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‘Don’t do it, it was a drunken moment:’ Subway joyrider

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Feb 28th, 2018

The man who filmed himself hitching a reckless ride on the back of a TTC subway has a message for potential copycats: “Don’t do it.”

“I don’t want people seeing the video and thinking it’s OK to do what I did,” he told CityNews in a phone interview Tuesday. “It was a drunken moment.”

The 20-year-old York University student told CityNews he shot the video about a year ago and got the idea after seeing someone pull a similar stunt on the New York City subway system.

A brief video clip shows him clinging to the back of a speeding subway while shouting “on the back of a train!” into his camera.

“I saw a video of some guys doing the same thing with a train in New York City. I was 11 out of 10 drunk and I remember thinking ‘hey, I want to do this, this is a like a bucket-list item type of thing.’ ”

After shooting the video he posted it to an Instagram group.

It has since gained the attention of thousands online, as well as angry TTC authorities and a perturbed Mayor John Tory.

Tory said he’s seen the video and he didn’t mince words when asked about it.

“You can’t legislate against stupidity,” the mayor said during a TTC media event in Scarborough on Tuesday.

“I hope that nobody will think that it’s funny,” he added. “It is dangerous and it imperils people’s lives and I just hope it isn’t repeated.”

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green was equally unimpressed. Green called it an “incredibly dumb thing” to do and said the TTC would be pursuing charges.

“We do have an investigation underway,” Green told CityNews on Monday. “We are taking it incredibly seriously.”

“This has to be one of the strangest and dumbest things we’ve seen on our property in a long time.”

The joyrider says he’s been in touch with the TTC and is meeting with transit officials on Thursday where he will present them with an apology letter.

“I totally understand their concerns and they have every right to be upset,” he said.

“I don’t want people to use this as an example and get hurt because of it, that’s the last thing I’d want.”

It’s not clear if the TTC will follow through on its vow to charge the man, but according to the TTC website, he could face a $235 fine for Travel on exterior of vehicle along with other possible charges, including Unauthorized use of transit system equipment, which carries an even steeper $425 fine.

Aside from the obvious risks to life and limb, TTC misbehaviour often leads to a significant amount of avoidable service delays.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers from 2017.

TTCDELAYS

Liberals promise extra leave time for two parent families after birth of child

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Feb 28th, 2018

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The Trudeau Liberals took baby steps in their bid to reshape the social safety net Tuesday with a new, “use-it-or-lose-it” leave option for new parents and a modest increase in the value of a rebranded tax benefit for low-income workers.

The government’s third budget – coming on the heels of two that created an income-tested child benefit and a long-term funding commitment to child care – promised new parents the ability to share either five or eight additional weeks of leave following the birth of a child, provided they also share the job of caring for the baby.

Measures proposed Tuesday would give parents five additional weeks if they’ve opted for the traditional 12-month parental leave, or eight weeks under the new 18-month option introduced late last year. The benefit would be also be available to couples that adopt.

There won’t be any boost in benefits for the extra weeks off, unlike the higher benefits provided under a similar program in Quebec. Nor will eligibility rules be changed to follow Quebec’s lead, as experts had urged the Liberals to do.

The government hopes the measures will push more non-birthing parents to take more time to care for a newborn, allowing mothers to get back into workforce sooner. The budget document notes that women accounted for 92 per cent of parental benefits paid through EI during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the most recent numbers available, suggesting a wide gender divide when it comes to caring for an infant.

How many non-birthing parents take the leave may be small given how the Liberals have set up the program, said Angella McEwen, an economist with the Canadian Labour Congress.

The option isn’t expected to come into effect until June 2019, just ahead of a federal election where parties will be currying political favour with middle-class families trying to foot the bill for raising children.

The budget also promises to allow new mothers and those on sick leave to keep more of their employment insurance benefits if they work just a few hours every month.

The government doesn’t expect the working-while-on-claim provisions – long a pilot project that the budget makes permanent – to change the number of Canadians working while on maternity leave. The budget document says the measure is targeted at low-income households facing a financial squeeze that requires them to work.

