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Uber launching $5, transit-like option on Tuesday

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 14th, 2015

Uber is launching a transit-like option on Tuesday that lets users pay a flat $5 to travel with other commuters along four specific routes.

The service, called UberHOP, will use large SUVs or mini vans that can carry up to five passengers from the same spot on a fixed route.

UberHOP will travel from Liberty Village, Fort York, Cityplace and the Distillery District, all going to the financial district in the morning and back to the neighbourhoods in the afternoon/evening.

The shuttle-like service is scheduled to operate during rush hour only, between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

The service was launched last week in Seattle.

All-door boarding begins on TTC streetcars

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 14th, 2015

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Monday marks the beginning of all-door boarding on all streetcar lines in Toronto, an initiative the TTC believes will speed up service.

The new system will allow transit users to board through any door on a streetcar, provided they have a Metropass or proof-of-payment.

For a closer look on how the system will work, including the rules around proof-of-payment, watch the video below:

Syrian refugees arrive in Canada, which one family calls ‘paradise’

CityNews | posted Friday, Dec 11th, 2015

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It’s a new day, in a new country, for dozens of refugee families who fled the violence in Syria in hopes of a better life here in the GTA.

The first planeload landed at Pearson Airport around 11:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Prime Minister Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne were on hand to welcome the first two families from the plane that brought 163 Syrian refugees to Canada.

The first refugee family into the terminal was a couple with their 16-month-old girl.

“We really would like to thank you for all this hospitality and the warm welcome and all the staff — we felt ourselves at home and we felt ourselves highly respected,” Kevork Jamkossian told Trudeau.

“We felt (for the) first time (that) we are in a safe place,” Jamkossian said.

“Well, you are,” Trudeau responded, handing out winter jackets. “You’re safe at home now.”
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Refugees arrive in Toronto, Dec. 11, 2015 CITYNEWS

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, looks over winter clothing which will be handed out to arriving Syrian refugees before arrival at Pearson International airport, in Toronto, on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Jamkossian’s wife held their daughter Madeleine, clutching a teddy bear the little girl took with a shy smile from Wynne as the politicians helped find suitable winter clothing for them.

The family — the father is a blacksmith and the mother a sales clerk — was the first through processing in the wee hours of Friday morning after the government aircraft landed following a long flight from Beirut.

The family fled Syria, spent eight months in Lebanon and now they came to Canada because here, Madeleine will have many opportunities, the family said.

“We suffered a lot,” Jamkossian said. “Now, we feel as if we got out of hell and we came to paradise.”

They were joined by the ministers of immigration, health and defence, as well as local mayors and opposition immigration critics.

While there would be less fanfare for the arrival of the rest of the families, all were welcomed by a large contingent of staff at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and given winter coats, boots, hats and gloves before resting a few hours in a hotel.

Shadr Mardelli struggled to put the day’s experience into words.

“I can’t imagine my feelings here, I’m so happy,” he said, weary but smiling, minutes after arriving at the hotel with his wife and son. The family fled Syria for Lebanon last year.

In Canada, he said, “I’m looking for safety and beautiful future and new future.”

Starting Friday, 116 of the new arrivals will head to homes in the Toronto area. Another four will go to Windsor. Sponsors in Kelowna, B.C. will welcome four, three will go to Coquitlam, B.C. and one to New Westminster, B.C. Twenty are bound for Calgary, Alta., and the final 15 to Edmonton, according to statistics released Thursday by the Immigration department.

A second flight is set to arrive in Montreal on Saturday.

Trudeau told the assembled staff moments before the plane arrived Thursday night that those arriving would step off the plane as refugees but would walk out of the terminal as permanent residents with social insurance numbers, health cards and the opportunity to become full Canadians.

“This is something that we are able to do in this country because we define a Canadian not by a skin colour or a language or a religion or a background, but by a shared set of values, aspirations, hopes and dreams that not just Canadians but people around the world share,” he said.

