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Cab driver protest to target Friday evening rush: taxi rep

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Feb 10th, 2016

A representative for the taxi drivers planning to strike during the NBA All-Star weekend says their protest will target the evening rush hour on Friday.

“We stand firm on our grounds and we are going to stick to our original plan, and that is to go protest on [Friday],” Paul Sekhon, head of the newly formed United Taxi Workers Association of the GTA, told Breakfast Television on Wednesday.

Cabbies are hoping the protest will draw attention to the growing rift between UberX and licensed taxis.

He also said further details of the strike action will be announced around 11 a.m. at City Hall. Three councillors and nine taxi representatives will be speaking alongside Sekhon.

Sekhon said they have already received permits from police for their protest on Friday. He said the protesting cabbies will head down Highway 427, to the Gardiner Expressway, Bay and York ramps, Lake Shore Boulevard, and around the Air Canada Centre.

He said there’s only one thing that could happen to prevent the strike: “We want UberX to be banned in the City of Toronto, we want UberX to be shut down. There should be no UberX illegal services at all.”

Sekon said drivers want to make their voices loud and clear, and said those who take taxis “stand with us.”

“We believe doing this is the only way we are going to get our voices heard loud and clear at an international level,” he said.

Sekon said although full details will be released later Wednesday morning, he expects the taxis to start disrupting traffic around the evening rush hour.

Beck, one of the city’s largest taxi companies, is urging its drivers not to take part in the planned protest. President Gail Beck-Souter tells drivers that the protest is misguided, and it “would give Uber exactly what they want.”

Toronto cab drivers are upset that UberX drivers are not facing the same regulations and standards that they are.

The Workers Association was formed at a meeting on Sunday night. It is designed to protect all members of the taxi industry, from drivers all the way up to brokerages.

Organizers say that since city council voted to delay a possible injunction against UberX last week, cabbies are being forced to take matters into their own hands. The City of Toronto has also granted a taxi brokerage license to Uber, putting it on the same footing as regulated taxi companies Beck and Royal.

The Uber app can be used to summon licensed cab drivers. But another of the company’s services, UberX, connects passengers with private drivers, who use their own vehicles and do not have taxi licences.

The taxi industry argues that UberX is unregulated and its drivers don’t have commercial licences, putting passenger safety in jeopardy while simultaneously driving traditional cabbies out of business.

Toronto councillor stops short of calling for Beyoncé ban in Canada

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Feb 10th, 2016

Beyoncé’s recently announced concert appearance in Toronto this May might not happen if one Toronto councillor has his way.

Ward 39 councillor Jim Karygiannis has called on the federal government to investigate the pop diva following her recent Super Bowl 50 halftime performance, which critics dubbed pro-Black Panther and anti-cop.

While Karygiannis wouldn’t ban Beyoncé based on the performance alone, he said if an inquiry found she or her backup dancers had supported the Black Panthers financially they could be blocked from entering the country.

“Perhaps Immigration Minister John McCallum should have her investigated first?” the former federal MP tells the Toronto Sun. “If someone wore bullets and supported (a radical group) here, they would not be welcomed in the United States — that’s for sure.”

“We should not be promoting gun culture or anti-police sentiments.”

Fellow councillor Giorgio Mammoliti agreed that her performance was “distasteful” and that her subtle message wasn’t all that subtle.

Beyoncé is scheduled to bring her Formation World Tour to the Rogers Centre on May 25. She is also scheduled to play Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium on May 20.

The councillors condemnation of Beyoncé’s performance echoed similar remarks from south of the border. Republican Congressman Peter King of New York said on Facebook “her pro-Black Panther and anti-cop video ‘Formation’ and her Super Bowl appearance is just one more example of how acceptable it has become to be anti-police.”

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani called it “outrageous” saying she “used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.” The 71-year-old Giuliani said the whole halftime show was “ridiculous” adding he would have preferred “decent wholesome entertainment.”

Beyoncé hasn’t commented on the specifics of her performance while her rep also declined comment. The NFL has also been silent on the matter.

During the performance, viewed by an estimated 112 million people, Beyoncé’s dancers donned berets, sported Afros and wore all black, similar to the style of the Black Panther party. At one point during their routine, the dancers formed an “X” on the field, which some people are taking as a tribute to slain black activist Malcolm X.

