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Postal workers delay possible job action for 24 hours as contract talks continue

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Aug 29th, 2016

A postal worker walks past Canada Post trucks at a sorting centre in Montreal, Friday, July 8, 2016. Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk says in a statement that she expects both Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to use the special mediator to come to a resolution and avoid job action. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

The threat of possible job action by Canada Post workers has been placed on hold for 24 hours.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers made the announcement in a statement issued late Sunday night.

“We’ve amended our notice in a last-ditch effort to reach a negotiated agreement before we are forced to start working to rule,” said CUPW national president Mike Palecek.

Related stories:

Postal workers union give details of possible job action
Union representing postal workers issues strike notice
Canada Post union leaders frustrated by lack of answers at annual meeting

The union served 72 hour strike notice Thursday night, accusing Canada Post of forcing a labour disruption by refusing to bargain in good faith.

It said that if there was no deal by midnight Sunday, it would begin job action on Monday by having its members refuse to work overtime on a rotating basis, starting in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

The two sides have been deadlocked for months on the issues of pay scales for rural letter carriers and proposed changes to pensions for future employees.

A federally appointed mediator was brought in Friday, and Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton said in a statement Sunday night that the Crown corporation had agreed to extend the talks for 24 hours at the mediator’s request.

However, there was still no clear indication by either side about whether they were making progress at the bargaining table.

Palecek previously said that the union’s planned job action would have little effect on Canada Post customers, noting the mail would still be delivered.

Hamilton disagreed with that assessment, warning in a phone interview that the threat of job action was creating uncertainty for customers and would have a huge impact on the business “whether the union likes it or not.”

Toronto-bound QEW partially reopens in Burlington

CityNews | posted Monday, Aug 29th, 2016

A truck is towed away after a crash on the QEW on Aug. 29, 2016. CITYNEWS/Bert Dandy

The Toronto-bound QEW has partially reopened near Brant Street in Burlington after a single-vehicle crash.

A dump truck hit a guard rail and flipped over in the area just before 5 a.m. on Monday.

The crash caused the truck’s fuel tank to rupture, spilling around 400 litres of fuel on the highway.

No injuries were reported.

The left lane of the QEW has reopened.

A truck is towed away after a crash on the QEW on Aug. 29, 2016. CITYNEWS/Bert Dandy
A truck crash on the Toronto-bound QEW near Brant Street in Burlington. TWITTER/@OPP_GTATraffic
A truck crash on the Toronto-bound QEW near Brant Street in Burlington on Aug. 29, 2016. TWITTER/@OPP_GTATraffic

Baseball tournament in Leaside girl’s memory among weekend events

PATRICIA D'CUNHA AND AMBER LEBLANC | posted Friday, Aug 26th, 2016

As summer winds down, many of the events this weekend are being held outdoors to soak up every moment of what the season has to offer. From a special baseball tournament to an arts and crafts fair to a cider festival, there’s plenty to do for those who wish the warmth would never end.

But keep in mind, there is a partial subway closure due to ongoing track work this weekend.


Remembering Georgia Walsh

It’s going to be an emotional weekend in Leaside. The family of six-year-old Georgia Walsh – who was struck and killed by a van on July 16, 2014 – is holding its second annual ‘Georgia Walsh Memorial All-Star Games‘ to raise money to revitalize Trace Manes Park, which was one of her favourite spots.

“Cheer on young baseball all-stars playing the game that Georgia loved,” a poster for the event reads.

The poster for the Georgia Walsh Memorial Games, which take place on Aug. 27, 2016. Photo via rememberinggeorgiawalsh.com.
The poster for the Georgia Walsh Memorial Games, which take place on Aug. 27, 2016. Photo via rememberinggeorgiawalsh.com.


Saturday’s event is a family day of baseball and activities including face painting, inflatable slides, games and a BBQ. All proceeds go to the Playground Project, in honour of Georgia.

A huge festival takes over Mississauga’s Celebration Square on Saturday and Sunday.

Muslimfest, which showcases the best in Muslim art and entertainment, will feature non-stop concerts with over 50 artists from around the world, a multicultural bazaar and a carnival for children.

The 12th annual festival aims to share Muslim culture with the broader community through through art, humour and entertainment.

Admission is free all weekend. You’re encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item, which are being collected for Syrians who have just come to Canada.

Bloorcourt Arts and Crafts Fair
Bloor Street West, between Dufferin Street and the Christie Pits, will turn into an arts and crafts hub on Saturday, turning it into one of the city’s largest gathering of artists, artisans and musicians.

One of the vendors at the Bloorcourt Arts and Crafts Fair in 2015. Photo via Facebook/BloorcourtBIA.
One of the vendors at the Bloorcourt Arts and Crafts Fair in 2015. Photo via Facebook/BloorcourtBIA.


