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Ontario’s first balanced budget in decade promises billions in health care

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

Ontario’s Liberal government is promising to inject billions of new dollars into health care in its first balanced budget in a decade, a fiscal plan designed to appeal to nearly everyone in the province ahead of an election next summer.

Crafted by a party in power since 2003 that has been faring poorly in recent polls, the $141-billion budget has measures targeted at both young and old, people who access the health care system and anyone who owns or rents a home and pays an electricity bill.

The centrepiece of the plan is a $465-million-a-year pharmacare program for children and youth, which would cover prescription medications to treat most acute and common chronic conditions for people under age 25, with no deductible or co-payment. It would start Jan. 1.

The plan will be most beneficial for youth who currently are not covered under private plans or the Ontario Drug Benefit program for social assistance recipients, but government officials weren’t able to say how many people that captures.

In total, the government is promising $11.5 billion in new spending on health care over three years, including money to address hospital overcrowding, funding for mental health and addiction services, cash for hospital construction projects and home care funding.

The budget also includes funds for new child care spaces, money to build schools, measures aimed at seniors and previously announced cuts to electricity bills and plans to cool the housing market.

Much of the projected spending, however, is spread out over multiple years, well past the June 2018 election. But Finance Minister Charles Sousa said his “socially progressive” budget is not a ploy for votes.

“These decisions that we’re making today are not based on election cycles, they’re based on long-term benefit for the people of Ontario,” he said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said the budget is not, in fact, structurally balanced, because of one-time asset  sale money – such as the sale of shares of Hydro One – and  accounting “tricks,” such as counting public pension surpluses as assets, against the advice of the province’s Auditor general.

“This budget is a patchwork attempt by a desperate government to fix the mess they’ve created before the next election,” he said.

“If they lose this next election this is spending they’ll never have to be accountable for.”

The price tag for the Liberals’ centrepiece pharmacare plan is not in the budget itself and was provided only verbally by staffers.

“Listen, that document is what, 296 pages long,” Sousa said when asked about the absence. “You can’t put everything in the document.”

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who just this week announced a New Democrat government would bring in universal pharmacare for people of all ages, said the Liberal plan seems last minute.

“I think it’s quite curious as well,” she said. “All I can think of is that they made it up on the back of a napkin before they got to today.”

The Liberals had promised no new taxes on families, though they are increasing tobacco taxes by $10 per carton over the next three years and giving municipalities the power to introduce a hotel tax.

In addition to balancing the books this year, the government is now projecting balanced budgets through to 2019-20. Despite reaching balance, however, the province’s debt continues to grow.

It is projected to be $312 billion this year, growing to $336 billion in 2019-20. Interest on debt is the fourth largest spending area, at $11.6 billion.

Historically low interest rates helped the province get to balance, but interest on debt is still projected to be the fastest growing expenditure area, at an average 3.6 per cent from 2015 to 2020.

Nonetheless, the government paints a rosy economic outlook, projecting two per cent average GDP growth through to 2020, driven by exports and business investment.

On the infrastructure front, spending is growing from a promise last year of $160 billion over 12 years to $190 million over 13 years. The additional $30 billion will go toward new hospital projects, school renewal and child care expansion.

Ontario will also move ahead with planning a high-speed rail corridor between Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Windsor, the government said in the budget. The project could cut travel times from Toronto to Windsor from the current four hours to two.

Under the education banner, about $16 billion is earmarked over 10 years to build and improve schools at a time when the government is coming under fire for rural school closures. Another $200 million will go to creating 24,000 child care spaces and subsidizing 60 per cent of them.

Seniors are also specifically targeted in the budget. A public transit tax credit for people 65 and older will see 15 per cent of eligible transit costs refunded with an average annual benefit of $130. That is estimated to cost the government about $10 million  a year. The measure comes after the federal government announced it was eliminating a 15-per-cent tax credit for commuters who buy a transit pass.

There is also $11 million over three years for a seniors community grant program and another $8 million over three years for new community centres with seniors’ programming. The province has also earmarked $100 million over three years for a dementia strategy that will include helping patients and their caregivers find support and improve training for health-care workers.