With files from the Associated Press

How would Metrolinx and TTC integrate SmartTrack and regional express rails?

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Feb 10th, 2016

Metrolinx, a provincial agency, is in the midst of expanding its electric rail system, at the same time the City of Toronto is working to implement Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack transit plan. Ahead of a Metrolinx board meeting on Wednesday, the agency released an enormous PDF about the state of their plans to integrate the two transit networks.

It’s the latest in a long string of studies and analysis about the future of Toronto’s transit.

“It’s very easy to teach transport planning here, because nothing changes,” Murtaza Haider, an associate professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management, said Tuesday.

Joking aside, Haida said that if SmartTrack has changed since Tory’s election campaign, “that’s good news.”

“Had it stayed the way it was envisioned, without any real [expert] input, that would have been a dangerous thing for us, from a funding and ridership perspective.”

The goal of the integration is to help commuters taking both long and short trips on electric rails, as well as reduce congestion across Toronto, Metrolinx said. It could mean regional express rail (RER) service trains, which typically travel long distances without stopping (compared to subway or light-trail transit), would make more frequent stops. It could also mean a split between express and local service, using the same corridors.

go rer regional express metrolinx
Metrolinx and the TTC are working to integrate their Regional Express Rail (RER) and SmartTrack transit systems. METROXLINX.

Metrolinx and the City of Toronto are considering four options:

A: Increased frequencies, five new stations

B. Express and local service, eight new stations

C. Committed RER frequencies, seven-eight new stations

D. Committed RER frequencies, four-five new stations

All options include an LRT on the Eglinton West corridor, with the number of stations to be determined; and all options include the 11 existing stations in the City of Toronto and Markham on the Kitchener and Stouffville corridor.

One key issue is fare integration, Haider said. In its report ahead of the board meeting, Metrolinx said it will soon begin consultations about fare integration.

“How do we price it so that A, it generates enough ridership, and B, at the same time, it doesn’t create a multi-tiered system,” he said.

Related stories:

Tory’s new Scarborough transit plan: One subway stop, 17 LRT stops

SmartTrack being reworked into smaller, less expensive service: report

Option A includes five new stations, shown in red circles on the diagram below.

Option A, one of four transit plans Metrolinx is considering to integrate RER and SmartTrack systems. Image credit: Metrolinx.
Option A, one of four transit plans Metrolinx is considering to integrate RER and SmartTrack systems. Image credit: Metrolinx.

Option B would see express service trains stopping at existing stations only. Local service would stopping at existing and new stations. The eight new stations are shown in red.

Option B, one of four transit plans Metrolinx is considering to integrate RER and SmartTrack systems. Image credit: Metrolinx.
Option B, one of four transit plans Metrolinx is considering to integrate RER and SmartTrack systems. Image credit: Metrolinx.

Option C has five-to-10-minute service during peak times, and 15-minute service in off-peak times, and seven or eight new stations.

Option A, one of four transit plans Metrolinx is considering to integrate RER and SmartTrack systems. Image credit: Metrolinx.
Option C, one of four transit plans Metrolinx is considering to integrate RER and SmartTrack systems. Image credit: Metrolinx.

Option D also has five-to-10-minute service during peak times, and 15-minute service in off-peak times, and four or five new stations.

Option D, one of four transit plans Metrolinx is considering to integrate RER and SmartTrack systems. Image credit: Metrolinx.
Option D, one of four transit plans Metrolinx is considering to integrate RER and SmartTrack systems. Image credit: Metrolinx.

It’s still not known how much the new service, whether GO or TTC, RER or SmartTrack, will cost. Could riders using GO lines pay more when travelling the exact same distance as a TTC passenger?

When it comes to fees and fares, there’s no solid information. However, Metrolinx says it will become public consultation on fare integration.

“A just and affordable fare that would bring more riders and improve accessibility to and from downtown Toronto and other regional labour markets, that would be key,” Haider said.

Maple Leafs trade Dion Phaneuf to rival Senators in 9-player deal

Luke Fox, Sportsnet | posted Tuesday, Feb 9th, 2016

The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded captain Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators as part of a nine-player blockbuster trade.

No salary will be retained by either team over the trade’s entirety.

