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TTC subway station open house. Image Credit: TTC.CA

TTC begins testing service on Line 1 extension

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 27th, 2017

The TTC begins testing service on the new York Region subway extension on Sunday.

The so-called “ghost service” will operate between Sheppard West and Vaughan Metropolitan Stations.

Trains on Line 1 will off-load customers at Sheppard West station before continuing north, making regular stops at the new stations.

The TTC says the testing will allow operators to become familiar with the extension and its new features.

The ghost service will continue until the new stations officially open on December 17th.

Giant Tiger employee suspended amid racial profiling allegations

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 27th, 2017

Giant Tiger says an employee has been suspended after a video circulated on social media showing a man being followed around one of the store’s Regina locations.

The video, which was posted to Facebook on Friday, has been viewed more than 300,000 times and has left commenters accusing the employee of racial profiling.

In it, a man is seen walking around the store gathering groceries and pointing out an employee who he says follows him every time he goes there.

At one point in the four-minute video, the man tells the employee, “there’s more brown people here, you should follow them too.”

In a press release issued on Saturday, Giant Tiger said that the incident in the video “is a direct contradiction of our brand values as well as our policies and should never have occurred.”

A spokeswoman for Giant Tiger says the employee in the video is a loss prevention associate.

Toronto Argonauts come back to win Grey Cup title

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 27th, 2017

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray, second from left, celebrates with teammates after defeating the Calgary Stampeders in CFL football action in the 105th Grey Cup on Sunday, November 26, 2017 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Lirim Hajrullahu dealt the Calgary Stampeders another stunning Grey Cup defeat.

Hajrullahu’s 32-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining earned the Toronto Argonauts a stunning 27-24 win over Calgary on a snowy Sunday night. It marked the second straight year the Stampeders had posted a CFL-best record during the regular season, only to be upset in the biggest game of the year.

Calgary, which registered a 15-2-1 record in 2016, dropped a stunning 39-33 overtime decision last year to an Ottawa Redblacks team that finished the regular season with an 8-9-1 mark. The Stampeders had a 13-4-1 record this year while Toronto finished atop the East Division at 9-9.

Calgary looked poised to at least force overtime before veteran Matt Black intercepted Bo Levi Mitchell in the end zone with eight seconds left before a TD Place Stadium sellout of 36,154. Among those braving the elements were CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who sat together.

Toronto used the big play to earn its first Grey Cup win in five years, which ironically against Calgary at Rogers Centre. The Argos pulled even 26-26 at 10:25 on Cassius Vaughn’s 110-yard fumble recovery TD and Declan Cross’s two-point convert, stunning the TD Place Stadium sellout of 36,154.

In the first half, Ricky Ray hit DeVier Posey on a Cup-record 100-yard TD strike against a Calgary team that had beaten Toronto eight straight games. Ray set another record by winning his fourth Grey Cup as a starting quarterback.

Posey, with 102 yards on seven receptions, was named the game’s most valuable player.

The white stuff start falling roughly two hours before kickoff, lightly at first before steadily increasing. Toronto running back James Wilder Jr., the CFL’s top rookie and a Tampa native, was undeterred as he did pre-game laps on the field shirtless as the game-time temperature was -3 C.

The weather forced the cancellation of the pre-game flyover of two CF-18 Hornets. During each play stoppage stadium employees shovelled the yard lines while two snow plows cleared the hash marks.

At halftime, two full-sized plows helped clear the field prior to country star Shania Twain’s performance. The multiple Grammy Award winner arrived on a dog sled before starting her snowy three-song set with “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” which could’ve easily been directed towards Toronto’s offence in the opening half.

The winter wonderland evoked memories of the ’96 Snow Bowl in Hamilton, a game that saw Toronto beat Edmonton 43-37 in blizzard-like conditions. On the second play from scrimmage, Argos’ defensive tackle Cleyon Laing did a belly slide after sacking Mitchell.

A play later, Toronto’s Armanti Edwards fumbled a punt that teammate Marcus Ball recovered as Calgary handled the snowy conditions much better in surging to a 17-8 half-time lead.

The snow tailed off to start the second half and Toronto, reportedly changing its footwear, responded with an eight-play, 71-yard scoring march capped by Wilder’s two-yard TD run and another Cross two-point convert at 4:09 that cut Calgary’s lead to 17-16.

But the Stampeders countered with Mitchell’s six-yard TD pass to Jerome Messam at 8:56 – following a successful pass interference challenge – to go back ahead 24-16.

