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New schools, childcare spaces to open across Ontario

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jan 16th, 2018

Ontario is investing upwards of $700 million in new schools and childcare spaces in 2018, the province announced on Monday.

The funds will go towards 39 brand new schools, 40 school renovations as well as the creation of 2,700 new licensed child care spaces for children up to four years old.

“We know what when we build new schools, we’re really investing in learning for students,” Education Minister Mitzie Hunter told Breakfast Television on Monday.

Over the next five years, $1.6 billion will be invested to help create 45,000 new licensed child care spaces in schools and other public spaces.

Supreme Court case could lead to First Nations role in law-making

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jan 15th, 2018

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OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada is to begin hearings Monday in an appeal that could force lawmakers across the country to give First Nations a role in drafting legislation that affects treaty rights.

“This case is tremendously significant whichever way it comes out,” said Dwight Newman, a law professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

It could “fundamentally transform how law is made in Canada,” he said.

The court is to hear a challenge by the Mikisew Cree First Nation in northern Alberta. It seeks a judicial review of changes made under the previous Harper government to the Fisheries Act, the Species At Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

The First Nation argues that because the changes were likely to affect its treaty rights, the government had a constitutional duty to consult before making them.

Cases on the Crown’s duty to consult appear regularly, but they usually concern decisions made by regulatory bodies. This one seeks to extend that duty to law-making.

“Rather than being consultation about a particular (regulatory) decision, it’s a consultation about making the rules,” said lawyer Robert Janes, who will represent the Mikisew.

Janes argues that First Nations are often kept from discussing their real issues before regulatory boards.

“The place to deal with larger issues that First Nations often want to deal with are when the statutes are being designed. If you don’t deal with that in the design, the (regulator) doesn’t have the tools to deal with the problem when it comes up.”

Legislation creating Alberta’s energy regulator, for example, specifically blocks the agency from considering treaty rights, which are the root of most Indigenous concerns with energy development in the province.

Ensuring First Nations have a voice when laws are drafted will lead to better legislation, argues Janes.

Not necessarily, says the government.

“At some point, the need to consult in this manner may overwhelm and affect the ability to govern,” it says in written arguments filed with the Supreme Court.

Ottawa argues that allowing the appeal would be a far-reaching intrusion by one branch of government into the work of another and that it is “not the courts’ role to impose restrictions or fetters on the law-making process of Parliament.”

There’s nothing that prevents governments from consulting First Nations when laws are drafted, federal lawyers say. But they argue that forcing them to give Indigenous representatives a seat at the table diminishes Parliament, which is supposed to be the most powerful body in the land.

It would also put more value on some rights than others, giving treaty rights preference over charter rights.

The appeal is being closely watched. Five provincial attorneys general and seven Indigenous groups have filed as interveners.

Newman said some provinces, such as Saskatchewan, already consult First Nations in drafting relevant legislation.

Whichever way the Supreme Court decides, it will be “amongst the most significant duty-to-consult cases that have been decided,” he said.

“Altering the parliamentary process itself contains dangers. It’s a delicately balanced process that’s been developed over hundreds of years and I don’t know if we can predict all of the effects of putting in additional judicially developed requirements.”

Janes said one effect might be reconciliation.

“If you’re going to talk about reconciliation … it doesn’t make much sense to say we’re just going to let one side make the rules and we’re only going to have a conversation afterwards.”

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow @row1960 on Twitter

1 dead in head-on crash near Cookstown

CityNews | posted Monday, Jan 15th, 2018

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One person is dead and another person is in serious condition following a head-on crash near Cookstown.

OPP were called to the scene on Highway 89 between Eighth and Ninth Line around 7 p.m. Saturday night.

Investigators say one person was declared dead at the scene while the second person was airlifted to a trauma centre in Toronto.

Ontario won’t release bridge repair cost estimates or say who will foot the bill

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jan 15th, 2018

The Nipigon River bridge carrying part of the Trans-Canada Highway near Nipigon, Ont., is seen on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. Repairs to the bridge in northwestern Ontario will take nearly three years and delays have pushed the total cost well beyond the initial $8 million to $12 million estimate, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

Repairs to a bridge in northwestern Ontario will take nearly three years and delays have pushed the total cost well over the initial $8 million to $12 million estimate, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

But the Ontario government is refusing to say just how much over, and whether taxpayers will have to foot the bill for fixes to the Nipigon Bridge.

“Since the malfunction in January 2016 our top priority has been to ensure the public is aware of the status of the project and the cause of the malfunction,” Celso Pereira, the transportation minister’s spokesman, said in a statement.

“With that said, negotiations with the contractor regarding these costs are currently underway. As such, the ministry is not able to release them as it could jeopardize the status of these negotiations.”

Engineering reports found that a combination of design and installation deficiencies of several key components caused the bridge to fail, severing a critical Trans-Canada Highway link. Improperly tightened bolts on one portion of the bridge snapped, causing the steel decking to lift about 60 centimetres. That was just 42 days after the $106-million bridge had opened.

The bridge reopened to one lane of traffic the next day and two lanes in late February, but according to the ministry, it won’t be open to four lanes of traffic until late 2018.

When those engineering reports were released in September 2016, the government estimated the repair work at between $8 million and $12 million.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press through a Freedom of Information request, with project updates from May, June and October, discuss construction challenges and delays that are leading to additional costs, but nearly all of those amounts are redacted.

