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Millions spent on art at 6 new TTC subway stations

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 20th, 2017

What’s the price tag for beauty? It’s a question being raised after the budget was revealed for art installed at six new subway stations on the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension.

From the colourful glass at Finch West to the disco ball at Downsview Park, the art has been getting accolades. But although many riders admire the works, some expressed sticker shock after learning each station’s artwork cost $500,000.

“It’s important to remember that the TTC public policy and city’s public policy requires either new or renovated facilities to use one per cent of capital budget for public art.” TTC spokesman Brad Ross said. “So in fact these projects are well below that one per cent recommendation.”

The six new stations — Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, Highway 407, Pioneer Village, York University, Finch West, Downsview Park and Sheppard West — opened last weekend.

Loblaw parent company alerted competition watchdog to bread price-fixing

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 20th, 2017

A women carts out her groceries from a Loblaws in Toronto on May 1, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Bakery owner George Weston Ltd. says it and grocer Loblaw Companies Ltd. alerted the Competition Bureau immediately after discovering a more than decade-long bread price-fixing arrangement in March 2015.

The companies say in a joint statement that they became aware of an arrangement involving the co-ordination of retail and wholesale prices of some packaged breads from late 2001 to March 2015.

They say the participants regularly increased prices on a co-ordinated basis, and participants included both companies, as well as other major grocery retailers and another bread wholesaler.

The statement says the employees responsible for Weston Bakeries and Loblaw’s role in the arrangement are no longer employed by the companies and that they have beefed up compliance programs.

Loblaw is offering eligible customers who register online at LoblawCard.ca before May a $25 gift card that can be used at its grocery stores across Canada.

The added disclosure came after sealed court filings into the matter were made available to the companies and other affected parties for review.

Record holiday travellers could cause delays at Canadian airports

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 20th, 2017

Hundreds of passengers wait in a lineup at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on April 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Canadian holiday travellers should brace for crowds and delays as a record number of passengers are expected to pass through the country’s largest airports and highways are filled with Christmas commuters.

With Air Canada and rival WestJet Airlines carrying 7.9 and 9.7 per cent more passengers for the first nine months of the year, the 2017 Christmas season should break travel records, said airline analyst Robert Kokonis of AirTrav Inc.

“This bodes well for the rest of the year and, I believe, into Christmas and Winter 2018 periods,” he wrote in an email.

Toronto Pearson International Airport expects that nearly 2.7 million passengers will travel through the country’s largest airport between Dec. 17 and Jan. 7, up from 1.9 million last year when there were fewer days of elevated traffic.

The busiest travel day leading into the holiday will be Thursday when more than 130,000 people are expected to use the airport.

On average, 50,000 to 60,000 passengers are expected to depart and arrive at Trudeau International Airport in Montreal and more than one million over the season.

Traffic this year is up about 10 per cent on the year as carriers have added new direct flights, particularly to international destinations.

“We will have a growth this year in passenger traffic for the holiday period and we will welcome our 18 millionth passenger,” said airport spokeswoman Anne-Sophie Hamel.

Forecast for heavy snow in the days leading up to Christmas could cause some delays but Montreal Trudeau is used to facing Quebec winters, she said.

“Our snow clearing teams are active to ensure that when there is more difficult weather, these impacts are limited for passengers.”

Vancouver and Calgary airports are forecasting the 2017 will be another record season.

“We anticipate our busiest days to be when school gets out and the week after Christmas,” said airport spokeswoman Andrea Pham.

Canadian Airports Council president Daniel-Robert Gooch said he expects a strong end to a booming year since airport traffic is outpacing economic growth.

“It’s a very good news story for the air transport business and local economies and tourism,” he said in an interview.

Air Canada and WestJet Airlines said they are both expecting higher passenger volumes during the peak travel period but refused to provide forecasts. WestJet said it expects to beat the record 74,000 passengers it carried one day before Christmas last year.

The airlines offered advice such as checking in online or through an app, paying for any baggage fees in advance, verifying flight status for any delays, arriving early at the airport and carrying the appropriate identification.

Roads will also be busy this holiday as extra vehicles and snow cause delays while longer wait times are expected to cross the U.S. border.

“The best advice is to simply realize that things are going to be moving more slowly and they’re going to be busier than they usually are and so leave extra time,” said CAA spokesman Ian Jack.

Travelling through the United States could also take more time since the American Automobile Association expects a record 107.3 million holiday road and air travellers.

The Canadian agency overseeing airport screening said it will add more workers to help meet heightened demand over the holiday, especially for peak travel days.

“When it’s really busy, passengers should be there ahead of time because the lineups can be longer,” said Mathieu Larocque, spokesman for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.

He said travellers can shorten security inspections by ensuring they know what can be carried on board the plane, especially in carry-on luggage.

Passengers can ask questions of CATSA on Twitter or Facebook and send pictures of items to avoid surprises at the airport.

Gifts should remain unwrapped for easier inspection if required. Some airports offer post-security wrapping services.

Province launches sweeping review of Ontario Energy Board

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 20th, 2017

Glenn Thibeault arrives to speak with the media in Toronto on Sept. 12, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

Ontario is launching a sweeping review of the province’s energy regulator as it hopes to adapt to a rapidly changing market.

The Liberal government has tapped Richard Dicerni, a former head of Ontario Power Generation, to lead a year-long review of the Ontario Energy Board.

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault says it will look at how the O-E-B should keep up with new technology and new consumer demands.

He says in the near future more people will be putting solar panels on their roof, storing excess power and perhaps using it to power their electric vehicle.

Thibeault says the last time the O-E-B looked at updating its regulations 10 years ago, when a lot of the new energy innovations didn’t exist.

