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Toronto parents say condo boom is sending schools over the edge

SALMAAN FAROOQUI, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Sep 4th, 2017

TORONTO – Serina Manek has been living in Leslieville for seven years, and has watched it go from a rough-around-the-edges area in Toronto’s east end, to one of the city’s most desirable neighbourhoods.

The demand for Leslieville was always building, she says, but when the condos started going up, the boom of young families started to have an effect on the neighbourhood dynamic, and ultimately, the schools.

“It was starting to burst at the seams with just the young families coming in at first,” said Manek, who has a five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. “But with the addition of the condos, things are becoming unmanageable. It’s too much.”

Toronto public schools in condo-heavy neighbourhoods are starting to feel the squeeze of a dense population. The Toronto District School Board has been warning new home buyers in certain neighbourhoods that not all children will be accommodated in their home school.

TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird says the board has placed signs on the street level warning potential home buyers that a spot in a home school isn’t guaranteed, and similar warnings are also included in the home buyer’s agreement. Bird says the most recent statistics show that there are 110 new developments in Toronto with those warnings.

Leslieville is one of them, and Manek says that she doesn’t know if her daughter will be able to go to the same school as her brother when she starts kindergarten.

“It’s unsettling to walk around the neighbourhood and see that sign, and for that to be your form of communication,” said Manek. “I guess the frustration is the communication, but I don’t know where that communication would come from.”

Sitting in a buzzing Leslieville park — one that Manek notes used to be empty a few years ago — she says that she doesn’t see the population boom as sustainable.

Her friend, Holly Andruchuk, will be sending her son to his first year of kindergarten in the upcoming school year, but says that the implications of her crowded nearby school just keep piling up.

Their school, Morse Park Junior Public School, is nestled on a small street just off of Leslieville’s main thoroughfare. In 2010, it was home to around 200 students, according to the TDSB. This year, it’s grown more than double that with over 500 students. Bird says the dramatic increase is due to changing demographics in the region, as well as the addition of French immersion at the school.

Andruchuk says that the high number of students means that her son will be in a classroom with as many as 27 other students, and that is one of five kindergarten classes this year. And his classroom will be on the second floor, which she says is unusual for a kindergarten student.

“Our teacher on orientation night actually said that, because we’re on the second floor, our kids don’t go outside as often,” said Andruchuk. “Because in winter time, trying to dress four- and five-year-olds (and then get them down the stairs) is a challenge on its own.”

However, Andruchuk is optimistic that her son’s education won’t suffer. She believes that the community will have to step up to support their children in a way that a stressed school system might not be able to. Her friend Manek, however, is not so sure. She thinks that ultimately, some parents will give up on the Leslieville area and move on further away.

Whether a community culture can save Leslieville or not, the problem isn’t isolated to the one Toronto neighbourhood. Bird says that the housing development warnings are sprawled in locations all across the city.

Next door in Mississauga, Ont., the Peel District School Board uses the same warning messages to prospective buyers in the crowded city centre area, where more families are living in condos than originally expected.

“The numbers would bear out a trend that families are seeking a more affordable form of apartment condominiums,” said Randy Wright, a planning controller with the PDSB, who says that finding land for new schools for the incoming families is proving to be a difficult task.

And across the country in Vancouver, the city’s public school board says it can’t always guarantee that students will be able to go to their home school, and may have to be bussed out to further schools.

In the meantime, Andruchuk and Manek are gearing up for the upcoming school year, and plan to volunteer in the school system as much as possible.

“I will always put my kids’ education first,” said Manek.

Eastern Caribbean battens down as Hurricane Irma approaches

The Associated Press | posted Monday, Sep 4th, 2017

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Government workers on the islands of the northeast Caribbean are clearing drains and pruning trees as authorities urge residents to prepare for Hurricane Irma, a Category 3 storm that grew stronger Monday and will likely begin buffeting the region Tuesday.

The Antigua and Barbuda weather service said Irma was expected to bring heavy rains, rough surf and high winds, and the government closed schools Monday.

