.S.

Uber waited until Tuesday to begin notifying the drivers with compromised driver’s licenses, which can be particularly useful for perpetrating identify theft. For that reason, Uber will now pay for free credit-report monitoring and identity theft protection services for the affected drivers.

Kalanick, who still sits on Uber’s board of directors, declined to comment on the data breach that took place in October 2016. Uber says the response to the hack was handled by its chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor whom Kalanick lured away from Facebook in 2015.

As part of his effort to set things right, Khosrowshahi extracted Sullivan’s resignation from Uber and also jettisoned Craig Clark, a lawyer who reported to Sullivan.

Clark didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment sent through his LinkedIn profile. Efforts to reach Sullivan were unsuccessful.

Uber’s silence about its breach came while it was negotiating with the Federal Trade Commission about its handling of its riders’ information.

Earlier in 2016, the company reached a settlement with the New York attorney general requiring it to take steps to be more vigilant about protecting the information that its app stores about its riders. As part of that settlement, Uber also paid a $20,000 fine for waiting to notify five months about another data breach that it discovered in September 2014.

David Cassidy, ‘Partridge Family’ star, dies at 67

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 22nd, 2017

Singer David Cassidy performs at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas on Nov. 18, 2011. ZUMA WIRE/Barry Sweet

David Cassidy, the teen and pre-teen idol who starred in the 1970s sitcom “The Partridge Family” and sold millions of records as the musical group’s lead singer, died Tuesday at age 67.

Cassidy, who announced earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with dementia, died surrounded by his family, a family statement released by publicist JoAnn Geffen said. No further details were immediately available, but Geffen said on Saturday that Cassidy was in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, hospital suffering from organ failure.

“David died surrounded by those he loved, with joy in his heart and free from the pain that had gripped him for so long,” the statement said. Thank you for the abundance and support you have shown him these many years.”

“The Partridge Family” aired from 1970-74 and was a fictional variation of the ’60s performers the Cowsills, intended at first as a vehicle for Shirley Jones, the Oscar winning actress and Cassidy’s stepmother. Jones played Shirley Partridge, a widow with five children with whom she forms a popular act that travels on a psychedelic bus. The cast also featured Cassidy as eldest son and family heartthrob Keith Partridge; Susan Dey, later of “L.A. Law” fame, as sibling Laurie Partridge and Danny Bonaduce as sibling Danny Partridge.

It was an era for singing families — the Osmonds, the Jacksons. “The Partridge Family” never cracked the top 10 in TV ratings, but the recordings under their name, mostly featuring Cassidy, Jones and session players, produced real-life musical hits and made Cassidy a real-life musical superstar. The Partridges’ best known song, “I Think I Love You,” spent three weeks on top of the Billboard chart at a time when other hit singles included James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “The Tears of a Clown.” The group also reached the top 10 with “I’ll Meet You Halfway” and “Doesn’t Somebody Want to be Wanted” and Cassidy had a solo hit with “Cherish.”

“In two years, David Cassidy has swept hurricane-like into the pre-pubescent lives of millions of American girls,” Rolling Stone magazine noted in 1972. “Leaving: six and a half million long-playing albums and singles; 44 television programs; David Cassidy lunch boxes; David Cassidy bubble gum; David Cassidy coloring books and David Cassidy pens; not to mention several millions of teen magazines, wall stickers, love beads, posters and photo albums.”

Cassidy’s appeal faded after the show went off the air, although he continued to tour, record and act over the next 40 years, his albums including “Romance” and the awkwardly titled “Didn’t You Used To Be?” He had a hit with “I Write the Songs” before Barry Manilow’s chart-topping version and success overseas with “The Last Kiss,” featuring backing vocals from Cassidy admirer George Michael. He made occasional stage and television appearances, including an Emmy-nominated performance on “Police Story.”

Meanwhile, “The Partridge Family” remained popular in re-runs and Cassidy, who kept his dark bangs and boyish appearance well into middle age, frequently turned up for reunions and spoke often about his early success.

“So many people come up to me and talk to me about the impact it (the show) had,” he told Arsenio Hall in 1990.

Even while “The Partridge Family” was still in primetime, Cassidy worried that he was mistaken for the wholesome character he played. He posed naked for Rolling Stone in 1972, when he confided that he had dropped acid as a teenager and smoked pot in front of the magazine’s reporter as he watched an episode of “The Partridge Family” and mocked his own acting. Cassidy maintained an exhausting schedule during the show’s run, filming during the week and performing live shows over the weekend, but had plenty of time to indulge himself. In the memoir “Could It Be Forever,” he wrote of his prolific sex life and of rejecting Dey’s advances because she lacked the “slutty aspect of a female that I always found so attractive.”

Cassidy would endure personal and financial troubles. He was married and divorced three times, battled alcoholism, was arrested for drunk driving and in 2015 filed for bankruptcy. Cassidy had two children, musician Beau Cassidy and actress Katie Cassidy, with whom he acknowledged having a distant relationship.

