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Family, friends, and colleagues remember former Toronto police chief

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Sep 13th, 2016

Family, friends, and colleagues packed St. Paul’s Basilica in downtown Toronto on Monday to remember former police chief William ‘Bill’ McCormack.

His son, Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack, gave a eulogy where he recalled his father’s first television interview back when he was a leading homicide detective.

“We all sat around with mom. The interviewer starts the interview and we’re waiting. The first question, ‘What about the homicide investigation?’ His response? ‘First, you must assume the body is dead.’ We looked at each other and said, ‘we should become cops. How hard could it be?’”

McCormack, who led the force from 1989 to 1995, died last Thursday at the age of 83. McCormack is survived by his wife and five children, including Mike McCormack.

The funeral cortege for William 'Bill' McCormack arrived at St. Paul's Basilica, on Power Street near Queen and Parliament streets, on Sept. 12, 2016. CITYNEWS/Stephen Boorne
The funeral cortege for William ‘Bill’ McCormack arrives at St. Paul’s Basilica on Sept. 12, 2016. CITYNEWS/Stephen Boorne
The funeral cortege for William 'Bill' McCormack arrives at St. Paul's Basilica, on Power Street near Queen and Parliament streets, on Sept. 12, 2016. CITYNEWS/Stephen Boorne
The funeral cortege for William ‘Bill’ McCormack arrives at St. Paul’s Basilica, on Power Street near Queen and Parliament streets, on Sept. 12, 2016. CITYNEWS/Stephen Boorne

Current police chief Mark Saunders said last week that McCormack left a tangible legacy in policing.

“He was the first chief that I remember that actually went out into the communities and walked around the communities,” recalled Saunders. “Very personable, understood the bigger picture of holding the office of the chief and was precedent-setting in the chiefs that followed because he basically started a chain of events that other chiefs followed.

“He was one of those leaders that walks among giants.”

File photo of William 'Bill' McCormack. TORONTO POLICE
File photo of William ‘Bill’ McCormack. TORONTO POLICE

More school bus delays for students in Toronto

CityNews | posted Monday, Sep 12th, 2016

It’s the second week of school and parents of children attending public and Catholic schools in Toronto are once again facing delays on school bus routes.

Numerous delays have been reported due a shortage of school bus drivers. Parents are advised to check here for the latest list of delays.

Both the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board have been plagued by school bus driver shortages since the new school year started last week. According to the Toronto Student Transportation Group, 54 of more than 1,700 routes are not staffed.

The shortage is affecting more than 1,000 students.

The boards said Attridge Transportation, Wheelchair Accessible Transit Inc. and SHARP Bus Lines are at the centre of the issue.

Toronto District School Board issued a letter to parents at the end of last week, addressing the situation, saying staff are prepared to supervise children who arrive early, or are forced to stay late.

The board and the companies are still trying to work out the problem, and it’s not clear when they’ll be able to cover all their routes.

Last week, Canada’s largest driver’s union, Unifor Local 4268, blamed the driver shortage on Queen’s Park. The union said the province’s current “request for proposals” system for awarding school bus contracts leads to constant instability as school bus companies try to outbid each other for the contracts.

The Ontario ombudsman said staff will look into whether a formal investigation is needed into the school bus delays.

Motorcyclists caught running red lights, performing stunts, in wild GTA ride

CityNews | posted Monday, Sep 12th, 2016

A huge group of motorcyclists were on a wild ride across the GTA over the weekend, with some members caught on video running red lights and performing stunts.

One of them was involved in a fiery crash in Mississauga, near Dundas Street and Mavis Road, around 1:40 p.m. on Sunday.

It appears two motorcyclists collided, causing one of the bikes to catch fire. But the rider ditched the burning vehicle and may have left the scene on another bike.

Peel police said they received several calls of more than a hundred bikes travelling through the area, and some of the vehicles had their licence plates obscured. They are investigating both the crash and the mass ride.

The same group may have been spotted in Toronto. A CityNews cameraman saw a group of motorcyclists at Lake Shore Boulevard and Bathurst Street around 2 p.m. on Sunday. Some of the motorcyclists ran the red light.

Toronto police said Monday morning they were unaware of the incident, or any large group of motorcyclists.