Hurricane watches were posted for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Monserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, and St. Barts.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said islands farther north, including the U.S. British and Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, should monitor the progress of the storm and be prepared for Irma possibly to head their direction.

Long-range forecasts indicated Irma likely would curve to the northwest beginning late Monday and skirt to the north of the islands in the eastern Caribbean on a path that could potentially take it to the U.S. East Coast, but it was too early to make a definitive prediction.

Antigua’s prime minister, Gaston Browne, urged people to take preventative measures in case the storm should keep on its current arc, saying that should include cleaning drains and removing objects that could be sent flying by high winds. Workers began pruning trees and shrubs to reduce chances for branches to tear down power and phone lines.

“The passage of a hurricane is not a matter to be taken lightly, but we must not panic,” Browne said in a statement.

The U.S. hurricane centre said Irma had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kph) Monday morning and some strengthening was expected through Tuesday night. The storm was centred about 610 miles (980 kilometres) east of the Leeward Islands and moving west-southwest at 14 mph (22 kph).

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said government agencies in the U.S. territory were prepared to deal with any emergencies caused by the storm but warned of flooding and power outages. He said 4 inches to 8 inches (10-20 centimetres) of rain were expected, as well as winds of 40-50 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph.

“We have established protocols for the safety of all,” he said as he urged islanders to take precautions.

In the Dominican Republic, Public Works Minister Gonzalo Castillo said workers there were clearing away road works and also cleaning out blockages of sewer drains. He said President Danilo Medina would hold a meeting with emergencies agencies Monday to discuss storm preparations.

Meteorologists on Monday issued an alert for the Dominican Republic’s entire eastern coast from the island of Saona to the town of Cabo Frances. Officials said the effects of Hurricane Irma would be felt Thursday.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting third child: Kensington Palace

DANICA KIRKA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Sep 4th, 2017

epa06182569 (FILE) - Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (L) and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (2-R) walk with their children Prince George (2-L) and Princess Charlotte during a farewell ceremony at the airport after visiting the Airbus Factory in Hamburg, Germany, 21 July 2017 (reissude 04 September 2017). The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting third child, according to a statement of the Kensington Palace on 04 September 2017.  EPA/CARSTEN KOALL

Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting their third child, Kensington Palace said Monday.

Kensington Palace made the pregnancy announcement as they said that the former Kate Middleton was not feeling well enough to attend an engagement later in the day. As with her other two pregnancies, the duchess is suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or acute morning sickness. Kate is being cared for at her Kensington Palace home in London.

“The queen and members of both families are delighted with the news,” the palace said in a statement.

William and Kate, both 35, already have two children: Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 2.

The announcement came at a time when the royal couple is due to mark a milestone in the life of their young family: They are set to send George to school for the first time on Thursday.

Their choice of Thomas’s Battersea in south London indicated that the Cambridges were settling into their Kensington Palace apartment, having moved recently from their Norfolk home Anmer Hall.

No details were immediately available about when the third baby is due, but betting agencies were quick to start offering odds on possible names for the soon-to-be-born child in the House of Windsor.

Paddy Power offered 8-to-1 odds on Alice. Also popular was Diana, after Prince William’s mother, particularly given the timing of the announcement.

Together with Prince Harry, William and Kate have taken a leading role in marking the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death. Last week the royals toured the garden of their Kensington Palace home to remember the princes’ mother and celebrate her contributions to their family and to the monarchy.

“Given the recent anniversary, there’ll be plenty of interest in the name Diana if the baby is a girl,” the agency said.

The royals have said from the time of their engagement that they wanted to have a family _ the only question was how many children they wished for. Royal watchers recorded every aside for clues as to what the plans might be.

When asked on a royal tour in Singapore in 2012 about how many children he wanted, William said he was “thinking about having two.”

More recently, during a royal tour of Poland, Kate joked about a third child when given a cuddly toy designed to soothe tiny babies.

Kate thanked the well-wisher for the present and turned to William. “We will just have to have more babies,” she said laughing.

Kate is the eldest of three siblings, and reportedly had a very happy childhood. William has a younger brother, Prince Harry.

The royal couple can also be seen as following in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, who have four children.

