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Royals put Blue Jays on the brink of elimination

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 21st, 2015

The Kansas City Royals hammered R.A. Dickey early then feasted on Toronto’s depleted bullpen, pushing the Blue Jays to the brink of playoff elimination with a 14-2 victory in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

The Royals now lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can move on to the World Series with a win tomorrow afternoon at Rogers Centre.

Game 5 goes Wednesday with Toronto’s Marco Estrada facing Edinson Volquez in a rematch of Game 1 at Kauffman Stadium.

“We’ll be fine (Wednesday) if we get a good outing by Marco. We expect to,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said hopefully. “And it was ugly today, no doubt about that. That’s all I can say.”

Dickey was saddled with the loss in the shortest start in Jays post-season history after being shelled for five runs, four earned, over 1 2/3 innings.

The veteran knuckleballer gave up a pair of home runs among his four hits — a two-run homer to Ben Zobrist in Kansas City’s four-run first and a solo shot to former Jay Alex Rios in the second.

After Toronto’s Liam Hendriks pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, the Royals started beating up the Jays again in the seventh.

LaTroy Hawkins loaded the bases with none out, and reliever Ryan Tepera couldn’t get out the jam as Kansas City scored four runs to go up 9-2.

Tepera was tagged for three more runs in the eighth as fans at Rogers Centre made their way en masse toward the exits.

Game 5 on Wednesday is at 4 p.m. in Toronto.

Red tide: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals cruise to majority government

Michael Talbot | posted Tuesday, Oct 20th, 2015

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The Conservatives said he’s “just not ready” but a nation vehemently declared otherwise on Monday night, vaulting Justin Trudeau’s Liberals from third party status to a majority government — the first time such a dramatic leap has been seen in Canadian politics.

“This is what positive politics can do,” a beaming Trudeau said during a spirited victory speech. “This is what a hopeful vision and a platform and a team together can make happen.

“Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight — it’s time for a change…a real change.”

The Tories will form the official Opposition, but Stephen Harper won’t be at the helm. The Canadian Press is reporting that Harper will step down as party leader, but will stay on as an MP for Calgary Heritage.

“We gave everything we have to give and we have no regrets whatsoever,” Harper told his disappointed supporters in Calgary.

“The people are never wrong. The people of Canada have elected a Liberal government, a result we accept without hesitation.”

The tone was set early Monday when the Liberals tore through Atlantic Canada, unceremoniously unseating several Conservative incumbents.

The red tide then began creeping across the country, with the Liberals gaining significant ground in Ontario and Quebec.

Trudeau’s victory brought a merciful close to a grueling and costly 78-day election that gave party leaders and hopeful MPs plenty of time to alienate or appeal to voters.

For weeks the airwaves were peppered with attack ads and party leaders squared off in five debates that touched on a range of topics, from the niqab and Syrian refugees, to pensions and public infrastructure.

The NDP watched a promising start fizzle. They were in the lead when the election began on August 2, but Thomas Mulcair failed to build on the early momentum and as summer faded, so did hopes for an orange crush.

Mulcair, who was re-elected in his riding of Outremont, was the first party leader to address his supporters after the results were in.

“I could not be prouder of the work that was accomplished,” he said. “We ran in this election with the most women and the most indigenous candidates…in the history of Canada. This is something that makes me immensely proud.”

“Tonight we have shown that the roots of the NDP continue to develop…The next chapter begins in our effort to build a better Canada.”

Late opinion polls had the NDP falling into a distant third and that’s where they remained while Trudeau soared.

His lead proved insurmountable and decades after his famous father, Pierre, stepped down as Prime Minister in 1984, a Trudeau would once again call 24 Sussex Drive home.

Campaign Roller Coaster:

Harper’s quest to become the first Prime Minister since Sir Wilfrid Laurier to win four consecutive mandates got off to a rocky start and ended in ignominious fashion.

Ten days after the election began, his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, took the stand at the criminal trial of Sen. Mike Duffy.

The Senate expense scandal dogged the Conservative leader, who was inundated with questions about the ongoing drama that roused the public’s anger and provided plenty of ammunition for his opponents.

As the trial got underway, Trudeau seized the opportunity to further bludgeon his rival, saying Harper “turned Ottawa into a partisan swamp.”