In addition to Phaneuf, the Senators acquired forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert plus defence prospect Cody Donaghey from the Maple Leafs in exchange for defenceman Jared Cowen, forwards Colin Greening, Milan Michalek and Tobias Lindberg, as well as Ottawa’s second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Phaneuf, 30, has recorded 24 points (three goals, 21 assists), while registering 67 penalty minutes in 51 games for Toronto this season. He had to waive a no-movement clause in order for the deal to go through. Phaneuf’s contract carries a $7-million cap hit through 2019-20. He passes Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson as the highest-paid Senators defenceman.

Frattin, 28, a veteran of 135 NHL games with Toronto, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Los Angeles Kings, has recorded 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) over 47 games with the AHL’s Marlies this season.

Bailey, 24, has 18 points, including four goals, in 38 AHL games this season and has one goal in six career NHL games, each of which has occurred with Toronto. Rupert, 21, has six goals and 12 points in 29 AHL games with Toronto this season.

Donaghey, 19, was signed by the Maple Leafs as an undrafted free agent and has scored five goals and registered 22 points in 36 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League games with the Halifax Mooseheads and Moncton Wildcats this season.

Greening, 29, scored 38 goals and registered 87 points over 256 NHL games (all with Ottawa) including one this season.

Cowen, 25, has earned four assists in 37 games this season and has recorded 15 goals and 46 points in 249 career games with the Senators.

Michalek, 31, has scored six goals and registered 10 points this season. In 729 career games with Ottawa and the San Jose Sharks, he has scored 206 goals and added 232 assists for 438 points.

Lindberg, 20, was Ottawa’s fourth-round selection (102nd overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft. He has recorded 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) over 34 games in his rookie season with the Binghamton Senators.

How to sleep easier without medication

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Feb 9th, 2016

A new study by the Canadian Pediatric Society says that 70 per cent of kids have trouble falling asleep and 30 per cent are being medicated by their parents.

Below are some tips to help your kids go to sleep without the use of harmful medication.

Sleep Tips for Kids

Canadian Pediatric Society makes the following recommendations on the amount of sleep needed:

  • Newborns (birth to 2 months): 16-18 hours per day, 
three to four hours at a time
  • Babies (2 to 6 months): 14-16 hours
  • Older babies (6 months to 1 year): 14 hours
  • Toddlers (1 to 3 years): 10-13 hours
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10-12 hours
  • School-aged children (5-10 years): 10-12 hours

Common mistakes

  • Putting children to sleep somewhere and then moving them. This can cause children to wake up during the night.
  • Not having regular sleep routines: Children who have trouble sleeping often don’t have regular sleep routines.
  • Not sleeping by 9 p.m. The latest a child goes to bed is 9 p.m.
  • Bottles before bedtime: Children then associate feeding and sleeping and they end up waking themselves up in the middle of the night.

Tips courtesy of www.sleepwellbaby.ca

Train crash in Germany kills at least eight, injures scores

Matthias Schrader and Kirsten Grieshaber, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Feb 9th, 2016

Two trains crashed head-on in southern Germany early Tuesday, leaving at least eight people dead and injuring 150, authorities said.

German police said all survivors have now been rescued from the wreckage and taken to hospitals for treatment.

Federal police spokesman Rainer Scharf told The Associated Press from the scene that crews were still trying to remove one body from one of the two trains involved in the head-on collision.

Two regional trains crashed near Bad Aibling, in Bavaria before 7 a.m. and that several wagons overturned, police spokesman Stefan Sonntag told The Associated Press.

TV footage showed emergency helicopters and ambulances lined up in an area near the crash scene waiting to transport the most severely injured to hospitals.

Sonntag said that the scene of the accident on the tracks between Rosenheim and Holzkirchen was so confusing that he did not have any specific numbers of injured and dead yet.

“This is the biggest accident we have had in years in this region and we have many emergency doctors, ambulances and helicopters on the scene,” Sonntag said.

Sonntag said several rescue helicopters from Austria were also involved.

A spokesman for German federal police in Bavaria, Matthias Knott, said that the region was very inaccessible and made rescue efforts more difficult. The crash took place near the river Mangfall in a densely wooded and hilly region.

