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Man seriously burned testing camping equipment in North York apartment

News Staff | posted Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

A man is in hospital with serious burns after accidentally starting a fire in an 18th floor apartment building in North York.

Emergency crews were called to the scene on Kempford Boulevard, near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue, just after midnight on Tuesday.

Paramedics said the man’s burns, which are reportedly on his hands and arms, are serious but not life-threatening.

Police said the man was testing his camping equipment in preparation for a camping trip.

Toronto Water says $2,500 bill caused by leaking toilet, Scarborough man disagrees

Meredith Bond and Adrian Ghobrial | posted Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

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Without knowing it, a Scarborough man may have been flushing thousands of dollars down the toilet.

When Vipin Sehgal received his water bill at the end of February, he was shocked to see he owed the City of Toronto over $2,500.

His bill showed that starting in mid-January, his water usage started climbing before finally peaking on February 26 and then dropping down to a somewhat reasonable consumption level.

The total usage for that massive bill was 1572 cubic metres or almost 1.5 million litres of water over five months — enough to fill five average-sized swimming pools.

Seghal says his bill is usually around $300 dollars and averages around 100 cubic metres.

Immediately, Seghal realized something was wrong as he could not recall any changes to his family’s water consumption over that time period.

He contacted Toronto Water, who sent a plumber out to investigate and discovered a small leak in the toilet. The city concluded the leaky toilet was to blame for the spike in water consumption.

However, the plumber didn’t come to his home until March 23, almost a month after Seghal’s water consumption had returned to near normal levels.

Seghal says he has paid $350 of the $2,500 bill as a show of good faith while he waits for them to investigate what really caused the spike, but the city has slapped on a penalty for late payment.

The fact that they are charging him interest now on his non-payment is “just adding insult to injury,” he said, adding that it’s, “another slap in the face from city workers.”

Seghal says it’s clear to him there are inaccuracies in the system, whether it’s a human issue or a mechanical one.

City of Toronto’s Manager of Utility Billing Anthony Fabrizi says an investigation was launched after Seghal complained about the high bill and Toronto Water will soon be testing the meter to determine if anything went wrong, but he said a faulty toilet could explain the spike.

Fabrizi says the city believes that Seghal tried fixing his toilet, but couldn’t fully stop the leak, which is why the plumber still found evidence of a much smaller leak, a month later.

Seghal strongly contends he did not touch the toilet and was not aware of any leak until the city’s plumber discovered it.

Manager of Customer Care Services at Toronto Water Carlo Casale says the water gauges very rarely get it wrong.

Casale says when you look at the math from the bill, the spike can easily be attribute to a leaky toilet.

“If you think of a toilet, most tanks are about six litres in volume, so after you flush, say it takes 30 seconds to fill, that’s 12 litres a minute, over a day that’s $66 a day. In a month, that’s about $2,000 a month. It’s very easy for it to add up.”

When told that Seghal had yet to fix the small leak in his toilet and his water consumption levels had returned to normal, Casale says, “We can only charge by what goes through the meter. It’s very mechanical. Whatever goes through there, that’s what we’re going to charge.”

Casale did offer some tips if you want to avoid this happening in your home.

“One way to determine if a toilet is leaking is to listen. You can usually hear it leaking,” Casale said. “If not, you can usually do a little dye test, where you add in a little bit of food colouring, or even a tea bag, and wait about 10-15 minutes and see if the coloured water goes into the bowl. That’s one way to indicate if there’s a running toilet that’s uncontrolled.”

There is also a website called “My Water Toronto” where you can check your daily, weekly, and monthly water usage.

Fabrizi says there is a provision in their bylaws called the unexplained consumption increase. But, at this time, since the city has determined what they believe caused the leak, the Seghal’s can’t receive an adjustment under this provision.

The city receives around 1,000 complaints a year from people with high bills and in around 70 per cent of the cases, they give the homeowner at least a partial break on the bill.

If the city does find there was a problem with Seghal’s metre, Fabrizi says all the extra fees will be reversed.

Ultimately, there is no guarantee that the Seghals won’t have to pay their $2,500 bill.