The Liberals are also targeting low-income workers with a rebranded benefit – dubbed the Canada Workers Benefit – that will enrich and expand eligibility at a cost of $1 billion. For workers earning at or below the poverty line, the changes will mean an extra $170 a year to a maximum of $1,355 for unattached workers, and $2,335 for couples or single parents.

The Liberals estimate that 300,000 more workers will take advantage of the benefit, but not until the 2019 tax year, meaning the refunds won’t actually arrive until 2020.

But the measure lacks real teeth to make a serious dent in poverty rates, said economist Armine Yalnizyan, who noted that the changes may affect how much families receive in provincial and housing benefits. The tax refund will also be delivered annually – a potential problem for low-income families that often budget month-to-month.

“It definitely doesn’t lift that many people above the poverty rate,” Yalnizyan said. “You definitely can’t call it an anti-poverty measure.”

Workers are targeted in other areas of the budget: Extra benefits to employees who lose out on pay, vacation and severance when an employer files for bankruptcy; a promise to review the rules around protecting pensions; $90 million over three years to speed up processing of EI claims; and an extra $127.7 million over three years to make sure Canadians with EI questions can get through to someone at a call centre.

Paying for all the new measures will mean a bump in EI premiums paid by both employers and employees. The increase will come into effect in the fiscal year beginning in April, and continue an upward trend after taking into account new measures in Tuesday’s budget.

The last hours of Patrick Brown’s leadership

Stephen Maher, Maclean's | posted Wednesday, Feb 28th, 2018

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown leaves Queen's Park after a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday, January 24, 2018. Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown says he is suing CTV News over its reporting of what he alleges are false accusations of sexual misconduct. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

At 4:24 PM on Jan. 24, Glen McGregor, politics correspondent for CTV National News, emailed the assistant of Alykhan Velshi, chief of staff to Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown.

McGregor, a hard-nosed veteran of the parliamentary press gallery, had often crossed paths with Velshi when Velshi was working for Stephen Harper.

In Ottawa fashion, the two men had sometimes exchanged friendly banter when they ran into one another in downtown Ottawa bars, but for years McGregor dug up stories for the Ottawa Citizen that posed difficulties for the Harper government, and Velshi ran interference for the boss, often pushing confrontational media lines.

Their paths had not crossed since 2014, when Velshi left Harper’s office. Now they were connected again in new roles. A year earlier, Velshi had left global business consultants McKinsey & Company to act as Brown’s chief of staff. McGregor had left the Citizen and was now on CTV.

That afternoon, Velshi’s young assistant, Sarah, let him know that McGregor had contacted him. Velshi told her he would call him back. McGregor couldn’t wait. Half an hour later, he sent her the email.

“URGENT: For Alykhan Velshi”

Velshi’s assistant scanned it, forwarded it to Velshi and went to find him. He needed to look at it immediately.

The email (whose veracity was confirmed by Maclean’s) was shocking but not entirely unexpected.

Several days earlier, Brown had told his team that McGregor had made some calls asking about Brown’s relations with young women.

The fact that McGregor was looking into Brown’s past was concerning. Brown’s team knew that private eyes and reporters had poked around in Barrie, looking into rumours about Brown’s romantic life. But McGregor, an investigative reporter with a long track record of coming up with big stories, now working for the highest rated news channel in Canada, was a different matter.

The text of the email confirmed that McGregor’s inquiry was indeed different.

“Hi Alykhan,” McGregor wrote. “This is a media inquiry to Patrick Brown. Because it is highly sensitive, I am sending it directly to you to give to him rather than to his public-facing email address. Please call me to discuss soonest.”

That was followed by a letter addressed to “Mr. Brown.”

It got right to the point.

“We are looking into allegations against you of sexual misconduct, made by two women. We would like to arrange an on-camera interview with you to address these allegations in more detail.”

What followed was shocking: a 900-word account, in point form, detailing the allegations.

