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Embattled NDP taps Jagmeet Singh to succeed Tom Mulcair, lead federal party

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 2nd, 2017

The Jagmeet Singh juggernaut began barrelling towards Parliament Hill on Sunday as the 38-year-old turbaned Sikh bounded past his three more experienced rivals and claimed a historic first-ballot triumph in the race to become leader of the federal New Democrats.

Singh, a charismatic, fashion-forward member of the Ontario legislature, became the first visible minority to claim the leadership of a federal party, romping to victory with a convincing 35,266 votes – 53.8 of the eligible ballots, well past the margin required to end the race early.

Northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus, who was widely seen as Singh’s closest challenger, came in second with a disappointing 12,705 votes, followed by Manitoba MP Niki Ashton with 11,374 and Quebec MP Guy Caron with 6,164.

As Singh’s victory and its margin became apparent inside the Toronto hotel meeting room, supporters leaped to their feet and hoisted their champion in the air before gathering behind him on the stage, many of them with tears in their eyes.

“Canadians must stand united to champion the politics of courage over the politics of fear, the politics of love to fight the growing politics of division,” Singh said, with supporters, friends, family members and fellow candidates crowded in around him.

“Canadians deserve the kind of government that only New Democrats can deliver … that gets the job done, that keeps its promises. That’s why today I’m officially launching my campaign to be the next prime minister of Canada.”

Singh told the story – a staple of his campaign – about his family’s struggle to get by during a period when his father was unable to work. He described it as a “glimpse” of the sort of challenges countless Canadians endure every single day, people whose priorities have been abandoned by government.

“It’s unacceptable that our government tells people to just get used to unstable work,” said Singh, referring to Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s infamous comments about what he considers the realities of the modern economy.

“Maybe if you look at employment as a hobby, you can get used to unstable work. But if your work means the difference between putting food on the table or a roof over the heads of your family, then job insecurity is unacceptable.”

Singh sang the praises of his predecessor Tom Mulcair as well as his rival candidates, whom he celebrated for helping to generate a renewed sense of excitement and vitality around the party over the course of the campaign.

With its long-haul leadership race now over, the party – which has just 44 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons – is now free to focus on presenting a unified front to battle Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the 2019 federal election.

Insiders and political observers alike say it’s high time the NDP regrouped, put the disappointment of the 2015 election result in the past and start laying the foundation for a strong showing in two years.

More than 124,000 card-carrying members were eligible to take part in the vote, which was conducted online and by mail by way of a ranked ballot – voters were able to rank the candidates in order of preference.

Kathleen Monk, an NDP stalwart who worked as director of strategic communications to former leader Jack Layton, said a new leader will now allow the party to begin growing again after two years in the political wilderness.

Mulcair, who took over the party after Layton’s death in 2012, carried on his shoulders the party’s long-standing dream of forming a federal government for the first time.

Those hopes were dashed during the 2015 election campaign when the party’s support collapsed in the face of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal juggernaut – an electoral disaster many blamed on Mulcair himself.

Even after party members voted resoundingly to turf their leader during a spring convention in Edmonton, Mulcair chose to remain on an interim basis until a successor could be named.

Following that convention, the party opted to take the long road towards choosing a new leader, culminating in Sunday’s first round of voting results.

“The reason I was able, with eyes wide open, to stay on after Edmonton is my profound belief that the NDP offers the only real hope for a progressive government in Canada,” Mulcair said in an interview.

The two front-runners brought diametrically opposed perspectives to the race: Angus the elder statesman, with years of House of Commons experience and name recognition among party members, versus Singh the outsider, a member of the Ontario legislature with a youthful, more suburban following.

Former NDP national director Karl Belanger admitted it is “long overdue” for the NDP to get on with building towards 2019.

“Hopefully that is what is going to happen,” he said. “I think there’s lots of people who are still reeling and debating the reasons behind the defeat in 2015.”

It’s also high time the party got serious about fundraising: Elections Canada returns show the NDP has some $5.5 million worth of debt on its balance sheet.

But perhaps most importantly, Job 1 for Singh will be to “knit together the teams that may have supported different candidates,” said Peggy Nash, a well-regarded former NDP MP and leadership candidate who ran unsuccessfully against Mulcair.

“Get out there and build the party and restore our voice as the legitimate voice of progressive Canadians.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his congratulations, saying he looks forward to working together with Singh.