Winter losses of bee colonies in Ontario could be worst on record

Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

epa05279385 Bees in their hive near Kal, 105 kms northeast of Budapest, Hungary, 26 April 2016 (issued 27 April 2016). The end of April marks the start of the apiary (beekeeping) season in Hungary.  EPA/PETER KOMKA HUNGARY OUT

Canadian beekeepers are expressing concern about the effects of poor weather on their colonies, with the president of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association describing the level of dead or ailing ones as “astounding.”

“It’s quite discouraging and demoralizing for beekeepers,” Jim Coneybeare, 55, said in a phone interview Monday.

An association survey of almost 900 Ontario beekeepers indicated that 70 per cent suffered unsustainable losses this past winter.

“I’ve been getting calls from beekeepers around the province,” said Coneybeare, who lives in Fergus, Ont.

“The number of dead or weak colonies is astounding. These could be the worst winter losses on record.”

That’s bad news not only for beekeepers, but for vegetable and fruit growers who depend on bees for pollination.

More than 40 per cent said the recent long, cold winter that extended into spring was the main reason for the heavy losses.

“Pollen from the trees usually comes at the end of March, beginning of April, (but) nobody saw that until the end of April, beginning of May, so a lot of our pollen was delayed,” Coneybeare said.

The third-generation beekeeper explained that an abundance of pollen and nectar leads queen bees to raise a lot of young bees, but that production of the brood is cut back if there is not enough.

Coneybeare, who said Ontario has more than 3,000 beekeepers, noted that plants want sunshine and temperatures of around 25 C and that they don’t yield pollen and nectar if it’s 18 C and cloudy.

“And then there’s still certain areas where we see certain problems with pesticides,” he added.

“Some areas are seeing stress from pesticides so then the hives just don’t have as many young bees that survive into the spring.”

The association has asked the Ontario government for financial assistance to allow beekeepers to recover and rebuild their colonies.

Coneybeare doubts the problem will affect the price of honey in stores, but fruits and vegetable prices could feel the impact.

“The apples you eat, the peaches you eat…various fruits and vegetables produced in Canada could be affected by the availability of honey bees to pollinate those crops,” he said.

Beekeepers in Alberta and Quebec have also experienced noticeable losses because of weather conditions.

Connie Phillips, executive-director of the Alberta Beekeepers Commission, points to a longer than normal winter in her province.

“March and April were the coldest they’ve been in about 75 years,” she said in an interview.

“There were losses related, in some cases, to starvation because the bees ran out of food in their hives because the winter was so long.”

Phillips said she’s heard of anywhere from 30 to 50 per cent in losses and that “a few beekeepers lost everything.”

But, she added, the Alberta winter loss survey hasn’t been completed yet.

The Alberta commission represents more than 90 per cent of the province’s 300,000 colonies, which is the largest number in Canada.

Alberta has about 900 beekeepers, according to one recent statistic.

It’s a similar situation in Quebec where beekeepers have reportedly lost between 40 per cent and 80 per cent of their colonies.

Quebec has more than 300 beekeepers with about 50,000 colonies.

TTC streetcar track repairs close Cabbagetown intersection until June

News Staff | posted Monday, May 14th, 2018

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Construction season has officially started in Toronto.

The intersection of Parliament and Gerrard streets has been closed in all directions for TTC streetcar track repairs.

The area isn’t expected to re-open until June 4.

During the closure, TTC streetcars and buses that normally travel through the area will be diverted.

The city says drivers can use alternate routes, including Jarvis Street, River Street, Bloor Street East and Dundas Street East.

Pedestrians will also be detoured around the work area and cyclists are being asked to dismount and walk around the intersection.

Work will take place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Vaughan looking to fast track Airbnb rules in wake of weekend shooting

News Staff | posted Monday, May 14th, 2018

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The City of Vaughan may be looking to fast track new rules surrounding short term rentals in the wake of this weekends fatal shooting at an Airbnb rental.

One man was shot to death and a second was taken to hospital with a gunshot wound after neighbours tell CityNews a fight broke out followed by loud bangs around 3:30 a.m. Saturday at a house on Timber Creek Boulevard, near Major MacKenzie Drive and Highway 27.

Police have yet to identify the victim, except to say he is in his 20s.