The email started by describing, in 150 words, an incident with a young woman, giving only her first name and no date and beginning with an allegation that Brown had plied her with liquor while she was in high school. (It was later revealed that the young woman was older than reported at the time of the incident. Brown has consistently denied the allegations and has filed a notice of libel with CTV. The two women insist their stories are true. The allegations have not been tested in court. Brown did not reply to repeated requests for comment on this story.)

The email went into much greater detail, 624 words, about the allegations of a second young woman, a former Brown staffer. It included her full name, a description of how they met, including details of a Facebook message he sent to her. (Again, Brown has repeatedly denied the claims as lies, criticizing CTV’s reporting as a hit job and challenged the women to take their complaint to the police if true.)

The email, with its detailed accounting of allegations of sexual misconduct, was cataclysmically bad news for Brown, who until that moment had looked like he had an excellent chance to become the next premier of Ontario.

After defeating Christine Elliott for the leadership of the party in 2015 by out-hustling her on the ground, he had put together a centrist platform, raised $16 million, fought off social conservatives and racists, recruited minority candidates. He criss-crossed the province, doing grass roots outreach. Long hours of media training were paying off and his communication skills were improving. Polls showed him with a double-digit lead over Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals. He looked like a winner. He had even managed to recruit Caroline Mulroney, a star candidate. He seemed posed to become premier.

Interviews with more than a dozen people with direct knowledge of the events of that day show that the email from McGregor changed everything, tearing apart the team that had that morning seemed ready to govern Canada’s largest province.

Velshi, who had access to Brown’s Facebook account, checked the exchange described in the email. It was as reported.

Velshi called in press secretary Nick Bergamini and some junior aides and set them to work lining up lawyers and drafting a statement.

He arranged for Brown’s driver to go get the leader at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club, the posh Rosedale club where Brown, as competitive a tennis player as he was a politician, was playing a ladder match against a young lawyer.

Velshi instructed the driver to pick up Brown, and take him to his condo, near Queens Park, but not to tell him why.

“I was playing tennis at the time and my assistant came onto the tennis court and said urgent,” Brown later told Global news. “The team needs to see you.”

Velshi forwarded the email to key members of Brown’s team: campaign chair Walied Soliman, a high-powered lawyer and close friend of Brown, campaign manager Andrew Boddington, a former organizer for Tim Hudak and Kevin O’Leary, and deputy campaign manager Dan Robertson, a former Harper staffer who had helped put together Brown’s platform.

After sending them the email, Velshi set up a conference call.

Soliman, who had known Brown since their days in the Progressive Conservative Youth Federation, was headed for the airport when he got the call. The Canadian chair of Norton Rose Fullbright, a global law firm, Soliman was bound for Billy Bishop Airport to fly to New York on business. At first, he thought that Brown’s team could handle this without his help. Before long, Velshi convinced him that the story was serious enough that he had to cancel the trip.

Soliman headed for the condo, to brief Brown. Everyone else on the call headed for Velshi’s office.

At 4:58 p.m., Velshi emailed McGregor to find out CTV’s plans for the story:

“Glen, I received your note from Sarah. I’m obviously completely unfamiliar with any of this. When is CTV planning to run the story? I haven’t managed to reach Mr Brown yet. Alykhan”

McGregor replied two minutes later: “We are planning to run a story tonight, beginning with our 10 p.m. National News broadcast.”

The news that CTV was planning to go that night cranked up the already brutal pressure on the Brown team. It seemed unfair to all of them that CTV would give them just hours to respond, something Brown later complained about. But, according to interviews with eight people who were present at the condo that night, at no point did anyone suggest engaging with CTV, offering to give them an interview or asking for more time.

Perhaps that was because many of them reached the same conclusion independently upon reading the email: Brown would have to quit.

“I read that and I remember trembling, shaking,” said one staffer. “I very quickly formed the view that he couldn’t survive this.”

It seemed clear that the media reaction to the story would quickly push Progressive Conservatives to reject his leadership.

“Caucus is never ever going to be behind this,” said another staffer. “I can’t imagine candidates are. They would never be behind him as leader on this.”

When they thought about the days ahead, they didn’t like what was coming.

