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PC staff member leaves the room caucus room at Queen's Park in Toronto on Friday, January 26, 2018. Ontario Tories will huddle today to pick an interim leader who may lead them into the June provincial election, following Patrick Brown's resignation early yesterday morning in the face of sexual misconduct allegations, the party isn't even sure if it will hold a leadership race before the vote. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Ontario Tories to use two step verification for online leadership vote

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Feb 8th, 2018

Ontario Progressive Conservatives who want to help choose the party’s next leader will have to prove their identity before they can participate in the vote.

The party says it is putting in place a two-step verification system to ensure the transparency of the online ballot, which is scheduled for early March.

It says members will receive a unique verification number in the mail, which will direct them online to verify the information on their record. They will then have to send in a photo or scan of an approved identification document before being allowed to vote.

The announcement comes as the party deals with the discovery of a significant discrepancy in its membership numbers.

An email recently sent to the Tory caucus and obtained by The Canadian Press showed that the party has roughly 67,000 fewer members than the 200,000 claimed by former leader Patrick Brown.

The party is holding a leadership race to replace Brown, who stepped down abruptly in late January amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Brown denies the allegations, which were made by two women who spoke to CTV News and have not been independently verified by The Canadian Press.

Former Tory legislator Christine Elliott, who came in second to Brown in the last leadership race, is among those competing to take the helm of the party.

Caroline Mulroney, a Toronto lawyer and the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, is also in the running, as is former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, brother of late mayor Rob Ford.

The first leadership debate will be held in Toronto on Feb. 15, a day before the deadline for candidates and new party members to register. A second debate will be held at a later date.

The vote is set to take place between March 2 and 8, with the results announced on March 10. The Progressive Conservatives say independent third parties will be responsible for processing votes and maintaining personal information.

SpaceX’s big new rocket blasts off with sports car on top

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Feb 7th, 2018


SpaceX’s big new rocket blasted off Tuesday on its first test flight, carrying a red sports car aiming for an endless road trip past Mars.

The Falcon Heavy rose from the same launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today, doubling the liftoff punch of its closest competitor.

The three boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Center, as thousands jammed surrounding beaches, bridges and roads to watch the rocket soar, delayed more than two hours by high wind.

Two of the boosters were recycled and programmed to return for a simultaneous touchdown at Cape Canaveral, while the third, brand new, set its sights on an ocean platform some 300 miles offshore.

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk owns the rocketing Tesla Roadster, which is shooting for a solar orbit that will reach all the way to Mars. As head of the electric carmaker Tesla, he combined his passions to add a dramatic flair to the Heavy’s long-awaited inaugural flight. Typical ballast for a rocket debut: concrete or steel slabs, or experiments.

On the eve of the flight, Musk told reporters the company had done all it could to maximize success and he was at peace with whatever happens: success, “one big boom” or some other calamity. The longer the flight, he noted, the more the company would learn from the heavily instrumented rocket.

Musk has plenty of experience with rocket accidents, from his original Falcon 1 test flights to his follow-up Falcon 9s, one of which exploded on a nearby pad during a 2016 ignition test. The Falcon Heavy is a combination of three Falcon 9s, the rocket that the company uses to ship supplies to the International Space Station and lift satellites. Spacex is reusing first-stage boosters to save on launch costs.

The Heavy is intended for massive satellites, like those used by the U.S. military and major-league communication companies. Even before the test flight, customers were signed up.

Given the high stakes and high drama, Tuesday’s launch attracted huge crowds not seen since NASA’s last space shuttle flight seven years ago. While the shuttles had more liftoff muscle than the Heavy, the all-time leaders in both size and might were NASA’s Saturn V rockets, which first flew astronauts to the moon in 1968.

Not counting Apollo moon buggies, the Roadster is the first automobile to speed right off the planet.

At the convertible’s wheel is SpaceX’s “Starman,” a dummy in a white-and-black-trimmed spacesuit, and on the soundtrack is another nod to David Bowie: his 1969, pre-Apollo 11 song “Space Oddity,” featuring the memorable line “Ground Control to Major Tom.” SpaceX is hoping for live shots of the car from on-board cameras, once the protective enclosure comes off and the car sails off fully exposed.

