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Ontario plans elevator availability law; report makes 19 recommendations

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jan 25th, 2018

TORONTO – Ontario plans to pass legislation in the spring aimed at addressing elevator availability and reliability as part of its commitment to tackle what has become a growing vertical mobility issue across the country, The Canadian Press has learned.

The planned legislation is in response to a report to be released Thursday that aims to define and enhance elevator reliability by ensuring building owners perform preventive maintenance — seen as key to minimizing thousands of annual entrapments and other unscheduled shutdowns.

“There are currently no minimum preventive maintenance standards in Ontario to minimize future availability issues,” retired justice Douglas Cunningham writes in his 57-page report obtained by The Canadian Press. “Compliance with minimum maintenance standards for safety, shown to signal more effective preventive maintenance practices, is at an all-time low.”

In fact, Cunningham reports, only one in five residential buildings are meeting minimum rules for scheduled maintenance tasks.

Other recommendations include forcing contractors to report outages over 48 hours or when half the elevators in a building are out of service — 80 per cent of buildings have only one or two lifts — and having a defined plan to restore service. Outage information should be publicly available, Cunningham says.

Cunningham says that while the four big elevator companies have painted a somewhat rosy picture of the situation — some critics have referred to multinational giants Kone, Otis, Schindler, and ThyssenKrupp as an oligarchy — there is widespread concern about elevator availability, which he wants to see defined as “the ability of a building’s elevating devices to transport persons as and when required.”

Overall, Cunningham finds a “diverse and complex set” of interrelated issues underlie outages, including maintenance, capacity problems and labour shortages. He also notes in passing cases in Europe, Israel and Japan involving systemic anti-competitive practices by the big elevator companies.

The Ontario government last year ordered the provincial safety regulator — the Technical Standards and Safety Authority — to commission the study after The Canadian Press found increasing problems with residential, nursing home and other elevators across the country and a private member’s bill aimed at addressing the issue gained all-party support.

The latest available figures, for example, show firefighters in Ontario responded to 4,577 calls by people trapped in lifts in 2016. Industry figures peg entrapments that year at 9,649. Additionally, the report notes, elevator outages are enormously problematic for people with mobility issues, and can hamper first responders in emergencies.

Part of Cunningham’s study — carried out by consulting firm Deloitte — involved a survey of building owners. Condominiums reported the biggest availability problem. Overall, one in five respondents reported having an elevator out of service for 18 days or more in any given year. Elevator age appears to play little role.

The study also reviewed jurisdictions such as Vancouver, New York and Singapore.

Liberal backbencher Han Dong introduced his private member’s bill last year that would punish contractors for extended elevator downtime and mandate “traffic studies” to ensure new residential buildings have sufficient elevator capacity. No standards exist at the moment.

Cunningham, however, asserts Dong’s bill is based on anecdotal rather than “robust” evidence. The problem, he finds, is the “acute absence” of reliable data that undercuts efforts to comes to grips on the extent of the problem and potential fixes.

Gathering needed data and tackling the issue will take years, involve several ministries, the safety regulator, contractors and building owners, the report finds.

One issue is that no regulatory authority is responsible for elevator availability — as long as the devices do not pose an active safety threat to users.

Nevertheless, sources have told The Canadian Press that Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles — also responsible for accessibility issues — was expected to announce on Thursday plans to begin tackling the issue by introducing enabling legislation this spring and regulations in the fall.

Longer-term government plans call for setting timelines for returning devices to service — which Cunningham and the province say would make the province the first jurisdiction in the world to do that. Other planned initiatives include stronger enforcement tools and fines around maintenance, and tackling a shortage of qualified elevator mechanics.

Building code amendments would ensure new highrise buildings have a suitable number of elevators, according to the government.

The government also plans to ensure data on elevator uptimes are publicly available, sources said, suggesting would-be tenants for example would have information about a building, and authorities would have a better idea of where the problems are.