Raptors expect ‘dogfight’ with Bucks in Game 6 in Milwaukee

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

BROOKLYN, NY - FEBRUARY 5: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors handles the ball during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on February 5, 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Raptors coach Dwane Casey expects Game 6 in Milwaukee to be a 48-minute dogfight Thursday night as Toronto looks to close out its first-round playoff series against the young, athletic Bucks.

“Our No. 1 thing (Thursday) night is to go in with a warrior’s mentality,” he told reporters after practice Wednesday. “And not go in, get hit with a punch and say ‘OK, we’ve got Game 7.’ It’s going to be a 48-minute battle, war, however you want to describe it.”

Coming off 87-76 and 118-93 wins, third-seeded Toronto leads the sixth-seeded Bucks three games to two.

Defending champion Cleveland awaits the series winner. The second-seeded Cavaliers have been off since sweeping No. 7 Indiana on Sunday.

The Raptors are hoping to end a recent stretch of futility when it comes to closing out series in Game 6 on the road. They lost to Indiana and Miami last year in Game 6 before rallying to win Game 7. Three years ago, they dropped Game 6 against Brooklyn before being beaten by the Nets in Game 7.

The Raptors have acknowledged being taken aback by the vocal crowd at the BMO Harris Bradley Center for Game 3, which turned into a 104-77 blowout loss for the visitors.

Casey says the answer to a hostile crowd is to outwork the home side.

“You’ve got to play through the noise,” he said. “Like everything else in this league, you’ve got to play above the noise.

“It’s going to be loud. I thought the first game there, it kind of put us back on our heels a little bit, along with their play …. I thought we were playing in mud most of the game. So we’ve got to be mentally and physically prepared as we were in Game 4 there. I thought we were more ready for what was about to hit us.

“Again, it’s going to be loud and it’s going to be a dogfight for 48 minutes.”

All-star point guard Kyle Lowry exuded calm when he met reporters, holding the microphone in his hand like a talk-show host as he sat at the podium at the team’s training centre.

Rather than approach Game 6 as if it was a Game 7, Lowry said the Raptors just need to focus on one possession at a time Thursday.

“It’s very cliched, I understand that, but that’s really how you’ve got to take it.”

Centre Jonas Valanciunas said the team is prepared for the challenge.

“We’re still fixing some little things but we’re ready and we’re going there to win,” said the seven-foot Lithuanian.

Toronto has profited from dropping Valanciunas to the bench and starting the athletic Norman Powell in a smaller lineup the last two outings. Casey has deployed Valanciunas off the bench to counter the Bucks use of Greg Monroe.

Lowry had nothing but praise for both Valanciunas and Powell, calling them both true professionals for adapting to their new roles.

“He’s changed the series,” Lowry said of Powell whose ability to drive to the basket has opened up space for Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and other Raptors.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s fun to watch,” he added.

Lowry had little to say about the back stiffness that affected him during Game 5.

“My body’s fantastic right now,” he said dryly. “Thank you for asking.”

He was clear that he was not about to let a physical ailment keep him off the court.

“You dream of being in the playoffs as kid … The playoffs, in the NBA, there’s nothing like it,” he said.

Ontario announcing new spending in first balanced budget in a decade

Allison Jones and Jessica Smith Cross, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

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Ontario’s Liberal government will release its first balanced budget in a decade on Thursday, with a host of new spending measures focused on pocketbook issues it hopes will resonate with voters heading into an election year.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has in the past few years focused on big-picture plans for the province, such as tackling climate change, massive infrastructure spending and pension reform. But as her party and personal popularity have tanked in the polls, her message has shifted to that of fairness and everyday affordability.

She recently unveiled a “Fair Hydro Plan” and a “Fair Housing Plan” and in a speech Monday to announce details of a basic income pilot project, fairness was a theme she often returned to.

“In this time of turmoil, we must work harder than ever to build and preserve a fair society,” she said. “We must make sure that hard work is rewarded with a decent pay cheque. We must make sure that the opportunities available to our people and especially our young people not only endure, but grow.”

By eliminating the deficit, Ontario is in a position to do those things, she said.