The car faces considerable speed bumps before settling into its intended orbit around the sun, an oval circle stretching from the orbit of Earth on one end to the orbit of Mars on the other.

First, the Roadster needed to survive liftoff, no small feat for a rocket hot off the factory floor. Then it has to endure a cosmic bombardment on its several hours of cruising through the highly charged Van Allen radiation belts encircling Earth. Finally, a thruster has to fire to put the car on the right orbital course.

If it weathers all this, the Roadster will reach the vicinity of Mars in six months, Musk said. The car could be travelling between Earth and Mars’ neighbourhoods for a billion years, according to the high-tech billionaire.

Musk acknowledged the Roadster could come “quite close” to Mars during its epic cruise, with only a remote chance of crashing into the red planet.
Win or lose, the Heavy already is rattling the launch market. Its sticker price is $90 million, less than one-tenth the estimated cost of NASA’s Space Launch System megarocket in development for moon and Mars expeditions.

SpaceX has decided against flying passengers on the Heavy, Musk told reporters Monday, and instead will accelerate development of an even bigger rocket to accommodate deep-space crews. His ultimate goal is to establish a city on Mars.

Taiwan quake kills 4, tilts buildings; over 140 missing

Ralph Jennings and Christopher Bodeen, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Feb 7th, 2018

Rescuers are seen entering a building that collapsed onto its side from an early morning 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Hualien County, eastern Taiwan, Wednesday, Feb. 7 2018.  Rescue workers are searching for any survivors trapped inside the building. (AP Photo/Tian Jun-hsiung)

Rescuers were working Wednesday to reach five people trapped and more than 140 people unaccounted for in several buildings damaged by a strong earthquake near Taiwan’s eastern coast.

The shallow, magnitude 6.4 quake late Tuesday night caused at least four buildings in worst-hit Hualien county to cave in and tilt dangerously, killing four people.

Video footage and photos showed several midsized buildings leaning at sharp angles, their lowest floors crushed into mangled heaps of concrete, shattered glass, bent iron beams and other debris. Firefighters could be seen climbing ladders hoisted against windows as they sought to reach residents inside apartments.

The quake injured 225 people, two dozen of them critically, in Hualien county, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported. The force of the tremor buckled roads and disrupted electricity and water supplies to thousands of households, the National Fire Agency said.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen moved to reassure the Taiwanese public that every effort would be made to look for survivors. In a post on her official Facebook page, Tsai said she arrived in Hualien Wednesday to review rescue efforts.

Tsai said she “ordered search and rescue workers not to give up on any opportunity to save people, while keeping their own safety in mind.”

“This is when the Taiwanese people show their calm, resilience and love,” she wrote. “The government will work with everyone to guard their homeland.”

The official news agency said all but two of the 145 people who could not be reached might be in the Yunmen Cuiti building, a 12-story apartment building, though it said it did not immediately have an estimate of how many were trapped.

Chen Tzai-Tung, a worker with the government disaster centre, said it was not safe for rescuers to enter the Yunmen building because it was still leaning farther bit by bit.

The headcount of missing people is based on registered occupants, Chen said by phone, adding that firefighters were evaluating whether to prop up the building with steel.

“It’s still in the process of tilting, so it would be dangerous to go in there,” Chen said. “They’re scrambling for time.”

A hotel employee died when the ground floor caved in at the Marshal Hotel, and another person died in a residential building, the agency reported.

A maintenance worker who was rescued after being trapped in the hotel’s basement said the force of the earthquake was unusual.

“At first it wasn’t that big … we get this sort of thing all the time and it’s really nothing. But then it got really terrifying,” Chen Ming-hui said after he was reunited with his son and grandson. “It was really scary.”

Other buildings shifted on their foundations and rescuers used ladders, ropes and cranes to get residents to safety.

Taiwanese media reported that a separate hotel known as the Beautiful Life Hotel also was tilting. Taiwan’s Central News Agency posted photos showing a road fractured in several parts.