Messam, from Brampton, Ont., had two touchdowns and was named the game’s most valuable Canadian. Kamar Jorden had Calgary’s other touchdown. DaVaris Daniels added a two-point convert while Rene Paredes booted a field goal and convert.

The other Toronto points came on a safety.

Paredes’ 39-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter gave Calgary its 17-8 halftime lead. It came after Juwan Brescacin recovered his own fumble at the Toronto 50-yard line to keep the drive alive.

But Calgary’s lead came largely thanks to its CFL-best defence. The unit allowed 135 first-half yards, 100 coming on Ray’s Cup-record TD toss to Posey in the second.

Calgary’s offence fared better, rushing for 52 yards (5.8-yard average) and 212 offensive yards while holding the ball for 18 minutes.

Toronto pulled to within 14-8 at 9:41 when Calgary punter Rob Maver booted the ball through the end zone following a high snap. Messam’s six-yard TD run at 4:52 capped a smart seven-play, 67-yard drive that Daniels finished with a two-point convert, putting the Stampeders ahead 14-6.

Ray’s TD pass to Posey 26 seconds into the second tied the score 6-6. That broke the previous mark of ’99 yards set by Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo and Pat Woodcock in ’02. The convert was wide.

Calgary opened the scoring with Mitchell’s 33-yard TD strike to Jorden on a third-and-three gamble at 11:28 of the first. The two-point convert was unsuccessful.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engaged

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 27th, 2017

Prince Harry and his girlfriend Meghan Markle attend a wheelchair tennis event at the Invictus Games in Toronto on Sept.25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Palace officials announced Monday that Prince Harry is engaged to Meghan Markle, confirming months of rumours that the couple was close to tying the knot.

The announcement says the couple became engaged earlier this month. It says 36-year-old Markle has met Queen Elizabeth II, and Harry also has received the blessing of Markle’s parents.

Harry, 33, is fifth in line to the British throne.

n some ways, Markle – a mixed-race American raised in California, an outspoken full-time actress, and a divorcee – makes a surprising addition to Britain’s monarchy.

But the institution has moved on with the times, and the romance between Markle and Harry – who has repeatedly stressed his wish to lead as “normal” a life as he could – has a decidedly unstuffy, modern feel to it.

Markle, best known for her role as an ambitious paralegal in the hit U.S. legal drama “Suits,” surprised many when she shared her feelings for Harry in a September cover story for Vanity Fair. Asked about the media frenzy surrounding their courtship, the 36-year-old said: “At the end of the day I think it’s really simple … we’re two people who are really happy and in love.”

Describing Harry as her “boyfriend,” Markle said that while she expected that she and Harry would have to “come forward” about their relationship at some point, the two were just a couple enjoying time spent with each other.

“Personally, I love a great love story,” she said.

Harry – once known for his “bad boy” antics, including being photographed playing strip billiards in Las Vegas – has largely won over the British public with his winning smile, his military career and his devotion to charities aimed at helping disabled veterans and other causes.

The 33-year-old prince recently won praise with his work campaigning for more openness about mental health issues. Speaking candidly about his personal struggle to cope with the loss of his mother, Princess Diana, when he was only 12, he encouraged others to talk about their own problems rather than keeping them bottled up inside.

Markle’s Vanity Fair interview broke new ground. It is unusual for a royal love interest to speak so publicly – and candidly – before becoming engaged. Harry’s past reported girlfriends all shied away from the media limelight, and his sister-in-law, formerly known as Kate Middleton, stayed silent until she and Prince William gave a formal televised interview at Buckingham Palace after their engagement became public.

But then, unlike some other “commoners” romantically linked to Britain’s royals, Markle is no stranger to media exposure and the world of show business.

The actress’s most successful role is the feisty Rachel Zane in the TV legal show “Suits,” now in its seventh season. Her career has included small parts on TV series including “Fringe,” “CSI: Miami,” “Knight Rider” and “Castle,” as well as movies such as “Horrible Bosses.” Outside of acting, Markle founded a lifestyle blog called TheTig.com (which closed down in April without explanation), and has lent her celebrity status to humanitarian causes.

She has campaigned with the United Nations on gender equality, written in Time magazine about girls’ education and the stigma surrounding menstruation, and has travelled to Rwanda as global ambassador for the charity World Vision Canada. She has described how her mother took her to the slums of Jamaica to witness poverty first-hand, saying experiences like that shaped her social consciousness and charity work.

To some degree that mirrors the experience of Harry, who was also inspired by his mother’s humanitarian work and embraced the types of charities Diana favoured in the final years of her life before her 1997 death in a Paris car crash.