Vendors will showcase ceramics, woven fabrics, jewelry and vintage products, while local businesses will host sidewalk sales. There will also be plenty of patio space at restaurants on the stretch to grab lunch and listen to live music.

The event, which is free, runs from noon to 10 p.m. The section of Bloor will be closed during the event.

Some may argue that large-scale condo developments take the spirit out of the neighbourhood, but this outdoor party brings the community back to the people.

Residents who will live near CityPlace, a condo complex bordered by Lake Shore Boulevard West, Bathurst Street, Front Street and Spadina Avenue, will celebrate their neighbourhood at the third-annual event at Canoe Landing Park on Saturday.

Toronto Cider Festival
There have been a lot of beer festivals in the city this year, but now it’s time for a day completely dedicated to an underrated but delicious beverage.

The Toronto Cider Festival is taking over Yonge-Dundas Square for two sessions on Saturday. People can sample 40 different ciders from around the world and then kick back in Muskoka chairs with a snack from a food truck. All the while, there will be live entertainment. Tickets are available here.

Remember, please don’t drink and drive.

Coconut Festival
It’s a product that’s all the rage and it will be celebrated Saturday at David Pecaut Square. The third annual Coconut Festival, highlights what organizers call “one of the greatest fruits in the world.”

It will feature all things coconut, live cultural performances, local food vendors, artists, a fashion show and stations where people can learn more about coconut health and wellness. Admission is free.

The event is sponsored by CocoVie Coconut Spread, and GayLea Coconut Whipped Cream.

TTC and road closures

Line 1 closure
You’ve come to expect this almost every weekend, so by now you are well-prepared. Subway service will be off-limits on Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) between Lawrence and Bloor-Yonge stations due to track work. Shuttle buses will be running.

For those with plans over the Labour Day long weekend, you will have to contend with a subway closure on Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) between St. George and Pape stations as TTC crews conduct work on the Prince Edward Viaduct. Shuttle buses will be operating.

Road closures for events

Toronto Tamil Festival: Markham Road between McNicoll and Passmore avenues will be closed from 10 a.m. on Friday to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.

Bloorcourt Arts and Crafts Fair: Bloor Street West, from Dufferin Street to Montrose Avenue, will be closed from 7 a.m. on Saturday to 11:59 p.m.

Leslieville Beerfest: Dundas Street East will be closed from Logan to Carlaw avenue from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday.

Road work

Ongoing work

Shuter Street, from Yonge to Sherbourne streets, will be reduced to one lane in both directions until Oct. 28 for watermain replacement and road work.

Drivers will encounter lane reductions on Bayview Avenue from Rosedale Valley Road to Pottery Road to build a multi-use trail and for other road work. The closure is expected to last until Nov. 30.

Gerrard Street, from University Avenue to Elizabeth Street, is reduced to one lane until Oct. 15 for watermain and other road work.

Richmond Street West is reduced to one lane of traffic between Church and York streets until Nov. 30 for TTC track work, watermain replacement, and road and sidewalk repairs.

One lane of Queen Street West between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street is closed in both directions for watermain replacement and reconstruction work until around Oct. 8.

Three dead in Scarborough after apparent crossbow attack

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Aug 26th, 2016

Three people suffering from what appeared to be wounds from a crossbow died in Toronto on Thursday in an incident that rocked an otherwise quiet neighbourhood in the city’s east end.

Police said an injured fourth person — a 35-year-old man — was taken into custody, but few other details of what happened were released.

The victims were found in the driveway of a bungalow near Eglinton Avenue East and Markham Road by officers who responded to a stabbing report around 1 p.m.

“Indications were that (a) person had been stabbed — their injuries were fairly serious,” Const. David Hopkinson said. “When officers arrived, they found that person and two others suffering from injuries from what we believe to be a crossbow bolt.”

Three people — two men and a woman — were pronounced dead at the scene, police said. A crossbow was found nearby on the floor.

Police, who immediately swarmed the area, were not looking for any suspects, Hopkinson said.

About four hours after the incident, police said there was a link between the deaths and a suspicious package found in downtown Toronto. They said the downtown scene, which was near a building housing a daycare, was declared safe by 5 p.m.

In the east-end neighbourhood of Scarborough, however, streets remained blocked off Thursday evening as police continued to investigate.

Vijaya Cruz, whose house backs on to the bungalow where the incident is believed to have taken place, said she was home with her husband Thursday afternoon when he heard a commotion.

“My husband said he heard some screaming, someone was screaming there,” she said. “Then he said he heard ‘bang, bang, bang’ noise, and then someone was saying ‘calm down.’”

Cruz said she soon saw the flashing lights of a fire truck which was among the emergency crews that responded to the scene. Police later knocked on her door and told her three people had died in an incident involving a crossbow.

