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Ontario seeking regulation change to allow online health card renewal

JESSICA SMITH CROSS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, May 26th, 2017

Service Ontario office
Ontario is taking steps toward allowing people to renew their health cards online, a development that would save residents a trip to a ServiceOntario centre.

The Ministry of Health recently posted a notice asking for feedback on a regulatory change that would make it possible for the government to develop a new online option for health card renewals.

A ministry spokesman said Ontario has committed to providing online health card renewals by 2018, as part of an effort to “give Ontarians more choice in how they interact with government.”

For now, almost everyone who needs to renew their health card must do so in person.

Individuals can book an appointment ahead of time online, but still have to visit a ServiceOntario centre, with the exception of children younger than 15-and-a-half and most seniors over 80, who can renew their cards by mail.

Proof of residency in Ontario and proof of identity are required to renew a health card.

Some residents immediately welcomed the idea of an online renewal option.

“That’s great,” said Kashief Butt, who’d just waited in a long line at a ServiceOntario office in downtown Toronto. “If we could do it online, then we’d save so much time.”

But Alia Gomes, who’d visited the same ServiceOntario, said she doesn’t think the online option is a good idea and worried it could lead to fraud.

“I just feel like with being able to do everything online, there’s a certain sense of anonymity, and people could use your name for identity theft,” she said.

Besides, she said, the line at the centre didn’t seem that long to her.

Ontarians can give feedback on the government’s proposal for online renewal until June 5.

Ontarians can already renew their driver’s licenses online, and 200,000 people did so last year.

Heavy rains flood roads, Toronto Islands, Beach area

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, May 26th, 2017

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Heavy, persistent rains and strong winds are wreaking havoc on the Greater Toronto Area, with flooding and power outages reported across the region.

Police closed Lake Shore Boulevard West in both directions for several hours from British Columbia Road to New Brunswick Way due to flooding. All lanes opened just before 4 p.m.

The Bayview extension was also closed south of River Street for several hours before reopening after 7 p.m.

“Right now, we have the highest water level that we’ve ever seen in recorded history, and it is expected that it will continue to keep rising for a couple more weeks at least,” said Nancy Gaffney of Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA).

She said water levels have yet to peak and precipitation from the other Great Lakes could add another five to 10 centimetres to Lake Ontario before levels recede.

There are also reports of further flooding on the already-soaked Toronto Islands, with Gibraltar and Algonquin islands being battered by powerful waves. City staff told CityNews Olympic Island is heavily flooded.

“While the water level is so high, it’s the increased winds that add far more pressure because they’re bringing in water at a higher rate, and then they’re jumping over all of our sandbagging efforts,” Gaffney said.

“We have sandbags that add another three feet to the elevation and the waves are just rolling right over those.”

Coun. Pam McConnell said the pumps on Algonquin, in some cases, are also not keeping up with the rain and waves.

“We have a couple houses that are really under extreme conditions and so we’ve sent in extra people,” she said. “We know that Red Cross is also there right as we speak.”

 McConnell said in the Beach neighbourhood, the small sand bar that was holding water back from Ashbridges Bay has eroded and the area is flooded again. Strong winds were pushing the water up to the Woodbine Bathing Station, and almost all of the volleyball courts were under water as of early Thursday afternoon.

The water will retreat from those low-lying areas, however, and return to normal, Gaffney said.

Toronto Hydro says around 1,100 customers were without power in the Midtown area before it was restored around 6 p.m. Brief outages also affected several hundred customers in Scarborough.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for the GTA calling for up to 30 millimetres of rain on Thursday.

However, if the region receives just a few millimetres more than that rainfall amount, it could break a 64-year-old record set on this date in 1953, which was 34.3 millimetres.

The national weather agency said around 10 to 20 millimetres of rain have fallen since last night and an additional 20 to 30 millimetres is possible.

The rain is expected to taper off later this evening, but could resume on Friday.

So far this month, Pearson Airport has already received 82.6 millimetres of rain. The average for this month is 74.3 millimetres.

“We’ve only had a four-day stretch without measurable rainfall (May 8 to 11), so on-and-off rain showers for a good chunk of month,” 680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said.

The Toronto Islands remain closed to the public after high water levels caused extensive flooding. The latest round of rain will only exacerbate the problem.

More than half of the buildings on the islands are being threatened by rising water levels, Mayor John Tory said earlier this week. About 40 per cent of the Toronto Island Park is already under water.

Unusually high water levels in Lake Ontario brought on in part by heavy rains in recent weeks have largely shuttered parts of the islands, which boast beaches, an amusement park and other tourist attractions.

The city said permits for events on the island have been cancelled until June 30, and ferry service is restricted to residents and staff only.

Taylor said it looks like the GTA will have a dry stretch to start June but that temperatures will remain below average.