“I wasn’t her father. I was her biological father but I didn’t raise her,” he told People magazine in 2017. “She has a completely different life.”

Cassidy himself was estranged from his father. Born in New York City in 1950, he was the son of actors Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward and half-brother of entertainer Shaun Cassidy. David Cassidy’s parents split up when he was 5 and he would long express regret about Jack Cassidy, who soon married Shirley Jones, being mostly absent from his life. David Cassidy stayed with his mother and by the early 1960s had moved to Los Angeles.

Kicked out of high school for truancy, David Cassidy dreamed of becoming an actor and had made appearances on “Bonanza,” “Ironside” and other programs before producers at ABC television asked him to audition for “The Partridge Family,” unaware that he could sing and intending at first to have him mime songs to someone else’s voice. Cassidy, who only learned during tryouts that Jones would play his mother, worried that Keith Partridge would be a “real comedown” from his previous roles.

“I mean, how much could an actor do with a line like, ‘Hi, Mom, I’m home from school,’ or ‘Please pass the milk?”’ he wrote in his memoir. “I didn’t see how it could do much for me. After all, I wasn’t the star of it. Shirley had top billing; I was just one of the kids.”

Man fatally shot in Scarborough

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 22nd, 2017

Toronto police investigate after a man was fatally shot in Scarborough on Nov. 21, 2017. CITYNEWS

A man in his 30s is dead after a late-night shooting in Scarborough.

Police were called to the scene near Littles Road and Morningview Trail, in the Morningside and Finch avenues area, just after midnight on Wednesday.

Area residents told authorities there they had heard some sort of fight and then gunshots rang out.

Police said the victim was found a short time later and pronounced dead at the scene.

No information has been released about a possible suspect.

Tuition refunds offered to students as Ontario college strike ends

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 21st, 2017

Students gather outside the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Wednesday November 1, 2017, as they protest against the ongoing strike by Ontario college faculty members. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Half a million Ontario college students have the option of walking away from a now-condensed fall semester with a full tuition refund in the aftermath of a five-week-long faculty strike.

Students will have two weeks from the resumption of classes on Tuesday to decide whether or not they want to continue with the semester, Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews said Monday. The province’s 24 colleges will be expected to foot the bill for the refund, she said.

“I didn’t think it was right that colleges would actually financially benefit from the strike,” Matthews said. “I think it’s appropriate to actually return that money to students.”

The move comes as 12,000 college faculty were back on the job Monday after the strike was ended over the weekend with back-to-work legislation.

Ontario’s Liberal government first tried to introduce and pass the back-to-work legislation in one fell swoop Thursday night but the NDP forced the legislature to sit through the weekend to debate the bill, ultimately passing it Sunday afternoon.

Matthews defended the rebate program as the “right thing to do”.

“I think students successfully argued that students need some kind of compensation for this,” she said. “If it sets a precedent, I think it’s a good precedent to set.”

A similar tuition rebate was offered to students after a strike in 2006 shuttered Ontario colleges for 18 days.

Matthews said students who continue with the fall semester will be eligible to receive up to $500 for unexpected costs they incurred because of the labour dispute, such as childcare fees, rebooked train or bus tickets, or rent.

“I don’t think any amount of money will be able to pay for the amount of anxiety that students have suffered through this whole process,” she said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown called on the government to match the funds given to students impacted by the strike dollar-for-dollar.

“People have made Christmas, holiday plans, flights back home,” Brown said. “Frankly, the colleges have saved expenses, have saved costs during this period.”

NDP advanced education critic Peggy Sattler called the $500 compensation “absolutely inadequate.” In addition to the financial hardship, students who decide to continue their semester are now faced with the daunting prospect of trying to complete five weeks of school work into a compressed schedule.

“I’m hearing from students who are in an absolute panic over how they are ever going to be able to manage this compressed and accelerated semester,” she said. “Half of Ontario’s college students are parents, they are mature students. They have family obligations over the holidays. They are very, very worried over what this will mean to their ability to successfully complete their courses.”

Colleges are extending their semesters so students don’t lose their terms, but student advocates say trying to condense five missed weeks into roughly two extra ones will be stressful.

Don Sinclair, CEO of the College Employer Council, which bargained on behalf of the province’s colleges, said every school will have a different approach on how it structures the remainder of the semester.

“Each college will assess a variety of factors such as available time based on cancelling fall reading weeks or extending the term into late December and or early January,” Sinclair said in a statement. “Colleges will be closed between Christmas and New Years.”

College Student Alliance President Joel Willett said his group had been pushing the government to offer the tuition refund so students could start fresh in the new year.

“There was worry that (the student’s) year was compromised, relationships with faculty would be compromised,” he said. “And there is a feeling that they wouldn’t get the education that they paid for at the end of the day and graduate with an asterisk attached to their name for future employment opportunities.”