“My plan builds on the action we have taken and the investments we have made over the past five years,” Wynne said. “It takes dead aim at the challenges that confront us in this new, uncertain world. It puts fairness at the heart of all we do and all we aspire to achieve for the people of Ontario.”

Wynne said her approach is not to “cut back on public services, reduce taxes, slash regulations on corporations and let the results trickle down.”

That wouldn’t help people who are struggling, Wynne said, adding that the three main elements to her plan are creating a “fair economy,” a “fair future for Ontario workers,” and education.

Ontario’s finance minister has already announced that the budget will contain new spending to benefit seniors, students, parents, caregivers and patients.

“I’m balancing the budget and I’m proud of that, but that’s not an end in itself,” Charles Sousa told The Canadian Press in a recent interview. “It’s what are we doing as a result of the balance.”

Sousa has announced the budget will include a public transit tax credit for seniors 65 years and older.

He has also promised a “booster shot” for health care, specifically funding to deal with the problem of overcrowded hospitals, which forces patients to be placed in hallways and other unconventional spaces.

On Tuesday, ministers also announced $20 million in funding to increase the available respite services for unpaid caregivers who help friends and family members.

The government is also launching an initiative to create 40,000 job training placements and internships over three years for students of all ages and recent graduates, as part of a $190-million Career Kick-Start Strategy.

In a recent speech, Sousa highlighted investments the government has made in the innovation sector, saying more of that can be expected in the budget as the government embraces, “new, potentially disruptive technologies.”

Sousa has said the budget will refer to the recent housing affordability measures the government announced. However, Sousa’s office said there is “no line in the budget” attributed to a newly announced 15-per-cent foreign buyer tax. It’s expected to be revenue neutral, as any money coming in should offset a decrease in revenue from land transfer tax.

No further such housing measures will be unveiled in the budget, Sousa said Wednesday, but there will be measures on social housing for low-income residents.

Additionally, $200 million will go toward creating 24,000 child care spaces and subsidies for families for about 60 per cent of those spots — as part of the government’s promise last year to create 100,000 more licensed spaces.

Cuts to hydro bills will add nearly $2 billion to the budget. An eight-per-cent rebate that took effect Jan. 1 is estimated to cost $1 billion a year, and more measures announced last month to help low-income and rural residents will cost taxpayers about $833 million a year.

Even with a balanced budget this year, Ontario will still have debt of more than $300 billion. In 2016-17, interest on debt was the province’s fourth-largest spending area, with $11.4 billion of interest on approximately $317 billion of debt.

The official opposition maintains the Liberals will only achieve “fake” balance in the budget as a political ploy ahead of the 2018 election. The Progressive Conservatives have even created a “Chef Charles Sousa” online caricature who talks about “cooking the books.”

PC Leader Patrick Brown said he believes the Liberals can only balance the budget by dramatically cutting services or raising taxes, or by using accounting “tricks.” He’s specifically watching out for two such tricks: counting public pension surpluses as assets, against the advice of the province’s Auditor general, and counting revenue from the partial sale of Hydro One against the deficit, when the money is intended for a separate trust for infrastructure projects.

“It’s Chef Sousa cooking the books to look good in an election year,” said Brown.

Ontario’s NDP also sees politics in the budget.

“The government’s had 14 years to address the problems that we’ve seen in this province, and they’re now scrambling at the last minute to save their own political skin, as opposed to really being concerned about the realities of life for Ontarians,” said Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Quick-thinking TTC worker saves life of man in distress

Faiza Amin | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

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Tense moments at Dundas subway station forced a suspension of service both ways on Wednesday morning, when a man reportedly jumped onto the track. Dozens of witnesses were on the northbound platform around 10:30 a.m. when the incident occurred, many praising a quick-thinking TTC employee who sprang into action.

The TTC tells CityNews a customer entered the station and immediately walked onto the northbound tracks. Within minutes, a station collector rushed to his side.

“He just kept talking to him, and said ‘breathe in breath out’ and ‘look me in my eye,’” said eyewitness Jeffrey Ribeiro. “Then he was like, ‘now say I am strong’, then he had everybody on the platform say it with him.”

Ribeiro captured the interaction between the two men in a touching video he later posted online. The footage appears to show the station collector seated on the platform comforting a man who was firmly holding onto him, while standing on the track.