Bridges and some highways were closed pending inspections.

With aftershocks continuing through the night, residents were being directed to shelters, including a newly built baseball stadium, where beds and hot food were provided.

Speaking from a crisis centre in Taipei, Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung said rail links appeared to be unaffected and the runway of Hualien airport was intact.

“We’re putting a priority on Hualien people being able to return home to check on their loved ones,” Hsu said.

Schools and offices in Hualien County were to be closed Wednesday.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck just before midnight Tuesday about 21 kilometres (13 miles) northeast of Hualien at a relatively shallow depth of about 10.6 kilometres (6.6 miles).

Taiwan has frequent earthquakes due to its position along the “Ring of Fire,” the seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.

Exactly two years earlier, a magnitude 6.4 quake collapsed an apartment complex in southern Taiwan, killing 115 people. Five people involved in the construction of the complex were later found guilty of negligence and given prison sentences.

A magnitude 7.6 quake in central Taiwan killed more than 2,300 people in 1999.

Maclean’s Live with Jagmeet Singh: Six key economic takeaways

Murad Hemmadi | posted Wednesday, Feb 7th, 2018


New NDP leader Jagmeet Singh sat down with Maclean’s senior writer Paul Wells at Ottawa’s recently-renovated National Arts Centre in Ottawa for his first major national appearance.

Here are six key things Singh said about the economy, jobs and industry during their conversation.

On running deficits

In 2015, Tom Mulcair promised to balance the budget. That pledge, contrasted with the Liberals’ willingness to run deficits, has been cited as a key factor in the NDP’s fall from campaign frontrunner to third place. Singh will not necessarily emulate that promise. “I think it’s maybe no longer a big issue, people haven’t been talking about it a lot,” he noted. Singh said he’s “opposed to austerity in all its forms,” and in “difficult economic times,” he believes in “deficit funding to ensure that we continue with our social programs that we need.”


“We’re a trading nation,” Singh acknowledged. “We need to have trade, we rely on it, a vast proportion of our jobs in our country rely on trade agreements.” But he favours “fair” trade over the simply “free” variety. Portions of NAFTA don’t meet that standard, he said. “If we have an agreement with a country like Mexico, that doesn’t support or protect the rights of workers, that doesn’t have the same environmental regulations, how can Canadians ever compete with that jurisdiction?” he asked. He also pointed to the investor-state dispute resolution mechanisms in Chapter 11.

On sustainable jobs

In 2015, NDP candidate Linda McQuaig suggested that some of the fossil fuels in Canada’s oilsands “may have to stay in the grounds.” Singh said “many jobs rely on these sectors,” but suggested there’s a global trend towards sustainability. “We can’t actually tackle issues of the environment without making sure that people have jobs,” he said. “How can we transition people into jobs that are not jobs of the next five years, but are jobs of the next 50 years?” Doing that will mean focusing on sustainable sectors rather than finite resources. If he becomes prime minister, Singh said, energy projects would need to help meet the country’s climate change goals and create local and sustainable jobs.

On taxing the rich

Singh has repeatedly pointed to the Panama and Paradise Papers investigations as proof of “massive wealth that’s being siphoned out of our country.” That money could be used for programs like pharmacare or free tuition he said. His proposed fixes are a tax on CEO stock options and expansion of the capital gains levy. Why would the rich stay or invest here under those conditions? “We have a stable government, we have a great universal healthcare program, we have a highly educated workforce,” Singh rhymed off. “There are certain advantages that we’re going to have.” A tax on CEO stock options “doesn’t impact … the structure of a company, it’s ability to produce a product [or] to be successful,” he insisted.

And it won’t hurt Canada’s growing tech sector, Singh promised, noting he has a circle of people he solicits advise from on entrepreneurship and startups. “We don’t want in any way to discourage innovation,” he said.