“So I thank you deeply for being a part of this because this matters. Tonight matters, not just for Canada but for the world.”

All of the Syrians on board are sponsored by private groups, many of whom had filed the necessary paperwork months ago in order to bring in some of the estimated 4.3 million Syrians displaced by the ongoing civil war in that country.

More than 400 refugees have already arrived on commercial flights since the Liberals took office on Nov. 4.

Canadians eager to show their support for the newcomers weren’t deterred by the fact that they couldn’t do so face to face.

A handful of people gathered at the international arrivals gate at Pearson bearing signs and gifts.

Stefania Dunlop and Lubna Altaher dropped off dozens of bags brimming with snacks and plush toys for the children, as well as hats and mittens for the adults. The pair said they had made arrangements with airport security to have the items — and several hundreds more bags — brought to the designated terminal where the government flight landed.

Andrew Harris, 51, said he wanted to counter the fearful messaging about Muslims that has circulated since the Paris attacks.

He held up a large yellow sign that read “Welcome to Canada,” saying that even if the arriving refugees don’t see it, the positive words won’t go unnoticed.

Before the plane landed, Trudeau spoke to the team of paramedics, government staff, and volunteers, eagerly waiting to greet the new arrivals.

“This matters. Tonight matters. Not just for Canada but for the world,” Trudeau said.

On Friday, the refugees begin the process of moving into their new homes.

EXCLUSIVE: Canadians concerned Syrian refugees will strain social services

CityNews | posted Friday, Dec 11th, 2015

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Canadians are concerned that Syrian refugees will create a strain on their health care systems and social services, according to an exclusive poll conducted for CityNews by Forum Research.

“These are not encouraging indicator,” said Lorne Bozinoff, the president and founder of Forum Research. “Canadians think these new citizens will prove a burden on our already overtaxed public services and that they will do nothing to enhance the economy.”

In a random sampling of 1,369 Canadian votes, 63 per cent of respondents said they are concerned Syrian refugees settling in Canada will create a strain on health care and social services, with 42 per cent stating they are “very concerned.”

People between the ages 35 to 44 have the highest level of concern, at 47 per cent.

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But when it comes to job loss, only 40 per cent of respondents said they are concerned that refugees will take jobs from Canadians, while 56 per cent say they are not concerned.

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Only a small number (32 per cent) of Canadians actually think that Syrian refugees will have a positive effect on Canada’s economy. A total of 41 per cent of people think they will not have a positive impact and 27 per cent don’t know if they will.

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On Wednesday, it was revealed that Canadians are concerned that Syrian refugees are getting preferential treatment in the immigration process. A total of 54 per cent of Canadians in the sample were concerned and 34 per cent were very concerned.

Results are based on the total sample of 1,369 and are considered accurate plus-or-minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Two Syrian refugee families arrived in Toronto on Wednesday night and 164 more are expected to arrive Thursday at Toronto Pearson International Airport. They’ll be arriving in a Royal Canadian Air Force jet, from a flight out of an airfield in Jordan.

Toronto weekend need to know: Free turkeys, cheap coffee and other Christmas miracles

Amber LeBlanc, Diana Pereira | posted Friday, Dec 11th, 2015

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It’s a Christmas miracle. There are fairly few TTC and road changes and closures to worry about this weekend. That’ll give you time to check out every event on this list, from pretending you’re a hockey player to imagining you’re a ballerina.

Events

Toronto Maple Leafs Skate  Photo via eastersealsskate.org
Toronto Maple Leafs Skate for Easter Seals Kids
It’s a chance to pretend you’re in the NHL! You can skate with members of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday for a good cause. Join the Leafs for the annual “Skate For Easter Seals Kids” at the Mastercard Centre. Participants raise a minimum of $150 in pledges, with all money going to the charity.

The Nutcracker
A Christmas tradition returns to Toronto when the National Ballet of Canada’s performances of theNutcracker start on Saturday. The ballet features the timeless music of Tchaikovsky, and the company is celebrating its 20th year of putting on the holiday classic. The Globe and Mail has called it the “best Nutcracker on the planet.”

