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City inspectors return to probe your recycling

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 14th, 2017

This past summer, the city launched a pilot project and sent out inspectors to see exactly what people are putting in their blue bins and warning them that if it’s contaminated with materials that shouldn’t be in it.

Toronto’s Solid Waste Management Services division is now prepared to go through the second round of the project in order to curb the amount of garbage found in the recycling system.

“We collect 204-thousand tonnes of recycling a year and last year 52-thousand tones of that was garbage” Jim McKay, general manager of the division, said.

Some households received a “Dear Resident” letter last week from McKay, reminding them what should and shot not go in the blue bins.

  • Tips include the following:
  • Empty and rinse food containers before tossing them in the Blue Bin. Food scraps go in the Green Bin
  • Don’t throw out clothing, blankets and shoes, instead donate them
  • Do not put any black plastic in the Blue Bin (food containers, trays, packaging, hot drink cup lids) – Those belong in the Garbage Bin

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“Right now we’re spending around a hundred thousand (dollars) on the program,” McKay explained.

“The cost of having half a dozen staff in the field going bin to bin is nothing compared to the actual cost of the issue.”

According to McKay, 26 per cent of the city’s recycling system is contaminated. Every percentage point the city can bring it down saves between $600,000 to $1,000,000.

“If we get it down 10 per cent or 15 per cent we’ll save more than 10 millions dollars a year,” McKay said.

“We spend six figures to save seven.”

In some cases, notices are put on bins upon inspection, telling the resident what’s wrong with their recycling, and explaining why it won’t be collected until the next scheduled collection day after it’s been properly sorted.

According to Emily Alfred, waste campaigner for the Toronto Environmental Alliance, this type of direct feedback approach has been very effective in other cities around the world.

She says the key to recycling the proper materials is to first recycle knowledge.

“I think the city could spend more on education, but we also need to look at the fact that recycling rules change,” says Alfred.

“Each city has different recycling rules … In Mississauga you can’t recycle Styrofoam, so it can be confusing for someone who lives there but works in Toronto.”

The Solid Waste Management Services is working on better educating the public when it comes to recycling. It’s also looking at stricter ways of getting the message across.

“We hope we don’t have to get (to the point of) actually charging someone or levying a fine against someone for doing the wrong thing, but we have had discussion on what that might look like,” he explained.

McKay also said it’s still early days but they’ve seen some good results. The city hasn’t released any formal reports yet, but based on what they’ve seen the plan is to continue the pilot project.

McKay said anyone who wants to learn about proper recycling should consult the city’s online Waste Wizard or check their recycling calendar to see what goes where.

Ontario creates green home renovation rebate program

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 14th, 2017

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Homeowners who complete energy-efficient renovations will be eligible for thousands of dollars in rebates under a new program announced by Ontario’s environment minister Wednesday.

Chris Ballard said the government will use $600 million over four years from cap-and-trade proceeds to establish the rebate program through a provincial agency called the Green Ontario Fund.

But energy critic Tom Adams says the program is a distraction from the real problem facing consumers: rising hydro costs.

“It’s a way of establishing public acceptance for the rising cost of power — ‘Yes, the cost of power is going up, but conservation is going to solve the problem,’” he said of the government’s line of thinking.

“That’s not how the math works, but it’s how the PR works.”

The program offers up to a $7,200 rebate for new insulation, up to $5,000 for new windows, and up to $20,000 for new ground source heat pumps.

“Those funds are being re-invested in programs like this where we’re helping business, we’re helping homeowners fight climate change and save money,” Ballard said.

The program launched online Wednesday at GreenOn.ca. In order to access the rebates, homeowners must hire a contractor who has been screened by the Green Ontario Fund.

The new program comes after an August commitment to provide thousands of free smart thermostats to homeowners, a promise that Ballard acknowledged has rolled out more slowly than the government would have liked. Only 1,000 of the devices have been installed to date.

“The response was overwhelming,” he said. “We’ve upped that now. We’re going to be installing by springtime 140,000 thermostats. It’s a matter of making sure we have the qualified installers.”