“He has led the most secretive, divisive and hyper-partisan government in Canada’s history,” he said.

But the Liberal leader would soon be on the receiving end after his campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, resigned in light of a report that said he sent lobbying advice about a controversial pipeline to officials at TransCanada Corp.

Just days before voters headed to the polls, Trudeau addressed the sudden controversy.

“He acted in an inappropriate way a few days ago and when we found out about it, we sat down with him and he chose to do the responsible thing and step down from our campaign…”

Both Harper and Mulcair pounced.

“You can’t trust the Liberals. It’s the same old Liberal party,” Mulcair said.

Harper added: “I think we should all understand that the culture of the Liberal party that gave us the sponsorship scandal has not changed and it will not change.”

According to the final opinion polls, Gagnier’s resignation didn’t affect Trudeau’s burgeoning run for Prime Minister, and he was widening his lead.

In a move that many felt reeked of desperation, a reeling Harper hosted the controversial Ford brothers, Rob and Doug, at a Conservative rally in Etobicoke, with Doug taking to the podium.

“God help this country,” he said. “It would be an absolute disaster if Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne were running this country.”

Trudeau, smelling blood, said Harper “should be embarrassed…to count on the support of Rob Ford for his re-election,” and on the last day of the election the Liberal leader confidently strolled into Harper’s turf to woo voters in Alberta.

The Liberals haven’t had an MP in Alberta since Anne McLellan lost her seat in 2006, but with the drastic decline in the once-thriving energy sector, Trudeau sensed a changing tide and made a spirited appeal.

“You deserve a government that doesn’t take your votes for granted, or that assumes it will have your votes because of where you live, and a government that understands that the time to invest in Alberta is now, when people need help.”

The battles and dramas that marked the long trail seemed to inspire voters to action.

More than three and a half million ballots were cast over four days of advanced polling, marking a 71 per cent increase over 2011 when advance polls were open for just three days.

With files from the Canadian Press

Harper’s legacy: smaller government, unified party, targeted benefits

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Oct 20th, 2015

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On election night 2006, Stephen Harper walked out in front of a room full of supporters and smiled at the country that had just voted for change.

The incoming prime minister told the crowd that the party would clean up Ottawa with the Accountability Act. They would cut the GST to five per cent. And the Conservatives would scrap the Liberal child care program and give money directly to parents.

He spoke of the big picture, saying the Canadian identity was not forged by government policy, nor did it flow from any one party or leader.

“The result tonight signals a change of government, not a change of country,” Harper said in his victory speech.

Yet after nine years in office, much has changed.

The federal government, in particular, has shrunk.

Taxes, such as the GST, have gone down and the tax code is sprinkled with tax credits.

The federal government has become less active in the daily lives of Canadians, with direct benefits replacing big government programs, for instance.

On the benefit front, the Conservative approach has become convention. Today’s Liberals promised a new child benefit of their own to replace the existing universal program. And the other parties have started to understand how to target pocketbook issues during elections that Harper used so effectively – and that voters are now acutely aware of.

“You can take it as a recognition of clarity of leadership and purpose when the other parties call for similar policies or small incremental change,” said Tim Hudak, the former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

There is also one clear change that Harper has left on the political map:a unified Conservative party with a track record that spans a decade.

Observers say his efforts have inched federal politics to the right – although not as radically as some think, said Richard Nimijean, who teaches Canadian studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. Harper, he said, continued a path of slashing federal spending and tax cuts that started in the 1990s under the Liberal government of Jean Chretien.

The provinces have become bigger spenders, with provinces like Ontario still running deficits as the tax burden has shifted.

Moving the federal government back into a more activist role won’t be easy because the money to pay for new programs has to come from somewhere, said David McGrane, an associate professor of political studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

Cutting the GST by two points eliminated about $14 billion in annual government revenues. No government will want to increase the GST to pad the bottom line, McGrane said.

“That’s the largest thing that Stephen Harper has changed in Canada: just shrinking the size of government and doing so by reducing the tax base,” McGrane said.

(The Liberals instead have vowed to run deficits and raise taxes on the wealthiest Canadians; they still plan to lower taxes on small businesses as the Conservatives planned, and cut employment insurance rates, but not as much as Harper proposed.)