 

Sniper in highrise hotel kills more than 50 in Las Vegas

SALLY HO THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Oct 2nd, 2017

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A gunman perched on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel-casino unleashed a hail of bullets on an outdoor country music festival below, killing at least 58 people as tens of thousands of concertgoers screamed and ran for their lives, officials said Monday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

There are reports that two Canadians have been killed in the shooting. According to the CBC, the parents of a 23-year-old man from British Columbia said he was at the concert with a girlfriend when he was shot and killed. CTV reports an Alberta woman was also killed.

At least 515 others were injured in the Sunday night attack, authorities said.

SWAT teams using explosives stormed the gunman’s hotel room in the sleek, gold-colored glass skyscraper and found he had killed himself, authorities said. He had as many as 10 guns with him, including rifles, they said.

There was no word on a motive for the attack. But a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the still-unfolding investigation, said there was no immediate indication it was connected to international terrorism.

In the Mideast, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and said the gunman was “a soldier” who had converted to Islam months ago. But it provided no evidence.

Country music star Jason Aldean was performing Sunday night at the end of the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival in front of a crowd of more than 22,000 when the gunman opened fire from inside the 44-floor Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino across the street.

Monique Dumas from British Columbia said she was at the concert, six rows from the front of the stage when she thought she heard a bottle breaking, and then a burst of popping sounds that may have been fireworks. She said as she made her way out, it was “organized chaos” as everyone fled. “It took four to five minutes and all that time there was gunfire.”

The gunman was identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev. He had checked into the hotel room on Thursday, authorities said. Police said he was a retiree with no criminal record in the Nevada county where he lived.

Paddock’s brother, Eric Paddock, who lives in Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel: “We are completely dumbfounded. We can’t understand what happened.”

In an address to the country, President Donald Trump called the attack “an act of pure evil” and added: “In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has.” He ordered flags flown at half-staff.

Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said authorities believe it was a “lone wolf” attack. And the U.S. Homeland Security Department said there was no “specific credible threat” involving other public venues in the U.S.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered the support of the FBI and other federal agencies but noted that the investigation is being led by the sheriff in Las Vegas. That was seen as another possible sign the shooting was not believed to be an act of international terrorism.

Las Vegas authorities put out a call for blood donations and set up a hotline to report missing people and speed the identification of the dead and wounded. They also opened a “family reunification center” for people to find loved ones.

Aldean was in the middle of a song when the shots came rapidly: pop-pop-pop-pop. Video showed Aldean stopping and the crowd getting quiet as if it were unsure of what had happened.

The gunman paused and then fired another volley, the muzzle flashes visible from the casino, as victims fell to the ground while others fled in panic. Some hid behind concession stands, while others crawled under parked cars.

Kodiak Yazzie, 36, said the music stopped temporarily when the first shots began and then started up again before the second round of pops sent the performers ducking for cover and fleeing the stage.

“It was the craziest stuff I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Yazzie said. “You could hear that the noise was coming from west of us, from Mandalay Bay. You could see a flash, flash, flash, flash.”

Monique Dumas, of British Columbia, said she was at the concert, six rows from the stage, when she thought she heard a bottle breaking, then a burst of pops that sounded liked fireworks.

Couples held hands as they ran through the dirt lot. Faces were etched with shock and confusion, and people wept and screamed. Some were bloodied, and some were carried out by fellow concertgoers. Dozens of ambulances took away the wounded, while some people loaded victims into their cars and drove them to the hospital.

Police shut down busy Las Vegas Boulevard, and federal and state authorities converged on the scene. Interstate 15 was briefly closed, and flights at McCarran International Airport were suspended.

Hospital emergency rooms were jammed with the wounded. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, a Democrat whose congressional district includes a portion of Las Vegas, visited a hospital were some of the victims were taken and said: “Literally, every single bed was being used, every single hallway was being used. Every single person there was trying to save a life.”

The dead included at least three off-duty police officers from various departments who were attending the concert, authorities said. Two on-duty officers were wounded, one critically, police said.

“It’s a devastating time,” the sheriff said.

Nearly every inch of the Las Vegas Strip is under video surveillance, much of it set up by the casinos to monitor their properties. That could yield a wealth of material for investigators as they try to piece together the attack.