Ports Toronto said Billy Bishop Airport has not been affected by the high water levels and winds. The airfield doesn’t have any low-lying areas and has added grooves on the runway to add texture and prevent rainwater from accumulating.

Penguins return to Stanley Cup final with Game 7 win over Senators

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, May 26th, 2017

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Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a game winning goal against the Ottawa Senators during the second overtime period of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final in the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs in Pittsburgh on May 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby took a moment to arrange themselves in the correct order before they picked up the Prince of Wales Trophy together.

They wanted to recapture the moment from last year’s Eastern Conference final where they broke from tradition and touched the trophy, a move that superstitious hockey players believe will prevent a team from winning the Stanley Cup.

It didn’t stop the Pittsburgh Penguins from winning the Stanley Cup last year and they’ll have another chance at the NHL’s championship again this spring.

Kunitz scored in double overtime to lift Pittsburgh over the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final on Thursday night.

It was Kunitz’s second goal of the night. He put away his first goal near the midway point of the second period.

Ottawa’s Ryan Dzingel tied the game 2-2 with 5:19 left to play in the third period.


Related stories:

Senators fight valiantly but just can’t find last push in Game 7


The Penguins beat the San Jose Sharks in six games last year to win the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup.

Pittsburgh will host P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final on Monday.

Nashville advanced to the league championship with a six-game win over the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference final.

It is the Predators’ first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup final.

Subban was traded to Nashville in the off-season in a blockbuster trade with the Canadiens that included veteran defenceman Shea Weber going to Montreal.

A Canadian team hasn’t made the Stanley Cup final since the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games in 2011. No Canadian club has won the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens did so in 1993.

Graco recalls car seats, says webbing may not hold child in crash

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, May 25th, 2017

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Graco Children’s products is recalling 1,393 child car seats in Canada due to a problem with harness webbing. The model is My Ride 65. TWITTER/GracoBaby

Graco Children’s products is recalling 1,393 child car seats in Canada due to a problem with harness webbing.

An advisory from the company’s Canadian division says the recall covers “My Ride 65” seats which were made between May 14, 2014 and July 30, 2014.

It says harness webbing on the car seats failed to meet Canadian standards for breaking strength.

Graco says it will provide free replacement kits with new harness restraints and installation instructions.

While waiting for a replacement kit, the company says consumers may continue to use My Ride 65 convertible car seats.

The company has issued a similar recall in the United States affecting more than 25,000 car seats.

With files from The Associated Press

GTA could break 64-year-old rainfall record on Thursday

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, May 25th, 2017

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Rain falling on the roadway. CITYNEWS

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for Toronto and the GTA calling for up to 30 millimetres of rain on Thursday.

However, if the region receives just a few millimetres more than that rainfall amount, it could break a 64-year-old record set on this date in 1953, which was 34.3 millimetres.

The national weather agency said around 10 millimetres of rain already fell overnight, and that the rain will be heavy at times.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said 40 km/h winds are also expected.

The rain is expected to taper off later this evening; however,Taylor said there is also a chance of showers on Friday.

So far this month, Pearson Airport has already received 82.6 millimetres of rain. The average for this month is 74.3 millimetres.

“We’ve only had a four-day stretch without measurable rainfall (May 8-11), so on and off rain-showers for a good chunk of month,” Taylor said.

The heavy rain could also threaten the already high water levels at the Toronto Islands.

More than half of the buildings on the islands are being threatened by rising water levels, Mayor John Tory said earlier this week. About 40 per cent of the Toronto Island Park is already under water.

Unusually high water levels in Lake Ontario brought on in part by heavy rains in recent weeks have largely shuttered parts of the islands, which boast beaches, an amusement park and other tourist attractions.

The city said permits for events on the island have been cancelled until June 30, and ferry service is restricted to residents and staff only.

Taylor said it looks like the GTA will have a dry stretch to start June but that temperatures will remain below average.

Tory asks TTC to find immediate relief for crowding on Yonge subway line

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, May 25th, 2017

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A huge backlog formed on the Yonge-Bloor subway platform after a series of TTC service disruptions on Feb. 9, 2016. TWITTER
Mayor John Tory is asking the TTC to come up with creative ideas for immediate relief for crowding on the Yonge subway line.

In a letter to TTC CEO Andy Byford, Tory said while the Relief Line, SmartTrack and Automatic Train Control will improve conditions in the future, riders also need help now.

“We are all acutely aware of the crunch in peak hours, where people are often left waiting for a train to go by before they can embark, and platforms left completely full at Yonge-Bloor station,” Tory wrote in a letter to TTC CEO Andy Byford.

“I want to make sure we are doing everything we can now to make the ride better for riders.”