Cruz said she had seen a couple in the bungalow’s backyard on occasion, but said she didn’t know much about them.

“I see them working in the garden, a man and a woman, I see them with a wheelbarrow, cleaning up the yard,” she said. “They don’t talk.”

Faiza Siddiqui, who lives on an adjoining street next to a park, said the incident was disturbing.

“It’s scary because this park is always full with kids,” she said. “You don’t hear about people being killed by crossbows, especially in the city. I don’t know why you would need that in the city, have it around the house.”

Sadiya Haque, who also lives nearby, added that the neighbourhood was typically a tranquil one, with many seniors living on the street where the incident took place.

Dale Lounsbury, who sells crossbows at a sporting goods store in Waterloo, Ont., and owns one himself, said they can be dangerous due to their power and accuracy. But they are not suited to firing multiple shots in quick succession, he said.

“Crossbows are not a rapid-fire instrument at all,” Lounsbury said. “I can probably fire two shots a minute, maybe three.”

Unlike guns, buying a crossbow does not require a licence.

In December 2010, a man fired a bolt into his father’s back at a Toronto public library branch in another crossbow incident that captured the city’s attention. In that case, Zhou Fang then crushed his 52-year-old father’s skull with a hammer.

Fang was initially charged with first-degree murder but the prosecution accepted a plea of second-degree murder after considering that he was the victim of long-term abuse at the hands of his father.

He was sentenced to life in prison in 2012.

Union representing postal workers issues strike notice

Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Aug 26th, 2016

Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk said Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers will begin working with a special mediator Friday morning in the face of a union threat of job action.

“In an attempt to push the two parties, help them facilitate a mediated, negotiated settlement, we’ve got a special mediator coming in who will start working with both parties tomorrow morning,” Mihychuk said Thursday evening in Saguenay, Que., where she was attending the Liberal summer caucus retreat.

“We hope to have significant resolution by Sunday,” Mihychuk said.

The union representing nearly 51,000 employees issued a 72-hour notice of job action Thursday, accusing the Crown corporation of forcing a labour dispute.

It was not immediately clear whether the action would result in a disruption of mail and parcel deliveries, something that – if it does happen – could come as early as next week.

The union said the notice, delivered to management just hours before a strike mandate was set to expire, “listed anticipated job actions” but stopped short of a full-blown walkout. The union hasn’t said exactly what actions it was planning.

The notice puts postal carriers in a legal strike position by Aug. 28.

In a statement, CUPW national president Mike Palecek said Canada Post forced the union’s hand by refusing to accept a request from the federal labour minister to continue negotiations under a 24-hour deadline extension with the help of a special mediator.

“This was an eleventh-hour intervention from the government to avoid a dispute and of course we said, ‘Yes,’” said Palecek.

“From the outset, our goal has been a negotiated collective agreement without service disruptions. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Canada Post, whose president and CEO Deepak Chopra refused the minister’s request.”

But a spokesman for the agency said that was not the case.

“Canada Post will fully co-operate in the (mediation) process,” Jon Hamilton said in an email.

“We hope that the assistance of a neutral third party will help both parties address the real challenges facing the postal service caused by declining mail volumes and increasing pension obligations.”

The union’s strike mandate was set to expire at midnight.

Had it expired, Canada Post employees would likely have had to vote to approve another mandate, a costly process that could take up to two months to complete.

CUPW had asked the agency to allow an extension of the mandate, a request that was refused as “inappropriate.”

The two sides had been in sometimes bitter negotiations for more than nine months but were still far apart on key issues, including pay equity for rural carriers and proposed changes to the Canada Post pension plan, despite days of intensive talks that carried through last weekend.

CUPW offered a glimmer of hope Thursday that a strike could be averted, saying it’s still prepared to talk.

“We are still willing to withdraw our notice if Canada Post agrees to an extension,” said Palecek.

The Crown corporation also has the option to lock out workers.

A pay equity issue pitting rural and urban carriers against each other and a proposed move from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution plan for new employees are the main stumbling blocks in the dispute.

The union claims rural postal workers earn, on average, nearly 30 per cent less than city carriers.

Other issues revolve around part-time and temporary work, staffing improvements and the possible closure of nearly 500 retail postal outlets that could result in the elimination of up to 1,200 full-time jobs that are currently protected.

Although Mihychuk hoped the latest effort would bring results over the weekend, she cautioned that it might not work.

“Canadians need to get prepared for a potential work stoppage,” she said.

“I think that’s the reality.”

Two years after innocent bystander shot dead, police to release more information

CityNews | posted Friday, Aug 26th, 2016

Two years after an innocent bystander was shot dead outside of a downtown nightclub, Toronto police are expected to release more information in the case.