Harry and Markle held hands for their first official appearance together in September in Toronto at the Invictus Games, a sporting event for wounded service personnel that Harry spearheaded.

Both were dressed casually in jeans, smiling and chatting as they arrived for a tennis match. Several days later, Harry was photographed kissing Markle on the cheek as he joined the actress and her mother in a luxury box to watch the event’s closing ceremony.

Markle said she met Harry through friends in London in July 2016, and that they had been dating quietly for several months before the romance hit the headlines.

The media attention then became so intense that Harry took the unusual step of officially confirming the romance in order to warn the media off. In a strongly worded statement issued through the palace, the prince pleaded for reporters to stop intruding on his girlfriend’s privacy. He condemned “outright sexism and racism” in some online comments, and said some articles with “racial undertones” had crossed the line.

Some tabloids had alluded to Markle’s mixed-race heritage, pointing out she has an African-American mother and a white father.

Markle herself has spoken out about coming to terms with being biracial – both growing up, and in her Hollywood career.

In a March interview with Allure magazine, she said studying race at college was “the first time I could put a name to feeling too light in the black community and too mixed in the white community.

“For castings, I was labeled ‘ethnically ambiguous’,” she said.

Markle was born Aug. 4, 1981, to a clinical therapist mother and television lighting director father. She grew up in Los Angeles, and now lives in Toronto.

She studied at a girls’ Roman Catholic high school before attending Northwestern University in Illinois, where she studied theatre and international relations.

Markle married film producer Trevor Engelson in 2011, but the pair divorced two years later.

It wouldn’t be first time that a British royal has married an American – or a divorcee. In 1936, Edward VIII famously abdicated after he was forced to choose between the monarchy and his relationship with twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.

In her Vanity Fair interview, Markle made clear the world’s attention on her romance did not faze her.

“I’m still the same person that I am, and I’ve never defined myself by my relationship,” she said. “The people who are close to me anchor me in knowing who I am. The rest is noise.”

Sobeys to cut 800 office jobs as part of reorganization of grocery business

CityNews | posted Friday, Nov 24th, 2017

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STELLARTON, N.S. – The Sobeys grocery business will be cutting about 800 office jobs across Canada as part of efforts to create one efficient national organization out of five regional operations, the company announced Friday.

“The future success of Sobeys, and our continued service to over 900 communities across the country, depends on our steadfast commitment to transform our business,” said Michael Medline, who is chief executive of Sobeys and its parent company, Empire Co. Ltd. (TSX:EMP.B)

Local reports of the news began to emerge late Thursday ahead of an internal announcement to Sobeys staff. The company confirmed the reports Friday morning.

Sobeys is Canada’s second-largest grocery company, after Loblaw Cos. Ltd. (TSX:L), and faces many of the same challenges in the industry: competition from new rivals, higher costs from rising minimum wages in some areas and technological change.

However, the company has also been struggling for several years with problems arising from its acquisition of Safeway Canada — which gave Sobeys a much bigger presence in Western Canada.

“The first phase of our plan to transform our business, which has been focused on resetting the foundation of Sobeys and creating a new organization structure, is now substantially complete,” Medline said in a statement to the media.

“This will allow us to be more efficient in many ways and to be more agile as we pursue new opportunities to compete and win the loyalty of Canadians.”

In September, Empire reported that it was on track to achieve $500 million in annual cost savings from Project Sunrise.

It also reported that Sobeys had achieved same-store sales growth in the first quarter of its 2018 financial year. It was the first time in 18 months that Sobeys had reported higher year-over-year sales at stores open at least a year.

Hydro One considering use of pre-paid meters

CityNews | posted Friday, Nov 24th, 2017

The Hydro One building is seen in an undated file photo. HANDOUT

Hydro One is considering allowing its customers to use pre-paid meters for their electricity use.

The proposal is contained within a massive Ontario Energy Board application, which also asks for a rate increase of 0.5 per cent this year and 4.8 per cent next year.

The application says the pre-paid meters would minimize Hydro One’s financial risk by requiring customers to pay for energy before using it — in particular for customers who are deemed to be a high collection risk.

But Hydro One’s executive vice-president of customer care and corporate affairs said it would not be used as a collection tool, adding that the language in the application to the OEB is very generic and “somewhat out of context.”

If the OEB allows Hydro One to move forward with pre-paid meters, they would be offered to customers as a choice and wouldn’t be forced upon anyone, Ferio Pugliese said.

