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A Loblaws PC Plus and a Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum card are shown together in Toronto on Tuesday. Nov. 7. Loblaw Companies Ltd. (TSX:L) says it will merge Shoppers Optimum points and PC Plus points under the name PC Optimum starting in February. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

Loblaw to merge Shoppers Optimum and PC Plus loyalty programs in February

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 8th, 2017

Customers at Shoppers Drug Mart or any of Loblaw Companies Ltd.’s grocery stores will soon use a new, unified loyalty program that replaces Optimum and PC Plus points.

Loblaw (TSX:L) will merge the two programs starting Feb. 1, 2018 under the name PC Optimum — a long-anticipated move that comes more than three years after the grocery giant acquired the pharmacy chain and its in-house Shopper Optimum system.

“We’re bringing the very best of Shoppers Optimum and PC Plus together,” said Uwe Stueckmann, senior vice president of marketing.

PC Optimum is “the future of loyalty programs for Loblaw companies,” he said, “harnessing both the power of PC Plus and Shoppers Optimum across the unified network of our stores coast to coast.”

Consumers can keep collecting points as usual until Feb. 1 next year when their Optimum and/or Plus points will move to the new program at equal value. If a collector has $100 worth of Optimum points, they will receive $100 worth of PC Optimum points, for example.

In Quebec, where Shoppers Drug Mart operates under the Pharmaprix name, the Pharmaprix Optimum program will end on Jan. 31, 2018 and members will have until May 2 that year to redeem their points or convert them at equal value to the new program.

Collectors will then use a single card or app and continue to earn points on money spent at Shoppers. They’ll also be able to earn points through personalized offers and in-store promotions at all stores, and by using the President’s Choice Financial MasterCard.

The new program will have an easy to remember redemption system — with 10,000 points valued at $10, 20,000 points at $20 and so on to a maximum single transaction redemption of $500. Shoppers can use their reward money at any of Loblaw’s nearly 2,500 stores and the company’s websites.

Consumers will earn 50 per cent more points for almost every dollar spent at Shoppers Drug Mart locations to help account for the higher number of points needed for each redemption level. Under the current Optimum program, collectors earn 10 points for every $1 spent, but need 2,000 fewer points to buy $10 worth of goods, for example.

More than 19 million active members make up the base of the two current programs, with at least 50 per cent of members enrolled in both, said Jim Noteboom, senior vice-president of loyalty and consumer insights.

After Loblaw acquired Shoppers in 2014, Noteboom said consumers told the company they wanted one program rather than two separate ones because it would make their lives easier.

“Make it one program, that’s easy to understand and easy to earn, with points that are redeemable at all stores,” he said collectors told the company while it gathered research on its loyalty cards.

Analyst speculation about a points merger has heightened since August when CIBC (TSX:CM) and Loblaw’s PC Financial announced they would end their nearly 20-year relationship.

In its place, CIBC launched Simplii Financial — a no-fee direct banking brand — on Nov. 1. In the breakup, savings, chequing and mortgage accounts went with Simplii, while MasterCard credit cards and the PC Plus points program remained with PC Financial.

The change means PC Financial debit card holders no longer earn PC points when using those cards.

Both spokesmen said that the end of the company’s relationship with CIBC was unrelated to the decision to merge both programs, which has been in the works for a few years.

Ontario to spend millions on new seniors strategy

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 8th, 2017

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Ontario plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next four years on a seniors health-care plan that will increase the number of long-term care beds in the province and hours of care provided by staff.

Premier Kathleen Wynne made the announcement on Tuesday laying out the government’s 20-point plan — called Aging with Confidence — to bolster services for seniors.

The province will spend $500 million over four years to create 5,000 new long-term care beds as part of the plan and is pledging to create 30,000 more over the next decade.

The government will also increase the hours of direct care residents in long-term care homes receive to four hours per day. The Ministry of Health could not say Tuesday how much it will spend to achieve that new care standard, saying its staff will need to consult care providers in the sector to arrive at a cost figure.

Wynne touted the plan as a way to keep Ontario seniors in their homes longer.

“Trying to navigate this phase of life can be a challenge,” she said. “And it is a navigation and so in order to remain independent and to stay healthy and connected there needs to be some level of support that’s provided.”

Wynne said the government will also spend $155 million over three years to keep seniors healthy including $17 million a year to provide a new “high dose” flu vaccine, starting in 2018. It will also spend $15 million over the next two years to provide more recreational resources and health-care support for buildings that already have clusters of seniors, she said.

“There’s not a single service that will work for everyone,” she said. “There’s not a single intervention that will work for everyone. There is a continuum of services and care and supports that we need. So, we’ve listened, we’ve heard that. Our plan will provide support in a wide array of areas.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government is only now spending to improve senior’s care in the province on the eve an election.