“How do you rebut harassment allegation?” said another staffer. “You hire PIs. You hire lawyers to sue CTV. You Facebook stalk a bunch of people. You do a lot of things that the media would not forgive you for and force everyone in the party to defend if you were the leader of a party.”

When Robertson and Boddington arrived at the Queens Park office, it was a beehive of activity, with junior staffers engaged in crisis management tasks.

Robertson took Velshi and Boddington aside and told them he didn’t think that Brown could survive this. The other men grimly agreed.

The email was tough personal news for all of them, who had been working hard with the goal of making Brown premier. That was not going to happen. They had to figure out how to break it to the leader.

They decided they had to get to Brown’s condo nearby on St. Mary Street.

By the time they arrived, Soliman had briefed Brown, who was protesting his innocence.

When Brown spoke with staff about the email, he was rattled by the allegations. He could not even remember who the first woman was. Two people who were there say his explanations to them were off-putting and not persuasive.

Soliman was more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt than other members of the team. Unlike the staffers, who got to know Brown on the job, Soliman and Brown had been friends for 25 years. And Soliman had vetted him more thoroughly, looking at, for instance, a report produced by private investigators who dug into Brown’s past during the 2015 leadership race, which included surveillance photos of Brown.

Multiple sources say investigators who dug into Brown did so because they wanted to help rival Christine Elliott. Elliott’s campaign denies any knowledge of that, although they are aware of rumours that someone wishing to help the campaign hired private investigators and aware of other media organizations looking into the allegations.

When Velshi, Boddington and Robertson got to the condo, at about 6 p.m., they sat down with him alone at the kitchen table and Robertson told him they thought he needed to quit. You can’t survive the week because caucus won’t support you, he told the leader. Velshi and Boddington agreed.

But Brown was firm. The stories were false. He was not going to quit. So, he asked them, if I am going to stay on, how can I fight for my job?

In a later interview on Global TV, Brown said that his senior staff “recommended” that he have a press conference to tell the truth and then blind-sided him by resigning. Multiple sources say, though, that they strongly recommended he resign and only advised that he hold a news conference after he refused to step down.

Dazed, and certain that he was making a mistake, they nonetheless started to organize a news conference, working on a draft of the statement Brown would give.

Then Velshi, Robertson and Boddington stepped out into the hallway to meet privately. Robertson told the other two men that if Brown wouldn’t resign, they would have to. They believed Brown was pursuing a self-destructive course and didn’t want to be part of it.

While this was going on, the condo had been filling up with people close to Brown. An assistant had ordered pizza.

Brown’s sisters had arrived, as had Brown’s old friend Mike Richmond, who was the party’s lawyer, former Blue Jays executive Rob Godfrey, and Mikaela Patterson, who Brown was dating at the time of the alleged assault on the second woman. She later did an interview in which she cast doubt on one of the two allegations against Brown.

Brown’s friends and family were in the bedroom, while the staff worked in the rest of the condo.

Rebecca Thompson, deputy chief of staff for communications, a former Ottawa political staffer and Sun News reporter, and former Harper staffer Dimitri Soudas, who had volunteered to help run the war room during the election campaign, agreed to help Brown prepare for the news conference.

At about 8 p.m., Goldy Hyder, Canadian CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, one of the most important government relations and communications firms in Canada, showed up.

Hyder, former chief of staff to Joe Clark, is a veteran debate coach. He had been scheduled to meet Brown that evening to help prepare him for an upcoming debate, something he had agreed to do in part because of his friendship with Soliman, in part because he was impressed by the way Brown had stood up to anti-Muslim elements in the party.

That day, someone from the leader’s office messaged him to tell him to come to the condo, not the office.

When he got there, and saw all the people, it was obvious that something was up.

Robertson and Velshi gave him a two-page printout of the email from McGregor and told him that if he wanted to walk away, nobody would blame him.

Hyder read part of the first page and stopped. It doesn’t really matter what the rest of this says, he said. It’s over.

They asked him to read the whole thing. He finished it and told them it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. Brown’s leadership is over.