The NDP believes the move would allow Hydro One to circumvent a winter disconnection ban.

“They’re going to move forward with this and they’re going to go after anyone who has a bad credit score, anyone who’s in arrears — anyone who they think is vulnerable,” said energy critic Peter Tabuns.

Hydro One’s application says once the pre-paid amount on a meter is used up, “power is cut off until the customer is able to load the meter with more credits.”

But Pugliese said that would “absolutely not” be the case, noting Hydro One was the first utility to voluntarily stop winter disconnections.

“We are not about to go about the business of disconnecting people, especially remotely once something like this runs out,” he said.

Energy Minister Glen Thibeault stressed that pre-paid smart metres are in very preliminary stages and their inclusion in the approximately 2,000 page application is a small detail. They would be opt-in for customers, he said.

“This is about giving people choice,” he said. “This isn’t … a Trojan horse. It’s two paragraphs in a rate application that may not even get through.”

If the OEB gives its approval, Hydro One would study the pre-paid meters idea, then find vendors, then test the technology, then field test it, Pugliese said, stressing the idea is in a very preliminary stage.

Major security changes could be coming to Toronto City Hall

CityNews | posted Friday, Nov 24th, 2017

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A staff report to be reviewed by Mayor John Tory’s executive committee is recommending enhanced security measures at Toronto City Hall, including metal detectors, bag checks, and a glass wall.

The report dated Nov. 15 outlines several ways to boost security at the municipal building, based on assessments from the Toronto Police Service and Public Safety Canada.

“The primary goals of these proposals are to maintain an accessible, safe, and secure Toronto City Hall while providing a reasonable level of protection from foreseeable threats,” the report states.

One of the measures is “patron screening” through the use of metal detectors and physical baggage checks – the latter by security staff, X-Ray machines, or both.

The report points out that patron screening is done in various degrees at provincial legislatures in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Quebec, at city halls in Calgary and Edmonton, the courts, as well as at the Air Canada Centre and Rogers Centre.

Tory told 680 NEWS on Thursday the new security measures have to be considered.

“People are used to having some degree of security when they go into a hockey game or a rock concert, or even other public or private buildings, and City Hall is open, as we wanted to remain as much as we can, but striking that balance is really tough,” he said.

However, Coun. Gord Perks is not in favour, saying “we have a tradition of openness, transparency and inclusion at Toronto city government.”

Another suggested security measure includes providing a “physical separation between vehicles and persons.” Currently, there are already such “vehicle mitigation measures” in place around Nathan Phillips Square.

The staff report also recommends implementing a glass wall in council chamber and a “physical delineation of space” for two committee rooms.

The city adopted security measures after Canada’s domestic terrorism threat level was increased from low to medium on Oct. 1, 2014. However, since the threat level remains, the city says more permanent measures are needed.

“As there is no indication that the level will again be lowered anytime in the near future, there is a need to consider security enhancements as more permanent in nature,” report states.

If the enhanced security measures are approved, it will cost the city $500,000 in one-time capital funding, while adding extra security staffing will cost the city $774,000 more a year.

The executive committee will review the report on Tuesday. If approved, it will then head to city council on Dec. 5.

Canadian screen industry wants code of conduct to deal with sexual misconduct

CityNews | posted Friday, Nov 24th, 2017

In this April 28, 2017, file photo, Harvey Weinstein attends the "Reservoir Dogs" 25th anniversary screening during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival in New York. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Invision/Charles Sykes

Groups that represent actors, talent agencies, directors and other employees of Canada’s film and television industry say a code of conduct will be one of several steps toward tackling sexual harassment in the industry.

More than a dozen organizations met on Thursday in Toronto to discuss what can be done to curb the problem.

They issued a statement that says a code of conduct would clearly define what is inappropriate behaviour as well as what the consequences would be for those who commit such actions.

Some in the industry say sexual misconduct has long been a reality in Canada’s film scene, and they contend it’s a problem that appears to be growing.

The recent revelations of sex-related allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and other prominent celebrities has shone a light on sexual harassment in the industry.

The groups also agreed to create more effective ways to report wrongful behaviour to ensure people can report allegations without fear of retribution.

Their statement says they plan to organize an education program and ensure existing policies governing sexual misconduct are properly enforced.

“This moment presents us all with an opportunity to focus a spotlight on the prevention of sexual harassment,” the Canadian stakeholder groups says in a statement released Thursday. “We are committed to working in partnership to build solutions and will continue to provide updates as they become available.”

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists invited the groups to the meeting.

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