One of the only additional cost estimates not removed from the documents is that a repair to a floor beam connecting two girders that wasn’t fitting properly “will add one month to the construction schedule and could cost up to $2 million.”

NDP transportation critic Wayne Gates said the public has a right to know the additional costs and the company awarded the project should be paying.

“They should be responsible for any of the cost at all,” he said. “Whether it’s $8 to $12 million or whether it’s $30 million, taxpayers shouldn’t pay a penny for this.”

Progressive Conservative critic Michael Harris said he would have expected negotiations about repair costs to have been done before repairs began, and not 16 months later.

“I think anybody, you or I, are building a house or doing a renovation, we try to get those costs agreed to up front,” he said. “It seems this government negotiates completely backwards.”

The documents say failure to open all the lanes in 2017 would “result in a claim for additional costs by the contractor” and that it would “result in an increase to contract administration costs.”

One of the issues listed is with the east bearing, which the documents say the contractor repaired, but the ministry has concerns with its long-term durability.

“Contractually, the bearing design and installation are the responsibility of the contractor, however considering previous issues (experienced) with the west bearing, the ministry will need to examine more closely,” the documents say. “If the repair is not able to be completed by the contractor, the ministry will be required to stop the work until a satisfactory repair is in place.”

If that happens, “the contractor may perceive this as a change to the contract and request payment,” the documents say.

Sears Canada shutters its final stores Sunday after months-long liquidation

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jan 15th, 2018

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Sears Canada closed the doors for good on Sunday.

The long-time staple of Canada’s retail landscape declared bankruptcy last year and announced in the fall that it would liquidate its remaining stores and lay off thousands of employees.

Sales began in October, and only a fraction of the retailer’s locations across Canada remained open to the bitter end.

The chain’s closure sparked a number of controversies.

Sears Canada planned to dole out millions of dollars in retention bonuses to head office staff while grappling with a more than $260-million shortfall in its pension plan.

The company originally wanted to pay a total $7.6 million to 43 top employees, but revised that to a total of $6.5 million to 36 employees after a backlash.

An Ontario judge approved the reduction, but some employees argued it was still too much money given the company was also facing a 19 per cent pension plan funding shortfall, meaning employees would likely see a similar cut to their benefits.

And a plan by executive chairman Brandon Stranzl that would see the company continue to operate was rebuffed in favour of liquidation, prompting further questions about whose interests were being prioritized.

Sears Canada’s closure follows in the footsteps of other big-box retailers including Target and Zellers.

Police search for suspect wanted in Coronation Park area assault

CityNews | posted Monday, Jan 15th, 2018

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Toronto police are searching for a man wanted in a series of assaults that took place near Coronation Park.

Investigators say the incidents occurred between December 10, 2017 and January 10, 2018 in the Stadium Road and Lakeshore Boulevard area.

In one of the incidents, the male suspect and a woman were arguing when he allegedly grabbed her, produced a knife and made death threats while holding her down.

Police say the suspect managed to flee before they arrived on the scene.

The suspect has been identified as 52-year-old Gregor Beresford, who is facing three counts of assault and uttering threats.

Anyone with information is asked to contact plice or Crime Stoppers.

Photojournalist files $900,000 lawsuit against Hamilton police

CityNews | posted Friday, Jan 12th, 2018

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A television cameraman has filed a $900,000 lawsuit against the Hamilton Police Service for “unreasonable and excessive force” during his arrest last May.

Jeremy Cohn, a cameraman with Global News, is suing the department for false arrest, false imprisonment, assault, battery, intentional infliction of mental suffering as well as several breaches of his Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Cohn and another freelance photojournalist, David Ritchie, were arrested by police while attending the scene of an accident in which a 10-year-old girl was killed after being struck by a car.

In the statement of claim, Cohn alleges he was on the phone with a Hamilton media relations officer who advised him to “continue to shoot the scene as he normally would.” It was during a second conversation with the media relations officer that Cohn alleges he was “violently grabbed” by a police officer, dragged to a grassy area, pushed to the ground and restrained with a zip tie.

Cohn claims the incident left him “humiliated, confused and terrified.”

Video posted to social media showed police forcibly removing both men from the scene.

Cohn was eventually released without charges a short time later.

Cohn is asking for $700,000 in general damages and another $200,000 in punitive damages, according to court documents.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Ritchie, who was charged with obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest, entered into a peace bond last October which requires him to complete 12.5 hours of community service and make a $250 donation.

Police officers shouldn’t be ‘guarding broken watermains:’ chief

CityNews | posted Friday, Jan 12th, 2018

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Toronto’s police chief said he’s looking into the union’s concerns about understaffing on the force, but insisted he has already taken measures to correct the problem.

At an event on Thursday, Chief Mark Saunders said he agrees there were issues under the old model, but he’s since hired new officers and changed deployment, “[making] the pie a little wider.”

Saunders said he has added another 523 officers to the front line since last May and assigned more officers to cover larger areas.

“One of the key and critical pieces … is reducing the cost-for-service,” he told reporters. “That is fundamental if we’re going to be able to modernize.”

Saunders suggested it’s a waste to have skilled officers directing traffic and protecting crime scenes, and said there are some calls they shouldn’t be going to.

“There’s certain things that highly-trained police officers do not need to do,” he said. “Guarding a broken watermain — I don’t think that’s what the taxpayers want.”

However, Saunders said he is in the process of hiring more officers, though he has not settled on a number.

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