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Toronto one of the best cities in the world, not one of the best in Canada

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Jun 8th, 2016

A sailboat drifts past the Toronto skyline on July 10, 2004. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Steve White

Toronto is the most livable city in the world, but it doesn’t even crack the Top 10 best cities in Canada.

When it comes to ranking the best Canadian cities, Toronto fails when it comes to affordable housing, having a liveable retirement, and in eight other categories.

The winners, according to MoneySense magazine? Wood Buffalo, Alta., and Petawawa, Ont. (northwest of Ottawa).

The city with the cheapest homes is Bathurst. Oh, Bathurst? That’s in New Brunswick, where the average home price is $108,846. And the best city to retire is Rimouski, Que., with its low property taxes, museums and golf courses.

Toronto, with its multicultural makeup and international reputation, isn’t even the best city for newcomers: that honour goes to Ottawa with its technology and government jobs, and cultural diversity.

The best city to raise kids is Blainville, Que., where costs are capped at $8 a day. In Toronto, the median cost of daycare is $1,736 a month, which works out to about $21,000 a year. So we’ll give them that one.

What costs more, daycare or university tuition? Watch the video below or click here to view it.

The richest city in Canada is West Vancouver, where the average household net worth is $3.5 million. However, the city with the highest household income is Wood Buffalo, where the median income is $191,631.

In Toronto, the average household net worth is $707,462, and median household income is $60,209.

While Toronto real-estate prices are routinely described as ‘sky-rocketing,’ with the average home costing $1.28 million, the city with the fastest-growing home prices in percentage terms is Alma, Que. Home prices in Alma grew by 14 per cent year-over-year, MoneySense reported.

The fastest-growing city in the country is Okotoks, Alta., where the annualized population growth rate between 2011 and 2016 was 3.63 per cent. The population is now 30,267, MoneySense reported. For comparison, the population of Toronto is 2,849,222. So keep reaching for that rainbow, Okotoks!

The city with the most cyclists is Victoria, British Columbia, where 6.15 per cent of the population cycles to work. In Toronto, meanwhile, cops are cracking down on vehicles parked in bike lanes, and a dedicated lane is coming to Bloor street.

The cost of the bike lanes on Bloor is estimated to be $500,000. Watch the video below or click hereto view it.

Finally, in the 10th category, Toronto was bested by Petawawa, as it was named the city with the lowest crime rate. There, the crime rate is 1,823.6 reported incidents per 100,000 residents. In Toronto, it’s 3,323.76 reported incidents per 100,000 residents, MoneySense said.

Toronto was named the most livable city in the world in August, and will hold the title until a new list is published by Metropolis Magazine this August. But we’re not worried: we’ve been on the list since at least 2012.

We have six of the country’s 10 best restaurants, and no less than the New York Times thinks we’re one of the best cities to visit.

But MoneySense thinks that overall, we’re No. 43. And Ottawa is No. 1.

Rogers Media is the parent company of MoneySense magazine and this website.

Don Cherry agrees to multi-year deal to return to ‘Hockey Night in Canada’

BILL BRIOUX, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jun 7th, 2016

Don Cherry poses for a photo in Toronto on March 10, 2014 . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Don Cherry is returning to “Hockey Night in Canada” next season.

The 82-year-old star of “Coach’s Corner” has agreed to a multi-year deal, Scott Moore, president of Sportsnet and NHL properties, told The Canadian Press on Monday.

Cherry’s two-year deal with Rogers, which owns Sportsnet, expires at the end of the playoffs.

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In 2013, Rogers signed a 12-year, $5.2-billion deal for NHL rights in Canada. They took a ratings hit this spring, however, when no Canadian team made the playoffs.

Moore hinted there could be changes coming in the wake of the low-rated playoff run.

“All I’ll say is, you tweak as you go,” he said at the Rogers programming launch.

He wouldn’t offer any specifics on what the tweaks could involve. George Stroumboulopoulos is currently on a five-year deal while Ron MacLean, the man he replaced in the main host’s chair who now fronts Sunday’s “Hometown Hockey” broadcast, is in the middle of a four-year contract.

Rogers has revamped hockey coverage in this country since taking the reins from CBC, replacing MacLean with Stroumboulopoulos in 2014. The move has been controversial with Stroumboulopoulos seen by some fans as an outsider. Cherry’s role has also been reduced under Rogers’ leadership, though he and MacLean continue to host their intermission segment “Coach’s Corner.”