Hundreds wait in line for the annual turkey giveaway at Honest Ed's in Toronto on Dec. 14, 2014. CITYNEWS/Ken Hama
Honest Ed’s Turkey Giveaway
Meanwhile, a longtime Annex tradition comes to an end on Sunday. It’s the very last turkey giveaway at Honest Ed’s, as the iconic store is set to close at the end of 2016. The line-up for the free bird usually starts the night before, and this year’s event is expected to be the biggest ever with over seven tonnes of turkeys and fruitcakes to be handed out.

Variety Village Christmas 2015 Photo via varietyvillage.ca
Variety Village Christmas 2015. Photo via varietyvillage.ca.

Variety Village World’s Greatest Christmas Party
Variety Village is getting ready for a huge holiday gathering, with Santa and Mrs. Claus making a special appearance. Tickets for the “World’s Greatest Christmas Party” cost just $8 and are designed to give families an affordable way to celebrate Christmas in a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment. There will be a Christmas Bazaar, face painting, arts and crafts and a bouncy castle for kids. Guests are welcome to donate new unwrapped toys, which will be distributed to families in need through local agencies.

The Toronto Etsy Street Team’s Christmas Marketplace
If you want a truly handmade or vintage gift, the Etsy Christmas Marketplace promises to deliver. Thirty vendors will share space with musicians and cooks to keep attendees entertained and fed. A certain man in red will make a visit from 1:30 p.m. until 3 p.m.

Tickets are not required and entrance to the event is free. Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Church of Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields, 103 Bellevue Ave. in Kensington Market

All the Words: Small Press Fair Photo via facebook.com/events/177462309267590/
All the Words: Small Press Fair Photo via facebook.com/events/177462309267590/

All the Words: Small Press Fair
Have a bibliophile on your Christmas list but they’ve read all the classics already? Get them something new to read at All the Words, a pop-up shop where small press magazine and indie book publishers will gather for a huge holiday sale on Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Milk Glass Gallery, 1247 Dundas Street W. (at Ossington Avenue).

West Queen West  Holiday Fest Charity Drive Image via Facebook
West Queen West Holiday Fest Charity Drive

If you’re looking for a deal but are also looking to donate to a charity this season, this may be the thing for you.

More than 20 independent businesses on West Queen West from Bathurst to Euclid are offering a month-long promotion in exchange for a non-perishable food item or a piece of warm clothing. For example, you can get a $1 Americano at RSquared Cafe and 15% off a 10-class pass at the Downward Dog Yoga Centre, just for bringing in a donation.

The donated items will go to local women’s shelter The Florence Booth House.

If you can’t make it this weekend, the charity drive runs until Dec. 22

Click here for a full list of participants and promotions or check out the event page on Facebook.

TTC closures

TTC streetcar changes Dec 9-11, 2015. Image via TTC
As a result of inspections on Lake Shore Boulevard, the 509, 510 and 511 streetcars will be re-routed all weekend, going only as far south as King Steret. Buses will be in service within other parts of the routes. Click here for full details.

Road closures

The following closures will be in effect at the dates and times listed:

Lake Shore Boulevard

  • The westbound left lane of Lake Shore Boulevard West at York Street will be occupied until Dec. 28 at 7 p.m.
  • The east and westbound south lanes of Lake Shore at York Street will be closed due to work happening between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, until Dec. 28, ending at 3:30 p.m.

For smaller closures, consult the city’s website.

More like FourDollarama: Dollarama raising top prices to $4

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2015

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Dollarama is taking the first steps towards accepting credit cards as it prepares to introduce higher priced items next year, with the discount retailer saying it will accept the cards at more than 80 stores in British Columbia starting in early 2016.

“What we’re looking for is to improve the shopping experience of our customers while stimulating more sales to offset the costs,” said chief financial officer Michael Ross.