On AI and automation

One question from Twitter focused on automation and artificial intelligence. Singh cited driverless technology as a leading indicator of the trend. “A lot of folks that drive vehicles are going to see, in the not-too-distant future, that those jobs are going to be replaced,” he said. Preparing for that requires implementing training opportunities, such as teaching people to provide the inputs for AI systems. “There is a strong argument for a basic income,” he noted. Such a policy would be a way of “tackling inequality in a practical way, and a way that we can actually use the federal government’s resources to actually help people’s lives,” he said later.

On minimum wages

The wage floor in Alberta and Ontario rose at the beginning of the year, and the federal NDP promised it for jobs regulated at the national level in the last election. Singh gave a nod to Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, his former boss, saying that she’d been the first to commit to a $15 target, “and then the government followed suit.” The party’s goal is a “liveable wage,” but a minimum wage raise is the first step, he said.

Snow to affect Wednesday morning and afternoon commute

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Feb 7th, 2018


The GTA is bracing for snow that could make the morning and afternoon commute more challenging than normal.

A special weather statement remains in effect for the region, calling for between five to 10 centimetres of snow. Areas near the Lake Ontario shoreline could receive more snow.

Environment Canada says the snow will start Wednesday morning, just in time for the drive in to work or school.

“This snowfall will likely have a significant impact on the morning commute,” the national weather agency says.

The snowfall is expected to taper off by the afternoon.

More snow is expected on Friday — at least five centimetres — which is also expected to affect both commutes.

‘The truth will come out,’ Patrick Brown tweets

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Feb 7th, 2018


Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown has spoken for the first time since he resigned.

In his tweet, he wrote that “#metoo can be a tool to lift society and I applaud that effort” and that “false allegations however undermine that good work.”

“The truth will come out,” his tweet reads.

Brown resigned as party leader after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced.

At the time of his resignation, Brown said the accusations weren’t true.

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

CTV News reported that two women alleged sexual misconduct against Brown when he was a federal MP.

‘You’ve defamed me Sarah:’ Steve Paikin responds to harassment allegations

News Staff and The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Feb 7th, 2018


TVO host Steve Paikin has posted a message on Facebook denying accusations he sexually harassed a woman in 2010.

In the statement, Paikin says he was notified of the allegations on Saturday via an email he received from Sarah Thomson.

Thomson, a former Toronto mayoral candidate, made allegations on her website on the weekend that she had lunch with a talk show host who propositioned her during a lunch with her assistant.

“I’ve spent 35 years building my reputation,” Paikin says in his Facebook post. “In one fell swoop, these lies have prompted outrageous headlines and connected me to a story to which I have no business being connected.

“Sarah, you and I both know the incident you described never happened. It’s complete fiction. To be clear, I did not have sex, suggest, request, imply, or joke about having sex with you … The quest to reclaim my reputation, which you’ve tried to destroy, begins now. I look forward to vindication.”

“You’ve defamed me Sarah. I have no idea why, but you have.”

TVO CEO Lisa de Wilde announced an independent third-party investigation into the matter and said Paikin will continue as host of “The Agenda with Steve Paikin.”

The move comes amid a social justice movement under the #metoo and Time’s Up banners that have undone the careers of several personalities named in sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.

CTV News reporter Paul Bliss was suspended hours after a woman made a sexual misconduct allegation against him, while politician Patrick Brown resigned as leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party after two women accused him of sexual misconduct.

The former CBC Television correspondent is TVO’s best known personality, and has become a fixture of provincial and federal political coverage since joining the network in 1992.

He was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2013.


Ontarians encouraged to carpool to work, school this week

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Feb 6th, 2018


The province’s transit agency is encouraging users to share a ride to work and school this week as part of carpool week.

Smart Commute — the annual campaign led by Metrolinx – was launched on Monday and runs until Sunday.

The program encourages people to carpool and see how much they can save by driving to work, school or an event with at least one other person.

Officials say carpoolers can reduce their costs considerably by sharing the drive to work.

The average cost of owning and operating a vehicle in Canada is more than $10,000 a year. They also say that if two people share a 50-kilometre total commute five days a week, they will each save about $54 in gas alone in one month.

Click here to calculate how much you can save by carpooling and to find other people who take similar routes to work.

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