The O-E-B sets rules for energy companies and establishes rates that consumers pay.

The government says that in the last eight years the O-E-B has reduced companies’ requested rate increases by an average of 40 per cent.

SIU investigating after man injured after being followed by police

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 20th, 2017

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The province’s police watchdog is investigating after a serious five-vehicle crash in Mississauga on Tuesday.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said shortly before 5 p.m., Toronto police officers started following a car near Hurontario Street and Central Parkway West.

The officers believed a man in the vehicle had been involved in a bank robbery.

The car then got into a crash with four other vehicles at Hurontario and Rathburn Road, about three kilometres away, near Square One Shopping Centre.

The man fled on foot, but was arrested soon after.

He was taken to hospital with a serious injury. It wasn’t clear if the injury happened during the crash or the arrest.

No one else was injured.

Police said they are not looking for any other suspects.

Canadian family affected by fatal bus crash in Mexico: Global Affairs

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 20th, 2017

An ambulance sits parked next to an overturned bus in Mahahual, Quintana Roo state, Mexico, on Dec. 19, 2017. The bus carrying cruise ship passengers to the Mayan ruins at Chacchoben in eastern Mexico flipped over on a highway. (Novedades de Quintana Roo via AP)

Global Affairs Canada says at least one Canadian family has been affected by a bus crash in eastern Mexico that has killed an estimated dozen people.

The department says it is providing consular assistance to the family, but could not provide further details about how many Canadians were in the bus and whether they were killed or injured.

Authorities in Mexico say of the 31 people on the bus, at least 12 people were killed and 18 were injured Tuesday.

The bus was carrying cruise ship passengers to Mayan ruins when it flipped over on a highway.

Quintana Roo state Civil Defence spokesman Vicente Martin says seven Americans and two Swedes were among the injured, but says authorities hadn’t yet established the nationalities of the dead.

Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises says in a statement that passengers from two of its ships, the Celebrity Equinox and Serenade of the Seas, were involved.

Video images from the scene show the bus on its side in vegetation off the two-lane highway, with some survivors lying on the pavement and others walking around.

Public Security of Quintana Roo state said in a statement that emergency responders took the injured to hospitals in Bacalar, Chetumal and Tulum.

The agency says Mexican officials have been in contact with consular offices to assist families of the victims and injured, including citizens of the U.S., Sweden and Brazil.

With files from The Associated Press

Marc and Jodie Emery plead guilty to drug-related charges

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Dec 19th, 2017

Jodie Emery, who owns the Cannabis Culture brand with her activist husband Marc Emery, left, talks to reporters at the opening of one of their stores Thursday, December 15, 2016, in Montreal. Several other pot dispensaries are set to open in Montreal this week that will be selling marijuana to recreational users, despite federal rules that forbid such shops. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Prominent pot activists Jodie and Marc Emery have pleaded guilty to a number of drug-related charges in a Toronto court.

Marc Emery, the self-proclaimed “Prince of Pot,” pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana for purpose of trafficking, trafficking marijuana and possession of proceeds of crime more than $5,000.

Jodie Emery pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana for purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime over $5,000.

The couple’s arrest at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in March was followed by co-ordinated raids in several cities of pot shops associated with them.

The Emerys own the Cannabis Culture brand, which was used by a chain of 19 marijuana dispensaries in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, but the number of stores has dwindled to eight.

Three other people arrested in March — 37-year-old Christopher Goodwin and 31-year-old Erin Goodwin, both of Toronto, and 29-year-old Britney Guerra of Stoney Creek — also pleaded guilty to drug-related counts.

Push towards presto raises concerns for low-income riders

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Dec 19th, 2017

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Fare collectors have begun disappearing from TTC stations, beginning with the permanent closure of collector booths at Wilson and Sheppard West (formerly Downsview) stations over the weekend.

And when the six new stations on the Line 1 subway extension on Dec 17 were opened, it was also without collectors sitting in booths. That’s a total of eight stations without fare booths or collectors.

While the transit agency says this will mean better customer service, some in the social service sector say they’re worried about what it means for low-income riders.

The move is part of the push to fully automate the system with Presto, but for those who only buy one fare at a time, it could prove to be a bigger barrier. One transit advocate says even the cost of buying a Presto card in the first place is a deterrent.

“The $6 upfront for a blank card, if you’re a parent with teenagers, that can be $18 or $24, just for the card, and without even getting on the TTC,” says Yvette Roberts, who works with the Young Parents No Fixed Address Network.

“People don’t realize that low-income people actually pay more for transit,” says Roberts. “They can’t afford that monthly upfront cost. It’s $147 upfront [for a Metropass] at the same time of the month that they’re paying their rent typically. So in the end, low-income or working-class people are paying on a daily or weekly pass basis and more for transit than higher-income people are.”

The TTC says the $6 is Presto’s administration fee. They’re currently working on a low-income pass that could be ready as early as spring 2018.

But Roberts, who is also part of the Fair Fare Coalition, says one of the other big concerns for low-income drop-in centres is what Presto – a digital pay system – will mean for programs that hand out tokens and tickets to their members.

The TTC says that’s part of the next phase of the Presto roll-out they are currently working on.

“Last fall, we put out a survey to our list of stakeholders who do bulk purchases,” says Heather Brown, a TTC spokeswoman. “We are working closely with them so that the transition is as smooth as possible.”

Social service agencies in Toronto can purchase tokens and tickets in bulk at a reduced cost. Under Presto, the plan is to replace those with a limited use paper card. Brown says the TTC plans to have that in place by the middle of next year.

As for the eight stations without fare collectors, the TTC says there are still customer service agents there to help riders and people can still pay with cash, tickets or tokens at those locations.

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