“Seniors and their families have been let down for 14 long years by Wynne and the Liberals, and with Wynne’s announcement on seniors care Tuesday, I wouldn’t blame them in the least if they believe they’ll be let down again,” Horwath said in a statement. “During their 14 years in power, the Liberals have amassed a wait list for seniors care that’s more than 32,000-people long.”

Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario secretary treasurer Candace Rennick said the province needs to increase it minimum care guarantees for seniors living in long-term care as the population ages and requires increasingly complex care.

“We are also concerned that the government has offered no timeline for it’s rollout and does not legislate a minimum standard of care,” Rennick said in a statement. “Without legislated care standards there is no guarantee that seniors will get the ongoing care they need and deserve.”

Former Blue Jay Roy Halladay killed in Gulf of Mexico plane crash

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Nov 7th, 2017

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Former Toronto Blue Jays star pitcher Roy Halladay has died after his plane crashed in the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40.

The sheriff’s department in Pasco County, Fla., confirmed Halladay’s body was found at the scene of the crash.

Halladay won the Cy Young Award twice, first with the Blue Jays in 2003 and again in 2010 with the Philadelphia Phillies.

He threw the the 20th perfect game in MLB history on May 29, 2010.

More coming

Ontario police forces receive more reports of objects in Halloween candy

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 7th, 2017

A sewing needle located in Halloween candy. HAMILTON POLICE SERVICES/Handout

BARRIE, Ont. — Police in Barrie say they’ve received another report of Halloween candy that was tampered with — this time a Tootsie Roll with a metal object in it.

Last week, Barrie police had said analysis of a pill found in a Tootsie Roll identified it as melatonin, a supplement to counter the effects of jet lag.

And police in Hamilton say they’re investigating after a child received a chocolate bar containing a sewing needle.

There have been other reports of tainted candy in Ontario this Halloween.

In the Waterloo region, police said on Friday that an 11-year-old Cambridge, Ont., girl underwent surgery after eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that contained a metal object.

And police in the southwestern Ontario communities of London, Windsor and Chatham say they’ve also received reports of needles in Halloween candy.

Use of dashcams on the rise as extra eyes for drivers, police

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 7th, 2017

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Dashboard camera’s or dashcams have quickly become a reliable security blanket for drivers in Toronto and across Canada. So much so, that they are rapidly changing the way both police and the courts look at road accidents.

In recent years they’ve proven to be valuable extra eyes on the road that sometimes capture crucial evidence or even disturbing accidents.

“The driving culture in Toronto has become very aggressive and I’m just nervous, I want evidence if I need it” says Craig Michalowsky. His dashcam was rolling when a pothole took out one of his tires on the Gardiner Expressway, and he’s one of a growing number of Canadians who use them.

A recent survey found 35 per cent of Canadian drivers have a dashcam in their vehicles or think it’s a good idea. Toronto Police thinks so too – they’ve been using dashcams in police cruisers for at least 15 years.

Const. Clint Stibbe says dashcams are “invaluable” for the Toronto Police Service.

“A lot of people that are involved in collisions – dash camera is like a third witness which gives us another view into what exactly happened” he says.

Not only are they helpful to police, they’re also useful tools for those looking to go legal. Dashcam videos have quickly become the star witness for personal injury lawyers.

Stephanie Zwicker Slavens with Diamond and Diamond Lawyers says she’s seen the use of dashcam videos as evidence in cases increase exponentially in recent years.

“Probably an increase of 75 per cent in the last year,” she says.

Most major Canadian insurance companies do not offer discounts for drivers who install dashcams in their vehicles. But Pete Karageorgos from The Insurance Bureau of Canada says having one can help expedite the claims process.

“It really can help speed up the claims process when you have an unbiased witness or a visual like a dashcam video to indicate what exactly happened before the crash or at the time of impact … those can be invaluable to tell the story,” he says.

Michalowsky says he certainly plans to use dashcam video to tell his side of the story when it comes to the pothole versus his Mercedes.

“I’ll be contacting the city to see if they have pothole insurance I think and see what they can do” he says.

But a word of caution – don’t get carried away with the story telling. Dashcam videos must be submitted in full and unedited in order to be admissible in court.

Lawyers for Toronto actress suing Weinstein say they can’t find him

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Nov 7th, 2017

Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein participates in a panel at the A&E 2016 Winter TCA in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

A lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein alleging the Hollywood mogul sexually assaulted a Toronto actress nearly two decades ago is being allowed to proceed even though lawyers have not been able to track him down.

The woman’s proposed statement of claim says she was sexually assaulted by Weinstein twice, while she had a part in a movie being filmed in and around Toronto. The claim also said she reported the alleged assaults to Toronto police on Oct. 23.

The actress, only known as Jane Doe, is seeking $14 million in damages, claiming she has suffered mental distress, extreme social anxiety and depression, as well as social isolation and feelings of guilt, worthlessness and shame as a result of what happened.