Jelena Loncar, 32, had just finished a bartending shift at Hunters Landing restaurant on Aug. 26, 2014. She was standing outside C Lounge on Wellington Street, just west of Spadina Avenue, when she was hit by a bullet around 3 a.m.

She died later in hospital.

At the time, police said the man they believed to be the intended target was shot six times while running toward Spadina. Police said he was co-operating with the investigation.

About 20 minutes before the shooting, three cars had been in the parking lot of the House of Lancaster strip club on The Queensway when there was an exchange of gunfire.

The drivers went straight from there to Wellington Street, police said.

Police are expected to release more information as well as a reward on Friday.

Related stories:

Security video released of August shooting outside downtown nightclub

Jelena Loncar’s sister overcome by grief during police update

Police release security video from fatal downtown Toronto shooting

Canadian among those killed in Italy earthquake

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Aug 26th, 2016

At least one Canadian is confirmed to have died and another was injured during this week’s devastating earthquake in central Italy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion revealed the news in a statement, though Global Affairs Canada did not identify either of the Canadians, citing privacy concerns.

“I was extremely saddened to see the tragic loss of life following the devastating earthquake in central Italy, which now includes the death of a Canadian citizen,” Dion said. “We share in the grief of the lives cut short by this terrible event.”

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I also extend my condolences now to the family and friends of the Canadian life lost in the quake.”

Related stories:

Aftershocks rattle Italy quake zone; death toll rises to 250

Italian-Canadian community planning fundraising after deadly earthquake

At least 250 people were killed and countless more injured when a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy on Tuesday night.

Dozens of people are believed to be still trapped beneath the rubble in the affected area, where rescuers are frantically working to save them.

Officials say there were 3,876 Canadians registered with Global Affairs Canada as being in Italy, with 72 in the areas affected by the earthquake. The numbers; however, are likely low as many Canadians never register with the department while travelling abroad.

Dion said he had spoken with his Italian counterpart to express Canada’s condolences and support, and officials said the government is waiting for any request for assistance.

“Canada continues to stand behind the people of Italy during this difficult period,” Dion said.

Tuesday’s earthquake was the deadliest to strike Italy since 2009, when another temblor killed more than 300 people.

Budget-friendly essentials for a university dorm room

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Aug 25th, 2016

It’s back-to school season! As September rolls around, many young adults across Canada are heading to university. This time of year is not only the start of classes, but for many students the start of ‘dorm living’.

Many students want to spice up their ‘drabby and small’ dorm room, and turn it into something cozy and comfortable. However, a lack of design ideas and a small budget might get in the way. Luckily, designer Shai DeLuca-Tamasi assures many ways that students can jazz up their dorm room with a small budget and helpful designer tips.

Below are a staple items to turn a dorm room from ‘drab’ to ‘fab’.. all while not breaking the bank!

Storage & organization

With more students being crammed in student housing each year, students tend to have little space in their dorm rooms. Additional space is needed if a student wants to feel comfortable – remember, students will spend a majority of their university years inside their dorm. Shai recommends looking at different style boxes in different shapes and colours that can be placed around the room – whether under the bed, on a table top, or on a shelf. These boxes (depending on the size) can be used to store everything from clothing, jewelry, books, and snack items.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 11.21.54 AM

Table top items

Many students will be using their limited amount of ‘table space’ or desk space to read, study, and eat their meals. Shai recommends a few key pieces for this area of the dorm room. First, a bright table lamp is essential. Find a lamp that will won’t cause strain on the eyes during those late night homework sessions. Secondly, a digital or analog clock. This can help students keep track of time better – especially when a distracting phone is not close by. Lastly, invest in some decor pieces like small plants, rocks, and paperweights that will add charm and identity to the table area.

Kitchen items

Small appliances for cooking can make a student’s dorm experience much better, especially when craving late night food. Shai recommends student invest in a small grinder – they can be used for anything from chopping chickpeas for hummus, or blending fruit for delicious smoothies. This might offset the infamous ‘Freshman 15’ weight gain as a bonus.

Keep in mind: Most students living in a dorm are sharing a common kitchen with other students. Make sure items remain small and compact, and omit very little noise.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 11.20.32 AM

Decor items

Many dorms have a ‘no painting’ policy, which makes it hard to give a dorm room a pop of colour. Luckily, a student can brighten up their dorm room with many removable decor pieces. 70’s decor is coming back as the latest trend, so the use of wood, coppers and golds, and novelty pieces are all trendy choices.

Shai also recommends a diffuser that will keep the dorm room air fresh and odour free. Diffusers can be refilled with various scents such as lavender and peppermint, good for sleep and the other being good for awaking the senses. Versatility of scents makes a diffuser a great investment.

Check out Shai DeLuca-Tamasi’s ‘Dorm Finds for Less’ segment on Breakfast Television below.

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