His crime agenda, embedded in legislation, won’t be easily undone, even as the courts acted as a check on government power. Calls for Senate reform, which Harper once championed, grew louder as the upper chamber was engulfed in a spending scandal sparked by Harper appointees.

He recognized Quebec as a distinct society – looking to eliminate separatist sentiment in the province – and apologized to the survivors of residential schools, even though his government’s relationship with First Nations was problematic.

The residential school apology and the Truth and Reconciliation commission, combined with general prudence on spending and heavily investing to stabilize the economy during the recession six years ago will “all stand the recollection of this government well,” said Hugh Segal, a former Conservative senator.

There were also mistakes during Harper’s time in office, Segal said, pointing to anti-labour legislation and the cancellation of the long-form census.

“But governing for 10 years is a rare privilege, and Conservatives have no reason to be bitter,” Segal said. “Conservatives need to be thankful, respectful of the voters’ choice and reflect on how to regain the broad moderate centre clearly deserted in this campaign.”

Spectators torn between Jays game and federal election in Toronto

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Oct 19th, 2015

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Baseball fans and political junkies alike have gathered at a west-end Toronto bar to take in the blue moon of a Blue Jays playoff game alongside a federal election.

The owners of The Longest Yard have been broadcasting election nights — federal, provincial and municipal — since 2000.

But the bar owned by Debra DeMonte and Gwyn Williams is among only a few in the city showing both the baseball game and the results of the election tonight.

Williams says they’ve long embraced sports and politics, part of the trifecta of subjects mainly discussed at bars — the third being sex.

He says baseball is similar to politics in that there is a winner and a loser and the result is usually due to someone capitalizing on another’s mistakes.

Mike O’Connor says he came down to the bar because it’s the only place he knows that will show both the game and the election, which he calls the perfect combination for a Monday night.

Atlantic Canada gives Liberals early boost as polls close on east coast

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Oct 19th, 2015

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Justin Trudeau’s Liberals got an early boost from voters in Atlantic Canada as polls closed across the country’s easternmost time zones Monday, signalling the beginning of the end for the longest election in modern Canadian history.

The campaign, which began on a sweltering August long weekend, ended under a threat of October frost.

A red tide began in Newfoundland and Labrador — where Liberals were on track to sweep all seven seats — and also spread into Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. in the early going.

The governing Conservatives held 13 of Atlantic Canada’s 32 seats and the NDP held six when the election was called, but Liberals were leading in all 32 of the region’s ridings in early vote counting, and were picking up almost two out of every three votes cast.

High-profile Tories and New Democrats went down to defeat in the east, including Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, and NDP deputy leader Megan Leslie.

Liberals held just 36 seats across the entire country when the election was called Aug. 2.

For the 2015 election, there is no longer a blackout on transmitting voting results while polls are still open in other parts of the country — a ban that had become impossible to enforce in the age of the Internet.

While ballot counting starts in one end of the country, exhausted party workers in other provinces are still getting out their vote in what has been shaping up as an epic battle that’s as much about gut-level values as election platforms.

The hope is that by the end of the night, many questions will be answered.

Will the Liberals become the first third-place party in federal history to leap straight into government in a single election? Is Canada ready for another Trudeau as prime minister?

Or can Stephen Harper become the first prime minister since Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1908 to win four consecutive mandates? And if he doesn’t win another majority — meaning 170 seats in the newly expanded House of Commons — will he survive as Conservative party leader?

Can NDP Leader Tom Mulcair maintain the party’s hard-won 2011 grip on official Opposition status?

Harper and wife Laureen appeared in good spirits as they arrived in the new riding of Calgary Heritage to cast ballots.

“It’s a nice blue sky,” said the Conservative leader. “That’s how I’m feeling.”

With his wife Sophie and children in tow, Trudeau marked a ballot at a polling station in an Italian-Canadian cultural centre in his Montreal riding of Papineau.

When Parliament was dissolved, the Conservatives held 159 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, the NDP had 95 and the Liberals 36, with another 18 seats either vacant, held by Independents or shared between the Green party (two seats) and the Bloc Quebecois and a splinter group.

Due to population growth, 30 new seats have been added this election, including 15 in Ontario, six each for Alberta and British Columbia and three more for Quebec.