OK, they said. Will you tell Brown?

Hyder agreed. He went into the room where Brown was preparing for the news conference.

It’s over, Hyder said. You have to quit. Brown said he couldn’t quit over untrue stories. Hyder said it doesn’t matter what’s true. You have to quit. Brown said no.

Having failed to convince him to quit, the conversation turned to the news conference Brown was planning.

Thompson, Soudas and Hyder talked to Brown about what was to come. Brown’s sisters wanted to flank him to show their support for their brother. Others didn’t think that was a good idea, for the sake of the sisters. Someone proposed having Patterson and Richmond stand with him. Others said that would not look great.

“It was very clear it was going to be a terrible news conference,” said one staffer present.

It would look bad if Brown didn’t answer questions, so they tried a practice question-and-answer session, with Hyder and Thompson posing as journalists, throwing questions at the leader. It quickly became clear that he would not be able to handle that.

At 8:14 pm, Brown’s lawyer, Jonathan Lisus, sent an email to McGregor, who was anxiously waiting in CTV’s Ottawa bureau, preparing to air his explosive story.

“Mr. Brown categorically denies these false and defamatory allegations,” the email said.

McGregor, who had heard nothing from Velshi since the email earlier that day, had been waiting for a statement from the Brown camp. This flat denial was the last piece that CTV needed to put the story on the air at 10 pm.

If Brown had offered an interview the next day, or provided detailed exculpatory information, CTV would have been in a different position, with more legal and journalistic questions to wrestle with before they could go to air.

CTV had been working on the story for months. McGregor, reporter Rachel Aiello and anchor Lisa LaFlamme had all had a hand in it, along with lawyers and producers. They waited for Brown’s news conference, news of which was leaking, and prepared to air their story.

In the condo, meanwhile, Brown’s key aides had concluded that they need to resign. Velshi, Boddington and Robertson took Soliman aside and told them they were going to quit that night. Soliman tried to convince them to stay on, at least wait until the next day, but they insisted that they were done. They all agreed that it was wisest not to tell Brown, who was emotionally strained and facing a disastrous news conference.

At 9:45 p.m., Brown showed up at Queen’s Park to face reporters, who by now had learned that something big was coming.

“A couple of hours ago I learned about troubling allegations about my conduct and my character,” he said, his voice shaking. “These allegations are false, categorically untrue—every one of them. I will defend myself as hard as I can with all the means at my disposal.”

Brown was on the verge of tears. After he finished, he walked robotically from the room and down the stairs, ignoring the pack of reporters yelling questions at him.

It was a disastrous performance.

Minutes later, Velshi tweeted a joint statement from him, Boddington and Robertson.

“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 leader. He did not accept that advice. Since our view is that this advice was in the best interest of the PC Party, we have therefore resigned our positions.”

Soon after, Bergamini, who had independently decided he had to quit, issued his own statement: “This evening I learned of allegations against Patrick Brown. As a result, it is in the best interest of the PC Party that he step down immediately. As he has chosen to follow a different route, I am resigning as the PC Party Press Secretary.”

Brown and the people who remained loyal to him after he resigned, relaunched his campaign and resigned again, see those statements as a betrayal.

Since that night, the two camps, once united in the quest to make Brown premier and get rid of Wynne, have been set against one another.

In an TVO interview later with Steve Paikin, Brown said that he was set up by people both inside and outside his party.  “I certainly know I was set up. I know it was based on absolute lies and fabrications and now, frankly, one of the things I’m focused on is turning over every stone so I can know who is behind the set up.”

Brown’s people theorized that the whole thing was a palace coup, a plot by supporters of Caroline Mulroney to get rid of him and make her premier, according to people close to Brown. No facts substantiate these claims that Mulroney’s supporters or anyone had in any way schemed to remove Brown, and neutral insiders with knowledge of events reject them.

The Brown people also blame the former staffers for leaking information that subsequently led to damaging stories about Brown. They think the Liberals played a role in the CTV story, but if they have proof of that, it likely won’t come out except as part of a legal action.