The government is also looking to develop education and awareness materials for building owners and residents on compliance with requirements for notice of service disruptions.

One thorny issue is whether the current safety authority should be given responsibility for availability. The fee-for-service authority, seeing itself caught potentially in a conflict between enforcing safety and ensuring availability, opposes taking on the extra mandate.

Cunningham was given an earful from disaffected contractors and owners about their lack of trust in the safety agency, which he said needs to act as a “modern regulator” that incorporates broad and frequent industry input into its decision-making.

Ontario Tory Leader Patrick Brown resigning amid allegations about conduct

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jan 25th, 2018

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Ontario’s Opposition leader is stepping down amid allegations of sexual misconduct, dealing a severe blow to his party just months before the province heads to the polls.

 

Patrick Brown announced the decision in a statement issued early Thursday morning, following a hastily-called news conference in which the Progressive Conservative leader “categorically” denied what he called “troubling allegations” about his conduct and his character.

In the statement, Brown said that after consulting with caucus, friends and family, he decided to step down as leader but would stay on as a member of the provincial legislature to clear his name.

He said “these allegations are false and have been difficult to hear” and that defeating Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne in the upcoming provincial election is “more important than one individual.”

 

Brown’s political future as Ontario’s Opposition leader was thrown into turmoil Wednesday as the allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him prompted calls for his resignation.

In his late-night news conference, a visibly emotional Brown said he was made aware of the allegations hours earlier, but did not provide details on what those allegations were. He said he would defend himself in the court of law.

“I can’t speculate on the motive of my accusers, I can only say that what they are saying is categorically untrue,” the 39-year-old politician said.

CTV News reported that two women have come forward with graphic sexual misconduct allegations against Brown that date back to when the Opposition leader was a federal MP. The broadcaster did not name the women, who alleged the incidents happened at Brown’s home in Barrie, after they had been drinking in his presence. Brown was not drinking at the time, the women told CTV News.

The report said one of the women, who is now 29, claimed she was still in high school when Brown allegedly asked her to perform oral sex on him.

The other woman said she was a university student working in Brown’s constituency office when he sexually assaulted her at his home after an event she helped organize, CTV News reported. The woman said she did not report the alleged incident to authorities.

CTV News said it had viewed records of correspondence between Brown and the women. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Politicians of all stripes were quick to weigh in, with the leader of Ontario’s New Democrats calling for Brown to step down.

“I’m disgusted and disturbed by these sexual misconduct allegations,” Andrea Horwath said in a statement. “Patrick Brown must resign, immediately. He deserves his day in court, but no person can lead a political party in this province with allegations like these hanging over his head.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne praised the women who made the allegations, saying on Twitter that it is “a difficult and brave thing to do to come forward in the way these young women have done tonight.”

Wynne said her government has made it clear that sexual assault and harassment are not to be tolerated but did not comment on Brown directly.

Provincial and federal Conservatives also denounced sexual misconduct and harassment.

“The allegations against the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives are extremely serious and should be investigated fully,” federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer said in a statement.

Progressive Conservative Lisa MacLeod, a member of the Ontario legislature, said everyone “has the right to be free from unwelcome behaviour or advances.”

Even before Brown’s decision to resign, speculation began swirling as to who might replace him as PC leader should he step down. MacLeod, Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney were mentioned as possible candidates to take on Wynne in June.

Brown’s comments were also followed by a flurry of resignations from his top staff members, who said on Twitter they were stepping down over the leader’s handling of the situation.

“Earlier today, all three of us became aware of allegations about Patrick Brown. After speaking with him, our advice was that he should resign as PC Party leader. He did not accept that advice,” his chief of staff, deputy campaign manager and campaign manager said in a joint statement.

“Since our view is that this advice was in the best interest of the PC Party, we have therefore resigned our positions.”

The party’s press secretary also announced he was leaving his post.