But the new ridings mean most old riding boundaries also had to be redrawn, literally reconfiguring the electoral map and making seat projections all the more difficult. Combine that with some spectacular polling embarrassments in recent provincial elections and today’s outcome remains very much up in the air.

“There’s a whole pile of new (riding) configurations, 30 new seats,” pollster Frank Graves of Ekos Research said as the campaign wound down.

“There’s some complex vote-splitting that we don’t know how it will work in those new ridings. We certainly don’t know who’s going to turn out to vote. That’s always critical.”

Some 3.6 million Canadians cast ballots during the four-day advance polling period on the Thanksgiving long weekend — an increase of 71 per cent over the 2011 election, when only three days of advance polls were held.

Whether that increased voter turnout carries into the main event is another question that will be answered today. Just 61.4 per cent of eligible electors cast a ballot in 2011, up marginally from the 58.8 per cent in 2008 — the lowest ever in a federal election.

The Elections Canada website was briefly unavailable early today due to a high volume of web traffic.

Some polling stations in the hotly contested riding of Winnipeg Centre opened up to an hour late because Elections Canada workers cancelled at the last minute. The agency wouldn’t say exactly how many people didn’t show up as promised but said it was more than a dozen.

Overall though, there appeared to be only scattered voting glitches.

“There are sporadic accounts of longer lines, but that’s normal, especially during peak times,” said Elections Canada spokeswoman Natalie Babin Dufresne.

There were reports of voters with face coverings — including skeleton masks and even a pumpkin — at polling stations, an apparent reaction to the controversy over whether women should be permitted to wear a niqab at citizenship ceremonies.

A face covering is permitted at the polls if the voter swears an oath attesting to their status as an elector and shows the required identification, said Babin Dufresne.

Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde — who initially said he wouldn’t vote in order to maintain his neutrality, then changed his mind — tweeted about his trip to the polls.

The Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe cast his ballot and said he was happy with the reaction he received from voters who welcomed him back after a hiatus from the party leadership. “There’s always a phrase that stands out in a campaign and this time it was, ‘Thank you for coming back’ from beginning to end.”

Green Leader Elizabeth May, who voted in Sidney, B.C., took a polling-station selfie photo with her daughter and tweeted her prediction of a record high voter turnout. She planned to be in Victoria with fellow candidates to watch the results roll in.

Mulcair, who voted in an advance poll, checked out the NDP’s electoral machinery in his home riding of Outremont in Montreal and thanked volunteers.

Campaign 2015 is all but over, parties now work to get out the vote

Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Oct 19th, 2015

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The longest and most expensive election campaign in modern Canadian history will be decided Monday night when the last of the ballots are counted, concluding under threat of frost what began in the sweltering heat of an August long weekend.

All that remains for exhausted party workers is to get out the vote in what appears to be an epic battle fought over gut-level values as much as election platforms.

Many questions will be answered.

Can Stephen Harper become the first prime minister since Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1908 to win four consecutive mandates? And if he doesn’t win another majority – meaning 170 seats in the newly expanded House of Commons – will he survive as Conservative party leader?

Can NDP Leader Tom Mulcair miraculously lift New Democrats to their first national government in Canada’s history? Can the party maintain its hard-won 2011 grip on official Opposition status?

Can the Liberals under Justin Trudeau become the first third-place party in federal history to leap straight into government in a single election? Is Canada ready for another Trudeau as prime minister?

When parliament was dissolved for the election on Aug. 2, the Conservatives held 159 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, the NDP had 95 and the Liberals 36, with another 18 seats either vacant, held by Independents or shared between the Green party (two seats) and the Bloc Quebecois and a splinter group.

Due to population growth, 30 new seats have been added this election, including 15 in Ontario, six each for Alberta and British Columbia and three more for Quebec.

But the new ridings mean most old riding boundaries also had to be redrawn, literally reconfiguring the electoral map and making seat projections all the more difficult to predict. Combine that with some spectacular polling embarrassments in recent provincial elections and today’s outcome remains very much up in the air.

“There’s a whole pile of new (riding) configurations, 30 new seats,” pollster Frank Graves of Ekos Research said last week as the campaign wound down.

“There’s some complex vote-splitting that we don’t know how it will work in those new ridings. We certainly don’t know who’s going to turn out to vote. That’s always critical.”