“When he came up off the platform and came towards the TTC worker, the TTC worker gave him a great big hug,” Ribeiro recalls. “He’s like ‘where’s your cellphone, let me put my number in it.’”

The employee, who’s been with the transit system for 23 years, is being praised for how he handled and de-escalated the tense situation, hugging, comforting and befriending the man. The employee stayed with him even after emergency personnel arrived, spending over half an hour with him.

“The biggest positive action that we saw today was my employee going above and beyond his training and staying there with the customer to ensure he was safe, and everyone else was safe,” said Ellen Stassen, Group Station Manager with the TTC.

His colleagues also stepped in, cutting the power and suspending subway service in both directions.

With the TTC seeing two dozen suicides attempts and 12 deaths annually, employees are trained to look for any sign of distress. In all incidents, standard procedures will see trauma counseling offered to those workers.

Following the incident, the TTC worker went back to work, and finished his shift.

“This is the best ideal story that we can present and commend him for not only an act of safety, but an act of compassion, customer service,” said Stassen. “It goes beyond one area of recognition, and it speaks volumes of his colleagues as well.”

Social media posts have been pouring in, with those who witnessed the moment, calling for the employee to get recognition, not only from the TTC, but the city.

“People like this need to be recognized, and the TTC needs to recognize him for what he did,” said Ribeiro.

President Trump tells Mexico, Canada he won’t pull out of NAFTA

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 15:  (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump walks after arriving on Marine One in his return to the White House on March 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump is returning after speaking at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee earlier today. (Photo by Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that he will not pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, just hours after administration officials said he was considering a draft executive order to do just that.

The White House made the surprise announcement in a read-out of calls between Trump, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries,” said the White House.

Trump said he believes “the end result will make all three countries stronger and better.”

The announcement came hours after administration officials said Trump was considering a draft executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the deal – though administration officials cautioned it was just one of a number of options being discussed by the president and his staff.

Some saw the threat as posturing by Trump to gain leverage over Mexico and Canada as he tries to negotiate changes to the deal. Trump railed against the decades-old trade deal during his campaign, describing it as a “disaster.”

Senior White House officials had spent recent days discussing steps that could be taken to start the process of renegotiating or withdrawing from NAFTA before the end of Trump’s first 100 days in office, according to a person familiar with the president’s thinking.

But the person, along with an administration official, who both spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations, had said a number of options remained on the table, and stressed discussions are ongoing about the best way to proceed.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to comment on the order, which was first reported by Politico.

“The president has made addressing the problems of NAFTA a priority throughout the campaign, and once the president makes a decision about how he wants to address that, we’ll let you know,” he said.

The administration appeared to be divided Wednesday over how and when to proceed, as they balanced a newfound cautiousness with the desire to rack up accomplishments before Trump’s 100th day on the job.

Some were gunning for Trump to sign a draft order this week, while others were weighing the complications surrounding withdrawing from or renegotiating the deal without Congress fully onboard. The debate played out in the press Wednesday as some outlets quoted officials insisting the signing was imminent, while other officials dismissed the reports as “just a rumour.”

“My practice is to comment on things we’ve actually done or are doing as opposed to commenting on rumours,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters at an unrelated White House briefing Wednesday evening.

Trump could withdraw from NAFTA – but he would have to give six months’ notice. And it is unclear what would happen next. The law Congress passed to enact the trade pact might remain in place, forcing Trump to wrangle with lawmakers and raising questions about the president’s authority to raise tariffs on Mexican and Canadian imports.

The decision came days after the administration announced it would slap hefty tariffs on softwood lumber being imported from Canada. Trump has also been railing against changes in Canadian milk product pricing that he says are hurting the American dairy industry.

Trump told The Associated Press in an interview last week that he planned to either renegotiate or terminate NAFTA, which he and other critics blame for wiping out U.S. manufacturing jobs because it allowed companies to move factories to Mexico to take advantage of low-wage labour.

“I am very upset with NAFTA. I think NAFTA has been a catastrophic trade deal for the United States, trading agreement for the United States. It hurts us with Canada, and it hurts us with Mexico,” he said.