This spring, audience levels fell below the million mark for many early-round playoff games. According to Moore, the three Stanley Cup final games between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks have drawn between 1.7 and 2.2 million viewers. This allows him to declare that “hockey is still king,” when it comes to sports viewing in Canada. Still, it took until the final round for hockey playoff numbers to edge past what basketball’s Toronto Raptors were drawing in their final two playoff rounds.

“As half of the rights-holding group, we’re pretty happy with that,” Moore said of the surge past the million mark in Raptors ratings. Sportsnet and TSN split TV coverage of the Raptors’ playoff run. Moore said deciding which network started each round was decided by a coin toss.

Prior to the playoffs, Raptors broadcasts were down in viewership year-to-year.

“Nobody could understand that,” said Moore.

Thanks in part to the Toronto Blue Jays exciting playoff run last fall, Sportsnet’s year-to-year ratings sit third overall in Canada behind only CTV and Global and ahead of CBC.

The halo effect from the Jays’ playoff run is helping Rogers through its hockey slump this spring. The Jays, who are owned by Rogers, are up 58 per cent in season-to-date numbers compared to a year ago. There have been 10 Jays games averaging more than a million viewers so far this season, compared to just one at this point last year.

Moore says he kidded Jays president Mark Shapiro about the TV success, telling him the club is hurting his hockey ratings. He feels the controversy over the manager switch in the off-season actually helped keep the Jays fan base energized and added to the carry-over in interest from last fall’s playoffs.

Moore also talks with Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and supports his efforts to tear down and rebuild the team, despite the effect it’s had on the Leafs TV ratings.

“The Leafs do drive the eco system of hockey in this country,” said Moore.

Raptors confirm Dwane Casey’s three-year contract extension

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jun 7th, 2016

Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey yells to his players during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 30, 2013, in Atlanta. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/John Bazemore
The Toronto Raptors have confirmed head coach Dwane Casey’s contract extension.

The team says the two sides have agreed “on principal terms” of a three-year deal through the 2018-19 season.

There was no confirmation of a dollar figure from the team but reports last week said the agreement was worth US$18 million.

Casey oversaw the team’s most successful season in 2015-16, steering the Raptors to a franchise-record 56 wins in the regular season and a berth in the Eastern Conference final.

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri promised last week that the deal would get done “in his sleep,” and he worked quickly to make it happen.

He said in a release Tuesday that Casey has “done an excellent job leading our teams to success on the court and with helping us develop a winning culture throughout our organization.”

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Casey inherited a team that went 22-60 in 2010-11 and had long suffered from a stigma of playoff failures. He methodically moulded the Raptors into a hard-nosed, defensive-minded team that won a franchise-record 48 games in his third season and has improved upon that number in each of the last two years.

He entered the season still feeling some pressure after back-to-back first-round exits. But the Raptors beat the Pacers and the Heat in seven-game series and handed the Cleveland Cavaliers their first two losses of the playoffs in a six-game defeat in the Eastern Conference final.

“I really think we’re a step ahead in the process,” Casey said after the Game 6 loss to Cleveland. “The players worked and put themselves in this process. We’re still a relatively young team to talk about competing for a championship, but they put themselves in that position by hard work and fighting through things this season.”

Along the way, the well-respected Casey has displayed a strong ability to develop talent. He helped the mercurial Kyle Lowry harness his attitude and aggression and blossom into one of the best point guards in the league, helped DeMar DeRozan diversify his game and become one of the better mid-range scorers in the league and, most recently, got Bismack Biyombo to realize his potential after struggling in Charlotte.

Now Lowry and DeRozan are all-stars and Biyombo has positioned himself for a massive pay day in free agency.

“We still have a ways to go, and I’ve said this the whole time, that next step is probably the biggest step we have to take as an organization and as individuals,” Casey said. “Myself included, the coaching staff, each player. We just talked in there a while ago about what each guy has to do, what they have to bring back to the table for us to take the next step, that next step, and it’s not going to be easy.”

With files from The Associated Press

Councillor pushes for TTC to examine driverless bus technology

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jun 7th, 2016

Is Toronto ready for driverless buses?