Ontario PC deputy leaders Sylvia Jones and Steve Clark later issued a joint statement on the party’s website saying they “unanimously agree” that Brown cannot continue as leader. They said while Brown is entitled to due process, “he cannot lead us into an election.”

Jones and Clark said the PC caucus would “immediately consult with party officials and members on best way to move forward.”

Brown repeatedly denied the allegations against him and said he had instructed his lawyers to ensure that they are addressed in court.

He noted that “it’s never OK” for anyone to feel they have been a victim of sexual harassment or feel threatened in any way.

“I reject these accusation in the strongest possible terms,” Brown said. “This is not how I’m raised. This is not who I am.”

He did not take questions from reporters and left immediately after making his statement.

Brown has been leading in the polls as Ontario heads to a provincial election this summer.

He was first elected as federal MP in 2006 as part of the Conservative government after serving as a Barrie city councillor. He was re-elected twice, once in 2008 and again in 2011.

During his time in Ottawa, Brown served as a backbench MP in Stephen Harper’s government and has been frequently criticized by political opponents for voting in favour of reopening the abortion debate.

He won the PC leadership in 2015, beating long-time Ontario legislator and favourite Christine Elliott.

Since he has become party leader, Brown has attempted to broaden the appeal of his the party, going as far as to say social conservative issues were off-limits at the PC policy convention last fall.

Brown says he is pro-choice and more recently has led Pride parade delegations.

Below is the text of Ontario Progressive Leader Patrick Brown’s statement to the media Wednesday night.

“Ladies and gentlemen.

A couple of hours ago, I learned of troubling allegations about my conduct and character.

I’m here tonight to address them.

First, I want to say: these allegations are false. Every one of them.

I will defend myself as hard as I can, with all the means at my disposal.

I can’t speculate on the motive of my accusers, I can only say they what they are saying is categorically untrue.

It’s never ok for anyone to feel they have been a victim of sexual harassment or feel threatened in any way.

Let me make this clear.

A safe and respectful society is what we expect and deserve.

We need to move forward to eradicate sexual violence and harassment across the province _ across the country. Everywhere.

I know that the court of public opinion moves fast. I have instructed my attorneys to ensure that these allegations are addressed where they should be: in a court of law.

In short, I reject these accusation in the strongest possible terms.”

Unedited video and transcript of PC Leader Patrick Brown’s news conference

CityNews | posted Thursday, Jan 25th, 2018

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The following is a transcript of PC Leader Patrick Brown’s news conference delivered at Queen’s Park on Jan. 23, 2018.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A couple hours ago I learned about troubling allegations about my conduct and character and I’m here tonight to address them.

First, I want to say these allegations are false – categorically untrue – every one of them.

I will defend myself as hard as I can with all means at my disposal.

It’s never ok, it’s never ok, for anyone to feel they’ve been a victim of sexual harassment or feel threatened in any way.

Let me make this clear: a safe and respectful society is what we expect and deserve and no one appreciates that more than I do. I’ve got two younger sisters who are my best friends. I’ve grown up in a family that has taught me good values.

My values and beliefs are those that we need to move forward to eradicate sexual violence and harassment across the province, across the country, everywhere.

I know the court of public opinion moves fast. I’ve instructed my attorneys to ensure that these allegations are addressed where they should be: in the court of law.

In short, I reject these accusations in the strongest possible terms. It’s not my values, it’s not how I was raised, it’s not who I am.

Cara ready for U.S., Canadian expansion after buying The Keg

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jan 24th, 2018

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Cara Operations Ltd. is beefing up its already large presence in the Canadian restaurant business with a $200-million acquisition of Keg Restaurants Ltd., a move that could help take a bigger bite out of the U.S market.
The acquisition announced Tuesday adds 106 steakhouses to the Vaughan, Ont. company’s empire of 1,259 restaurants, which are mostly in Canada.