Man arrested after OPP officer injured during Mississauga traffic stop

CityNews | posted Monday, Sep 4th, 2017

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One man is in custody after an Ontario Provincial Police officer escaped serious injury after a traffic stop gone horribly wrong on Monday morning.

Peel Region Police say OPP Const. Patrick Chatelain was conducting a routine traffic stop at around 9 a.m. on Highway 403 near the eastbound off-ramp to Hurontario Street.

According to police, the vehicle then accelerated away, dragging the officer for approximately 200 metres as it fled the scene northbound on Hurontario Street.

Police later recovered the abandoned vehicle a few kilometres away.

A few hours later, Peel police said one man had been arrested and was in custody and that charges were pending.

Police told CityNews its uncertain if the man arrested was indeed the driver of the car. They continue to search for as many as three other persons who may have also been in the car at the time of the incident.

The officer was transported to Sunnybrook Hospital with what was initially reported to be serious injuries.

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt updated the officer’s condition late Monday, saying his injuries were considered minor and that Chatelain, a former Peel Paramedic and reservist with the armed forces, had been released from hospital and was expected to make a full recovery.

Toronto group heading to Houston to rescue dogs from overwhelmed shelters

LIAM CASEY, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Sep 1st, 2017

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Next week, a small team of Canadian volunteers will get into two vans, drive for two days to flood-ravaged Houston, pick up a group of rescue dogs from overwhelmed shelters, and head home.

Nicole Simone, who runs Redemption Dogs, an animal advocacy group based in Toronto, said four volunteers will leave the city next Wednesday to help an animal shelter in Houston that has seen an influx of canines after Hurricane Harvey hit the city.

The shelter needs to free up space and find homes for its animals because it keeps rescuing more and more dogs, she said.

“A lot of the rescues lost their property,” Simone said. “They’re all flooded out. They’re all overwhelmed.”

Simone has a friend who runs Hot Mess Pooches, a shelter in Houston, and has been following the organization’s efforts over the past few days. The shelter had to rescue 40 dogs on Wednesday alone, she said.

“It is really upsetting, so we thought we could help out, even in a small way,” Simone said.

Simone spoke to a friend in Toronto, who said he was willing to drive down to Houston, and then found two others who wanted to head down to the U.S. with her. She has also started an online fundraiser to help support the group’s efforts.

The Canadian volunteers will only be rescuing dogs that do not have owners, said Simone, who already has a handful of rescue organizations in Ontario lined up to take the dogs in and find foster homes for them until they are adopted.

Hurricane Harvey hit southern Texas last week and left large swaths covered in water. At least 31 people have died and emergency officials expect that number to climb in the coming days.

More than 1,000 homes in the state have been destroyed, close to 50,000 were damaged and over 32,000 people were in shelters. About 24,000 National Guard troops have been called in to help.

The situation is also dire for animals.

Rescue organizations from across the United States have mobilized to help deal with the fallout from the hurricane. Countless animals have escaped, have been abandoned or are strays that have been caught up in the flood.

The Humane Society of the United States is co-ordinating a massive effort to ship dogs out on planes to various parts of the country.

In many cases, people are bringing their furry friends with them as they evacuate. On Wednesday, more than 500 people took shelter at a bowling alley in nearby Beaumont, Texas, along with dozens of dogs, cats, a lizard and a monkey.

With files from the Associated Press

Rock balancer says goodbye to the CNE after 18 years

AUDRA BROWN | posted Friday, Sep 1st, 2017

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As the saying goes, it’s all about having balance in life. Daryl Maddeaux has made it his life’s work, literally, to keep it that way.

The artist, who was discovered on a beach balancing rocks, shot to fame nearly 45 years ago.

His work has dazzled thousands of people every year at the Canadian National Exhibition. But after 18 seasons, Maddeaux will balance his last stone on the Labour Day long weekend.

The 65-year-old said he is retiring to spend more time with his family and grandchildren.

Maddeaux told CityNews after being on the road for 200 days a year, he is looking forward to what’s ahead.

But what is his secret for how he balances those rocks? Maddeaux said every stone has three points of contact to make them perfectly balanced.