Ballard also used the announcement to take a shot at Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown’s plan to scrap cap and trade if the Tories win the election next spring and replace it with a carbon tax system.

“All of it would be lost if the province were to adopt a Brown carbon tax,” he said. “Their program doesn’t invest in Ontario.”

PC finance critic Vic Fedeli said the minister’s claim isn’t correct, adding that the Tory plan would maintain all existing Liberal spending, including the program announced Wednesday.

“In our plan, we have $1.5 billion kept to make sure that all of the programs that are announced are kept in place,” he said. “It’s obvious that the minister is playing politics instead of actually looking at our platform before he critiques it.”

The government said buildings generate nearly a quarter of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Ontario has pledged to cut greenhouse gas pollution to 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050.

With files from News Staff

Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts sold to MLSE

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 14th, 2017

Toronto Argonauts players hold the Grey Cup as the team holds a Cup winning rally in Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square, on Tuesday, November 28, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The Toronto Argonauts are joining the Toronto Maple Leafs family.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment announced Wednesday it has an agreement to buy the Grey Cup champions.

There was already some cross-ownership. MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum’s holding company, the Kilmer Group, jointly owned the Argonauts with Bell Canada.

Plus the Argos play at MLSE-operated BMO Field, home to the newly crowned MLS champion Toronto FC.

“Under its current ownership, a transformed Argonauts football club enhanced its presence and fan base in Canada’s largest sports market and ultimately marched to the CFL championship,” MLSE president and CEO Michael Friisdahl said in a statement. “We look forward to building on the Argos’ strong momentum as we welcome the team to the leading provider of sports and entertainment experiences in Canada.”

The sale is expected to close in January 2018, according to MLSE.

Approval from the CFL board of governors would not seem to be a problem

“On the heels of a stunning Grey Cup showdown with the Calgary Stampeders that highlighted the sheer excitement of Canadian football, we’re thrilled that the Argonauts will be joining the MLSE roster,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, said in a statement. “We welcome MLSE to the CFL and look forward to working with them to further enhance the experience for Canadian football fans.”

Founded in 1873, the Toronto Argonauts are North America’s oldest continuously operated professional football club

Along with the Maple Leafs, MLSE also owns the AHL’s Marlies, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and Toronto FC of MLS.

Here’s a timeline look at the companies and individuals who have made their mark on the Argos boardroom – for better or for worse.

ARGONAUT ROWING CLUB – 1873-1956

The Argonauts began in 1873 as a team for members of the rowing club who were also rugby enthusiasts. They claimed their first Grey Cup title in 1914 and would win nine more before being sold to a consortium including Ontario businessman John Bassett.

JOHN BASSETT AND THE DARK AGES – 1956-1974

Bassett was part of the Argos ownership group in some form for almost 20 years, buying the team outright through his Baton Broadcasting media company. The team failed to win a Grey Cup under his watch, and he sold the team to Canadian hotel magnate William R. Hodgson for $3.3 million in 1974.

Interestingly Bassett’s son, John F. Bassett, was awarded a World Football League franchise, the Toronto Northmen, that same year. The team made a splash by signing former Miami Dolphins stars Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield, but protectionist legislation to insulate the CFL proposed by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s government forced the team’s relocation to Memphis.

CARLING O’KEEFE AND THE END OF THE GREY CUP DROUGHT – 1976-1988

After originally coming in as a partner, brewer Carling O’Keefe bought out the rest of Hodgson’s shares of the team in 1979. Success on the field followed as the Argos won their first Grey Cup in over 30 years when they beat the B.C. Lions 18-17 in the 1983 title game. Carling O’Keefe sold the team to Canadian businessman Harry Ornest in 1988 due to an impending merger with Molson.

MAKING A SPLASH – THE MCNALL, GRETZKY AND CANDY ERA – 1991-1994

Ornest sold the Argos to the high-profile trio of Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall (60 per cent), NHL legend Wayne Gretzky (20 per cent) and star comedian John Candy (20 per cent) for $5 million in 1991. The trio made an audacious impact, signing impending top NFL draft pick Raghib Ismail for an eye-popping $18.2 million over four years. The CFL had a salary cap of $3.8 million per team that would have been obliterated by Ismail’s contract alone, but the bulk of his salary came through a “personal services contract” through McNall Sports And Entertainment.