Cara’s brands include Swiss Chalet and St-Hubert chicken restaurants, the Harvey’s, Burger’s Priest and New York Fries quick service chains, Milestones, Montana’s, Kelsey’s, and East Side Mario’s casual dining restaurants, as well as Prime Pubs, Elephant & Castle and Bier Markt.

Only a small fraction of those restaurants have seeped across the border to the U.S. and other countries, but Cara and KRL’s CEOs said at a press conference Tuesday that they see potential for international growth.

“At some point, we will run out of room in Canada and The Keg already has a foothold in the U.S.,” Cara CEO Bill Gregson said.

He thinks more of Cara’s brands will cross the border and the 10 American Keg steakhouse and handful of U.S. Elephant and Castle pubs will act as “a beachhead for expansion” without “risking the farm” as it grows.

“We will figure out what the pace will be over time (but) there is still opportunity in mid-size markets in Canada,” Gregson said.

KRL’s CEO David Aisenstat will remain in charge of the Keg operations and assume oversight of Cara’s higher-end casual brands Bier Markt, the Landing Group and Milestones restaurants. He said KRL is already bigger than American steakhouse competitors Flemings and Del Frisco’s.

“The potential for us to make a dent there and really grow our brand there is pretty severe,” he said. “We have a lot of room in Quebec and three (Kegs) slotted for Alberta for a couple of years, so we have some growth here.”

However, Aisenstat admitted he could see The Keg growing to 120 restaurants in Canada, but probably not 150.

In recent years, Canada’s restaurant industry has rapidly expanded and become increasingly consolidated.

In December, MTY Food Group added Baton Rouge-owner Imvescor to its roster of dozens of quick-serve food chains, including Country Style, Mr. Sub, ManchuWOK, Extreme Pita, Pinkberry and Villa Madina.

At the start of 2017, Restaurant Brands International, which owns Tim Hortons and Burger King, nabbed Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen for US $1.8 billion.

Cara’s latest buy was the Toronto-based Pickle Barrel chain in September 2017.

“We have always been opportunistic,” said Gregson, adding most of Cara’s acquisition targets have approached the company rather than it pursuing them.

However, the KRL and Cara deal stemmed from an ongoing relationship of their CEOs, which Gregson said often involves “the odd round of golf” and “a basketball game here and there.” Gregson has also sat on KRL’s board for the past four years.

They started mulling over a partnership shortly after Cara launched its Kellys Landing restaurant in Toronto last fall and Gregson invited Aisenstat for a meal there to grab some advice on the spot from his pal.

Aisenstat, who rose through the ranks at his father’s Hy’s Steakhouse chain in Toronto, said the deal was particularly exciting because Cara has expanded so much in the last four years and he admitted he probably eats at Cara’s Swiss Chalet restaurants just as much as he dines at The Keg.

The Competition Bureau said Tuesday the Cara-Keg deal will be subject to its review, but wouldn’t comment further.

Under terms of the deal, Cara has agreed to pay KRL’s shareholders — Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. and Aisenstat — $105 million in cash and 3.8 million Cara subordinate voting shares.

In addition, Cara may have to fork over another $30 million in cash if certain financial milestones are attained within the first three fiscal years after the deal closes.

Cara will change its corporate name “to reflect the new business composition” once the deal closes. Gregson and Aisenstat joked that they were floating “Bill and David’s Bar and Grill” as a possibility, but aren’t sure it will make the cut.

But they were sure that Cara brands won’t start selling Keg menu items and the Keg’s relationship with the Keg Royalties Income Fund, a publicly traded entity that receives royalties from Keg restaurants operated by KRL, won’t change.

Gregson said, “We had no conversations with the fund about buying the fund portion” and “it is not on the radar” in part because the yield of the fund means Cara would need “a huge multiple” to buy out the fund.

KRL was founded as the Keg and Cleaver in 1971 by British Columbian entrepreneur George Tidball, who was also involved with the Spaghetti Factory, A&W, and Apex ski resort.