Gas prices rise 5 cents at midnight, another 9-cent hike by Saturday

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Sep 1st, 2017

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Drivers faced a staggering price hike at the gas pumps on Friday, but it is only expected to get worse over the long weekend.

Gas prices went up five cents at most GTA stations at midnight, to an average price of 123.9 cents/litre.

But the sticker shock won’t end there.

Roger McKnight, the chief petroleum analyst with En-Pro International Inc., said if the current trend continues, he foresees an increase of nine cents by Saturday, which would put the price at 132.9 cents/litre.

The last time gas prices touched this level was three years ago.

The hikes being attributed to the effects of Hurricane Harvey.

The storm has knocked out significant oil drilling and refining capacity in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, and on Wednesday, the largest U.S. oil refinery shut down. The operator of a major pipeline carrying fuel to the East Coast said it was running at a reduced rate.

Colonial Pipeline says it plans to shut down a key line on Thursday. The company didn’t say how long it expects the closure to last, saying it will know more when workers can evaluate its facilities.

McKnight points out that the Colonial pipeline is responsible for sending refined products from the Gulf area north to Eastern Canada.

Related stories:

Two explosions rock flooded Houston-area chemical plant

Gasoline future prices jump in Harvey’s wake due to refinery disruptions


With files from The Associated Press

Floral tributes laid at Kensington Palace for Diana anniversary

DANICA KIRKA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Aug 31st, 2017

Diana's 20th Death Anniversary
Media and crowds of Diana well-wishers gather outside Kensington Palace gates in London, England, on Aug. 31, 2017, to pay tribute on the 20th anniversary of her death. Photo: Amer Ghazzal/Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Dozens of floral tributes, photos and personal messages have been laid at the gates of London’s Kensington Palace on Thursday as Britain remembered Princess Diana on the 20th anniversary of her death in a Paris car crash.

Royal fans gathered at the palace, Diana’s former home, to mark two decades since the princess’ death triggered a flood of grief across Britain and beyond. Her admirers began paying tribute to Diana before dawn, placing candles shaped in the letter “D” at the palace gates.

“We had never met her and been nowhere near her, but I think she touched so many people because of who she was, the way she conducted herself in the context of where she was living and who she became,” said Mara Klemich, 55, a royal well-wisher from Sydney, Australia.

Princes William and Harry honoured their mother Wednesday at Kensington Palace, visiting a garden where she would stroll by and ask the gardeners about their ever-changing displays.

The princes and the Duchess of Cambridge met with well-wishers afterward, but aren’t expected to take part in any engagements Thursday.

The weeks leading up to the anniversary have been met with reflection in Britain as the public remembers “the people’s princess” and considers her contributions to the country.

The 36-year-old princess died in the early hours of Aug. 31, 1997. Her Mercedes, pursued by paparazzi, crashed into a concrete pillar in the Alma Tunnel in Paris while travelling at more than 100 km/h.

Diana, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their driver Henri Paul were all killed. Her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was injured but survived.

In Paris, royal watchers also gathered at the Alma Tunnel to remember her life.

“It’s been 20 years now but there are people you don’t forget, and she is one of them,” said Sylviane Rives of Paris, who works nearby. “That is what I wrote on a little card for her.”

Many took to social media to express their grief and to recall her kindness.

The co-designer of Diana’s wedding dress, Elizabeth Emanuel, tweeted a picture of the princess shortly after her arrival at St. Paul’s Cathedral for her 1981 wedding.

“Thinking of the wonderful times we spent with Diana and the great joy she brought into our lives and all those who knew her,” Emanuel tweeted.

Rosa Monckton, a friend of Diana’s, told the Times of London that she “busted the myth of being a fairytale princess” and that Diana’s many troubles helped people relate to her.

“I think that given the life she had, when you think what she had to overcome, and all of this in the public eye, I think she was a truly extraordinary woman,” she said. “Very damaged, very flawed, as we all are, but underneath it all this incredible resilience.”

Associated Press writers Kevin Scott and Oleg Cetinic contributed to this story.

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