Hours after the shooting, Aldean posted on Instagram that he and his crew were safe and that the shooting was “beyond horrific.”

“It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night,” the country star said.

Before Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in June 2016, when a gunman who professed support for Muslim extremist groups opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing 49 people.

Sunday’s shooting came more than four months after a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, that killed 22 people. Almost 90 people were killed by gunmen inspired by Islamic State at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris during a performance by Eagles of Death Metal in 2015.

Person of interest questioned in threat against Leslieville school

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Sep 29th, 2017

A police cruiser outside Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior Public School in Toronto on Sept. 28, 2017. The school was placed under a hold-and-secure after receiving a threat. CITYNEWS
A police cruiser outside Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior Public School in Toronto on Sept. 28, 2017. The school was placed under a hold-and-secure after receiving a threat. CITYNEWS
 A person has been arrested after a possible threat put a Leslieville school under hold-and-secure for a second day in a row.

Police said the person of interest has been arrested on domestic charges and they are being questioned in relation to the threat.

No further details have been released.

Students at Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior Public School, near Queen Street East and Greenwood Avenue, weren’t able to leave the building for lunch, recess and other activities on Thursday.

“Police found nothing of concern after a search of the school was conducted just before the lunch period started,” the school said in a letter to parents.

At the end of the day, students left by the main doors. Some evening classes were cancelled and a Terry Fox run was postponed.

The move was a precaution to ensure students’ safety, police said. Officers will be at the school from about 7:30 a.m. and remain throughout the day.

They didn’t reveal what the threat was or how it was received.

Hillary Clinton thrills Toronto crowd with part feminist, part activist talk

CityNews | posted Friday, Sep 29th, 2017

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Former American presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told an appreciative crowd on Thursday that more women in politics is the way to overcome the sexism that pervades the political world, and that democracy is under assault.

The Democrat was in Toronto – part of a 15-city tour that will also include Montreal and Vancouver – to promote her new best-selling memoir, “What Happened,” in which she describes her stunning loss in last year’s election to political newcomer, Republican Donald Trump, a man often criticized as a misogynist.

“The only way to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics,” Clinton said. “I want more women in politics so our politics is more representative.”

Many reasons exist why politics can be a downright infuriating prospect for women, she said, citing the example a group of men sitting around a table deciding what health care women need.

At the same time, she said, politics can also be immensely rewarding by providing women a voice at the table and she praised Prime Minister Trudeau for appointing Canada’s first gender-balanced cabinet.

“I especially appreciate Canada’s commitment to an open and diverse society that welcomes immigrants,” she said to loud applause as she opened her speech.

In fact, she joked that she had received many suggestions to relocate to Canada. While she won’t be moving, she did enjoy her summer vacation in Quebec, she said.

Clinton said the Russian “misinformation campaign” during the election was largely successful because Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between truth and reason.

“There is no such thing as an ‘alternative fact’ despite the war by some to wage a war on reason and evidence,” she said. “We can’t let that happen.”

Trump won’t condemn the Russian interference in American politics because there is growing evidence of “very tangled” financial relationships between the president, his associates and Russia, she said.

“Trump doesn’t just like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” she said, “He wants to be like Putin.”

Russian cyber-attacks on the Democratic National committee and emails stolen from her campaign, she said, warrant an independent commission to get to the bottom of the issue.

Although some seats were empty, organizers pegged the size of the crowd at above 5,000 – the majority of them women. They roared in delight as Clinton spoke about her trials and tribulations, interrupting her frequently to voice approval, laugh or clap.

Clinton’s publisher, publisher Simon and Schuster, had billed her speech as a “detailed and surprisingly funny” account of her past and plans for the future, and the former secretary of state did not disappoint her audience.

“She gave me confidence that there is a future and we can do something,” Jan Moore said afterward. “It was encouraging and uplifting.”

Clinton talked of the lost election and the difficult aftermath, adding at times she simply wanted to crawl under the covers until the distress eased.

As for her future, she said she intends to be an activist citizen agitating for human and women’s rights now that she is free of the constraints of being a politician in the glare of the public eye.

Clinton, through a moderator, answered several questions, taking shots at Trump as the “first reality TV candidate” who was offensive, “stalked” her, and was an all-round “creep.”

“What Happened” has already garnered huge international attention, reportedly having already sold more than 300,000 copies in all formats and the highest opening hardcover for non-fiction in five years since its official debut Sept. 12.