Willett said regardless of the government policy, students will have to deal with the aftermath of the labour dispute.

“The transition is going to be very difficult,” he said. “Students are the ones who are ultimately going to have to pick up this broken semester and try to focus on being able to get the best education possible.”

Should politicians be taken out of transit planning?

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 21st, 2017

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It’s a vision of what Toronto transit could have looked like — had politics not interfered with transit planning.Proposed-Subway-Lines-Mon-Nov-20-23-23-41-UTC-2017-1-1024x640

The above map includes several projects that never happened: an underground Queen Street rail corridor, the Eglinton West subway line, and an extension of the Sheppard line to Scarborough Town Centre as originally intended.

For various reasons, all those projects fell apart. And transit experts say it’s all because of political interference that has set transit back in Toronto by decades.

“You look at what we have done in the last 30 years, and you realize that it’s been extremely dismal. There’s almost nothing significant being done on public transit.” said Ryerson University transit expert Murtaza Haider.

Transit advocate Steve Munro believes building transit has become more about political opportunism rather than getting shovels in the ground.

“Transit planning is all about having a press release, of running an election campaign, of making promises of things you can’t possibly deliver because they weren’t practical to begin with,” Monroe told CityNews.

The chair of the TTC admits it could be time to stop talking and start building.

“I think the biggest mistake politicians have made… has been the constant debate about transit as opposed to building it,” said Coun. Josh Colle.

“We’re opening up a subway in less than 30 days, it will be the first one in 15 years in this city. And I think that’s where you see sometimes the failing of process and politics over building. I think we’ve got to stop getting caught in the quagmire and just keep advancing transit. We really should never stop.”

SafeTTC app tips lead to 3 arrests

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 21st, 2017

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It’s only been operating for 10 weeks, but the SafeTTC app has already helped lead to three arrests.

To date, the app has received 574 reports – 22 per cent of those surrounded allegations of harassment, according to statistics provided to CityNews by the TTC.

“We’ve had over 500 reports filed. The most common report is harassment,” explained TTC spokesperson Susan Sperling.

The app, which is free to download and use, allows riders to discreetly submit videos, photos and texts about unwanted behavior to the TTC control centre. Submitting a tip doesn’t immediately summon emergency personnel, but tips received through the app have been connected to arrests in two allegations of sexual assaults and one robbery.

“Our goal with this app was to make the TTC safer and we can see that that’s already happening,” said Sperling.

Since its launch in September, 2,700 users have downloaded the SafeTTC app.

The TTC’s #ThisIsWhere campaign, which launched at the same time as the app, has encouraged commuters to take to social media with their experiences of racism, violence or harassment while riding the red rocket.

The campaign features posters and stickers placed prominently in TTC stations and vehicles. The billboards recount actual experiences like “#ThisIsWhere Agatha leaned away when someone leaned in to kiss her” and “#ThisIsWhere Savi faced violence when confronting a racist.”

But one expert is worried the campaign’s tone could be taking away from its actual message.

“Essentially people are reading these ads all over the place that are saying all the bad things that are happening on the TTC,” said marketing and business specialist Marc Gordon.

“They’re seeing this and they’re thinking, wow, is the TTC that dangerous, is this bus dangerous, is this subway car dangerous, because they’re being reminded of all the bad things that happened on it. And I’m worried that they’re to be focusing on that rather than really the core message that the TTC is trying to make sure these things don’t happen by empowering passengers to do something about it.”

Toronto partners with Waze, helping drivers navigate traffic

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 21st, 2017

FILE-- Commuters are reflected in a rearview mirror while sitting in rush hour traffic in Toronto in this March 4, 2008 photo. A government source says Ontario auto insurance rates are about to go down.The rate is expected to go down by one per cent when the provincial regulator makes its announcement today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/J.P. Moczulski

Mayor John Tory’s multi-layered plan to ease congestion in Toronto has taken another step forward, with the city now sharing its traffic data with the traffic and navigation app Waze.

Tory formally announced the partnership with the traffic app Waze on Monday, but the collaboration has been in the works since September. At that time, he laid out the new traffic measures – part of his ongoing plan to make it easier for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to get around the city.

Waze users can get up to date information on road closures and gridlock in the city. Waze will also help the city communicate information about road closures and highway maintenance.

“This partnership will give our traffic operations centre better visibility into traffic patterns and give users of the Waze application enhanced information so that they can plan,” Tory said at the Consolidated Traffic Communications Centre in North York.

“By using Waze, all motorists will have access to the City of Toronto’s data in real time and be able to avoid road closures, construction and traffic jams.”

There are more than 560,000 active Waze app users in Toronto.

Earlier this month, Tory launched “quick clear squads” on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. The rapid response teams will focus on fixing problems causing temporary lane blockages.

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