One man was taken into custody for fleeing the scene. York Regional Police aren’t calling him a suspect, saying only his involvement is under investigation.

Neighbours say the house has been on the market for quite some time and has been used as an Airbnb. In the past there have been noise complaints and calls made to police.

Area councillor Marilyn Iafrate says residents shouldn’t have to live in fear in their neighbourhood due to these short term rentals.

“I’m just looking forward to getting a grip on this because it’s getting rampant and right now it’s a free for all, and it’s not fair,” she tells CityNews.

“We need to have zones established, at the very least where you can or can’t. We also have to be fair. If people are looking to rent a home for business in the city for a month or two, we don’t want to prohibit that but having major parties is not acceptable.”

Iafrate adds they are looking at taking a page out of Toronto’s recent decision to regulate short term rentals.

“Based on complaints, we are trying to fast track this. …Airbnb’s, or short term rentals, were never meant to be in neighbourhoods.”

In a statement provided to CityNews, the City of Vaughan says it is currently undertaking a comprehensive review about regulating short-term rentals.

“Safety always remains a leading priority for the City of Vaughan. Processes and best practices are being examined to ensure that under any new potential rules brought forward, short-term rentals will be inspected, licensed and safe for the public.”

Airbnb says it has removed the home’s listing from its service and tells CityNews it has launched their own investigation, part of which will look at who was staying in the the home at the time of the shooting.

Ten ridings to watch as Ontario heads for its spring election

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, May 14th, 2018

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Ontario has 124 provincial ridings as it goes into a spring election. Here are 10 to watch:

DON VALLEY WEST

Her Liberals are lagging in the polls, but can Premier Kathleen Wynne secure a victory in her own riding? The veteran politician snatched the seat from the Tories in 2003 as the Liberals formed government, but 15 years later the party and its leader have seen their popularity drop dramatically. The riding has thwarted a party leader in the past — then-Progressive Conservative leader John Tory lost to Wynne in 2007, forcing him to run operations from outside the legislature.

ETOBICOKE NORTH

The west Toronto riding is the heart of so-called Ford Nation, the name given to supporters of Tory leader Doug Ford and his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Doug Ford, the elder of the two, represented roughly the same area during his single term on city council, which coincided with his brother’s mayoralty. Both brothers made headlines with their candid remarks and brash demeanour. Ford took over as PC leader after eking out a victory in a race sparked by Patrick Brown’s resignation amid allegations of sexual misconduct that he denies.

HAMILTON CENTRE

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has held this riding since it was created in 2007, and the area has been a party stronghold for decades. Horwath is well-liked — at least one poll has suggested she is the most popular of the major party leaders — but she faced criticism from party stalwarts in the last election over her platform, which they deemed too centrist. This will be her third election campaign at the helm of the NDP.

YORK-SIMCOE

Toronto lawyer and businesswoman Caroline Mulroney was chosen as the Tory candidate in this central Ontario riding last year, long before she threw her hat in the ring for the party leadership — a race in which she finished third. The riding has been blue since it was created in 2007, as has its federal namesake since 2004. Conservative MP Peter Van Loan, who represents the area federally, has helped Mulroney in her campaign. So has her father, former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, though his support has also led some to accuse her of banking on the family name.

NEWMARKET-AURORA

Christine Elliott re-entered politics this winter to seek the Tory leadership but will now face off against Environment Minister Chris Ballard for this Toronto-area seat. The suburban riding has only recently turned Liberal — it was previously held by Progressive Conservative Frank Klees, who chose not to run in the 2014 election. Elliott, a veteran Tory politician with strong support within the party caucus, was considered a frontrunner in the leadership race, which she narrowly lost to Ford. Elliott initially questioned the results of the leadership vote before conceding nearly a full day later.

BRAMPTON EAST

A riding that used to belong to Jagmeet Singh before he became leader of the federal NDP could potentially go to his younger brother, who is stepping in for the provincial party. Gurratan Singh, a 33-year-old criminal defence lawyer, has worked on his brother’s campaigns in the past though it’s his first time running for provincial office. Brampton East is a new riding that includes much of Bramalea–Gore–Malton, the riding Jagmeet Singh held for six years.