A possible solution, Tory said, is to have some subway trains start their journey not at the start of the line, but further down. There would then be more room for people at busier stations.

TTC riders make 750,000 trips on Line 1 every day.

Read Tory’s letter below or click here.


Related stories:

Ontario launches online tool making opioid data public

JESSICA SMITH CROSS THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, May 25th, 2017

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Prescription pills containing oxycodone and acetaminophen are pictured in this June 20, 2012 photo. Medically sanctioned opioid use has dropped by almost 14 per cent since national guidelines for prescribing the drugs were introduced in 2010, yet the rate of overdose-related hospital visits continued to rise, an Ontario study has found.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
A new website that makes opioid data in Ontario available to the public shows a steady increase in related overdose deaths in the province over the past 14 years, with an 11-per-cent jump in the first half of 2016.

The site launched by the government Wednesday shows 412 people died as a result of opioid overdoses in the first six months of 2016, compared with 371 during the same time period in 2015.

Previously, the most recent publicly reported data on opioid deaths in Ontario had been from 2015.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the latest statistics are “alarming,” and opioid overdose has become the third-leading cause of accidental death in the province. However, he said Ontario’s year-over-year increase is far less than British Columbia’s 80 per cent jump from 2015 to 2016.

“Here in Ontario, we have yet to see a similar spike,” he said.

The newly available statistics go back to 2003, when there was a rate of three opioid deaths per 100,000 Ontarians — a figure that gradually, but steadily increased to 5.3 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2015.

Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer said his office is still working through a backlog of cases, but will soon provide newer information for the website more quickly, with deaths expected to be accounted for on the online tracker within six months after they occur.

Hoskins acknowledged that other provinces, including B.C., release figures on fatal overdoses more quickly, but said they are generally suspected deaths, rather than confirmed cases, and Ontario has decided to only release information that has been confirmed.

Hospitals have also been required to report opioid overdose figures every month and when the government is confident those figures are accurate, they will be released as they become available, Hoskins said.

The website currently has hospital data until the first nine months of 2016, showing an average of 150 hospitalizations for opioid overdoses per month.

As of May 1, the coroner’s office has also been tracking whether drugs that have caused fatal overdoses are legal or illegal, but that information isn’t ready for public release, Huyer said.

Hoskins said that data will be “critically important” for the government in developing its policy and he expects it will show a mix, where people are legally prescribed opioids and supplement their addiction with illegal drugs.

“Often, there’s an overlap,” he said. “As we tease out the presence of licit or illicit drugs and are able to source it, it gives us advice for how to intervene.”

TTC union sounds alarm on safety of Presto gates in emergencies

ADRIAN GHOBRIAL AND ROSHNI MURTHY | posted Thursday, May 25th, 2017

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A heated debate is underway concerning passenger safety on the TTC.

This comes as ATU Local 113, the union representing TTC employees, sounds the alarm over personal safety concerns since the Presto system was implemented at subway stations across the city.

Kevin Morton, the union’s secretary-treasurer, says the TTC’s Presto fare gates are not patched into fire panels at a number of stations, meaning when an alarm is pulled the doors will not automatically open to allow people out.

“If these gates don’t open properly I think you can just use your imagination to say you’re going to have a lot of people trying to get through and it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen,” he claims. “This is outright negligence on somebody’s part.”

But the transit commission disagrees. Spokesperson Brad Ross confirms the gates are not patched into the alarm system but claims, “[The union is] creating a fear that is not necessary for the public. The fare gates are safe.”

Toronto Fire and the TTC tell CityNews customers do have a way out in the event of an emergency. A manual hatch is available that allows the gates to open, allowing 10 passengers out of the gates at a time. For approximately every 10 people exiting the gates, the doors briefly close then re-open.

Though the TTC is working on retro-fitting the system to eventually patch Presto fare gates into the fire system, Morton suggests the whole process is flawed.

“I’d like to know how this system was developed and the technology wasn’t married with our existing technology for the safety of our passengers. It’s ludicrous,” he says.

“We would argue that the new fare gates that we see in our stations today make exiting in an emergency less cumbersome than a turnstile or at an auto entrance,” asserts Ross.

CityNews has also learned fire alarms are not in place at three Toronto subway stations, yet their nonexistence does not break provincial fire codes due to the stations’ age.

Midland, Ellesmere and Glencairn – all outdoor stations – were built before fire regulations were implemented and they are still in the process of being retrofitted to meet current regulations. This does not contravene with provincial building codes, according to Toronto Fire’s Deputy Chief.

The system, built in 1954, did not have fire alarm regulations when these stations were constructed.

But in the interim, claims Ross, “If there’s an emergency people…will be shown out of the station by TTC staff.”

The three stations will be getting fire alarm systems installed in the near future in accordance with the TTC’s Fire Safety program.

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