Another senior White House official declined to comment on “rumours” of specific actions. But that official said NAFTA has been a top priority for the president since day one and said the administration has been working on it since taking office. That person also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s thinking.

The Trump administration last month submitted a vague set of guidelines to Congress for renegotiating NAFTA, disappointing those who were expecting Trump to demand a major overhaul.

In an eight-page draft letter to Congress, acting U.S. Trade Representative Stephen Vaughn wrote that the administration intended to start talking with Mexico and Canada about making changes to the pact, which took effect in 1994.

The letter spelled out few details and stuck with broad principles. But it appeared to keep much of the existing agreement in place, including private tribunals that allow companies to challenge national laws on the grounds that they inhibit trade – a provision that critics say allows companies to get around environmental and labour laws.

Reports Wednesday of the possible move drew objections from some in Congress, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

“Withdrawing from #NAFTA would be a disaster for #Arizona jobs & economy,” he tweeted. “@POTUS shouldn’t abandon this vital trade agreement.”

Woman who had to be rescued from construction crane facing six charges

News staff, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

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A woman who had to be rescued in dramatic fashion after she became stuck atop a construction crane in downtown Toronto will face six charges, including mischief and interfering with property, police said.

She’ll spend the night in custody before being formally charged on Thursday morning.

Toronto police Detective Barry Radford said her actions put the lives of rescuers in jeopardy, and impacted the construction site near Yonge and Wellesley.

The woman’s perilous climb remained a mystery even to those tasked with retrieving her, with firefighters saying there was no indication why she scaled the crane in the middle of the night.

They believe, however, that she climbed up the crane, crawled out on to the end of it, and slid down a cable to the large pulley device where she got stranded.

“She has to tell me how she did it because she has to be our new training officer for high-angle (rescue) because it’s impressive,” said Rob Wonfor, who rappelled down the towering machinery with her.

“It was hard enough for me to go up with ropes and harnesses and she free-climbed that.”

Wonfor said he didn’t ask her for an explanation during the rescue because they needed to stay focused. But he noted the woman didn’t seem frightened and was “very calm.”

“She was a brave girl, she helped me when I got there,” he said.

A 22-year veteran of the fire service, Wonfor said the rescue was unusual in that people who climb cranes typically stay on the shaft, which was not the case Wednesday.

The woman had been perched on a gently swaying large pulley device called the block — measuring only about 15 centimetres by 60 centimetres — for at least four hours and was clinging to a steel cable when Wonfor reached her.

“It’s an outstanding success,” Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said of the operation. “We train for this, although we’ve never seen one like this before.”

Pegg said crews were called to the scene at a construction site on Wellesley Street near Yonge Street at about 4 a.m.

Wonfor and a police negotiator began climbing up the crane at about 6 a.m. and the firefighter rappelled down to the woman on the pulley device around 8 a.m., Pegg said.

The firefighter then carefully strapped himself to the woman and the pair were slowly lowered onto the ground about half an hour later.

The plan had initially been to lower the block onto a nearby parkette once the two were harnessed but Pegg said the crane operator indicated the block might swing and the moving cables could cause some pinching.

“She was brought down safely, she didn’t appear to be in any distress,” Pegg said. “This was a very technical, very complex rescue.”

Wonfor also said he was feeling fine, although fatigued after carrying heavy equipment on an already intense climb.

But the firefighter had no intention of resting, and noted he was heading to play in a hockey tournament for the remainder of the day.

Emergency crews rescue a woman from a crane near Yonge and Wellesley streets on April 26, 2017. CITYNEWS/Melanie Ng

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Kevin O’Leary to quit Tory leadership race, support Bernier

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

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Celebrity investor and reality-TV star Kevin O’Leary, who rattled Conservative cages three months ago when he joined the party’s leadership race, did it again Wednesday by quitting a contest observers believe he had every chance of winning.

O’Leary’s stunning news – he’s throwing his support behind Quebec rival Maxime Bernier – appeared to catch even some members of his campaign team off-guard as they gathered to prepare for Wednesday’s final leadership debate.

Behind the scenes, however, O’Leary has been mulling the idea for about a week, say sources, ever more convinced that as leader, he might never be able to rally enough support in Quebec to deliver a majority Conservative mandate in 2019.