Water police helped in the rescue efforts as well, dpa reported, taking injured from the trains across the river to waiting ambulances. The injured were taking to hospitals all over southern Bavaria.

Dpa quoted Bernd Rosenbusch, the head of the Bayerische Oberlandbahn, which runs the trains, as saying, “this is a huge shock – we are doing everything to help the passengers, relatives and employees.”

Blue Jays agree to two-year deal with Donaldson

Shi Davidi | posted Tuesday, Feb 9th, 2016

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays avoided what would have been a senseless arbitration hearing with Josh Donaldson by reaching agreement on a two-year deal worth nearly $29 million with the reigning American League MVP, a source told Sportsnet on Monday night.

Settling on a contract before a Feb. 15 hearing date was clearly the ideal outcome for both sides, especially since there was only a $450,000 gap between the club offer of $11.35 million and the player ask of $11.8 million.

Arbitration may not be as nasty as it used to be, but regardless of the outcome, no one would have won had the sides argued this case when the difference was so relatively small.

Still, as a file and trial team, the only way for the Blue Jays to avoid a hearing was by reaching a multi-year deal with Donaldson. While there’s a case to be made for a three-year deal instead of a two, the contract provides the team with some cost-certainty for the 2017 season, and the all-star third baseman remains under club control for the 2018 campaign.

Additionally, resolving a potentially sticky situation amicably is sure to rebuild any of the goodwill between Donaldson and the Blue Jays that may have been lost when the sides couldn’t agree on a deal before last month’s filing deadline.

That’s sure to come in handy down the road when the Blue Jays either do a one-year deal with Donaldson in his final season of arbitration, or perhaps consider a longer-term extension. Given the truncated time-frame at work here, a longer deal wasn’t really possible.

The impression left during last week’s Leadoff event for season-ticket holders was that the Blue Jays were intent on getting something done with Donaldson.

Responding to a fan question about a long-term deal for Donaldson, general manager Ross Atkins said: “We want him here as long as humanly possible.”

“There are obviously challenges to that, we have to agree on what that means financially, but we’re going to do everything we can,” Atkins continued. “He is a remarkable player and I can say from watching him, there aren’t many guys like that. It is a whole other level of talent, competitiveness, drive, and it’s not just on offence. A lot of guys talk about (Mike) Trout, and a lot of guys talk about best players in the game, you can build an organization around Trout; I’ll take Donaldson.”

There is precedent for the type of contract the Blue Jays ended up agreeing to with Donaldson.

For a recent example, last month the Kansas City Royals handed a $17.5-million, two-year deal to outfielder Lorenzo Cain, buying out his remaining arbitration seasons after the sides exchanged filing numbers.

In 2011, Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers agreed on $24-million, two-year deal to avoid arbitration after the outfielder won the American League MVP in 2010.

Also in 2011, Canadian superstar Joey Votto signed a $38-million, three-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds after winning the National League MVP in 2010, locking up his three arbitration years. A year later, the sides worked out a massive extension that added $225 million over 10 years, a kind of step-by-step process that may provide a framework to follow here.

There is a business element to this as well, as having Donaldson’s 2017 salary figured out can help the Blue Jays as they look to re-sign pending free agents Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Team president and CEO Mark Shapiro said last week that talks with both sluggers would pick up during spring training.

Ontario Goodwill files for bankruptcy, but hints at plan for possible return

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Feb 9th, 2016

Goodwill Industries of Toronto, Eastern, Central and Northern Ontario has filed for bankruptcy, according to a statement posted to the corporation’s website Monday afternoon.

According to the statement, the corporation is also contemplating making a proposal to its creditors which would annul the bankruptcy and allow the corporation to reopen some stores.

On Jan. 16, Goodwill suddenly shut 16 stores and 10 donation centres, putting 430 employees out of work. Goodwill’s CEO Keiko Nakamura said at the time that the stores were closed because of a “cash flow crisis.”

There is no indication of what the proposal to reopen stores might entail, but according to the release, the union representing Goodwill employees has endorsed the decision to file for bankruptcy.

“Strategic alternatives under consideration focus on overcoming significant barriers to relieve the organization’s financial burden to allow for a possible restructure,” the statement reads.

In accordance with the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, a trustee has been appointed to assist in the process and will be contacting all creditors within five business days.

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