Some critics have praised it for its revealing honesty and poignancy; others have called it boring and self-serving.

Another audience member, Linda Ford, said she planned to read the book. Ford said she was “disappointed” in the outcome of the election but pleased the ex-politician is using her experience for the common good.

On Oct. 23, the former eight-year senator is scheduled to speak in Montreal, and in Vancouver on Dec. 13.

Police investigating threat against Leslieville school

CityNews | posted Friday, Sep 29th, 2017

A police cruiser outside Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior Public School in Toronto on Sept. 28, 2017. The school was placed under a hold-and-secure after receiving a threat. CITYNEWS

A public school in Leslieville is expected remain under a hold-and-secure for a second day on Friday while police investigate a possible threat.

Students at Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior Public School, near Queen Street East and Greenwood Avenue, weren’t able to leave the building for lunch, recess and other activities on Thursday.

“Police found nothing of concern after a search of the school was conducted just before the lunch period started,” the school said in a letter to parents.

At the end of the day, students left by the main doors. Some evening classes were cancelled and a Terry Fox run was postponed.

The move was a precaution to ensure students’ safety, police said. Officers will be at the school from about 7:30 a.m. and remain throughout the day.

They didn’t reveal what the threat was or how it was received.

 

Elderly man 4th pedestrian struck and killed in Toronto in 24 hours

CityNews | posted Friday, Sep 29th, 2017

An elderly man died after he was hit by a car on McCowan Road near Steeles Avenue East on Sept. 28, 2017. CITYNEWS

An elderly man has been struck and killed in Toronto’s east-end – the fourth pedestrian fatality in the city since Wednesday evening.

Police were called to McCowan Road, near Steeles Avenue East, just before 10 p.m. on Thursday.

Paramedics say the victim, believed to be in his 70s, was without vital signs and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police say the man was crossing McCowan mid-block just south of Steeles when he was struck by a vehicle heading south in the curb lane.

The driver remained on the scene.

Police say alcohol or speed do not appear to be factors in the crash.

A mother and five-year-old daughter were struck and killed while crossing Warden Avenue in Scarborough late Wednesday night.

A man in his 50s was struck and killed in the area of Birchmount Road and St. Clair Avenue just after 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Netflix to invest $500M in Canadian programs as part of feds’ new cultural plan

CityNews | posted Thursday, Sep 28th, 2017

The company logo and view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

An agreement that Netflix will invest at least $500 million in original productions in Canada is set to be part of a long-awaited reboot of Canada’s cultural policy.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly will unveil the comprehensive overhaul Thursday that will look at everything from the CRTC to how best to sell and promote Canada’s creative work.

The plan is being dubbed a “creative economic strategy” designed to both update the approach the government takes to encouraging Canadian content production and the laws and organizations which govern it.

Getting companies like Netflix to play a bigger role financially is one of the government’s goals as traditional broadcasters have long complained about an uneven playing field.

Some had hoped to see the policy force the U.S. giants to charge sales tax for their subscriptions or contribute to the same content funds as Canadian broadcasters.

But a government source, not authorized to speak on the record, says Netflix has agreed to invest at least $500 million over the next five years in original productions here.

The government is eager to see Facebook and Google do the same; the search engine giant did recently launch a dedicated Canadian content channel on YouTube.

The goal is to make sure the government’s approach to Canadian content is not tied to arcane technology of the past, and is flexible enough to bolster content creators, be they musicians, artists, writers, architects or video game designers, while also helping them sell their wares abroad.

The policy is the product of months of consultations and will plot a course for a review of the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act, which was promised in the 2017 federal budget.

Joly’s speech — scheduled to begin at noon ET Thursday at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa, in the shadow of Parliament Hill — will cover three themes: investing in creators, helping their content get discovered and distributed and — a staple of any conversation on Canadian culture — a discussion on the future of public broadcasting.

There are some other announcements likely, including more robust funding to help Canadian film, television and music producers find an audience. Some money was allocated to two programs in the 2016 budget, but the expectation is that they’ll be supported with additional funds.

“As our economy changes in an information age, we need to support creative talent who will be critical in future economic growth,” said David Sparrow, president of ACTRA, the performers’ union.