“It’s selfish to just take the leadership and say, ‘Great, I’m the leader, now in 24 months I will lose for the party,”‘ the frank-talking “Shark Tank” star told a news conference in Toronto.

“That’s not right. That’s just wrong.”


Related stories:

Maclean’s profile of Maxime Bernier, the man Kevin O’Leary is now endorsing for the Tory leadership vote
With Kevin O’Leary out, Conservative leadership candidates target Bernierp
Conservative rivals O’Toole, Leitch following divergent paths to leadership
For Bernier, freedom’s just another word for why he’s going to win leadership
O’Leary’s decision to attend final debate part of a broader political education


The tipping point, he said, came when he saw Conservative membership numbers overall that were even higher than he expected, which meant he didn’t have as large a share of the support as he thought he did.

When he learned that ballots had already been printed and mailed, he decided to act, picking up a phone at 1:30 a.m. to call Bernier, a longtime Quebec MP, to pledge his support.

The two share similar policies, while Bernier can deliver the number of seats the Tories need to form a majority government, O’Leary said.

On the campaign trail, the two weren’t exactly the best of friends. Bernier at one point called O’Leary a “loser,” and each campaign more or less accused the other of voter fraud, though the allegations were never proven.

But it was all smiles Wednesday as Bernier said the endorsement marks a turning point.

“As Kevin says, in Quebec the numbers for me are very good and the competition I had outside Quebec was really Kevin,” Bernier said in French.

“And we’re going to bring our forces together so we can win this race and then beat Justin Trudeau in 2019.”

O’Leary said he’ll do whatever it takes to help Bernier, but defended the fact his campaign sent out a fundraising letter just hours before he dropped out. He said he still needs the funds and will continue to raise money, though he didn’t explain why. His name will also remain on the ballot as the deadline to take it off has long passed.

A lack of facility with French was always considered one of O’Leary’s greatest liabilities.

Still, O’Leary had plenty of assets: instant recognition, thanks to years of television exposure; a public image as a savvy financial manager; and a brash, no-nonsense, outsider approach that echoed the unlikely ascent of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose thanked O’Leary for taking part in the race and focusing on young Canadians, who she said will be saddled with the bad economic decisions of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Kevin brought thousands of young Canadians into the party with a common sense Conservative message,” Ambrose said in a statement Wednesday night.

Candidate Kellie Leitch, who has also ripped pages from Trump’s populist playbook, said O’Leary’s departure opens a door for her.

“I was phoning them throughout the day,” she said of his supporters, and she suggested some of his campaign team had already joined hers.

The Conservative party said Tuesday there are 259,010 members eligible to vote.

O’Leary claims to have signed up just over 35,000, and there’s no guarantee any or all will agree to back Bernier.

“This is terrible!” Facebook visitor Nathan Welbourn wrote on O’Leary’s page after the news broke. “I don’t even know what to say and I can reassure you Kevin my vote is not going to Bernier.

“As a citizen of Quebec I had a lot of hope (in) you. Extremely disappointed.”

A major point of divergence between the two candidates is supply management, a Canadian mechanism for supporting dairy farmers popular in Quebec that has been making headlines as Trump promises to do battle with Canada over trade.

Bernier supports abolishing the system, while O’Leary has called it vital to Canada’s agriculture sector.

The other Quebec candidate in the race, Steven Blaney, said since he also supports supply management, he feels he can capitalize on O’Leary’s Quebec support.

“It’s an opportunity to go and court the voters who were ready to make their first choice Mr. O’Leary,” Blaney said.


Full O’Leary statement:

“Canada desperately needs a change in government. While Justin Trudeau basks in the glow of celebrity status and focuses on his next opportunity for a selfie, he is destroying the strong fiscal position that Prime Minister Harper left Canada in. If Trudeau isn’t beaten in the next election, he will leave the next generation of Canadians, those thousands of Millennials I’ve been talking about, with a mountain of debt and high taxes. This cannot be allowed to happen.

The Conservative Party needs someone who has the best chance of beating Trudeau. Someone who will command the support of Canadians from every region of the country and who can build a consensus among all members of the Party.