As Google and a number of car manufacturers continue experimenting with unmanned cars, a driverless shuttle bus has already hit the road in the Netherlands.

Contain your enthusiasm, however. The WePod is an electric bus that shuttles six people 200 metres at a speed of eight km/h along a lake in the Dutch agricultural town of Wageningen.

But it’s enough for Toronto Coun. Michelle Holland to ask city council to push the TTC to develop plans for new technology in its operations.

“The City of Beverly Hills in California has not been particularly known for public transit in the past,” the motion reads, “but it is looking to incorporate automated buses to pick up passengers, which will then connect them to new rapid transit lines in the area.”

“It is essential that with the current pace of technological change that the City of Toronto’s public transit system properly prepare for the use of these new technologies.”

Given that the Dutch bus is still in a trial phase, we’re a long way from seeing a driverless bus on the 32 Eglinton West route. But the technology is there, and Wageningen isn’t the only city doing trials. Driverless bus experiments are also underway in Lausanne, Switzerland, Trikala, Greece, Zhengzhou, China, and Milton Keynes, UK.

And there’s nothing wrong with the TTC – or any government agency, for that matter – thinking ahead. For much of the TTC’s existence it has been playing catch-up; it was less than two years ago that the transit system began accepting credit and debit card payments, and the Presto card system, which effectively ties all forms of transit in the GTA together, has been rolling out over the past year. So it would be nice to see the TTC in a position to embrace technology as it arrives.

The biggest factor in technological advancements undoubtedly is cost. At €3 million (C$4.4 million), the Dutch trial isn’t cheap.

But like all technologies, the price and reliability of the driverless bus will improve as it becomes more prevalent.

And who would you yell at when the bus misses your stop?

Woodstock students walk out in midst of suicide crisis

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jun 7th, 2016

File photo of Museum Square in Woodstock.

Woodstock high school students are planning to walk out of class on Tuesday to raise awareness about a suicide crisis in their small town.

Students are also concerned that none of the efforts to address the epidemic included them.

Five young people have killed themselves since the beginning of 2016, and there have been many more attempts, the London Free Press reported. Woodstock has a population of about 38,000.

Students will leave their seats at 9 a.m. and head to Woodstock’s Museum Square, according to a post on the Student Walk Out Facebook page.

“We want this event to be super positive … how could it not be when you really sit back and realize the impact you have all had on the community?” organizer and social worker Gail Bradfield wrote.

“I, along with so many others could not be more proud of you ALL! Tomorrow once we feel like everyone has arrived to Museum Square, you will hear the music stop and the talking will get under way. Please be respectful of your peers … they are going to be speaking to you about personal stories … and we owe them some respect.”

Chalk messages of support have already appeared outside some high schools. See the photos below:

Chalk messages of support have appeared outside Woodstock high schools after a suicide crisis. Image credit: Student Walk Out Facebook page.
Chalk messages of support have appeared outside Woodstock high schools after a suicide crisis. Image credit: Student Walk Out Facebook page.
Chalk messages of support have appeared outside Woodstock high schools after a suicide crisis. Image credit: Student Walk Out Facebook page.
Chalk messages of support have appeared outside Woodstock high schools after a suicide crisis. Image credit: Student Walk Out Facebook page.

At least five high schools are expected to take part in the walkout. They’re protesting what they believe is inaction by their own school boards.

School boards in the Woodstock area say they have had mental health strategies in place before the walkouts, and part one of the plan is “activating” the adults in the community.

The city has also had a public meeting on the issue, the CBC reported.

Teen are asking for lessons on mental health to be added to the curriculum, letting outside agencies into schools to help students, and crisis beds in Woodstock. Currently, students who need mental health treatment are sent to nearby London.

College Avenue Secondary School sent home a letter to parents, saying it has consulted with mental health experts and “they have advised that assemblies and other large group gatherings of students should be avoided. Not only are they not effective ways of engaging students, they can also be triggering for those students who are most vulnerable.”

5 things to know about Ramadan

GINELLA MASSA | posted Monday, Jun 6th, 2016

What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar. It is believed the Holy Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during this month. The Islamic calendar follows the lunar year and is shorter than the Gregorian calendar, so Ramadan shifts back about 10 days every year. Depending on the sighting of the new moon, and where in the world you live, Ramadan is set to begin June 6th or 7th this year. You can greet Muslims with the phrase “Ramadan Kareem” which means “generous Ramadan”.