KITCHENER-CONESTOGA

Mike Harris Jr., son of former premier Mike Harris, was handed the Progressive Conservative nomination in April after losing in the nearby riding of Waterloo. Aside from his own name recognition, he may also benefit from having a similar name to the incumbent, Michael Harris, who announced he wouldn’t seek re-election just days before being disqualified as a Tory candidate and booted from the party caucus over allegations he sent inappropriate texts to a former intern.

HAMILTON WEST-ANCASTER-DUNDAS

The Progressive Conservative candidate, 26-year-old Ben Levitt, won the nomination a second time after his first victory was mired in allegations of fraud and ballot-stuffing that sparked a legal battle and a police investigation. The nomination contest was one of several reopened this winter after Ford took leadership of the party. Levitt is running against Liberal Ted McMeekin, a former cabinet minister who is the incumbent in the former riding of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale.

MISSISSAUGA LAKESHORE

This new riding includes the area covered by the former riding of Mississauga South, currently held by Liberal Finance Minister Charles Sousa. While he won by a significant margin in the 2014 vote, it remains to be seen whether the Liberals’ decision to run several consecutive deficits starting with their pre-election budget will hurt his cause.

KIIWETINOONG

One of two new ridings in Northern Ontario created in an effort to boost Indigenous representation in provincial politics, Kiiwetinoong has a majority Indigenous population. The Tories have nominated Chief Clifford Bull of Lac Seul First Nation, a community of three settlements near Sioux Lookout. Also vying for the seat is Doug Lawrance, the mayor of Sioux Lookout, who is running for the Liberals, and Sol Mamakwa, a member of the Kingfisher Lake First Nation, who is running for the NDP.

Lethbridge mayor slams racist tirade caught on viral video at Denny’s

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, May 10th, 2018

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A Lethbridge man who was the target of a woman’s racist tirade at a local Denny’s restaurant says he’s never experienced anything like it in the 13 years he’s lived in the southern Alberta city.

Monir Omerzai posted a video of the heated exchange on Facebook Tuesday saying “every culture and every human being should be respected.

“It does not matter what colour you are (or) where you came from,” he wrote.

The video shows a woman turning toward a group in the next booth and unleashing a profanity-laden rant, telling them to go back to where they came from and saying they don’t pay taxes.

“Go back to your f—ing country,” she is heard saying. “We don’t need you here.”

The people at the table try to interject.

“We’re all the same,” says a man’s voice off-camera. “You’re a human being. I’m a human being. There’s nothing special about you.”

As the exchange escalates, the woman gets up to kneel on her seat overlooking the group’s booth.

“You’re not dealing with one of your Syrian bitches right now,” she says. “You’re dealing with a Canadian woman and I’m not going to be talked down to by you.”

At one point, she appears to lunge at the table as a man beside her holds her back.

By Wednesday afternoon, it had been viewed more than 260,000 times and shared nearly 6,000, with several commenters expressing anger, embarrassment and dismay.

Omerzai told CTV News that police said there was nothing they could do and that the restaurant asked them to leave.

“The food just arrived, it was fresh and then we looked at the restaurant owner and then they told us we have to pack our food and leave now,” he said. “We were not intoxicated, we were not anything. We were just normal people going out there, being hungry.”

The Denny’s restaurant and the chain’s corporate office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Kelly Pocha of Cranbrook, B.C., confirmed to Lethbridge News Now that she was the woman in the video.

She told the news outlet she was in town visiting three weeks ago. She said she had been out drinking and she went to Denny’s with her husband for a late-night bite.

Pocha said the men were looking at her and laughing, while saying things in a language she didn’t understand.

“I got extremely heated and that’s basically when they hit record,” Pocha told Lethbridge News Now. “It’s gotten way out of hand. People aren’t seeing the whole story.”

Pocha, who described herself as a hardworking mother of three, admitted what she said was racist and said it doesn’t reflect who she is.

“If I could rewind and take it back I would. But I can’t.”

Lethbridge police say they are looking into the verbal dispute.

The video made waves at the Alberta legislature after Stephanie McLean, the minister for the Status of Women, offered a qualified defence of the woman on social media.

“She was definitely not right and was saying horrible bigoted things. That being said — (am) I hearing right? At the beginning of the video does the man on the left say to her ‘you ask to speak.’ Then says something about her mother?” McLean tweeted.