The Argos won the Grey Cup in 1991, but Ismail’s contract turned out to be an albatross, and with McNall facing mounting financial problems (he was convicted of fraud in 1997 and spent four years in prison) the trio sold the team to the more stable Labatt Brewing Company, through its TSN network, for $4.5 million in 1994.

MONEY PIT – THE SHERWOOD SCHWARZ YEARS – 1999-2003

The Argos won two Grey Cups during the Labatt years, but low attendance combined with the brewer’s sale to a Belgian company had the team looking for an owner yet again in 1999. If the team was losing money before Schwarz took over the team, it was hemorrhaging it by the time he left. The team’s debt ballooned to $20 million, with Schwarz’s own money counting for $17.4 million of that number. The CFL was forced to revoke Schwarz’s bankrupt franchise and take over the team in 2003.

LOCAL HEROES AND A SILENT PARTNER – HOWARD SOKOLOWSKI, DAVID CYNAMON AND DAVID BRALEY – 2003-2015

Local businessmen Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon rescued the Argos, purchasing them from the league for $2 million in November 2003. The perceived stability paid instant dividends, with the Argos winning their 15th Grey Cup title in 2004. But losses continued to mount as the duo sold the team to David Braley in 2010. Already owner of the B.C. Lions, Braley now owned almost a quarter of the teams in the league. It was revealed by all parties and then-commissioner Mark Cohon that Braley had been helping Sokolowski and Cynamon bankroll the team since they took it over from the league.

Braley proved to be a capable caretaker of the team, owning it for another five years before selling it to two thirds of the MLSE triumvirate, Bell and Larry Tanenbaum’s holding company Kilmer Sports. With Rogers now on board the Argonauts appear to be in safe hands again.

GTA college students plan walkout on Friday

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 14th, 2017

Students gather outside the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Wednesday November 1, 2017, as they protest against the ongoing strike by Ontario college faculty members. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Some college students in the GTA say they are planning a symbolic walkout on Friday.

In a Facebook post, the group Ontario Students United said they are planning to walkout on what would have been their last day of the fall semester, before the college faculty strike.

Nearly 25,700 full-time Ontario college students received tuition refunds after the five-week strike derailed their semester.

Ontario’s Ministry of Advanced Education confirmed Tuesday that 10.3 per cent of Ontario’s roughly 250,000 full-time college students asked for, and received, their money back after the strike.

The government ended the strike in November with back-to-work legislation passed in a rare weekend sitting at Queen’s Park.

Photo credit: Mohammad Ali FACEBOOK

Photo credit: Mohammad Ali FACEBOOK

Organizers said students at Centennial, Sheridan, and George Brown, as well as other colleges across Ontario, have committed to take part.

The walkout is expected to take part between noon and 2 p.m.

With files from The Canadian Press

Drug use among Ontario students at lowest level in decades

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 14th, 2017

A woman exhales while smoking a joint during the annual 420 marijuana rally on Parliament hill on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The number of Ontario students who are drinking, smoking and using drugs has dropped to its lowest level in decades, according to a biennial survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

But the 2017 survey released Thursday turned up a disturbing finding: almost one per cent of respondents in Grades 9 to 12 reported having taken illicit fentanyl in the previous year, raising a red flag given the opioid’s involvement in hundreds of overdose deaths across the country.

Hayley Hamilton, co-author of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), said declines over time in the proportion of adolescents using tobacco, alcohol and cannabis are a positive sign that public health messaging about the harms of such substances are getting through to young people.

Since the most recent peak almost 20 years ago, alcohol use among grade 7 to 12 students dropped from 66 per cent to 42.5 per cent; pot use fell from 28 per cent to 19 per cent, and smoking declined from 28.4 per cent to seven per cent. Drinking and driving went down from 14 per cent to 4.2 per cent.