The document also names Miramax – the production company Weinstein and his brother co-chaired – as well as parent company Walt Disney Co. and Weinstein’s assistant. Miramax and Disney have been served notice of the action.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and no statements of defence have been filed.

On Monday, a hearing was held in a Toronto court, where the woman’s lawyers sought to move ahead with the claim without using her name.

One of the woman’s lawyers, Alexander Smith of the law firm Henein Hutchison, said the legal team has done everything to serve Weinstein and his assistant.

Smith said they tried and failed to serve Weinstein at his home in Westport, Conn., and believe he could also be in Phoenix, Ariz., or somewhere in Europe. They also repeatedly tried to serve Weinstein’s former assistant at her office and through her lawyer but have not succeeded so far.

Smith said Weinstein is aware of the claim against him, but since the plaintiff’s lawyers were not able to serve him, it left the woman with the following options: proceed with her real name, drop the case or be delayed in getting therapy.

Smith said the woman will proceed with seeing a therapist in order gather evidence of harm for the lawsuit against Weinstein.

The judge has allowed the woman to go ahead with the claim because her lawyers have tried everything to serve him.

The judge also said the legal team has to keep trying to serve him, but granted a substitutional service order, which allows the woman to move forward with the case – even if they can’t find or he is avoiding being served.

A substitutional service occurs if a party appears to be avoiding being served court documents, then a request may be made to mail it to known address.

The case will return to court on Dec. 1.

 

 

Buses vs. streetcars: The debate continues

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 7th, 2017

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“They don’t want these damn streetcars blocking up our city!” thundered the late Rob Ford in 2012.

The argument has raged in and out of City Hall for years – buses vs. streetcars. Which is more efficient for riders and drivers?

This summer, the 501 streetcars on Queen Street were replaced by buses during construction. CityNews heard from multiple commuters saying the bus was much faster.

Councillor Michael Ford says he’s even heard from first responders who echo those sentiments. When responding to a call where seconds could mean the difference between life and death, they said buses were the clear winner.

“A Toronto firefighter reached out to us and said … we are responding much quicker, it is easier for us to be getting to calls. And when you have that type of outreach from our first responders and from a variety of people … I think it was a win for everybody. Everyone was moving quicker … and I hope that we will continue to look at this”

Councillor Ford’s motion to conduct a study on whether buses or streetcars are more efficient on Queen Street was rejected by City Council this fall. It was considered redundant as streetcars were already back on that route in September.

The 501 Queen route is the TTC’s longest streetcar line, used by approximately 52,000 riders on a typical weekday. Ford believes some of his colleagues are choosing to remain willfully ignorant and do not want to see what the data might reveal. Having heavily invested in new streetcars, the TTC says they’ve already compiled their own numbers and claim buses are not quicker than streetcars.

Stuart Green from TTC media relations says the decision to use streetcars as the vehicle of choice in the downtown core was made a long time ago and the transit provider is moving forward accordingly. He adds that streetcars accommodate more people than buses and revisiting that decision is unnecessary.

“f you look at Spadina or down on Harbourfront, there are dedicated rights-of-way for the streetcars. Those are the kinds of things that allow streetcars to move even better in traffic, he says. “Certainly in terms of getting people around the city streetcars have proven to be very efficient. Fewer vehicles more people.”

However when it comes to volume, articulated accordion style buses move the same amount of people as a regular streetcar. Transit expert Murtaza Haider is calling on the city to let an independent body dissect the data to see which mode of transit is more efficient – though he says you don’t have to be an engineer to figure out which one keeps traffic moving quicker.

“TTC is looking at operating costs rather than the travel times to make this decision,” he says. “We are told again and again … that a large TTC streetcar carries more passengers than a smaller sized bus, but that’s stating the obvious. What we haven’t been told is that if we deploy the right kind of bus technology – what would be the through put capacity through those versus the streetcar. We already have determined, I believe, that buses would be faster.”

Professor Haider adds that one of the biggest issues with streetcars is the city’s romantic or nostalgic leanings towards the decades old mode of transportation. He questions how much the city and it’s population are willing to pay in terms of travel times and lost proficiency to keep them.

For his part, Councillor Ford says even though his motion was dropped, its a fight he’s looking at revisiting.

 

Dog owners warned after dead ducks found at Woodbine Beach

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 7th, 2017

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A disturbing discovery at Woodbine Beach has some dog owner feeling uneasy.

Thirty ducks and a heron were found dead on the shoreline on Sunday morning.

The dead ducks were scattered across a couple hundred yards of shoreline and Toronto Animal Services were quick to remove the deceased wildlife.

An investigation to determine the cause of death is underway.

In a news release issued on Monday, the city said they are urging dog owners to keep their pets on-leash in the area.

It’s still not clear what happened to these ducks and officials say it will take at least another two weeks to find out.

The city is urging dog owners to contact their vet if their dog was at Woodbine beach on Sunday and is experiencing any signs of illness.

 

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