How does fasting work?
During the month of Ramadan, millions of Muslims around the world will fast from before dawn to sunset. Many will wake up early for suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, and break their fast with dates and water at sunset, enjoying the iftaar meal with family and friends.

Because Ramadan lands during the month of June this year, Muslims in Toronto will fast for about 17 hours of daylight. During the fast they are required to abstain from food and water, as well as smoking and sexual intercourse. They are also encouraged to refrain from distasteful behavior such as lying, cursing, or speaking negatively about others behind their back.

Who is exempt from fasting?
The sick, elderly, young children, anyone who is travelling a long distance, and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating are all exempt from fasting. Those who cannot fast during Ramadan can make up the fasts later in the year, or donate to charity instead.

Why do Muslims fast?
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam (The others are: belief in one God, and Muhammad as his final messenger; five daily prayers; giving to charity, and pilgrimage to Makkah during one’s lifetime). It is a time for spiritual reflection, a means to practice patience and self-restraint, and an opportunity to remember those less fortunate.

When does Ramadan end?
Ramadan lasts 29 or 30 days depending on the sighting of the new moon. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with Eid-ul-Fitr and is typically marked with a special morning prayer, visits with family and friends, and a donation to charity.

Police officers to fan out across eight busy Toronto intersections

CityNews | posted Monday, Jun 6th, 2016

Starting next Monday, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists will notice extra police officers at eight busy intersections in the city.

They will be working as “traffic assistant personnel,” or TAP, to help improve traffic flow and the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

Monday’s announcement, which took place at Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue – one of eight “congestion hotspots” – detailed plans to use “smart” traffic signals and police personnel to help direct traffic flow.

The pilot project is the latest in Mayor John Tory’s plan to cut down on gridlock across the city. Last year, in phase one, Tory introduced zero-tolerance for illegal parking during rush hour.

Earlier this year, Tory announced phase two of his congestion management plan, which includes implementing new technology for stoplights at 10 “hot-spot” intersections across the city. At the time, Tory said he was considering having people direct traffic.

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Police officers will be deployed during peak periods at the following intersections:

  • Bay Street and Queen Street
  • Front Street and Simcoe Street
  • Lake Shore Boulevard and Parklawn Road
  • Sheppard Avenue and Yonge Street
  • Front Street and University Avenue
  • Bay Street and Bloor Street
  • University Avenue and Adelaide Street
  • Bay Street from Bloor Street to Front Street

“The goal is to improve the traffic flow and to improve the safety of pedestrians in these intersections,” Tory said at the press conference.

“The police officers will direct traffic, making sure that vehicles don’t block intersections … to keep vehicles moving and keep pedestrians and cyclists safe.”

The pilot project starts on June 13 and will take place during four weeks in the summer and four weeks in the fall.

Capybara tracks spotted at High Park Zoo

CityNews | posted Monday, Jun 6th, 2016

Tracks from the two elusive capybaras have been spotted at the High Park Zoo.

“Staff know that they are in the park and where they are,” Friends of the High Park Zoo posted on Facebook on Sunday.

“Yes tracks have been confirmed, now to get them home.”

Watch a video about the growing concerns for the capybaras below or click here to view it.

he two female capybaras have been missing since May 24.

Zoo officials say the pair bolted when a new capybara was moving in to their pen around 6 a.m. that morning.

Capybaras are the world’s largest rodents. Fully grown, they can reach over four feet in height and can weigh as much as 140 pounds – they also look like large guinea pigs. They enjoy swimming and don’t like children.

The escape led to the nicknames Bonnie and Clyde (perhaps Thelma and Louise would have been better) for the pair, a parody Twitter account, an online video game, and joking comments from Mayor John Tory about forming a search party.

However, the zoo could be in real trouble, an animal welfare group told the CBC. A representative for ZooCheck said that the zoo could face charges under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, especially given the zoo’s history.

This isn’t the first time an animal has run free from the High Park Zoo.

Almost exactly a year ago, the High Park Peacock escaped from the zoo and was on the loose in Toronto for days before returning home on its own.

In 2009, six animals – four llamas, one yak and one wallaby – escaped from the zoo after someone opened their enclosures.

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