“These long-term declines are very positive findings, and point to the success of efforts by parents, educators, public health and government — and the students themselves — to address substance use and the problems it can create,” Hamilton said.

“Nevertheless, we must remember that substance use among students can quickly begin to increase, as we have seen in the past, so a long-term and continued commitment to public health goals is necessary.”

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For the first time in the survey’s 40-year history, researchers asked respondents about fentanyl use. Among those in Grades 9 to 12, almost one per cent said they had ingested the illicit opioid in the previous 12 months — a figure equivalent to about 5,800 students across the province.

“That’s a small proportion, but this is a very hazardous drug and these people are taking quite an extreme risk in using this drug,” said Robert Mann, CAMH senior scientist and OSDUHS co-author.

“It’s very dangerous because a very, very small amount can result in overdose or even overdose-related deaths,” he said, noting about 900 Ontarians died from drug overdoses last year, with a “substantial portion” related to fentanyl.

The study found more Ontario students reported abstaining from drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and other smoking devices.

On the other hand, non-medical use of ADHD drugs (Ritalin, Adderall, etc.) and over-the-counter cough and cold medicine (in male students) has gone up.


Pot use

Cannabis remains the most used illicit drug for grade 7 to 12 students, with 19 per cent (about 172,200 students) saying they used it in the past year. The rate is closer to 37 per cent for 12th graders.

About two-thirds (62 per cent) said they don’t plan to use pot when it’s legalized for adults next year; while eight per cent said they would. Of those who already use the drug, four per cent said they would use it more often when it’s legal.

“So I think we’re looking at a group of pretty level-headed people here, with exceptions,” said Mann. “But it doesn’t appear that legislation is going to release a pent-up demand for cannabis in this population.”


Smoking

Eleven per cent of students (about 80,800) use e-cigarettes compared with seven per cent who smoke tobacco (about 63,800).

Cigarette smoking, while lower than decades ago, has been stable for the past few years.


The study found student drug use peaked in the late 1970s, followed by a gradual decline in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, a second peak in the late ‘90s, and then a gradual decline to current levels.

This year’s OSDUHS involved 11,435 participants, a representative sample of the province’s 917,000 Grade 7 to 12 students.

With files from The Canadian Press

Woman charged after vehicle rear-ends police car on Gardiner

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 14th, 2017

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A woman is facing a charge of careless driving in connection with an overnight crash on the Gardiner Expressway involving a police vehicle.

It happened around 3:20 a.m. on Thursday in the westbound lanes approaching Park Lawn Road.

Police said the cruiser was stopped on the side of Gardiner, while the officer was assisting with an earlier collision, when it was struck from behind.

The officer was inside the car when it was struck but was not injured.

All lanes of the Gardiner were shut down for about 30 minutes while crews worked to clean up the crash.

What Canadians were curious about: Google searches suggest 2017 a tough year

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 13th, 2017

People walk on a flooded street as Tropical Storm Irma hits Charleston, S.C. on Sept. 11, 2017. (AP photo/Mic Smith)

If you are what you Google, Canadians are a pretty broad-minded lot.

Google has released its 17th annual survey of top-trending searches, and top-of-mind topics for Canucks in 2017 ranged from devastating hurricanes to deceased rock icons to the continuing political circus south of the border.

“Google Year-End Search takes a look at trillions of searches globally,” said Alexandra Hunnings Klein, trends expert for Google Canada. “These lists are a barometer of what was interesting, what Canadians were curious about in 2017.”

Some search terms are always popular, said Hunnings Klein.

“Justin Bieber is always up there.”

What the lists measure are short-term spikes in the use of specific search terms. They provide a kind of index of which news stories Canadians responded to most — or at least drove them to their cellphones or tablets for more information.

The top overall search term was Hurricane Irma. Canadians were unstoppably keen for the latest on the immensely powerful storm that battered Florida and the Caribbean in the fall.

The second most popular overall search was Meghan Markle, the American and sometime Torontonian actor engaged to Prince Harry.