They remain bitterly angry at Brown’s staffers for undercutting him with their resignation statement.

“If you believe that you should resign, then you should absolutely resign,” said one person close to Brown. “Given what was on the table at that point, and what was unfolding in front of them, it was either terrible professional judgment, to resign by tweet, or they’re rat f–kers. If you’re staff, you should never be the story.”

Others say the staffers had no choice, because they needed to distance themselves from the disastrous news conference if they wanted to maintain their professional reputations.

After the news conference, Brown returned to his condo with his sisters, Richmond, Soliman, party executive director Bob Stanley and Thompson and another staffer or two. The condo was now full of half-empty Diet Coke containers.

After the CTV report aired, Brown had a conference call with his caucus, a recording of which journalist Jen Gerson later obtained for Maclean’s.

Brown dialed in but kept silent for much of the call, a plan hatched by staffers who thought he might be more likely to resign if he first heard MPPs discuss him without knowing he was on the line.

Brown did not have many allies within caucus. He was closer to the candidates he recruited, and he had pushed for a progressive platform, so many MPPs resented him, either because of hurt feelings over nominations or policy-based disagreements.

While Brown and his staff listened, MPPs started to draft a letter demanding his resignation, even discussing whether they ought to expel him from caucus.

Halfway through the call, Thompson spoke up. “So I’m sitting here with the leader, with Patrick,” she said. “We’ve listened to your entire call.”

The MPPs may have been shocked to learn Brown was on the line, but they didn’t soften their message. They told Brown he had to step down immediately. He continued to plead for his job. A dozen times he asked them to let him hang on until the caucus could meet the next day. They were firm. He had to resign that night. Thompson and Richmond came on the line to plead for time. The MPPs wouldn’t budge. No.

Soliman called a break.

They sat around and reasoned with Brown. The few remaining staffers told him he had to quit. Brown was unconvinced. Finally, Stanley, an organizer who is said to be personally close to Brown, gave his opinion.

“Son, it’s over,” he said.

At 11:30 p.m., seven hours after McGregor’s email landed, Brown was finally starting to accept that he would have to go.

Police chief responds to criticism about comments on McArthur probe

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Feb 28th, 2018

SAUNDERS_ON_STAFFING

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders has issued a statement following criticism about comments he made regarding the probe into alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.

 

“As a police service, we put resources into Project Houston and a dozen full time investigators did thousands of hours of work canvassing the community, posting flyers, issuing news releases, interviewing witnesses, and still those activities did not yield any results,” Saunders said in an email statement.

The statement comes after the Councillor representing Toronto’s gay village demanded an explanation for comments the Chief made in an article in The Globe and Mail posted Tuesday.

In an interview with the Globe, Saunders said members of the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood could have done more to help police during Project Houston, a 2012 investigation into the disappearances of three men with ties to the area.

“I’ve heard a lot of sources say certain things, and had those sources said those things when we had Project Houston, I think there is a very strong potential that the outcome could have been different,” he said.

According to the Globe, he later added: “We knew that people were missing and we knew we didn’t have the right answers. But nobody was coming to us with anything.”

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam called the article “unsettling.”

“LGBTQ2S community is mourning, families + friends devastated and civilians DID NOT fail the police in their missing persons investigation,” she said in a tweet. “Truth is our community DEMANDED more policing resources to find the missing. Hope Chief clarifies his comments.”

But Mayor John Tory came to the chief’s defence while speaking with reporters on Tuesday.

“My conversations with the chief about this matter have carried no sense whatsoever that he blames any victims,” Tory said. “And none of us would want to blame the victims or their families or their friends or fellow community members.”

“I think the whole idea of the different reports that are being written and reviews that are being done … The whole idea is to heal. Is to restore and increase trust between the police and the community.”

Saunders added in his statement that he wanted everyone, “particularly the community” to understand the intent of the discussion with the Globe and Mail. “I talked at length about the challenges we face and our desire to work with the community to move forward and be better,” he said.

In addition to the statement, Saunders also released the interview in it’s entirety.

Listen here: Chief Saunders’ Editorial Board with the Globe and Mail.