Some 3.6 million Canadians have already cast ballots during the four-day advance polling period on the Thanksgiving long weekend – an increase of 71 per cent over the 2011 election, when only three days of advance polls were held.

Whether that increased voter turnout carries into the main event is another question that will be answered today. Just 61.4 per cent of eligible electors cast a ballot in 2011, up marginally from the 58.8 per cent in 2008 – the lowest ever in a federal election.

That’s why all parties will be working hard today to get their identified voters to the polls. When the public is apathetic, party ground games count for more.

There’s not anything particularly complex about getting out the vote on “e-day,” as the campaign workers call it. The parties make hundreds of calls, checking on whether people have voted or need a ride to a polling station. They knock on doors and put little pamphlets on the knobs reminding supporters it’s voting day.

“The methodology has changed, more emails, text and calls,” said NDP Spadina-Fort York candidate Olivia Chow. “It’s slightly more advanced in the technology, but it’s the same principle – getting people out, talking to the neighbours, being at the lobby, reminding at the streetcar stops.”

Kitchener Centre Conservative candidate Stephen Woodworth said it really matters when a race is this tight.

“I know the traditional wisdom is that the local candidate will affect something in the range of five to seven per cent at best, and it might be even less…,” Woodworth said in a recent interview.

“It’s our job to influence that margin, and a close vote is exactly where that will make the difference.”

Election observers will be watching closely as another new wrinkle unfolds this evening. For the first time ever, it is legal to transmit election results across time zones into areas of the country where polls have not yet closed – ending an old blackout policy that was becoming all but impossible to police in the era of social media.

The change was among the least controversial elements of last year’s Conservative “Fair Elections Act.”

With files from Jennifer Ditchburn

Cute alert: Toronto Zoo releases new photos of baby cubs

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Oct 19th, 2015

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The Toronto Zoo has released new photos of its baby pandas and they are exactly as adorable as they sound.

A baby panda is seen at The Toronto Zoo on Oct. 17, 2015. TORONTO ZOO.
A baby panda is seen at The Toronto Zoo on Oct. 17, 2015. TORONTO ZOO.
This little baby panda can't even handle how cute it is. TORONTO ZOO.
This little baby panda can’t even handle how cute it is. TORONTO ZOO.

The six-day-old panda cubs are covered in fur but still appear quite pink, with nearly translucent tails.

They are “becoming quite vocal, active and bright,” the zoo said in a statement.

“Their white fur appears to be fuzzier and hints of black pigment can now be noticed on their skin over their ears, around their eyes and even over their shoulders. While their eyes are still closed, they are wiggling and demonstrating all of the right behaviours looking for nourishment from mom.”

Er Shun tends to one of her cubs at The Toronto Zoo on Oct. 16, 2015. TORONTO ZOO.
Er Shun tends to one of her cubs at The Toronto Zoo on Oct. 16, 2015. TORONTO ZOO.

The Zoo said Er Shun “continues to demonstrate strong maternal instincts, cradling, nursing and continuing to form a bond with both cubs.”

The pandas were born on Oct. 13 and it is still a critical time, the Zoo cautioned.

It may take several months to determine the cubs’ sex and they have not yet been named. There is no immediate plan to show them to the public, but the zoo has been updating its FacebookTwitter andInstagram feeds with photos of the cubs.

For now, they are living between their mother’s care and an incubator set up in a quarantined room next to the panda’s maternity ward, which is closed to the public.

Sperm from three different donors – Da Mao and two pandas in China – was used during the one-day fertility window back on May 14, and it’s unclear whether the cubs are twins.

If they survive, the cubs will live at the zoo for about two years and will likely return to China once they are weaned from Er Shun.

With files from The Canadian Press 

Uber offers a free ride to and from polling stations for first-time customers

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Oct 19th, 2015

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Uber is offering new users free rides to and from polling stations on Election Day in the cities where it operates.

A representative from Uber says the company will cover rides to the polling station and back again, for first-time customers only, up to $15 each way.

Uber says the offer will be available in Edmonton, Calgary, the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, London, Hamilton, the Waterloo Region, Quebec City and Montreal.

The ride-hailing app has been embroiled in controversy since it initially launched in Canada last year.

Taxi companies say it is an unfair competitor.

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