I am proud that my team and I have been frontrunners in this 14-candidate race since the very launch of my campaign in mid-January. In particular, I am touched by the 35,335 people who purchased memberships to support our cause.  This list includes a whole new generation of young Canadians, many of whom are new to the Conservative Party, and I’m hoping will be lifetime Members.

I am not a politician, so I never pushed a shopping list of promises. I’ve had only one, to achieve 3% economic growth in Canada. In order to do this, I said I would have to deliver the Conservative Party a majority mandate in 2019 so that we could reverse Trudeau’s irresponsible and destructive policies.

I have now spent four months on the campaign trail.  My team has done extensive polling during this time, but more importantly I have spoken directly with thousands of Conservatives from across the country, and the concerns they are expressing are the same.

Here is what I know:

1.    Maxime Bernier and I are statistically tied as front runners.
2.    Because I am an outsider I have very weak 2nd ballot support.
3.    I am extremely strong in the West but have not generated material support in Quebec.

Second ballot support is always a concern for any candidate and all you can do is live with that risk and see where the votes settle.

The Quebec data is a different kind of issue and a big problem for me. There are 78 seats in Quebec, and the Conservative Party currently holds only 12 of them. In other words, the Liberals politically own Quebec. Without growing the Conservative base in Quebec, beating Trudeau in 2019 would be a huge challenge. The Conservatives did it in 2011, but only with a perfect vote split and in a political environment much different than the one that exists today. This is obviously very disappointing for me. As someone who was born in Montreal, I had hoped I would do much better there.

Like the other candidates, I have worked like hell on this campaign and I want the DNA of my policies and objectives to survive into the general election. The candidate that best mirrors my policies is Maxime Bernier, and he has strong support in Quebec.  He is perhaps the first Conservative in a long time that has a chance of winning over 40 seats there, which would materially improve our chances for a majority mandate.

So here is what I’m going to do; I’m withdrawing my candidacy from the Leadership Race and throwing my full support behind Max. I’m going to do everything I can to ensure he gets elected, and I’m going to ask my supporters to do the same. Together we will drive Justin Trudeau out of power in 2019, and we will work to get Canada’s economy growing at 3 percent.

This was not an easy decision for me to make but after much thought and deliberation, it is the right one for the Conservative party and the country.  The campaign and travelling and meeting with Conservatives has been an experience of a lifetime, and I owe so much to my Team, and the thousands of volunteers and Members that have supported me. Together we will move forward to change Canada’s direction for the better in the election of 2019.

Councillor wants better process for reporting parking abuse

CityNews | posted Thursday, Apr 27th, 2017

parkingtickets-featured

A Toronto councillor has his sights set on “habitual” parking abuse in the city, saying the process for reporting infractions is inefficient and the fines, sometimes not enough of a deterrent.

Coun. Stephen Holyday’s motion, which was to be considered by council on Wednesday, calls for the city to consider having 311 customer service agents start dispatching parking enforcement officers.

He said he’s had a lot of complaints from the residents in his Etobicoke Centre ward about cars regularly parked overnight.

“In Etobicoke like in many parts of the city, there is a three-hour parking bylaw, and that’s part of the character of our neighbourhood,” Holyday said. “We consider our streets unencumbered.

“But what’s been happening in some of the higher density neighbourhoods is that folks have been parking their cars on the road overnight. And it starts to go from a nuisance … to [becoming] blocked. And they’ve expressed concerns about the ability of safety vehicles to come through.”

The residents told Holyday they’ve been calling the city’s parking enforcement hotline, but very few tickets have been issued.

They’ve also suggested the $15 fine for exceeding the three-hour parking limit is not enough of a deterrent, and Holyday wants the city to consider raising the fine.

“I wonder if it’s an appropriate fine considering maybe it’s just cheaper to get a couple of tickets a month than to pay the cost of renting a spot in the building,” he said.

Holiday also noted a lack of data on parking enforcement and suggested 311 might also take on the task of gathering that information and preparing reports.

Last year, the parking enforcement unit got about 160,000 calls and issued 2,268,110 tickets. Almost 116,500 of those were for parking longer than three hours.

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