Members of the LGBTQ community have criticized Toronto police for not doing more to solve the case of missing men from the city’s gay village. McArthur, 66, was arrested last month and has so far been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and police expect to lay more charges.

Highlights from federal budget tabled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Feb 27th, 2018

Finance Minister Bill Morneau shakes hands with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he arrives in the House of Commons prior to tabling the federal budget in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb.27, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Highlights from the federal Liberal budget tabled Tuesday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau:

– “Proactive” pay equity legislation, as well as $3 million over five years for a “pay transparency” measure, to close the wage gap among federal workers and in federally regulated sectors, impacting some 1.2 million people.

– The “Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare,” to be headed by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins, which will explore ways to establish a national drug program.

– $3.2 billion over five years for Canadian science and research, including money for granting councils and Canada Research Chairs, upgrading outdated laboratory facilities and harnessing the power of “Big Data.”

– $2.6 billion over five years for a wide array of measures to encourage and foster scientific innovation and gender equality in the field, including encouraging female entrepreneurs and business leaders, revamping procurement and expanding access to broadband internet.

– A federal deficit of $18.1 billion, including a $3-billion “risk adjustment,” down from $19.3 billion last year, that’s projected to decline slowly over the next several years, reaching $12.3 billion ($9.3 billion without the $3-billion cushion) by 2022-23.

– About $1.4 billion over six years to support Indigenous children in foster care and promote family reunification, plus $400 million over 10 years to upgrade and expand Inuit housing and $500 million for Metis housing.

– Higher excise taxes on tobacco products, including a $1 increase on a carton of 200 cigarettes and an adjustment that would see taxes increase with inflation every year, rather than every five years.

– $1.2 billion over five years and $344.7 million a year afterward for a new employment insurance parental sharing benefit that would provide additional “use-it-or-lose-it” benefits for non-birthing parents to encourage women to re-enter the workforce.

– $2 billion over five years for international aid through a new International Assistance Innovation program, designed to come up with flexible new financing arrangements, and the Sovereign Loans program.

– $155.2 million over five years for a new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security and $116 million over five years for the RCMP to create a National Cybercrime Co-ordination Unit.

– $448.5 million over five years to double the number of placements under the Canada Summer Jobs program by 2019-20.

– $172 million over five years and $42.5 million a year afterward for the Canada Media Fund to foster the growth of Canadian-produced content.

– $50 million over five years to support “local journalism in underserved communities,” and plans to explore new models that would allow private and philanthropic support for “non-profit” journalism, including allowing Canadian newspapers to receive charitable status.

– $75 million over five years, with $11.8 million a year afterward, to bolster Canada’s trade ties with China and Asia.

– $191 million over five years to support jobs in the softwood lumber industry, including litigation under the World Trade Organization and NAFTA’s dispute resolution mechanism.

– $90.6 million over five years to track down tax evaders and avoiders, plus $41.9 million over five years and $9.3 million a year thereafter to help Canada’s courts deal with the additional caseload.

– Changes to income sprinkling, passive investment income and the small business tax rate that are expected to save the government $925 million a year by 2022-23.

– $173.2 million in 2018-19 to support claim processing and to improve border security to better manage the increased number of people seeking asylum in Canada.

Women, science among top priorities in latest federal budget

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Feb 27th, 2018

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau walks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before tabling the budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Women, science and conservation are among the dominant themes of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s latest federal budget, which charts a clear course for the Liberals to the next election in 2019.

Morneau’s budget includes a $18.1-billion deficit for 2018-19, including a $3-billion adjustment for risk, down slightly from the previous year but without any plan for a return to balanced books.

Instead, the Liberal government is doubling down on the idea that spending money – even borrowed money – is good for the long-term future of Canadians.

The budget aims to increase the participation of women in the workforce, part of a longer-term plan to grow the economy and brace for the consequences of an aging population.

It provides up to five weeks of leave for new fathers, worth $1.2 billion over five years, to help break the pattern of mothers automatically taking on the greater share of child-rearing responsibilities.