McLean later deleted the post and apologized.

“My tweet shouldn’t have implied there could be an excuse for the behaviour in that video,” she wrote. “There is no excuse!”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley denounced the “racist, bigoted comments” on Twitter.

Mayor Chris Spearman also condemned the racist rant and said Lethbridge has gone out of its way to welcome newcomers from all over the world.

“They’re part of who we are. We are a growing, progressive, modern city and I’m disappointed to see an incident like that occur,” he said.

Adil Hasan, of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, called the incident appalling.

“That kind of language and bigotry and racism have no place in Canada,” he said, adding his group has reached out to the men involved to offer support.

Ontario using electronic voting machines, voters’ lists in June 7 election

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, May 10th, 2018

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For the first time in a provincial election in Ontario, voters will use electronic voting machines when they head to the polls on June 7.

The voters’ paper lists will also be a thing of past in most ridings, replaced by an electronic version called e-Poll Book.

Elections Ontario says the new technology should help speed up both the voting and ballot-counting process.

When voters show up at a polling station, a machine will scan their notice of registration card, a process similar to scanning food at a grocery store.

Then the voters will receive their ballot from an official, fill it out and hand it back to the official who will put it through the tabulating machine.

A spokeswoman for Elections Ontario says the new technology was tested at two byelections in 2016, and was also used in a variety of municipal elections.

“We’re hoping this will be much more efficient for the voter,” said Cara Des Granges. “Getting results should be faster and the technology is proven to be more reliable than tabulating votes by hand.”

Des Granges said the estimated cost of the new technology is just over $32 million and the actual election costs will be released next year.

In the Feb. 11, 2016 byelection in the Whitby-Oshawa riding, it took only 30 minutes to count the ballots using the new machines, compared to the 90 minutes it took officials to count them by hand, according to an Elections Ontario report that examined the byelection.

The report also said the new technology would help with another election issue: staffing.

“Elections Ontario is increasingly unable to find the required number of polling officials,” wrote Greg Essensa, the province’s Chief Electoral Officer in the byelection report, titled “Proposal for a technology-enabled staffing model for Ontario provincial elections.”

It’s not an easy job, he wrote, with election officials working 14- to 16-hour days with the meticulous vote-counting coming at the very end of the day.

In 2014, there were 76,000 polling officials working on election day. As the population grows, and with 17 new electoral districts added to the election map, Elections Ontario estimates it would have needed 100,000 polling officials if the previous voting system remained the same.

Instead, only 55,000 polling officials will be working on election day, Des Granges said.

The report also said the agency had looked at internet voting, but to date it had not found a networked voting solution that would protect the integrity of the electoral process.

On Wednesday, Essensa said there are 10.2 million eligible voters with the estimated cost of the election pegged at $126 million, a significant jump from the $78.1 million in the 2014 provincial election. While there is no cost breakdown of the new technology, Essensa said the increased costs are due to many factors, including the addition of new ridings.

The new technology, however, is not perfect, noted the report.

Some of the e-Poll Books had connectivity issues that forced staff to revert to the paper lists, some of the scanners didn’t work and staff had trouble resolving the issues.

In 2014, Elections New Brunswick used similar vote tabulators and there was a short period of chaos when election officials had to shut down the machines to figure out why results weren’t being properly produced.

Bob Fowlie, the director of communications for New Brunswick’s PC Party, said he watched election results on television counting down, rather than up. Officials identified six machines that broke down in six districts where the votes were extremely close, he said.

“The Tories were ahead and once the machines started up again the Tories were behind,” he said. Elections New Brunswick did hand recounts in those six ridings.

Eventually, election officials figured out a software glitch had occurred.

“And that’s with about 400,000 voters give or take, here in New Brunswick. With the population of Ontario, the potential for issues is marvellous,” Fowlie said.

The machines won’t be everywhere in Ontario on election day, however. They’ll be in about 50 per cent of the voting locations, but will serve 90 per cent of the electorate.

Another reason to switch to machines is driven by the times, the agency said.

“The public has an expectation as a modern society to expect modern services and this is what we’re trying to do,” Des Granges said.

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