He said the pilot project will help the company determine customer use of credit cards and whether it has a meaningful impact on sales.

Sales tend to be higher when payment methods other than cash are used, but that also increases the cost to the merchant, who usually must rebate a percentage to the bank or other card issuer.

Dollarama did not say which cards would be accepted at its outlets or specify the length of the pilot project.

The last credit card trial in 2010 ended after 12 months without any action. Payment with debit cards has steadily grown since Dollarama began to accept them in 2008. Nearly 47 per cent of sales were paid with debit cards in the third quarter, up from 43.8 per cent a year ago.

Ross said a lot has changed since that first credit card trial.

“Customers are increasingly using non-cash payment options, especially younger customers who almost exclusively use plastic as a payment method.”

British Columbia was selected for the pilot because it was far from its core markets in Central Canada and would be easier to deal with if the pilot project fails, CEO Larry Rossy said.

“I think we have better metrics to measure success today than we did in 2010 and I’m a little bit more confident today that it may work,” he told analysts. The move towards credit cards comes as Dollarama announced plans to introduce $3.50 and $4 items across its network of 1,005 stores in the second half of 2016.

The higher priced items are intended to help the company adjust to the impact of the weakening Canadian dollar. Rossy said the introduction of these items will be slow and won’t affect food products, which will remained capped at $2.

“As the buyers continue to get used to the price points (and still) find great values, there will be a positive impact both to our customer shopping experience and to the overall basket (size of purchases),” said Neil Rossy, chief merchandising officer.

With a reduced share of items priced at $1 or less, Dollarama has started using $1.25 as its new reference price.

During the third quarter, 59.7 per cent of sales came from prices above $1.25, compared with 54.1 per cent a year ago.

The company beat analyst expectations as profits surged 37 per cent to $100.1 million from $73 million a year earlier. That translated into 78 cents per diluted share compared to 55 cents per share in the same quarter in 2014.

Sales grew 13 per cent to $664.5 million, in part because of a 6.4 per cent growth at established locations plus the addition of 77 stores, including 16 in the third quarter.

Analysts had expected Dollarama to earn 70 cents per share on $663.9 million of sales, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Beagle pug euthanized after eating poisoned kibble during Vaughan walk

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2015

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A six-and-a-half-year-old beagle pug named Coca had to be euthanized after eating poisoned kibble when it was out for a walk with its owner in Vaughan, according to police.

Coca and its owner were out for a walk on Nov. 25 on Shawbridge Boulevard in the area of Gidleigh Park Crescent when the dog stopped and began eating something by a mailbox.

Later the same day, Coca became violently ill. By the next morning the dog was too weak to walk and had to be taken to a veterinarian.

The veterinarian said the symptoms the dog suffered were consistent with glycol poisoning.

On Nov. 27 the owner decided to euthanize the dog.

Police said glycol was in the kibble that they seized from the scene.

Police are asking for any witnesses or anyone with information in the Shawbridge Boulevard area to contact them.

Start recalculating your budget: Toronto garbage, water fees going up in 2016

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2015

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Get ready to pay more for garbage collection and water if you live in Toronto. Fees for both are going up next year.

The average homeowner will pay an extra $72 for water and an additional $244 in garbage fees. That’s just for the use of a small bin. A medium bin will go up to $297, $403 for a large bin, and $468 for extra-large.

City council approved the 2016 increases on Wednesday, the first day of their final meeting of 2015.

They also approved a plan to partner with a third party to raise the money necessary to save a 350-year-old red oak. Saving the tree would require buying the property from the homeowner and turning the area into a parkette.

Day two of council starts Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

Councillors are still debating the fate of the Davenport Bridge, eliminating parking pads, and changes to travel expenses.

A full budget meeting is set for next Tuesday and the city’s financial plan set to be approved in February.

Mayor John Tory said he is considering scrapping the extra-large bin altogether in a bid to encourage recycling. However, he said, that plan is a year or two away.

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