CBC president Hubert Lacroix said ensuring that all of the players chip in to develop Canada’s cultural content will be essential to the survival of Canada’s relatively small marketplace.

“The levelling of the playing field, so that everyone … contributes to the ecosystem, is key,” Lacroix said. “We’re too small in this world to be doing this by ourselves.”

Ontario to require disclosure of pharma payments to health professionals

CityNews | posted Thursday, Sep 28th, 2017

Bottles of prescription drugs as labeled Lipitor, TriCor, Plavix, Singulair, Lexapro and Avapro are displayed (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Wide-ranging legislation introduced Wednesday by the Ontario government will require public disclosure of payments that pharmaceutical companies make to doctors, increase inspections for splash pads, barber shops and nail shops, and license medical device operators who use X-ray machines, CT scanners, and MRIs.

The bill was introduced Wednesday afternoon by Health Minister Eric Hoskins, who said it will make province’s health care system “more efficient and more transparent” for patients. If passed, the bill will modernize 10 pieces of legislation, the government said.

The bill would change existing rules for paramedics, who by law can only transport patients to hospital following a 911 call. The new rules, if passed, would allow paramedics to transport a patient to a non-hospital setting, like a mental health facility.

The legislation would change the safety inspection program for the province’s long-term care homes with new enforcement tolls that would include higher fines.

Public health regulations around recreational water facilities like splash pads and wading pools and rules for personal service settings like barber shops and nail salons, will be clarified under the regulations and make enforcement easier, the government said.

The bill would also tighten up rules and enhance enforcement around community health facilities which operate medical radiation devices like X-rays, CT scanners and ultrasound machines. Ultrasound operators would also be more strictly regulated.

The most high profile piece of the act introduces mandatory reporting from pharmaceautical companies and medical device manufacturers make to health care professionals.

“It gives them tools and information that they can then use to make more informed decisions about their own health care, so I believe it’s something Ontarians want and deserve,” Hoskins said in an interview Tuesday.

“We are the first jurisdiction in Canada to undertake this, so I think that that leadership by Ontario is important on an issue that I think resonates with all Canadians.”

The province consulted over the summer with patient groups, health-care providers and the pharmaceutical and medical device industries about payments such as speaking engagement fees, paid meals, and travel expenses.

The legislation would require disclosure of the payments and create an online, searchable database of that information.

Ten major pharmaceutical companies released data earlier this year showing they had paid nearly $50 million to Canadian health-care professionals and organizations last year.

Drug company GlaxoSmithKline – one of those 10 companies – is supportive of the legislation.

Ethics and compliance officer Annie Bourgault said the company may, for example, pay a doctor to participate in a consultation meeting to speak about patient needs when GSK is about to launch a new medication.

“At the end of the day it’s for the benefit of the patients, so there’s kind of no downside to being transparent,” she said.

Payments from pharmaceutical companies to health-care providers can raise concerns about conflicts of interest in the prescribing and promotion of certain drugs.

But Hoskins said introducing legislation shouldn’t imply that the government believes there are negative connotations to such payments.

“What we want to do is … present information so that patients and health providers and the industry can have a better understanding of the nature of the transactions that are taking place.”

There are already some restrictions in Ontario on the types of benefits that can be received, but disclosure isn’t always required.

A policy from the regulatory body for doctors in the province says physicians must not accept compensation from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries in exchange for meeting with promotional representatives, and they must not accept personal gifts.

They can, however, accept items such as teaching aids that benefit patients, under the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s policy. They can also accept drug samples.

Doctors are allowed to accept compensation at “fair market value” for presenting at industry-supported continuing education events, sitting on advisory or consultation boards, and for participating in industry research.

The Ontario Medical Association has said it hoped any changes to disclosure rules would be applied to all health-care professionals to ensure doctors are on a level playing field. Hoskins said Tuesday it would apply to all regulated health professions in the province.

But many of the details, such as the minimum payment that would trigger the disclosure requirement, will be left out of the legislation and decided through regulations.

“We had a substantial consultation over the course of the summer and there was clear and broad support for the direction that we’re taking and the support for this proposed legislation,” Hoskins said.

“We’ll have that opportunity as we go forward … to continue the dialogue and continue the consultation and learn from other jurisdictions, but also hear from stakeholders.”

Patients in the United States, Australia and some European countries can already go online to see how much money their health-care providers have received from pharmaceutical companies.

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