On Sunday, a group calling themselves the Motorcycle Mafia posted on Instagram of a meetup in London, Ontario. The group was then set to ride to Toronto. It’s not clear if this was the same group involved in the incidents in Mississauga and Toronto.

In the embedded Instagram video below, motorcyclists can be seen turning left in front of other drivers waiting at a green light.

A video posted by Mark Gogola (@m.gogola) on

More than 1,400 tickets issued, 300 vehicles towed in rush-hour blitz

CityNews | posted Monday, Sep 12th, 2016

During last week’s four-day traffic blitz, more than 1,400 tickets were issued and 300 vehicles were towed, a police source told 680 NEWS.

Mayor John Tory is set to officially announce the results of the week-long campaign targeting rush-hour infractions later on Monday.

Last week, police said they would show “zero tolerance” for drivers found blocking and congesting rush hour routes, and would be issuing tickets and towing vehicles.

The traffic campaign focused on a area bounded by Bloor to Front streets and Parliament to Dufferin streets.

Having a car towed comes at a hefty price tag. The penalties for having a vehicle towed include a towing fee of $200 and daily storage of $80.

A $150 fine applies for standing, stopping or parking illegally on rush-hour roads between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Cracking down on drivers that contribute to the city’s gridlock was one of Tory’s campaign promises back in 2014.

The city says it is already seeing results, noting there’s been an increase of driver compliance that’s led to a decrease in parking tickets issued.

In 2014, 2,498,660 parking tickets were issued. That number dropped slightly in 2015 to 2,183,523. As of Aug. 31, 1,534,660 tickets have been issued.

The city says approximately 6,289 tickets are issued per day, adding that it expects to have 50,000 fewer tickets issued overall this year.

Police to ticket, tow vehicles in rush-hour gridlock blitz. Watch the video below or click here to view it.

TIFF kicks off with diverse Hollywood western

David Friend, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Sep 9th, 2016

“Magnificent Seven” director Antoine Fuqua is tipping his hat to Hollywood for giving him the wherewithal to deliver a multicultural cowboy movie, led by Denzel Washington.

“This becomes the new definition of what a western is,” Fuqua told a Toronto International Film Festival press conference on Thursday as his international cast of stars sat alongside him.

Among the other marquee names in attendance were Chris Pratt, South Korea’s Byung-hun Lee and Mexican actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. They walked the red carpet later in the evening as screening of the film officially kicked off the festival.

“You’ve got to give the studio credit when they do something like this,” Fuqua added about his diverse cast.

“They didn’t blink an eye.”

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Five times TIFF inspired real political change
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See the full schedule of films, talks, exhibits and parties.

The star-studded remake of the 1960 Hollywood western – itself a reinterpretation of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” – has been in the works for years. But it arrives at TIFF during what’s widely considered to be a pivotal shift in how racial diversity is represented on movie screens.

Washington shied away from linking the film too closely with some sort of cinematic statement.

“It’s a movie. It’s for people to enjoy,” he said.

“What do they want to get from it? It depends what you bring to it.”

His director hinted that he’s hopeful the western might be representative of more open-mindedness for commercial cinema in the future.

“You can make a ‘Magnificent Seven’ with all women,” Fuqua proposed.

Ethnic diversity is expected to be the spotlight throughout this year’s 11-day film festival, which is one of the biggest and most diverse showcases of cinema in the world.

Herds of eager moviegoers from across the globe travel to Toronto in hopes of catching a glimpse of their favourite stars, buzzworthy Hollywood films and international cinema that may never get an official release on this side of the world.

Among the most-anticipated mainstream titles is “The Birth of a Nation,” set during a slave rebellion, and “A United Kingdom” and “Loving,” which both feature interracial couples.

“Moonlight” focuses on a young black man coming to terms with his sexual identity amid a turbulent upbringing.

Other Hollywood films will use the fest as a platform for awards season. Natalie Portman is generating early buzz for her role as former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in “Jackie,” while Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” is getting attention for his hot-button take on National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Nearly 400 films from 83 countries are slated to screen at this year’s festival, which closes with coming-of-age comedy “The Edge of Seventeen.”

A throng of international stars is in Toronto hoping to draw attention to their films on the red carpets.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are expected to appear together for their ode to Hollywood musicals “La La Land,” while Mark Wahlberg will be in town to promote his upcoming oil-rig actioner “Deepwater Horizon.”