Hunnings Klein said search spikes often coincide with events in the news. For example: “Why are Canadian flags at half-mast?” — the second-most common spike under the “Why?” category — came after six men were shot and killed in a Quebec mosque last January.

And while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remained broadly popular, Canadians appeared to be at least curious about opposition leaders. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, both annointed this year, were near the top of searches under “Political Figures.”

There’s no prize for guessing that column was headed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Singer and poet Gord Downie, the Tragically Hip front man who died this year after a rapturously received national tour and album in 2016, placed high in both the “National News” and “Losses” categories. But under “Losses,” even Downie came second to U.S. musician Tom Petty.

Canadians also seemed fascinated by entertainment giants toppled by allegations of sexual misbehaviour. Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Kevin Spacey — who all lost their jobs over such accusations — came in one, two and three in the “People” category.

The biggest search surges in the “Kitchen” section were for the apple cider vinegar diet and the plant-based diet.

The Google list suggests we’ve had a bit of a tough year, said Hunnings Klein.

“This list really tells me we’ve had a year where there’s been many moments that have been divisive or contentious or challenging. We’ve had a lot of moments that have challenged us.”

But some searches suggest there were moments that brought us together. Queries on the British Columbia wildfires were often accompanied by searches asking how to help, Hunnings Klein said.

Then there was August’s solar eclipse. Not only did the term place third in the overall Canadian list, it spawned a second, related spike.

“On Day 1, they were asking, ‘How do I make a solar eclipse viewer?’” Hunnings Klein said. “On Day 2, they were asking, ‘Why do my eyes hurt?’”

Some questions may have flummoxed even the world’s most popular search engine.

One wonders what Google made of at least one question that made the list under “Why?”

“Why are fidget spinners so popular?”

Some questions, even for Google, remain unanswerable.

25,700 college students get refund after strike, early numbers show

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 13th, 2017

Students gather outside the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Wednesday November 1, 2017, as they protest against the ongoing strike by Ontario college faculty members. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Nearly 25,700 full-time Ontario college students received tuition refunds after a five-week strike derailed their semester.

Ontario’s Ministry of Advanced Education confirmed Tuesday that 10.3 per cent of Ontario’s roughly 250,000 full-time college students asked for, and received, their money back after the strike.

Minister Deb Matthews said the figures are still preliminary and could change in the coming weeks as further numbers are reported by Ontario’s 24 colleges.

“Over the past months, I have heard from students about hardships they have experienced as a result of this strike,” she said in a statement. “It is clear that they have borne the brunt of the labour dispute between colleges and faculty. Preliminary reports from colleges indicate that the vast majority, approximately 90 per cent of students, chose to stay and finish the semester.”

Matthews said she expects many students who withdrew from this semester will return in January and September.

“I want to say to those students who did decide to withdraw, we hope you will return to college,” she said. “We need your talent and skills in this province and want to keep seeing you succeed. We will work with colleges to support and encourage students to re-enrol.”

Last month, the minister ordered colleges to refund the tuition money for any student who felt unable to complete the condensed semester. The decision is likely to cost the schools millions of dollars, which would have otherwise been saved because of the labour dispute.

The government ended the strike in November with back-to-work legislation passed in a rare weekend sitting at Queen’s Park.

Earlier Tuesday, PC legislator Lorne Coe said the government was dragging its feet when it came to releasing the figures because the information was politically damaging.

“Ontarians have the right … to know the consequences of the premier’s lack of leadership on the community college strike,” Coe said. “Will the minister stop playing politics and confirm today that approximately 25,000 dropped out from Ontario’s community colleges due to the Liberal government’s inaction?”

NDP education critic Peggy Sattler said government inaction over the strike has put all students in a difficult position and hurt their education.

“These students were backed into a corner, and made the very difficult decision to withdraw from the shortened semester entirely in order to get a refund,” she said in a statement. “Those that have chosen to remain in class face their own challenges, including increased workloads and condensed schedules. Many students will be left struggling to recover financially and academically long after the semester is over.”

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