It also includes major investments in science, the environment and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, all areas Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government sees as part of its progressive vision for the country and the world.

Can your emojis be used against you in court?

Amanda Ferguson and Jessica Bruno | posted Tuesday, Feb 27th, 2018

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Can your emojis be used against you in court?

Proving to be more than a bit of text-message fun, courts are now finding that the little social symbols can have big legal consequences, say researchers.

“Emojis are more than an innocuous new method of communicating,” says Elizabeth Kirley, an adjunct professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School on leave from Deakin Law School in Australia.

“We found the icons are challenging lawyers, judges and lawmakers around the world, with their use being recognized, in a legal context, not as a joke or ornament but as a legitimate form of literacy,” she explains.

Kirley and colleague Marilyn McMahon looked at American and European criminal, civil and contract cases involving emojis. They found that the emojis added a human element into text conversations, but that they also added uncertainty in some cases.

For example — is a teen who texts a gun or a bomb emoji to someone guilty of harassment or even terrorism?

The researchers found that emojis pose cultural and technical problems for anyone before the court.

As texters familiar with Emojipedia know, a single emoji can appear differently, and convey different emotion, across different platforms. So an emoji sent on an iPhone will look different — sometimes radically different — to someone on an Android or other phone. And on some platforms, they may not appear at all.

Further, how an emoji is used in combination with text, other images or other emojis can change its meaning. The researchers also say emoji use varies across gender, ethnicity and other groups.

Already, courts in Canada are having to grapple with whether an emoji sent in a text conversation is an important part of evidence.

Criminal defence laywer Ari Goldkind says he worked on a sexual assault case where an alleged victim’s use of emojis was discussed in court.

“The judge wanted to know more of what the emojis meant, how certain emojis would be defined,” he says. “As we enter into the digital realm, and language changes, this is just another sign of the evidentiary times.”

“With cases coming before the courts where the intended meaning of emoji in interpersonal messages is unclear, with some resulting in jail time for the offenders, it is clear that the legal status of these images needs to be determined.”

The researchers ask if Canada’s legal system is ready to assign a value to emoji communications. For instance, are they covered under free speech? And further, when an emoji’s meaning is unclear, how will a court handle it?

They suggest that courts needs specialists in digital speech to help determine if emoji conversations meet the standards of evidence.

Goldkind isn’t convinced that’s the solution: “Nine times out of 10, we use emojis to convey clear meaning, clear emotion, clear intention.”

Read the full research paper by professors Elizabeth Kirley and Marilyn McMahon.

The Emoji Factor: Humanizing the Emerging Law of Digital Speech

The Emoji Factor: Humanizing the Emerging Law of Digital Speech by CityNewsToronto on Scribd

Eric Hoskins resigns as Health Minister; replaced by Helena Jaczek

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Feb 27th, 2018

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins speaks during a news conference after the first day of a meeting of provincial and territorial health ministers in Vancouver, B.C., on January 20, 2016. A group of doctors accused the Ontario Medical Association of "complete surrender" Thursday in its negotiations with the government on a new fee agreement, and warned the deal will have a devastating impact on patient care. The advocacy group "Concerned Ontario Doctors," which says it represents thousands of physicians, worries the deal the OMA signed July 11 will lead to longer wait lists for patients while operating rooms and diagnostic machines sit idle. Health Minister Eric Hoskins issued a release saying the physicians services agreement will strengthen the long-term sustainability of the health-care system and increase access, quality and timeliness of care. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins has resigned.

In a statement Monday, Hoskins says his resignation as minister and a Liberal legislator representing a Toronto riding is effective immediately.

Hoskins has been a member of provincial parliament for eight years, serving as a cabinet minister in multiple portfolios.

Hoskins gave no reason for his departure, but said he will continue to work on building the health-care system for all Canadians.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne thanked Hoskins for his work and announced that Helena Jaczek will take over as Ontario’s health minister.

Michael Coteau will take over Jazcek’s former role of Minister of Community and Social Services and maintain his role as Minister of Children and Youth Services.

More to come

 

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