Meanwhile, Cara was founded in 1883 as the Canada Railway News Company, specializing in the sale of newspapers, magazines and sweet treats at rail hubs. It later transitioned towards catering and eventually, turned its attention to restaurants.

Bell Canada alerts customers who may be affected by data breach

David Paddon, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jan 24th, 2018

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The RCMP has launched an investigation into a data breach at Bell Canada that appears to have compromised customer names and email addresses, but no credit card or banking information.

Bell Canada spokesman Nathan Gibson told The Canadian Press that “fewer than 100,00 customers were affected.”

RCMP spokeswoman Stephanie Dumoulin, at the police force’s national division in Ottawa, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner said they couldn’t disclose details.

“We are following up with Bell to obtain information regarding what took place and what they are doing to mitigate the situation, and to determine follow up actions,” said the federal privacy watchdog’s spokeswoman Tobi Cohen.

Bell Canada has alerted customers who were affected, and also informed them that additional security, authentication and identification requirements have been implemented.

“When discussing your account with our service representatives, you will be asked for this additional information to verify your identity,” its emailed notice to customers said.

Katy Anderson, a Calgary-based digital rights advocate with OpenMedia, said she’s glad Bell is implementing additional security checks.

“However, this is the second time the company has been hit by hackers in eight months,” Anderson said in a phone interview.

Bell Canada revealed in May that an anonymous hacker had obtained access to about 1.9 million active email addresses and about 1,700 customer names and active phone numbers.

Anderson said that the public should realize that centralized data is vulnerable, by its nature.

“When a breach like this happens, which we’re seeing more and more, it’s always a good reminder to change your passwords, update your security questions with things only you would know, and consider using a password manager,” Anderson said.

Bell’s latest data breach follows several other high-profile hacks, including at credit monitoring company Equifax and car-hailing service Uber, though those companies did not immediately disclose the breaches.

The federal government is in the process of reviewing changes to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act that would require companies to notify people in the event of a serious data breach.

But until those come into force, Alberta is the only province in Canada that has mandatory reporting requirements for private-sector companies.

 

Man dies after fall at Mississauga construction site

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Jan 24th, 2018

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The Ministry of Labour is investigating after a 59-year-old man fell to his death at a Mississauga construction site on Tuesday.

Peel police say it happened at a site on Lakeshore Road West, just west of Johnsons Lane.

The man was declared dead at the scene.

No further details have been released.

 

Metrolinx targeted by North Korean cyberattack

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Jan 24th, 2018

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North Korea has been linked to a cyberattack launched against Metrolinx, spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins confirmed to CityNews on Tuesday.

At no time was any customer information compromised, she said.

The attackers used malware in their attempt to penetrate Metrolinx’s security.

The hack was channelled through Russia, Aikins said.

“At no time was any customer information or card information – nothing related to our customers – was ever compromised, so there was no breach of that information,” she said. “There was also no breach to our safety system so at no time was anybody at risk.”

North Korea has been implicated in recent hacks, including the WannaCry ransomware attack that infected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide and crippled parts of Britain’s National Health Service in May.

U.S. Homeland security adviser Tom Bossert wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last month that North Korea was “directly responsible” for the WannaCry ransomware attack and that Pyongyang would be held accountable for it.

Bossert said the U.S. administration’s finding of responsibility is based on evidence and confirmed by other governments and private companies, including the U.K. and Microsoft.

American officials have also said that North Korea is responsible for the Sony cyberattack in 2014 that dumped personal information of tens of thousands of current and former workers online.

North Korea has denied involvement in both cases.

With files from The Associated Press

Fire breaks out at Danforth area home

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Jan 24th, 2018

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No injuries have been reported after a house fire near Danforth and Coxwell avenues.

The fire broke out at a home on Hanson Street just after 3 a.m. on Wednesday.

One person was at home at the time of the fire but escaped without harm.

There has been no word on what caused the fire.

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