Other big names will be in town this weekend for their latest films like Hollywood actor Matt Damon and fashion designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford.

Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi will also be visiting Toronto for appearances as part of the film festival’s Platform Jury, which also includes directors Brian De Palma and Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.

Statistics Canada to release August jobs report, economists expect growth

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Sep 9th, 2016

Statistics Canada is set to release its latest jobs report on Friday with economists expecting to see a rebound after a sharp drop in July.

According to Thomson Reuters, economists expect the August jobs report to show an addition of 15,000 net new jobs for the month and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 6.9 per cent.

The August labour force survey will be closely watched after the disappointing July reading.

That report showed the economy taking a big hit as the country posted a net loss of 31,200 jobs.

The plunge was due to a loss of 71,400 net full-time jobs in the month, offset in part by an increase of 40,200 part-time positions.

It was the worst loss of full-time work since October 2011.

Related stories:

Bank of Canada raises concerns about economy, holds interest rate at 0.5%

Canadian economy shrinks in second quarter, worst since 2009 financial crisis

Full-time work takes big hit as Canada loses 31,200 jobs in July

TD Bank economist Brian DePratto says he’s looking for a healthy rebound in the job numbers from July when he says there were some “oddities” in the data.

“Within Ontario there was a 30,000 job decline in educational services and this is seasonally adjusted data, so it should have already taken into account that it is summer,” he said.

“So we expect to see some of that reverse and we’re looking for a pretty healthy number there.”

The jobs report follows the Bank of Canada’s decision earlier this week to keep its key interest rate target on hold at 0.5 per cent where it has been for more than a year.

In making its decision, the central bank raised concern about the strength of the Canadian economic recovery, noting that a drop in exports earlier this year was larger and more broad-based than expected.

However, the Bank of Canada says it still expects a “substantial rebound” in the economy in the second half of the year.

Opinion: No need for Blue Jays to hit the panic button just yet

Shi Davidi | posted Friday, Sep 9th, 2016

NEW YORK – The way the Toronto Blue Jays won the American League East last year is unique. Things seemed impossibly easy for them during a 43-18 finish to the season, when they erased an eight-game deficit in the standings over a couple of weeks, and took the lead for good Aug. 23. Once ahead, their edge never got smaller than a half-game, and that for only a single day, en route to a division title.

The path to the post-season this year, should the Blue Jays get there, is going to be far more anxious. They head into Friday’s important three-game series against the Boston Red Sox having fallen a game behind John Farrell’s bunch for the AL East lead. A 1-5 end to a nine-game road trip that started promisingly with two wins in Baltimore spread worry among portions of the uneasy faithful.

Few are inclined to do as closer Roberto Osuna’s warm-up song by French Montana suggests and, “Don’t Panic.” Yet with 23 games remaining, the Blue Jays remain very much in control of their own destiny, possessing the top wild card spot, although the walls are closing in there, too, with the Orioles just one game back, and the Detroit Tigers two off the pace.

Those whose view of September baseball was distorted by 2015’s relatively turbulent-free landing must remember that this a month for steadfastness and a level head amid the bumps, violent as they may be.

“Every year is different. Last year we caught fire and it was like a light switch, it wasn’t gradual, it was like bam. This year it’s been kind of like this,” says manager John Gibbons, slowly raising his hand incrementally. “We’ve really played as steady of ball as you can play. No big streaks like we had last year, even early on, before the team came together. This year we haven’t had any real dips, either. In a lot of ways that’s probably better, it’s been more consistent. But we were able to open it up pretty quick last year, too, that’s not going to happen this year at this point. Just keep playing good baseball. In the end, if you’re good enough you’ll be there, if you’re not you won’t. The best teams get there.”

The three-game sweep the Blue Jays suffered in the Bronx at the hands of the New York Yankees, who are suddenly on the fringes of this race, too, marked the first time they’d lost three games in a row since June 18-21. They hadn’t been swept since the Tampa Bay Rays outscored them 31-7 in Toronto from May 16-18, so the timing of their current cold spell is not exactly optimal, especially with the Red Sox series looming.

No one likes limping into big games. Does it matter?

“I can’t really say anything,” replies Russell Martin. “Just play good baseball, man. It’s really simple. Go out there, score more runs than the other team, make the plays you need to make, make good pitches, have good at-bats. We know it’s going to be tough because it’s a good team coming in and it’s not going to be easy, but we already know that. Just take it one pitch at a time, and hopefully we’re doing the right things and we get some W’s.”

The Blue Jays enter the series 7-6 versus the Red Sox so far this year, with a cumulative score of 62-all. They’re 3-3 at Rogers Centre, 4-3 at Fenway. The visitors are arriving to finish a nine-game road trip after a 4-2 stretch through Oakland and San Diego.

“We’re ready, we know what we have to accomplish, we know what we have to do this next month and we’re up for the task,” says Marcus Stroman. “Every single guy in this clubhouse is committed and motivated. We’re excited to have this off-day, kind of regroup and get back out there Friday.”

The teams clash again in the final series of the regular season Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in Boston. The Blue Jays play four games against the Yankees and three versus the Orioles just before that so a lot of drama looms, and given how tightly bunched the standings are, the squeamish best be ready.

“One thing about these guys, they’ve always been resilient,” says Gibbons. “Last year we hit some tough spots, they always bounced back, tough losses don’t really seem to affect us. Really, it’s basically the same group and the same thing’s happened this year. We’re in a little bit of a tough stretch right now, we were riding high coming out of Baltimore, struggled down in Tampa, struggled here. But the Yanks are playing good baseball, too, they’ve got a little bit of that magic working. You’ve just got to show up to play the next day, nothing more than that. That’s why it always helps to have veteran players, too. You get a lot of young players, when you get those low points, it affects you in a bad way.”

Buckle up.

MARTIN’S KNEE: Russell Martin’s status for Friday is a key question facing the Blue Jays after a “biting” sensation in his left knee prompted him to skip his at-bat in the ninth inning Wednesday night. A day off Thursday may be enough time to have him ready for the opener against the Red Sox.

“I’m sure it will, I’m not too concerned about it,” he says. “It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a while now and I’ve actually hit pretty well with my knee bugging me. I’m not too concerned.”

Martin buckled during an at-bat in the seventh but continued to play defence, throwing out Chase Headley trying to steal second in the eighth.

“Russ is a warrior, an absolute warrior,” says Marcus Stroman. “He gets beat up back there but you never hear him complain, he’s the last guy to ever show any weakness and he’s back there every single day. That’s a testament to Russ, and how much he’s able to play through pain for us, for his brothers out there, because he wants to be out there with us competing.”

LIRIANO READY: The Blue Jays are expecting to have Francisco Lirianoavailable for the Red Sox series and he should come in handy given the possibility of facing David Ortiz multiple times in leverage spots late in the game.

Brett Cecil is likely to get any key late at-bats, but Liriano – who left Monday’s game with back tightness that has since eased – gives John Gibbons more options earlier on.

“He’s good, he should be good to go,” says Gibbons. “We’ll determine this weekend what we’re going to do next week (with the rotation).”

Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez start for the Blue Jays this weekend against the Boston Red Sox. R.A. Dickey was pushed back from Sunday for Sanchez, but with the off-day Thursday, the Blue Jays could consider starting Marcus Stroman on normal rest Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays and inserting Liriano for a start Tuesday.

Estrada and Happ could follow before Dickey is reinserted in Sanchez’s place during the road series in Anaheim as a way to limit the right-hander’s workload.

Report ranks Toronto third among world cities to live and work

CityNews | posted Friday, Sep 9th, 2016

We’re number 3!

A recent study from PricewaterhouseCoopers, dubbed ‘Cities of Opportunity’, says Toronto has mastered quality of living, ranking it the world’s third-best major metro area to live and work.

Toronto ranked first in quality of life, second in health, safety and security, and scored top-10 results for ease of doing business (#4), intellectual capital & innovation (#4), entrepreneurial environment (#5) and technology readiness (#9).

“Toronto’s strong performance in metrics related to quality of life and economic potential are consistent with the realities of a city that has been internationally recognized for its cultural diversity, growing community of entrepreneurs, and accessible health care system, social services and education,” says the report.

The report notes that Toronto is challenged by “various connectivity factors”, ranking lower in traffic congestion, ease of commute and mass transit coverage.

Last year, Toronto placed fourth on the list and is the only Canadian city to make the list this year.

London was voted the best city in the world, however, the report was done prior to the Brexit vote.
Singapore was second among the 30 cities listed in the report.

Paris, Amsterdam and New York round out the top six.

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